The Writer in Black

The Writer in Black

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Science Vs. Creationism

My friend Michael Z. Williamson wrote a blog post in answer to Ted Beale's, AKA Vox Day's, "Questions Atheists Can't Answer."  He then got a number of scientist type folks to actually, you know, answer the questions.

Well, while not exactly an atheist (I describe as an "Asatru leaning Agnostic"--it's complicated) I am a scientist, a physicist to be exact.  Mike wrote his blog with the questions, followed by answers from each of the others identified by their field.  I do the same here with mine.

Q1: How do creationists "pose a serious threat to society"?
Physicist: To be "science" something has to meet certain rules and standards. Specifically, it has to make testable predictions. Now, those tests don't have to be laboratory experiments. Observations of the world around us can count as testing. But one has to be able to say "if we see this then our theory is wrong" and mean it. By attempting to give things that don't meet that standard the cachet of science, they dilute science and open the field to anything anyone might purport to believe.

Q2: There are an estimated 1,263,186 animal species and 326,175 plant species in the world. Assuming the age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years, what is the average rate of speciation?
Physicist: Numbers pulled largely out of thin air, but let's go with them. Even if we go with a constant "rate" of speciation (x number of years and one species splits into two) then x years makes 2 species. another x years and the two become 4. Another and 4 become 8. To get 1,589,361 species you would need 20 "splittings", over the course of 4 billion years (looks like about half a billion before the first life forms arose) if one species requires close to 80 million years to split there is plenty of time to create the number of claimed species. But, actually, the total number of species over the history of the Earth, including all extinct species is much higher. It can be a thousand times as high and the "rate" is still one splitting per 8 million years. Oh, and the "rate" is not a constant anyway but depends on the nature of the organism and its environment.

Q3: How many mutations, on average, are required per speciation?
Physicist: Nonsense question. How high is up? It depends on many factors including what the specific mutations might be.

Q4: What scientifically significant predictive model relies primarily upon evolution by natural selection?
Physicist: Antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Insecticide resistance in various arthopods. How various populations change with changing conditions. Really? You're asking this question?

Q5: Which of the various human sub- species is the most evolved; i.e. modified by mutation and natural selection from the most recent common human ancestor? Which is the least evolved?
Physicist: Fallacy of evolution having a direction. It doesn't. There is no more, or less "evolved" We all have 4 billion years of evolution behind us. Every last one of us. Some of those years have been under different conditions encouraging different traits but there is no "more" or "less" evolved.

6: Is the theory of evolution by natural selection strengthened or weakened by the claim that most DNA is devoid of purpose?
Physicist: Devoid of known purpose. Get it right. And it's irrelevant. Evolution by natural selection only addresses expressed or at least expressable traits. It says nothing about things that have no effect.

Here you go.

Now, let me make something very, very clear here.  I don't care what you believe. Really, I don't. Want to believe that Inazami and Inazagi got it on and the "drippings" created the Islands of Japan? Go for it. Want to believe that Brahma, under orders from Vishnu, fashioned the world from a Lotus Flower? Knock yourself out. Want to believe that the Self Existent One spoke the world into existence over the course of seven days and nights? Great. Whatever makes you happy.

Want to teach your belief as science in science classes?

Come up with testable predictions, things of the "this must happen if we're right, that can't happen if we're wrong" variety and then we'll talk. Until then, no. Not because I'm opposed to your believing that but because until you do that it's not science.

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