Feb 052014

The much anticipated “Ham On Nye” debate is over. According to science fans, Nye won. According to creationists, Ham won. This was entirely predictable in advance, barring a really stupid mistake by one of two highly experienced public communicators.

Seriously, the chances of a Babel fish moment were slim to none: if Ham was of a mind to be persuaded by evidence, he would have changed his mind years ago.

However, there is fun to be had in mocking the ridiculous creationist “slam dunks” that have been aimed Nye’s way. Here’s a set of them.

Q: Bill Nye: Are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

A: Hell yes. Bill Nye, The Science Guy is the most widely recognised science communicator in the US since Carl Sagan. He makes science fun. How is that not positive?

Q: Are you scared of a divine creator?

A: This is an asinine question. If Nye does believe in a divine creator, then he’s clearly not scared, and if he doesn’t, then there’s nothing he would be scared of. Science is not intimidated by the idea of God. Spirituality may be a guiding force for scientific inquiry (as with Jesuit astronomers) or a personal belief that does not intrude into objective inquiry. Science and religion are only mutually antagonistic when religion claims as fact, things that science says clearly are not true, like the biblical creation myth. It’s not just scientists who don’t believe in a young earth and special creation: many Christians don’t either, and the Catholic Church’s doctrinal position explicitly does not endorse young earth creationism.

Q: Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature (i.e. trees created with rings, Adam created as an adult)?

A: Yes, completely illogical. Anybody who presents these as logical ideas rather than religious beliefs is an idiot. What would be logical about asserting that although every tree ring we have ever seen can be shown to be the product of a year in the tree’s life, these ones going beyond an arbitrary date, were necessarily created thus?

Q: Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?

A: No. This is a point refuted a thousand times. The second law would refute evolution only if the earth and every individual creature on it were closed systems. They aren’t. Order can increase over time because of the input of energy, in large quantities, thanks to the immense fusion reactor that sits a little under 150,000km away.

Q: How do you explain a sunset if their [soc] is no God?

A: If only there were a scientific explanation of the physics of sunsets! As Carl Sagan said, “It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.”

Q: If the big bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?

A: They don’t. In fact the laws of thermodynamics are integral to our understanding of the big bang: the entire history of time is one of increasing entropy.

Q: What about noetics?

A: Noetics is a branch of metaphysical philosophy. It is not especially concerned with reality. The suborning of the term by new age hippy dippy consciousness writers like Lynne McTaggart damages your point rather than making it.

Q: Where do you derive objective meaning in life?

A: Why must there be objective meaning in life? That’s entirely arbitrary.

Q: If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?

A: Short answer: Probably, yes. Long answer: Evolution is a process of chance mutations which persist when they have fitness advantages. It does not actually address the question of origins of life, only of development and speciation, and the conditions of primordial earth are rather difficult to replicate experimentally, but it seems likely that life on Earth evolved from a single-celled organism about 3.5 billion years ago, and that this was in turn the result of combinations of proteins combining randomly.

Q: I believe in the big bang theory: God said it, and BANG, it happened!

A: And others believe that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe after drinking heavily. This tells us about people’s beliefs, but not about what actually happened.

Q: Why do evolutionists / secularists / humanists / non-God-believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

A: The Flying Spaghetti Monster is A JOKE! Sheesh, you people are stupid. To clarify further: there is no such ting as an “evolutionist” (evolution is a conclusion form evidence, not a belief system), secular humanists usually believe in evolution but many people who believe in evolution are also religious, and I have never encountered any secularist or scientist who sincerely believes in intelligent design form any source.

Q: There is no in-between. The only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “official proof”

A: Rubbish. The timeline of human evolution embodies an immense amount of data (fossil record and DNA especially) supporting the evolution of h. sapiens from earlier hominds, and even branch species that became extinct. We have evidence of interbreeding with h. neanderthalensis,  which is now extinct, we have transitional fossils at multiple stages of evolution.

Q: Does metamorphosis help support evolution?

A: Evolution plausibly explains the development of metamorphosis, not the other way round, but this is like asking if helium balloons refute gravity. Metamorphosis is an interesting case for study, but does not refute evolution or even call it into question, we simply don’t have all the data yet, because it evolved a very long time ago in creatures that are not readily preserved as fossils.

Q: If evolution is a theory (like creationism or the bible), why is it taught as fact?

A: Evolution is not a theory like creationism or the bible, it is a scientific theory, which has a different meaning. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation. Theories such as creationism or the bible are instead rhetorical theories, they are rationalisations or accounts of belief, they are not conclusions from experiment, though in some cases pseudoscientific experiments may be made to try to “prove” them.

Q: Because science by definition is a “theory” – not testable, observable nor repeatable, why do you object to intelligent design being taught in school?

A: If incontrovertible evidence arrived tomorrow that life on earth is driven by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, scientists would immediately begin teaching that. Creationists would not, because while science adapts to new facts, religion is primarily concerned with its core beliefs. If a fact is not consistent with belief, the fact is denied. That is the entire problem. Children should be taught that fact is more important than belief, because in the end however firmly you believe that angels will catch you, throwing yourself off a building will end up with you hitting the floor hard.  Science is a process, not a theory. Evolution is a theory,  and as new facts emerge the theory is confirmed or adjusted. That is what science does. Creationism does not self-correct: it is religious in conception, has no origin outside fundamentalist religion, and is based on asserting the literal truth of a set of doctrines which are not even internally consistent.

Q: What mechanism has science found that evidences an increase in genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

A: The mechanism is random mutation and natural selection. The evolution of different, in some case much more complex, beaks in finches on the Galapagos islands was one of the things that famously tipped Darwin off to evolution by natural selection. The mutation is random, and may increase complexity; natural selection preserves the mutation or not.

Q: What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?

A: Why is a purpose necessary? Buddhists don’t believe in salvation, they don’t seem to have a problem.

Q: Why have we found only 1 Lucy when we have found more than 1 of everything else?

A: There are two errors in this question. The first is the error of believing that Lucy is the uniquely necessary ancestor species, rather than (as is actually the case) just one of many different transitional forms in the development of h. sapiens; the other is the idea that Lucy is the only species for which only one fossilised example exists. In fact, there are several fossil species which have been identified as separate species from one partial skeleton.

Q: Can you believe in the “big bang” without faith?

A: The “big bang” is not a belief, it’s an understanding based on rigorous mathematics and vast volumes of scientific data. It is not necessary to believe in it any more than it’s necessary to believe that 2+2=4.

Q: How can you look at the world and not believe someone thought of / created it? It’s amazing!

A: Perfectly easily. But at what point does that break down for you? Do you believe botulism was created? Typhoid? Ebola? What about the many terrible features of the human body? The human back is atrociously conceived for erect posture. Only an idiot would design this, but it is identical in form to the spine of an ape. To paraphrase Randi, if God created the earth like this, he did it the hard way (and got a lot of it wrong).

Q: Relating to the big bang theory: where did the exploding star come form?

A: It wasn’t a star, it was a singularity, and we cannot know because time (as defined by our frame of reference) does not go back beyond the big bang. This is both an eternal mystery and a complete irrelevance.  It is not necessary to explain the first millisecond in order for our painstakingly assembled scientific understanding of every subsequent millisecond to be correct.

Q: If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

A: You really don’t understand this do you? We evolved from a common ancestor with apes. That common ancestor is, to the best of our knowledge, extinct. As with a branch in a road, the existence of one branch does not preclude the viability of the other. A population subject to an evolutionary pressure may mutate in more than one way, and these mutations might survive by more than one mechanism (faster breeding or migration, for example). The tree of life has many branches and we are not on exactly the same branch as monkeys.

And now a bonus question:

Q: If creationism is a valid field of inquiry, why do creationists still rely on refuted or fallacious arguments to support it?

A: Beats me.

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