Standing out of Water and in the Water

Troctolite 76535The Moon, as we are increasingly discovering, is slightly damp – much more so than we thought 40 years ago, when we were “there” (as Mr Ham might say). Of course, anything is greater than nothing, but how it got there remains an open question if only for the moment. A conference abstract presented at the recent European Planetary Science Congress gave the results of a study on some lunar rocks – namely troctolite 76535, described elsewhere as “without doubt the most interesting sample returned from the Moon,” and norite 78235, which they actually found to be more useful – that they say supports the notion that there was water in the original material that first formed the Moon.

Brian Thomas’ article is called Water in Rocks May Support Moon’s Bible Origins. He seems to have recently run out of unused titles that involve absolute statements: His article on Monday on the planthopper “gears” only went so far as to say that they “might have evolutionists hopping mad,” whereas I expected him to cry that they completely and utterly proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the Earth is 6000 years old and created by the Christian God worshipped by American fundamentalists, in line with his usual hyperbole. Regardless, his uncertain headlines match for once his weak position on both issues. Continue reading

Creationist Infighting: Michael Denton’s Structuralism

There’s not a great deal for me to say here: recently published on the ICR website is another Brian Thomas article, Structuralism: A New Way to Avoid Creation, which criticises a recent paper in the Intelligent Design journal Bio-Complexity by Michael Denton. There is as such no right side to this fistfight.

In short, Denton wants wants us to return to what is effectively the pre-Darwinian concept of platonism, though he claims that its earlier acceptance was not based on prior belief in the philosophy but on “but rather upon the empirical finding that a vast amount of biological complexity, including the deep homologies which define the taxa of the natural system, appears to be of an abstract, non-adaptive nature that is sometimes of a strikingly numerical and geometric character.” While Thomas praises Denton’s “influential, evidence-based book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” he attacks structuralism as just another way to “exclude God.” As I said, there’s not right side here. Go check it out if you don’t believe me.

Aspidella

We hear often of the Cambrian explosion – the period around 540 million years ago wherein many animal groups first appear in the fossil record – but, contrary to the impression that you might get from certain creationist sources, there was life before the Cambrian. For example the Ediacaran, the Period immediately prior to the explosion, is known for its enigmatic biota, including the disk-shaped Aspidella.

The nature of the Ediacaran biota is of importance: molecular studies – i.e. genetic comparisons – of living animals show that they actually diverged some time before the Cambrian, two periods back in the Cryogenian. If the common ancestors of all living animals lived in the Cryogenian, therefore, then there must also have been animals in the Ediacaran. Some evidence that this is true, therefore, would be quite nice.

But it’s not that simple. All known Ediacaran organisms are soft bodied, meaning that they leave only rare trace fossils (impressions of various kinds) that are difficult to interpret with certainty, but they are generally thought to be multicellular marine organisms. However, a paper published (pdf) around the start of the year contended that Ediacaran fossils from South Australia, which would include Aspidella, were in fact deposited on land and may even be more likely to be “lichens and other microbial colonies of biological soil crust, rather than marine animals, or protists.”

That brings us to a more recent paper, Evidence for Cnidaria-like behavior in ca. 560 Ma Ediacaran Aspidella (closed access, no pdf available). Cnidaria is a broad group of animals which includes corals, jellyfish and sea anemones: the behaviour alluded to is that of an organism living of the sea floor slowly adjusting its position to ensure that it doesn’t get buried by accumulating sediment, which leaves behind what they refer to as “equilibrium traces.” This shows in the minds of the authors that Aspidella did live in a marine environment and was an animal. The ICR’s Brian Thomas, in What Were the First Animals Like?, accepts this conclusion but draws one of his own from it. He opens:

Are Ediacaran “fossils” actually remains of ancient living things, or did simple natural processes generate fossil look-alikes? Correctly identifying these tracks (or traces) matters significantly to those who insist these Ediacaran rocks—which secularists believe to be over 550 million years old—came from a time when Earth’s earliest animal life first appeared. Are these scientists looking at fossils made by the supposed ancestor common to all animals?

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Flawed Memory

Elizabeth Loftus at TAM 9 (2011)Eyewitness testimony – for all Ken Ham’s shouts of “were you there?” – is the worst variety of evidence. Adding to its many problems you might have recently read about the successful implantation of a false memory of an unpleasant experience into the brain of a mouse. Slightly less recently Nature ran a story on the career of Elizabeth Loftus, who has long argued that memory is fallible. That earlier article appears to have prompted Wednesdays DpSU, Did God Make Human Memory Malleable?, by Brian Thomas.

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown that human memories are malleable. She successfully planted false memories into people’s minds during some of her experiments. Her position on the fallibility of memory has not always been well-received, but the results speak for themselves. And this may cause the believer in Christ to ask: Did God design memories to be moldable?

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