Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A roundup of interesting blog posts

Joel Duff has endured an AiG lecture and fisked it to within an inch of its life, sparing you both the tedium of listening to YEC mendacity, but also exposing the usual AiG sophistry and the utter intellectual dishonesty of their anti-evolution message:
AiG employs some very effective speakers.  But the talks are really only as good as the information content that a very small core of staff scientists are creating for them. In this case, the talk was very powerful and probably very persuasive to many in the audience. But because the the content suffers from many misconceptions and incorrect statements any truth that was really presented is diluted by the baggage of bad information that came along with it.   I liken it to listening to a Joel Osteen lecture – I can’t call them sermons.   There are bits of truth in some of his words but there is so much there that is wrong that it really isn’t worth listening to on the whole.
Harsh? Hardly. AiG take advantage of the fact their audience is scientifically naive and therefore will not be able to question the absolute howlers made by the speaker. As Duff notes, when commenting on an AiG speaker appealing to a creationist:
Osborne [the AiG speaker] introduced the quote above by saying:  “I love this quote from this secular scientist..” Again, another Dr. Spetner quote that includes misconceptions of how natural selection, genetic drift and mutation actually work in populations.  Quoting Spetner is a bit like me lecturing to a group of scientists about the meaning of an Old Testament and quoting Joel Osteen as my source of Biblical scholarship.  If the audience doesn’t know who Joel Osteen is they will assume that I am presenting them with the best available understanding of OT theology but in reality they will walk away with a very poor understanding of meaning of the text.
Duff's post can be found here

Geologist Jonathan Baker has a guest post at his Age of Rocks blog by former YEC David MacMillan who uses whimsy and humour to skewer the YEC mindset in a post entitled "Mr Creationist Goes to Court":
Defense: Your honor, my client is not guilty. He has already explained that he only drew his gun to check the safety, and it went off by mistake.
Prosecutor: You’re joking, right?
D: Absolutely not! How could you joke at a time like this? One man is already dead and an innocent man’s freedom hangs in the balance!
P: Innocent? The victim is dead because your client shot him. Four times. That is not an accident.
D: Now, I think we all know that’s just your assumption. Don’t act like your whole “four shots” theory is fact.
P: It is a fact. The victim had four bullet holes in him.
D: Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but I’m just saying, let’s not let your obvious assumptions get in the way of justice. After all, you are the prosecutor; it’s not like you’re unbiased.
P: Four bullet holes. Four.
D: I wish you’d stop repeating that assumption. Look here, bullets can bounce, right? You assume the so-called victim was shot four times but only one bullet was actually in his body!
P: The victim was shot twice in the chest, once in the abdomen, and once in the head. There are clear entry and exit wounds on three of these, and the fourth bullet was found embedded in his spine.
D: Fourth bullet? There you go again with your biased assumptions. How can you possibly know which bullet was fired last, especially when we don’t even know for sure that there was more than one shot? Have you even considered the bounce theory?
 Those familiar with the tortured logic, paranoia, and science denialism of YECs will quickly know where the defence is going here. There's a nice sting in the tail too. Full article is here.
MacMillan has been on a roll recently; at the always-excellent Panda's Thumb blog, he tears apart the latest attempt by AiG to show how a small number of animals on board the Ark could post-flood hyper-evolve in a short period of time to produce the diversity of life we see today:
In the buzz of excitement surrounding Opening Day at the Ark Encounter, the team of writers at Answers in Genesis continues their struggle to explain how all terrestrial life could have been shoved onboard the Ark and then exploded back out into millions of species in only a few dozen centuries. The more they write, however, the more difficult it becomes to make sense of their approach. Nathaniel Jeanson has a new post that further compounds my confusion.
One of AIG’s youngest writers, Jeanson sports an impressive Harvard degree in cell biology and has previously worked with the Institute for Creation Research. Given his degree, it must be assumed he has enough education to understand the subjects he is writing about. Jeanson appears sincere, and it is evident he believes his conclusions fervently. He has to know, though, that his arguments are completely detached from those conclusions. He writes with the awkward obfuscation of someone trying to defend a sinking ship while earnestly attempting to remain tenuously bound to the uncomfortable constraints of reality.
Is it really that bad? Indeed it is.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Graeme Finlay 2016 Australian lecture series on the evidence for evolution and evolution, cancer, and suffering

Dr Graeme Finlay,  cell biologist, cancer researcher, and senior lecturer in scientific pathology at the University of Auckland was in Australia recently giving a series of lectures on the evidence for evolution from molecular biology, a subject with which he is deeply familiar during his decades of research into cancer, as well as looking at the relationship between evolution and suffering. Finlay needs no introduction to readers of this blog as I have frequently referred to his excellent material.

The audio of his ISCAST-CASE lecture on the 5th July 2016, "Unequivocal Genetic Evidence for Human Evolution, and Implications for Christian Faith" given at New College, University of New South Wales is available below:
Lecture 1: Download GF-L1 mp3
Q & A session: Download GF-Q1 mp3
PDF of Lecture slides:  Download GF-L1 pdf

The abstract of his lecture (courtesy of the ISCAST website) follows:
In this lecture Graeme wants to do two things. Firstly to present the unequivocal evidence from comparative genomics that we are an evolved species. And then (because he knows that many Christians find it difficult to assimilate this) he goes on to emphasise that this strengthens and enriches our faith. The ‘givenness’ of evolution forces us to purify our approach to exegesis (Genesis), theology (creation), providence (God’s action in history), and the meaning of our own humanity.
The video of Finlay's lecture at Tabor College on the 13th July "Genetics, Evolution, Cancer, Suffering and God" can be found here. The PDF of the accompanying slides can be downloaded here.