Category Archives: Hurricane

Answers in Genesis: Pluto Is Young!

We’ve been expecting this. It’s from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo). They just posted Pluto’s Surface Is Young!

AIG’s author is Danny Faulkner. Here’s their biographical information about him. They say he taught physics and astronomy until he joined AIG. His undergraduate degree is from Bob Jones University. His article is an excellent illustration of what we call the Creationist Scientific Method:

1. Select a conclusion which you hope is true.
2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might fit.
3. Ignore all other evidence.
4. That’s it.

Danny has written this sort of thing before, for example, AIG: Spiral Galaxies Prove a Young Universe. A few excerpts from his new article should be sufficient. The bold font was added by us:

On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, NASA released the first close images of Pluto recently taken by the New Horizons space probe. What the photos revealed was a shock to conventional uniformitarian scientists who believe in a 4.5-billion-year-old solar system.

The scientists were shocked — shocked! What did they find? Danny tells us:

Over the past half century, planetary scientists have become accustomed to finding many impact craters on the surfaces of bodies in the solar system. However, from the preliminary photos of Pluto’s surface, these scientists have found far fewer craters than they expected. Earlier wide-field views of half of Pluto’s surface seem to indicate a few craters, but the first close-up region examined appeared to have no craters.

No craters? Egad! Let’s read on:

Craters appear to be the results of collisions with smaller bodies. Most scientists think that the solar system formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, so they interpret craters in terms of their accumulation during that time.

Danny goes on at length discussing craters. We’ll skip that until we come to this:

With the exception of Io, every surface on solar system bodies that we had examined, planets, their satellites, asteroids, and even comets, appear to have impact craters, suggesting to most planetary scientists that they all have great age.

We don’t know why Danny bothered to mention that, because then he ignores it as he focuses only on Pluto:

Compounding this problem for a 4.5-billion-year age for the solar system is the fact that Pluto is located in a particularly crowded part of the solar system. Pluto orbits the sun in a region with many other large objects that are too small to be planets and are also orbiting the sun. … Therefore, Pluto ought to be undergoing impacts today at a higher rate than most other objects in other portions of the solar system.

Now we’ll skip to the end:

We may yet find a few craters on Pluto’s surface, but those would be inconsequential to the conclusions that we can draw. It is very clear that Pluto is young, far younger than the billions of years generally assumed.

Uh, not quite. It’s surface appears young, but there are a few possible explanations for that. This is the last of it:

While this is unexpected and hence unexplainable for evolutionists, this is something that we might expect if the universe is only thousands of years old as the Bible indicates. The preliminary results from the New Horizons space probe are good news indeed for the recent creation model.

Yes, Pluto is good news for creationists. The rest of the solar system — and the universe — is bad news, but they don’t want you to think about that.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Behe’s Bacterial Flagellum — Debunked

Everybody knows about Michael Behe. Not only is he a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, he was the Discoveroids’ star witness in the Kitzmiller case — see Kitzmiller v. Dover: Michael Behe’s Testimony.

Behe is best known for his argument in Darwin’s Black Box that the presence of “irreducible complexity” in many biochemical systems indicates that they must be the result of intelligent design rather than evolutionary processes. His most famous example is the bacterial flagellum. Behe’s colleagues at Lehigh University are so impressed by his brilliance that they publicly disassociated themselves from him by issuing this statement: Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”.

We found a great refutation of Behe’s argument at the website of ABC Science, a division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: The bacterial flagellar motor: brilliant evolution or intelligent design? That website has a comments section (with no comments so far).

You already know what to think of Behe and his magic flagellum, but it’s good to have a single source to which one can point. It was written by Matt Baker of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Here are some excerpts from Baker’s article, with bold font added by us:

In terms of speed and agility, flagella-powered bacteria would leave Olympic swimmers for dead. They swim hundreds of body lengths in a second, and can change direction in a fraction of that time. The source of this incredible mobility is the microscopic equivalent of an outboard motor — the bacterial flagellar motor. At one millionth of the size of a grain of sand, this motor rotates up to five times faster than a Formula1 engine, spinning the whip-like flagella and driving the bacterium forward.

It starts out like a rapturous Discoveroid article. If it were one of theirs, it would end up declaring that the only possible conclusion is Oogity Boogity! But this article isn’t from the Discoveroids. Baker says:

It is perhaps not surprising then that such complexity and technology has been hijacked for use as proof, via intelligent design, of the existence of a creator. Intelligent design is a theory advocated by the new-wave of creationists that are primarily located in the US. It holds that some aspects of life are so complex that they cannot have evolved through a series of steps via natural selection, and therefore must have been designed in one go.

Baker clearly understands the adversary. Let’s read on:

A central tenet of this theory is the notion of ‘irreducible complexity’. This asserts that some biological machines — like the flagellar motor — must be the product of design, because if you were to remove one or two components from the motor it would not function properly, or at all. The logic being, this motor was designed as a whole construction — it didn’t evolve through a series of steps, so the individual parts of the motor would serve no purpose on their own.

The Discoveroids are always complaining that their critics are ignorant of intelligent design. But it’s clear that Baker knows what he’s talking about. He continues:

So the creationist argument relies on us finding no evidence of individual parts of the motor having a role outside of bacterial flagella. Luckily, individual components of the bacterial flagellar motor have indeed been found elsewhere. And they work. So the motor is ‘reducible’, and certainly not ‘irreducibly complex’.

How embarrassing for Behe! Here’s more:

Proof of the flagellar motor’s ‘reducibility’ — that it’s component parts can function elsewhere — comes in the form of the injectisome; another fabulous molecular machine found in bacteria. This needle-like complex is used by disease-causing bacteria to punch holes in the host’s target cells.

The protein machinery used to assemble the proteins that make up the punching needle is identical to that used to assemble the ‘propeller’ part of the flagellar motor — the filament and hook of the motor. In addition, nine core proteins of the flagellar motor share common ancestry with injectisome proteins — the genes that code for them are so similar they have clearly come from the same genetic ancestor.

Gasp! What will Behe do now? But wait, this gets even better:

In fact, the flagellar motor contains a wealth of other evidence pointing not to intelligent design, but to its evolutionary origins. Bacteria swim in many different ways, and the motors that drive their swimming are widely varied, implying an adaptive response to an environment — a hallmark of evolution. So while the flagellar motor of freshwater Salmonella is powered by protons (hydrogen ions, H+), motors of other bacteria that live in salt water environments, like Vibrio alginolyticus are powered by sodium ions (Na+) from the salty environs.

There’s also considerable variety in propeller shape across different bacterial species — propellers can be straight or curly, left- or right-handed, and more or less rigid. In fact, genetic sequencing of the proteins that make up the propellers has shown that there must be thousands of different bacterial flagellar systems.

That’s not all — Baker has even more to say:

Recent work on flagellar motors in species other than bacteria, such as single-celled archaea, show they also swim by a rotary motor, but one that is completely unrelated to the bacterial motors. The archaeal motors sometimes use a completely different power source (ATP hydrolysis), and their propeller grows from the base, instead of from the tip. This indicates that convergent evolution has taken place: two completely separate evolutionary paths have converged towards rotary powered swimming.

This must be very humiliating for the Discoveroids. What will they do? Ah, we know — they’ll have Casey refute Baker’s science. Then they’ll assign Klinghoffer to the task he does best — slashing away at Discoveroid detractors. That should do the job. But Baker understands the opposition. He says:

While all this may seem relatively harmless, the intelligent design movement is well funded, slickly presented, and actively challenges educational curricula in many countries. It is a dangerously well-articulated distraction from the large body of evidence supporting evolutionary theory. Scientists studying the flagellar motor can contribute by demonstrating that it is clearly not a smoking gun that proves intelligent design.

Typically, intelligent design proponents persevere despite this evidence. They simply adjust their goal posts by selecting other systems to act as poster boys for irreducible complexity. It is difficult to respond to these movable challenges. But as we learn more about the origins of these and other complex systems, we can at least reduce the number of available candidates used to prop up the theory of intelligent design.

Okay, now let’s sit back and wait for the inevitable Discoveroid response. You know they can’t ignore this.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Naughty Free Fire Zone

We found a couple of items at PhysOrg that are … well, a bit difficult to describe. After you read about them, you may be tempted to indulge in school-yard humor. But we urge you, dear reader, to restrain that mischievous 12-year-old boy who lurks within each of us.

The first item is Cutting a bugs’ penis shorter found to reduce reproduction chances.

Before you start snickering, you need to read this excerpt:

Lopping off sections of a penis, for most species would involve serious injury and trauma (for some the mere thought of it might be enough) — but not so, apparently, for L. simulans. The males of these little bugs, which are typically just 11 millimeters or so in length, come equipped with a penis that is very nearly comical in its length, on average 7 mm, which for those keeping track, is in the neighborhood of two thirds of its body length (it drags the thing around beneath itself). Even more odd is that most of the penis, aka its intromittent organ, is bereft of nerves, muscles or even blood vessels. And even odder than that is the fact that the female organ into which the male places its appendage is much too short to accommodate such length. Thus, the researchers sought out to discover the reason for such a mismatch.

You’re interested, aren’t you? Okay, we’ll let you read it for yourself.

Here’s the next item we found: New evidence helps explain why some soft tissue fossilizes better than others. The headline interested us because of the claims of creationists that such tissue somehow proves that the Earth is young — see, e.g., Dinosaur Fossils Found with Hot Red Meat?

But it’s not really about that. Instead, the article discusses this:

For many years scientists have debated whether the “Cambrian Explosion” was the result of more species suddenly developing or whether it was just the result of more remains being fossilized and found. In this new effort, the researchers suggest it might have had to do with the development of the anus and a through-gut.

There are obvious implications for Darwin’s Doubt, the book by Discovery Institute vice president Stephen Meyer, in which he claims that the Cambrian explosion is proof of intelligent design.

This is good stuff, but it’s going to be a challenge, dear reader. Your Curmudgeon is running a classy blog, so you must maintain a proper scientific attitude. We understand the almost irresistible temptations of the subject matter, but your comments must be — ahem! –in good taste.

We now declare this post to be an Intellectual Free Fire Zone. Talk about those articles or whatever you think is interesting — science, politics, philosophy, etc. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #538: Gracious Preacher

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Herald Times Reporter of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Wikipedia says the town’s name means “dwelling of the great spirit.” It’s titled Topic is complex, so let’s be gracious in addressing it. An icon below the headline will get you to the newspaper’s comments feature.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today’s letter is written by David Endorf. He’s pastor of St. John – St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Wisconsin. Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

He begins by telling us that at the request of “one of my members” he is responding to a pro-evolution letter in that newspaper. This is the earlier letter to which he is responding: Belief vs. evidence. It’s brief, and it criticizes earlier creationist letters, saying only that they offered “one misapplication of the second law of thermodynamics, one incorrect metaphor of natural selection and two out-of-context quotes from famous evolutionary biologists.” It ended by saying: “I would invite a local pastor with a strong science background to help us out here.”

The rev boldly steps forward and says:

Let’s start with the application of the Second Law of thermodynamics, using the development of life on Earth as an example. Clearly this is an increase in order, but they respond by saying that Earth is an open system so the Second Law doesn’t apply.

How does the rev deal with that? You’re thinking that surely, he’s stumped, right? Wrong! He provides an answer we’ve never encountered before:

However there is no mechanism for the solar radiation that makes Earth an open system to start life, which is what is needed to make their defense work.

Aaaargh!! Let’s read on:

For now they theorize that life must have started on other planets and seeded Earth somehow. Because of course you can theorize aliens, just not God.

The earlier letter said nothing about that. The rev continues:

As far as the metaphor goes, it’s hard to respond to that because he [the earlier letter-writer] never really states his problem with it. It was never meant to represent how evolution works, only to point out the absurdity of random chance making a complex machine. That would certainly be an extraordinary claim, which would require extraordinary evidence, as Carl Sagan reminds us.

We’ve never seen a creationist rely on Sagan before, but if anyone actually did propose that “random chance” is responsible for everything, it would be appropriate. But of course, evolution isn’t about random chance suddenly assembling complex machines — or organisms. That is a ghastly metaphor. Mutations occur according to the laws of nature — so they’re entirely understandable, albeit unpredictable, and their preservation isn’t random at all. Here’s more:

Which leads us to the quotes. This is an oft-repeated claim by evolutionists that when they comment on how little evidence there is for evolution it’s taken out of context. Now sometimes they are correct, which we shouldn’t do.

Wow — the rev doesn’t approve of quote-mining. Or does he? Actually, he defends quote mining by saying this:

However, what happens much of the time is that they object to the conclusion that is drawn. In effect they are saying that they recognize the lack of evidence for evolution but you can’t use that to conclude that evolution lacks evidence. If they put the data out there then it’s fair game for anyone to use.

Aaaargh!! Here’s how the rev concludes his letter:

The reality is that nobody in 300 words is able to address topics like these in the manner they deserve, so let’s be gracious with one another.

Okay, dear reader. The rev wants us to be gracious. That’s a lovely thought.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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