09 March, 2014

On evolution.

So a couple of my friends posted a link to a very creationist article. Basically it says that because scientists are finding soft tissues and heme and other such parts that shouldn't survive if dinosaurs are millions of years old, they have to be younger, and creationism is by extent true. While a creationist, I still think scientifically, and creationists who don't think scientifically lose credibility to most other people. The author uses credible sources such as 60 minutes, and has good base evidence that yes, we are finding things in dinosaur fossils we shouldn't. However the author then goes on to assert this almost proves creationism. The lack of objectivity and poor conclusion from evidence weakens the article, but not the points made. With minimal thought and some more structured extrapolation, evidence in both directions can be seen.

The author is terrible at citation, not giving full credit to most sources, though you can tell he is using other people's words, and trying to give them credit. I can't find the actual source of most of the quotes though, and paraphrases have been put in quotation marks, which is misleading. Again, the point made is fair, though the author is not a scientist and should not be thought of as such. Neither should I.

There are many possible solutions to the evidence this article gives, and some of them support either side of this debate, so it's not conclusive enough to offer significant pull to evolution or creationism. I will however offer my thoughts which could support either side of the debate.

  1. When the scientists say iron and the author ridicules it, the author is wrong. When scientists who are paid and educated for this field bring up a suggestion, it should be taken with more weight. Not only was it poorly paraphrased in quotation marks, but iron is a proven thing that exists in blood. Metals preserve the things around them because they are metal. It is literally the process of fossilization, and can potentially explain some soft tissue surviving longer than first thought.
  2. Other anomalies (pockets of gases from decaying life that we lose upon unearthing the fossil: ie we can't keep and analyze it) are preserving the life in the same principle suggested of iron, and we simply are unable to record it. This is weakened by the idea trace amounts would be within the sample itself. Basically, we still have human error even at the top levels. Because we can't follow the fossil all the way to the point where it was alive and muddy, we can't tell you exactly why its preserved as is.
  3. Dinosaurs are not alive today, and so it's quite possible they had living cells much tougher than anything we can imagine feasible today. This could put dinosaurs in the evolutionist's timetable, while allowing the evidence we see today. They just had tougher stuff and we haven't proved it yet.
  4. The dinosaurs are younger than we originally thought. There may exist a space old enough to defy Judeo-Christian creationism and young enough to allow soft tissue survival.  This is the most neutral conclusion I could think of, all of the others visibly supporting evolution or creationism.
  5. In a very loose interpretation of the Genesis story, the seven days would not be literal. This could say God created everything, or even that he simply defied the laws of probability in inducing life, but at a slower pace than what we think of as seven days now. The time table of evolution is condensed due to a Creator speeding things up, solving the issue given here. This is more of a Deist thought though.
  6. Literal seven day creation story, but opposing number 2, with anomalies in gases and such aging some things, which would show credibility to evolution, which we simply haven't proven incorrect.
  7. Either directly for or against the author, all evidence is supportive of creationism or evolution. There are gaps in evidence and when not firmly connected it can be misconstrued as evidence for the opposition. The author assume evidence is going to creationism and due to gaps in what we know and unbelieving people there is an argument for evolution.
Also, several combination of these 7 exist, and while writing this response I've thought of about 20 different combinations of events or phenomena or places where humanity is ignorant of fact that could show a range of theories true or not. The largest thing I've thought of today is the true periodic table of elements, which does not look like this:

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These are the pure elements we know of. The full list of possibilities is actually found here:

This full table is not needed for most sciences courses, but shows the vanilla elements on a regular periodic table, and all possible isotopes. My favorite element Gallium exists in 32 different ways, only 2 of them stable.

I guess all of this is just to show that objectivity doesn't exist? Humanity is willed and stubborn, we have preconceived notions we have and we bend the evidence to support what we want. The idea of not knowing scares us as a species and it is why we have sciences at all. We want to know everything we can, out of natural curiosity.

I'm not objective. You're not objective. We're all not objective. And even scarier than the idea humanity might not be able to see truth because of this subjective filter is the mixing of possibilities. Not only could I be wrong, but you could be wrong too, and we'd have to agree on our points somewhere in the middle? Agree? With them? It's tough, but until a definite answer is found, most things remain viable.


  1. 1. "Metals preserve the things around them because they are metal. It is literally the process of fossilization, and can potentially explain some soft tissue surviving longer than first thought.' Millions of years 'longer' than thought? I've never heard of the preservation properties of metals, and even if you're granted that statement, it does not mean millions of years. The author ridicules when he says, "Schweitzer and other paleontologists that are desperate to prop up their existing theories are now suggesting that “iron in the blood” could have preserved the soft tissue that we are finding for all of these millions of years." When you say scientists are paid and educated in this field, to decline to mention that most have been indoctrinated with evolutionary thought since babies, as every program on PBS inserts the 'millions of years ago' sentence into anything they show, and every textbook does the same. That their opinion is better, even though their argument is weak and unsubstantiated is a fallacy. If 4 out of 5 doctors were misinformed about how blood letting was the way to cure fevers in 1770, does that make the non-doctor of his time less believable when he says that by observation those who were made to let blood died more often than those who didn't? Bad science is just bad, no matter who says it.

    You know, I could go on and on with just your first point. It almost smacks of bias right off the bat and makes its author hardly a candidate for objective comment.

  2. I'd actually enjoy picking your brain a bit more, as I couldn't quite understand the specific points you've mentioned. Partially due to a very tiring day on my part, and for that I apologize.

    I don't apologize for my statements, however. I'd like to make the assertion there is no bad science. "Bad science" isn't science. Even if you don't get what you think you will/should, a proper scientific process usually gives you data to use, or for others to use.

    Their opinion is not better, but neither is yours. Their opinion is usually more respected than us laymen, and if it should be can be questioned, but they've dedicated careers to this, and I find it silly for an author to deny that point outright without so much as a sentence as to why. Had he said "this is not possible because iron's half life doesn't substantiate any type of preservation" I would have been appeased.

    And finally in case you were too emotionally caught up, I disagree with the point personally. It's a viable hypothesis that was brought up, partially because (as I've already stated) we don't know enough. It's possible. Not sure, not even likely, but possible, and so I listed it. Also since we're quoting the post:

    "While a creationist, I still think scientifically..."

    You're demonstrating belief right now, but belief without a proper process as to why you believe what you do doesn't merit anything. If you can't explain at least some of it, you shouldn't believe it. I can explain a creationist theory as well as a regular Joe not enlightened by the Almighty Himself can.

    Neither can be explained to the point of proof.

  3. Actually, I'd beg to differ. Their opinion may not be morally better, but it is qualitatively better, in that it is generally an opinion based on observable scientific method. Individuals that have been trained in a discipline generally have more relevant and trustworthy opinions on said subject. I wouldn't trust a mechanic's opinion on what's going on with my heart. Can science, and its agents be wrong? Sure, but that's not a problem for science, as you've pointed out yourself.

    Bad science *is* a thing, but not in the way you propose. Using the tools of science to prove unprovable things (like say, the existence of ghosts) is bad science.

    As far as the content of the article itself, there are some intriguing ideas if you cut past the bias of the piece. While I wouldn't trust a Daily Mail piece if it told me the sun was going to rise tomorrow morning, the Smithsonian is generally a credible source. It doesn't disprove the fossil record by any means, but it DOES challenge the assumption of decaying processes. Key but fundamental difference.

    One last thing- I'd like to address point 3. A) What do you mean by dinosaur? There are certainly descendants of dinosaurs and even examples of animals that have not substantially changed in the last 65 million years. So I'm not sure your assertion that there are no dinosaurs alive today is correct.

    B) No, it's really not possible that their cells are substantially different than what animal cells are like today. It would be incredibly unlikely, given our understanding of dinosaurs' living descendants and creatures of the day, for the cell structure to be substantially different.

    As far as my own bias- I accept that evolution is the theory that makes the most sense for explaining the complexity of life as it exists today. However, I also acknowledge that there are fundamental questions that this theory cannot answer- such as- how did proteins begin to assemble, propogate (that parts not hard to surmise) and most importantly, begin to protect their self interests? The origin of consciousness is the one area that remains grey in this explanation, but again, that's okay- that's not what evolutionary theory is meant to address.