Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Objection 2 Continued - Evolution Debate (Part 7)

There are many problems with evolution - more than I can fit in one blog post. Last weeks post pointed out the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. But I also thought it worth mentioning some questionable practice of the "scientific method" when it comes to examining the future. What follows is a real newspaper article:

This recent offering from the "scientists" made major headlines in the UK's Guardian newspaper. The article goes on to say:

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by a Nasa-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.

Shawn Domagal-Goldman of Nasa's Planetary Science Division and his colleagues compiled a list of plausible outcomes that could unfold in the aftermath of a close encounter, to help humanity "prepare for actual contact".

In their report, Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis, the researchers divide alien contacts into three broad categories: beneficial, neutral or harmful.

Beneficial encounters ranged from the mere detection of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), for example through the interception of alien broadcasts, to contact with cooperative organisms that help us advance our knowledge and solve global problems such as hunger, poverty and disease.

Another beneficial outcome the authors entertain sees humanity triumph over a more powerful alien aggressor, or even being saved by a second group of ETs. "In these scenarios, humanity benefits not only from the major moral victory of having defeated a daunting rival, but also from the opportunity to reverse-engineer ETI technology," the authors write.

Other kinds of close encounter may be less rewarding and leave much of human society feeling indifferent towards alien life. The extraterrestrials may be too different from us to communicate with usefully. They might invite humanity to join the "Galactic Club" only for the entry requirements to be too bureaucratic and tedious for humans to bother with. They could even become a nuisance, like the stranded, prawn-like creatures that are kept in a refugee camp in the 2009 South African movie, District 9, the report explains.

The most unappealing outcomes would arise if extraterrestrials caused harm to humanity, even if by accident. While aliens may arrive to eat, enslave or attack us, the report adds that people might also suffer from being physically crushed or by contracting diseases carried by the visitors. In especially unfortunate incidents, humanity could be wiped out when a more advanced civilisation accidentally unleashes an unfriendly artificial intelligence, or performs a catastrophic physics experiment that renders a portion of the galaxy uninhabitable.

To bolster humanity's chances of survival, the researchers call for caution in sending signals into space, and in particular warn against broadcasting information about our biological make-up, which could be used to manufacture weapons that target humans. Instead, any contact with ETs should be limited to mathematical discourse "until we have a better idea of the type of ETI we are dealing with."

The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.

"A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions," the report states.

"Green" aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. "These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets," the authors write.

Even if we never make contact with extraterrestrials, the report argues that considering the potential scenarios may help to plot the future path of human civilisation, avoid collapse and achieve long-term survival.

Once again, the question must be asked as to exactly what kind of "science" are these people practicing? And why do these people discount the possibility of a Creator when they have a creation, but readily warn about an impending alien invasion even though no aliens have, as yet, been discovered. Although I must admit that the jury is still out concerning the claims of a Wal-mart employee who still maintains that he is a real Jedi Knight who attended Obi Wan's academy on Tatooine. For the doubters he decided to show a few of his moves:

Did you feel the Force?

While the newspaper article does not represent the entire scientific community, it is a stern reminder that the phrase "scientists say" is often a propoganda smokescreen that persuades the man in the street. Empirical science is measurable, testable, repeatable, and observable but the realm of "historical science" and "speculative science" is often nothing more than science fiction. As Christians, we have something far more reliable - a text that has never been proven wrong authored by a Sovereign God Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Next week I will unveil some futuristic transitional forms that scientists have been able to "calculate" based on what they "already know". It may well be the funniest post to ever feature on this blog so stay tuned . . .

Go On To Part 8
Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1


Kristoffer Haldrup said...

Sorry Cameron, in your post last week you didn´t point out the lack of transitional fossils. What you DID do, was to point to a few previosly misclassified or faked fossils out of the VERY many examples of transitional forms known. -Transitional forms that are not only known from a sometimes spotty fossil record, but transitional forms that are completely in line with what we have nowadays learned from genetics about the evolution of existing species such as horses, humans and whales.

As to the rest of your post, I will readily agree with you that whatever is claimed by some newspaper or other mass media outlet regarding science or "scientific opinion" should be regarded with some skepticism. -Journalists´ knowledge of science is usually extremely limited, and their business is to sell newspapers. This is not a good combination....but with that said, I agree with you that this particular example of blue-sky research is rather a waste of time and effort :)

Cameron Buettel said...

Kristoffer, your religion dictates that you deny the truth. NO TRANSITIONAL FORMS - nothing! Try showing us one, and no, variation within a species does not qualify.

If the God of the Bible was real, and I said if, what do you think He would do with you on the day of judgment?

Rene Vester said...

Well Kristoffer, how then I can remember from another debate that you "beliewed" in Lucy. And "she" was one of those hoaxes Cameron showed.
So what do you mean then? Are you a "lucyfan" or not, and then where are those transsitional forms that you coudn't show me? The one you sent was not trustworthy because Lucy was in it. Then I couldn´t take i serious.

Kristoffer Haldrup said...

As my religion is not having any religion, it seems strange that this absence should dictate anything much at all:)

And if I should pick just one transitional form, then Ambulocetus is kind of a nice one -- something like a small whale with legs, legs well adapted for swimming. This very nicely illustrates how even transitional forms are superbly well adapted to the niche they occupy, like penguins are today. Anyway, if you or some of your other readers feel like it, look up "whale evolution" or "horse evolution" on wikipedia or elsewhere. There is a plethora of transitional forms, all species or subspecies in their own right and all well adapted to their particular ecological niche:)

-And if your God of the Bible turned out to be the Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything, then I strongly suspect I would be in deep trouble for an eternity or two;) But you will notice that this does not worry me in the least, as I dont think that´s the case:)

Cameron Buettel said...

Kristoffer, what we have in common is that we are both religious. Where we differ is that your religion is stupid. You don't worry about hell because you don't believe in it? So you create your own reality by your thoughts! There is a name for that religion Kristoffer. What you believe is irrelevant, the question is whether you are right or not. Amazing that I have to explain that to a "man of science". Pretending its not there is not the most empirical way to deal with the question of hell.

And I'm still waiting for a transitional form. Not evolutionary speculation supported by Wikipedia! Go and do more homework on Ambulocetus - honest homework! Wikipedia????? And you mock me for trusting the Bible.

Kristoffer Haldrup said...

Now Rene, I know from past experience that actually reading what people write and not reading what you think they write is not the strongest skill of yours...but if you go back to my post in the other thread, you will see that I did not in any way say or confirm that the Lucy fossil is a hoax. On the contrary, it is an extremely important piece of the puzzle that is our human family tree!

Cameron, you should also read what I write...what I write above is that I do not believe in your God, not that I dont believe in hell (which I also dont, but that is besides the case and follows from my lack of belief in the supernatural in the first place). -I simply see no evidence for the existence of any kind of supernatural deities or forces, and based the available historic, archaelogic and geological evidence, I consider most of your holy book a collection of bronze-age myths and pre-medieval superstition, sorry:)

Finally, I fail to see what your problem is with my reference to wikipedia? -I could just as easily refer you to the scientific literature on the subject, there are several well written and widely cited articles on the Ambulocetus fossils alone, and many, many more dealing with the evolution of whales in general. These are the works that the Wikipedia articles are supported by and widely reference, but I will also be happy to send you any articles you might find relevant to the discussion as pdf-files if you are interested? -It is quite instructive to see how e.g. the cranial blow-hole opening of the whale (-ancestors) gradually move forward on the skull as we trace the fossils back through time, before finally ending up as perfectly normal set of nostril openings :)

So what would you take as evidence for a transitional form? -Some articles describing e.g. the "blow-hole evolution or the gradual disapperance of the limbs, pictures of fossils exhibiting these "intermediate" traits or what?

René Vester said...

Kristoffer when I read you writing the folloving:

"you will see that I did not in any way say or confirm that the Lucy fossil is a hoax. On the contrary, it is an extremely important piece of the puzzle that is our human family tree!"

I see contradiction all over. But hey I´m not surprised. Evolution theory is full of contradictions.

Kristoffer Haldrup said...

/me takes on proof reading glasses...:)

1) I did not anywhere say that the Lucy fossil is a hoax.
2) I did not confirm what you implied in your post, that the Lucy fossil is a hoax.

3) I DID say, that the Lucy fossil is an important piece of the puzzle, that is human ancestry.

-Would you care to elaborate where in my recent postings you see any contradiction(s)?

Cameron Buettel said...

Lucy was a monkey Kristoffer, what does that have to do with human ancestry? You know - humans are the ones that don't spend their time picking fleas out of their butt!

Cameron Buettel said...

Rene, do you have the phone number for Kristoffer's boss? I'm very worried that they might be paying him too much.

Kristoffer Haldrup said...

Cameron, Lucy was anything but a monkey, but given your chosen profession, I will refrain from calling your supervisor at Grundfos and recommending a pay cut;)

-I am sure you already know the following (heh, not really;), but let me just briefly reiterate the primate famliy tree for you...monkeys are a branch of primates, that split off from the apes&human branch about 25 million year ago, give or take a few. Lucy and other A. Aferensis fossils are only about 3-4 million years old and are MUCH more closely related to the apes than to monkeys, and are still more closely related to modern humans. It seems now fairly well established that A. Afarensis and the rest of the Australopithecus group are not the direct ancestors of modern humans, but were a group of hominids co-existing with our forebears in Africa, forebears such as Homo Habilis and the like. Both of these groups as well as modern humans share a last common ancestor around 5-6 million years ago, which means that we are all more closely related to one another than we are related to the apes (gorillas, chimpanzees), with whom we share a last common ancestor about 7 million years ago. This is all well supported by the fossil record, but just as importantly, it is also directly confirmed by genetic analysis of ours, the chimanzee/gorilla's and the monkey´s genomes:)

-Let me know if you would like references to picture outlined above, either web pages or scholarly articles, and I will be happy to provide them:)

Cameron Buettel said...

And I suppose this is all "scientifically proven".

Kristoffer Haldrup said...

No-no, the picture I described above is just something a couple of blokes sketched out on some napkins down at the pub, fueled by beer and their atheist hatred of religion;)

-Either that, or it is my attempt at describing the sum total of the evidence gathered by hundreds and hundreds of anthropologists in the field PLUS the independent work of scores of genetics laboratories all over the world. Each set of data (fossils or genetics) alone fully supports the described view of the human and primate family tree, and their mutual agreement is incredibly strong evidence that this is an essentially correct representation of our ancestry.

Cameron Buettel said...

Kristoffer, fossils prove that there are dead things in the ground. The age that they are given is based upon your evolutionary presuppositions not empirical science. And Lyell's geological column is always a drawing and never a picture. I think you know why that is Kristoffer. Because it never appears in reality the way it is drawn. You don't know how old they are and you cannot use science to prove it. So if you want to talk science then stay in the realm of science and not your religion. And your religion offers the hope that there is . . . . actually it offers nothing. Christianity offers a kind Savior to wicked sinners who repent and turn to Him in faith with the promise of eternal life. A cure for your terminal disease that you see getting worse every day you get older. Why persist in your stupid pride? Do you really love your sin that much that you would rather face some cheap temporary pleasure in this life and then take your chances with the Judge of the universe? Kristoffer, you are going to find out you are wrong - better you face up to it now than in eternity. Just ponder eternity before you go to bed tonight. I know you don't think so, but right now I am your best friend!

Kristoffer Haldrup said...

Hehe, as a physicist I ponder eternities and infinities rather more often than your average tax payer, also around bedtime...And I find that I do not need your Christian bedtime stories to help me sleep soundly, even in the face of my own mortality;)

And while I did notice that you rather inelegantly skirted (or more precisely, ignored;) the issue of independent confirmation of the fossils and their age by modern genetic analysis, we can return to the geology for a bit...I actually had to look up what you meant about "Lyells column", as it is quite an old concept that has since been much refined. -In its original form, suggested aaaaallll the way back in the early 1800s, then yes, it was mostly based on what fossils occured where in the geologic strata. -A truly momentous puzzle to piece together, in particular as the whole column doesn´t exist in one unbroken "piece" anywhere in the world, so kudos to Lyell and his contemporaries! Especially since they managed this piece of work decades before Darwin's "Origin..." was published, rendering your accusation that it rests on evolutionary presuppositions somewhat...silly;)

Nowadays, the methods at our disposal are much more refined than what they had 200 years ago and we can independently verify the stratification and dating suggested by Lyell and coworkers. And doing so, the basics of their work are found to be just fine, with only some modification in the finer details and the precambrian periods. Good work, old boys! As a matter of fact, the modern geologic column works so fine that oil companies are making BILLIONS of dollars based on such information about geologic age, and finding&dating fossils to figure out our ancestry is really small change compared to those efforts!

This all means, that now the paleontologist can go out and dig up any old fossilized bone - be it from our species, dinosaurs or fish - and it can then be dated using either geologic markers (Lyells method), radiometric dating or geochemical dating or any combination of the three. Moreso, she can do this in the knowledge that the methods are sufficiently accurate that oil companies are staking millions of dollars on their accuracy, when they do the same thing to locate possible oil reservoir locations. Additionally, if the fossil can be associated with any particular old species of old critter, then genetics as well as computer-assisted morphological studies can add yet another dating estimate AND suggested relationships with extant and extinct species. -Reading the "dating"-section of a modern paleontological paper is a fascinating example of many different braches of science working together to solve a complicated puzzle:)