Oh, those Preachers in my Town…

This might be part of an ongoing series of posts, depending on how well I can avoid shouting out “You’re damned wrong!” whenever they open their mouth.

So, luckily, one of them is a blogger (no opportunity to make things hard on myself without necessity), and I’ve decided to go over his recent book, The Beausejour Pulpit. After a discussion in the local bookstore (a christian one by the way. I’d like it if there were something devoted to philosophy, science, critical thinking, or even a general bookstore in town, but it doesn’t look like either of those are going to be on the horizon any time soon), and a few e-mails, I had asked him if he had changed his opinions about anything from the origins chapters in his book (chapters seven, eight, and nine)(which, due to the quality of the response, I’m considering doing a bit of a review, posting inaccurate statements from those chapters, and addressing them). The link he had sent me lead me to his wordpress post entitled “A Response to the Critics.”

I’ll be blunt. Some of it was, to put lightly, worse than what some of his other critics have said. I’m not going to bother wasting time stating how I view it (as that would take several paragraphs that would end up making the Sophisticates joke look, rather, polite), instead, putting more emphasis on what I view negatively and where opinions differ. I will point out, that anybody who can honestly state that

“My knowledge of the sciences is primarily limited to the courses I took in high school – biology, chemistry and physics (because at that time I was planning on pursuing a career in marine biology)”

shouldn’t have that much of an excuse to get so much of the subject of evolution so wrong as they should have a basic understanding of biology, and specifically, evolution. Now granted, maybe he didn’t have the type of biology teacher who said “The stuff on the curriculum is stuff that you’ve already learned in health repeatedly, so I’m going to teach you something that you can use” and then taught the class about biochemistry and genetics, even at an introductory level, the types of things that are very useful when studying the subject of evolution, so I’ll give him a pass.

I will state that I’m unable to find the source of the criticism, and I’ll give him a pass on that. If he is unintentionally or intentionally misrepresenting and quote mining the statements made by the critic, I’ll leave the unnamed critic to go point that out. Because I’m fully aware of the ability of authors to alter posts on wordpress, I’ll be using the program snapashot to post photos of the comments in question whenever possible instead of quoting.

In regards to “but to say that I am lying or willfully misrepresenting things is both unfair and exhausting,” I will point out the following

“It is a shame that people use their positions of power to pass on their ignorance,… to people who will take their word at face value.”

Undue emphasis was put on the words that indicated intent, while the critic in question had stated that it was indeed a possibility for the author to simply be mistaken or ignorant about the subject in question (which would be unintentional), and passing on their poorly founded basis. And that is not, even by the most generous interpretation, saying that there is an attempt to lie or willfully misrepresent.

But I will state that should the theory of evolution, the big bang theory, the evidence for either theory be fully explained, and understood by the author, with continued erroneous statements that run contrary to those details, when the author knows better, then I wouldn’t merely be saying that Chris Jordan is lying, I’ll be demonstrating that he IS lying, without leaving the option of merely being mistaken or ignorant on the subject.

“I personally have failed to see any such evidences that support these claims. I do not believe that there is any evidence for macro-evolution. Micro-evolution within a species, yes, de-evolution, yes, but the idea that new information can be added to the genetic code and that one kind of animal can become another kind, I disagree with. A cat will never give birth to a dog. It’s a physical impossibility. To say that we are near cousins to the slug of the banana is reprehensible!”

Give me a second to calm down and quit slamming my head against a brick wall.

Okay, better. On the point of

“I personally have failed to see any such evidences that support these claims. I do not believe there is any evidence for macro-evolution.”

Then I’ll ask. What would be considered evidence for “macro-evolution”? To use a less common example, I’ll use cetaceans, a group that includes modern day whales. The evidence indicating their evolution from small terrestrial tetrapods consists of a number of things from multiple aspects. Due to the length of this post, and the quality of the effort put into the research, I’ll provide a link to one of the best researched blogs on the subject etb-whales.blogspot.ca.

Now of course, somebody could say “But those things are signs of a common designer, not a common ancestry.” Well then, I’d like you to think that over a bit. In what way you say that signs of common ancestry differ from common designer? Would the same means of preventing hiccups in some vertebrates (ex: mammals, birds, reptiles) causing other vertebrates (ex: amphibians) to suffocate be common design, or ancestry?

On the point of

“Micro-evolution within a species, yes”

Then, perhaps we should look at a few speciation events (meaning a new species has developed) that have occurred and have been documented in the last one hundred years. Now of course, the typical defense is to say that it is still a lizard, or still a fly, or still a bacteria, and, when the problems with that defense are sorted out, to resort to the fact that there is some ambiguity as to what a species is. To tackle the first defense, well, first, I will point out that the taxon in which the groups listed above (lizard, fly, often fruit fly as that is the common example, and bacteria) are well above the species level. In addition, given the fact that creationists have provided their definition as  variation within a species, a new species would not be micro-evolution, and attempting to say that is all evolution is limited to micro-evolution as creationists have defined it is, to put lightly, no, wait, I said I’d try to avoid that. Fine. Pretty dishonest.

For those wanting to become familiar with observed speciation events, the talkorigins pages would be good starting points (Observed instances of speciation, and More instances of speciation), as they go over what constitutes a species from a few different perspectives, and cite documented examples.

On the point of

“de-evolution, yes”

and here is where one really demonstrates a poor understanding of evolution, which is saying something given the competition for the award of demonstrating a poor understanding of evolution. I had explained it to him once, and I’ll explain it again. Evolution, when it comes to science, meaning that I will not using the layman definition of change over time which is applicable to so many instances, is defined as the variation of allele frequencies (for any other definitions, I’d recommend part one of an ongoing series, with the part in question focusing on the definitions for the rest of the series). So, with that in mind, how does “de-evolution” differ from evolution?

On the point of

the idea that new information can be added to the genetic code and that one kind of animal can become another kind, I disagree with.

quite frankly, doesn’t impress me. As has been said so many times, define information. Even in the post by AIG (Answers In Genesis, a group that is referred to and recommended in the blog I’m responding to) entitled Feedback: That Depends on What Your Definition of ‘Information’ is, fails to provide a definition of “information” as it relates to biology as creationists insist it does. Having gone through their index page on the subject of “information theory,” asked creationists what they mean by information, and yet to find a definition which isn’t either inapplicable to biology at best or completely useless at worst, vaguely defined, in any situation, no means of measuring the information such that we can tell the difference in the amount of information it takes to produce an ancestral species and a species descended from that, leaving no means by which we can measure or test, and no reason to accept the claim.

Although, that is the creationist idea of information. I’ve heard of one or two different definitions as it relates to biology (skip to 18:30), but of course, I’ll leave it to the creationists to figure out what they are.

On the point of

“A cat will never give birth to a dog. It’s a physical impossibility.”

I just have to shout, YOU FINALLY GOT SOMETHING RIGHT ON THE FIRST SHOT! WAY TO GO! Undue sarcasm aside, as I’ve said before in other places, find an evolutionist who’d say that something like this would even be permitted. That within a single generation, a member of a species would undergo enough mutations in order to become infertile with other members of its species (such as Felis catus, or as some prefer, Felis silvesterus catus) and simultaneously become able to produce fertile offspring with members of another extant species (such as Canis lupus familiarus), while also demonstrating all of the traits indicative of the later species, especially when they diverged roughly 50 mya. Because that is precisely what is being asked for here if it would be considered evidence of evolution.

There are two issues that I have with this response.

The first, is the entire design argument.  From the perspective of psychology, we’re great at implying intent, and hence, design. To use an example of such from earlier

Quote 1, taken February 24, 2012 @ 7:13 pm CST

You’ll find at least two parts that demonstrate people inferring intent.

  1. It is a shame that people use their positions of power to pass on their ignorance, or their lies, to people who will take their word at face value.
  2. It is wholly unfair to make assumptions about another person’s motives in sharing information…. but to say that I am lying or willfully misrepresenting things is both unfair and exhausting.

In the first part, the critic is making a statement about the actions, and in the response, Chris Jordan, makes an inference about the intent. As is more common, especially when dealing with those that we disagree with,

to say that I am lying or willfully misrepresenting

we pick up on what is there (“lying or willfully misrepresenting”), inferring only negative intentions with the statement, while forgetting the one that didn’t suggest intent (“pass on their ignorance”). There is an overgeneralization in regards to intent. This is kind of one of the downsides. We’re great at getting hits when it comes to intent and design, but it is only by means assuming that everything has intent or design. As an example, people rarely mistake a robber for a shadow, but will mistake shadows for robbers.

Now, that is only an example of people inferring intention and overgeneralizing intent. But, how does that relate to design? Well, the first question to be asked, is how do we infer design? It tends to consist of a few things.

  1. Interaction. We can determine that a watch, a cell phone, or a television is designed because they cannot come about without human interaction. We know the stages involved, such as the extraction of resources, the refinement of those resources, the shaping of those resources, and the application of those items, etc. and the only means that we’ve seen those stages occur is the direct action of human beings. Even if we were to replace one stage, or all of them, with machines to carry out the process, it wouldn’t change it as a) the items would still be designed by a being of some sort, b) the items would be designed by beings created by human beings. It is the interaction between a being (human beings, machines, intelligent species, etc) and matter that produces design. Now, there are a few things that blur the line at that point, so the second criteria used is
  2. Intention. With things such as very primitive tools (rocks used as knives, twigs used to obtain insects), it can be difficult to identify them as designed. As an example, the tools employed by chimpanzees for various purposes do not differ that much from the raw resources. They don’t appear to be altered significantly. So identifying the tool as designed is rather difficult unless one is familiar with chimpanzees or has observed the use of the tools. Yet the tools fit the basic criteria. The resources are extracted (small twig removed from a tree), refined (leaves and anything unwanted is removed), and applied (used to get termites out of a hole). Of course, somebody might say that the twig or resources were already designed, because it met the criteria that somebody was looking for. This is the point of intention. If a rock is produced by the processes of nature, it isn’t designed. There is no intent behind its production, nor behind the combination of the chemicals from which it is composed, just as there is no intent behind the hundreds of thousands of other rocks out there. It might be shaped by the environment through forces such as erosion, but there is no intent behind it. When dealing with intent, it can be very easy to overgeneralize (part of the reason I started with that as an intro to looking at design), and see intent where there is none, pardon the horrible joke, intended. As another example of this, there was one interview which stands out in my mind. About part way through an interview between Richard Dawkins and <Insert name>, they began to speak of natural selection as though it were a being with intent.
  3. By contrasting things which are undesigned/uncreated with those that are designed/created. This final stage is useful for when we’ve recreated the conditions under which something develops (such as the development of diamonds), normally without human interaction. In this instance, we look for ways in which those without human (or, given that there are other species we know of  with the capacity to produce tools , one might be more inclined to say intentional) interaction differ from processes that occur without intention. As an example, we can go with diamonds compared to cubic zirconia.  These are two things that are visually identical without any further inspection. And there lies the problem with creationism, is that its proponents say that everything is created or designed, in which case, we don’t have any means of producing a contrast using any criteria, regardless of how much inspection occurs.

One of the problems with attempting to state that anything biological is designed is that organisms tend to do one thing that the example of tools and technology can’t do. Organisms can reproduce, and when they do, the offspring are not usually perfect genetic replicates of either parent (or in the case of organisms that reproduce asexually, of the parent), and pass on those changes to the next generation.

But what the arguments for Intelligent Design tend to center around consist of things which their proponents regard as irreducibly complex, in other words, the removal of one part or more renders it unable to function. As an example of this, the popular example, used by the likes of Michael Behe during the Dover Trial, is the bacterial flagellum. Despite the quotes describing the bacterial flagellum, the description of how it works, what it resembles, or quotes about how it could not have evolved, those who specialize in the study of any system claimed to be irreducibly complex are more than capable of seeing ways in which it had evolved. For an example of this, I’d recommend viewing Judgement Day: Evolution on Trial.

Of course, in the instance of not finding any evidence of said combination, the defense might be that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, to which I point out that it is unsupported, and unfalsifiable, leaving a very poor basis for one to accept the claim.

It should go without saying that there might be other factors for determining if something is designed that I’m unaware of, and in that case, feel free to state what you think the signs of it are.

Of course, that is ignoring the other problems with Intelligent Design, such as even if people such as myself were to grant that there is a designer, then how did the designer do the production of anything that some would think to be intelligently designed?

The second issue I have, is in regards to

“the Bible is the only one that I have come across that has withstood criticisms and in my humble opinion, is the only true historical account for how we came to be here.”

Great. As a criticism of the basis for that statement, feel free to quote me on this, can the author, Chris Jordan

  1. cite the criticism of the biblical account of creation?
  2. cite the evidence for the biblical account of creation?
  3. cite the criticism of the account of creation from at least two other religions that exist today?
  4. cite the evidence for those two accounts of creation?
  5. cite the criticism for the claims made by scientists in relevant fields in regards to the big bang theory and the theory of evolution?
  6. cite the evidence presented for either claim?
  7. demonstrate an understanding of the evidence and criticism requested of at least four of the above questions?

and if not, on what basis can the statement quoted above be justified? After all, if an understanding of the evidence indicative of a claim and the criticism of said claim cannot be demonstrated, it would leave “the Bible is the only one that I have come across” the only accurate segment from that quote.

Unfortunately, given that a number of sites that are from christian creationists do something which makes me wonder if he’d even be aware of the errors and problems with the Bible. I’ll quote two sites as an example.

From Answers In Genesis, Section four of their Statement of Faith

“By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

From Eric Hovind’s Statement of Faith on CreationToday.Org

“No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and science, can be valid if it contradicts Scripture.”

Unfortunately, there are others, but this will be sufficient as an example. Overall, there are two problems. The first is that it indicates what they want, and the second is what they will do to get what they want. It indicates that they want to believe something so much that they will ignore all evidence that points to the contrary. Now, if that doesn’t seem absurd, imagine the practitioners of another religion doing much the same thing.

Of course, one might argue that AiG does provide a reason for why they do so. They clearly state in the second sentence provided

“Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

Now, each of these is equally applicable to the people making the statement. The difference is, science does have a few methods which eliminate each of these problems. Evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people, and double checked by others who are more than happy to prove them wrong on any point, or on each, in a process known as peer review. Should the interpretation be shown to be wrong in peer review, it is corrected.

Worth noting is that Chris Jordan has recommended AiG, among other creationist sources.

Quite frankly, the answer strikes me as an attempt to dodge, to avoid deep thinking, hard questions, and the investigation that they require, while hindering us from developing as doing so has permitted us to do so in all aspects of life. I think Carl Sagan captured this point perfectly, so I’ll provide the quote in question.

   “If the general picture of a big bang, followed by an expanding universe, is correct, what happened before that? Was the universe devoid of all matter, and then the matter, suddenly, somehow created? How did that happen?

In many cultures, the customary answer is that a god or gods created the universe out of nothing. But if we wish to pursue this question courageously, we must ask the next question.Where did god come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step, and conclude that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question? Or if we say that god always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe always existed? That there’s no need for a creation, that it was always here.

These are not easy questions. Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries, with questions that were once only treated in religion and myth.”

As well as the inability to test the qualities of supernatural beings (such as deities, demons, demi-gods, etc), the statement is untestable, and hence, unverifiable. With no way to really know as we can claim to know something in science, the statement is without basis, and as a result, to people such as myself, those that would be considered critics, are without a sound basis on which to accept the claim made that the deity in question always existed.

As for the final part

“It’s amazing to me how people can have a hard time believing that an all-powerful being could have created the universe, and yet choose to believe the more unbelievable idea that everything that exists came from nothing, or by chance.”

I’m not even going to bother going over it unless the author can understand the quantum fluctuations that some cosmologists such as Lawrence Krauss have described (and to which the statement “that everything that exists came from nothing” more than likely refers, if not to an old strawman of the Big Bang), or mutations shaped by selection mechanisms, with successful ones spreading throughout a population.

And luckily, I had taken pictures of the commentss in question, so, I have one advantage, given that sometime after it was posted, it was replaced with this little statement.

Cute. No response? Depend on an ad hom. Weak response? Replace it with an ad hom. Because depending on a valid response and well supported argument is pretty difficult. Of course, one can always say that it wasn’t edited. Well then, I’d recommend that you look into that.

From http://lzyixing.com/my_critics_critic_for_you.html?s=10

Or, if you prefer, try google http://www.google.ca/#hl=en&sclient=psy-ab&q=the+beausejour+pulpit+wordpress+response+to+the+critics&pbx=1&oq=the+beausejour+pulpit+wordpress+response+to+the+critics&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=3&gs_upl=8899l10335l1l11028l6l2l4l0l0l0l106l164l1.1l6l0&gs_l=serp.3…8899l10335l1l11029l6l2l4l0l0l0l106l164l1j1l6l0&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=5cd5ecda6aaa9604&biw=1600&bih=771

Should Chris Jordan deny the alteration of the post in question, then I’ll be inclined to ask him to provide a picture of when the post was last edited.

As a side note, the verse goes on to say a bit more. Even if you are unfamiliar with the language used, or even the meaning of the word fool as used by the author, it becomes pretty easy to see what was intended. The authors were speaking of immoral people as opposed to stupid people.

Relevant links

Pastor Chris Jordan’s Blog

A Response to the Critics

Origins #1 Creation Part 1

Origins #1 Creation Part 2

Origins #2 The Fall Part 1

Origins #2 The Fall Part 2

Recommended viewing

On Intelligent Design

Neil DeGrasse Tyson presenting at the Amazing meeting, start from 57:10

C0nc0rdance vs The Discovery Institute

Nova – Intelligent Design on Trial

IDiots once again justify their name

References without sources

The Carl Sagan excerpt is from Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Links recommended for Chris Jordan

For the basics

Evolution 101 – evolution.berkeley.edu

Evolution index – PBS

Evogenvideos and Lithodidman – Youtube (somewhat crude)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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One response to “Oh, those Preachers in my Town…

  1. Mike,
    The reason I deleted my post (A Response to the Critics) and replaced it with the graphic and Scripture that I did is because the person on facebook who had initiated the debate with me had cancelled his facebook account, and thereby effectively ended the discussion / debate, as I was not friends with any of his contacts on facebook. Hope that answers your question…

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