Monday, September 5, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.5

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. Today, Ray will teach us about these important critical-thinking concepts:
  1. Remembering what the real point of the discussion is.
  2. Ignoring needlessly complex or technical arguments.
  3. Getting your information from qualified researchers.
  4. Making sure your terms are clearly defined
  5. Using all the available facts rather than a tiny sliver of what is known
  6. It's always entertaining to mock people when they say something really stupid.
In Question #8, Ray quotes Richard Dawkins as having said that feathers are modified reptilian scales. Then Ray quotes his pal Jonathan Safarti in his long diatribe against Dawkins' book Climbing Mount Improbable. Safarti goes on and on about how feathers and scales are completely different. What Ray is showing us here is that he has forgotten the point of his book, which is to shake our so-called faith in evolutionary theory. To demonstrate, let's assume that Dawkins is wrong in his assertion about reptilian scales. Does that mean anything about evolutionary theory? Not at all.

Safarti goes on to quote legitimate paleornithologist Alan Feduccia as saying, "At the morphological level feathers are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales. However, in development, morphogenesis, gene structure, protein shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers are different." Have you already guessed what I'm going to say next? You do not need to know the words "morphological," "homologous," or "morphogenesis" in order to have a solid understanding of evolutionary theory. Ray is just blowing hot air that he borrowed from Safarti, again, hoping to overload our brains so we'll stop thinking, which is the first prerequisite for being a good superstitionist.

Finally, let's take a look at Safarti himself. He has degrees in chemistry and spectroscopy. Neither of these degrees qualifies him in any way to expound on the subject. Further, recall Ray's goal of catching scientists "quietly admitting" uncomfortable truths. Safarti is disqualified from Ray's purposes because he is extremely superstitious and has written at least four books claiming to refute evolutionary theory.

Ray goes on to quote some comments by Ernst Mayr concerning the fact that the fossil record does not support Darwin's idea that we now refer to as gradualism. Once again, Darwin is dead. It does not matter at all whether Darwin was completely wrong. We have learned a lot since Darwin's day, and evolutionary theory is progressing just fine without his help.

In Question #9, Ray asks us whether the fossil record proves macroevolution as scientific fact. Let's not allow Ray to wriggle away with vague terms. The word "prove" is typically to be avoided when considering science. A scientific theory can be shown to be false, but can never be shown to be true. The closest a theory can come to being proven true is to continue to have good explanatory and predictive power as more and more observations are made. Further, perhaps the fossil record isn't enough for some people, but surely all the DNA evidence, the vestigial organs and structures, and the astounding biogeographical evidence are enough to give us confidence that macroevolution has indeed occurred on Earth.

We'll completely ignore Question #10, because its about the First Law of Thermodynamics. This is just another one of those needlessly technical points. Don't get stuck arguing over thermodynamics while discussing evolutionary theory, unless, of course, you're a specialist in the relationships between the two. Something tells me that Ray is neither.

In Question #11, Ray tells the harrowing tale of the dinosaur known as Mononykus. It turns out that Time Magazine, in 1993, published an artist's bird-like rendition of Mononykus, but later evidence suggested, at least to some qualified scientists, that the creature was not a bird. That's just terrible. I can see the entire edifice of evolutionary theory crumbling because there is some dispute as to whether Mononykus was a bird. Ray, you've won. We're slaves to your "god" now.

My first impulse when reading Question #12 was to ignore it, because Ray asks, "Which book in the Bible reveals that the seasons are caused by the changing positions of the earth in relation to the sun?" This obviously has absolutely nothing to do with evolutionary theory, but rather than skip the question, I'll take this opportunity to make fun of Ray. He answers the question by quoting Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 14, "And 'god' said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.'" What? What part of this verse even alludes to the cause of seasons? Perhaps it talks about how "god" created the institution of seasons, but it definitely doesn't say anything about the astronomical causes of seasons. If any superstitionists out there wish to correct me on this one, please do.

Ray wraps up Question #12 with quotes from Isaac Newton and James Dana, to the effect that "there are no truer facts than the facts found within the Holy Scriptures." What Ray forgets is that neither one of these men was ever qualified to make any such pronouncements, given that they had no way of testing any of the preposterous claims made in the bible.

That's 7.5. Thanks for watching.