The Mad Aardvark

Critical commentary on culture…

Archive for the ‘creationism’ Category

Evangelical Reporting

Posted by madaardvark on April 28, 2010

As some of you may have learned, evangelical groups are claiming to have found Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey very recently.   This discovery was covered very differently by two news sources: FOX News, and MSNBC.

FOX news took an expectedly ‘open-minded’ approach to the topic.  That means they have taken the discoverer’s claims and published them without checking facts or other sources.  They simply present the material as it was in the press release sent out from the Noah’s Ark Ministries research team.  Of course, FOX News represents a predominantly conservative Christian viewer base, and to question or poke fun at such irrational topics as Noah’s Ark would drive them away.  You won’t find objective reporting here.

MSNBC has taken a different approach.  Instead of interviewing the research team, or publishing much of its press release, MSNBC reporters interviewed a few academicians – anthropologists, archeologists, historians – to give a scientific view of the discovery.  Of course, their reaction was less than enthusiastic and contained more than one accusation towards the evangelical research team of poor scientific skills, bias, and/or fraud.  MSNBC, it should be noted, has a predominantly liberal viewer base.

CNN, the usual leader in sensationalist reporting, remains suspiciously silent on the issue.  Back logs of CNN reports, however, contain stories about previous Ark discoveries that turned out to be bogus.  Maybe, on the Noah issue at least, CNN has learned a hard lesson from the past.  More likely, though, is that they are intentionally not speaking on the issue because of audience alienation.  Their viewer base is about as lowest common denominator as it gets, as the news network panders to ignorant atheists and Christians alike.

Now, I looked through some of the comments on this new story on both the FOX and MSNBC News sites.  Most of the pro-ark comments are misinformed about many things, so I thought I would clear them up here.

1. Science is based on peer review.  For some reason, people seem to think that just because a scientist had an idea, that everyone will blindly accept that idea.  The truth is, every scientific discovery is scrutinized down to the smallest detail before the scientific community comes to a consensus.  There are very few biases that spring from nowhere.  Most of them are based on my next point…

2. Consistency.  Science is consistent.  We know when science is correct because the end result was predicted correctly.  Ark discoveries have been consistent, too.  Each one has been consistently debunked and forgotten.  There is no surprise, then, when scientists admit to a certain level of skepticism when confronted with a new ark discovery.  Not only that, but

3. Carbon dating.  It’s consistent, too.  Stories of false data from insufficient collection practices are false because of the time, care, and repetition of carbon dating techniques.  A big controversy (if you want to call it that) in the Ark commentary is a question of who admits to carbon dating being useful when.  I want to point out that scientists are, again, very consistent with their carbon dating.  In the case of this ark that was supposedly dated to 4,800 years ago, scientists dismiss the evangelical team because DATING WAS ALREADY DONE ON THIS SITE, and the results were different.  Several times.  As MSNBC points out, “previous tests reportedly came up with more recent dates.”  That’s right, TESTS.  Plural.  As in more than one.  Consistent.  When there is a suddenly different result, that indicates a problem, mistake, flaw, or falsity with the testing method that one time.

And finally,

4. Science is not atheism.  There is no law anywhere, except in specifically literal-minded fundamentalist prosperity-religions, that believing science makes someone an atheist.  Arguing with science on subjects such as these is a veil for promoting literal-minded Creationism, not for promoting Christianity as a whole.  Most Christian sects – most world religions, for that matter – do not have a problem with science or  that unspoken subject, Evolution.  And that, folks, is the big, big issue with ark discoveries.  Inevitably, the new find will be debunked (if the scientific community gives another thought to it at all) and people will move on.  BUT a few folks, believers hope, will be fooled long enough for their minds to be opened to chicanery and lies.

Below are some links to pages on ReligiousTolerance.org about religious views on evolution.  Enjoy

Evolution and religion overview

Christian beliefs about evolution

World Religion beliefs about evolution

Pagan/aboriginal beliefs about evolution

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New Dinosaur Fossil and Unpopular Pandas

Posted by madaardvark on September 25, 2009

feathered_dino

Another fantastic find, this time in China. The fossil record keeps getting flushed out; controversies within the scientific community keep coming to an end. There had been some controversy about the evolutionary path of birds. Some scientists have pointed out that the fossil record did not support the idea that birds descended from dinosaurs, because feathered dinosaurs and birds existed together. This new find, a complete fossil of Anchiornis huxleyi, shows up long before birds and represents a ‘missing link.’ The new fossil shows up about 25 million years before the appearance of birds and the only other known feathered dinosaurs.

There is one thing about ‘missing links’ I would like to clarify, though: there is no such thing. Every creature represents a transitional form, so there will always be some kind of creature that existed between two forms. Those people (creationists) who demand more ‘missing links’ and ‘transitional forms’ between known fossils will never be satisfied.

MEANWHILE, also in China, the pandas are dying despite our efforts to save them.  Chris Packham, a British conservationist and wildlife television show host, suggested that it’s time to stop throwing money at a problem that isn’t getting any better.  Granted, pandas would probably be fine if human beings just fell off the face of the earth (just like a lot of animals would), but that isn’t going to happen any time soon.  It’s sad to say that I somewhat agree with Packham.  It isn’t a popular idea, and it really does say something about what we value and spend money on.

Here’s my question: how many people have donated money to preserve pandas, but wouldn’t donate money to support human beings that live in poverty?  What is more important?  I admit to not donating money to either.  My contribution isn’t going to prevent humans OR pandas from becoming extinct, and a few human deaths may actually preserve some animals in the long run.  In fact, if people are going to die, “then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

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Alien Artists

Posted by madaardvark on June 4, 2009

jellyfish

Just to remind people, the giant jellyfish crop circle is something that is completely within the ability of human beings to create.  As wonderful as it is to think that something out there beyond us creates crop circles or had some hand in the building of ancient tombs, I have to assume the simplest explanation is the most likely.  Human beings enjoy deviant behavior, especially when they get giggles out of watching other people go crazy over it.  People are perfectly capable of making crop circles, so why is it so hard for crop circle junkies to accept that they do?

There is an answer for that.  It’s the same reason that fundamental religions deny the basic tenets of natural laws.  They want desperately not to be alone in this postmodern isolated society so they reach out for something that they hope is there.  When groups of people get together with the same hopes, they convince each other that those hopes are reality, despite what a rational mind might tell them.

As a caveat, let me express that I do not believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive.  It takes compassion and humanity to apply the laws of nature that science has uncovered, for one thing.  For another, people absolutely need religion in their culture.  Individual results may vary, but the truth is that religion helps people abstract and transmit the ideas which that culture values.  These are the Big Ideas of Humanity that are directly approached through art and literature; religion allows them to be accessed intuitively and subconciously.  The beliefs themselves serve only as the dressing, the method of transmission.

The real TRUTHS that people glean from them are the big questions that religious followers have to go to their leaders for: how do I, as a member of this culture, deal with issues like revenge, betrayal, jealousy, economic distress, war, pride, love, etc?  What is the meaning of life?  Holy writ is investigated, studied, while the learner wades through confusing, sometimes contradictory, information in the hopes of finding something solid as an answer they can cope with.  That answer depends on who is investigating, what culture they are from, what the standards are for their particular religious sect.  The answer is almost always, “This is what our culture has come to understand about this issue.  This is what our religous group does to help eachother on this issue.  This is how we go on every day.”  This is helpful.  Religion is helpful and necessary.

BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF LEARNING ABOUT OUR WORLD!  There is no usefulness in ignoring new discoveries or understandings about the world.  Scientific study and rational thought need not be tossed out the window.  Think carefully.  Aliens have no motivation to create crop circles if they are advanced enough to travel AT LEAST 4.5 light-years across the galaxy to deliver us a message.  What the hell kind of message is a picture of a jellyfish?

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the joke.  The jellyfish is one of the strangest and goofiest things a person can think of, and symbolically is the epitome of oddball meaninglessness.  And there the believers are, out there in some farmer’s field, talking about what revelations can be found in it.  Just beautiful.

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Ida know…

Posted by madaardvark on May 24, 2009

missing_link

Talk of the fossil that was discovered in Germany a little while ago is incredibly important to scientific study, but calling it the ‘missing link’ is just a little unnerving.  The problem is that animals taks so very long to evolve from one distinct form into another, and there are many many many transitional forms between them that we just don’t have.  Because of the odds of finding such pristine preservation, the odds of finding each and every form between stages is astronomically small. I don’t have much of a problem with that, considering the forms we do have are remarkably similar and show the transitions nicely.

Here’s the problem: because so many fossils will not be found, fundamentalist groups that doubt the validity of scientific study, particularly evolution, will never be satisfied with the number of finds.  There are already pseudo-scientific creationists out there attacking the discovery of the century (granted, the century is only 9 years old…) in an effort to promote their agenda of spreading ignorance on behalf of their world view. But, maybe I’m just a pessimist, and the creationist community will understand the findings, and stop working against the rest of the human race.

At any rate, I found a creationist opinion on the find, located here, and I’d like to quote the main opposing points, and offer counter-points to them:

…rather than an apeman-like missing link that some media sources have irresponsibly implied, the real story is quite underwhelming and should in no way faze creationists. Let’s first review the facts:

–The well-preserved fossil (95 percent complete, including fossilized fur and more) is about the size of a raccoon and includes a long tail. It resembles the skeleton of a lemur (a small, tailed, tree-climbing primate). The fossildoes not resemble a human skeleton.

–The fossil was found in two parts by amateur fossil hunters in 1983. It eventually made its way through fossil dealers to the research team.

–Ida has opposable thumbs, which the ABC News article states are “similar to humans’ and unlike those found on other modern mammals” (i.e., implying that opposable thumbs are evidence of evolution). Yet lemurs today have opposable thumbs (like all primates). Likewise, Ida has nails, as do other primates. And the talus bone is described as “the same shape as in humans,” despite the fact that there are other differences in the ankle structure.3

–Unlike today’s lemurs (as far as scientists know), Ida lacks the “grooming claw” and a “toothcomb” (a fused row of teeth) In fact, its teeth are more similar to a monkey’s. These are minor differences easily explained by variation within a kind.

1. The skeleton resembles both a lemur and a human, suggesting that the human race evolved from primates much more like lemurs than monkeys.  A brief overview of skeletal and muscular anatomy would clearly show how human-like the fossil is.  To the uneducated, or the ignorant (not the same thing), the skeleton certainly doesn’t ‘look’ human.

2.  The fossil was found in two parts because they had to keep digging to find the rest of it.  But find it they did, and it fits together perfectly.

3. Humans are the only creatures that have OPPOSABLE thumbs.  Not all thumbs are opposable, though many animals (monkeys, raccoons, lemurs, gorillas) have semi-opposable thumbs.  Touch your thumb to the tip of your pinkie finger.  Now, quickly, touch your thumb to the tip of each finger rapidly.  Right.  Only humans can do that.  Fine manipulation is beyond the ability of any other primate.

4. Similar to a monkey’s and not consistent with the lemur group.  This is how we know animals are transitions between species.  Like the platypus.

More information about the fossil can found here, at the National Geographic website.  And here’s a Youtube video for you to enjoy:

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