Brett Keane is one of those people who says he was once an atheist but has since embraced religion. I’ve met a few such people, though none of them have ever been able to provide any reason why they (or I) should believe there’s a god. Keane says that he and I had spoken back when he was a non-believer. I don’t remember ever speaking to him, but he says he has it on video. I’ve been an activist for twenty some-odd years. So it coulda happened. I can’t remember everyone I spoke to way back when.
Recently he posted a list of thirteen “Questions that Destroy Evolutionists“. Sometimes we look at things that are helpless or pathetic and we might think they’re somehow cute because of that. In that sense it’s cute that Keane thinks his questions are so significant.
Note, he doesn’t just think they’ll destroy evolution; he thinks they destroy evolution-ists. What does that even mean? There’s no such thing as evolution-ism. Anyone who accepts demonstrable realities of science is what he would call an evolutionist, and the rest of the world calls a rationalist. Evolutionism is a word invented by creationists trying to generate an illusion of false equivalence, by portraying the acceptance of objectively verifiable science as though it were just another faith-baseless religious belief like their own position is.
How does he mean to “destroy” those who accept the world-wide scientific consensus? Does he think that if I read his questions, they will cause me to reject everything I can show that I know and believe in magic instead? That’s not a straw-man. Every supernatural explanation is equivalent to magic. They are effectively the same thing.
Even if I couldn’t answer some or any of his questions, (and you’ll see in a moment whether I can) why would my inability as a layman to understand or explain every aspect of a complex field of study cause me to imagine that a magic invisible man did it instead? That’s the god-of-the-gaps fallacy: You can’t explain it, therefore magic/therefore God.
Why don’t believers ever understand the logical fallacies of question-begging and the arguments from ignorance and incredulity that culminate in the god-of-the-gaps fallacy? Keane has demonstrated many times (like on the Atheist Experience) that he doesn’t seem to understand what logical fallacies even are, much less how he embraces them or why he shouldn’t do that anymore.
Obviously whether I could answer his questions or not, they would not “destroy” me. Nor could these questions have any impact at all against what I can already show to be true about evolution. Nor would it threaten the scholarly understanding of advanced academics who are much more learned than I.
I say that before even reading his questions. So let’s have a look at them now.
“When you ask these questions to Atheists make sure to hold them to the fire. Make them back up any claims they make with facts and evidence. The questions below will make everyone think but the truth is we have not come close as humans to answer what you’re about to read. If an Atheists starts spouting off bullshit like he knows the answer then he is lying. Personal experience numerous times has shown me most Atheists have no clue what they’re talking about. They make shit up as they go along. Let’s begin…”
So we start off by poisoning the well, another fallacy. So that anyone who really can answer all of his questions has already been dismissed as a stupid liar. This reminds me of Michael Behe trying to defend Intelligent Design in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial. Dr Behe said that science would never be able to explain this or that, and he thinks the argument from incredulity qualifies as evidence of divine design. But then expert witnesses produced volumes of peer-reviewed studies proving that science had already explained each of those things he mentioned, and Behe simply doubled down his dismissal, saying it wasn’t good enough. That’s obviously the way it will be here. It’s not like any science-denier is ever going to admit that they’re wrong or that their own ignorance of the science failed to “destroy” me or the reality they don’t even want to understand themselves.
1. Was the reproductive system existent in the first living organism or did it evolve into it. (Bible of course says the designer created it from the start as does many religions who believe in a higher power). If our evolutionist says it evolved and it took millions of years you will realize you’re dealing with a stupid person. Every living creature will die and have limited time. If it can’t pass its genes it’s dead. Reproduction had to exist from the start.
The Bible says that God created males and females as soon as he created plants and animals, but of course that’s just one of myriad things the Bible consistently got wrong. So it really doesn’t matter what the Bible says.
Keane’s question doesn’t specify whether he’s talking about sexual reproduction. If he is, we see the first indicators of that in a form of horizontal gene transfer called conjugation. We also see an accumulation of sex-factors beginning with the earliest and most primitive eukaryotes. The basal clade, Excavata includes some species capable of meiosis, the first necessary aspect of sexual reproduction. Just a few daughter clades later comes Filozoa, which includes species of Caspasporia. These have accumulated all the components necessary to switch from asexual to sexual reproduction, though they don’t seem to use sex yet. If they did, it would be spawning, where no genitalia have yet evolved. In fact this development is taxonomically basal to the first animals, many of which still reproduce asexually.
Kean might be surprised to learn that asexual reproduction came long before the formation of life itself. The protobiont precursors of life were already replicative polymers, including the hypothesized hypercycle, which should be the last stage before cells achieved homeostasis, the final criteria to qualify as living.
Prior to that, RNA was already replicating itself and DNA as well. There are combined factors as these become more complex, and yes that evidently took millions of years. But he is no position to call me stupid just because I can prove that I know the answer and he doesn’t. Remember these questions only reflect what Brett Keane doesn’t know, not what scientists don’t know.
2. What evolved first? Blood or the heart. No point in having a heart to pump blood if blood does not exist. Blood can’t flow without a heart. If the idiot in front of you says both ask them for evidence and how they know this. (Bible said God had us fully constructed no batteries included). The evolutionist will drown in blood on this doozy.
Keane called this question a “doozy”!? Sorry, no. Here’s the answer: The most primitive animals don’t have blood, but some of them do have nerves generating a continuous rhythmic pulsation which could later propel internal cells carrying oxygen. So oddly enough, there was evidently already a heart beat even before there was a heart.
Blood came after the heart beat, but before any part of a circulatory system, which was eventually built by the blood cells in it. Blood started out as nucleic cells just like all our other cells. But in mammals such as humans, blood cells lose their nucleus because they carry more oxygen that way. The blood cells of birds still have their nucleus because avian respiration is so much more efficient than ours that they don’t need that extra modification that mammals do.
Otherwise blood cells began as constituent stem cells that make up practically everything else. Their nature caused them to forge veins to flow in, just by their oscillation to or away from the central pulsation, which of course became the center of their circulatory system, the heart.
3. If the universe has no feelings and is aware of nothing why create awareness and feelings? Example: Pain and joy. Ask them when feelings and emotions came into existence date and time.
Date and time? I wonder if Brett Keane can tell me the date and time when the Italian language replaced Latin. Not likely.
If the universe has no feelings and is aware of nothing, then there is no reason to ask why it would create feelings. It’s obviously not doing anything intentionally. Just think how beautiful some insects or plants are, and remember that they don’t know they’re pretty. They don’t even care. Now think of all the millions of sunsets that came and went before any eyes connected to minds with aesthetic appreciation were there to enjoy them. Think of all the sights we’ve never seen that no other animal could appreciate as much as we do. Yet this world has existed for 10,000 times longer than humanity. So if there was a god, why did it waste so much time making beautiful things when there was no one there to care?
Why would we only be able to exist on a fraction of the skin of this one tiny world, where we would instantly die everywhere else, and we can’t get anywhere else? There are billions of galaxies with billions of stellar systems around them, and we’re the only world we know of yet that has anyone capable of showing feelings. All that indicates to me that the universe indeed has no feelings of its own. That’s the only explanation for why the anthropic principle fails so badly and “creation” is so dispassionately inefficient.
But to better answer the question, being that we live in a universe where everything is out to kill us, then living organisms will be much better off when they can detect signs of danger, and pain is a good way to do that. Obviously the strongest selective pressures apply to those organisms that can react to their environment and move away from whatever is hurting them. So there’s a simple and obvious evolutionary explanation for that, but not really a religious one.
4. Why would nature create a gland that produces chemicals that will work as a mechanism to keep us from killing everything including each other? Did you know without the mechanism we would all be serial killers?
Before I answer this question, I am prompted to ask one of my own. Why would a god create us as animals, dependent on the death of other living cells in order to survive? He could have created us with cyanobacteria in our cells, just as plants have in theirs: so that we could produce our own food and not have to kill other things to eat them. Again religion fails to address what only science can.
We would NOT become serial killers, because there is no motivation to be. My very first gig as a public speaker was on the evolution of morality. In that I explained that any species that is raised in dependence on its parents inherently learns a degree of natural empathy. This is especially true in the case of mammals, who have to suckle their mothers and trust in another for their provision and defense.
This is even further enhanced in social animals. Our dependence on society has instilled a sense of compassion for our family, friends, and fellows. Dawkins described aspects of this in the concept of the selfish gene. The summary is that society benefits both by and for those who will cooperate with, sacrifice for, or otherwise support or defend others in their community. Deviant mutations still occur of course, like narcissistic psychopaths with under-developed prefrontal lobes. However such selfish or heartless people tend to be eliminated from the gene pool either by being banished, imprisoned, or killed. That of course leaves a overwhelmingly powerful selective pressure for altruistic sympathetic and compassionate providers and care-givers. This tendency to look out for each other is what gave our ancestors the edge over other species even when we still thought like animals otherwise, before we got such big brains.
5. Why do chemicals release into the body as we are seconds from death? The chemicals cause us to feel utopia so we can die peacefully. How did nature predict we would die and required a natural drug to ease our suffering before the lights go out? Nature doesn’t give a shit according to nonbelievers. A loving father would care though.
Our bodies produce a number of drugs, like adrenaline, for purposes of survival of injury. Those who can weather the agonizing pain of physical and emotional distress and still fight off their attacker or make good their escape obviously have a stronger selective advantage over everything that either succumbs to the pain or doesn’t feel pain to know that it’s even in trouble.
Now if we die while under this influence, then dying is a bit less painful, but that obviously wasn’t intended. Yet Keane ignores the selective advantage for these traits. He also laughably mistakes euphoria for utopia, not realizing that no one ever feels euphoria when they die, not unless death was caused by an opioid overdose.
The funny thing about evoking a compassionate god here isn’t just that Keane is talking about a god who demands the death penalty for practically every trivial offense; it’s also that his religion promises that believers will never die. But they do. Regardless whether there is an afterlife or not, all of us, believers and unbelievers alike have the same chances of being cut in half in a traffic accident, or being left to agonize alone and helpless. No religion saves you from the risk of writhing in terrifying agony, clutching your chest, gasping for that last breath. This is the only aspect of death worth escaping. Yet this is what Keane attributes to a loving father who supposedly cares?!
6. How did reproductive organs stay insync for billions of years and why has the vagina and penis extended and changed shape? Where did the information come from to construct these functioning tools?
The “information” obviously comes from mutations in our genome, constantly generating very subtle differences in physical or chemical proportions, which can accumulate in different directions in branching lineages.
Sex predates sexual organs. Most sexually-reproductive animal groups use spawning, where they release sperm or eggs into water at what will hopefully be the right time and place that some of them will encounter the alternate gamete. Even if they coordinate the timing of the ritual, it is still grossly inefficient. But without any intelligent designer, what else could we expect?
Some chordates and some arthropods have improved their efficiency by rubbing or coupling their bodies together. Thus sperm and eggs are released in much closer proximity–provided the addition of some sort of courtship ritual times the release of both gametes simultaneously.
From there it’s only a slight adaptation to extend even a slight pistus or penis into say, a cloaca. In more modern mammals, the vagina is separate from the anus. Most of these mammals still have a coordinated mating period, but it’s not always necessary anymore if the male can inject his entire sperm production into the tiny cavity where the eggs are.
Note that reproductive advantages are under significantly more powerful selective pressure than adaptations that only improve survival.
Another indication of incidental design over deliberate design is the obviously obliviously random patterns of subsequent division. One video I’ve been meaning to make for a few years now is How Evolution Got Sex So Horribly Wrong. Because once there was such a thing as a penis, every new branching lineage tried to redesign it, and the counterpart doesn’t always go with it. So the penis and vagina did not exist for billions of years, and were not always “in sync” either.
For example, echidnas have huge four-headed prehinsile penises, but female echidnas are monotremes with only one opening for defecation, urination, and reproduction. How’s that for divine design?
Ducks have corkscrew penises, and the female cavity seems reverse-engineered to expel as much semen as possible, because their mating ritual is typically a violent gang rape.
For another example, spotted hyenas live in a matiarchy where the females have a bigger dick than the males do. It’s actually a hugely distended clitoris. It constricts the birth canal so much that she has to chew her own clitoris off just to give birth. Where is your god now?
The New Mexico whiptail lizard is an entirely female species of identical clones which must engage in a mock courtship to prompt parthenogenic reproduction. If there is a god, and he hates homosexuals so much, we have to wonder why he created lesbian lizards that have to make out to reproduce. Where is your god now?
When it comes to getting lucky, we are one of the luckiest species. Humans have the largest penises of all the apes, and usually there is no baculum or penis bone. Chimpanzees still have them, but they’re reduced to such a sliver that it isn’t always even there. Likewise in rare occasions, humans are still born with them as an atavism. That’s how close we are. Yet again, evolution has an explanation for things religion can’t even pretend to address.
7. What mutation did animals and ourselves go through to give us the ability to laugh and cry?
It wasn’t just one mutation, but several different ones, and not always the same ones in each lineage. In other primates, a smile is taken as a show of fear. In that sense, it could be a single mutation to rewire a fear expression to one of joy. Of course domestic dogs smile in their own way too, and not for the same genetic reasons we do. Crying is something that occurs in a wide distribution of mammals. Even horses might cry for the same emotional reasons that we do.
8. If we find fossils how can we know that it’s off spring survived?
We can’t, but we don’t have to either. Evolution isn’t about individuals. It’s about population-level changes. and more about taxonomic diversity than any linear descent. A good example would be how languages evolve. Spanish, French, and Romanian all evolved through Cladogenesis from Latin. That’s where one or more new species branch off the original stock. However Italian evolved by anagenesis, emerging within and eventually replacing the original language over time.
Notice that there was never a first guy who spoke Italian. No one had to leave their Latin-speaking roots to find someone else who spoke French either. These were gradual changes at the population-level. If we found the remains of a Latin speaking person, we wouldn’t need to know whether that person had kids who survived, because he’s only one individual out of an entire population. We know the language passed from that population regardless and changed over time to become the newer languages we have today.
9. Did you know that hundreds even thousands of theories have been debunked? What makes the theory of time travel anymore science based than evolution?
Did you know that you’re full of shit?
Off-hand I can think of a few theories that were ever debunked. George Stahl’s theory of Phlogiston was disproved in 1777. It was replaced by the theory of Oxygen. That and expanding planet theory are the only scientific theories I know of that were ever disproved. All the other disproved theories were based in religion.
Vitalism, promoted (in different versions) by Aristotle, Rene Descartes, and considered theory under George Stahl until his interpretation of it was disproved, taking spontaneous generation down with it. It was replaced by both abiogenesis and Pasteur’s germ theory of disease.
Platonic geometry inset within planetary orbits, a hypothesis implying divine design that was both vigorously pursued and eventually disproved by Johannes Kepler.
Divine Archetypes, hypothesized by Sir Richard Owen and eventually abandoned even by him. Although a similar notion of “created kinds” was adopted by modern creationists using the term “baramins.”
Deluvial Hydroplates, promoted as “theory” by professional creationist Walt Brown in 1990, was an unsupported and indefensible notion. While it might otherwise have been correctly declared a hypothesis, it failed to account for data previously gathered through magnetostratigraphy of the ocean crust, overlying sediments, and terrestrial lava flows, correlated with radio-isotope dating, ice cores, fossil varves, and myriad other things. Thus it was already disproved before it was presented.
It’s important to understand that the word, “theory” has changed somewhat in the last three hundred years. Now a hypothesis must be effectively proven before it can be elevated to the level of theory, which is the highest level of confidence science can have. While nothing in science is ever technically proven in the positive sense, except in mathematics, modern scientific theories do have to have already withstood a considerable battery of tests for so long or held up so well, and they must have such explanative power that it would be perverse to imagine that any single anomaly could ever prove them wrong anymore.
Under the new understanding, none of the theories that were debunked centuries ago would ever qualify as theories now. The bar has risen too high for that anymore. Yes, that means that evolution is effectively proven, and it has been declared a fact by the National Academy of Science. Every modern theory is also a fact, the germ theory of disease, the theory of oxygen, gravity and relativity, cell theory, all of them. However no one has ever proposed any theory of time travel.
10. Atheists believe it’s stupid to believe a man rose up 3 days later from death. Yet they seem perfectly fine with life coming from non-life which is essentially dead. The Atheist worldview states life came into existence from nonexistence. Fools can’t see miracles even as they sit under their nose.
Life from non-life is NOT from “essentially dead”. Nor is it “non-existence”. Nor is it in any sense miraculous. It’s just a matter of complex chemistry, but it is also an overlapping array of successive processes, and we’ve worked out most of the kinks in that now. The best way I could explain this to Brett Keane or any other creationist is with a video lesson designed to teach 7th graders.
If creationists still can’t understand this, then I may have to make another video simple enough for pre-schoolers.
11. Atheists will claim that a talking walking snake in a garden is retarded and delusional. Yet they claim they evolved from fish that grew legs and billions of years later started writing books and hosting tv shows.
This is not even a question. This is a straw-man plus another logical fallacy called reductio ad absurdum, trying to discredit the argument by misrepresenting it as something absurd. We did evolve from “fish”, and that’s why we’re still chordates now. But that was 300 million years ago, not billions of years, and I can explain all the incremental developments along the way that Keane eliminated or ignored in his reduction to absurdity.
If Brett Keane would like me to prove this point even to his satisfaction using Phylogenetics, I’d be happy to oblige. But I find that creationists are terrified of the Phylogeny Challenge, because they know they’re only pretending, and they’re afraid to understand what they don’t want to believe.
12. Ask them if they’re aware that Darwin believed in God and was convinced the Creator designed Evolution.
Brett Keane is obviously unaware that Darwin eventually described himself as an agnostic in the sense that Thomas Huxley meant, and that Darwin believed there had never been a divine revelation.
Regardless what Darwin didn’t believe about God, I wonder if Brett Keane is aware that many of the pioneers of evolutionary theory and some of its strongest defenders still today are or were Christians. Included in that list are:
Dr. Richard G. Colling, chair of biology at a fundamentalist Christian college
Dr. Dennis O. Lamoureux, assistant professor of science and religion
Dr. Keith B. Miller, assistant professor of geology
Dr. David N. Livingstone, author of Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders
Dr. Howard J. Van Till, professor of astronomy,
Dr. David L. Wilcox, geneticist, author of God and Evolution
Prof. Larry Arnhart, author of Darwinian Natural Right
Prof. Kenneth Miller PhD, author of Finding Darwin’s God
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project
Prof. Rev. John Polkinghorne PhD, author of Quarks, Chaos and Christianity
Dr. Graeme Finlay, cell biologist and author of Human Evolution: Genes, Genealogies and Phylogenies
Prof. Donald Nield PhD, author of God Created the Heavens and the Earth
Dr. Denis Edwards, author of The God of Evolution
Dr. John Haught, author of Deeper than Darwin
Rev. Stanley Jaki PhD physicist and author of Cosmos and Creator
Rev. Robert T. Bakker PhD, Pentecostal paleontologist
I wonder if Brett Keane knows he’s just recited the very first foundational falsehood of creationism, that being “evolution = atheism”. I wrote a whole book on the Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism that he should probably read, since he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.
13. Why did nature create food sources for us and the ability to consume it?
This last bit of willful ignorance is the question begging fallacy. It presupposes that something was created. He also presupposes that it was created for an intended purpose, and that we were then granted an ability to coincide with another creation. None of which is remotely correct. Instead the most primitive organisms feed on organic residue or they make their own food. Otherwise even the simplest life-forms can feast on other microbes one way or another. How animals eventually came to ingest and digest that food came in a long sequence of compiled advances, which I explain in my video series on the Systematic Classification of Life.
Having now seen and answered all of Brett Keane’s questions, he has lost the right to dismiss anyone else as stupid. He said these questions would destroy me, and the foundation of modern biology along with me. Why? Because he doesn’t know dick about jack. He also said yesterday that I personally couldn’t answer any of these questions. But I already knew the answers to all of them! I didn’t even have to look anything up because I’ve already given lectures on most of these!
What level of Dunning-Kruger derpitude does one have to reach to never even consider that if he doesn’t know something he’s never studied, that maybe the best educated minds of the modern age with advanced degrees and expertise might know more than he obviously doesn’t?