Evolution and Creation--one more time

Fellow Dopers, I turn to you for support in the fight against ignorance. I’ve been presented with a videotape, A Question of Origins: Creation or Evolution. This tape supposedly gives “undeniable proof for purposeful creation” and “numerous examples of the failure of evolution.”

Please note that I am not interested in a debate as such. Rather I will offer specific quotes from the video that I believe to be in error or in some way misrepresent evolution. What I’m asking from you is a response to those specific points I toss out.

Be warned that I realize many of the points offered in the video present themselves as attacks on evolution, but in fact they have nothing to do with evolutionary theory at all. For example, the first 2/3 of the video “explains” flaws in the Big Bang Theory and abiogenesis, which I know neither should rightly be considered as equivalent to or a part of evolutionary theory.

To begin with, I’d ask you to comment on the following two quotes.

  1. “Growing a large, distant, gaseous planet like Jupiter or Saturn poses an insurmountable hurdle for evolutionists because gasses dissipate rapidly in the vacuum of outer space.”

This statement follows from a discussion on the Big Bang, and is supposed to illustrate the inability of natural laws to account for the creation of our solar system. I know that this is a strawman argument, but I’d like to hear from someone who can ‘debunk’ this statement based on physics arguments.

  1. “Mutations really do occur, they make all kinds of changes in genes: birth defects, disease, disease organisms (?). They’re great at explaining the origin of disease, death and disaster, not at all at explaining the origin of something new, some new trait that never existed. All mutations that we know about are only changes in genes that already exist.”

This statement was offered by Dr. Gary Parker, Biologist. I believe his point is that genetic mutations can only explain relatively minor changes in phenotype, not anything major. Therefore, it is absurd to think that a genetic mutation could produce wings in an organism where no wings existed in its ancestors.

I’ll start with these two, but I’ve got dozens of others to respond to.

FWIW, the tape was given to me by a well-meaning familial fundie. I promised him that I would review the tape and respond to him with comments. He did not object to my soliciting outside assistance—thus I turn to you all. Thanks.

Yes, Darwin was completely wrong about that one!

How about Antibiotic resistance in bacteria? or insecticide resistance in insects? - these are beneficial mutations (beneficial to the organism in question, not beneficial to man, who is the centre of the universe).

Sure, gasses will dissipate in a vacuum, unless you have enough of the gas in a small enough area that gravity overwhelms the random motion of the gas. Remember, there was a lot of gas present in the nebula that gave rise to the solar system.

(This is an educated guess, btw. Might want to wait to see what someone else has to say before you quote this as gospel truth.)

Naturally, this theory isn’t rock solid (excuse the pun), but unlike fundamentalist propaganda there is some experimental evidence to back it up.

To answer the second question millions of mutations of billions of years can create wings where none existed before. This applet is used by biology professors to demonstrate this point: Blind Watchmaker.

I suspect, without even seeing the tape, that the great majority of the points in it are discussed here: http://www.talkorigins.org/

“Mutations really do occur, they make all kinds of changes in genes: birth defects, disease, disease organisms (?). They’re great at explaining the origin of disease, death and disaster, not at all at explaining the origin of something new, some new trait that never existed. All mutations that we know about are only changes in genes that already exist.”

The statement is a mere assertion that new good things are impossible but new bad things such as the “origin of disease” aren’t. If, in fact, “Mutations … make all kinds of changes in genes …” then the filter of natural selection can weed out the bad and keep those that result in a better adaptation or existing conditions.

I guess the same arguement would work for stars as well. They form from the condensation of gas due to gravity as well. Either way, it is hogwash. Alot of gas, makes for alot of gravity. It will contract. As it contracts, the gravity keeps increasing. blah blah blah. The Hubble has watched star birth, so we KNOW that happens. The only difference in the mechanisms is the amount of material available. Alot of gas makes a star, less makes a gaseous planet.

Mutations/Evolution… It works great on paper. It matches what we find in the fossil record, fabulously. What we find in the fossil record looks just like what you would expect if evolution is correct. The fossil record doesn’t look like what you would expect if creationism is right. Looking at the just the whale/dolphin fossil record is very illuminating. Whales and dolphins have features that make sense for land animals. So, we propose that they were land animals at one time. We consult evolution theory and make predictions (important concept of science here) about what we should find in the fossil record if we are correct about whales/dolphins AND evolution. Amazingly, we find pretty much just what is expected in the fossil record.

This is one example. But, it is representative of the power of the theory. People who understand it can look at the world for data. Make predictions and then check them. If the theory is good, you get good predictions. That is good science.

Creationism makes the prediction that everything that exists was created in the form it is today. That would make the fossil record look much different than it does. Stepping through the record and finding simpler organisms in the distant past, and more and more complex creatures as you get to the present does not jive with creationism. Creationism as a theory makes predictions that don’t match anything that we see. Bad Science.

Even if they were correct that the mechanism of evolution is wrong, the idea of gradual change, generation by generation is still strongly supported by nature. This doesn’t help creationism at all.

The last problem for creationist holding this idea: In creatures that have short generational times, we have seen speciation in the lab. We have literally watched mutations reproduced in two seperate breeding populations make those populations unbreedable with each other. This is exactly what you would expect if evolution is correct, and completely counter to predictions of creationism.

countdown to GD





Someone here had a great sig that went something like “you can’t use logic and reason to argue against a position that wasn’t arrived at by logic and reason.” Your discussion and debunking won’t get far if you don’t agree on the same first principles of science and that looks unlikely. Good luck in your quest but likely it will end up in a GD or BBQ Pit style “discussion.”

FWIW I ran across a creationist site that made some of the same arguments against gas giant and star formation. Their argument against gas coalescing is that the big bang would have made an absolutely uniform distribution of matter so no clumps would have formed to start pulling gas in. It’s pretty well established that the BB was not absolutely uniform and the unevenness in microwave background radiation is good evendince for quantum fluctuations in the singularity having caused it.

FWIW I consider myself to be a new flavor of creationist. I believe God created the known universe and all the stuff in it Except for Brittney Spears, Satan created her but God created Satan so…) , and did it in a way entirely consistent with all scientific observation. This way I get to piss off everyone I discuss the topic with :smiley:

  1. This is a totally irrelevant point which has absolutely nothing to do with evolution. Evolution doesn’t care how stars or planets are formed.

  2. Here’s a short bio for Dr. Parker. As I suspected Mr Parker does not have a Ph.D. in biology. What’s even more telling is he did not have any paper published in peer-reviewed journals. What all this means is he is less of an expert that he is made out to be.

It’s important in fighting ignorance that we avoid the pitfalls of

  1. being dismissive of others’ arguments
  2. overstating the case for our point of view.

While there has been a lot of theoretical and computer modeling of star and planet formation, there are still many unsolved problems (as far as I understand - IANA expert). The fundies are being glibly dismissive when they say “planets/stars can’t form because gas dissipates in space”. It doesn’t help to be as glibly dismissive of their position as they are of the scientific one.

For example, one difficulty of the “collapsing gas cloud” model is that such a cloud will be rotating, and in order to form a star you need to get rid of a lot of angular momentum (or rotation). There are suggestions for how to do this, but no one knows how it actually happens.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t respond “well, that’s a solved problem” when it isn’t. This just convinces people that scientists really don’t have any idea what’s going on anyway, so why listen to them? Instead, an honest “well, nobody knows the answer but here are some possibilities” might have more chance of success.

On the gene stuff there is probably a lot stronger refutation. For instance, the sickle cell anemia gene is both good and bad, in that it confers a degree of immunity to malaria (IIRC). Also, there are certainly mutations that are not just point mutations of a single gene - gene duplication is another well-known process (an extra copy of a gene is created in a different location).

I’m really hoping this doesn’t descend into the Pit or even make its way over to GD. My goal is to solicit information/answers on assorted comments made through various creation-based arguments.

As I mentioned in the OP, my family member who passed along the video is indeed well-meaning. What I didn’t expand on was that he is genuinely interested in feedback about the video and the points brought up within it. As such, I would prefer not to dismiss his efforts with a simple wave of the hand.

I fully intend to convey why some of the criticisms on the video are outside the scope of ET. However, I would also like to point out instances of flawed reasoning, such as what I think is occuring with the first two quotes I posted.

Urban Ranger, like I noted in the OP, I fully recognize that the majority of information offered in the video is unrelated to ET, but I want to be able to offer some comments on why planetary formation is not merely some unexplainable supernatural phenomenon. Also, thanks for the bio on Dr. Parker–I’ve got a few more gems from him, that I’ll have you all take a crack at.

Nice summary FriendRob. I’d agree that ‘glibly dismissing’ a position is of little value.

To amplify the earlier replies and keep it technical, umm, yes, scientists have actually thought of this. It’s a standard undergraduate exercise to work out how heavy a mass of gas has to be for its gravitational attraction to win out over thermal pressure. The rough answer is called the Jeans Mass. James Jean died in 1946, so this is hardly obscure, cutting-edge research. It’s literally textbook stuff.

How strange! Last time I checked, I’m still breathing. Evidently the gasses of Earth’s atmosphere don’t dissipate so rapidly into the vacuum of outer space.

Thank God for that!


Going back to question 2 and answering it with a question:
Leeches, tapeworms, rooundworms, heartworms, ticks, lice, fleas, mites, mosquitos, botflies, and a host of tropical parasites too nasty to mention; these didn’t get to occupy their current niche by adaptation? - God made them just like that?

I think Urban Ranger has it right on both questions - #1 is irrelevant to evolution, and #2 is a gross oversimplification written by someone claiming to be something they’re not (a biologist).

A big part of the problem is that “Creationists” (or Creation Scientists, or Intelligent Design proponents - they’re just slightly different paths to the same conclusion) will give you all sorts of evidence against evolution (usually easily refutable with minimal searching) but can never give you any support for their belief other than the contents of the Bible. In fact, I have yet to hear of an actual Theory of Creationism, despite asking many people who claimed to be “Creation Scientists!”

So, for any Creationist lurking in this thread, I ask you:
What is the scientific theory of creationism, and how can it be tested using the scientific method?
I have yet to receive an answer. :rolleyes:

(1) As noted, gravity is the answer. But talk about a strawman! “unsurmountable hurtle for evolutionists”! Since when did evolutionists struggle with the idea of the formation of Jupiter and Saturn?!?

(2) It’s only a “birth defect” if it’s bad. Evolutionists readily say that most mutations are harmful.

The leap is from “no one knows” to “it’s not possible”. That is a leap the creationists make, and it’s a false one. Don’t confuse what you don’t understand with what’s impossible.

Also, there are many ways to dump angular momentum. Magnetic fields can do the trick. As the star spins, its magnetic field drags along slower moving particles. This acts like a parachute, slowing the star and spinning up the disk. This is a fairly efficient process, and is the leading contender (AFAIK) in the AngMom problem.

I have dealt specifically with “problems” in solar system formation as the creationists see them. All the ones I have seen are either grossly outdated or are misrepresented; the creationists take something not well understand and protray it as something impossible. I have yet to see a good creationist argument dealing with astronomy (and by good, I mean relevant, verifiable, falsifiable, current and scientifically-based).I even wrote a chapter in my book about this.

Moreover, when did he make them? “In the Beginning”, when he created everything else…but when everything was “nice” and animals weren’t mean to each other? Or was there a second, unmentioned creation event when all the parasites came into being? Or where formerly harmless creatures just turned into parasites (not all of which are human parasites, mind you) after the “garden” incident?

Thanks for the replies in reference to the first statement (the formation of gaseous planets). In particular, thanks to bonzer and The Bad Astronomer; that was the sort of response I was hoping for.

In reference to the second statement I put forth, I think most responses have missed the mark.

Regardless of Dr. Parker’s academic credentials, I would like a discussion on his contention that mutations cannot explain “something new, some new trait that never existed. All mutations that we know about are only changes in genes that already exist.”

To reiterate, it seems that Parker is saying that genes only slightly modify existing phenotypes, no new features arise from gene mutations. What say you to this?

And for a third time, I know that a number of the quotes I plan to put forth have nothing to do with evolutionary theory. However, I would like to provide my family member with specific responses to assorted points within the video as well as telling him why the questions surrounding the Big Bang and abiogenesis have nothing to do with evolution.

Now, here’s a few more quotes that struck me as a bit off.

  1. “What he [Darwin] saw was various plants and animals altering somewhat through adaptation, through variation. He saw them change. We never see one basic type of something changing into something else. That has never been observed in science or in genetics. It just has never been observed. What we see is variety. Variety happens, adaptations happens, evolution doesn’t happen.” Dr. John Morris, Geological Engineer

  2. “Is there any order coming out of a big explosion? I would say not in any way. Explosions cause chaos and random distribution of various parts that were there perhaps as a united organization beforehand. Any explosion renders that completely null and void. There is no evidence, in my mind, that any explosion or even the Big Bang theory can ultimately produce organized beings like ourselves or any other animal.” Malcolm Bowden, Engineer and Author

  3. “Now the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics allows you to increase order. But if and only if you have an outside energy source and a harnassing mechanism to capture that energy. Evolutionists don’t have that.” Dr. Gary Parker, Biologist

Thanks again.