Thursday, August 27, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part6

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 6min]

Scott tells us: Darwinism is natural selection, not evolution. Again: There is a difference between the phenomenon and the mechanism that makes it happen. In short, if we take "repeated iterations of randomly generated solutions, combined with selection of the characteristics that meet the necessary criteria, [we'll get] a series of solutions that more closely approximate a good solution" [34].

In other words: The key difference between natural selection and Perry Marshal's Random Mutation Generator is that Perry's lacks the part that selects only the mutations that make up proper words... or, at least, recognizable approximations like kthxbai.

Conclusion: Natural selection works with already operating systems where at least a part of the population can function in a different situation. Hang onto that idea because it is, I think, the crux of the failure of this chapter--and probably, this book (if not the entire "theory" in question here).

Scott continues: Thus, natural selection is genetic differences within a population that leads to those who are better suited for the environment to naturally reproduce more than the others. [35] Natural selection is not based on chance, but rather luck. Those who are "lucky" enough to have the genes for a situation procreate. Nothing "chance" about it. [36]

I think it's rather lame to replace "chance" with "luck" ...but whatever. It's her book. Though, I was struck by how closely this kind of verbal quibbling resembles the tension between freewill and predestination.

Scott: Natural selection is survival of the fit enough. "The process of natural selection works more like a tinkerer than an engineer" much like building guitars out of toilet seats and strings... using what you have rather than designing it from the ground up. [37]

I think what Scott is secretly referring to is the flawed nature of the world. It's almost as if she is unconsciously saying, "It's far too messy to be designed by anything like that Christian God." But she doesn't say it. She merely makes these rather odd statements and drifts on.

I am very glad Scott includes this definition: Speciation happens when a population becomes reproductively isolated from the others of its kind. [42 emphasis hers]

I've long known of the struggle to define the term species. And Scott's definition does little to clear things up. For this definition could include speciation if a human population was put on one side of a wall and the rest of us kept on the other side. Granted, she is right in that we will likely see a shift in the evolution of these two groups. But a new species of human? The definition is shaky, but I'll go with it (because at least she's defining something).

But in the end, after having said little more than what is paraphrased above, Scott wants us to know one very important thing: Man is not descended from monkeys. Far from it! No, man is merely related to monkeys via a common ancestor.

So, I am not a descendant of my Uncle Earl. That would be preposterous! But Earl and I are both descendants of my Great Grandpappy Joe.

And that makes it all better.

Only those with with *no* understanding of human relations would believe that "I came from my Uncle Earl."

I had a biology teacher who said that his biggest peeve was that people said humans were descended from apes. Somehow this was huge for him (and others) because we are not descended from them, but rather descended like them from a common earlier thing. I'm still not sure why that bugged him so much. If someone learning English misapplied the idea of the word Uncle to mean Predecessor instead of Relative, I wouldn't get bent out of shape. I may politely correct this minor slip, but my foreign friend would still get the gist of what was happening.

Which has lead me to the following observations:

  1. Scott (and many others) get all bent out of shape with a few specific definitions, and yet fail to clearly define most everything else in their discussion.
  2. It seems that "common ancestor" is the "right" answer simply because it's nebulous whereas apes are concrete. I have yet to hear an explanation of any kind from anyone as to why this distinction is so important.
  3. Scott quoted no science--as she defined it in the previous chapter--that indicates any kind of macro evolution. None.
  4. Instead, she gave very nice details about how rabbits have adapted, birds have diversified, and fish have splintered in various species.
  5. Thus, in a chapter dedicated to evolution, Scott presented absolutely no scientific data--which is explained in detail the chapter before--that points to macro evolution.
  6. Therefore, Scott has shown that evolution only works in the horizontal way with organisms already in place that come pre-built with the ability to adjust.

Therefore, what I understand to be the case still holds true: Change does happen within things via natural selection and genetic mutations. But no data has yet to arise that scientifically demonstrates vertical progression between the species.


And this is the book written by the "Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, the leading advocacy group for the teaching of evolution in the United States." [273] If she can't come up with any data or information, it is little wonder people still seriously question the scientific backing of this idea.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

[Added 8/28/09: Humans are from apes after all. Greg does want us to remember, however, that there's no such thing as "human exceptionalism"...]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part5

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 2.5min]

Scott starts out her chapter on evolution proper with a red herring. And a very big and very red one at that. After stating that "most people" define evolution as "man evolved from monkeys" she goes on to point out that "surely no one believes that only males evolved" [23].


Her definition of evolution is "a cumulative change through time" [23]. And this change is seen in astronomy, geology as well as biology. But focusing solidly on the evolution that is really in question requires the definition of living things sharing common ancestors leading directly to decent with modification; the leading mechanism of this is natural selection.

Scott then drifts into abiogenesis after mentioning the big bang. She actually quotes the Miller-Urey experiment [24]. This is utterly ridiculous considering I, as a high school student, wrote a paper that exposed the gaping hole of chirality in this experiment. I find it completely dishonest to continue to present this data as anything other than a nifty idea that failed. And as a scientist--as she talked in great length last chapter--she should have moved on.

But she doesn't. Over the next few pages she tries to impress us with her use of vocabulary and ultimately tells us that we just don't know that much about the origin of life. But! "Once life evolved, biological evolution become possible. ...Life had to precede evolution!" [27]


Life evolves. Then evolution can start.

<nods emphatically> See!?!

...I would appreciate it if she would actually stick with definitions. I hear that's important when you're building a case.

But for now, Scott wants us to remember that the "distinction between the patterns of evolution and the processes of evolution" is important because of criticisms of evolution we will address later [27].


It's lacking.

Scott now gives us a brief history of time:
Deep time: A long period--so long it's hard to get your mind around it. Thus something magical happened.
...and then cells, invertebrates... wait:

"[D]evelopmental biologists [are astounded to discover] that very small changes in genes affecting early, basic structural development can cause major changes in body plans" [30]. Actually, small changes in genes can really mess all of us up. Though, to be fair, it is interesting that such little changes can massively affect the outcome.

More gibberish about how things may or may not have changed. And then: The four basic principles of biological evolution are "natural selection, adaptation, adaptive radiation, and speciation." [33]

Which we'll delve into more in the near future.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Monday, August 24, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part4

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 4min]

We live in a universe made up of matter and energy, a material universe. [M]ost individuals believe that the universe includes something in addition to matter and energy, but science is limited to the latter two. [pg 3]

I am so thankful that Scott started out her book with this acknowledgment. Science does not address everything, nor can it. But, for the material universe, it is well suited for the task.


Because, Scott gladly tells us, science relies on the natural world "as the arbiter of truth." [3] Unlike, say, Authority, which could be misinformed or lying; Revelation, which relies on supernatural powers with which at least someone disagrees (e.g. Greek gods, Muhammad, Mormons, Catholics can't agree on what is right); Logic, which requires that we properly understand the "real world" before it is of any practical application. [4]

But Science! Ah, Science; Science goes to the natural world for verification. Even so, Scott notes, this is "not perfect." [5] Scott then rambles on for a few pages about all the ways that Science has found itself wrong over time; constantly correcting wrong ideas, and ultimately getting us every closer to truth... but always open to further illumination. In fact, Facts are the "least important" aspect of scientific inquiry, behind Hypotheses and Laws with Theories at the top. And a Theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." [14]

Theories aren't just hunches. Instead, they rely on "inferential reasoning"... which makes them scientific and therefore... umm... well... er... she doesn't say. But she does want us all to know that "most people" don't use the term properly. [14]

Using the powerful scientific "if/then" model, we can test even evolution scientifically. And here we go:

1. If life came from a common ancestor, then distant past things should be different from what we see today. And, Scott assures us, "this is indeed what we see." [15] But we'll have to take her word as an Authority on that because she cites nothing here (though, she hinted at possibly doing it later in this book).

2. If evolution happened, simple organisms will be in old rock and more complex ones will be in newer rock. Again, we're told this is what scientists have found. No footnotes, references, or data whatsoever. All we get is one nice scientific sounding phrase: Cambrian period.

3. We should see "connecting forms between the major groups." There isn't as much of this, Scott admits, but there are two reference titles she mentions that demonstrate "good evidence" of connecting forms. [15] I don't have access to these titles, but there are enough books published by other scientists--who have read and studied much more than I--that question this interpretation of the fossil record to leave me still skeptical. But, we could all be wrong... so... <shrug>

4. We should not see jumbled sets of fossils. And we don't. Instead, things stay in their proper layers the world over. [16] If this is true--again, no sited evidence, but she's got to be basing this claim on something--I must admit that is intriguing. I don't know what kind Logic Creationists have against this observation. I'm guessing that they'd point to a tree or something. Of course, people disagree.

Scott closes this chapter with this:

Evolution, like other sciences, requires that natural explanations be tested against the natural world. ...The heart of creationism--that an omnipotent being created--is not testable by science, but fact claims about the natural world made by creationists can be. [20]

It's petty, but I didn't realize that evolution was its own science. Does gravitation have its own science? What about electron theory?

I mean, sure, she's writing a book on the topic, but does that mean it should be its own science?

But I do appreciate her comments about science's relationship to creationism. She makes a solid point, and one that is well worth remembering on both sides of discussion.

I may flesh out these ideas more in my next post. But for now, I leave you with just this brief summary of Scott's brief glimpse into the world of science.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fail Gov

...or: How the Government Got a Reality Check

So buried deep within a blog post, the government has given us the closest thing to an apology for bad form as we're going to get.

The upside?

They are now a little clearer as to what they are looking for as far as contacting them about Health Reform is concerned, and you get another cool graphic from me:

Fail Gov

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part3

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 2min]

I've been using the version of the book, but I'm quickly running out of preview pages.

Inter-Library Loan had better come through for me quickly! <smile>

This evening I got through the "Pillars of Creationism" after briefly glancing at the Preface.

One thing that Scott says that may be noteworthy--though, I'd never thought of it myself, nor saw it mentioned in any of the books I've read on the topic--is that Darwin proposed two major ideas: Common ancestors and natural selection. These are distinct ideas that do not rely on one another. [xxii]

I'll try to keep that in mind as the book gets going. Though I am skeptical that it will ever resurface as an issue.

"Religious objections to evolution are far more important in motivating antievolutionism than are scientific objections to evolution as a weak or unsupported theory." [xxiii] This after a mention of Christians rejecting macro evolution, which is not addressed at all here. Hopefully this critique is answered in the coming chapters. But for now, it feels really awkward to state that there are so few scientific objections to evolution after mentioning in an off-hand way the major definitional one of which I am aware.

It's just odd.

"Educators and scientists argue that a student must understand evolution to be scientifically literate, and insist that the science curriculum would be deficient if evolution were omitted." [xxiv] Sadly, despite four years in a public high school--where I took Advanced Biology among other science courses--I still do not feel like I "understand evolution"... nor do, it seems, most others, as is mentioned earlier in the book as to why Scott is writing this title: "Students [lack] enough basic science .. to understand why creationist critiques of evolution are resisted so strongly by scientists" [xvii]. Again, it's the odd combination of statements that seem to put this book off-kilter.

But I'm still in the introductory comments. I really need to withhold judgment until Scott has started presenting points. Until that time, I'm merely picking at things.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blog Love

Matt from was nice enough to send me a sticker!

And that, my friends, is totally blog worthy:

Church of No People Sticker

Thanks, Matt!

Check out Matt's Church of No People blog. His posts are often thought-provoking and funny. Just the kind of thing I like!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part2

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 3min]

Before I get started with this book properly, let me set a little context for this discussion.

First: There truly is nothing new under the sun. I see the current disagreement about evolutionism vs. creationism as potentially much the same as geocentrism vs. heliocentrism: The disagreement is fueled by politics, the religious institutions' fear, the lack of good data from the scientific community, and a general lack ignorance all around.

But, eventually, the geocentric model was overturned, Christians embraced the latest scientific discoveries, the misinterpretation of a few passages of Scripture were corrected, and that debate is but a blip on the map of religious history. And the realignment of religion and science ultimately changed neither.

If evolution proves to be true, I predict a similar outcome: Christians will eventually decide science has it right, they will agree they've been reading passages of their Bibles wrong, and will move on--completely undisturbed by the change. Because, honestly, what theological difference does it make?

Yes, we'd need to admit we've read our Bibles wrong. Not the first time that's happened. We'd also need to admit that some of the people we've supported were errant in their thinking. This is also hardly a new event and this too says nothing about God. There may be a few more "sticky" points in the Bible--perhaps--but we've lived with those for thousands of years as well.

Second: There is a ton of confusion--at least, I'm confused--about the use of the word "evolution" which can refer at least three different things:

  1. The natural process of diversification among species (aka "Micro"/"Horizontal" evolution). This happens and works great with Scripture.
  2. Speciation or "Macro"/"Vertical" evolution: The idea that all species have evolved from a common ancestor (what it appears the book of this series purports).
  3. Abiogenesis: The non-supernatural answer for how life got here.

What I have noticed is that I think most of the "debate" rests on a misunderstanding of the last two. The evolutionists I've spoken with say that abiogenesis is not within the theory of evolution. Speciation is the key; how life started is something else entirely. So, creationists are yelling about one thing (genesis of life) and evolutionists are yelling about another (speciation of organisms):

The Possible Confusion of Creationist/Evolutionist Debate

So when we put both perspectives on their proper side of the timeline, we see that we've been incorrectly mashing the two together. Creationism is one thing. Evolutionism is another. And I'm seeing more and more documentation that points to God designing things to evolve. Which, if true, is a win/win: Scientists were right and God is still the Creator. And, what's more: It cleanly leaves everyone where they should be.

Could it be that even the title Evolution vs. creationism is misleading? Is this book really going to focus squarely on the interpretation of Genesis 1:25: How God made everything according to its kind? Or is it honestly going to show the evidence for abiogensis that renders creation needless?

I hope to find out soon enough!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Friday, August 14, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part1

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 3.5min]

After a rather long discussion, I finally got fed up and proposed a challenge: Give me one book that provides the overwhelming evidence for evolution and I'll read it.

And the first one recommended was this title. So I've started. And I'll be taking notes and sharing my thoughts and observations as we go along.

Right now, I'm reading the Foreword by Niles Eldredge. He states:

It seems common-sensical to [those who have absorbed evolution] to see us as the product of natural evolutionary processes--and ... new facts ... such as the astonishing 98.4 percent genetic similarity between humans and chimps ... fit right in. [pg. x]

Sadly, newer data has shown the "98.4% fact" to be astonishingly no where near as precise, nor as "common-sensical" an evidence for evolution as intoned here.

Science ... cannot deal with the supernatural. Its rules of evidence require any statement about the nature of the world to be testable... [pg. xi]

Which sounds, to me, like a great reason to limit how much "faith" [snicker] we put in science. As philosophers I've heard so often remind us: Science cannot account for scientifically why the scientific method is the best (only?) way to understand reality; those who believe that it is, do so on philosophical grounds.

Also, based on this introduction I hope to see evidence in this book for:

[Evolutionary theory's prediction 1:] more closely related organisms will share more similarities with each other than with more remotely related kin; ...there should be a single nested set of similarities linking up all of life. [Scientists are confident life evolved because we see this "nesting" take place: Rodents are similar to each other, but they also share things like cells and RNA, just as is to be expected if all life came from one common ancestor.] [pg. xi]

That's nice. Closely related things--defined by how close we deem them to be related--are more closely related than those we deem to be a more distant relative. "Capital, simply capital!"

[Prediction 2: paraphrased] Life should, through time, go from less complex to more. And we see this. [xi]

I am very interested to see what data they have on the varying levels of complexity going up the sequence, and if any of it points to good reasons to doubt creationism.

Now for an aside he tosses into the mix: [paraphrased] Biology's splits do not match man-made design advances, which along with other stuff, shows Intelligent Design to be false. [xii]

...I do hope there's more to this line of thought because that's a little too easy to topple. If, for instance, God made the world, I wouldn't have any problems believing he'd go about it differently from how we improve our computers. And, as usual, I actually like to know the "other stuff" that shows ideas to be false. I know, I'm through like that.

Creationists persistently and consistently threaten the integrity of science teaching in America--and this, of course, is of grave concern. [Paraphrased:] Their beliefs are narrow, religious and political, and that is why scientific and intellectual truth is of little concern to them. [pg xii]

Well, I'm interested in the scientific and intellectual truths scientists have come up with... that's why I'm reading this book. Therefore, I must not be a creationist, and there is no need for "grave concern" regarding my existence.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clipping Off the Problems

I tend to pick at my toenails instead of clipping them strait across so as to avoid ingrown toenails as my wife suggests.

Oh well.

It turns out that Uncle Sam may be using our flags to make video clips clearing up some misconceptions. You can watch the videos and get a reality check at

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fishy Government

So, I was pointed to this fishy post about Obama's Health Insurance Reform.

Which inspired me to make this:
Uncle Sam want YOU to report fishy sites

Feel free to copy the image all you want and pass it around (click it for a larger version). We need to get the word out before more "disinformation about health insurance reform" is spread around the interwebs without the government's knowledge!

Click here to report a site!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father