Monday, 23 June 2014

"Observational Science" and the Bible

Introduction, or why am I writing this?

As a science enthusiast, I am increasingly frustrated when creationists say science can be clearly demarcated into "two types of science": observational and historical science. Why? Because its clearly an arbitrary reason for business tycoons like Ken Ham to partition science into two types, so that his True Christian brethren can be excused for rejecting findings in evolutionary biology, geology, paleontology, astronomy and archaeology. I will focus on refuting this false dichotomy in the near future, but for now lets turn to observational science, which Ken Ham calls the "good, Christian kind"  and the Bible.

First, a little background. Lets say I am quite familiar with this line of argumentation, having been exposed to it. I had been in intense spiritual and emotional pain after recently leaving another religion when a good friend of mine invited me to a church he was attending. Long story short, I got into trouble with the local pastor over matters like evolution and millions of years. It was a very depressing experience, to say the least, and made my inclination to spirituality suffer again. Nevermind.

What I am here to discuss here is, basically, during the infamous debate, Ken Ham's asserted that observational science confirms the Bible. Unfortunately this is only true via deliberate cherry-picking.

So let's play Ken Ham's game. Most slides are taken from the debate directly.

1. An intelligence produced life
No evidence. Why is that? Ken Ham makes this assertion without backing it up. No intelligence has ever communicated with us and proclaimed that He produced the life we say. Of course, if pressed, Ken Ham will retreat to the Bible, but how does he know the Bible is this intelligent agent's method of communicating with him? The same can be said of any other religious text. I am also willing to bet God never directly said to him "Yes I made you!"

In fact, life could have very well been produced by an unconscious supernatural force and the prediction would be just as valid. Or its possible, well, abiogenesis occurred.

2. Animals only producing after their kind
Untenable and unfalsifiable. The Bible never delineates the extent of what a kind is. So Ken Ham must resort to the ultimate flawed, fallible creature, Man, to arbitrarily define the Biblical Kind.

 Of course, they are forced to adopt Linnaean taxonomy (another arbitrary man-made invention) to justify the Biblical kind. In this case, each "kind" corresponds to the Linnaean family hierarchy. Sounds good in theory right?

Take a look at the Elephant Kind. Note something unique, where-else Cat Kind and Dog Kind have their Latin names "Felidae" and "Canidae" respectively, the Elephant Kind has "Order Proboscidea". Why that extra word tacked on?

They have just committed a violation of their own definition of kind and the Linnaean taxonomy it sprung from: an order is above a family in hierarchy. In fact, Order Proboscidea comprises a huge extent of extinct mammals, marked by their inheritance of a proboscis, an "elephant trunk" so to speak. Only one family of Order Proboscidae survives to this day though; the Elephantidae family. The reason is they had to include the mastodon, which belonged to an entire different "family" under this order because mastodon fossils have been found in supposed "post-Flood deposits". Bear in mind that the mastodon has 4 tusks.

Another very serious problem is this. Entire Linnaean families often require hundreds of thousands of years to achieve the enormous diversity of species within them. But for Ken Ham, all this diversity had to be attained within four thousand years. In this case, a few hundred "kinds" of mammals from the Ark have to produce nearly 10,000  living species within 4000 years. I ll illustrate this by example.

At about 41 minutes into the debate, he draws a quote from this article  regarding dog diversity:

"We provide several lines of evidence supporting a single origin for dogs, and disfavoring alternative models in which dog lineages arise separately from geographically distinct wolf populations (Figures 4-5, Table S10)."
And backs it up with this picture:

The whole paper is available on arXiv here.
I do not know why Ken Ham used this paper at all for the origin of dogs.  I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry, after reading the paper. Do you know why?

This is the actual picture:

Image from

What Ken Ham did was, in essence, invert this graph so that we were unable to see the evolutionary timescale of speciation necessary to produce all the ancestral species of modern dogs . You can see the golden jackal (dingo) diverge almost four hundred thousand years ago, then the other ancestral dogs from a time period of 12-15,000 years ago, during a genetic bottleneck that reduced the wolf population from 2000-25000 individuals. No, not 7 pairs!

What saddens me is how deceitful this is. This is an example of Ken Ham's deliberate mis-representation of data to support his view. And to support his hypothetical hyper-evolution, the mutation rate must be sped up three-fold for the other species and almost a hundred times for the golden jackal. This speciation rate is far too quick! Where are the transitional forms? Why dont we see such rapid speciation today? Why dont we see rapid speciation among humans too?

3. Evidence confirming a global flood

Self-refuting. By Ken Ham's own standards, a global flood that occurred in the past would fall under the realm of historical science and based on unprovable assumptions. The only retort Ken Ham can provide is the extremely poor mantra that he asks the children who visit his museum to repeat: billions of dead things buried all over the earth. Of course, having animals living and dying over hundreds of millions of years explains things just as well, if not better, but I ll let that slide for now.  There's a more pressing issue.

From Genesis 6 (KJV):
 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

What can we infer from this passage? 
a. Man had multiplied over the face of the earth
b. sons of God came down and had children with the daughters of man, bearing giants, who were men of renown. 
The rest you should know: God sent the flood to destroy everything, except Noah and his family, plus seven pairs of each clean kind and a pair of unclean ones on the Ark.
Then where are the human fossils? Up to this date not a single one has been found in the vast majority of sedimentary rock. Not even fossils of modern animals, such as domestic dogs and cows, have been found in supposed Flood Deposits. Furthermore, we should expect to find half-giants buried in the rock, but we dont. Even sadder is that creationists have committed fraud to back up the idea humans lived with dinosaurs, see Malachite Man and Paluxy.
Lastly, there are thousands of salt mines all over the world. How can a global flood explain this?     
4. Evidence confirming One Race
This is probably the only prediction that the Bible got right. The assertion is that humans had a single origin (Noah-Babel) so there is only one race of man, so to speak. The homo sapien.  However, what is problematic is when you consider the existence of other species of humans, such as Neanderthal and Homo Habilis

The current AiG stance is that they were post-flood humans that went extinct rapidly, despite many archaeological sites, buried in several layers, where they used to live. Can they be considered part of the race of man? 

5. Evidence confirming the Tower of Babel
Where are the remains of this purported tower? Seriously no Ron Wyatt tricks! This tower was supposed to be enormous in size, and was in the city of Babel. Yet we havent found evidence of its existence!!! 
 I presume what they mean is, the single origin of all languages around the world. This has some basis in reality, except the place of origin is in Africa. From the linked Dailymail article:
Dr Atkinson, of Auckland University, has now come up with fascinating evidence for a single African origin of language.In a paper published today in Science, he counted the number of distinct sounds, or phonemes, used in 504 languages from around the world and charted them on a map.The number of sounds varies hugely from language to language. English, for instance has around 46 sounds, some languages in South America have fewer than 15, while the San bushmen of South Africa use a staggering 200.Dr Atkinson found that the number of distinct sounds in a language tends to increase the closer it is to sub-Saharan Africa.He argues that these differences reflect the patterns of migration of our ancestors when they left Africa 70,000 years ago.Languages change as they are handed down from generation to generation. In a large population, languages are likely to be relatively stable - simply because there are more people to remember what previous generations did, he says.But in a smaller population - such as a splinter group that sets off to find a new home elsewhere - there are more chances that languages will change quickly and that sounds will be lost from generation to generation.
Either way the YEC is presented with a dilemma. To accept this model, he or she will have to agree that humanity's place of origin was from Africa, not the Middle East. To reject it, then its possible languages could have risen spontaneously from different geographic locales. So which is it?  

6. Evidence confirming a Young Universe  

Ken Ham did not present a single point in favor of this during the entire debate. Unfortunately, all the evidence points to an ancient Universe. From the massive levels of impact cratering across the Moon, Mars, Mercury, the Galilean moons Callisto and Ganymede, the Saturnian moon Tethys, (read my previous posts) to the fact that the Milky Way is 40000-50000 light years across. Their winding up of spiral galaxies and comets have been refuted here and here. Besides, a young Universe is on a very different level than a young Earth - spacetime must be dilating by a magnitude of millions to make galaxies appear billions of light years away. Is this the result of a deceitful God?  

Going off on a tangent, I find their dismissal of the Oort Cloud amusing. They have never seen or heard their God, but suddenly when it comes to an undetectable source of long-period comets, they dismiss it and claim the "evolutionists" are making shit up. Read up a brief discussion of the Oort Cloud here. See a more detailed refutation here

What about this.....
Being Answers in Genesis, it makes sense the entire focus of the text would be in Genesis. Let me pull up this part from here:

Genesis 30:31-43

New International Version (NIV)
31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

After someone asked me to read this, I cannot help but feel troubled. This shows a) apparently breeding goats in front of striped branches produces striped goats??!!! b) what does this show you about Jacob's integrity to Laban???


One of the greatest obstacles to me converting to the Christian faith is this. Apparently I am supposed to abandon most of my pre-existing acceptance of mainstream scientific views on the age of the Earth and the evolution of man. As someone who has spent years reading science articles and whatnot I find this so hard. Very very painful in fact. I hope that in time Christians will come to realize that there isnt a conspiracy by evil secularists to undermine the Biblical authority just scientists reporting honestly on the data they gathered. 


  1. "One of the greatest obstacles to me converting to the Christian faith is this. Apparently I am supposed to abandon most of my pre-existing acceptance of mainstream scientific views.."

    I don't see a conspiracy, I would say that I would DESCRIBE a picture of fourth-dimensional events, that only occurred ONCE in history, and can't be taken back, as leading to a chain-of-events we can only "know" from the viewpoint of hindsight, a chain of scientific investigation that was exclusive.

    Tell me Daren, if there are two suspects in a murder case and you disallow the conclusion that Bob could have done it, and you only have "Jane" left as the only other possible murderer, logically, what do you do if you find evidence that Bob done the murder? That's right - you conclude that this evidence is evidence that Jane did it, because you have guaranteed that there is only one suspect.

    When we look back at Lyell, Hutton, Darwin, and the things they said, and we look at the acceptance of evolution, it's easy to forget that most of the evidence back then, was already knowledge yet people didn't conclude evolution happened. If the evidence of an evolution was so striking, why was there already name-tags for such evidence as homologous structures? It was common knowledge, and the fossils to.

    So science was naturally going to accept a natural explanation of origins because that's what science does - explain things according to that philosophy.

    Now imagine if history was different, could you, "bank" on evolution being overwhelmingly true in the eyes of scientists? Not likely, if they had been exposed to critical thinking, the picture would be very different. To argue otherwise, you argue from ignorance, you only know of one history that occurred, for all you know, science itself could have much more persuasive arguments for design, if they had focused their efforts on design, but instead all of that time has been spent on evolution. is it then fair, logically, to say that if all that time was spent on design, that things would have looked the same, today? We can say many things by hindsight!

    We don't think scientists are up to a conspiracy, we just think they're misled and human the same as everyone else. you yourself read the scientific data innocently enough, but I still think all your knowledge would be unencumbered if you did not "know of" the evolution philosophy. Think about it, how would a knowledge of malaria change if you disposed of millions of years and molecules-to-man? Your scientific knowledge wouldn't even change, because evolution is just a philosophical-gloss.

    You can accept evolution and embrace Christianity. I would say you should, but obviously it's hard to marry the two because of all the contradictions. I suspect if you go through all the science you "know" and delete, "evolution" from your mind you'll see that the facts still make sense. It will still make sense that bats have bones like that as opposed to the horses forelimb, WITHOUT homology, for example, because those bones still do the job they were meant to do.

    1. Hey thanks for the comment.

      Remember that Im not insinuating that all creationists think there is a deliberate attempt by the academic establishment to silence the idea of a divine Creator. Unfortunately, many creationists do, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis for example. His opposition of mainstream science, demarcation of science into "two types" sounds exactly like what a crackpot conspiracy theorist would do. Bear in mind that Ken Ham has far more political/religious power than you think, and his denial of mainstream science will have profound ramifications on the spread of Christianity and children who grow up under the YEC umbrella will be extremely resentful when they realise how YECs misrepresent science to suit their interpretation of sacred scripture.

      As for your analogy for the murder case I can see where you are coming from. The thing is that current evolutionary theory can posit the mechanism by which diversity of living organisms can take place via natural processes. Although it rules out supernatural intervention it is not really the realm of science to teach the supernatural since by definition supernaturalism falls into the realm beyond empiricism and human inquiry. I will make a post evaluating intelligent design (will try to be as fair as possible) in the near future.

      The thing is Lyell, Hutton and Darwin lived in a time when creationism was the dominant narrative, and went against mainstream opinion because they believed their theories fit the evidence from the fossil record and species distribution better. Even devout creationists such as Carolus Linnaeus, Swedish naturalist and founder of taxonomy as mentioned in my post, noted striking anatomical similarities between humans and apes for example, so much so that he placed humans and apes under the same "family" level although he insisted we werent related to them. Another creationist, geologist William Smith observed how well sorted fossils were from one strata to the other and using this fact plotted the first geological map of Britain.

      You are right in saying critical thinking is important in evaluating whether evolution is true but could it be scientists used critical thinking to reject ID and accept evolution, leading to their opposition to intelligent design? I think it is hubris to dismiss entire sections of evolutionary biology and paleontology for example. Of course they could be wrong but how wrong could they get? Perhaps intelligent design could explain the evidence, but as of now it lacks predictive and explanatory power evolution has.

    2. Yes perhaps more research on design could lead to more persuasive arguments for the teleological argument but the Discovery Institute needs more models other than computer simulations and theories like complex specified information. They actually receive quite a bit of funding from Christian organizations so it remains to be seen how successful a case could be made. I have problems with current explanations but guess we ll just have to wait and see.

      My personal reservation from accepting Christ is that I now find I have huge problems holding on to any religious faith in particular. I will admit it does not have anything to do with science and more with some troubling personal experiences. Irregardless, I will consider further.

    3. Daren, I have also had troubling personal experiences, especially since I became a Christian. Indeed one of them was a spiritual experience that lasted about 45 days, and at the time I thought it would last forever, I was told afterward after a string of coincidences, all of the things I must do because of the experience. It was for me, the worst thing I will probably every experience, and I know it was from God because basically what He told me to do after it, I would never have considered doing, at gunpoint, for the twelve years before the experience. It's only long afterward did I realize that the experience itself, was a manipulation by God. If I had not done as I was told to do by Him, I would not have been at a certain place, at a certain time, for an event to occur which would likely only occur at one time in history. I was there at that precise moment, because of the terror I had to face.

      Since that time I have been through many trials, spiritual trials. I have grown stronger at each step, and can see the direction I am being led to.

      Why do I tell you these things? Well, all people experience bad things, even Christians, and I can now see going through the pain I have had to go through, the eternal and good reasons why those things happened. I can tell you that only a person that goes through something like that can actually tell you that God uses bad things in order to make a work in us.

      I encourage you not to be put off by the way the world is, at this time.

      (I am going to write a new blog in a day or so about long ages and young ages, I watched two debates with Hugh Ross, Ken Ham, and Kent Hovind, and I am convinced that the young-earth position has been something I have neglected to study properly because of my many years of disinterest in it. I hope you will see that a Christian can be open-minded, I hope you'll read the blog. Thanks for your comments, Daren, and those are nice pictures of birds did you draw them yourself?)