A parade of ignorance and confidence.

Buzzfeed asked people to write messages to Bill Nye following his debate with Ken Ham (I’m still working on a post carving through all of Ham’s BS, stay tuned).  I didn’t watch the debate initially, but I asked a friend how it went.  My friend responded “Bill Nye gave science lessons to an audience of people who don’t understand long division.”  As if to confirm my friend’s assessment, here are a bunch of the messages that got written out for Bill Nye:

Yes.  Yes, he is.  He’s teaching them about science.  This man should think of all the ways science touches his life on a daily basis.  I see he’s wearing a heavy jacket which suggests it’s cold outside.  However, when he’s in his home (which was constructed by tools innovated by scientists) the air conditioning makes him completely comfortable.  Think of how that invention would’ve looked to families just a hundred years ago, let alone before that!

He drove to wherever he’s at in an automobile, another handy invention produced by scientific minds.  And that’s just what Bill Nye is doing: getting kids interested in science and producing new scientific minds.  He is fighting Ken Ham’s efforts to unmake the analytical mind.  The value of Nye’s work would be obvious if not for a mind drunk on faith.

No.  It’s hard to be scared of something you don’t believe exists.  For instance, I’ll bet this woman is unafraid of faeries stealing her favorite pair of socks.  That’s about how atheists feel about god.

And, what’s more, this message resonates with all the intellectual prowess of a school yard bully.  “You scared?”  Fuck, since when is fear a good reason to believe anything?  Why doesn’t this person’s message contain an argument, not an implication that Nye should believe out of fear?

Think of what this message implies.  For one, if the earth was created young but full of evidence to make it look old, then god likes to trick and deceive us.  But this guys still loves god.

For another, this sign assumes the evidence for an old earth…yet this guy still believes the earth is young.

No.  Where would you ever get an idea like that?  Oh, right.

Well, here’s the scientific explanation:

This shows more a misconception about thermodynamics than about evolution. The second law of thermodynamics says, “No process is possible in which the sole result is the transfer of energy from a cooler to a hotter body.” [Atkins, 1984, The Second Law, pg. 25] Now you may be scratching your head wondering what this has to do with evolution. The confusion arises when the 2nd law is phrased in another equivalent way, “The entropy of a closed system cannot decrease.” Entropy is an indication of unusable energy and often (but not always!) corresponds to intuitive notions of disorder or randomness. Creationists thus misinterpret the 2nd law to say that things invariably progress from order to disorder.

However, they neglect the fact that life is not a closed system. The sun provides more than enough energy to drive things. If a mature tomato plant can have more usable energy than the seed it grew from, why should anyone expect that the next generation of tomatoes can’t have more usable energy still? Creationists sometimes try to get around this by claiming that the information carried by living things lets them create order. However, not only is life irrelevant to the 2nd law, but order from disorder is common in nonliving systems, too. Snowflakes, sand dunes, tornadoes, stalactites, graded river beds, and lightning are just a few examples of order coming from disorder in nature; none require an intelligent program to achieve that order. In any nontrivial system with lots of energy flowing through it, you are almost certain to find order arising somewhere in the system. If order from disorder is supposed to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, why is it ubiquitous in nature?

But even if you had no clue about the science, what does this person think is going on?  Does he think scientists have never heard this argument?  Or does he think they have heard this argument, are aware that the second law somehow prohibits genetic change, and are purposefully peddling a lie – all while providing new discoveries which make our lives a Utopia compared to every generation before us?  Does this guy think he’s got the science figured out while the global body of scientists who have dedicated decades to learning the subject just don’t get it?  And they say Christianity is a religion of humility.  Here’s a guy who wouldn’t know science if it was violating him and yet he thinks he’s got it right while scientists have it wrong.

Even if we had no clue that the earth rotated on its axis thus producing a sunset every evening, why is the explanation “god” and not “I don’t know”?  Ignorance is not the same as knowledge.  If you don’t have any clue how something happens, you look like a fool if you turn around and immediately claim to know the answer.

And it all comes with a shit-eating grin that says “Yeah, got him!”  It’s a pity unworthy confidence isn’t painful.  Religion does one better and rewards that kind of confidence with praise.  Ugh.

Noetics is the idea that our thoughts can affect the world without us physically acting on our thoughts (like prayer or telekinesis).  There is no example of this ever working under experimental conditions…ever.

What evidence do you have that there is some overarching objective meaning to life?  Until one can be established, I don’t have to defend its existence.

However, I objectively value certain things like video games, being a good person, sex, pizza, etc.  And because I objectively value them, they provide meaning for my life.  I don’t see how sniffing god’s ass provides more “objective” meaning to my life than making out with someone I like who, unlike god, I can touch and have an actual conversation with.

We don’t really know.  Now, that’s not to say we don’t have models compliant with all of known science that could explain the origin of the first self-replicating molecule (which would inevitably become the first single-celled organism), we do.  The most widely accepted model is called the RNA World model.  The problem isn’t having no idea how such a thing could come about by natural means, it’s about not knowing which natural way it occurred.

The irony is that you don’t even need to have taken an introductory level biology course to know this.  This question could’ve been answered with five minutes on wikipedia.

And, once more, even if we had no clue how a single-celled organism could come to be, that’s not evidence for god.  It’s a reason to say “I don’t know” not to say “You don’t know, therefore I know, and it’s this answer for which I have zero evidence.”

That’s not the Big Bang Theory.  The Big Bang Theory has no need for a god figure.  What you’re doing is taking something we have explained and adding a variable that is not required.  It’s like saying “I believe engines power cars, I just believe there are magic smurfs making the engines work.”  Adding in extra stuff like that is not scientific, it’s not even smart.  It is, however, very silly.

We don’t.

First, fossils are not the only way we confirm that humans have ape ancestors.  Here’s how I explained genetic confirmation of evolution in a piece I wrote for Atheism Resource:

One of the early arguments against the fact that mankind has evolved from earlier primates was the fact that we have 23 pairs of chromosomes – all great apes have 24. If we evolved from apes, we should expect to have at least 24 pairs. Acknowledging that such a fact would contradict all relevant facts about biology, scientists began to imagine where the 24th chromosome went. Their first hypothesis (notice how the hypothesis flows from what we already know) was that somewhere along the line a pair of chromosomes fused. So how can we tell whether or not this happened?

On the end of all chromosomes reside features called “telomeres.” Telomeres function as a kind of genetic marker, indicating that the chromosome has ended. In the middle of chromosomes, there is another genetic marker called a “centromere.” That means a simplified version of a chromosome would look like this (T=Telomere, C=Centromere):

T ——– C ——– T

However, the second chromosome is unique in that it looks like this:

T ——– C ——– T ——– C ——– T

What this indicates is that at one point two of our predecessor’s twenty-four chromosomes fused to create our second. Science created a hypothesis, tested it, and came up with a confirmation. What was an argument against evolution quickly became another brick in the wall of evidence for the theory.

Additionally, PZ Myers does a brilliant job of explaining the basics of synteny, one of the many types of genetic evidence, here.

Anyway, as far as fossils go, why discount Lucy because “there’s only one”?  You believe a guy rose from the dead on hearsay from people who weren’t even there when it supposedly occurred, but one example of a transitional form from ape to human that you can see, which is really beyond dispute, and it’s just not enough?  Give me a break.

Anyway, you single out Lucy because it’s such a clear-cut example.  However, what creationists fail to realize is that all fossils are transitional.  This image does a good job of explaining this concept:

Once you understand this very basic concept, it’s easy to look at the fossil record and see how all of them point to transitions in species.  We could even just narrow it down to, say, early reptiles to mammals (this is going to be very long – we have a lot of transitional fossils including Human transitional fossils).

Anyway, we’ll start with Paleothyris, and every subsequent transitional fossil will transition to the next transitional fossil. Most of these were found using predictions such as those used by Dr. Neil Shubin (more on him in the next section), we knew the age that such creatures must have existed in, went to places with dirt that old, and ‘lo and behold we found them. It should be noted that this is only a tiny fraction of the fossil record, and that the fossil record is only a fraction of the overall evidence for evolution.

Paleothyris
Protoclepsydrops
Clepsydrops
Archaeothyrisy
Varanops
Haptodus
Dimetrodon
Sphenacodon
Biarmosuchia
Procynosuchus
Dvinia
Thrinaxodon
Cynognathus
Diademodon (of the group Eucynodontia)
Probelesodon (of the Chiniquodon group)
Probainognathus
Exaeretodon
Oligokyphus
Kayentatherium
Pachygenelus (1)
Diarthrognathus (2)
Adelobasileus
Sinoconodon
Kuehneotherium (an example of a Haramiyidan)
Eozostrodon
Morganucodon
Haldanodon (Very similar to Castorocauda similis)
Peramus
Endotherium
Kielantherium
Aegialodon
Steropodon
Vincelestes
Pariadens (the first known marsupial, but only by the skin of his teeth – literally)
Kennalestes
Cimolestes
Procerberus
Gypsonictops

This list is just a drop in the transitional fossil bucket. We have plenty to peruse.

The fact that all fossils are transitional is what allows us to make testable predictions about evolution.  A good example of this is TiktaalikTiktaalik is a transitional species that is part of the fossil record between early amphibians from bony fish. It is the link between Eusthenopteron (which arguably precedes Sterropterygion) and Panderichthys.

Tiktaalik was discovered by a team led by paleontologist Neil Shubin of the Univesity of Chicago. Shubin describes how evolution was used to predict the location of Tiktaalik this way:

“What evolution enables us to do is to make specific predictions about what we should find in the fossil record. The prediction in this case is clear-cut. That is, if we go to rocks of the right age, and the rocks of the right type, we should find transitions between two great forms of life, between fish and amphibian.”

And that transition is precisely what they found.

While I may have a theory regarding what two cards my opponent is holding at the poker table, this is not the way scientists use the word. A theory is a hypothesis or collection of hypotheses, which has stood up to repeated rigorous testing and passed the test. A theory explains all relevant facts and is contradicted by none.  It does not mean “a guess that hasn’t been tested”.  Evolution is a scientific theory, creationism and the bible are not.  The bible asserts that a person rose from the dead and walked on water, that snakes can talk, that a global flood took place, and that a woman was converted to a pillar of salt (and more).  These things could not be more offensive to the conclusion of science.  They are stories, fantasies – not theories.

Christians and other religious people determined to see their personal creation myths of choice stand unopposed, even by reality, will continue to assert that evolution is “just a theory.” However, all of them are unlikely to walk off the top of a skyscraper any time soon because gravity is “just a theory.”

Science is not a theory, it is a process that produces theories.  And those theories, like gravity  and evolution are observable, can be confirmed by repeatable experiment, etc.  That is why they have survived the process of peer review and are taught as scientific fact.  If creationism could play by the same rules and perform just as well, it would have a place in science.  It hasn’t, and so…it hasn’t.

The word “information” here is very loosely defined (in that it’s not defined).  But if you’re talking about an increase in functionality in the context of a particular environment, then there are plenty of evidences that this takes place.  (It should also be noted that most people in America, like this woman, who deny evolution on the supposed lack of evidence also believe that a man lived inside the belly of a fish for three days without being consumed by the beast’s stomach acids. One cannot help but wonder what can be done to change somebody’s mind at that point.)

Hell, we can even watch it happen.  One example is the controlled experiment in evolution with the lizard species Podarcis sicula, in which the species developed a Cecal Valve, a new feature not present in the ancestral population. The old population of Podarcis sicula was still around and breeding, yet they had branched off to create a new animal that, though still a lizard, was a new species with adapted behaviors and features.  A few other noted instances of Macroevolution include: Culex pipiens, Rhagoletis pomonella, and Mimulus.

Sex.  Singing.  Helping people by holding them accountable when they make argument or assertions of truth without first doing the intellectual leg work.  Defeating things that are bad for humanity (like religion).  There are others, but there’s a short list.  I am the one who determines the purpose of my life, just like you.  God has not determined that the point of your life is to believe in salvation, you have determined that.  The good news is that you can change your mind.  Once you realize that the stories of the bible are fanciful depictions of magic, not realistic descriptions of the universe, you can realize you’d rather have a different purpose (like sex).

Yes.  In fact, because you have evidence (i.e., without faith as religions use the word) is the only reason you should ever believe anything.  To believe without evidence is a virtue for believers when called faith, but a vice when called gullibility.  But the two are indistinguishable.

Parts of it are.  But then there are things like cancer, hurricanes, and the like which aren’t so amazing.  If a human created a device that unleashed cancer on humanity or hurricanes on a coastline, that person would undoubtedly be a villain.  Humanity, even Christians, would seek justice against that person.  But if god does it?  Well shoot, it’s all perfect then.

Human innovation is necessary because the world isn’t that amazing.  In response to infections and diseases, people prayed.  But when their prayer didn’t work we invented medicines and procedures that cured them.  Had prayer worked, we never would’ve needed to conceive of medicine.  When we prayed for food, our stomachs remained empty.  So we humans invented new ways to farm and hunt.  We never would’ve done it if prayer worked.

So a better question would be how you can, on a daily basis, use the products of human intellect necessitated by the uselessness of prayer and still wonder how we can doubt the existence of god?

For the atheist, we ascribe the amazing parts of the universe to the same thing as the horrible parts: chance.  Some things rule, some things suck, and we have to figure out how to get around them.  But we’re at least consistent.  You will credit god for kittens but probably say that hurricanes are just nature doing its thing.

Stars formed after the Big Bang.  You clearly don’t have the first fucking clue what you’re talking about.  Way to put those scientists in their place, killer.

That this person is still alive is perhaps the best evidence that natural selection doesn’t work.

A bunch of people who have read nothing in the scientific literature thinking they’re in a place to show up scientists.  If only religion kept people from being pompous, ignorant, and oblivious rather than encouraging those qualities.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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