Posts Tagged ‘creationism’

This morning, I decided to subject myself to some creationist programming on one of the religious channels that every American gets with a basic TV package. I don’t know why I do this, but I consider learning what creationists do– and do both deceptively and wrongly–a great exercise in understanding my own epistemology.

The most important thing to understand about creationism, whether it is the Kent Hovind, 6,000-year-old earth type or the more sophisticated intelligent design type, is the fundamental exercise is not understanding scientific findings. Instead, it is about protecting the authority of scripture from scientific findings. The Hovind types are about denying science, wile the ID types are more into a sort syncretism between the findings of science and the need to have faith. This same sort of syncretism exists with religious people who accept evolution, too, but the intelligent design types often are a bit more into making sense of scripture and science than the theistic evolutionists.

So whenever you are subjected to creationist or intelligent design pontifications, you need to understand they are much more concerned with defending scripture against scientific findings than creating any kind of parallel scientific hypothesis that could ever compete with those of peer-reviewed science.

This particular creationist segment was concerned about speciation, and it was definitely from the school of thought that a Kent Hovind would appreciate. Because biologists do not have a hard and fast definition of species– a strength of the discipline, if you ask me–creationists are able to play games with what a species is. The piece talked about how they accepted that all the breeds of dog derived from a wolf ancestor, but then it started getting dishonest.

It showed how biologists think of lions and tigers as distinct species, but they can sometimes interbreed. However, unlike mixed breed dogs, the ligers are often sterile. The narrator of the piece didn’t seem to get that this sterility is how we know that lions and tigers are different species, because no scientist alive believes that two animals that produce offspring in which fertility is limited to this degree belong to the same species.

Instead, the narrator skipped over this glaring problem and began to explain that breeds of dog and tigers and lions were obviously derived from the same kind, and the reason why ligers are often sterile is because of a sort of hyped up “evolution” that happened after Noah’s flood.

It is certainly true that dog breeds are far more morphologically variable than lions and tigers are from each other, but dogs have a good reason for this morphological variation. They have some odd characteristics to their genomes that allow them to respond to selection pressures in rather dramatic ways. Thus, dogs vary a lot in terms of their morphology, but they don’t vary as much genetically as lions and tigers do from each other. Molecular evidence points to all extant dogs radiating within the past 15,000 years, and although some experts would put that date a bit further back, it is nowhere near the 4 million years estimated for the most recent common ancestor lions and tigers.

I don’t know how creationists square this problem, except to say that mutation rates are so much higher in some of these “species” than in others. But the mutation rate you’d have to have to match the millions of years of divergence between tiger and lion lineages would not be biologically possible. I image that the genetic load from deleterious mutations would be too much to sustain either lineage.

But that’s not what the creationists in this piece discussed. Instead, they came up with an entire theory called “polyphyletic decent.” The “kinds” of animal that came off the ark diverged into the things resembling species in phylogenetic trees that look a lot like the ones real scientists use to describe evolutionary relationships. However, unlike those phylogenetic trees there is no implication of connection between “kinds.” They are trees growing out of a single stem that diversified.

Evolution is based upon monophyletic decent. That’s why the argument that creationists often make where they posit the absurdity of an organism giving birth to another species is quite ridiculous. All living things evolve out of a particular lineage. Nothing evolves out of it. Humans will always be great apes, which will always be Old World primates, which will always be simiiformes, which will always be haplorhines, which will always be euarchontoglires, which will always be boreoeutherians, which will always be placentalian, which will always be therian mammals.

This is why so many taxonomists work hard to ensure that organisms are classified according to their descent. This descent can be traced through the morphology of the organism as well as its molecular biology.

If the creationists were right about this “polyphyletic descent” hypothesis, then you would be able to find organisms for which one can find no DNA sequences in common with any other. And one has not been found yet.

So creationists have a new thing to play around with. It will never gain acceptance among scientists.

But that is not the point. The point of creationism is to defend scripture’s inerrancy against scientific findings. It is an exercise in defending faith, not in trying to understand that which the rigors of the scientific method has revealed.

And once you understand this difference, it makes total sense why scientists don’t debate creationists. The two disciplines are trying to do entirely different things, which are not equivalent to each other. One is trying to understand the material world using measures and data that verified, while the other is trying to defend supernatural beliefs that can never be verified.

I guess I go by the Bible and say by its fruits, it will be known. The scientific method has produced all the technological advancements that have made modern life what it is. It has increased our knowledge about our place in the world and in the cosmos. Defending scripture against what science has revealed has produced little but adhering the truly faithful to the religion a bit more strongly and made a few charlatans infinitely rich. But it has not advanced us one iota, and in this current epoch, it is holding us back from confronting global problems like climate change and mass extinctions. If you can deny evolution, which is quite obvious, then you have the intellectual skill-set to deny what climate scientists are saying.

We live in an era of tribal realities. What one accepts as true depends upon which tribe one belongs. If you’re a conservative Christian in the United States, you have a different understanding of how the world is than virtually anyone else in the Western World. Part of the reason for this disconnect is that white conservative Christianity is losing the demographics battle in the United States. And in this loss in demographics is this tendency to turn to those ideas and individuals who might restore their former advantage. Belief in fundamentalist Christianity might somehow bring down the divine, which could restore it all with a miracle, and belief in Donald Trump might work out, too, because he will be nasty to all those people who are taking away this demographic advantage.

Time will eventually remove this madness from our society, but while it is there, it will do some damage. And for the climate, we don’t have that much time.

All I can do, then, is use my voice to make some sense to a few more people, and hope, the dismal tide turns sooner rather than later.

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Kent Hovind is out of prison, and seeing as he has a month of home confinement to waste time on the internet, he has been posting daily Q and A sessions on Youtube. Just e-mail him, and he’ll answer your question on Youtube.

So the other day, I sent him an e-mail with the following question:

Scottie Westfall Jul 22
TheDrDino@gmail.com (Kent Hovind)
Would you say that black-backed jackals, side-striped jackals, African wild dogs (Cape hunting dogs or painted dogs) and dholes (Asiatic wild dog) are part of the same kind that includes golden jackals, coyotes, wolves/domestic dogs/dingoes, and Ethiopian wolves?

Why would I ask this question?

Well, within the wolf-like canids, it is well-known that some species are still chemically interferitle. We have a nice phylogenetic tree, which was drawn from a sequencing of domestic dog genome:

dog family phylogentic tree

Domestic dogs are basic a type of “grey wolf,” so they certainly do interbreed.  One could make the case in a creationist sense that these animals are all part of the same “kind,” because a “kind” is generalized term that pretty much is based solely on whether they can “bring forth”– produce offspring. Wolves and dogs have interbred and produced fertile offspring with coyotes and golden jackals. Golden jackals and coyotes have done the same. Ethiopian wolves (which are a really specialized canid that is found only in the Ethiopian Highlands) have interbred with domestic dogs, and in some instances, there have been viable, fertile hybrids produced.

By the Biblical definition of kind, these animals fit.

However, interfertility stops with the Ethiopian wolf. Although there are rumors of hybrids being produced between dogs and dholes and between dholes and golden jackals, we have no verified hybrids. There are claims that the Bangkaew dog started out as a dhole/domestic dog hybrid, but I’ve never seen anyone confirm this ancestry in the breed.

When this phylogenetic tree was drawn, it really did change the way we view jackals. When I was a kid, we tended to think of all the jackals as being closely related. We even called the Ethiopian wolf the “Simien jackal.”  But even before this study came out, it was pretty clear that the canid of the Ethiopian Highlands was closer to the wolves than the other endemic African jackals.

But this study revealed that golden jackals are even more closely related to wolves/dogs and coyotes than to the other jackals, and that the two endemic African jackals, the side-striped and black-backed jackals, are actually more distantly related to the interfertile canids than African wild dogs and dholes are. African wild dogs and dholes have traditionally been given their own genus names (Lycaon and Cuon), but those two endemic African jackals have always been listed as part of Canis. We now think of Canis as a paraphyletic grouping, which means it is not a clade. To make it a clade, we would have to move the African wild dog and the dhole into Canis, which is what I would do, or create a new genus for the two endemic African canids.

In an earlier video, Kent Hovind was answering a question about the kinds of animals on the ark, and he said something along the lines of how jackals, wolves, coyotes, and dogs are all descended from a single dog “kind” that was put on the ark.  (In that video, Hovind actually claimed that hyenas were part of the dog kind, which isn’t even close to being true).

But if a “kind” is defined as what can produce offspring, we have a very hard big problem here. When a creationist says “jackal,” I don’t think they understand that the three species of jackal are actually quite distinct from each other. You cannot breed a black-backed jackal to a dog, even if people claim that basenjis are derived from them, or that they have an African village dog that looks like one. The two species are very distinct from one another.

So if these animals all are distinct kinds, then God had Noah put several ancestral Canis-type dogs on the ark.  Black-backed and side-striped jackals probably can interbreed, but their genomes haven’t been studied in the interfertile Canis species have been. So that would be a kind. Dholes and African wild dogs probably can hybridize as well, so that would be another kind. And then you’d have the classic “dog kind, ” which has all the wolf-like species that hybridize a lot.

So we’d have these three separate kinds, but why?

Wouldn’t an intelligent deity just want one dog kind?

I mean, a Western coyote and a black-backed jackal are essentially the same organism in terms of their behavioral ecology. They hunt small animals. They gang up and hunt ungulates, and they do a lot of scavenging. They both have intense pair bonds, and they do cause problems with livestock producers.

Why would there have to be two separate “kinds” for this mid-sized, generalist canid?

Well, Hovind tried to answer my question, and he did very poorly. Now, I must confess that he was answering a bunch of questions about the flat earth and geocentrism (which many of his most devout followers wish he believed in), so I don’t think he was expecting a question like mine or understood its significance.

Here’s his answer (and he thinks my name is Daniel):


He tells me to go look up Baraminology, which I did.

But when I went to Answers in Genesis, I found that they fell into exactly the same trap as Hovind.

They point out that there was a discovery a few years ago that there were some “golden jackals” in Africa that were found to be a primitive lineage of wolf. Now, these are not Ethiopian wolves. People mess this up all the time. These are African wolves (Canis lupus lupaster), and they are actually pretty widespread. Populations of these wolves have been found as far from Ethiopia as Senegal, and they do cross with golden jackals there.

But note that the African wolves are breeding with GOLDEN jackals, and they were being confused with GOLDEN jackals. We know that golden jackals are close to wolves and domestic dogs, and they do hybridize.

One could make the case that golden jackals are part of the same “kind” that includes dogs, coyotes, and wolves, but you cannot say that black-backed and side-striped jackals are part of this same kind. They no more can cross with dogs than they a dog can with a petunia or a guinea pig.

So if you hear a creationist talking about jackals being part of the same “kind” as domestic dogs, just ask them about black-backed and side-striped jackals.

They don’t understand the problem with their reasoning at all.

Nor do they care.


AronRa has a nice video on canid evolution, though I do have few quibbles about it, such as the location of where dogs were domesticated and the size of some borophagine dogs, it gives you a good understanding of the problem when creationists mess around with interfertility in dog species.


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dog on the ark afghan hound

Hat tip to Bronwen Dickey.

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The best take down creationist crypto crapola ever!


One thing you’ll learn:

The origins of the fire-breathing dragon myth.

Another thing:

There actually is a unicorn!

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“I would rather know an uncomfortable truth than believe a beautiful lie.”



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Watch this amazing piece of creationist propaganda:


If you watch this clip all the way through, one gets the impression that these Pacifc golden plovers summer only in Alaska and winter only in Hawaii.

How on earth could they have evolved the ability to find those two distinct yet quite disparate places on earth?

What they don’t tell you is that Pacific golden plovers are much more widespread.

They winter in both Alaska and Northeast Asia, and they migrate south, not just to Hawaii but all over the South Asia, Australasia, and the South Pacific. Very few actually migrate to Hawaii.  Some go to California.

Unlike Canada geese and mallard ducks, they don’t have parents that show them where to migrate.

However, it’s very likely that all Pacific golden plovers have an instinct to fly north and south when the hours of sunlight become shorter or longer. In the tropics, the sunlight period is about the same every day, but it does vary a bit, especially when the birds migrate a greater distance from the equator.

And we know that birds are very sensitive to how many hours of daylight they experience. It is the length of day that makes most of the nonmigratory songbirds here that makes them start singing.  It’s not unusual to hear cardinals singing in the middle of snowstorms, should the snowstorms come in late February or early March.

The near 24 hour sunlight in Alaska and Northeast Asia makes that region very productive as an ecosystem during the summer months, but if a bird tried to remain there during the winter, it would likely freeze or starve to death.

So there are many, many birds that summer in Alaska and fly south for the winter. It’s likely that this migratory behavior would be highly selected for in populations of these birds.

These birds also have evolved a tendency to fly a great distance so they can live in the tropics during the winter.  Wintering in the tropics might give some of these birds a bit more of an advantage when they fly back to their breeding grounds in the winter, and there would be a selection pressure on the population for birds that could fly south a very long way from the breeding grounds.

And what’s more, it turns out that juvenile birds don’t have the same migration routes as the adults.

That means the instinct is for these bird to fly south a great distance.

That’s all it is.

It can be explained very nicely through evolution.

But if you accept the premise that these birds only summer in Alaska and winter in Hawaii, then that would be hard for evolutionary processes to explain.

But because they left that part out– either out of dishonesty or simple ignorance– it appears they have a good case that evolution can’t explain.

When all the facts are understood, they have absolutely no case.

So once again creationism fails.

It requires either ignorance or dishonesty for this claim to work out– as do all creationist claims.



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I’ve never heard of Dr. Carl Werner before.

But he makes a claim that I haven’t heard before:

In the clip, he claims that evolution says all organisms change over time, but he has found fossil evidence that certain marine organisms from the fossil record are the same or very similar to ones living today.

That disproves evolution!

Um. No.

The theory of evolution does not say that all organisms will change dramatically over the millions of years of their existence. All evolution posits is that change will happen over time.

That’s all.

It doesn’t say that because it is impossible for things like sharks and clams to have remained very similar over the millions of years.

For example, we have lots of sharks in the ocean right now– and some are pretty strange– but we don’t haven any sharks living in the ocean today (as far as we know) that look like this species that lived 225-280 million years ago.

Werner wants us all to believe that just because certain organisms haven’t changed much that this somehow destroys evolution.

It does not.

All that he has done is present a kind of childish strawman argument, which he easily tears down using evidence that everyone agrees is correct.

We would expect to find certain marine organisms in the same layers that include dinosaur fossils. That’s because many of these organisms evolved long before there were any dinosaurs.

That they haven’t changed much since then is not evidence that evolution doesn’t happen.

It’s that some forms work really well, and there are no selection pressures for dramatic change.

Now, Werner would have an argument if we found fossils of organisms that are in layers that have been dated to a very different time to which we would expect to find them.

J.B.S Haldane, one of the founders of the modern science of population genetics, was once asked what discovery would make him doubt the fact of evolution.

“Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian,” was his answer.

He made this statement after being challenged by Sir Karl Popper to show that the hypotheses behind the theory of evolution would be falsifiable.

Haldane said the existence of rabbits from that time period would falsify evolution. Precambrian life forms were very basic– and not very common. Any fossils of that would be found in rocks dating to that period in earth’s history would be among the first organisms in existence.

If we discovered rabbit fossils in those layers, that would be major affront to the theory of evolution, for it would show that really advanced and complex organisms were around really early in earth’s geologic history.

And no one has found a rabbit from those layers.

I don’t know what sort of science Dr. Werner claims to be using here, but using strawmen to the basics of evolution isn’t a very good way to test the theory’s hypotheses.

It’s actually what we call intellectual dishonesty, and all it does is make him look like a total fool.

Evolution does not say that all organisms change dramatically over time.

Evolution merely posits that change happens.



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Oh. And this applies to so many other issues.

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From a Facebook group invite:

It may be a parody.

It may not.

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The person who posted this video is a creationist moron. The dodgy intro at the beginning of this film just adds to its craptastic nature.

If anyone thinks this is a plesiosaur, I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s a decomposing basking shark.

The proteins from this animal were analyzed, and it’s a basking shark. The whole carcass thrown back into the ocean, but its proteins were shown to have  96 percent chance of being a basking shark. Ergo, we can say that it’s a basking shark.

Kent Hovind, the great tax law expert and mother of all creatards, took this finding to mean that it was only 96 percent basking shark. The other 4 percent was something else– must be plesiosaur!

But it’s not a freaking plesiosaur!

It’s a basking shark.

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