Confounding the Patriarchs

In late 2013, as a response to an article by Brian Thomas rounding up what he considered the ICR’s greatest hits of the year, I wrote a post consisting of historical quotes altered to support each creationist claim Thomas brought up. For example – pertaining to the usual comet trope – Confucius almost certainly never said:

Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the comet that is flourishing must be replaced often, as the bulbs don’t last like they used to.

Hardly the pinnacle of comedy, I know, but I never claimed to be any good. I mention this old post not to revisit past failures but to bring attention to the underlying point of this bastardisation of Marcus Aurelius:

He who has seen present things has seen all, both everything which has taken place from all eternity and everything which will be for time without end; for all things decay predictably and exponentially (except isotopes).

Anyone who has been reading creationist arguments for very long has probably noticed this for themselves: while YECs vehemently deny that radioactive isotopes decay in a predictable and inalterable fashion that could be used to accurately determine the passage of time, they themselves often contend that other processes decay in the same way. Humphreys’ ideas about planetary magnetic fields might be the example that most commonly appears here, but today Brian Thomas provides us with a new one. He writes, in “Did Adam Really Live 930 Years?“: Continue reading

Disappearing Genes

Four-leaf clover

We’re not actually talking about four-leaf clovers today.

Gah, some real writers block on this one. Sometimes I get halfway through a post and I know what I want to say, but I can’t wrestle it into my usual style. It tends to happen when the topic is generally fairly boring, yet at the same time intensely interesting to me personally in a way that I can’t show to anyone else. I want to go down all kinds of rabbit holes, but this isn’t terrible conducive to producing a coherent and informative blog post. So I’ve stopped writing and opened a text document, and I’m going to try give you a tour of the more interesting bits.

First: the Brian Thomas article is “Clever Clover: Evidence for Evolution?“; the paper is “Adaptive gains through repeated gene loss: parallel evolution of cyanogenesis polymorphisms in the genus Trifolium (Fabaceae),” (press release, pdf). Some clover plants produce cyanide, some don’t, the pattern isn’t what you might expect – you see both forms in the same species, and the versions that lack cyanide (having it is the default) seem to have evolved independently via the same pattern of gene deletion. You get the idea, I hope. Continue reading

Creationist Peer Review

A note from the editors — play the ball, not the man

CEN Technical Journal (now CMI’s Journal of Creation) 13 (1) 1999 – source.

The problem with peer review as practised by creationists, is that the peer reviewers are creationists.

This is a cheap shot, I know, but I don’t mean it like that – not entirely, anyway. Continue reading

We Don’t Know Everything About Electric Fish

There are six different lineages of so-called “electric fish,” each of which evolved its potential independently and convergently. The most famous of these is the electric eel, though speaking of convergent evolution that species is not actually an eel. The portion of the body that produces the electric field is called the “electric organ,” and appears to be derived from muscle cells, but are quite different from each other. A recent paper in Science – “Genomic basis for the convergent evolution of electric organs” (pdf, press release) – investigating representatives of four of six lineages determined that, despite their differences, the same underlying genetic and cellular processes have been leveraged (or hijacked) in each case.

Nathaniel Jeanson has an article up today about this paper called “Darwin’s ‘Special Difficulty’ Solved?” His conclusion is, if anything, unusually weak, and it’s difficult to know what to make of it. He begins by quote-mining Darwin, a common tactic but one which the ICR doesn’t seem to often resort: Continue reading

URCall: A Cringe Compendium

Zero replies URCall

A sorry sight at any blog

We’ve been looking at it’s videos lately, but URCall – the ICR’s latest attempt to be hip with the youth – has other provinces in its media empire. They have a blog, for example, in which a faint and whispery voice cries out for comments: “what do you think?” it asks. Let’s take a look at what they’ve got. Continue reading

Crooked Dealer at Sima de los Huesos

Homo heidelbergensis Cranium 5

A fossil from Sima de los Huesos.

While other groups of young-Earth creationists may hold differing opinions, the Institute for Creation Research insists that Neanderthals were humans too. This is all very well, but for reasons that are not at all clear they take this position to the extreme, minimising, misreporting, or denying any genetic and morphological evidence of differences between modern humans and their former contemporaries, and trampling over the more nuanced scientific view that Neanderthals were very closely related to us yet also a distinct group. Today Brian Thomas writes “Human Remains in Spain: Neandertal or Not?“, going so far that he ties himself up in knots.

A paper in Science – “Neandertal roots: Cranial and chronological evidence from Sima de los Huesos” (pdf), published on the 20th of June – investigated the accretion model of Neanderthal origins. The cliffs notes on this idea seems to be that the notable Neanderthal-specific features appeared at different times in a stepwise fashion, with those associated with the jaw for example developing before those related to the brain. The skeletons at the Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain, being around 430,000 years old according to this paper, lie in the middle of this transition and so provide a test case (who said you couldn’t test things in “historical science”?). The authors looked at the bones of 17 individuals and did indeed find Neanderthal faces with more archaic brains. They write: Continue reading

URCall: The Big Supernova

From the ICR’s URCall series of videos, hosted by Markus Lloyd. “Where did the first atom come from?” (link)

Transcript:

How did the first atom in the universe appear? The big bang attempts to explain that the Earth sprang into existence from a quantum-mechanical fluctuation, or even out of nothing. But it does not adhere to the law of cause and effect. If it’s impossible for something to come from nothing, then what is that something, or someone, that created the universe? Christians know the answer.

In terms of audio, there’s a weird tonal change in the middle there, from “But it…” to “…the universe.” I suspect that this section was just cribbed straight from Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis to save time, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in this video. As for the visuals the animation used to represent the big bang is gloriously inaccurate in pretty much every way you look at it. The presence of background stars – at least in later frames – suggests it would be better employed as a supernova, and in geometry it also reminds me of a certain scene from Star Wars: Continue reading

URCall: Impossible Spirals

From the ICR’s URCall series of videos, hosted by Markus Lloyd. “Why spiral galaxies are young”—for real this time. (link)

Transcript:

Did you know that spiral galaxies could not exist if the universe was billions of years old? Their centre rotates faster than their arms. If these were billions of years old they would have blended into disk-shaped galaxies by now, and their spiral arms would have been twisted beyond recognition. So how old is our universe? Creation science has an answer that might surprise you.

This argument rests on a bait-and-switch: Continue reading

Oops

Clicked on the wrong button. First time that’s happened in a while…

I’ll take this moment to note that I’ve had to take most of the URCall videos down and replace them with youtube versions, as they have pulled their vimeo copies for some reason.

Tomkins’ 70%

Because mammalian eggs are produced early in life, while sperm are created continuously, fathers are responsible for a greater share of new mutations passed down to their offspring than mothers. This slightly complicates genetics-based time-since-last-common-ancestor estimations, leading to recent results to the effect that the human-chimp split happened about twice as far back as previously thought. Adam Benton has more information, if you’re interested.

This new paper has prompted Jeffrey Tomkins, the ICR’s go-to geneticist, to publish “Chimp DNA Mutation Study–Selective Yet Surprising.” Tomkins is known for contesting the typically-cited genetic similarity figures of 94-99% and having calculated using his own method a “conservative” (i.e. maximum) figure of nearer 70%.

Different types of mutations

Continue reading