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Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Was Wrong

Posted by jlwile on February 17, 2014

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye debated the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye debated the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

The day after the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, I gave you my general impressions of how it went. One of the things I said was:

Will this debate change any minds? I doubt it, because each debater never really addressed the other’s contentions.

Fairly quickly, a commenter told me that I was wrong about that particular thought. In fact, the commenter wrote:

While I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with this statement… “Will this debate change any minds? I doubt it, because each debater never really addressed the other’s contentions.”

Ham presented the full Gospel, at least twice. God’s word does not return void. This debate will surely change some minds.

Well, it turns out that the commenter was right, and I was wrong. We now know that at least one person did change his mind as a result of the debate. An Answers in Genesis staff member reports:

A friend from Maine related to us that his family was praying for a young man, Kyle, who was having a hard time trying to reconcile science with faith. The family had witnessed to him many times and invited him to watch the [Nye] debate, which he did. Afterward, a friend was able to get him into the Scriptures, and Kyle finally repented and received Christ.
When asked what part the debate played in him finally receiving Christ, Kyle’s friend replied, ‘If anyone actually won the debate, it was Ken Ham. [Ken’s use of] the orchard model of species (versus the evolutionary tree) impressed him in particular, but that it was a greater trust in the Bible that helped him receive Christ.

As the commenter alluded to, Isaiah 55:11 tells us:

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

I obviously forgot that verse, and as a result, I was clearly wrong. I am so glad that I was!

DVD and Live Streaming Options for the Debate

Posted by jlwile on January 7, 2014

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye will debate the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye will debate the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

There were 800 tickets available for the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, and they sold out within minutes. As a result, Answers in Genesis is offering both a DVD option and a live streaming option. I chose the live streaming option, so I will be able to see the debate live and blog about it shortly afterwards. If you would like either the DVD or the live stream option, you can go to:

The Answers in Genesis Debate Page

A Tribute to My First Grade Teacher

Posted by jlwile on October 14, 2013

Linda L. Knight

Last week, I spoke at a memorial service for Linda L. Knight. She was my teacher in first grade, and she later became a friend of mine. She was an important part of my life, so I want to share the approximate text of my eulogy. I say “approximate” because I never write down my public presentations. I just use some notes and have a rough outline in my head of what I will say. Thus, what follows isn’t exactly what I said. It is, however, as near as I can remember it. Because I was speaking to her friends, most of whom live in the same town, there are some local references that many people won’t understand. Please don’t let that get in the way of the message.

——————————————————————————————————

William Arthur Ward once said:

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

Linda Knight was a great teacher. She inspired me. I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for her inspiration, I would not be the scientist I am today. The impressive thing about this is that she wasn’t one of my college teachers. She wasn’t one of my high school teachers. She wasn’t even one of my middle school teachers. She was my first grade teacher. Nevertheless, her inspiration sticks with me to this day. Titus 2:7-8 says:

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned…

That’s exactly how Linda Knight taught. She was an incredible role model, she taught with dignity and integrity, and the things she taught us were sound.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Most Difficult Article I Have Ever Written

Posted by jlwile on June 21, 2013

No, it’s not a treatise on deexcitation mechanisms in strongly-damped, heavy-ion collisions. That was my PhD thesis, and it was easy compared to this one. The most difficult article I have ever written is a 2-page summary of the details surrounding our adopted daughter. It was incredibly difficult for three reasons:

1. The story should fill an entire book. To cut it down to a magazine-length article was excruciating.

2. Every time I think of the reasons my daughter needed adoptive parents, I get so angry that I want to go out and shoot someone.

3. It is profoundly difficult to put into words what my daughter means to me. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to try.

So if you want to read the most difficult article I ever wrote, click on the link below:

My Little Girl

Dr. Gish Dies at Age 92

Posted by jlwile on March 6, 2013

Dr. Duane T. Gish (Click for credit)

According to Answers in Genesis, an icon of the modern young-earth creationist movement has passed into Glory. Dr. Duane T. Gish was a popular author among creationists, especially in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. I read many of his books over the years, including Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record, Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics, and Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! While I did not agree with everything he wrote, I found his books incredibly helpful.

He was probably best known for his willingness to debate those who disagreed with him. He is said to have taken part in more than 300 public debates on the creation/evolution controversy. I always admired him for that. I never had the chance to meet Dr. Gish in this life, but I certainly look forward to doing so in the next.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

-Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Dr. Jay is AFK

Posted by jlwile on January 25, 2013

For those of you who do not speak nerd, “AFK” means “Away from Keyboard.” I will be traveling for the next three weeks, and for much of that time, I will not have internet access. That means I will not be able to moderate or respond to your comments. However, please feel free to leave your comments. When I have internet access, I will try to do what I can to moderate the comments and answer any questions you might have. I will also try to post new articles, but it’s not clear whether or not that will happen. It’s possible that there won’t be a new article posted for as many as three weeks.

More Evidence Against Feathered Dinosaurs

Posted by jlwile on January 2, 2013

This is a portion of one of the two fossils examined in the study that is discussed in the article below (GMV 2124). It is thought to be a Sinosauropteryx fossil, and the gray region pointed out is interpreted by some to be the remains of primitive feathers. The study strongly disputes that interpretation. (Click for credit.)

Several months ago I wrote an article about the fossil evidence for primitive feathers (often called “protofeathers”) in some dinosaur specimens. The article discussed a study by Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, Alan Feduccia, and Xiaolin Wang that provided strong evidence against the common interpretation that the dinosaur Sinosauropteryx was covered in such protofeathers. In the discussion that followed, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati suggested that I should read another article by Lingham-Soliar.1 Over the holidays, I finally had a chance to do so. As he suggested, this is another very important study in the “feathered dinosaurs” debate. While Dr. Sarfati has his own excellent analysis of this study and a few others, I would like to add some thoughts of my own.

Lingham-Soliar’s study focused on two fossils: NIGP 127587 (identified as a Sinosauropteryx fossil) and GMV 2124 (thought to be a Sinosauropteryx fossil). Both exhibit exceptional preservation. In fact, the latter fossil is so well-preserved that the stomach contents were analyzed and three mammal skulls were found! Two came from mammals in the genus Zhangheotherium, and the third came from the genus Sinobaatar.2 The important aspect of the fossils for this study, however, is the fact that both show some sort of “fuzz” extending from the body of the animal (pointed out in the picture above). This “fuzz” has been routinely interpreted to be the remains of primitive feathers, but Lingham-Soliar and his colleagues strongly dispute that interpretation.

In an attempt to understand precisely what this “fuzz” represents, Lingham-Soliar performed a detailed examination of the fossils and also did a simple experiment. The combination of his fossil analysis and the results of the experiment provide still more evidence that Sinosauropteryx did not have any feathers.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

People Prefer Purpose

Posted by jlwile on October 22, 2012

Plato from Raphael's "The School of Athens"

Back in the fourth century BC, Plato argued that any true explanation for a physical process must be teleological. In other words, Plato thought that the processes occurring in nature are driven by design and purpose, and any proper explanation for such processes must include that design and purpose. While most scientists reject such explanations these days, there has been a bit of a resurgence of this school of thought in recent years. Intelligent design advocates as well as creationists, for example, argue that design-based explanations lead to a better understanding of nature.

While most people think that any teleological approach to nature must assume some sort of Creator or Designer, that’s not necessarily the case. Not long ago, I reviewed a book by Dr. Thomas Nagel. Even though he is an atheist, he argues that any explanation of origins must be teleological in nature. He doesn’t know exactly what such an explanation is, but he argues forcefully that any non-teleological approach will never explain everything we currently understand about science.

Interestingly enough, I ran across a psychological study that seems to indicate that teleological explanations appeal to the “gut instincts” of people. Now I am not a huge fan of psychological studies. There are an enormous number of variables involved in studying how and why people think the way that they do. As a result, I am instinctively skeptical of such studies. However, I thought the results of this one were interesting enough to discuss.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Defending the Indefensible

Posted by jlwile on September 13, 2012

Not long ago, I wrote a response to Bill Nye’s anti-science video. A commenter replied by posting a link to a blog that attempted to defend Nye’s indefensible statements. I quickly pointed out the many errors in the article, and the commenter obviously sent my response to the author, Emil Karlsson. He has now written another post in an attempt to defend his position. Unfortunately, it is more error-filled than his original post.

Here is my attempt to correct his errors, in the order he presents them:

1. Mr. Karlsson still tries to make excuses for Nye’s false statement about evolution denial being unique in the U.S.

In his reply to me, he gives Nye’s full quote from the beginning of the video. He then tries to claim that Nye was not saying exactly what he said – that denial of evolution is unique to the U.S. Mr. Karlsson claims:

So Bill Nye is not making the naive claim that denial of evolution is unique to the United States in the sense that it does not exist anywhere else, but rather the claim that United States is unique in being a highly technologically advanced society, yet have [sic] a large proportion of the population being creationist.

Of course, Nye is saying nothing of the sort. Nowhere in Nye’s statement can you find the words “large proportion.” In addition, while Nye certainly mentions technological advancement, he is using it as a descriptor for the United States, not a qualifier for his statement. Regardless of the mental gymnastics of Mr. Karlsson, Nye’s statement is unambiguously false.

However, let’s assume Mr. Nye really did mean what Mr. Karlsson claims, even though Mr. Nye said something completely different. Even if that’s the case, his statement is still a complete fabrication. Would Mr. Karlsson agree that Germany is technologically advanced? The study to which he refers indicates that more than 20% of its population denies evolution. The same is true of Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In the U.S., a larger percentage (roughly 40%) deny evolution, but that’s not drastically different from the percentage found in many other technologically-advanced nations. Even in the U.K., the percentage of people who deny evolution is greater than 15%.

In the end, then, even in technologically-advanced nations, denial of evolution is common. It is a bit more popular in the U.S., but it is certainly not unique to the U.S. Of course, the U.S. has always been on the cutting edge of science, so it’s not surprising that it holds a slightly higher percentage of people who see the serious scientific problems with evolution!

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Bill Nye the Anti-Science Guy

Posted by jlwile on August 29, 2012

Most people have heard about Bill Nye the Science Guy. He had a high-energy television show that ran for five years, teaching children about science with cool demonstrations, lots of great interviews, and extreme enthusiasm. Nowadays, he produces videos about science and talks about science at many different venues. While I always thought that his approach was a little short on substance, I have to admit that he has the ability to communicate great scientific truths in an exciting, easy-to-understand manner. It’s no wonder that he has a dedicated following of students and teachers.

He recently made a short video that has become extremely popular (the one posted above). It’s gotten more than 2,000,000 Youtube hits, and I have seen it all over Facebook and my E-MAIL inbox. When I watched the video, my first thought was, “How can someone who knows so much science be so confused as to what science is all about?” As I continued to watch the video, I wondered “How can someone who knows so much science be so misinformed when it comes to creationism?”

Let me start by explaining why that first question came to mind. In essence, Bill Nye is imploring creationists to stop teaching creation to their children. He is saying that we should accept the scientific consensus and move on. The vast majority of scientists today believe in evolution, so we should believe in evolution, too. When you first hear such a thing, it might sound reasonable, but it is amazingly anti-science. What if all scientists had followed the scientific consensus that Newtonian physics was a complete description of the universe, and there were just a few “nagging problems” that still had to be worked out? If they had done that, we would have never learned about quantum mechanics and relativity, which are the guiding theories for most of today’s physics.

What if all scientists had accepted the scientific consensus that it is impossible for a crystalline substance to have a structure that can be rotated by one-fifth or one-tenth and end up looking the same as it did before? If that had happened, we would have never learned about quasicrystals, for which Dr. Dan Shechtman won his Nobel Prize. What if all scientists had accepted the scientific law known as Bateman’s Principle? If they had, we would still be laboring under the false notion that males are promiscuous in their mating habits, while females are more choosy about their mates.

The fact is that those who go against the scientific consensus are often the ones who are responsible for propelling science forward, or at least correcting false notions that had been promulgated by science. To tell people to stop going against the scientific consensus, then, is one of the most unscientific things you can do.

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