Category Archives: Science

A review of the evolutionary claims in the Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet trend was kicked off with the publication of a book by Dr. Cordain published in 2002. Since then it’s popularity has increased steadily. Dr. Cordain believes that by eating as he believes our ancestors ate you can lose weight, and cure many diseases. Despite Dr. Cordain’s claims of expertise on Paleolithic diet, heath, and nutrition the majority of his claims are suspicious at best. The majority of the book relies on the appeal to nature fallacy whereby Dr. Cordain repeatedly claims that the only natural and safe diet for humans is the way our hominid ancestors allegedly ate. In order to understand the problem with many of Dr. Cordain’s statements you must first understand human evolution.

The Paleolithic period, which means Old Stone Age began approximately 2.5 million years ago when hominids began making stone tools. It ended approximately 10,000 years ago when the Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, began with the advent of agriculture in the archaeological record. The Paleolithic period can be further broken into the Lower Paleolithic period that lasted from 2.5 mya (million years ago) to approximately 200,000 ya (years ago).  For much of the Lower Paleolithic period stone technology was quite simple, and did not change much despite significant changes in hominid species and their brain capacity. Approximately 200,000 ya the Upper Paleolithic began when our species, Homo sapiens, evolved. Now this distinction is not merely human ego, but is based on the more advanced stone technology that humans displayed compared to other hominid species.

During the Paleolithic hominids learned to control fire, and it is thought that the first signs of human culture date back to the Paleolithic. Archaeological sites from this time are very rare. Any hominid remains from this time consist solely of fossilized skeletons that are fragmentary and often quite degraded.The archaeological evidence suggests that Homo erectus was the first species to be able to control fire, and therefore to begin cooking food. This is a very important factor in human evolution. It has long been known that eating meat was important to human evolution, particularly in allowing our brains to grow to unprecedented size and complexity compared to our body size.

Our hominid ancestors most likely started out as scavengers before learning to hunt animals for food. However there is another aspect of meat eating whose importance is often under estimated, and that is the ability to cook the meat and other foods so that the nutrients are more easily absorbed. As cooking developed we see morphological changes such as decreased molar and mandible size as large jaws and teeth were no longer necessary to process tough food.

It is undeniable that humans evolved by eating an omnivorous and very adaptable diet. The evidence for this is written all over our bodies if you know how to read it. Perhaps the most easily identified evidence of our omnivorous origins lies in our teeth. We have teeth that are designed for chewing plant matter as well as consuming meat. As tooth morphology is almost completely controlled by genetic rather than environmental factors it is very slow to change and an excellent source of information about human evolution.

The consumption of meat was undeniably a very important nutritional source for hominids, however Dr. Cordain is incorrect in overstating how frequently hominids and early humans ate meat. Archaeological evidence suggests that most hominid species and archaic Homo sapiens were primarily vegetarian with meat being an occasional dietary supplement when available. This is supported by studies of modern hunter-gatherer populations.

Now it is important to understand that direct comparisons between modern hunter-gatherer populations and prehistoric populations are not possible. The environment has changed dramatically since the Paleolithic, even since the Mesolithic the environment has undergone rapid change. This means that the environments that modern hunter-gatherers live in is not necessarily similar to the environment that prehistoric populations lived in. Additionally modern hunter-gatherer populations have been pushed to areas that are not conducive to agriculture, while prehistoric populations would have lived in all environments. Yet that direct comparison is something Dr. Cordain attempts to do on several occasions.

Studies of modern hunter-gatherer populations are useful, but it is very important to remember that there is no single dietary pattern than hunter-gatherer’s utilize. They are known to be very flexible in their food sources. Modern population’s diets range from extremes such as the Inuit whose diet is predominantly meat based, to the predominantly vegetarian !Kung. Some hunter-gatherer populations are also well known to consume large quantities of starchy vegetables that according to the Paleo diet they should not be consuming.

Dr. Cordain states that during the Paleolithic humans had a longer life span, did not suffer from tooth decay, did not have “modern” diseases and were taller than in the Mesolithic and later periods. In order to examine these claims you need to understand a little bit about biological anthropology, which is the study of human and hominid skeletal remains. It is generally accepted that only a very small proportion of diseases leave a mark on the skeleton, and very few of these are specific enough to diagnose. As the majority of our bodies are made of soft tissue, therefore the majority of our illnesses are found in the soft tissue. Due to how long it has been since the Paleolithic no soft tissue has ever been found from this time. That means the only way to assess health is through the skeletons. Now we can determine their estimated height, age, and the sex of adults if the skeletal remains are complete enough, but this becomes more difficult to accurately assess as the remains become more fragmentary. As there is no soft tissue we cannot determine if the individual had diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, nor can we tell if they were obese as there is no consensus on how to identify obesity in the skeletal record at this time. We can look at indicators of health and nutrition called non-specific stress indicators, such as bone porosity or interruptions of dental enamel formation in childhood.

Linear Enamel Hypoplasia, an enamel defect that can be caused by malnutrition or disease in childhood. Source: The Museum of London

The average stature of a population has cycled many times throughout history. Our adult height is affected by a combination of factors including genetics, nutrition and health. In some populations stature and general health did decrease after the advent of agriculture, but to associate that strictly with nutrition would be incorrect. With the advent of agriculture we suddenly had large populations living in the same place for extended periods of time, and there was not exactly good hygiene or sanitation. The communicable disease load increased dramatically as populations grew. In some areas malnutrition also increased, but this trend is not universal. There is a pattern of negative affects on health in the archaeological record as agriculture was adopted. However not all populations that transitioned from being a hunter-gatherer society to agricultural society  experienced this decline. In particular it does not appear to be associated with societies that began depending on wet-rice agriculture. The decline in health is particularly noticeable in societies that depended on maize as their main crop.

Life span is another factor that is harder to determine. Once an individual reaches adulthood it becomes more difficult and less accurate to determine their age at death based on the skeleton. It is not impossible, but the age frames become wider than with children that can be accurately aged based on tooth eruption patterns and bone growth. The average life span of a population is difficult to estimate. In the past there were high rates of child and infant mortality. We do not know how high these rates were in the Paleolithic as the bones of children are more delicate than the bones of adults and do not preserve as well. We do know that if one survived into adult hood the next biggest threats to their lives were infection from injury, and for women childbirth. This is one of the reasons that in the archaeological record we see more men surviving into old age than women. These death patterns also skew the population’s average age at death downward. The fact is  the archaeological record shows that the average age of death for humans and hominids in any period was far shorter than it is today. While some individuals did survive into old age, even during the Paleolithic the average lifespan of an individual was what we would not consider not quite middle age.

The archaeological record does not support the claim that hominids and humans prior to agriculture did not have tooth decay, or caries. Neanderthals lived during only during the Paleolithic with the last Neanderthals dying out on Gibraltar approximately 28,000 ya. The skeletal remains of Neanderthals and other hominid species show signs of periodontal disease, and caries. While we do not know the rate at which caries and dental disase were present in the Paleolithic, we do have evidence that it was at lower rates than in societies that practice agriculture. In this Dr. Cordain is correct that agriculture had a negative impact on our health.

Dr. Cordain repeatedly claims that the so-called modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases did not exist prior to agriculture. The evidence does not support this either. The oldest known case of cancer in hominids is a 1.7 mya osteosarcoma found in the metatarsal from an unknown hominid species. Cancer is found across species, therefore it is likely that cancers in hominids are older than this, but we do not have evidence to conclusively state this.

We do not know when the first case of heart disease, diabetes or autoimmune disease occurred based on skeletal material and that is where we must start looking at genes. After death the DNA in the body degrades until it is impossible to be extracted for analysis. At this time it is only possible to extract DNA in skeletal remains up to 30,000 ya, therefore Neanderthals are the only reliable source of non-human hominid DNA. The Neanderthal genome was sequenced several years ago and has provided a wealth of information. We now know that they had the genes for some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and Crohn’s disease. They also had genes that indicate a predisposition to several diseases that are considered modern diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, heart disease, and depression. This is contradicts Dr. Cordain’s claim that eating his version of a Paleolithic diet will cure or prevent these diseases as they are complex disease that include both genetic and environmental factors.

In 1991 one of the oldest mummified human remains were found in the Ötzal Alps. Ötzi, as he is known, dates back to the Neolithic (New Stone Age) approximately 5,300 ya. Ötzi was found in a glacier, which preserved his body remarkably well. Analyses of his genes show a predisposition to heart disease, and the presence of the world’s oldest case of Lyme disease. A CT scan confirmed the diagnosis of atherosclerosis. Now agriculture was present in the Neolithic and in fact Ötzi’s last meal did contain some unleavened bread however; studies of remains including those from hunter-gatherer societies suggest that atherosclerosis was prevalent in antiquity contrary to Dr. Cordain’s claims that it is only caused by agriculture.

A reconstruction of what Ötzi would looked like at the time of his death. Source: The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

The Paleo Diet does have some good points about choosing lean meats over fatty meats, reducing salt and sugar consumption,  and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. These are all recommendations routinely made by dietitians. However it also states that all grains, legumes and dairy should be avoided. Dr. Cordain repeatedly claims that our hominid ancestors did not eat grains or dairy, and therefore we should not either. The argument against legumes is never explicitly stated, except for his statement that they contain lectins that aggravate autoimmune diseases. There does not appear to be a scientific consensus on this point at this time. Some research implicates lectins in some autoimmune diseases, but there is no clear evidence for the method by which this may occur. Also legumes contain protease inhibitors that have anti-inflammatory properties after cooking. Furthermore there is evidence of Paleolithic peoples consuming legumes and processing grains long before they began growing them.

Grains, legumes and dairy can all be excellent sources of nutrition. The agricultural revolution that occurred approximately 10,000 ya in multiple locations around the world dramatically changed human history. Humans were no longer nomadic hunter-gatherers. As agriculture spread some populations settled in location permanently and their population size exploded.

The process of domestication of plant and animal species was not as fast as Dr. Cordain implies. In order to domesticate a plant or animal species it’s entire life cycle, and especially it’s reproductive cycle needs to be well understood. The process of domestication takes generations. Not every attempt at domestication was successful either. In order to domesticate a plant or animal species it had to be very familiar and useful to the population, which means they had to eat or use it regularly. The species of fruits and vegetables available today have changed dramatically from the species that would have been available in the Paleolithic due to selective breeding for thousands of years.

The argument against dairy is one of the more illogical arguments in the Paleo Diet. Dr. Cordain once again commits the appeal to nature fallacy and argues that we have not had enough time to evolve to eat dairy. This is patently untrue for individuals who are lactose tolerant. Lactose intolerance is indeed the” natural” human state, however approximately 7,500 ya in Europe a single allele mutation allowing for lactase persistence emerged. This adaptation allowed adults to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk. Due to positive evolutionary pressure these genes became fixed in the populations very quickly. Today the rates of lactase persistence vary in Europe from as low as 15-54% of the population in eastern and southern Europe, to 62-86% in central and western Europe, to a high of 89-96% in the British Isles and Scandinavia. While lactase persistence has been most intensively studied in Europe, it is also found in other populations around the world including populations in Africa and India. Lactase persistence is found societies that were historically pastoral, that is they herded cattle. Perhaps more interesting is that there are multiple derived alleles allowing for lactase persistence that evolved independently.

One further claim Dr. Cordain makes regarding dairy is the body does properly not absorb the calcium in diary products and that eating too much dairy can increase osteoporosis risk. This has been hypothesized but further studies have found no evidence to support this conclusion. Dr. Cordain makes this claim as part of his discussion of the need to keep the diet more alkaline than acidic. This brings in elements of the alkaline dietary trends, which are also unsubstantiated by current research available. Furthermore idea of balancing acidic and alkaline foods suggested by Dr. Cordain is not actually upheld in studies of hunter-gatherer societies.

The Paleo Diet makes repeated claims that eating the way Dr. Cordain believes our ancestors did will cure diseases that he believes are caused by eating “unnatural” foods such as grains, legumes and dairy. These claims are not supported by the archaeological record, which shows no single Paleolithic diet or dietary pattern, and as previously discussed is not supported by the study of ancient remains. Specifically Dr. Cordain believes that heart disease, autoimmune diseases and even skin cancer can be prevented by eating his diet despite there being no evidence to support this. The book also relies heavily on anecdotes provided by people who claim the diet has cured them along with a brief explanation about how this allegedly works that does not actually provide any scientific information in the second half of the book. Any time personal anecdotes are being provided instead of scientific evidence it should be a red flag to begin to look more deeply into the claims.

Sources

Adler, J. (2013, June). Why Fire Makes Us Human. Retrieved from Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-fire-makes-us-human-72989884/

Barras, C. (2016, December). Ancient leftovers show the real Paleo diet was a veggie feast. Retrieved from New Scientist: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2115127-ancient-leftovers-show-the-real-paleo-diet-was-a-veggie-feast/

Bradt, S. (2009, June 1). Invention of cooking drove evolution of the human species, new book argues. Retrieved from Harvard Gazette: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/06/invention-of-cooking-drove-evolution-of-the-human-species-new-book-argues/

Coolidge, F. L., & Wynn, T. (2013, November 22). The Truth about the Caveman Diet: Faulty premises behind hte paleo diet. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-think-neandertal/201311/the-truth-about-the-caveman-diet

Cordain, L. (2002). The Paleo Diet: lose weight and get healthy by eating the food you were designed to eat. New York, NY, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Dunn, R. (2012, July 23). Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegatarian. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/

Freed, D. L. (1999). Do Dietary Lectins cause disease? . BMJ , 318.

Gerbault, P., Liebert, A., Powell, A., Currat, M., Burger, J., Swallo, D. M., et al. (2011). Evolution of lactase persistence: an example of human nice construction. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci , 366 (1566), 863-877.

Grine, F., Gwinnett, A., & Oaks, J. (1990). Early hominid dental pathology: Interproximal caries in 1.5 million-year-old Paranthropus robustus from Swartkrans. Archives of Oral Biology , 35 (5), 381-386.

Itan, Y., Powell, A., Beaumont, M. A., Burger, J., & Thomas, M. G. (2009). The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe. PLOS Computational Biology , 5 (8).

Larsen, C. S. (2015). Bioarchaeology: Interpretting Behavior from the Human Skeleton. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Leech, J. (2017, June 9). Authority Nutrtion. Retrieved from The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence Based Review: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-alkaline-diet-myth#section1

Lewis, D. (2016, January 8). Thank Neanderthals for Your Immune System. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/thank-neanderthals-your-immune-system-180957761/

Lozano, M., Subria, M. E., Aparicio, J., Lorenzo, C., & Gomez-Merino, G. (2013, October 16). Toothpicking and Periodontal Disease in a Neandertal Specimen from Cova Forada Site (Valencia, Spain). Retrieved from PLOS one: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076852

Neanderthals’ genetic legacy: Humans inherited variants affecting disease risk, infertility, skin and hair charactheristics. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129134956.htm

Richards, M. (2002). A brief review of the archaeological evidence for Palaeolithich and Neolithic subsistence. European Journal of Clinical Nutration , 56.

Schwalfenberg, G. K. (2012, Oct). The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? J Envron Public Health .

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (n.d.). Introduction to Human Evolution. Retrieved from http://humanorigins.si.edu/education/introduction-human-evolution

St. Pierre, B. (n.d.). The Paleo problem: Examining the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet. Retrieved from Precision Nutrition: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/paleo-diet

St. Pierre, B. (n.d.). The Paleo Problem: Examining the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet. Retrieved from Precision Nutrtion: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/paleo-diet

Weyrich, L. S., Duchene, S., Sourbrier, J., Arriola, L., Bastien, L., Breen, J., et al. (2017). Neanderthal behavior, diet and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus. Nature , 544, 357-361.

 

The Illuminator Comic: Bob the believer!

I created this character called Bob the Believer (Believer Bob),  the quintessential religious, Bible thumping, fundamentalist  whack job.
Believer Bob tries unsuccessfully to stump Triangle Head every time.  You’ll notice that Bob totally rejects every scientific theory and favors Creationism at every turn. Cognitive Dissonance!
Enjoy! 🙂

Also on Instagram @the_illuminator_comic
http://www.theilluminatorcomic.com

What is The Illuminator Comic?
“The Illuminator”, is a character driven comic strip by Chris Pinto, that turns Religion, Politics and Conspiracy theory on it’s head.
The Protagonist, Triangle-head is an evil dude, with a soft heart. He is a member of the Illuminati. Join him on a quest to keep things real, while raising his three year old son Baltar, to someday lead the New World Order.
~ by Chris Pinto

A Beginner’s Guide to David Avocado Wolfe

https://www.facebook.com/SkridjetPersonal/videos/1347400945289579/

 

I put this video together because I don’t think enough people truly understand who and what David Avocado Wolfe is. He has somehow amassed over 7,000,000 Facebook followers, and I’m sure many of those followers aren’t aware that they’re essentially supporting dangerous ideas that border lunacy. Some may argue that he’s just a guy who has strange beliefs and we should leave him alone, but the ideas he pushes become hazardous and have real-world consequences when he starts giving ‘medical advice’ to people who are suffering from diseases that require real medical treatment.

Daniel Bennett of AAPN has also written a great article that completely dismantles David’s claims on salt.

#DontCryWolfe

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Here is a great explanation on the David Avocado Wolfe phenomenon.

Here is another great article on David Wolfe.

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Video clips taken from:

JonasSunshine

Chris Rathouz

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Music: CFCF – Oil

Debunking Summary of Scientific Evidence for Creation (Part I & II) Duane Gish, Ph.D.

Debunking Gish
Prof Duane Gish

Originally published at www.answers-in-reason.com Jan 2016

I do dislike sharing links from such sites as www.icr.org and www.answersingenesis.org but for the purposes of this, and the debunking other articles, it is unfortunately unavoidable. The article I would like to address in this article is http://www.icr.org/article/summary-scientific-evidence-for-creation/

I guess firstly I should introduce you to Duane Tolbert Gish, Ph.D.

For a person with a Ph.D, I would expect better, but when a person will turn his back on the scientific method and make claims he cannot support while putting forward arguments in debate and citing it as scientific then we have a problem. He has a worldview which he promotes and will stoop to new levels to try to this worldview in with science. We have all heard of the Gish Gallop technique of bombarding your debating opponent with far too much information to debunk thereby swamping them with too many rebuttals to present, often the information are half truths, if they even make it to being a truth at all. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, named after our friend Prof Gish. It seems Duane knew his comments would not stand up to scrutiny so he would make a comment and not dwell on it.

Gish is well known in debating circles for several huge gaffs:

  • Claiming there are no fossil precursors to the dinosaur Triceratops (despite obvious precursors such as Protoceratops being well-known since the 1920s). Gish made other similarly incorrect statements about the fossil record, including claims about transitional forms, the fossil record for birds and the status of Archaeopteryx.[5][6]
  • Claiming that Solly Zuckerman had access to modernknowledge of Australopithecus yet still stated they were not ancestors of Homo sapiens — Zuckerman’s original conclusions were based on evidence available before the Lucy fossil was discovered, revolutionising the field of physical anthropology.
  • Claiming that Neanderthals were modern humans, “fully human Homo sapiens just like you and me,” which is false given the morphological difference between modern humans and Neanderthals. (Well, the “homo sapiens” part is false; Neanderthals were fully human, just not the same species of human as us)
  • Claiming that evolution by natural selection is rendered impossible by the second law of thermodynamics.
  • Claiming that the dinosaur Parasaurolophus used its distinctive crest as a mixing chamber for breathing fire.

Source: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Duane_Gish

Another one worth mentioning is his “Bullfrog Affair”.

The Bullfrog Affair itself starts with the KPBS production, “Creation vs Evolution:  Battle in the Classroom”, which aired 7 July 1982.  After Dr. Doolittle related his story of the chimpanzee blood proteins, Dr.Duane Gish responded:  “If we look at certain proteins, yes man then, it can be assumed that man is more closely related to a chimpanzee than other things.  But, on the other hand, if you look at certain proteins, you will find that man is more closely related to a bullfrog than he is to a chimpanzee.  If you focus your attention on other proteins, you’ll find that man is more closely related to a chicken than he is to a  chimpanzee.”  This was immediately followed by Dr. Doolittle’s response, “Oh bullfrog!I’ve heard that gibberish before, I have to tell you.” This was the first recorded use of “Bullfrog” that I am aware of.  Then Doolittle indicated abook full of amino acid sequences from thousands of proteins taken from many hundreds of species and offered Gish all his worldly belongings, a ’63VW and half a house, if Gish could find just one protein in chickens or bullfrogs that is more closely related to human proteins than chimpanzee proteins.     Robert Schadewald, then Minnesota Committee of Correspondence liaison andpresently editor of _NCSE Reports_ (formerly _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_)watched that show.  Since Gish’s claim sounded like nonsense, he checked it outwith a few biochemists, who had never heard of such proteins.  So Schadewald started a three-year-long quest for Gish’s source. Doolittle responded to Schadewald’s letter with extensive documentation for his statements about human and chimpanzee proteins.  Requests for Gish to dolikewise were met with evasion, obfuscation, and silence.

As far as I know Gish did not respond to requests before his death other than saying he will present relevant documentation to support his claim, but such documentation has never actually surfaced.

Source: http://cre-ev.dwise1.net/bullfrog.html

Poisoning the well, ad hominem I hear you cry but in all honesty merely alerting the good readers as to the lengths this guy will go to in order further the creationist cause.

Let us now dive in to Gish’s Summary of Scientific Evidence for Creation(SOSEFC).

“The creation model is at least as scientific as the evolution model, and is at least as nonreligious as the evolution model.”  Duane Gish

The problem with this is they start with a premise that there is a creator deity. They then take known scientific facts such as the sudden expansion of our universe and try to work backwards using retrodictive techniques to align this with scripture. This is not science. This is the opposite of science and a technique I have seen employed by Islamic charlatans like Zakir Naik. A vile practice.

To compare that with an actual scientific theory, which has been worked on for 150 years and which has been added to and finally supported by the quite recent science of gene mapping. That is DNA evidence, the same type of evidence used to show familial ties in court rooms globally now shows familial ties between us and our fellow primates. The fossil record ties in nicely and supports predictions made by the modern model of evolution.

Gish goes on to say, “The scientific model of creation, in summary, includes the scientific evidence for a sudden creation of complex and diversified kinds of life, with systematic gaps persisting between different kinds and with genetic variation occurring within each kind since that time. “

Kinds? I fail to find anywhere in my biology textbooks the mentions of kinds. Phylogeny and taxonomy may still be debated topics in the real science world but to mention the biblical kinds makes a mockery of biology.

“The creation model questions vertical evolution, which is the emergence of complex from simple and change between kinds, but it does not challenge what is often called horizontal evolution or microevolution, which creationists call genetic variation or species or subspecies formation within created kinds.“

From this I see deflection from the creation “theory” and an attempt to discredit the theory of evolution. They are agreeing with parts of the theory they cannot argue against, admitting evolution happens but then try to employ the micro and macro argument. The problem is that macro evolution is supported by the fossil record. Creationists in my experience tend to gloss over the fossil record and completely ignore the various dating methods which work independently of each other and support each other

We can also explain vertical evolution and the adding of information in DNA, gene duplication explains this perfectly.

Back to the claims of Gish:

The Universe and the Solar System Were Suddenly Created.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that the total quantity of matter and energy in the universe is constant. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy always tend to change from complex and ordered states to disordered states. Therefore the universe could not have created itself, but could not have existed forever, or it would have run down long ago. Thus the universe, including matter and energy, apparently must have been created. The “big-bang” theory of the origin of the universe contradicts much physical evidence and seemingly can only be accepted by faith.1 This was also the case with the past cosmogonies theories of evolutionists that have been discarded, such as Hoyle’s steady-state theory. The universe has “obvious manifestations of an ordered, structured plan or design.” Similarly, the electron is materially inconceivable and yet it is so perfectly known through its effects,” yet a “strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electrons as real while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer.” “The inconceivability of some ultimate issue (which will always lie outside scientific resolution) should not be allowed to rule out any theory that explains the interrelationship of observed data and is useful for prediction,” in the words of Dr. Wernher von Braun, the renowned late physicist in the NASA space program.

Ahhhh, the beautiful Physics, much more my preferred flavour of science.  I am not sure when this was first presented by Gish but recently Prof. Mir Faisal of the University of Toronto showed using Inflation Theory and Double Special Relativity how the universe could have come from the spontaneous appearance of a single virtual particle. Mir Faisal is a creationist but an honest one.

Also the laws of physics only come in to play a Planck unit of time after the sudden expansion. The laws of thermodynamics cannot be quoted and meaningfully to pre-big bang to say it could not have happened. No rules means anything goes. We observe the spontaneous appearance of virtual particles in a vacuum with no apparent creator involved so Gish is very much falling foul of presupposition of a deity without reason to assume one. As far as we can tell one is simply not needed. At the time of writing this was also most likely an argument from personal ignorance.

As for the big bang being faith based, if it were not for the cosmic background radiation, our universe expanding from a single point in all directions and red shift then this may be true, however we do have those facts so it is silly to claim no physical evidence. I can only call it a lie, relying on the gullible to just accept his claim.

He goes on to mention the apparent order in the universe. We can look firstly to Douglas Adams Puddle analogy to refute this claim;

“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

And again Gish relies on presupposition of a creator without actually showing one to exist. Simply fallacious. Now you can quote fallacy fallacy however we can show no deity needed so in this instance pointing out the fallacious nature of his argument which he needs to do to support his worldview is perfectly justified.

He is correct however that the universe is at a pretty perfect level in every way for it to exist as it is…. Think about it for a second, if it was not at the balanced state it is what would there be, either no universe because it could not sustain itself or the universe would simply be different. But it is not different and it does exist, that just shows it is how it is and doesn’t collapse on itself. It does not mean it MUST have a designer.

Life Was Suddenly Created.

Life appears abruptly and in complex forms in the fossil record,2 and gaps appear systematically in the fossil record between various living kinds.3 These facts indicate that basic kinds of plants and animals were created. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that things tend to go from order to disorder (entropy tends to increase) unless added energy is directed by a conversion mechanism (such as photosynthesis), whether a system is open or closed. Thus simple molecules and complex protein, DNA, and RNA molecules seemingly could not have evolved spontaneously and naturalistically into a living cell;4 such cells apparently were created. The laboratory experiments related to theories on the origin of life have not even remotely approached the synthesis of life from nonlife, and the extremely limited results have depended on laboratory conditions that are artificially imposed and extremely improbable.5 The extreme improbability of these conditions and the relatively insignificant results apparently show that life did not emerge by the process that evolutionists postulate.

How does fossilisation occur?

When animals, plants and other organisms die, they typically decay completely. But sometimes, when the conditions are just right, they’re preserved as fossils. Several different physical and chemical processes create fossils, according to the New York State Geological Survey.

Freezing, drying and encasement, such as in tar or resin, can create whole-body fossils that preserve bodily tissues. These fossils represent the organisms as they were when living, but these types of fossils are very rare.

Most organisms become fossils when they’re changed through various other means.

The heat and pressure from being buried in sediment can sometimes cause the tissues of organisms — including plant leaves and the soft body parts of fish, reptiles and marine invertebrates — to release hydrogen and oxygen, leaving behind a residue of carbon.

This process — which is called carbonization, or distillation — yields a detailed carbon impression of the dead organism in sedimentary rock.

The most common method of fossilization is called permineralization, or petrification. After an organism’s soft tissues decay in sediment, the hard parts — particularly the bones — are left behind.

Source: http://www.livescience.com/37781-how-do-fossils-form-rocks.html

Considering this we are lucky to have the thousands of fossils which we have now. It is not a simple process. What we do have are transitional fossils. Now I would argue that each new generation born is a transitional form from the last but it is very difficult to see the tiny changes. In  fig 1 below you can however see transitional skull fossils showing the transition of a forward breathing nostril to a mid skull breather to finally the recognisable nostril of the modern dolphin and whale.

Debunking Gish

fig 1

I see another argument from ignorance with regards to RNA and DNA and complex proteins not being able to evolve, He is not wrong because that is not the claim of science. Prof Jack Szostak winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Med, Prof of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at same, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Alex. A. Rich Distinguished Investigator, and member of Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital would show how life could begin.

Oh an appeal to authority booms from the voice boxes of the theist throng – Well yes it is and for good reason. He is just that. And my appealing to his authority does not refute nor debunk his work on abiogenesis. I would love for you to give over 9 minutes of your time to watch this simple video from the Origins collection, The Origin of Life.

Other Molecular biologists speak out here

And probably the biggest breakthrough to date, self replicating RNA forms in lab which is recreating old earth environment . I can only guess these experiments were not carried out by the time of Gish’s publishing this pamphlet.

Also he calls molecular biologists “Evolutionists”. How uncouth, pandering to an audience and trying to cast dispersions through a fabricated title.

All Present Living Kinds of Animals and Plants Have Remained Fixed Since Creation, Other than Extinctions, and Genetic Variation in Originally Created Kinds Has Only Occurred within Narrow Limits.

Systematic gaps occur between kinds in the fossil record. None of the intermediate fossils that would be expected on the basis of the evolution model have been found between single celled organisms and invertebrates, between invertebrates and vertebrates, between fish and amphibians, between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and birds or mammals, or between “lower” mammals and primates. While evolutionists might assume that these intermediate forms existed at one time, none of the hundreds of millions of fossils found so far provide the missing links. The few suggested links such as Archoeopteryx and the horse series have been rendered questionable by more detailed data. Fossils and living organisms are readily subjected to the same criteria of classification. Thus present kinds of animals and plants apparently were created, as shown by the systematic fossil gaps and by the similarity of fossil forms to living forms. A kind may be defined as a generally interfertile group of organisms that possesses variant genes for a common set of traits but that does not interbreed with other groups of organisms under normal circumstances. Any evolutionary change between kinds (necessary for the emergence of complex from simple organisms) would require addition of entirely new traits to the common set and enormous expansion of the gene pool over time, and could not occur from mere ecologically adaptive variations of a given trait set (which the creation model recognizes).

Nope!!

Speciation experiments have shown this is just not true in real time experiments.

Gaps in the fossil record are to be expected but to say there are no transitional fossils between the types mentioned is the biggest lie so far. Here is a list to peruse.

// The few suggested links such as Archoeopteryx and the horse series have been rendered questionable by more detailed data.// Citation needed please good professor!!

Stating gaps means a sudden creation is weak to say the least, there are gaps yes but this was explained earlier in this article. Because of the process involved we are lucky to have the evidence in the fossil record which we have.

In the Fruit fly speciation link I provided we can see new information was acquired and later generation of fruit fly grew 2 extra sets of wings

Mutation and Natural Selection Are Insufficient To Have Brought About Any Emergence of Present Living Kinds from a Simple Primordial Organism.

The mathematical probability that random mutation and natural selection ultimately produced complex living kinds from a simpler kind is infinitesimally small even after many billions of years. Thus mutation and natural selection apparently could not have brought about evolution of present living kinds from a simple first organism. Mutations are always harmful or at least nearly always harmful in an organism’s natural environment.9 Thus the mutation process apparently could not have provided the postulated millions of beneficial mutations required for progressive evolution in the supposed five billion years from the origin of the earth until now, and in fact would have produced an overwhelming genetic load over hundreds of millions of years that would have caused degeneration and extinction. Natural selection is a tautologous concept (circular reasoning), because it simply requires the fittest organisms to leave the most offspring and at the same time it identifies the fittest organisms as those that leave the most offspring. Thus natural selection seemingly does not provide a testable explanation of how mutations would produce more fit organisms.

Here we have a misrepresentation of probabilities. It may have been unlikely but not impossible.

As for survival of the fittest, another strawman. It need not be the fittest but the best adapted.

Man and Apes Have a Separate Ancestry.

Although highly imaginative “transitional forms” between man and ape-like creatures have been constructed by evolutionists based on very fragmentary evidence, the fossil record actually documents the separate origin of primates in general, monkeys, apes, and men. In fact, Lord Zuckerman (not a creationist) states that there are no “fossil traces” of a transformation from an ape-like creature to man. The fossils of Neanderthal Man were once considered to represent a primitive sub-human (Homo neanderthalensis), but these “primitive” features are now known to have resulted from nutritional deficiencies and pathological conditions; he is now classified as fully human.15 Ramapithecus was once considered to be partially man-like, but is now known to be fully ape-like.16 Australopithecus, in the view of some leading evolutionists, was not intermediate between ape and man and did not walk upright. The strong bias of many evolutionists in seeking a link between apes and man is shown by the near-universal acceptance of two “missing links” that were later proved to be a fraud in the case of Piltdown Man (Eoanthropus) and a pig’s tooth in the case of Nebraska Man (Hesperopithecus).

Yes there have been some hoaxes, but who was it that discovered the hoaxes, the very “evolutionists” Gish tries to discredit. Corrections were made and the truth shown. 1 or 2 hoaxes do not mean all human ancestry fossils are hoaxes. Dishonest to make out they are. Each one must be taken and assessed on its own merits. That is science Prof Gish

I would also point you back once again to the fused chromosome peer review I posted earlier which proves ape ancestry and familial ties between homo sapien  and other primates

The Earth’s Geologic Features Were Fashioned Largely by Rapid, Catastrophic Processes that Affected the Earth on a Global and Regional Scale (Catastrophism).

Catastrophic events have characterized the earth’s history. Huge floods, massive asteroid collisions, large volcanic eruptions, devastating landslides, and intense earthquakes have left their marks on the earth. Catastrophic events appear to explain the formation of mountain ranges, deposition of thick sequences of sedimentary rocks with fossils, initiation of the glacial age, and extinction of dinosaurs and other animals. Catastrophism (catastrophic changes), rather than uniformitarianism (gradual changes), appears to be the best interpretation of a major portion of the earth’s geology. Geologic data reflect catastrophic flooding. Evidences of rapid catastrophic water deposition include fossilized tree trunks that penetrate numerous sedimentary layers (such as at Joggins, Nova Scotia), widespread pebble and boulder layers (such as the Shinarump Conglomerate of the southwestern United States), fossilized logs in a single layer covering extensive areas (such as Petrified Forest National Park), and whole closed clams that were buried alive in mass graveyards in extensive sedimentary layers (such as at Glen Rose, Texas). Uniform processes such as normal river sedimentation, small volcanoes, slow erosion, and small earthquakes appear insufficient to explain large portions of the geologic record. Even the conventional uniformitarian geologists are beginning to yield to evidences of rapid and catastrophic processes.1

Again a misrepresentation. The palates of the earth shift which causes changes on the surface, hance why mountains grow a matter of inches in 1 year. For sure catastrophic events have an impact on physical features of the planet but Gish makes out that these are the only events which shape our planet. For sure in some areas such as Joggins, Nova Scotia there were floods but that does not prove a global flood. It just show that yes there were floods in Joggins.

The Inception of the Earth and of Living Kinds May Have Been Relatively Recent.

Radiometric dating methods (such as the uranium-lead and potassium-argon methods) depend on three assumptions: (a) that no decay product (lead or argon) was present initially or that the initial quantities can be accurately estimated, (b) that the decay system was closed through the years (so that radioactive material or product did not move in or out of the rock), and (c) that the decay rate was constant over time.20Each of these assumptions may be questionable: (a) some nonradiogenic lead or argon was perhaps present initially;21 (b) the radioactive isotope (uranium or potassium isotopes) can perhaps migrate out of, and the decay product (lead or argon) can migrate into, many rocks over the years;22 and (c) the decay rate can perhaps change by neutrino bombardment and other causes.23 Numerous radiometric estimates have been hundreds of millions of years in excess of the true age. Thus ages estimated by the radiometric dating methods may very well be grossly in error. Alternate dating methods suggest much younger ages for the earth and life. Estimating by the rate of addition of helium to the atmosphere from radioactive decay, the age of the earth appears to be about 10,000 years, even allowing for moderate helium escape. Based on the present rate of the earth’s cooling, the time required for the earth to have reached its present thermal structure seems to be only several tens of millions of years, even assuming that the earth was initially molten.24 Extrapolating the observed rate of apparently exponential decay of the earth’s magnetic field, the age of the earth or life seemingly could not exceed 20,000 years.25 Thus the inception of the earth and the inception of life may have been relatively recent when all the evidence is considered.

There are so many dating techniques available to science now. Many work independently of the other and when they all come to the same conclusion it is fair to say we can supply accurate dates. None of which point to a young earth theory being even close to being correct.

Gish concludes: “There is scientific evidence for creation from cosmology, thermodynamics, paleontology, biology, mathematical probability, geology, and other sciences.”
“There are many scientists in each field who conclude that the scientific data best support the creation model, not the evolution model.”

My conclusion:

Prof Gish, at no point have you actually shown a creator or designer deity. You still assume one because of your incredulity of the universe. This is simply the cart before the horse. Fallacy follows fallacy. The appearance of design can be explained and does not mean a deity MUST exist. Not by a country mile. You appeal to population argument yet 98% of American scientists say evolution happen. Clearly you are guilty of cherry picking argumentum ad populum when suits your cause. I find this most dishonest

The evidence from cosmology and various other branches of the sciences do not prove a deity. In fact science removes the hand of a god with every new breakthrough. No longer do we assign demonic possession to a person that fits and suffers seizures. No longer do we sacrifice virgins to the angry volcano god. We understand the tides and need no longer hope Neptune will not send a wave to take a ship and we know that doing a rain dance will serve no purpose.

What established and respected scientific journal has ever passed a paper or article which shows a god exists? None…

You know why????

Alan the Atheist

The Hamza Tzortiz handbrake u-turn on scientific miracles in quran

The Hamza Tzortiz handbrake u-turn on scientific miracles in quran

Originally published on www.answers-in-reason.com March 2016

 

I was more than shocked having recently read Hamza Tzortiz’s essay stating:

Regrettably, the scientific miracles narrative has become an intellectual embarrassment for Muslim apologists, including myself.

Full paper can be read by clicking here

I take my hat off to his honesty. I respect the effort he actually put into his essay in putting forth the arguments against scientific miracles in quran:

There are an array of reasons of why the above expressions of the scientific miracles are problematic and incoherent. These include,

  1. The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle

  2. Inaccurate History

  3. Teleology of the Qur’ānic Verses

  4. Scientism, the Problem of Induction and Empiricism

  5. “Unscientific” Verses

  6. Miracles, Simplicity and A Note on Qur’ānic Exegesis

I hope he has not received any negativity and especially the violent rhetoric afforded to people that speak out on such matters as this is a massive statement to make considering he was such a high profile advocate and apologist for the scientific miracles in quran since its publication in 2013.

A short bio on Tzortiz:

Hamza Andreas Tzortzis was born 21st September 1980. He is an international lecturer who has lectured in many universities including USA, Australia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Canada and Lebanon. The lecturer has authored many books and articles on his personal blog. As a debater he has debated many popular professors including Professor Lawrence Krauss, Professor Simon Blackburn, Professor Ken Gemes and Professor and Dan Barker. Hamza heads up a team called iERA,(Islamic Education and Research Academy).

As honest as Tzortiz has been, his group are still selling a publication called The Man in the Red Underpants. In this publication is stated:

Actually what is remarkable about the Quran is not only that it does not contain any contradictions , but in fact it seems to be making statements about history, theology, philosophy, law and the natural world that defies a normal human explanation..

The pamphlet goes on to talk about, inter alia, the Big Bang Theory, embryonic development and plate tectonics and concludes,

It is easy to understand how the Creator would know about the common origin of the universe, the details of embryonic development and that mountains have roots but it is not easy to explain how Muhammad managed to include the information in the Qur’an unless we accept his claim to be a Messenger. It would seem that accepting this would be the most sensible thing for a rational, sincere person to do.

In my opinion this publication needs to be revised to no longer include this. This has been for too long an argument used and still used by imam in the mosque or parent to child or proselytiser, and the bane of my life, the internet debater with no knowledge of the science they are attempting to talk about. Oh and lest we not forget Zakir “The Snake” Naik.

scientific miracles in quran

A New Approach

Ohhhh, things seemed to be going so well until Tzortiz mentions his new approach. That being:

How to articulate this in a simple way

For those concerned on how to articulate this in a simple way I suggest a simple step process:

1. When talking about Divine revelation speak about:

  • the fact that there are historical statements that are mentioned in the Qur’ān were not known at the time

  • the linguistic and literary miracle of the Qur’ān

  • the fact that Qur’ān is preserved

  • the meaning and message of the Qur’ān

  • the Qur’ān’s concept of God

  • other remarkable features of the Qur’ān

I believe the same logic applied by Tzortiz can be levelled at the historical statements which are claimed could not be known. Why stop there Hamza?

I don’t get the linguistic part. there is a part where Muhammed is asked to write a divinely inspired poem. It is rubbish. It keeps repeating the same line over and over again. This to me is the nature of the quran. Lots of filler statements regarding allah repeated over and over and over and over and over and over.

The meaning and message of quran is much like, in fact almost cargbon copy of the fire and brimstone god of the Old Testament.

His concept is straight out of OT also.

Remarkable features? Not sure what they could be. Islamic rhetoric!!

Effects of his essay

It speaks volumes that its greatest proponent will make such a statement however it seems very little positive effects because of this, apart from Tzortiz making things right publicly with the scientific community. The debates mention quran’s scientific miracles still flow. His book is still available to download with no revision. The imams still preach it from the mosques and the young minds are still fed it at home and in madrassa. The islamic world seems to either have not noticed their chief proponent has made this u-turn or choose to ignore it. Why on earth would they do that?

Is islam that weak that they can not embrace the fact that the quran contains no scientific miracles?

I wonder whether the punishment for apostasy would apply to someone that was duped into accepting islam on the back of these purported miracles and have lost faith because they are no longer to be considered miracles? Also I got no apology for those duped or misled.

All in all an effort was made but really a half assed attempt. We want an apology, we want a fatwah exempting anyone that leaves islam on the back of this revelation and we need the Red Underwear publication revised!! Until then my hat firmly replaced on my head and tipped gently to all readers….

You may wish to check out this article published on www.answers-in-reason.com a short while ago http://answers-in-reason.com/religion/islam/is-the-quran-perfect/ as well as the other great articles produced here at www.thescientificatheist.com

Wishing you all a godless and logic based March 2016

Alan The Atheist

Are GMOs Necessary? Or Can Organic & Traditional Farming Feed the World Alone?

Does the world really need GMOs? This is a question often asked by anti-GMO activists.

What’s unfortunate in the anti-GMO movement, however, is that it is often difficult to get a dialogue started on this topic purely due to the fact that there is so much misinformation surrounding genetic modification. Attempting to respond to their denialist questions and claims on GMOs oftentimes leads them to commit logical fallacies such as moving the goalposts, appealing to nature or tradition, or special pleading. To be fair though, I would expect anyone who is not well steeped in biology, chemistry, or agriculture in general, to be overwhelmed and confused just by the sheer amount of information that’s available on GM technology. And not only is there a tsunami of information available online, but the vast majority of it is either factually wrong or grossly misleading. I have even attempted to dispel some of the most common claims made by the anti-GMO movement, although I would probably be in the same boat as them if I didn’t have my skeptical background in science.

But besides the fact that GMOs have been shown to be safe for the ecosystem, as well as animal and human consumption, the question of whether or not they are necessary has taken more of an ideological standpoint. The argument has slowly shifted from “Are GMOs necessary?” to “Organic, traditional farming, and other methods can get the job done of feeding the world without the help of GMOs.” For the anti-GMO movement, the reasoning has become “why on Earth would we need transgenic GM crops if our other methods are perfectly capable of sustaining the world food supply?” (Additional source). Besides the false assumption that organic and traditional crops are ecologically and nutritionally superior to GM crops, as there is little to no evidence to support that notion, I think it’s a legitimate question. What do GMOs offer that organic and traditional farming do not? Well, let’s look into it.

Anti GMO

I first want to address right off the bat that regardless how you feel about GMOs, we have to share some middle-ground here. For instance, I think everyone would agree that eliminating or lowering food waste would be hugely beneficial to a truly sustainable food supply. I don’t think that all the other methods anti-GMO activists list — like better use of fertilizers, eliminating food-based biofuels, and cutting global meat consumption (which I actually think addresses another issue entirely, but I will write about that another time and update this article with a hyperlink once I have it written) — are enough to sustain a growing global population, but they may all be considered to be helpful ideas. What I think is important for everyone to focus on, however, is that food waste is the most prevalent of those issues; and everyone, regardless of their stance on GMOs, should come together to solve this problem.

I also think it’s important to address climate change. The world is beginning to feel the real effects of global warming, especially in third-world countries. In America alone, farmland has been decreasing. It’s even worse in impoverished nations like Africa. But despite the looming threat of climate change and future food shortage, the human population is projected to reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050. In other words, about 2.5 billion people are going to be added to the world’s food supply in just 34 years. This could potentially end in a situation that not even Dr. Norman Borlaug could prevent. To further put it into perspective, we will need to produce more food in the next 34 years than we have in the entire history of the world. If nothing is done to avoid this situation, billions of people could potentially die due to starvation. There are many ideas of how to avoid this horrible catastrophe, as I have mentioned above, and it’s a daunting challenge, but it is plausible that we can accomplish this feat if scientists and farmers work together and use all the tools available to them. While many anti-GMO activists tend to claim that tackling food shortage can, should, and will be done solely through traditional and organic farming, many experts believe that is simply not feasible. In the face of climate change and water shortage, traditional and organic farming simply do not possess the necessary tools it would take to feed it would be near impossible to feed 10 billion people. Organic yields are about 1/4 the size of conventionally grown yields, organic pesticides and herbicides are far more toxic than their non-organic counterparts, and traditional breeding will take too long to produce the amount of food we will need by 2050. I’m not saying these methods of plant breeding are bad by any means, I’m just saying that there is room for GMOs to pick up where those methods are lacking. Eliminating food shortage, along with the other methods I listed, would not be enough to remedy the situation either. Yet the purveyors of those industries maintain the position that they will in fact be able to sustain a growing global population, especially in third-world countries, using their methods.

But let me explain the extremely valuable benefits GMOs offer that organically and traditionally grown crops do not. For starters, GM crops have shown to be very helpful in growing more food with less farmland and resources, which is more important than ever due to climate change and water shortage. Also, what we have now been able to do with herbicide resistant crops, like RoundUp-ready crops, is basically eliminate tillage. In the old days, and what is still practiced in many organic farms today, farmers would get on their tractors and they would plow all the fields and turn all the dirt over — that was the method farmers used to kill weeds. But we don’t need to plow fields anymore with GM crops. We don’t expose that dirt to evaporation of the moisture. We don’t have nearly as bad erosion as we did. We don’t have the instantaneous release of greenhouse gasses when the soil is flipped over. And since the adoption of herbicide tolerant crops in this country in the mid ’90s, the rate of not plowing, of using conservation tillage has more than doubled. It’s great that organic & traditional farmers are optimistic about their methods and products, and they do offer great benefits, but I don’t think their solutions of feeding the world are fully based in reality because they’re still stuck using these old methods of tilling and plowing the land. So it’s especially wrong to claim GMOs are not necessary for issues such as these. Farmers should be working together with all the tools available to them in order to overcome the challenges of feeding 10 billion people. The examples I just offered are just a few of the many ways that GM technology, in collaboration with other breeding methods, should be considered as necessary for a sustainable future. Further, genetically modified crops have decreased pesticide use by up to 27%. That is another huge benefit. But what I think are the biggest reasons for why GMOs should be considered necessary are because of what they have done, and what they will do, for developing nations.

Almost all African farmers are currently either living in poverty or extreme poverty. The African soil is very nitrogen-poor, meaning it’s not very effective for growing crops. On top of the soil already making success with growing crops difficult, the yields tend to be pretty small when it comes time for harvest. With genetic modification, however, scientists have been able to produce nitrogen-efficient rice that grows well in that type of soil. Not only that, but this rice contains higher levels of Vitamin A, which will help deal with the horrific epidemic of blindness and early child-hood death caused by Vitamin A deficiencies that plague these regions. And according to Alison Van Eenennaam, a specialist in
animal genomics and biotechnology at UC Davis, a genetically modified version of Cassava is being developed specifically for these regions. It will have a higher nutrient content, a better shelf life, and will be disease resistant. This is especially important because Cassava is currently a major source of carbohydrates in these parts of the world. Improved Cassava harvests could also increase the incomes of African households, helping lift poor farmers – many of whom are women – out of poverty. This brings up the next point that the champions of traditional and organic farming usually completely miss.

Are GMOs Necessary

Sustaining third-world countries by shipping food to those regions will only make them further dependent on first-world countries. And not only would millions of dollars need to be spent in order to keep that kind of operation going, it would still do absolutely nothing to address the actual problems that plague those regions, like Vitamin A deficiencies and extreme poverty. It would make much more sense to offer seeds to these farmers at very low costs, which is already being done with quite a few GMO crops, and allow these African farmers to grow higher-yielding crops with better nutritional content that they could then sell and make a better profit, thus helping to lift them out of poverty. If they don’t want the seeds, that is their choice. But to completely bar them from having access to these seeds is, in my eyes, an act of complete contempt and negligence.

What is always important to remember though, is that no form of farming should be considered the Holy Grail. Continuing to diversify crops is key. Expanding the use of precision agriculture is important, making organic farming more eco-friendly is important, and using the life-saving tools that genetic modification has to offer will allow humanity overcome these daunting challenges of feeding the world in the face of global climate change and water shortage. Banning or limiting the use of any these technologies could absolutely have catastrophic consequences. And no one should claim that one form of farming is 100% superior to another because they all have their pros and cons. What is imperative is that everyone works collectively on this issue right now for the sake of future generations.

So are GMOs necessary? I would say absolutely.

Using Genetics to Disprove Biblical Stories

In genetics we can look at genetic diversity in everyone and everything and find common genetic traits which would indicate a significant reduction in a given population. This is done by finding and identifying genetic traits that only a small breeding population would have in common and would be subsequently carried down through subsequent generations. If the story of Genesis and Noah were true, we would see genetic bottlenecks showing a breeding population of a very limited number and we would be able to identify roughly when it happened; but this is not the case at all.

wrong

If you don’t know what a genetic bottleneck is, it is a sharp reduction in the size of a population due to environmental events (such as earthquakes, floods, fires, disease, or droughts) or human activities (such as genocide). Such events can reduce the variation in the gene pool of a population; thereafter, a smaller population with a correspondingly smaller genetic diversity, remains to pass on genes to future generations of offspring through sexual reproduction. Genetic diversity remains lower, only slowly increasing with time as random mutations occur. In consequence of such population size reductions and the loss of genetic variation, the robustness of the population is reduced and its ability to survive environmental changes can be reduced.

Our last genetic bottle neck is estimated to have occurred over 100,000 years ago and even then there were still thousands of genetic variances belonging to a few thousand individual ancestors.  In 2000, a Molecular Biology and Evolution paper suggested a transplanting model or a ‘long bottleneck’ to account for the limited genetic variation, rather than a catastrophic environmental change. This would be consistent with suggestions that in sub-Saharan Africa numbers could have dropped at times as low as 2,000, for perhaps as long as 100,000 years, before numbers began to expand again in the late stone age.

worldpopulat

 Now with that being said, we would see this same genetic bottleneck in every animal on earth happening at the exact same times if the bible was accurate, and yet there is zero evidence to support these ridiculous conclusion. What is so frustrating to scientists is that creationists think that the only evidence for evolution is fossils and educated conclusions. This is entirely incorrect since evolution is also written in your genes and thus not only debunks the story of Noah, but the Genesis story as well. This is yet another reason why we know evolution is a fact and that the bible is not factual by any scientific standard.

-AAPN

References:

http://news.discovery.com/human/genetics/human-diversity-bottlenecks.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck

Hawks J, Hunley K, Lee SH, Wolpoff M (January 2000). “Population bottlenecks and Pleistocene human evolution”. Molecular Biology and Evolution 17 (1): 2–22. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a026233. PMID 10666702.

The Ancient Aliens’ Atrocity

The ‘Ancient Aliens’ Atrocity

This post was originally published on Mar 19 2015 here

Today Atheists Against Pseudoscientific Nonsense takes its proverbial baseball bat to the skull that is the intellectual clusterfuck known as the ‘Ancient Aliens.’

Before treading any further down this alley, we would like to take a moment to make something clear. It is quite commonly acknowledged by many that given what we know of the mechanisms of life – its prerequisites, emergence and gradual evolution -, it is more than reasonable to assume that some forms of life can be found elsewhere in this wondrous galaxy of ours. As a group that is sincerely dedicated to the promotion of rationality, skepticism and informed thinking rooted in hard science, it is our firm conviction that these principles must be applied to the pursuit of the knowledge of whether or not we are alone in the universe. That being said, when it comes to tackling profound questions like this, there is a right approach and there’s a wrong approach. ‘Ancient Aliens’ doesn’t only sit firmly on the ‘Wrong’ side of the line – it’s so far on that side it almost disappears behind the horizon.

Skipping over the broader and clearly more fruitful debate on the possibility of extraterrestrials existing, we can turn our attention on what makes ‘Ancient Aliens’ such an atrocity. We could, of course, bombard it with the same accusations we have leveled against other brands of pseudoscience we’ve covered so far but it would be an exercise in repetition. Ultimately, the greatest sin of the Ancient Aliens Theory is that is the proverbial ‘other side of the coin’, the first side being creationism. At first glance, these two may not seem related but they are, in fact, shockingly similar.

Both muddy up the waters of any meaningful discourse on how to better understand our past and origin by presenting questionable, poorly construed, wildly speculative, insufficient and – at the very best – biased ‘evidence’; both shamelessly promote and glorify their application of demonstrably false claims, logical fallacies and non sequiturs as a sign of enlightened, independent thinking and love to portray themselves as the victims of the exclusion and persecution by “elitist” academic establishment; and both rely on sensationalist, populist and emotionally evocative arguments to win approval. Most crucially, however, they both promote intellectual and scientific laziness by playing the Argument From Ignorance and God of the Gaps argument – creationism literally so; the AA advocates substitute ‘aliens.’

The fact that ‘Ancient Aliens’ is into its seventh season with some 1.5 MILLION regular viewers – despite the avalanche of negative reviews from critics and the scientific community – is a clear sign of a major intellectual bankruptcy in our society.

AnAL

  • Corax

 

What Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter Fails to Address

What Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter Fails to Address

1972433_1595499960703396_6558738229847551945_n

(Above is the picture of the Wyoming)

There are many, many flaws with the Genesis story of Noah’s Flood, and there are many articles debunking it as well. So to add the case we will debunk just the size and construction of the wooden Ark alone.

The ark was purported to be 516.24′ x 86′ x 51.6′(converted from cubits). There was supposed to be 3 decks. Using this data, we get a total square footage of 133,189.92 ft on 3 decks.

Assuming you don’t accept Evolution, you must arrive at the assumption that the number of species we currently see is exactly the same number of species that existed at the time of Noah. (Excluding the Dinosaurs, even though Ken Ham believed they were also on the Ark.) And for simplicity we will forgo that whole 7 of every clean animal part since the math with only counting 2 of every species is more than adequate.

According to conservative estimates, there are between 3 Million to 10 Million different species on Earth today.
Using the MOST CONSERVATIVE numbers, 3 Million species x 2 of each species (not taking into consideration species that reproduce via non-sexual reproduction)= 6 Million animals.

133,189.92 Sq Ft divided by 6 Million animals = 0.0221983 sq ft, or 0.27 sq in. This is simple math folks and we aren’t even including food, water or excrement. So each animal gets about 1/4 of a square inch in the Ark, but we’re not done just yet.

Let’s talk about the live animal cargo on the Ark and how it’s construction effected that as well.

An adult elephant in captivity will eat around 50kg of food per day. A mixture of hay mostly but with vegetables and oddly, bread. 50×365= 18,250kg. Times two, of course, is 36,500kg of food or 36.5 metric tonnes. Also, an elephant in captivity will drink about 200 litres of water per day. That’s 146,000 litres of water for two elephants, or 38569 gallons. And this is for just elephants, there’s apparently an entire planet’s worth of animal species x2 left to feed after this. So with every animal having only a 1/4 inch to roam, where did they fit all the food?

Digesion of food = gas and waste…

In order to prevent explosive levels of methane gas, not to mention an odor of biblical proportion, the air in the ark would need to be totally exchanged every two hours. The velocity of the air in Noah’s window needed to be maintained at 170.45 miles per hour for 11+ months. No provision were made for exhaust gas according to the bible, they must have overlooked this ripe fact.

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What is very convenient is that the folks involved in The Ark Encounter and Answers in Genesis never address what happened to the Wyoming . Although they give a size comparison of the Wyoming, they conveniently fail to go into the details about this ship, and what happened to it.

The Wyoming was a wooden six-masted ship, and the largest wooden schooner ever built. She was built and completed in 1909 by the firm of Percy & Small in Bath, Maine. Wyoming was also one of the largest wooden ships ever built, 450 ft (140 m) from jib-boom tip to spanker boom tip, and the last six-masted schooner built on the east coast of the US.

Because of her extreme length and wood construction, Wyoming tended to flex in heavy seas, which would cause the long planks to twist and buckle, thereby allowing sea water to intrude into the hold. Wyoming had to use pumps to keep her hold relatively free of water. In March 1924, she foundered in heavy seas and sank with the loss of all hands.

ark-compared-to-other-ships
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Now as you can see, the Ark was considerably larger than the Wyoming and would have had to carry an immense weight in cargo.
So going by all this information, just the construction and contexts surrounding the Ark is enough to sink this story.
-AAPN

 

Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Arguments & Rhetoric

Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Arguments & Rhetoric

 

 

Anti GMO march

The typical rhetoric from the anti-GMO crowd can range anywhere from harmless, benign questions to malignant, ignorant claims based on complete scientific illiteracy.

There are hundreds of questions, concerns, and claims from the anti-GMO movement, some more legitimate than others, but I will only be addressing a few of their main talking points.    Continue reading Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Arguments & Rhetoric