Belated congratulations to creationist Dr. Todd Wood for having his paper published in the peer reviewed Journal of Evolutionary Biology!
See: Using creation science to demonstrate evolution
Dr. Wood made the announcement at the Origins 2012 Conference held at Patrick Henry College, Friday July 27, 2012. The announcement of the paper’s acceptance was made at Todd Wood’s website some time ago, but it was big news to me at the Origins 2012 conference. The conference was sponsored by the Creation Biology Society (once known as the Baraminology Study Group) and the Creation Geology Society.
Also congratulations to our very own Uncommon Descent author johnnyb (Jonathan Bartlett) for his work being mentioned in Wood’s paper. To my knowledge, the current tally of Uncommon Descent authors and commenters that have been published or mentioned in scientific journals: William Dembski, Michael Behe, Nick Matzke, Rob Sheldon, Caroline Crocker, Winston Ewert, Paul Nelson, Cornelius Hunter, Granville Sewell, John A. Davison, Allen MacNeill, Andrea Bottaro, Abbie Smith, Peter Olofsson, Albert Voie, Andras Pellionisz, Albert De Roos, Walter ReMine, Paul Giem, Jonathan Sarfati, Arthur Hunt, Steve Matheson, Larry Moran, johnnyb, Eric Anderson, Casey Luskin, and yours truly scordova. [If I missed anyone, please chime in.]
A notable attendee and speaker at Origins 2012 was Stephen J. Gould’s most notorious creationist student, Kurt Wise. Wise got his PhD at Harvard while Gould, Ernst Mayr, and Richard Lewontin were still teaching there. Wise was Lewontin’s teaching assistant and one of Gould’s pupils. Also in attendance at the conference were Marcus Ross, Andrew Snelling, Steve Austin, Roger Sanders, Gordon Wilson, Joe Francis, Steve Gollmer.
What was a little sad was the absence of the ID contingent that had attended in years past: Richard Sternberg, Paul Nelson, Stephen Meyer, and the co-founder of Baraminology, Walter ReMine. In fact, Marcus Ross and I were the only ones that had any formal affiliation with ID (Ross was a former fellow of the Discovery Institute, and I was a member of IDEA).
Whether the absence of the ID contingent means anything, for sure there has always been somewhat chilly relations between some YECs and IDs big tent. See this article by Paul Nelson: Just Whose Science Is Todd Wood Stopping.
And from Todd Wood himself:
in the end, when the Bible is clear, I will concede to its authority as the Word of God.
That’s why I don’t care about the origin of life (and why I’ll probably never finish reading Meyer’s book). I already know where life came from. I open the book of Genesis, and the Bible tells me exactly where life came from. Speculating on how it might have happened in a naturalistic scenario seems like a waste of time to me. Just like it would seem like a waste of time to an atheist to study the logistics of Noah’s Ark.
That’s also why I’m not terribly interested in design as an inference. Design is obvious. The Bible makes that crystal clear. Arguing to design seems fruitless to me
But not every creationist feels that way, and certainly, there are creationists who have had their doubts about the Bible. ID may be fruitless for Todd, but not fruitless for every creationist in general. If creationism is mostly believed because “it says so in the Bible, therefore it is true,” then I want no part of it. In days past, the Lord expected his people to test those claiming to be prophets and apostles, therefore even on those grounds, it is reasonable to suppose the Lord would not be too offended for us in the present day to investigate whether the Bible is true, rather than just blindly accepting whatever it says or however other people interpret it. There is a place in God’s kingdom for doubting Thomases.
Thus it matters to me whether evolutionism can be scientifically refuted. It matters to me if there is evidence of a global flood. It matters to me that the there could be evidence the world is younger than what our present models suppose (however outrageous the hypothesis is, it is still worth hoping for).
I’m sorry to say this, but people who boast “the Bible said it, therefore I believe it” makes them sound like they are supremely gullible. For those who hear such boasts, it can inspire more doubt than faith, and that is not a good thing, imho. Much more faith is inspired by the testimony of Dean Kenyon or Don Johnson or John Sanford, who began as evolutionists, but were later persuaded by the evidence. Even Jesus said, if you can’t believe his words, believe his works. Todd’s sentiments are noble, but they are not for everyone…certainly not for someone like myself who is sympathetic but deeply skeptical of Young Earth Creation.
So what happened in this conference? Perhaps it would be notable to describe what didn’t happen. There was no plea or strategizing about what to do with the public school system. Nothing was mentioned about how evil, wicked, or illogical evolutionary theory is, and how it is corrupting souls. Nothing about legislation or public relation campaigns or trying to convert people to become creationists. If anything, Todd Wood spoke of Darwin’s brilliance. That comment from Wood sort of made me vomit. Now if Wood had praise for Haldane or Fisher or Kimura, that would have been a different story, but Darwin? C’mon….
From my prior encounters with Kurt Wise, he said he will never say anything negative of his teachers (Gould, Lewontin, Mayr, Raup). So there was no bashing of evolutionism or Darwin at this conference. In fact, there was the lament that creation biology should have a larger vision than just criticizing evolution. Attempts to discredit evolution weren’t even on the radar.
So what do creationists discuss at such a conference? Nerdy biology and paleontology and geology. A good third of the Friday session focused on Baraminology, the study of created kinds. Clearly biological organisms can be grouped into hierarchical relationships based on their characters. The Creationist Linnaeus was famous for pioneering the hierarchical classification system which biologists use to classify organisms into groups and sub groups. Baraminologists seek to identify which hierarchical properties are the result of common ancestry and speciation (technically speaking the ability to breed together) and which are the result of creation. The method of choice to establish common ancestry is recognition of hybridization data. But problems arise when organisms which might share common ancestors cannot be experimentally hybridized because of practical barriers (especially true with extinct species!).
ReMine pioneered the idea that Baraminology can proceed purely on observational and empirical grounds. Like myself, even if we are sympathetic to the Bible, we would prefer to make scientific inferences on the evidence at hand rather than appeal to theological authority as some sort of scientific proof. One can suppose special creation on the grounds of irreducible complexity. The mechanism of creation may not be accessible, but on scientific grounds it is a reasonable supposition. If one doesn’t like the theological undertones of special creation, one can simply argue for an unknown mechanism which produces the same result as a special creation and thus Baraminology can proceed on purely scientific grounds.
Other topics covered in Origins 2012 were Noah’s Flood, Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (the mechanism of the flood, and various geological features), radiometric dating, and various other topics. The Saturday session focused on theology, but I was not in attendance…
The conference reminds me again of the cultural barriers that define the young earth creationists in the Big Tent of ID. ID has a basic claim: “features of life and the universe are designed.” In contrast, in the creationist community there are an abundance of competing claims and interpretations of history. ID does not attempt to construct a historical or theological narrative, whereas that is the principal focus of creationism. Also, within the big tent of ID, even in private communication, discussion of theology is limited. I think that is in part because of the diverse religious backgrounds within the ID community –Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, agnostic, and even atheist. People can feel uncomfortable talking about or being asked about their religious beliefs.
In contrast, Young Earth creationists are usually composed of evangelicals Christians and 7th Day Adventists. Many of the leaders are affiliated with religious institutions, whereas ID has considerably more secular affiliations. For example, to speak or publish in some Young Earth circles (like ICR, CRSQ, ICC, etc), you have to pass through a theological inquisition and sign documents affirming that you have certain religious beliefs. The Creation Biology Society is the happy exception, but this openness seems far too rare. I’ve complained the YECs try to run their scientific research more like a church than a scientific enterprise.
Given the cultural and philosophical barriers, the question continues to arise whether YEC would benefit from being involved with ID and conversely whether ID would benefit being involved with YEC? I answer both questions with a qualified “yes”.
ID has a place even among those that are already friendly to the notion of design, like creationists. For one, ID arguments, in terms of their critique of evolutionary theory, have good scholarship and thought and depth. I’ve tried to tell creationists, the approach of making appeals to the Bible can actually inspire more doubt than faith. Creationist benefit from learning the sort of solid criticism found in a book like Denton’s rather than merely rereading of the book of Genesis.
Secondly, there may be designs whose discovery might help in medical science. Todd Wood last night highlighted that there seems to be a language in biology, and I really wanted to interject and say, “ID proponents have argued this and even some of the members of the IDEA clubs of years past have seen it in their protein research.” ID’s formalisms can help creationists interested in advancing medical science by helping elucidate designs that may be in the gene sequences but have not been fully elucidated. These designs might only be detectable by comparing species, but it will help us understand human biology more readily and thus advance medical science more rapidly. For more details, see: How IDists can with the war
Can ID benefit from being involved with YEC? That is harder to answer yes. To understand the problem Bill Dembski has this to say:
Throughout my brief tenure as director of Baylor’s Michael Polanyi Center, adversaries as well as supporters of my work constantly pointed to my unsavory associates. I was treated like a political figure who is unwilling to renounce ties to organized crime. It was often put to me: “Dembski, you’ve done some respectable work, but look at the disreputable company you keep.” Repeatedly I’ve been asked to distance myself not only from the obstreperous likes of Phillip Johnson but especially from the even more scandalous young earth creationists.
Scoundrel Scoundrel?…I like the sound of that?
So as far as ID goes, the YECs are described as members of “organized crime”, “unsavory associates”, “disreputable company”. 🙂 But ID proponents need YECs partly because of the sheer numbers (like 40% of the US population for starters).
But even if the YECs are wrong, they still raise scientific questions that demand answers, and they have a growing catalog of serious anomalies that put into question mainstream views. Even if one may question YEC biases, YECs still have legitimate scientific questions which can further scientific inquiry, even if in the end the YECs are wrong (which I think it is too early to say one way or another definitively). There is no need to for ID to distance itself from those wishing to question the status quo as long as there is serious empirical reason for those questions…
What are those questions? A sampling was put forward at the Origins 2012 conference by the speakers, and then in some poster and lunch time discussions. Below are listings of some of my encounters at the conference.
MARCUS ROSS DURING THE POSTER SESSION
I expressed my thoughts that fossilization usually happens via rapid burial, not slow burial. This is empirically evident. Thus much of the geological column marked by fossils is evidence of rapid sedimentation, not slow sedimentation over millions of years. Ross generally agreed with my objections to mainstream models of the geological column.
Ross also pointed out the soft tissue discoveries in fossils dated over 65 million years ago near the K-T boundary. He didn’t think such soft tissue should still exist after such a long time. I also believe racemization of the amino acids can’t be arrested for that long even assuming extremely cold conditions without some sort of active repair (such as done in living organisms). The claim by Darwinists that the soft tissues are older 65 million years is in violation of known principles of physical chemistry, thus the dating is suspect on empirical grounds alone.
Ross admitted that creationists still have to be circumspect about some of our conclusions, no matter how promising some of our empirical findings may be.
LUNCHTIME WITH PHYSCIST STEVE GOLLMER
We talked about changing of nuclear decay rates. Gollmer cited this finding which apparently is costing a graduate student his PhD: Inconstancy of Radioactive Decay Rates.
Granted the decay rate changes are small, and we don’t see many such anomalies, but the modern era provides only a only a small sample space of how physics has behaved through the ages. It leaves open a small possibility of mechanisms in the past that have affected radioactive decay rates, and thus the need to recalibrate radioactive dating in the deep past.
I also mentioned evidence of transmutation via electrical and chemical means. Gollmer was astonished. I pointed him to this paper in the prestigious scientific journal Nature: Neutron generation in lightning bolts which was the to the discovery of nuclear effects via electrical means. This paper was the precursor to a developing flap between two of the most important scientific societies in the USA: the American Chemical Society versus the American Physical Society. See: Cold fusion” moves closer to mainstream acceptance. Electro chemists in particular are claiming they can effect nuclear processes via electrical and chemical and mechanical means. This is politically incorrect physics. Gotta love it. 🙂
I mentioned it to Dr. Gollmer because these development would seem to have some bearing on radiometric dating since they may point to not-well-understood mechanisms of nuclear stability.
KURT WISE ON CATASTROPHIC PLATE TECTONICS
Kurt ought to be nominated to be the star of Origins 2012. I can’t go into all the detail of his talk because of amount of material.
Wise pointed out serious anomalies in paleomagnetic data in lava flows. Which suggests the Earth’s North Pole was flipping to the South every few days and during large scale global cataclysm. Russell Humphreys predicted if Noah’s flood was caused by something like a geological cataclysm the magnetic poles should have been flipping every few days or so during the cataclysm. This was in good agreement with some politically incorrect findings published in peer-reviewed literature. Andrew Snelling describes the findings here:
Rapid Reversals of the Earth’s Magnetic Field
Wise also pointed out to sedimentary evidence of huge tidal waves which swept over continents.
Wise pointed to the inferred cold spots in the Earth’s mantle that indicate recent geological activity (less than 100,000 years ago).
Even recently, I became aware of a disturbing magnetic anomaly affecting the Hubble space telescope because the Earth’s magnetic field is decaying. These are circumstantial clues about the youthfulness of some of the Earth’s features (if not the youthfulness of the entire Earth).
ANDREW SNELLING ON RADIOMETRIC DATING
Snelling pointed out the discordant long-term radio metric dates. This suggests some mechanism of decay isn’t well understood and may have been at work in the past in a way it not in the present.
He cited the abundance of helium (from alpha particle decay) in Zircons as evidence that radioactive decay rates have changed, or at least our interpretation of daughter elements is flawed. He said more field work and experiments need to be done. The mainstream unfortunately isn’t interested.
Nevertheless, Snelling conceded there are serious problems with assuming accelerated decay, not the least of which is the incineration of life!
UNNAMED STRUCTURAL GEOLOGIST FROM A MAINSTREAM UNIVERSITY
At the conference I talked to structural geologist who had been in the oil industry and now a professor of geology at a secular school. He said one problem with the presumption that oil is millions of years old is that oil eating bacteria should have destroyed it all by now. See: Oil Eating Bacteria
BRIEF CONVERSATION WITH STEVE AUSTIN
I finally got around to thanking Dr. Austin personally for his talk in 2008 on “The Coming Mudrock Revolution” where he highlighted recent experiments with turbidity currents and mudrocks that discredited Glen Morton’s claims against fast stratification. I couldn’t help but gloat.
WHAT I WISH I SAID TO DR. WOOD
Dr. Wood is extremely interested in the topic of Adam and Eve. I wanted to remind him that creationists like John Sanford and evolutionists like Bryan Sykes predict that the human species will go extinct relatively soon (on the order of 100,000 years). This flies in the face of evolution and agrees more with Christ’s genealogy (and that of all men) as described in Luke Chapter 3. The data support a specially created Adam and Eve, they do not support evolution from ape-like creatures.
That to me is the most serious anomaly. Even supposing the universe is old, there are some features (like man) that can’t in principle be that old. Then we have those marine fossils on tops of mountains and artifacts of huge tidal waves sweeping across entire continents. Darwinists say one thing, the evidence tells a different story. We surely won’t know answers to the questions these anomalies raise unless we are willing to revisit these issues.
And the above list only scratches the surface of legitimate anomalies that demand an explanation. And if exploring these anomalies lead to a revision of mainstream paleontology and timelines, this has relevance to ID. I think YECs like John Sanford at Cornell have brought serious evidence the human race is young, and if the YECs can even prove a small fraction part of their claims, like Genetic Entropy and the relative youthfulness of the human race, ID will be vindicated, and that’s how ID could benefit from associating with YECs.