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Monday, 20 March 2017

"A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject"

One of the accusations made by evolution denialists in our community about both evolutionary creationists and those who do correctly do not regard it as a fellowship issue is that they are being divisive. Given that evolutionary creationists are not insisting on their views being normative for the entire community, have done considerable work behind the scenes in preserving the faith of young people who are struggling to reconcile the fact of evolution with a faithful reading of the Bible, and are asking only that their position be accommodated, this assertion is simply false. More to the point, by seeking to divide the community over this issue, ironically it is the hard-line evolution denialist whose behaviour could well be called divisive, and promoting of factionalism.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A 400,000 year old Portugese hominin - yet more hard evidence for the antiquity of humanity

My previous post commented on a recent study that showed not only the antiquity of indigenous Australian settlement, but that individual population groups had been present in the same area for tens of thousands of years. This of course falsifies the special creationist assertion that the entire human race descends exclusively from two people who lived six thousand years ago. Now, another paper provides more evidence for the antiquity of the human lineage. Portugese palaeoanthropologist João Zilhão, and his colleagues have published a paper detailing the discovery of a Middle Pleistocene hominin skull from Gruta da Aroeira in Portugal securely dated to around 400,000 years. The skull may well be ancestral to Homo neanderthalensis, and occurs along with stone tools, animal remains and evidence of controlled use of fire.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Adam and the Indigenous Australian genome - yet another line of evidence agaisnt monogenism

The fundamentalist Christian assertion that the entire human race descended from two people who lived six thousand years ago has long been falsified by both the comprehensive hominin fossil record stretching back millions of years into the past, and the evidence from human genetics that shows the human population was never smaller than a few thousand people. Given this, any further evidence demonstrating these points would seem to be overkill, but sometimes, a scientific paper arises that provides an elegant demonstration of this fact. 

A week ago, Nature published an article by Alan Cooper et al which analysed indigenous Australian mitochondrial DNA, showing that after arriving in Australia close to fifty thousand years ago, humans colonised the whole of the continent within a few thousand years. What was particularly fascinating was evidence that some indigenous Australian populations have been living continuously in particular areas for tens of thousands of years. As the authors note:
The long-standing and diverse phylogeographic patterns documented here are remarkable given the timescale involved, and raise the possibility that the central cultural attachment of Aboriginal Australians to ‘country’ may reflect the continuous presence of populations in discrete geographic areas for up to 50 kyr. [1]
Source: Nature (2017) doi:10.1038/nature/21416
 
Two things are apparent. The first is that the indigenous attachment to the land quite likely is based in the fact particular groups have been living in particular parts of the country for tens of thousands of years. The second, and theologically significant fact is that given particular tribal groups were living continuously in the same part of Australia for tens of thousands of years before Adam, it is clear that the dogmatic assertion that every human alive descended from two people who lived six thousand years ago simply cannot be reconciled with the evidence.

Reference

1. Tobler R et al "Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia" Nature (2017) doi:10.1038/nature21416 p 4


Thursday, 23 February 2017

When science and faith clash - losing and finding faith

I have a confession to make. Even when I was a dogmatic YEC, a small part of me sensed that there was more to evolution than the creationist parody of evolutionary biology that my creationist books routinely dismissed. In retrospect, when I had my first crisis of faith in 1985, a large part of that sudden collapse of belief was due to long-suppressed doubts finally breaking free. When that happens, the positive feedback loop of doubt eroding faith creating more doubt can very quickly destroy faith. Ironically, this collapse often is more dramatic among the young believer from devout, conservative faith communities who are highly invested in their faith tradition and have spend an inordinate amount of time in apologetic activities. The ones who seems the strongest often fail the most dramatically.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Nephilim and dinosaurs and humans, oh my! Answers in Genesis embarrasses Christianity yet again

The Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter theme park has already attracted justifiable criticism for its pseudoscience and blurring of church-state boundaries. Now, Ham has published a series of pictures of a new diorama to be added to the Ark Encounter park which depict giant nephilim, humans, and dinosaurs fighting in an arena. Seriously.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A wasp that parasitises other wasps - a ghoulish argument against special creationism

Darwin's statement that he could not see how a loving God could have created  wasps whose larva "grew with the express intention of...feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars" remains to this day a considerable problem for special creationists who appeal to beauty and elegance in nature as proof of creation. Desperate attempts by special creationists to explain away the problem by declaring that they were designed by God to control insects ignore both the fact that less ghastly methods of insect control (swift predation such as seen by mantises) already exist, and that at least 40,000 species of parasitoid wasp have been described. The creation of one species that plies its trade by laying its eggs within the body of another so that its young can devour the host alive poses serious moral issues. For this to be repeated tens of thousands of times multiplies this dilemma even more so.

The problem for special creationists becomes even more profound when we consider the crypt-keeper wasp, Euderus set. This parasitoid wasp lays its eggs inside oak tree stems inside which another parasitic wasp, the crypt gall wasp is maturing. The crypt keeper wasp is not able to gnaw its way out of the oak tree, so it relies on the crypt gall wasp to do this. The way in which it does this is particularly gruesome.

Friday, 17 February 2017

New Atheism and the myth of the "Medieval Gap"

Even though the "conflict hypothesis" model of the relationship between science and Christianity has been discredited by historians of science, some anti-theists still assert that Christianity has been implacably opposed to science, going as far as to argue that during the approximately 1000 years between the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire and the start of the Renaissance, scientific knowledge was lost, plunging Europe into a 'Dark Ages'. This 'Medieval Gap', to use the term employed by Carl Sagan in the companion book to his justly celebrated Cosmos television series, as anyone familiar with James Hannan's excellent God's Philosophers would realise exists only in the minds of anti-theists. Far from retarding or suppressing science, Christianity preserved and extended scientific knowledge.