Night Owl Mk. II

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This is the fourth of a four-part reply.

He goes on to tell anyone within earshot about the "Miracle of the Hammer". Some believe him and help spread the story. Come to think of it, isn't this quite similar to what happens with such things as "Virgin Mary sightings", "faith healing", and, yes, Creationism?
(R) Your rhetoric here is very good, the hammer example also quite good. I agree that the Virgin Mary sightings are bogus (if indeed this is what you're implying), as well as faith healing. But isn't it the evolutionists who find the hammer and proclaim that it arose spontaneously? Aren't they the ones ignoring the intelligence behind the hammer? Yes to both.
(MB) No, to both. It is the evolutionist who would observe the hammer, conduct experiments, and formulate a theory for its presence based on the data he uncovered. It is the Creationist who would automatically dismiss the results of the experiments while claiming that "just because it happened in the lab doesn't mean that it can happen outside".

(R) Beyond this, however, Creationism is an alternative theory of the origin of life, a view based to some extent on the Bible but not exclusively so.
(MB) Oh, really? What parts are not based on what the Bible says? In any case, evolution is not a theory of the origin of life. It is a theory of the progression and development of living things. There is room within evolution to believe that some supernatural being initially created life on the Earth. Indeed, there is room to believe that life was brought here by extraterrestrials. How life started or got here doesn't matter to evolution. What has happened since then *does*.

(R) There are many observations that agree with the creationist framework. It is arrogance on your part to proclaim that this is not so and that all of the facts support evolution. The data are consistent with a creation framework.
(MB) If so, please explain how it works. Morris, in particular, is great at saying how well data fits the Creationist model. When he actually tries to deliver specifics, however, he falls flat on his face. Can you do better?
    BTW, why is it that scientists and Creationists can make the same claims regarding data support for their ideas, but it is only "arrogance" when scientists do so? Does the knife not cut both ways?

(R) Once evolutionists have put in their interpretations the evidence seems to support what they say, but that is true within their own contextual framework. Creationists do not share this framework and are able to look at the data in a fresh and meaningful way.
(MB) In other words, within their own contextual framework. Again, does the knife not cut both ways? As a side note, how is Biblical interpretation a "fresh and meaningful way" of looking at something when it is so much older than evolutionary theory?

(R) Permit me to give an example from the world of business. When IBM ran into hard financial times several years back the board of directors got rid of Akers (I think he was CEO). He had worked all of his life in IBM and didn't have the fresh perspective needed to implement the radical changes needed. He couldn't think out of the box: the box (the IBM way of doing things) was all he knew. Lou Gerstner was hired to replace him, someone from outside IBM. He was free of the perceptual blinders that hindered his predecessor and has been more aggressive at implementing change than Akers would have been.
(MB) This just proves that economics is more of a philosophy than a hard science with invariant physical laws. What works in business this year may be a total flop in years to come. Science doesn't work that way. The basic fundamentals of physical laws do not change no matter who is conducting an experiment. That's another reason why lab results can be translated into explanations for events outside the lab.

(R) Yet creationists are able to see through the many fallacies and circular thinking inherent in evolution.
(MB) "See through" them or "invent" them? The history of Creationist argument would suggest that the second is more likely.

(R) Were evolutionists to think the unthinkable, and view the evidence from a fresh perspective, they would see these things, too.
(MB) Yet, when they do just that and come up with ideas such as punctuated equilibrium, the Creationists attack it as "changing the rules", "manipulating the data", or worse. Creationists don't want "fresh perspectives". They want blind faith in their interpretation of the Bible. When's the last time you heard of religious acceptance of a new interpretation of Scripture that was based on a "fresh perspective"? Catholics certainly didn't approve of Martin Luther's "fresh perspective". Jews and Christians certainly don't approve of Islam's "fresh perspective" on just who are the true descendants of Abraham and who God's true prophet is. How well accepted is the "fresh perspective" of the Mormons?

(R) If we find a specimen and measure the amount of Carbon 14 present, that number is a fact. To then draw a conclusion that this amount means that the specimen is umpteen million years old involves interpretation. This interpretation is based on assumptions.
(MB) No, such an interpretation would be based on the ignorance involved in using the wrong tool to do the job or in plain old gross incompetence. Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5730 years and is not used to date things older than that. To claim that it can be, or has been, used to produce results of "umpteen million years" is nonsense.
    The principle of radiometric dating, however, is simple and reliable. It is based upon the fundamental laws of radioactive decay. Radioactive elements decay into other elements at a known rate. The proportions of "parent" to "daughter" elements in a sample can reliably be used to approximate the age of the sample. Multiple dating techniques exist and can be used to cross-check each other.
    Creationists try to attack radiometric dating techniques by advancing a mangling of the process of radioactive decay. First, they try to claim that decay is not a fundamental process, but is "random". Second, because it's "random", you can't reliably predict how it will proceed. Finally, since you can't predict how it will proceed, you can't extrapolate from observations of its progress, either. Therefore, they say, radiometric dating cannot be used to age-date samples with any degree of reliability.
    Well, they are right about one thing - decay is random. However, the randomness is in which particular atom of the radioactive element will decay at any given point in time. The *rate* at which atoms decay, however, is known and does not change. Therefore, the rate of decay provides a very reliable clock. Since the Creationist argument is based on a faulty premise, the entire subsequent line of reasoning falls down. What it relies upon is the hope that the listener won't remember the original premise by the time he reaches the carefully-constructed conclusion.

(R) Dating mechanisms such as these depend upon uniformitarian assumptions. If these are incorrect (as they would be in the event of a world-wide catastrophe such as occurred in the Genesis flood) then the conclusions drawn using them are incorrect.
(MB) Obviously, even a world-wide catastrophe would make no difference to the rate at which radioactive elements decay. Whatever other areas of science the idea of the Genesis flood seeks to overturn, radiometric dating can't be one of them.

(R) Had you simply stated that there is some evidence that makes it seem like evolution might have occurred, I probably wouldn't have e-mailed you. Such an admission of the true state of affairs, that evolution may be a valid explanation for some of the scientific observations made, would have been well within the limits of what the data permit one to say.
(MB) Let's put the rhetorical shoe on the other foot for a moment and see how it fits. Would you make a similar "admission" for Creationism, or are you absolutely convinced that it is correct? Is there room in Creationism for an evolutionary view of life? Is there something inherent in Creationism that makes it superior to all other belief systems in religion and all ideas of science? Is Creationism open to objective examination and modification based on any conceivable data?
    One last question: Assume we have somebody of reasonable intellect who has no prior knowledge of the Bible or of the Judeo-Christian God (or any other system of religion) or of Charles Darwin. Give that person a Bible and a science text on evolution. Which explanation would he be most likely to accept and why?

(R) I recall a social science experiment where a group of students were in a room and showed several lines. They were supposed to raise their hands to indicate which line was longest. Everyone in the room except one person had been told to raise their hands for a line that was not longest. In almost every case, the person who hadn't been told this raised his hands with the majority, even though the evidence in front of him plainly told him they were wrong. Creationists are the ones who have enough nerve to raise their hands for the longest line.
(MB) Evolutionists are the ones who have enough sense to examine the evidence to determine which is truly the longest line and to accept that evidence despite peer pressure, threats, or other emotional appeals to the contrary.
    I'll bet that the person in question in your example was either, 1) not among the brightest students in his class, 2) asleep or disinterested and responding by reflex, or 3) just going along with the gag. As an instructor attempting to teach computer science to new privates in the Army, I see this all the time. I often ask simple binary questions of my class and ask them to raise their hands in response. In a class of any arbitrary size, there will almost always be up to a third of them who will not raise their hand for either possible response or who will look to see what their friend does before raising their own hand. I can also influence the responses by how I phrase the question. If I ask, "How many disagree with that?", I will always get fewer hands raised than if I ask "How many think that's bullshit?" -- regardless of what the answer actually might be. This technique is not lost on media pollsters, either.

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