As I have said before, PZ Myers is my favorite atheist. He says exactly what he thinks (no matter how stupid it is) and does so in an engaging, witty way. For example, this is probably my favorite PZ Myers piece I have ever read. It lampoons my position, but it is awesome!
So I had to feel a little sorry for him when someone with a BA in mathematics was able to fluster him during a Q&A session:
P.Z. Myers’ evolutionary equivocation
Of course, the physicist mentioned in the article also did a good job of showing how little evidence means to poor PZ.
I get all sorts of E-MAIL and snail mail from students who have used one or more of my books and are now excelling at university. However, I thought this one was worthy of a post.
Bethany B. wrote (a real letter!) to tell me that she used four of my books in high school (at home) and then read another “for fun” over the summer after her senior year. When she went to Winthrop University, she decided to study music and nutrition. She noticed, however, that she was not only incredibly well prepared for her science courses, but those courses were also much more interesting than the courses related to her major.
In the end, she changed to a double major in biology and chemistry. She ended up graduating cum laude and was accepted into a biological and biomedical sciences PhD program at Harvard. It is students like Bethany – those who get serious training in high school, university, and graduate school – who will shape what science becomes in the future.
God Bless you Bethany, and I hope Harvard is ready for you!
Jeffery E. Barrick and his colleagues have published the results of one of the most interesting evolution experiments I have ever read.1 Actually, the genius behind this experiment is Richard E. Lenski, who is on the author list as well. Lenski started an experiment with E. coli almost 20 years ago, and it is still producing excellent results. Essentially, the experiment followed twelve populations of E. coli over all those years. The focus of the paper was one of those twelve populations.
In the experiment, the bacteria were grown on a minimal medium with glucose as a limiting nutrient. Each day, a small sample of the culture was removed and placed in a fresh medium. Periodically, samples were frozen so that they could be analyzed in detail at any time.
Thanks to the wonderful technology we have today, the entire genome of E. coli can be sequenced in a “reasonably short” amount of time. So this paper reports on the results of comparing the genome of the original bacterium to that of the bacteria after 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, and 40,000 generations. The results were “rather surprising,” according to the authors.
In my previous post about this book, I discussed how the author, Cornelius Hunter, makes the strong case that reliance on naturalism alone in science causes a blind spot. If you restrict your science to only naturalistic processes, you will never be able to know whether or not what you are studying can possibly be the result of a naturalistic process. Instead, you will keep trying to force a naturalistic explanation onto systems and processes that might not be naturalistic in origin.
After establishing this fact, he discusses how it plays out in the biological concept of evolution. Since science is committed to only naturalistic processes, questions such as the origin of life and the origin of the various species must be the result of some natural process, regardless of whether or not the data indicate this. As a result, scientists are continually trying to force the data to indicate evolution, whether or not evolution is a good explanation of the data
Cornelius G. Hunter has a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology and is an Adjunct Professor at Biola University. He spends most of his time doing research, specifically in the area of molecular biophysics. His first two books (Darwin’s God and Darwin’s Proof) did not impress me. Don’t get me wrong – I essentially agree with the views presented in them. Darwin’s God said that evolution is not the same as atheism and, in fact, Darwin was actually trying to “glorify” God by removing Him from the sordid details of nature. As pointed out in that book, Darwin clearly didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but he clearly did believe in God and sought to make this God more powerful by essentially saying that He created the natural laws that ended up allowing organisms to create themselves.
In his second book, Darwin’s Proof, he shows that common features in organisms don’t imply common ancestry, and he gives plenty of scientific evidence to show that the general principles of macroevolution (one kind of organism evolving into another kind) are clearly wrong. While both books present many truisms, neither added much to what is already known about Darwin or the misuse to which scientists have put his views.
Science’s Blind Spot is Hunter’s latest book, and it is superior to both of his previous ones. In this book, Hunter attempts to explore the benefits of naturalism in science as well as its limitations. Clearly Hunter has spent a lot of time thinking about this, and his insights are both interesting and refreshing.
As The Irrational Atheist shows, it doesn’t take much to destroy the arguments of the New Atheists. The arguments of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. are simply no match for a computer game designer armed with a few facts. Indeed, Dawkins couldn’t even hold his own against a former political speechwriter.
Well, it turns out that it doesn’t even take a computer game designer or former political speechwriter to make Dawkins look like an idiot. Even a radio talk show host can do it. Hugh Hewitt is an attorney who has a radio talk show that I have never heard. However, someone sent me the transcript of his discussion with Dawkins, and after reading it, I had to admit feeling sorry for poor old Richard. Of course, it’s not his fault. His position is so weak that such embarrassments are inevitable.
Baptist 1: Do you know about the latest rage in Evangelical theology? It’s called “Open Theism.”
Baptist 2: No, I don’t know anything about it.
Baptist 1: That’s okay. We’re not sure God knows about it, either.
This joke was told to me by a man I respect and admire who is currently at SCBI annual meeting.
I am a nuclear chemist. I chose to be a nuclear chemist because studying the nucleus fascinates me. It’s amazing enough to study something we can never hope to actually see, but the fact that the nucleus is shrouded by clouds of electrons makes the job all the more fun.
Because I am a nuclear chemist, there are certain things I don’t want to believe. For example, I don’t want to believe quantum mechanics is wrong just because it is incompatible with general relativity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want general relativity to be wrong, either. Black holes, white holes, and wormholes are just far to fun to ever want to give up! Nevertheless, if I have to choose one of those two theories to be wrong (because they are incompatible), I will to choose general relativity, because quantum mechanics works so incredibly well when it is applied to small things like the nucleus.
For a long time, there was something else I didn’t want to believe. I didn’t want to believe that the half-lives of radioactive isotopes could change. It seemed so clear to me at the time: radioactive half-lives depend on the energetics of the nucleus, and the energy levels in the nucleus are (roughly speaking) about 100,000 times that of the electrons in an atom. Thus, if nature exposes a radioactive atom to stress, the electrons should be the ones that deal with the stress, not the nucleus. The nucleus is under the electron cloud, and it deals in energies that are so much greater than electron energies, that the electrons effectively “shield” the nucleus from being affected by most of the stress that nature can throw at it.
Over the years, however, the data have drug me (kicking and screaming the entire way) to the point where I have to admit that radioactive half-lives can change, and in some cases, they can change quite substantially.
Al Gore told a German audience in December of 2008 that the polar ice cap will disappear in FIVE YEARS.1 A Washington Post story from April of this year says
The data on this winter’s ice buildup came on the day that international ministers gathered in Washington to address issues facing Earth’s polar regions, which have been disproportionately affected by global warming. 2
It goes on to quote Norway’s foreign minister that “The ice is melting…We should all be worried.”
Well, Al Gore, the Washington Post, and Norway’s foreign minister should all be breathing a sigh of relief. As all climatologists agree, the poles should be most affected by global warming, and guess what’s happening at the South Pole? The ice just keeps growing!
My favorite atheist, P.Z. Myers, gets very upset over many, many things. A while ago, he got really flustered over the fact that Obama appointed Francis S. Collins to head the National Institutes of Health. You see, Collins is a vocal Christian. Myers can’t stand it when a scientist of faith is (a) significantly more knowledgeable and accomplished than he is and (b) is promoted to a very high-profile position. It destroys his whole “If you believe in religion you are an idiot” argument. Here is what he said when Obama’s appointment of Francis S. Collins became official:
We can also trust him to drape Jesus over every major announcement, use the office as a platform for promoting religiosity, and otherwise taint the whole business with embarrassingly inane nonsense…just as he did with the human genome press conference. Isn’t it about time our government promoted secular values that work over these antique and ineffective superstitions that just make their proponents look goofy? 1
This is a common theme throughout the “new atheist” movement – Christians believe in superstition. Well, like most things the new atheists say, such nonsense is demonstrated wrong by the data.