Creationist #3: One error after another

In the last ten days or so I’ve featured posts by two creationists trying to promulgate their misguided biology on my site. This is the last one, who goes by the name “Synapticcohesion.” As always, I’m proffering this for educational and sociological reasons: to display the mindset and tactics of those who reject modern biology in favor of a two-thousand-year-old manual for goatherds.

In response to my post “Evolution has a victory in South Korea,” this third commenter (whom I’ll call “Synaptic”) engaged in an exchange with me on the thread.  My comments are flush left, and Synaptic’s are indented. Italicized and indented words represent Synpaptic quoting from someone else—either me or another commenter:

Synaptic: “If you don’t have evidence, well then, stfu.”

YOU have no proof that, as mentioned on the comic, that we descended from apes. Only faulty conjecture. So take your own advice.

JAC: Okay, synaptic, before you can post again, explain why the mountains of evidence that we descended from a common ancestor with that of modern chimps, gorillas, etc. is WRONG. We’re waiting. .

Synaptic: I knew it would come to censorship. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t post my response so that the creationist appears to be at a “loss for words.”

You know very well that even if there were ancient remains of chimps/hominids (that were not a mix-and-match set of scant bones and bone fragments that they are) that appeared to have physical features that are not exactly like chimps today and aren’t like humans today–that is proof of NOTHING in terms of human evolution, that is simply proof that there are extinct primates (with varying physical features) that do not exist today. That does not prove “human ancestry” whatsoever. Nor do the extremely old, arthritic remains of Neanderthals–with their jutting, arthritic facial features–prove that they are our less evolved, more “apelike” ancestors.

This is the evolutionist’s ultimate failure–to be able to prove that their claims of “intermediaries” are anything more than wild conjecture.

JAC: Man, you either know nothing about the human fossil record or are blinkered by faith. Do you care to tell us why australopithecines, which have a humanlike postcranial skeleton but a skull with a 400-500 cc brain (the size of a chimp) are “arthritic”?

Did all Neanderthals have arthritis? And what about H. erectus, A. afarensis, and the like, which show temporal changes from early apelike forms about 4 mya to more “modern” ones 1.5 myr ago, and so on? How do you explain those temporal changes?

You have a very strange idea of what constitutes “evidence.” The hypothesis is that early hominins would have mixtures of humanlike and early apelike features. This is exactly what we find. It’s all supported with radiometric dating, too.

Do you think that all paleoanthropologists who support human evolution have been cruelly deluded?

Or do you consider Genesis to be “evidence”?

Synaptic:[JAC: This comment is appearing for the first time here since I did not let it go through but preferred to put it above the fold].  “Do you care to tell us why australopithecines, which have a humanlike postcranial skeleton but a skull with a 400-500 cc brain (the size of a chimp) are “arthritic”?”

I never suggested that these chimps were arthritic. As I had mentioned, “humanlike” features do not prove ancestry. There are various animals today that have “humanlike” this or that (including fish that have teeth that are very “humanlike”). But even some claims of the “humanlike” features supposedly attributed to australopithecines is questionable at best. “Lucy,” for example, is nothing more than a mix-and-matching of bone fragments admittedly found in DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. And Lucy’s femur, which is crucial to being able to even make the conjecture of an apelike human ancestor was not even discovered in one piece! The tell-tale evidence of angulation (the supposed “bicondylar angle”) of the femur was conveniently absent as the femur was missing it’s knee joint! Another piece (supposedly belonging to Lucy) was added to complete Lucy’s incomplete femur. How this small piece was able to be preserved separately (yet just as perfectly) in order to complete Lucy’s femur in order to prove a bicondular angle is amazing and the chances of this happening is astronomical.

Did all Neanderthals have arthritis? Yes, the vast majority discovered were arthritic. Why? Because unlike today where people succumb to diseases well before “old age” and even some infants die of various diseases including SIDS, there is evidence that our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer than we did. Thus, most of the remains would be expected to be very old and arthritic as our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer in an old environment that is hypothesized to be much richer in oxygen (based on the evidence found in the analysis of fossilized amber).

“The hypothesis is that early hominins would have mixtures of humanlike and early apelike features.”

Yes, and that does not make it true. Just because some suggest that that’s what something HAS to mean, HAS to be interpreted–does not make it so. There are many ways to interpret the same evidence and science is not immune with conflicts in interpretation. Even the remains of the T. rex has been interpreted in various ways–the evidence was there, but that did not mean that scientists agreed on how the T Rex stood and walked. (The improbable posture was introduced to the public as “scientific fact,” only to be altered in the 1990′s.)

“Or do you consider Genesis to be “evidence”?”

No, I look at the scientific evidence independently. That doesn’t mean I fail to see that much of the evidence uncovered ends up supporting the Bible in many ways.

Indeed, a truly an objective assessment of the evidence that just happens to coincide with Genesis! It really made me LOL that Synaptic thinks that Neanderthals all had arthritis (even the young ones!), and that their contemporaries, “modern’ Homo sapiens, did not! It can’t be a matter of two distinct morphs of humans in one species, one with arthritis and one not, since we also know that Neanderthals were a group that was genetically distinct from modern H. sapiens.

And of course the remains of early hominins are not “mix and match” fragments of fossils: in many cases we have large pieces and nearly entire skulls. These, of course, shows a branching bush of evolution, with some hominins being robust, small-brained, and with big teeth, but others gradually approaching a human-like appearance with a larger skull, smaller teeth, and erect posture.

As for the Lucy story, I was pretty sure they found her as a single skeleton in one small, circumscribed area, and that the evidence for bipedality was convincing.  But just to be sure I wrote to anthropologist John Hawks (who has his own website) about Lucy. He was kind enough to respond:

The bicondylar or valgus angle is easy to judge on a distal femur. You do not need a complete bone, only around 10% of the bone’s length at the distal [far] end is really necessary. Chimpanzees and gorillas have femora where the distal articular surface is perpendicular to the shaft. Humans support our weight alternately on one leg at a time, so that our leg must angle from the hip joint to put a foot under the body’s center of gravity. We accomplish this entirely in the femur, which results in our distal articular surface being angled obliquely relative to the shaft.
In the Lucy skeleton itself, the distal femur is not as well preserved as in many other australopithecine specimens but is nevertheless sufficient to show the humanlike pattern. This is one of the clearest traits reflecting a bipedal locomotor pattern, present in many specimens of A. afarensis, A. robustus and A. africanus, and of course all members of the genus Homo.
I then wrote John back to clarify one point:

Thanks–I appreciate this.

I presume the following statement is wrong, too?

“‘Lucy,’ for example, is nothing more than a mix-and-matching of bone fragments admittedly found in DIFFERENT LOCATIONS.”

And he responded:

Yes, Lucy’s skeleton was all found at one locality, and has no duplicated bones. It is highly unlikely that the skeleton includes any elements from other individuals.

So there you have it: Synaptic, like our other two creationists, was being misleading—probably deliberately so. I believe that he knows better, and is spouting creationist drivel. The thing is, though, that he sounds convincing to those who don’t know anything about Lucy. The lesson (not needed by anyone here) is that if you hear “scientific” evidence adduced by a creationist, be sure to check it out.

Synaptic never did respond to my question of whether he saw all paleoanthropologists as engaged in a monstrous and pervasive conspiracy: trying to deceive people into thinking that scattered bone fragments, and skeletons of modern humans that were unhappily arthritic, represent real fossil evidence of our descent from a common ancestor with modern apes. I guess the creationists have found us out!

Below is the skeleton of Lucy (A. afarensis, dated 3.2 mya), from Wikipedia. She had a “primitive” skull of low volume, a semi-parabolic jaw intermediate in shape between that of modern apes (rectangular) and modern humans (fully parabolic), and the skeleton below the neck is very “modern” and bipedal. Contrary to Synaptic, all these fragments come, to our best knowledge, from a single individual (there were no duplicated pieces in the same area, and it was found in a small area).

Do read the “Lucy” entry; it’s short.  Here she is (the femur is the long leg bone):

124 Comments

  1. Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Synapticconfusion is repeating a garbled version of an old claim about Lucy. See:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/knee-joint.html

    So many standard creationist arguments are like ULs, endlessly recycled within the bubble.

  2. FastLane
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I think the major problem with these kinds of exchanges are that the cretinists are so good at guiding the conversation.

    Synapticfailure managed to get all of you (us) on the defensive, jumping through hoops, providing evidence that anyone with a modicum of brainpower, and google at their fingertips, could have found on their own. (With the exception of the direct email to Lucy’s discoverer).

    I think we need to be better about turning it around and asking them for evidence that the world is what they think it is, and why the evidence supposedly only applies to their creation myth and not all the others.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • Max
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I agree. When arguing with a creationist, just ask them for evidence for their beliefs rather than explaining the merits of evolution. Hold their “evidence” to the same high standard they expect from scientists.

      And when arguing with ID believers, again, don’t talk about evolution, just ask them what their evidence is, and more importantly, how ID works– what is the mechanism. Usually their whole schtick will be talking about how evolution is wrong about this or that. Just politely tell them that you’re not asking them about evolution, you’re asking about ID. That shuts them up because, well, no one’s ever been able to tell me exactly what ID is and how it works.

      Don’t get sucked into defending evolution! That’s their whole plan! Ask them how the magic man does his thing. Ask how we know, how we “really 100% not open to interpretation” know that there’s a magic man. Ask which religions, specifically, are wrong. Etc.

      • Posted September 30, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        Unless you’re a biologist at Jerry’s level, you’re probably not qualified to dissect random technical biomolecular criticisms of Evolution, and the best thing to do is punt: “Gee, I’ll admit, that’s a study that I haven’t seen before and I really can’t just give an off-the-cuff analysis.”

        But, of course, you don’t want to let it stop there.

        Probably your best bet is to immediately turn it around. “So, help me out here. At what point did Jesus intervene; how did he do it; and what’s the evidence of his intervention?”

        The Cretinist is likely to simply say that it’s all just so complex, but don’t let up. “Well, you really seem to have a pretty good handle on this — I’d say you know what’s going on, soup to nuts. So point us to the doohickey that Jesus inserted or tweaked or whatever, and help us figure out how he did what he did. After all, maybe we could use the same principle in medicine!”

        I’d also suggest to always be on the lookout for an excuse to explain Evolution and help people understand why it’s true. Richard Dawkins gave a superlative Christmas Lecture many moons ago on the evolution of the eye from a simple flat light-sensitive spot on the surface to a modern eye with focusable lenses, and it’s an easy lecture to recap. It’s also the perfect antidote to any claim of irreducible complexity: it’s easy for anybody to understand and it attacks one of the favorite Cretinist canards. And if somebody can accept the evolution of the eye, what’s to stop the evolution of anything else?

        Cheers,

        b&

  3. Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Bored now – Evil Willow :)

    alas all of this creationist garbage isn’t anything new and exciting! But as always, it’s good to show the theist the error of their ways and put it back on them to explain why they must lie so ineptly and keep themselves willfully and maliciously ignorant in order to keep their faith?

  4. Dominic
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Coyne 3 Creationists 0 –
    & it will ALWAYS be 0!

  5. Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    You think it’s tough in America? Yesterday while people were protesting outside of the parliament in Madrid, guess what right wing politicians were doing inside???

    Awarding a medal of honour (Cross of Merit) to the Virgin of the Pillar. I’m not being funny… it actually happened. Last June the labour minister also did a pilgrimage to ask for another virgin (of the Rocio) to create jobs: http://pinkagendist.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/and-the-medal-goes-to-who-did-you-just-say-the-virgin/

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      It’s probably their favorite pole-dancer.

  6. NS
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    What synaptic is claiming re: Neanderthals is that the specimens labelled H neanderthalensis are actually members of H sapiens that lived much longer than we do (say, to an antediluvian 800-900 years perhaps) and therefore all the differences between Neanderthals and us are down to advanced aging effect that short-lived contemporary H sapiens never get old enough to see. In this view of things, the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons are the same group of people – with the former representing withered age and the latter the bloom of youth. This is a standard Creationist argument.

    Synaptic doesn’t express the argument well, however, because he does not really understand what he is arguing; it is just a by-rote “defeater” argument he has absorbed from his chosen religious authorities, to be repeated whenever hominid fossils are raised as evidence for evolution.

    Of course the existence of juvenile H neanderthalensis, the accurate assessment of the ages of the adult specimens from their bones, and the distinctiveness of Neanderthal DNA utterly disprove the whole thing. But you’ll not get synaptic to admit this. In order to understand the refutation, he would have to understand his own argument – which he doesn’t. He would also have to care about evidence in the first place – which he doesn’t. He only cares about possessing convincing-seeming arguments that back up his chosen faith.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Nice commentary. This synaptic fellow has a complicated mishmash of confirmation bias, fabricated evidence, and dismissal of known certainties without any evidence.

      It is almost in the same realm as “sophisticated theology” in that xynaptic’s arguments rely 100% on abuse of language: attempting to fog reason with applications of strings of words that sound as if they are expressing a cohesive thought, but actually, those strings of words by synaptic are =without meaning=…they mean and convey nothing, zero.

      • Skeptic Griggsy
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes! Theology is the subject without a subject!

    • mday
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      NS–I had not realized that this was a creationist argument: that we have misinterpreted “old testament” or pre-flood aged humans as Neanderthals. Thanks. So Noah’s bones would be mistaken for a Neanderthal.

  7. invivoMark
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see this “evidence” of his that humans lived so much longer in the past. He says he doesn’t get his evidence from the Bible, so… where? I’ve never heard someone say there was any non-biblical evidence of early hominids living super-long lifespans.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      There isn’t any evidence that humans (or Neanderthals) lived longer in the past.

      In fact it was quite the reverse. They were both lucky if they made it into their 30s and 40s.

      • Kieran
        Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        I have the evidence along with two gold seer stones, but I can’t show anyone them, you’ll just have to trust me ;)

  8. Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    It really made me LOL that Synaptic thinks that Nanderthals all had arthritis (even the young ones!), and that their contemporaries, “modern’ Homo sapiens, did not!

    That’s not actually what he said:

    Did all Neanderthals have arthritis? Yes, the vast majority discovered were arthritic. Why? Because unlike today where people succumb to diseases well before “old age” and even some infants die of various diseases including SIDS, there is evidence that our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer than we did. Thus, most of the remains would be expected to be very old and arthritic as our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer in an old environment that is hypothesized to be much richer in oxygen (based on the evidence found in the analysis of fossilized amber).

    The bunkum here is that “there is evidence that our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer than we did”; what evidence?

    Incidentally, while I’m not entirely sure about this, I’d hazard a guess that an oxygen-rich atmosphere would make for shorter lifespans, not longer.

  9. Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The lesson (not needed by anyone here) is that if you hear “scientific” evidence adduced by a creationist, be sure to check it out.

    That especially applies to quotes offered up by Cretinists — and trebly so should it be in the form of a respected biologist refuting Evolution.

    Just Google the quote in question and chances are overwhelming that the first or second hit will be to something debunking the quote.

    Exhibit A, well suited for practice:

    To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. (Darwin 1872)

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Rhetoric
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      I think the biggest problem for them is grasping the shear magnitude of time over which these events occurred. 6000 years is small enough to grasp – there are still plenty of pieces of history that we can place with certainty in the last four thousand years. Writings, for example, are still on the original papyrus. But after that we are left mostly with sparse paintings and geologic inferences.

      The evolution of the eye certainly does seem completely absurd, but only if you don’t know it took HUNDREDS of millions of years to get there. For some people that just doesn’t compute.

      • gluonspring
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        I was raised a fundamentalist creationist. From my experience, I’d say that grasping the time frame is in no way their problem. The problem is a very very deep desire to hold on to the world view they were indoctrinated with as a child. They are perfectly capable of imagining deep time and even it’s implications, but it frightens them, so they actively plug their ears and close their eyes and say “la la la la I can’t hear you” to any evidence trying to come in. The evidence comes in nonetheless, mentioned here and there in the news, on an occasional nature show, etc. They would like to ignore it and not think about it at all, but modern communication has made that impossible. So they fall back on what NS above calls “defeater” arguments, which are barely arguments at all but just something they can say to themselves (mostly) and occasionally to an actual skeptic (rarely) that serves the purpose of a kind of protective mantra. Those arguments aren’t about the evidence or even about convincing you that they are right. They are about providing a protective cocoon for the believer inside which they can hold onto their belief even though they will occasionally hear disturbing reports from the outside world. Such cocoons are not impenetrable. I’m here after all. But they are a kind of smokescreen over an internal struggle that has less to do with any evidence than they would have you believe.

        • eheffa
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          Ha!
          As an ex-fundamentalist myself, I appreciate your astute observations. I once had a sophisticated arsenal of ‘defeater’ arguments always at the ready…

          – evan

        • truthspeaker
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for your perspective! Very insightful.

        • Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          I think you’re right. Which is why I think that it’s unwise to respect religious belief and refrain from pointing out its patent absurdities.

          It’s easy to humbly attempt to appreciate the deep mysteries of the creation story as personally revealed by the creator himself to a selected ancient tribe of simple peasants millennia ago.

          It’s a bit harder to swallow a third-rate faery tale about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard who evicts his own young children — let alone think that it has any bearing on reality.

          Cognitive dissonance generally can’t survive significant intensification of the pain that causes the dissonance.

          If the general response to Creationists were not to rebut their attacks on science but to start with briefly ridiculing the Bible (my one sentence above is ample) followed by a cogent summary of the facts, I don’t think Biblical literalism in general would survive for long.

          And, of course, as soon as people stop thinking of the Bible as anything other than the ancient faery tale anthology it is, the whole edifice of faith will start to crumble. Indeed, the cracks are already too big to miss.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • jimroberts
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

            Late sub

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

            Cognitive dissonance generally can’t survive significant intensification of the pain that causes the dissonance.

            Another Ben-ism to remember!

            I heartily concur with your post, esp. as we are currently in the midst of yet another all-traditions-deserve-respect orgy.

            A day or two ago the NYT had an article with a promising title–What’s wrong with blasphemy? Unfortunately the body descended into philosophical logorrhea, so I DNFR. Have you ever submitted LTTE’s of the magic garden variety? (Wonder if they’d be published?)

            • Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

              It’s been ages since I’ve had a newspaper subscription, so writing letters to the editor isn’t exactly the sort of thing that’s on my mental radar.

              And…I’m in Arizona. The Arizona Republic regularly endorses Republican candidates. Something tells me I wouldn’t have much chance of making it onto the editorial page….

              b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

                Something tells me that might be hazardous to your health!

                Actually I was thinking more of the NYT, WaPo, etc. The former, at least, seems to preferably publish out-of-area missives. A sort of “see-how-widely-we’re-read” phenomenon.

              • Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

                An interesting thought…except, knowing the kind of letter I’d write and the type of attention it’d get if published, probably equally hazardous to my health….

                b&

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          As another ex-YEC, I agree with everything after your first two sentences. However, I don’t think that the average creationist has any conception of deep time, or even of large numbers. That may not be their main problem, but it certainly is *a* problem.

          In fact, I’m pretty sure there is decent evidence that people in general have trouble comprehending large numbers. Our politicians certainly don’t understand the differences between millions, billions, and trillions, and every semester I demonstrate to my low-level math students that they don’t understand them either (draw a 10″ line on the board and tell them it represents a billion. Then ask them to mark where on the line a million is. Most will place it about a quarter of the way from one end. They inevitably gasp when I try to make a mark 1/100th of an inch in from the end. And yes, I would love to do this demonstration in front of congress).

          • Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            One hopes that you continue with the mind-blowing by observing that “trillion” would be 83 feet, which is probably bigger than the biggest dimension of the lecture hall….

            b&

            • flounder
              Posted September 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

              Um, if 10″ = 1 billion then 1 trillion = 833′ not 83′. Not creationist math but still wrong.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

                Yes, 833′, and I did that once. Never has a math class been as blown away as when I paced it off and ended up across the campus, barely visible to them.

              • eheffa
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

                Note to self:
                Another example of why the Metric system is so much better than the old SAE units…
                ;-)

                -evan

              • Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

                Damn. I slipped a decimal, didn’t I? Sorry!

                Ten thousand inches is 833 1/3 feet, or 277 yards, or almost three football fields, or a quarter kilometer, or well over a tenth of a mile.

                “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

                b&

          • Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            And yes, I would love to do this demonstration in front of congress.

            You know, it’s just possible that you might be able to do that.

            After the election, just long enough after for the dust to settle, contact your new (or newly-relected) congresscritter and ask for a personal meeting to discuss budgetary math. You might get to see the congresscritter directly, in which case you can give your lecture, but you should at least get to meed with one of the aides. Convince the aide and you’ll probably find yourself in Washington. At the very least, there’s a good chance that the congresscritter will work your lecture’s highlights into a speech.

            b&

          • gluonspring
            Posted September 29, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

            I agree that people suck at numbers, and that it is hard for even well informed people to get their heads around the scales of the universe. I overstated it quite a bit to say that they have no trouble comprehending deep time. Everyone does, even those who are trying. Creationists aren’t trying, though. With very rare exceptions, I think comprehending deep time plays essentially no role in their failure to accept evolution. The causality just doesn’t run that way. When they betray a lack of appreciation of deep time it is most often as a part of a willful program of defeater arguments, the argument from incredulity, and deploying these arguments seems to be a mere consequence of their deep determination to hold on to their beliefs, not in any way the cause of those beliefs. I think JC is right that pretty much no one rejects evolution for any reason other than prior religious commitments. That includes the mere difficulty of grasping the theory. Ben has a point that arguing with them on science sort of misconstrues what is going on, frames the problem as one of knowledge and education when it’s really one of will and psychology. I wouldn’t go the full way and say that arguing with them on the science is a waste of time. I think the science does sway many people. I really don’t know what works best, though. It would not surprise me much if Ben’s approach had a higher rate of return on average. It certainly seems less exhausting.

            • Skeptic Griggsy
              Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

              What about WLC on deep time?
              Thinking about the infinite used to make me neauseous, but my medication took care of that.
              Might someone say something about the teleonomic argument?

              • gluonspring
                Posted September 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

                What is WLC?

              • Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

                William Lane Craig that credulous person who accepts as true uncorroborated writers of uncorroborated tales, especially about the Resurrection and who makes logical howlers in his Kalam.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                I’m thinking WLC is “William Lane Craig,” the one in favor of genocide.

              • Posted October 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                Yes, that werid one.

              • Posted January 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

                Yes, ti’s he the defender of Yahweh the monster! Please post more at any of my many blogs!

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

              We’re on the same page, and I figured that you were trying to say what you actually did say in your follow up post. Furthermore, I think your point about defeater arguments is well-taken; I had them myself (really, really, stupid ones; I once wrote a book of theology in which I dismissed evolution in four pages of the type of “arguments” that nowadays would make AiG blush). So, I do appreciate what you had to say.

              I’m also interested in Ben’s commentary. It would be a worthwhile sociological project to find out, percentage-wise, what the reasons for young people leaving the church are (the asininity of religious doctrine, science, bad experiences with other church members, sex, god not coming through on “his” part of the bargain, etc.). There is a good chance that such a study would shed light on the “ridicule vs. science” approach to answering creationists. On the other hand, there’s a good chance such a study has already been done.

              • gluonspring
                Posted September 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

                It would be interesting, and I am quite curious to know the answer. I suspect such a study would be difficult because people do not really understand their own motivations that well and so might not be able to report them accurately. I feel I was responding to evidence, for example, but I may have been responding to the (implicit) ridicule of my peers.

              • Posted September 30, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

                I think it’s pretty clear that a diverse approach is what’s really needed.

                Above all else, our message must be honest, true, and hew to the facts.

                We should ridicule ideas worthy of ridicule in situations where ridicule is called for. As Richard Dawkins lines to point out, making fun of your saintly aunt while she lies on her deathbed telling you how much she’s looking forward to being with Jesus is not what a civilized person does. Not that you should lie to her, but it’s usually not hard to smile and nod. If she presses you, you can honestly tell her that, while it’s not something you believe in, you know how important it is to her and that you’re glad she’s found happiness.

                But in public debate? Let ‘er rip.

                “Thinking that a faery tale anthology that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard somehow holds the key to understanding the development of life on Earth is absurd. It’s sad, really, when the truth of the matter is so much more fascinating, such as how the same DNA tests that can tell you how distant a relation your Cousin Erik in California is can also tell you how distant a cousin the jaguar at the zoo with her skull-piercing fangs is — about a hundred million years distant, in fact. Oh — and that tree she’s lounging on? It’s her and your billion-and-a-half-years-removed cousin.”

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 30, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

                I’ve noticed that once you get down to a certain level of indentation, the “reply” button disappears. So, I’d just like to say In an unthreadly manner that I appreciate Ben’s response to my comment. Very useful, as always.

              • Posted September 30, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                Thanks, and you’re welcome.

                As you’ve figured out, the tradition is to reply to the last post in the thread that has a “Reply” link.

                “Those who who forget USENET are doomed to try to recreate it…badly.”

                b&

  10. Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Since synapticcontusion is unable to note the patchwork style of the book upon which he bases his absolute faith, colour me unconvinced that he is correct in his assumptions about evolution.

  11. Ludo
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    You gotta admit, if one does not ‘believe’ in evolution, it is no more than consistent to refuse to use the brainpowers that have arisen through evolution.

  12. Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised you didn’t pointed out the number and age of neandertalls discovered early on. Would’ve shut down most of his comments.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      In Jerry’s defense, I’d chalk that up to a relatively hurried response. Jerry might be long on some points, too abbreviated on others, but that is simply (IMO) a characteristic of getting past this mishmash, and only expending sufficient energy on xynaptic (i.e. the energy expended by a drosophila melanogaster doing a push-up) to clean it up.

      (x, as in Xmas)

  13. Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    All you need to do is click on his Avatar to know what his angle is. The mental hula-hoops he jumps through to disparage the scientific interpretation of anything are astounding. These comments, however are the most eloquently stated that I’ve seen, which means he probably copied them from somewhere.

    I often see it stated by creationists that science and the evidence support the Bible, yet this supposed evidence is never provided.

  14. Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all your time and diligence on this, Jerry!

    I will add one thing: Creationists often talk as if all our evidence for human evolution comes from a handful of fossils. This is why they try so hard to “debunk” the Lucy skeleton.

    Paleontologists have found hundreds of fossil specimens of A. afarensis, and even more of the South African australopithecines. Lucy has become justly famous because in one skeleton we can see so many of the features of these species. Still, we knew australopithecine anatomy from hundreds of fossils before Lucy was found. Also, we have many other skeletons that are comparably complete, including the two exceptional skeletons of A. sediba from Malapa, South Africa. The importance of complete skeletons in illustrating evolution for the public is invaluable, but specialists rely on having many fragments that represent how traits varied in ancient species.

    • Ludo
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Furthermore, fossils are just one line of evidence. Another is molecular anthropology and the study of ancient DNA. And what about comparative anatomy, physiology and so on ?
      Creationists focus on fossils – maybe because fossils are ‘easy’ and molecular genomics is not?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I hear they are five more or less complete skeletons now, three are waiting to be extracted or observed in situ. Some of that is supposed to become a television show later this year or early next year.

      Imagine what it will do to the creationist image!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Sediba skeletons, that is.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    The previous creationist appealed to a kind of intuitive-common-sense-fundamentalism failing to realize that basic intuitions are sometimes wrong. But this fellow just seems to make stuff up.

  16. Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Every time a Cretin says they don’t believe in evolution kindly ask them to take the first flight to Nairobi National Museum and visit the human skull section. If still after that they don’t believe, then dispatch them to the nearest asylum.

  17. Luke Adams
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Although he’s not particularly liked around these parts, Casey Luskin’s take on why H. neanderthalenis, should be classified as Homo Sapians, is a little more well constructed.
    “The numerous associated skeletons of H. neanderthalensis indicate that their body shape was within the range of variation seen in modern humans.”

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/08/the_genus_homo063151.html

    • raven
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      That is just a lie.

      Their skulls are identifiably different, although not by much. Which is what is expected for a close relative of modern humans.

      BTW, we have the most of the DNA sequence of Neanderthals and even more for their relative, the Denisovians. They are outside the range of modern humans too.

      Luskin also ignores the mountains of even older humanoid fossils. The further back we go, the less human they look, just as expected by science.

      If your religion was true, you wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

      • Luke Adams
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        Any articles on the DNA sequencing, I’d be interested to read them.

        • raven
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          A few seconds with google will bring up dozens of papers.

          I posted a paragraph from one already.

        • raven
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          sciencdaily.com:

          Neanderthal Genome Yields Insights Into Human Evolution and Evidence of Interbreeding With Modern Humans (May 6, 2010) —

          After extracting ancient DNA from the 40,000-year-old bones of Neanderthals, scientists have obtained a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome, yielding important new insights into the evolution of … > read more

          These sequencing studies have been and are occasionally front page news.

      • raven
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        sciencedaily:

        “The genomic calculations showed good correlation with the fossil record,” said coauthor Jim Mullikin, Ph.D., an NHGRI computational geneticist and acting director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center (http://www.nisc.nih.gov/). “According to our results, the ancestors of Neanderthals and modern humans went their separate ways about 400,000 years ago.”

        Luskins knows this. He is just ignoring it because it contradicts his lies.

        • Luke Adams
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          Inquiries into human origins are on strong ground when genetic data and fossil evidence point in the same direction, but at present geneticists and paleoanthropologists have somewhat different stories to tell. All human fossil remains in Africa for the last 100,000 years, and probably the last 200,000 years, are of modern humans, providing no support for a coexistent archaic species. Another team of geneticists reported in 2010 the finding that Neanderthals had interbred 100,000 years ago with Europeans and Asians, but not Africans. This, too, conflicted with the fossil evidence in implying that modern humans left Africa 100,000 years ago, some 55,000 years before the earliest known fossil evidence of this exodus.

          But not all calculations agree with the fossil record. And it also suggests that they interbreed with humans, which would suggest to me, although I’m clearly not an authority, that they are not that much different.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/science/cousins-of-neanderthals-left-dna-in-africa-

          scientists-report.html?_r=4&hp

          • Luke Adams
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

            Sorry that first paragraph is a quote from the article that I linked.

          • raven
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

            All human fossil remains in Africa for the last 100,000 years, and probably the last 200,000 years, are of modern humans, providing no support for a coexistent archaic species.

            That is referring to Africa and has nothing to do with the coexistence or relateness of humans and neanderthanls. Neanderthals were found in the middle east and Eurasia.

            And it also suggests that they interbreed with humans, which would suggest to me, although I’m clearly not an authority, that they are not that much different.

            This is meaningless and flat out wrong. Horses and donkeys crossbreed, tigers and lions, wolves and dogs, some species of small cats with domestic cats i.e bengal cats, and whales and dolphins. It’s not unusual for species that really aren’t even that closely related to crossbreed.

            You really don’t know any biology. But you know biology is wrong. Your ignorance is not proof of anything.

            BTW, I’m 4% neanderthal as are most people posting on this blog. Whether humans and neanderthals are separate species, subspecies, or races is a matter of semantics and opinion. This is a gray, fuzzy area. Because reality itself is often gray and fuzzy.

            • Luke Adams
              Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

              Which is why I didn’t say same species, as the definition of species can take many different forms. All I said is that it suggests that they aren’t that much different. Which can be said of the other examples of interbreeding that you provided.

              • raven
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

                Luke lying:

                All I said is that it suggests that they aren’t that much different. Which can be said of the other examples of interbreeding that you provided.

                Never takes them long to start lying.

                Tigers and lions aren’t that much different?

                Horses and donkeys?

                Whales and dolphins?

                Most people can easily tell the difference between all of those. BTW, the further apart in evolutionary terms, two species are, the less ikely they are to crossbreed. We don’t see crossbreeds between horses and wolves for example.

                Someone else can play with the troll. I’m bored with ignorance, lies and whack-a-mole with creationists and have better things to do with my time.

              • Luke Adams
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                Whack-a-mole? Please, all you have done is sling mud and argue semantics.
                Horses and Donkeys are in the same family
                Tigers and Lions are of the same family
                Dolphins and Killer Whales are of the same family
                H. Sapiens and H. Neanderthalensis are of the same genus
                Saying that they aren’t much different isn’t too much of a stretch and is pretty easy to see why they can interbreed.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

              Here is a recent article on human species concepts and the ‘Out Of Africa’ model by its founder Stringer.

              “We may find there are other people than the Denisovans and the Neanderthals to be recognized from their DNA in these regions— there may well be more surprises to come. For example there is evidence both from fossils and recent DNA that even Africa had an overlap of modern and archaic humans, with the possibility in a continent so large that there were other descendants of heidelbergensis living there alongside Homo sapiens. These populations could have exchanged DNA too, evidence of which might be found in the genomes of living Africans.

              We will also get the first good look at functional DNA in the genomes of ancient individuals. For the first time, we can make a comparison, not just between the chimp genome and the modern human genome, but we can now add in the Neanderthal genome and the Denisovan genome. We can start to see what unites those three human genomes compared with the chimpanzees. What evolved along the modern human line to make us what we are? And then individually, what made the Neanderthals what they were? What made the Denisovans what they were? This will have an impact, of course, on our own nature, what makes a modern human a modern human. Already a number of bits of DNA have been identified that are distinct among humans, where the Neanderthals are like chimpanzees.” [My bold.]

              Add to that that Hawks flags that more material will likely push up our Neanderthal gene content, from ~ 3.5 % to perhaps 6 %. And that early European specimens could have had more – Ötzi had twice our Neanderthal gene content.

              This is the observation and hypothesis synthesis:

              “Here’s a somewhat simple representation of my current thinking now about human evolution over the last two million years:

              We’ve got the lineage of the hobbit, ‘Homo floresiensis’ (in quotation marks because its human status in not yet clear), perhaps diverging more than two million years ago, evolving in isolation in southeast Asia, and apparently going extinct about 17,000 years ago.

              We’ve got Homo erectus, most likely originating in Africa, giving rise to lineages which continue in the Far East in China and Java, but which eventually go extinct. In Europe, it perhaps gave rise to the species Homo antecessor, “Pioneer Man,” known from the site of Atapuerca in Spain. Again, going extinct.

              In the western part of the Old World, we get the development of a new species, Homo heidelbergensis, present in Europe, Asia and Africa. We knew heidelbergensis had gone two ways, to modern humans and the Neanderthals. But we now know because of the Denisovans that actually heidelbergensis went three ways—in fact the Denisovans seem to represent an off-shoot of the Neanderthal lineage.

              North of the Mediterranean, heidelbergensis gave rise to the Neanderthals, over in the Far East, it gave rise to the Denisovans. In Africa heidelbergensis evolved into modern humans, who eventually spread from Africa about 60,000 years ago, but as I mentioned, there’s evidence that heidelbergensis populations carried on in Africa for a period of time. But we now know that the Neanderthals and the Denisovans did not go genetically extinct. They went physically extinct, but their genes were input into modern humans, perhaps in western Asia in the case of the Neanderthals. And then a smaller group of modern humans picked up DNA from the Denisovans in south east Asia.

              We end up with quite a complex story, with even some of this ancient DNA coming back into modern humans within Africa. So our evolutionary story is mostly, but not absolutely, a Recent African Origin.”

              Note the nice diagram with at least 4 separate ancestral species branches of what today constitute the modern human gene pool by introgression (and not species mixing).

              • Luke Adams
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                That’s a nice in depth article, and I’ll have to dig into it more when I get a chance. I don’t argue that the homo line is greatly varied, the issues I find is trying to connect it to australopithecine, which I don’t see much evidence for. Looking at the DNA doesn’t say much to me since we already know every being is made out of DNA. I do appreciate his comment about how much different out DNA is from the homo ancestors than it is from the different races that are living today. That’s something to think about.

              • Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

                Looking at the DNA doesn’t say much to me since we already know every being is made out of DNA.

                The question isn’t whether or not the organisms in question have DNA.

                The question is the degree of relatedness as indicated by genetic analysis of the organisms’s DNA.

                You know how a DNA test can determine whether or not somebody is your parent / sibling / cousin / etc.?

                Those exact same tests work across species.

                Just as you can easily, quickly, and accurately (though not necessarily cheaply) build a family tree by performing a DNA analysis of all its members, you can just as easily build a family tree of species.

                Spend some quality time on this site:

                http://timetree.org/

                if you want to learn more.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Luke Adams
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

                I will definitely take a look at that sight. I think its quite a jump to go from ancestry in the same family, in a biological sense, to ancestry across families.

              • Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

                I think its quite a jump to go from ancestry in the same family, in a biological sense, to ancestry across families.

                Why on Earth should that be so?

                That’s like complaining that it’s all well and good to use your car’s odometer to determine that your friend lives two tenths of a mile down the block, but that you can’t use the same method to determine that it’s a few thousand miles from coast to coast.

                b&

              • Luke Adams
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                If I don’t know anything about his odometer I wouldn’t trust that it could measure distance miles down the road. Its possible that his odometer is completely non-linear and while a linear approximation works for short distances it completely falls apart at large distances.

              • Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

                Its possible that his odometer is completely non-linear and while a linear approximation works for short distances it completely falls apart at large distances.

                That’s an excellent point.

                Which is why the DNA clocks are calibrated against multiple other very diverse clocks from every branch of science, from physics to geology to geography to astronomy to chemistry to climatology and more.

                And they all agree upon the same figures within their respective margins of error.

                No matter how you choose to measure the age of the universe and its contents, you get the same figures.

                b&

              • Luke Adams
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

                Dating methods come up with different measures of time all the time. And most of the time these methods are calibrated using another method that already has issues. To me this is hardly conclusive.

              • Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

                Dating methods come up with different measures of time all the time.

                Yes, of course — but, they also all converge on the same range of values. That’s why the measurements come with error bars.

                And most of the time these methods are calibrated using another method that already has issues.

                Eh, not hardly.

                Most of the fossil record is dated based on its location within the geologic column. Counting layers of sediment is as straightforward counting tree rings or layers in ice cores. All three layer methods are precise down to the year for more recent layers and are externally calibrated through correlation with known events. For example, a drought was recorded by so-and-so in such-and-such a year, which corresponds with a narrower tree ring. Somebody else recorded a supernova in this other year, we can see its remnants that match perfectly with the expected age of a supernova remnant of that age, and the ice core’s layer for that year has a corresponding blip in radiation levels. A huge volcano blew its top in some year and there’s ash in the corresponding sediment layer. That sort of thing.

                Granted, that only gets us through recorded history, but it provides superlative opportunities for calibrating the standard clocks.

                …clocks which, oh-by-the-way, just happen to match up quite nicely with the molecular drift clock in DNA….

                Now, if you’re true to form, you’ll trot out some sort of bullshit Cretinist canard about how C14 analysis of a dinosaur tooth came back with some ludicrous age. Feel free to do so, as it’s a great opportunity to explain that essential concept of “the right tool for the job.”

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Luke Adams
                Posted September 29, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

                C14 is a terrible measure for anything over 100,000 years or so and methods of contamination are many. That’s diamond and fossil fuels have levels of carbon when they should be inert. And while calibration of ice layers and tree layers etc is fine, extrapolating that to millions and billions is in my opinion stretching the science.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted September 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

                C14 dating is only one kind of radiometric dating, as I’m sure you know.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted September 29, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

              Luke Adams, do you think you’re telling us anything we don’t know? And seriously, do you think biologists extrapolate tree layers to millions and billions of years?

              Okay, I’ve posted several questions to you (see the two already), and here’s another one.

              How old do you think the Earth is according to scientific evidence.

              Remember, before you are allowed to post again, you have to give cogent answers to why all methods of dating are erroneous and why you think there’s convincing evidence for creationism and God.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            “This, too, conflicted with the fossil evidence in implying that modern humans left Africa 100,000 years ago, some 55,000 years before the earliest known fossil evidence of this exodus.”

            That doesn’t sound right. I’m pretty sure there are fossils of modern humans outside Africa that are more than 45,000 years old.

            All the evidence of interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans is in Europe and Asia, not Africa.

            • Luke Adams
              Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              The quote is taken from the NY Times article that I posted.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

                And I’m saying it sounds iffy.

            • raven
              Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

              That article probably doesn’t have anything to do with the relatedness of humans and neanderthals. It’s about possible archaic human DNA being found in some modern Africans.

              The creationist knows enough to cut and paste articles but not enough to read them and understand what they actually say.

              Although, I didn’t read the article myself. The link goes to an error message and I’m too bored to bother with it.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      It’s more well constructed in that it uses better grammar and sentence structure, but since Luskin is a lawyer that’s not surprising.

      I’m not sure why anyone would go to an attorney for information about paleontology, though.

      • raven
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure why anyone would go to an attorney for information about paleontology, though.

        Because he is a creationist. Creationism is a lie and all creationists are liars.

        Luskin also has a science degree in geology. Which is irrelevant to his present activities as his law degree.

      • Luke Adams
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        They tend to be very good at researching and combing the evidence to present a well thought out argument.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          That’s not really relevant to science.

          • Luke Adams
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            Research is always important for science. That’s the primary drive of most Doctorate programs.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

              Research, yes. Constructing a legal argument, know. A legal argument is supposed to use the facts to be persuasive; science is not.

              • John Scanlon, FCD
                Posted September 29, 2012 at 1:41 am | Permalink

                There’s nothing wrong with being persuasive in science either; it’s just not the only thing. To paraphrase:

                A scientific argument uses the facts to be NOT WRONG.

                A sufficient reason for doing science is that making factually wrong assertions is just embarrassing. Some people have no sense of shame, though.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          Humanities academic researching yes, empirical research no. A legal argument is analogous to religious disputation of the scholastic system, while empirical analysis is analogous to skepticism of the Enlightenment.

          That is why it isn’t relevant to science, and counter productive at best. If Luskin were schooled in skeptic analysis he would never defend lies.

          • Luke Adams
            Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

            I would agree with that to some extent. I would posit that a lot of science is interpreting the facts in a particular manner and that being able to research what assumptions are made and how a conclusion is drawn is very important. And I think that goes for any science.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted September 29, 2012 at 2:52 am | Permalink

              Luke, you don’t know what you’re talking about when you say that the dating methods give different results. When you take an ancient rock and cross-correlate dates using well-known methods, the dates are very close to each other, often within a few percent.

              You might try reading this:

              http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html#creacrit

              and then about isochrons

              come back ONLY when you can refute these commonly employed geological methods.

              Right now you’re just trolling and don’t know what you’re talking about. There are hundreds of species in the genus Drosophila, and only a very, very few of them can even hybridize, much less produce fertile hybrids.

    • MadScientist
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      That’s a pretty vague statement; the neanderthals are Homo sapiens neanderthalis – they’re Homo sapiens too!

    • palefury
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Hi Luke,

      While a species is often defined as “group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring” this is more of a rule of thumb than a hard and fast definition. Because clearly if this were the definition humans, neanderthals and denisovians would all be classified as homo sapiens though certainly different clades.

      There is certainly genetic evidence that all these three groups could interbreed as people of european decent are about 4% neanderthal and people of PaPua, and Australian Aboriginal decent are about 6% Denisovian.

      However, speciation in reality is more of a continuum. Practically, one can not define the exact moment one species becomes two. In reality this is based on quite a large number of considerations including ability to interbreed, geography, physiology and anatomy, genetics and so forth. Which of course means that there is going to be some conjecture as to where the line is precisely drawn.

      Keep asking questions and keep reading. Try going to the original scientific article instead of media reports – the media tends to attempt to oversimplify and sensationalise things. They can be a bit more technical but after reading a few they will start to make sense.

      • Luke Adams
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        Which is why I hate media reports, and getting to the original article can be hard. Makes reading about things and studying very difficult.

    • Kieran
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Casey luskin was a one time undergrad geologist who became a lawyer. This is clearly someone who will understand the finer points of morphology.

  18. Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    May I suggest to Synaptic that he(?) has a look at Australopithecus Sediba on Wiki. It is the latest find and still in a long process of verification and placement within the fossil record, but without doubt a closer relative to us than Lucy and maybe even Ardipithecus ramidus.

    How anyone can deny that these are transitional forms, is beyond me.

    And then JAC has apparently not even touched the telling evidence of genetics.‎

  19. benjdm
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    What’s a creationst? :)

    • Kieran
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      “i” have no “i”dea?

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    It really made me LOL that Synaptic thinks that Nanderthals all had arthritis (even the young ones!), and that their contemporaries, “modern’ Homo sapiens, did not!

    It is a hilarious give ways of not knowing the absolute or even relative ages of the fossils by placing Neanderthals as “our ancient ancestors” instead of contemporaries.

    But also the “old environment that is hypothesized to be much richer in oxygen (based on the evidence found in the analysis of fossilized amber).” The error bars are high but the trend is weak for oxygen content in the last tens of millions of years – eyeballing gives ~ 0.5 % _increase_ in the last 30 million years. (I was surprised to note that we are recovering to early oxygen levels of roughly Cambrian. But the modern low carbon dioxide levels are consistent with ubiquitous plant life.)

    You have to go back to Permian amber to find higher oxygen levels than today, according to that diagram. That is at least 250 million years before present. (Oldest found amber is ~ 320 million years old.) While Neanderthals lived some ~ 800 000 – 30 000 years before present.

    Typical two order of magnitude mistake of a creationist guessing at geological ages.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Oops, “give ways” – give away. Long week, nice red wine. =D

  21. MadScientist
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Haha. The creationists can’t even accept that H. sapiens neanderthalis was a contemporary branch of the hominid family and not an ancestor of H sapiens sapiens. Even in elementary school all those years ago we were taught that neanderthals “might” be an ancestor of humans – that “might” turned to “isn’t” a few decades ago.

    Lucy was an amazing find for its time, but certainly isn’t a solitary fossil upon which evolution is demonstrated – all fossils show evolution in action. There are even surprisingly complete skeletons (of different species) such as “Turkana boy” which was found by one of Richard Leakey’s groups about 30 years ago. I’m still waiting for creationists to provide evidence of this god thingy in action.

  22. Matt G
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    The thing about Genesis is that IF the story (stories, actually) is correct, then we should be able to recreate it from the evidence. When humans become extinct, any new intelligent life that evolves will rediscover evolution, not Genesis.

  23. MadScientist
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I think one of the problems with creationists is that they fail to comprehend that the theory of evolution is consistent with all observed facts and various independent lines of investigation ranging from morphology (which is not entirely reliable for classification but it is still a useful tool) to DNA studies, numerous field experiments, and even agricultural and animal breeding practices. The creationists do not have any ideas which are even remotely compatible with reality.

    • Luke Adams
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      This is definitely true to some extent, but as a creationist myself my opinion is that natural selection and all the other data that you mentioned prove variation within a family. The big jump is going from variation with in a family to common descent. My biggest problems with this are extrapolation and some sort of uniformitarian model. But I would agree there are huge problems within the community that don’t ask questions and stick their fingers in their ears. The biggest problem is that this can happen at the highest levels with people in “authority”, and then the ideas just trickle down with no discretion.

      • Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        This is definitely true to some extent, but as a creationist myself my opinion is that natural selection and all the other data that you mentioned prove variation within a family. The big jump is going from variation with in a family to common descent.

        The DNA shows no respect for the type of isolationist distinctions you hew to. None at all. It instead reveals a familiar hierarchy extremely consistent with (but not, of course, a perfect match for) the one already deduced through morphological and fossil studies.

        It shows, for example, that humans and chimps share a common ancestor about 6.4 million years ago (Mya), whereas the common ancestor between human and gorillas was about 8.4 Mya — and, that same ancestor had humans, chimps, and gorillas for descendants.

        About 43 Mya, humans, chimps, and gorillas also share a common ancestor with spider monkeys and all the rest of the monkeys and apes.

        A hundred million years ago or so, all the primates share a common ancestor with all the carnivores (cats, dogs, bears, etc.) along with the ungulates and their ilk (cows, whales, hippos, etc.).

        However, the last common ancestor between a jaguar and a tiger was only 3.7 Mya; between a jaguar and a wolf or a bear, 56 Mya. But between the wolf and the bear, only 45 Mya.

        This pattern continues throughout all life.

        The last common ancestor between a pinyon pine and a bristlecone pine was 78 Mya. Between a bristlecone and a redwood, 290 Mya. Between a bristlecone and a tomato, 340 Mya — same as between a bristlecone and wheat, but wheat and a tomato are “only” separated by 180 Mya.

        But that bristlecone and you share a common ancestor who lived about one and a half billion years ago.

        And it’s written right there in your DNA. There are lots of differences between human DNA and bristlecone pine DNA, but there’re lots of similarities, too — just enough differences to account for over a billion years worth of diverging family history, but also enough similarity to unquestionably be related.

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        “…my opinion is …”

        Cue Daniel Moynihan.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

          Brava!

          However, since I didn’t have the Moynihan quote at the tip of my brain, and would like to think that I am not the only of this web site’s 23,633 followers so deprived, I’ve taken the liberty of actually cueing it:
          “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted September 29, 2012 at 2:55 am | Permalink

        Luke,

        You will be allowed to post here again on only two conditions.

        1. Since you’re a creationist, you have to give what evidence you find convincing for the existence of God.

        2. You have to provide YOUR OWN refutation (not creationist arguments from boilerplate) of why you see radiometric dating as completely fallacious, and why things like isochrons (which cross correlate dates from different minerals in the same rock) give similar dates.

        Go do your homework and come back only when you can answer those questions. I imagine it will take you at least a week for the second one.

  24. Posted September 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    So there you have it: Synaptic, like our other two creationists, was being misleading—probably deliberately so. I believe that he knows better, and is spouting creationist drivel.

    This may be true for Synapticcohesion, but in my face to face interactions with creationists, it usually is a case of them not knowing any better, or having been misled by others. They’ve been taught all these falsehoods from trusted authorities, from preachers to parents, generally from a very young age. One guy loaned me some magazines to read showing some of the ‘evidence’ for creationism (Acts & Facts). He also suggested a book to me, Thousands not Billions, that purportedly made the case for a young Earth. We had several conversations on the subject, and he sincerely believed all the creationist canards he’d been taught. And from his point of view, with the magazines, books, lectures, and everything else he’d learned on creationism, he thought he was well informed.

    My point is, a lot of the rank and file creationists are honest in their beliefs, even if they are wrong.

    • Posted September 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, your report and analysis is believable.

      I’d suggest that that degree of delusion is only possible if you’re in a sheltered environment.

      I’d further suggest that the ‘Net is making it increasingly difficult for significant numbers of people to live lives so sheltered.

      b&

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        I’m down with Fatboy here. In 23 years in the fundy church, only a rare comment was ever heard about evolution, and then only to ridicule it. I read all the Henry Morris, Acts & Facts, etc. etc.; most of my friends didn’t even do that; furthermore, without knowing anything at all I was cocksure that I was right and all the scientists were wrong.

        I think it was Freud who said that “the church socializes its young to ask only those questions that the church can answer.” I hope Ben is right about the internet making sheltering more difficult, but I’m a little doubtful as I still know hundreds of these people, and I don’t see any progress whatsoever (that is, in those who stay. In those who leave, of course, progress is immense).

        • Posted September 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Compare the numbers leaving today with the numbers leaving a few decades ago.

          All religions, all denominations are bleeding membership. The only growth observed in the States is associated with immigration. The fastest-growing religious identification is “None of the above.”

          Just as it’s hard to see the effects of global climate change even though we’re in the midst of the most radical and fastest-paced shift in the planet’s billions of years of history…it’s also hard to see the effects of this demographic shift, equally radical in human history.

          As observed elsewhere in this thread, humans have a hard time working with numbers bigger than you can count with your naked body’s appendages. But, if you take a step back and look at the objective data…well, again: what we’re seeing today is absolutely unprecedented.

          b&

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            Hi Ben:

            You’re absolutely right, of course, with respect to both climate change and dechristianization.

            What I was trying (and failing) to communicate was that of those who are not leaving the churches, it is my experience (I only know fundy churches) that they are not becoming *any* more liberal, open-minded, or scientific in their outlook. Their minds are closed, their defeater arguments are in place, and they are smug and superior in their self-constructed intellectual and social ghettos.

            I do not “cast the first stone,” but on the rare occasions when some of my ex-coreligionists do send me a smarmy religious card, I have replied with as well-thought out a set of scientific and personal responses as I could, irenically and respectfully, and have never (with one brief exception) even received a response. However, I don’t think (again, from my limited experience and data set) that a ridiculing of their religion, much as I would love to do so, would accomplish anything other than to shut off any further possibility of communication, as well as give them the chance to go to their coreligionists and say “look at what a nasty person he’s become now that he’s an atheist”.

            I’m not saying that you’re not right in that ridicule will ultimately be more effective than scientific arguments (from one of your posts up above); I’m saying I don’t know, and prefer to err on the side of caution.

    • Ludo
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Yes, indeed. In the Netherlands, for example many devout Christians who believe in creationism live like in ‘islets’, which are carefully screened off from the outside world. They only know what their “mentors” allow them to know. And the latter often know very well that they are cheating and lying to their own people – but they are convinced that they are justified doing so – it is for the good of their flock.

  25. Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I love the part about Neanderthals living to such an old age that they are all arthritic. But of course–didn’t the Old Testament say that Methuselah lived for 965 years, Jared for 962, Noah for 950 etc? The Neanderthals aren’t ancient hominids they are just really, really old! It’s a wonder we didn’t find their remains hanging around an ark.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Just imagine how long they couldda lived if they’d had ibuprophen!

  26. David Frayer
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    The creationist is wrong about Neandertals being arthritic because they lived longer. First their levels of arthritis are not higher and second Caspari and Lee (PNAS 2004; 101:10895)and more recently Caspari (Sci. American, Aug 2011) demonstrated that ‘old is young’ – There is a demographic shift after the Neandertals where people begin to live longer. This may even be the key reason for their displacement.

  27. Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I’ve had a run-in with Synaptic in the past, and he must be either fantastically obtuse or he cares in no way about the evidence. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the argument was on a blog post I made that discussed Lucy. I corrected as much of his misinformation as I could, but I see now he didn’t listen to any of it any way. He gave me the same old garbage about bicondylar angle, the chimp femur being identical to the afarensis femur, parts of the skeleton found in different areas and strata, even the whole T Rex thing. Funnily enough, I too asked him if all the anthropologists were in on a conspiracy, to which he responded by stopping the conversation.

  28. Douglas Anderson
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    One of the beauties I love about people opposing evolution is that they tend to focus on the fossil record when the that is only a very tiny portion of the evidence that science uses to model evolution. I have yet to see a creationist argue genetics, adaptability, or even breeds of dogs and cabbages.
    My favourite one that they miss are the vestigial limbs and organs.


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  1. [...] after our exchange, this guy, Synaptic Cohesion ,went over to Jerry Coyne’s blog website (Why Evolution is True- if you don’t read it, you’re messing up) and just repeated the same garbage that I had [...]

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