Category Archives: Evolution

Feathered Dinosaur Tail Found in Amber

Eeveryone knows that creationists hate even the idea of transitional fossils. Despite abundant evidence — we always link to Wikipedia’s List of transitional fossils — they continue to deny the existence of transitionals.

Their denial is because transitionals would be evidence of what they call “macro-evolution,” which they say is impossible. They reluctantly acknowledge what they call “micro-evolution,” but those are trivial variations within a species. They insist that without supernatural aid and the addition of a magical substance they call “information,” no species can evolve into another.

A good example is feathered dinosaurs, which indicate the evolutionary relationship of birds and dinos. Here’s an old post in which we discussed the Discoveroids’ denial of a feathered dinosaur: Discovery Institute: Transitional Fossils? No Way! The other creationist websites have similar articles.

To the great discomfort of creationists everywhere, PhysOrg has this new article: Amber specimen offers rare glimpse of feathered dinosaur tail. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Researchers have discovered a dinosaur tail complete with its feathers trapped in a piece of amber. The finding reported in Current Biology on December 8 helps to fill in details of the dinosaurs’ feather structure and evolution, which can’t be determined from fossil evidence.

This is the published paper: A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber. You can read it online without a subscription. We’ll continue with PhysOrg:

While the feathers aren’t the first to be found in amber, earlier specimens have been difficult to definitively link to their source animal, the researchers say.

“The new material preserves a tail consisting of eight vertebrae from a juvenile; these are surrounded by feathers that are preserved in 3D and with microscopic detail,” says Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada. “We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives. Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side.” In other words, the feathers definitely are those of a dinosaur not a prehistoric bird.

That’s no problem for creationists. They’ll just say he’s lying. Hey — get this:

The study’s first author Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences (Beijing) discovered the remarkable specimen at an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar in 2015. The amber piece was originally seen as some kind of plant inclusion and destined to become a curiosity or piece of jewelry, but Xing recognized its potential scientific importance and suggested that the Dexu Institute of Palaeontology buy the specimen.

Serendipity sometimes plays a role — without a designer.

There are some neat details in the article; you’ll probably want to read it for yourself. We’ll quit here, beaming with anticipation at the reaction of the creationists.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discoveroids Insist They’re Not Creationists

The Discovery Institute is an organization with innumerable problems. One that has been with them from the beginning is their failed attempt to present themselves as a science think tank, rather than a pack of flaming creationists. Back in the first year of this humble blog we wrote Discovery Institute: “Don’t Call Us Creationists!”, in which Casey was complaining that Tom Brokaw kept saying that intelligent design was creationism.

That sort of thing (i.e., accurate perception of reality) has plagued the Discoveroids throughout their institutional existence. Three years later we wrote Discovery Institute: “Stop Calling Us Creationists!” Casey was complaining about Reuters, the British news agency, which made the same “mistake,” and wouldn’t issue a correction — even after the Discoveroids pointed out their “error.”

Somehow — in spite of the Discoveroids’ continuous objections, journalists keep doing the same thing. Today at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog they’re complaining again. Their new post is Fact-Check: Austin, TX, Newspaper Bungles Description of Discovery Institute; Reporter Won’t Correct Record. It was written by Sarah Chaffee (whom we call “Savvy Sarah”). Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

We’ve tangled with the Austin American Statesman in the past. Now the Texas paper is back, misrepresenting Discovery Institute. In her article, Creationism at Center of Debate Over High School Biology Curriculum, Madlin Mekelburg notes:

[Savvy Sarah quotes the newspaper, with her bold font and ellipsis:] Jonathan Witt, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank, told the board he found the committee’s intent behind removing the four standards to be questionable …

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Sarah is outraged! She says:

Discovery Institute is an intelligent design think tank — not a creationist think tank. I explained this to Ms. Mekelburg in an email sent on the day after her article was published: [Sarah quotes her email.]

Because it’s so amusing, we’ll give you a bit of what Sarah wrote to the reporter:

Discovery Institute is not a creationist organization. Rather, it is “the institutional hub for scientists, educators, and inquiring minds who think that nature supplies compelling evidence of intelligent design.” … Creationism is typically associated with a literal reading of Genesis, a young age of the earth, and a belief that science can prove the supernatural. Intelligent design does not address how to interpret Genesis and most of the scientists supporting it accept an old age of the Earth and the universe. … I ask that you please correct this error. It would be accurate to state that Discovery Institute is an “intelligent design think tank.”

Well, what happened? Savvy Sarah tells us:

The following Monday, I followed up with the newspaper’s editors. I called the twice last week but have not heard back. It is concerning that this inquiry has gone entirely unaddressed.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then she gives us a big quote from something written three years ago by John West (whom we affectionately call “Westie”). He’s the director of the Discoveroids’ creationist think tank. We’ll skip that because we wrote about it at the time — see John West Is Still Angry. After that impressive rant from Westie, we come to Sarah’s closing remarks:

Austin American Statesman reporter Madlin Mekelburg could take a lesson in neutrality in reporting.

Amazing, isn’t it? After twenty years of ceaseless propaganda, costing between $2 million to $4 million every year, people still don’t understand the Discoveroids’ message. Or maybe they do.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Rev. David Rives — Helium Disproves Evolution

Today started out slow, but succenly the Drool-o-tron™ alerted us with its sirens and flashing lights. The blinking letters of its wall display said WorldNetDaily (WND). The Drool-o-tron™ had found the latest video by the brilliant and articulate leader of David Rives Ministries.

Our computer was locked onto this headline at WND: Presence of helium: Does it disprove evolution?. The actual title of the rev’s video is “Too much helium.”

The rev begins by reminding us that evolution requires millions of years. But uranium and thorium decay and produce helium, which doesn’t stay long in rocks. However, some supposedly old rocks were found to contain lots of helium! The scientists don’t have any explanation. The presence of all that helium means those rocks are only 6,000 years old! That proves the bible is true, so you shouldn’t believe in evolution.

The rev seems unaware that helium is found in ancient rock formations — for example, see this at PhysOrg: Grand Canyon as old as the dinosaurs, suggests new study We suspect the rev got his information from this four-year-old article from Answers in Genesis: Helium in Radioactive Rocks. It’s mentioned in several other creation sites too.

The rev is still wearing the same gray bible-boy suit he’s been wearing for the last month, and still without a necktie. He probably sleeps in those clothes. Who cares? He’s the cutest rev you’ve ever seen! This video is a bit over two minutes long before the commercial at the end. Go ahead, click over to WND and watch it.

As we always do with the rev’s videos, we dedicate the comments section for your use as an Intellectual Free Fire Zone. You know the rules. Okay, the comments are open. Go for it!

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discoveroids: Laymen Should Challenge Scientists

A few months a go we wrote The Magic of Design Intuition, in which we discussed Doug Axe’s concept of a “design intuition” we supposedly all share, and which — in the case of their “theory” of intelligent design — Axe says is “valid and confirmed by science.”

Today the Discovery Institute is promoting the same theme in a post titled Naval Academy Philosopher: Laypeople Entitled to an Opinion on Science Questions. It was written by Sarah Chaffee (whom we call “Savvy Sarah”). Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

This sounds more than a bit like Douglas Axe. It’s a presentation given at the Conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice this past June by Larry Lengbeyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy. The talk, “Defending Limited Non-Deference to Science Experts,” explains logically why laypeople are not barred from disagreeing with scientists.

Of special interest is the section defending disagreement based on a perception of “untrustworthy science.” Lengbeyer acknowledges that this is a tricky call for laypeople to make. However, he notes that people have access to credible scientific sources. And “some of the time, the outsider will have the ability to offer evaluations that deserve respect, including critical evaluations…” This is not common, but it happens. He lists more than 17 different logical flaws that a layperson may identify.

Then she gives a few of those 17 logical flaws. Presumably quoting Lengbeyer, we’re told that a layman can doubt a scientist when:

[T]he theory has been confirmed/validated in highly artificial conditions, or with a data set that is limited in important ways, calling into question its applicability to other contexts …

We’re not sure how a layman can determine if that’s applicable. It looks to us like the sort of thing that would be spotted during peer review. Anyway, Savvy Sarah shows how useful it can be to creationists:

This sounds a lot like the problems with current scenarios for the origin of life. Self-replicating RNA is designed in the lab, the Miller-Urey experiment was conducted under conditions very different from those scientists believe were the case on the early Earth, and hydrothermal vents may not be totally nurturing to life.

Then she gives us another quote from Lengbeyer — and the brackets and ellipsis are in Sarah’s post:

[T]he stated findings or conclusions are not convincingly warranted by the study results, on account of one or more methodological failures [overgeneralization, overstatement, cherry picking, possibly p-hacking]…

No problem for a layman to spot an error like that! Sarah gives an example creationists can use:

What are the problems with neo-Darwinism? Generally that natural selection acting on random mutation leads to microevolution (such as changes in the Galápagos finches) rather than macroevolution. When researchers claim that they have observed speciation in action, a closer look often reveals only small changes — instances of breaking genes, not innovation of new information. Overgeneralization and overstatement are rampant.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Look for the Micro-Macro Mambo in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Sarah continues:

Axe explains the importance of allowing laypeople to weigh scientific arguments, using their own power of reason to arrive at a plausible opinion. [Big quote from Doug Axe.] Logic wins over scientific groupthink.

Sarah gives one more big quote from Lengbeyer, of which this is a tiny part:

Better to embrace the emerging participatory model, and to concentrate on elevating laypersons in respectful and empowering ways so that they can play their limited role competently, perhaps gradually increasing their science understanding so as to narrow the gulf between them and the experts.

Sarah ends her post by gushing:

The “participatory model” is a worthy complement to Axe’s “common science.”

We note that Sarah didn’t quote anything Lengbeyer said about evolution. If he had, she surely would have quoted it. We’re left to wonder what he was talking about, and whether he’d appreciate having his remarks appropriated by a creationist outfit like the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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