Monday, 21 May 2018

Fundamentalism and faith - or why science denialism harms Christianity

The saddest thing have learned in my 33 years as a member of our community is that the greatest obstacle I have faced in following Christ has not come from the world, but from the efforts of fundamentalist extremists both to make a tendentious and highly selective reading of our community's views on Genesis normative for everyone, and to make one of the best attested scientific facts a 'doctrine to be rejected.' I've written many times on how 'nothing in medicine makes sense except in the light of evolution'. [1] This isn't hyperbole. Human anatomy, genetics, and embryology positively shout the fact of our evolutionary origin, while evolutionary biology is of increasing utility in areas such as infectious diseases, epidemiology, and cancer biology. Pretending that evolution is not a fact for me is no  more an option than pretending that the Earth is flat, or that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Monday, 30 April 2018

The stars were not literally made on the fourth day. How astronomy falsifies Biblical literalism

 God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days, and years.  They will be lights in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened.  God made the stars and two great lights: the larger light to rule over the day and the smaller light to rule over the night.  God put them in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was.  There was evening and there was morning: the fourth day.  Gen 1:14-19 (Common English Bible)

I have previously noted how a literal reading of this passage cannot be sustained given that it teaches that the Earth is covered by a solid dome above which is water, and in which are embedded the sun, moon, and stars. Evidently, Genesis 1 reflects the cosmogeography of ancient Israel, and represents a concession to a pre-scientific worldview. If Biblical literalists were truly consistent in their literalism, they would insist that the Earth was flat, and covered by a solid dome separating waters above from waters below. [1]
This is however not the only reason why a literal reading of this section is untenable. The passing reference to the creation of the stars if taken literally as YECs insist means that all the stars were created at once six thousand years ago. Anyone familiar with astronomy would immediately realise that this is not an accurate description of the natural history of the universe which far from being static is very much dynamic, with stars being born and dying constantly throughout the universe.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Blogging Graeme Finlay's "Human Evolution: Genes, Genealogies and Phylogenies" - Part 1

I've referred to Graeme Finlay's excellent book Human Evolution: Genes, Genealogies and Phylogenies in a number of previous posts. Finlay, who is a Senior Lecturer in Scientific Pathology at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland, New Zealand is well placed to comment on the subject, and also argues from the position of a convinced Christian. For the ant-evolutionist, dismissing him as either hostile to Christianity or uninformed is simply not an option.

Finlay argues that "from my perspective, [genetics] now constitutes the ultimate evidence for common descent and the definitive way of defining phylogenetic relationships", [1] an argument with which I am in complete agreement. Therefore, over the next few posts, I will be blogging through Finlay's book, showing in detail why molecular biology proves common descent beyond doubt.

Friday, 30 March 2018

A Summary of Critical Responses to the YEC Film "Is Genesis History?"

Unsurprisingly, the 2017 YEC film Is Genesis History? has been something of a hit in the fundamentalist Christian world, with its excellent production values and presence of YECs who possess non-diploma mill qualifications allowing fundamentalist laypeople to reassure themselves that the universe really is only 6000 years old and most of the geological features of the earth were formed rapidly by a recent global flood.

Also unsurprisingly, outside of this tightly-sealed universe, the film has met with negative reviews. Joel Duff, professor of biology at The University of Akron who is a devout Christian notes that, "[i]n summary, although the film presents...selective facts, suffers from mischaracterizations of other viewpoints, and presents a false dichotomy to its audience, the target audience is unlikely to be aware of these flaws." [1] Given this, a summary of scientifically informed refutations of the many errors in Is Genesis History from conservative Christian sources is imperative in order to help lay Christians recognise that the YEC / flood geology worldview is theologically and scientifically bogus.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Chromosome 2 and Human Evolution - a new series of educational videos by Darrel Falk

Darrel Falk, emeritus professor of biology at Point Loma Nazarene University past president of BioLogos has created a three part video series on human chromosome 2, its origin from a fusion of two chromosomes homologous to ape chromosomes 2p and 2p, and how this provides evidence for common descent. In addition, the video series also answers objections as to how the first individuals with such a fused chromsome could have survived, how the fused chromosome became fixed in the ancestral gene pool, and a few theological observations on the subject. Falk is uniquely placed to comment both as a Christian and as a biologist whose research career included the subject of chromosomal breakage.

Each video is short at under ten minutes, but is quite comprehensive in its subject matter. I cannot recommend them enough for the person wishing to understand why we know chromosome 2 is the product of a fusion event, and why it provides such strong evidence for common descent.

I have included the three references cited in the second video below for those interested in following up the subject. In addition, the remaining references contain some of the classic papers on the subject, dating back to the 1980s, as well as commentary on the subject debunking special creationist attempts to explain away the evidence.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Always verify your references...

Over the life of this website, I have critiqued a number of Christadelphian anti-evolution lectures and articles. Without exception, all of them were characterised by errors of fact, logical fallacies, and a tendency to recycle long-refuted special creationist attacks on evolution. Having debunked a considerable number of these anti-evolution articles, and discovered that subsequent attacks on evolution merely recycled the same points refuted a thousand times, [1] I have opted not to publish any further critiques if only because there is little point in slapping a new title on an old refutation.

This doesn't mean that other Christadelphian evolutionary creationists have likewise stopped publishing critiques of bad anti-evolution articles. Recently, the author of the excellent The Fourth Conversation has written a detailed critique [2[ of an anti-evolution lecture by an Australian Christadelphian evolution denialist, ably pointing out its many errors. Given this, there is no point in duplicating his excellent refutation. However, I would like to expand on one point in order to highlight one of the fundamental problems blighting fundamentalist attacks on evolution, namely a failure to verify references. After all, if the sources on which you rely to make your argument are flawed, your argument is dead in the water.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The 7300 year old origin of sickle cell anaemia: genetic disease before Adam.

A recent paper by Daniel Shriner and Charles Rotimi in The American Journal of Human Genetics [1] has weighed in on the question of the origins of the genetic mutation that causes sickle cell disease. Sickle cell anaemia is a classic example of human evolution. While the disease is markedly debilitating, it persists as those who are carriers for the disease are relatively protected against malaria compared with those who do not carry the gene.

There are five sickle cell haplotypes, and it has been assumed that each haplotype originated from independent occurrences of the mutation. Shriner and Rotimi argue, based on an analysis of genetic data from 156 carriers of sickle cell disease that the mutation had a single origin around 7300 years ago. While we are in no need of further evidence to show that it is impossible for the entire human race to have originated exclusively from two people 6000 year ago, articles such as this not only serve to underline this fact, but also show why believers such as myself who work in medicine and the life sciences regard common descent and large-scale evolutionary change as facts as real as a spherical earth.