Friday fun: Answers in Genesis’ consistent approach to scientific inquiry

Welcome to Friday fun at God of Evolution. Congratulations on surviving your latest week.

aigs-approach-to-science

This week’s meme was inspired by a Facebook comment on our post about a fascinating study about three variations of a plant-eating stick insect species from California called Timema cristinae.

Two of the variants have adapted coloration that bests suits them to life in two different types of shrubs — typically a good recipe for eventual divergence. However, in this case the third variant happens to have developed a lovely shade of brown that lets it camouflage itself among the stems and branches of both shrubs.

Apparently, this caramel-colored party pooper is serving as a genetic bridge of sorts, swapping genes back and forth between the two variants that would otherwise be unlikely to come into contact with one another (I smell a reality show!).

Phys.Org published its article on the research under the accurate but way too easy-to-take-out-of-context title “Natural selection, key to evolution, also can impede formation of new species.” Bizarrely, we haven’t seen the usual suspects like Answers in Genesis jump on this yet, but news organizations media outlets Christian-exploiting web adverganzas like ChristianNews.net certainly have.

CNN’s (lol) write-up hilariously called the study “a potentially devastating setback for evolutionists.” Once Ol’ Hambone catches wind of such news, I’m sure AiG’s panel of scientific experts will be trotted out in short order to tell us all about how this obscure stick bug provides powerful evidence that the universe is younger than this tree that lives in Sweden.

Old Tjikko: Proving young-earth creationism wrong for over 9,000 years. Photo by Karl Brodowsky, via Wikimedia Commons.

Old Tjikko: Proving young-earth creationism wrong for over 9,000 years. Photo by Karl Brodowsky, via Wikimedia Commons.

As this meme demonstrates, this is their usual modus operandi, after all. When the evidence directly contradicts the model they claim is necessary to understand the gospel, they twist it and obfuscate it, and above all, claim that scientific inquiry is ultimately impotent in answering any questions whatsoever, because it is so hopelessly and inextricably tied to the inquirer’s underlying presuppositions about the universe.

…Er, except in those rare instances in which the findings produced by those exact same atheistically blinded, deliberately ignorant “secular scientists” seem to sort of vaguely be somewhat in line with the creationist model. In those cases, it’s “Aha! See? Told you so! Science is wonderful and awesome and it shows how right we are!”

This is exactly what we saw recently with the “young” surface of Pluto (or, as I call it, “the boondocks of the solar system”). Never mind that, in this particular instance, “young” is still in the neighborhood of 100 million years, or about 15 thousand times older than AiG thinks it is.

Never mind that no one in the scientific community really expected Pluto to be 4.6 billion years old in the first place (scientists have no objection to celestial bodies forming at different times; in fact, the Cassini probe picked up photos of a new moon forming in Saturn’s rings just last year).

Never mind that AiG’s take on Pluto’s relatively crater-free surface completely contradicts how the organization explains the heavily cratered surfaces of the other small, atmosphere-poor bodies in the solar system.

Having recognized this Answers in Genesis-approved version of the scientific method, I took the liberty of improving another one of their beloved cartoons, which turned out to be slightly inaccurate (imagine that!).

Here’s the original:

hardware-operating-systems

And here’s the correct version:

hardware-operating-systems-

Also, don’t miss the new ICR article by Jason Lisle, who though he is a little later to the Pluto party than AiG, is nevertheless eager to do his part to spread ignorance and lies in the name of Jesus.

Then, cleanse your palette with Dan MacMillan’s guest post at Age of Rocks, which is a superb and devastating response to the young-earth attempts to misrepresent the data from the Pluto mission.

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • ashleyhr

    Whenever AiG tell people “science confirms the Bible” I smell a rat.

  • It reminds me of conspiracy theorists’ view of government. The government is totally incompetent EXCEPT at keeping conspiracies secret – a pursuit in which they are a well-oiled machine. Because if you believe the conspiracies, this is the only logical conclusion to draw.

    So, when we find out about Bill Clinton’s behavior with an intern, there’s the ol’ stupid, unethical government. But no one will ever find out about the 24 people he had assassinated in an effort to become a new American dictator, operating alongside the Reptons and the Trilateral Commission.

    • It is absolutely a conspiracy theorist mindset. I mean, literally. You cannot be a young-earth creationist without believing, in some fashion, that there is a vast global conspiracy among all the world’s thousands of scientists, universities, museums, textbook publishing companies and so on, dedicated to perpetuating lies about common ancestry and the age of the universe.

      Then, you have to somehow square that belief with the fact that, any finding that seemed to, however vaguely, support the conspiracy theory or the young-earth view in general (exposing the Piltdown Man hoax, soft tissue in dinosaur fossils, etc.) has always come from scientists.

      There was a great post about this on Eye on the ICR (https://eyeonicr.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/intact-dinosaur-skin/) a while back:

      “I’ve heard creationists speak of conspiracy in these matters, of scientists actively concealing such finds to prop up the old Earth … Worst conspiracy ever. If it actually existed we would have to conclude that it is very good at hiding positive evidence of its own existence, but very bad at hiding the finds that it exists to conceal.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        And a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory grows until it has consumed the entire world except for the Conspiracy Theorist and his Occult Gnosis (“But *I* Know What’s REALLY Going On…”).

        A Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory is literally impossible to disprove.
        Any evidence against The Conspiracy is disinformation planted by The Conspiracy. Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF The Conspiracy can silence anyone. Anyone who doubts the existence of The Conspiracy has PROVEN themselves to be part of The Conspiracy.

        “THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS! WE WON’T BE TAKEN IN!”

  • brengun

    AiG has a number of strategies for pulling off the same trick. One of them is just categorize inconvenient data away; if you watch their website, they will always zero in on the idea that such and such a problem for their view is just “historical science” after all and by definition (theirs anyway), its loaded with presuppositions and open to any interpretation.

    Then that other data set shows up and it could be interpreted (assuming you aren’t really paying attention) as being consistent with a young earth, in which case it is suddenly becomes; “observational science that confirms the genesis account”, with the word “historical” conveniently fading into background.

    They are sophisticated enough not to say “proves” or something embarrassing like that, but they seem to have settled on the less objectionable term “confirms”. It’s good fun to watch them tacking back and forth between the two sets of terms, depending on how dangerous the data looks. Tried to call them on it a couple of years back and although they published the point and the response, they failed to get the point (or did they?…).

    I actually have a long-running admiration of their mastery of basic propaganda techniques.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      And in Victorian times, the Zetetic Astronomy movement used the exact same arguments (defending SCRIPTURE against Godless science) to PROVE The Earth Was Flat.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        P.S. “Zetetic” comes from the Greek word for “Observational”…

        • brengun

          I think Zetetic comes from “to seek” (zeteo), which you would think would be general enough cover all of science, not just the non-historical bits. Still, wouldn’t surprise me if this strategy has been used before, though flat-earthers could hardly pull it off in the same way. I first heard the obvervational/historical distinction being made by a preacher and I was totally confused, since I’d never run across it in any of the many science classes, where you would expect to meet up with it. I did a bit of research and I seem to remember that someone had come up with it in a book in the mid-1900s and no one actually ran with it as useful terminology except the creationists. Ham keeps bringing it up in ways like this; “This scientist doesn’t seem to realize that he is confusing observational science with historical science”, which I always find bizarre, since you can’t confuse the two sides of a dichotomy that you don’t accept to begin with! Anyway, he seems to be trying to work it into a popular meme, with or without the blessing of actual scientists or philosophers of science, and he isn’t doing a half bad job of it.

          Seems to be a common theme; science journals don’t accept your stuff? Make your own journal. Peer reviewers too harsh? Review your papers in house. Terminology is inconvenient? Invent your own and disseminate it as though it were common knowledge. Gotta love ’em.

    • Yes, it would be quite easy to simply call them ignorant and delusional, but the evidence does seem to show a much greater and refined cunning than that.

      Do you happen to have a link to the comment you mentioned and their response? I’d be interested to see it.

      • brengun

        I’ve provided the link below (turns out that I’d forgotten where I first saw the historical/observational distinction at the time). I sent a response to their explanation, but it was ignored, which is somewhat understandable given how much mail they probably get.

        https://answersingenesis.org/what-is-science/deceitful-terms-historical-and-observational-science/

        I’m actually sitting on the fence when it comes to the sincerity of many creationists. Having read some of his more personal books and tracked the AiG website and his blog pretty carefully (don’t ask me why I put myself through these things), I am fairly convinced that Ken Ham is not a charlatan, and that he genuinely buys into his own rhetoric. This is not a popular position outside of creationist circles, but I’m pretty sure of it (Bill Nye offered up a similar comment after the debate, mentioning that he changed his mind about Ham’s sincerity around the time of the debate).

        I think it is fair to make the distinction with some of these guys that where they are not pathological liars like Hovindt, they are usually very sincere but they have dishonest thinking habits when it comes to how they handle information, sometimes carefully justified by any philosophical plank (like presuppositionalism) that they can pull in to float their views on. Creationists like Todd Wood are on the other side of the spectrum; always ready to recognize bad reasoning or bad science, even when it supposedly agrees with his position, but married to the position all the same.

        Many people just lump all creationists into the snake-oil salesman category, and while this is tempting, I think this view is unrealistic and there is a much greater range of motives. Ham has a very aggressive streak, and a very strong self-promotional streak which tends to convince people that he is a fraud, but he really seems to think he’s on God’s crusade (he would probably use this terminology if it wasn’t out of style) against a dishonest and dangerous enemy. He is just incapable of being self-critical, of disconnecting his rhetoric from his actual reasoning, or of approaching anything from a neutral position. Guess it’s a personality type. Even if I’m mildly sympathetic to where he is coming from, these things make him a pretty scary guy on the whole.

        • Hey, thanks for sharing. I had actually seen that article before, but didn’t know it was you.

          What causes my spidey sense to tingle in regard to Ken Ham being something more than a simple soul who is severely misguided despite his heart being pure is his use of scare tactics and propaganda techniques (as we’ve mentioned) to drum up support, and his ubiquitous sales pitches for the Creation Museum, Ark thing, AiG’s newest book or curriculum, etc. I mean, practically everything he writes ends with something like that, and it’s often quite seamless.

          It just seems to me that it takes skill and deliberate cunning to do all that, and to create the well-oiled marketing and propaganda machine that he has created. I just don’t really see how an earnest and sincere soul could get that far down the road with dishonest and deceptive practices purely by chance and happenstance.

          Your thoughts?

          • brengun

            I very much get where your view is coming from. Ham can look like something of a smooth operator, and he clearly has an untutored knack for propaganda techniques. I think this can be misleading; some of the best salesmen are the ones who combine an enthusiastic faith in their product with an intuitive grasp of how to work and direct the sensibilities and emotions of their audience. There is no contradiction in supposing that they can do both things at the same time. I think we have a knee jerk tendency in the western world to assume a rotten core as soon as we see a shiny surface. But this fails to account for the fact that even a Joseph Goebbels is better understood as a manipulative but fanatical true believer than as a fraud through and through. I think people are better able to sustain contradictions between conviction and technique than we would wish to believe.

            More concretely, Ham tends to almost automatically and maybe subconsciously shy away from the details of any given problem to zero in on assumed motives, on catchy phases that offer pop philosophy comebacks and on sweeping statements about competing worldviews. This strikes me as simply being his way of thinking, and if you keep it up, it can bear up under one heck of a lot of cognitive dissonance.

            On the other side, I have followed his blog and books closely enough (I guess I view him as a very interesting case study), that I have seen him show the type of vulnerability you wouldn’t really expect from a pure showman. This was more obvious around times of stress, like the Nye debate. In his “Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World” (which is quite good in some respects) you see an incredible amount of uncritical hero worship of his somewhat aggressive (small hints) but “uncompromising”, literalist and fideistic father. This is a fairly open and vulnerable book, unlikely to be read by his opponents, but it makes a fairly clear case for viewing Ham as a sincere product of his upbringing who has a natural leaning towards aggressive evangelism of his own views. And I do think that “evangelism” is how he views everything that you or I would view as propaganda best-practice. This is where he is able to handle the dissonance between his aggressive marketing and his simple faith; he labels his tireless activity as evangelism and we fail to understand that it is possible to categorize it as anything other than slimy marketing techniques. I think it is always easier to label a guy like that before we have had a good view of his more personal side, but as soon as we throw in that perspective, he suddenly becomes far more (and maybe unmanageably) complicated.

            Anyway, these are just my views from a distance, but I’d be curious to know how you react to them.

          • That’s a really interesting perspective, and I must admit I’m impressed with your thoroughness. You’ve obviously read Ham’s work more widely than I have, so I’m not about to say my gut feeling trumps your actual research.

            I suppose I have to admit to some ingrained bias on my part. It’s a lot easier to muster the strong opposition that I feel is necessary here when you believe you’re facing a real and deliberate villain, rather than a basically honest guy who believes he’s doing the right thing and is incapable of seeing that he’s not.

          • brengun

            Hey now, if there is the least chance that this thesis is going to sap any anti-YEC motivation, I’m ready to abandon it completely. I’ll just call it a shift in my worldview. More seriously, he’s not noticeably less dangerous as a single-minded fanatic who is out to use any possible means to advance his own gospel than as a hypocrite who is in it to fleece the gullible. Either way, you’ve got your work cut out for you!

  • David Evans

    “Never mind that no one in the scientific community really expected Pluto to be 4.6 billion years old in the first place”

    I think they mostly did. It would be surprising for a new planet to form in Pluto’s position as recently as 100 million years ago (a new moon in Saturn’s rings is a different prospect). If, as the evidence suggests, some parts of Pluto’s surface are apparently crater-free, it’s probably because they have been refigured since the last cratering episode.

    • That makes sense. Thanks for sharing, David.

    • David

      In my piece over at Age of Rocks, I meant to suggest that no one in the scientific community necessarily expected the SURFACE of Pluto to be 4.6 billion years old.

      • Hey David, thanks a lot for the comment. That makes a lot of sense, and I do apologize if I misrepresented your point. I really liked the Age of Rocks piece.

  • Carl Jones

    This is completely stupid, before Darwin there were no religious people claiming evolution. Darwin was not a Christian and surely god would not use a non-Christian to clarify his own work.

    • Chris

      Darwin was not a Christian and surely god would not use a non-Christian to clarify his own work.

      Uhh…what? If you want to get technical, Moses wasn’t a Christian either. Truth is truth, I’d say God can use anyone he darn well chooses.

      • yo mama

        Haha, exactly!

    • First of all, God can use, and speak through, whomever he wants. There were times in scripture that he used pagan and non-believing nations to bring his wrath upon Israel.

      However, in this case, you’re conflating two different things. Darwin’s religious beliefs or lack thereof are quite secondary to evolution, the age of the earth and the vast evidence for both. In fact, his views in that regard are completely irrelevant to this discussion. The question that matters is, does the theory work? Does it make better sense of the evidence than any other alternate explanation? And for more than a hundred years, in countless cases, the answer has been yes, over and over again. In which case, it should, like any other theory that has been so well vindicated, be accepted by any person who cares about truth, religious or not.

      By your logic, you could also argue Christians shouldn’t believe germs exist because the Bible says nothing about them and Louis Pasteur wasn’t a prophet or a Sunday school teacher.

      • Carl Jones

        Yes I would argue that. In fact the bible condones slavery as well. Anyone can have some weird interpretation of the bible, but If you actually follow what it says none of that makes sense.

        • You have an awfully strange view of things, Carl Jones.

          • Carl Jones

            If we all followed the bible in this day and age, we’d all have a very strange view of things.

          • You mean if we all followed the clunky, idiotic and utterly nonsensical way you think Christians should interpret the Bible? Yeah, I agree with you. That would be one very strange world to have to live in.

          • Carl Jones

            Funny how you’re getting angry here. For me that kind of discredits anything you have to say.

          • Mortification240

            Funny how it took you a month to come up with that reply

          • Carl Jones

            That’s funny? I just didn’t check my discus account.

          • You mistake “knowing what I’m talking about” with “getting angry.” How about this: I won’t presume to dictate to all atheists how they should live, and you don’t pretend to understand the Bible better than people who know it a whole lot better than you do. Sound fair?

          • Carl Jones

            Sorry, yeah I mixed up getting angry with twisting what the bible actually says to make it seem morally acceptable. Please excuse my terrible blunder.

          • No, you’ve got “twisting what the Bible actually says” down pat. There’s a reason no one interprets it even close to the way you do unless they don’t care about understanding it. You do the same thing as what the young-earth creationists do to science and the work of scientists, you just happen to have a different target.

        • Mortification240

          I guess I don’t exist cause the bible doesn’t mention me?

          • I wonder if you used that argument against a young-earth creationist, would they start to disappear like Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”?

          • Mortification240

            How dare you mention Young earth creationism and one of the best movie ever in the same sentence… Lol

          • Carl Jones

            What does that have to do with anything? The bible condones slavery plane and simple. If you want to follow the bible then get some slaves!

          • Mortification240

            I don’t know what that has to do with what the discussion was about, but OK. So tell me where it says “you must own a slave or you’re going to hell”.

          • Carl Jones

            It doesn’t say that. However it does condone slavery. This is a supposed to be the word of god here, and he is condoning slavery. In fact there are many many passages in the bible that do so. It even condones child slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46).

          • Chris

            Spoken out of true ignorance. I’ve already explained the difference between slavery in the Bible and the image you are trying to imply. Slavery in the Bible was a class system, similar to employee/employer relations today. It is not the image you are trying to portray in your accusations, and you would do well to stop.

            You would really do well to understand your terms before throwing them around like you know what you are talking about.

          • Carl Jones

            You didn’t though. I showed you a verse that specifically speaks to slaver, and not some wacky way of talking about a employer/employee transaction. It’s funny how you guys try to spin a 2000 year old book to pretend like it’s comparable with our modern day civilization.

          • Chris

            All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

            No one is spinning anything but you, cherrypicking one verse in an effort to make it say something that the whole just does not say. Read Ephesians 6:5-9 and tell me how it can apply to today’s society.

            Is there history in the Bible that we don’t see acceptable today? Genocide, subjugation of women, polygamy? Perhaps, but know that recording history is not necessarily an example of what is expected from God. Reading a 21st century look into disproving a 3500 year old tradition without understanding what it actually is saying is surefire way to be reading it wrong in the first place.

  • Carl Jones

    Hi Tyler Francke!

    • What’s next – a donkey warning a prophet?

      Anyway, before Darwin, there were no religious people claiming the world was surrounded by a sphere of ice to make Genesis 1 literally work out. The Young Earth Creationist view is at least as influenced by Darwinism as theistic evolution is.

      Early Christians used non-Christians to interpret the Bible all the time. Aristotle was practically a doctor of the early church.

      But as others have said, that’s really a moot point because Darwin’s theories aren’t biblical commentary. They are scientific theories. What Genesis 1 is trying to say and what Darwin is theorizing about are very different things. It would be like saying the early theories of a spherical earth were “using non-Christians to understand the Bible.”