Thursday, February 6, 2014

Answers to a few questions from creationists

Apparently there was a big debate on February 4th, between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I haven't sat down to watch it yet (might not, either), but I saw a link on Facebook today from Buzzfeed, with the following title/subtitle. 
22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution 
I asked 22 self-identifying creationists at the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate to write a message/question/note to the other side. Here’s what they wrote.
I looked through those messages, shown in pictures as handwritten messages with smiling faces above them, and couldn't believe how easy most of them were to answer. So, here's MY answers (any mistakes in the quotations are mine; since they were in pics, I couldn't simply copy/paste):

1. "Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?"
Yes, he is. He's teaching children and people about actual science, and the methods of critical thinking that go with it. That's an extremely positive influence.

2. "Are you scared of Divine Creator?"
No, why would I be?

3. "Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? i.e., trees created with rings . . .  Adam created as an adult . . ."
Why would it be? Assuming there's a creator god, why bother with the rings in the trees? But more importantly, what reason would you have for thinking that the earth was created "mature"? Without good reason to believe it, given that the evidence points an old earth, then it is, in fact, illogical.

4. "Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?"
No. From Wikipedia:
The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium—the state of maximum entropy.
Earth, and the life on it, is not an isolated system. It's a system that continuously receives energy in the form of sunlight, and is thus not going to evolve to a thermodynamic equilibrium.

5. "How do you explain a sunset if there is no god?"
What? Ok. The position of the sun as we see it is relative to the earth's position and rotation, and as the earth rotates, the sun "sets" when the side of the earth that we're on starts to face away from the sun.

6. "If the Big Bang Theory is true, and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?"
See question four about evolution, but where are you getting the idea that the laws of thermodynamics debunks the Big Bang Theory? So far as I understand it, the universe is considered as a closed system currently, one that, as a whole, is behaving as the laws of thermodynamics would predict.

7. "What about Noetics?"
According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences,
Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing—including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic sciences explore the "inner cosmos" of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the "outer cosmos" of the physical world
So, basically, stuff that can't be replicated or falsified, and is not scientific. We're not talking psychology or philosophy of the mind here. When it can be empirically tested, I'll give it serious thought.

8. "Where do you derive objective meaning in life?"
I don't. I see no reason to think that there is some outside, cosmic force giving meaning to life. It is up to us to determine what our personal, subjective meaning in life is.

9. "If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?"
I don't know. That's an answer we haven't found yet (and perhaps will never find). But given that every explanation we've ever found for any phenomena in existence can be traced to natural causes, it is probable that this explanation can also be traced to natural causes (as opposed to a supernatural, creator god). It should also be noted that we have various models for how it could have happened, given our understanding of how nature works, but we can't know which model is the actual correct one in this case.

10. "I believe in the Big Bang Theory . . . God said it and BANG it happened!"
Why do you believe God said it? Are you claiming to have knowledge that can be verified, or are you just taking it on faith? Either way, what reason can you give me to believe as you do?

11. "Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-god believing people reject the idea of their being a creator God, but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?"
Say what now? Where do you get that idea? I'm not aware of any good evidence to suggest aliens designed us, and would only embrace such an extraordinary claim after extraordinary evidence were given. I know there may be some who think "aliens did it," but it's not something embraced by a majority consensus in the biological fields.

12. "There is no in-between . . . the only one found has been Lucy, and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an 'official proof.'"
All fossils are transitional. We are transitional to whatever the hell comes after us. Here's a great image that helps explain it.
Thanks to WWJTD? for the image (and he explains the whole damn thing better than me).

13. "Does metamorphosis help support evolution?"
Not directly, no. Here's an interesting article about the evolution of metamorphosis in insects, though.

14. "If evolution is a theory (like creationism, or the Bible) why then is evolution taught as fact?"
Because it is a fact, and you're misusing the word "theory" in this context.
In modern science, the term "theory" refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are described in such a way that any scientist in the field is in a position to understand and either provide empirical support ("verify") or empirically contradict ("falsify") it. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge,[2] in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which is better defined by the word 'hypothesis').[3] Scientific theories are distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will behave under certain conditions.[4]
There are plenty of theories, in the scientific sense, that you may have heard of: Theory of Gravity, Theory of General Relativity, Germ Theory of Disease, etc.

15. "Because science by definition is a "theory" --not testable, observable, or repeatable" why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?"
Actually, by definition a scientific theory is in fact testable, observable, or repeatable. Without that, it wouldn't even be a theory. See question 14.

16. "What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?"
Sometimes when cells undergo meiosis, the reshuffling of genetic information can result in new adaptations. In other words, mutation is the mechanism.

17. "What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?"
Similar to objective meaning, I don't think I'm here for any grand, cosmic purpose. If I wish there to be purpose in my life, I shall have to devise such purpose myself.

18. "Why have we only found 1 Lucy, when we have found more than 1 of everything else?"
See number 12.

19. "Can you believe in the "Big Bang" without "faith"?"
Absolutely. If there's a preponderance of evidence pointing to a Big Bang, then it is reasonable to believe the Big Bang happened, with such belief ideally proportioned to the amount of evidence. There are competing theories (other than intelligent design/creationism), but they have yet to bring the evidence.

20. "How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it? It's amazing!"
Yes, it is (except for crap like cancer, which is an awful kind of amazing, if you call that amazing). What does that have to do with whether or not someone created it? I don't believe someone created it because there's no evidence to support that belief. I'm an agnostic adeist with respect to the idea that there was a creator that set everything up and left, meaning I don't think it's knowable one way or the other. Even if such a creator exists, that wouldn't get us to a personal god, such as the Christian versions.

21. "Relating to the big bang theory . . . Where did the exploding star come from?"
Singularity, not exploding star. And we don't know. Currently, it's a mystery. There are plenty of ideas, including a multiverse of infinite universes giving birth to other universes, but so far, we don't know. Hopefully someday we'll be able to get some of those ideas tested in ways that can lead us closer to the truth. But there's still no reason to believe it was a god who created it (and really, that would only lead to "where did the deity come from?" and so on in infinite regress).

22. "If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?"
We didn't come from monkeys. We came from a common ancestor. Why is this so hard to get? Saying we came from monkeys is like saying I came from my cousin of the same generation as me. Instead, each cousin can trace their ancestry back to a common ancestor -- a grandparent, if you will, although the common ancestry of humans and monkeys is further back than that analogy goes.

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