Friday, February 14, 2014

"Why I am no longer a creationist"

A friend asked about a video. Here's my response (with some minor revisions):

I just watched the "Why I am no longer a Creationist - Part 1: Genus Homo" video. Here are some thoughts:

  • He's criticizing YECs like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, and Ray Comfort. But they aren't exactly scholarly representatives. Let alone scholars in anthropology, paleontology, and other fields relevant to human evolution.

    Ironically, given what he says in this video, he comes off just as ignorant of "the science" as the YECs he criticizes.

  • He thinks YECs allege evolutionists use a piece from skeletal remains like a jaw bone to construct an entire skeleton from the jaw bone, which is hugely hypothetical, and then claim the reconstruction somehow substantiates human evolution.

    He says this might've been a valid criticism by YECs in the early 1900s when all we had were small bone fragments. But he says that's not true today since we have a lot more to work with than jaw bones. He says we have near complete skeletons in some cases.

    However, he ends this segment by admitting YECs no longer argue this way. If that's the case, then why does he spend all this time criticizing YECs for an argument YECs don't even use anymore?

  • He says Homo habilis are the earliest hominids to use stone tools. He flat-out states: "Apes don't use stone tools."

    Really? What about stuff like this?

  • But say he's right that apes don't use stone tools. Apparently he thinks this is evidence for evolution or against young earth creationism.

    However, other evolutionists have likewise argued since apes use stone tools this is evidence for evolution.

    In other words, either way we cut it, it's evidence for evolution and/or against creationism!

  • On the one hand, he claims DNA studies conclusively disprove YECs claims that Neanderthals are just another form of humans like us rather than a separate species. He says DNA studies prove Neanderthals are a separate species. (Although, actually, I've read there's debate even among evolutionists over whether Neanderthals are a separate species i.e. Homo neanderthalensis or whether they're a subspecies of Homo sapiens.)

    But on the other hand, he says DNA shows us "absolutely nothing" concerning ancient human species like the Heidelberg Man and Homo habilis because "DNA completely breaks down over hundreds of thousands of years and becomes impossible to study." If that's the case, then wouldn't the whole "DNA breaking down and becoming impossible to study" issue be the same for Neanderthals?

  • I think he also mentioned Neanderthals predate humans by at least tens of thousands of years. However, I've read some evolutionists arguing Neanderthals interbred with humans. So who's right? At a minimum, it appears this is a matter of debate even among evolutionists. He seems a lot more cocksure about this point than evolutionists do!

  • He rattles off a list of various Homo species as if the mere fact of listing their names proves they're the "missing links" in human evolution. But is Homo habilis a missing link? Is Homo erectus a missing link? Is Homo neanderthalensis a missing link? Etc. Just noting the fact that scientists have classified these various Homo species as separate species proves nothing one way or the other. In fact, it's the very point in contention.

  • He says the YEC "charge" that these Homo species are obviously not apes and gorillas "has been easily refuted through obvious facts such as the human-like posture, social structure, use of fire and stone tools." Of course, since that's all he says without being more specific, we could easily reply, apes and gorillas do have a "human-like posture." (He'll have to specify if he means something like bipedal motion.) They also do have their own "social structure." As we saw above, some do use stone tools. And depending on what he means by the "use" of fire, some do "use" fire. For example, see here, here, or here.

  • He says YECs who allege some skeletal remnants are deformed human skeletons can't be right because there are no normal modern human skeletons found near these alleged deformed human skeletons. But if they are deformed human skeletons rather than separate Homo species, then why should we expect there to be normal modern human skeletons found near them? Maybe good reasons exist, but he doesn't offer any.

  • He cites Asimov saying the only thing we can be assured of is that our modern knowledge of science is wrong. If that's the case, then it cuts both ways. It also applies to modern evolutionary theory.

  • He cites Asimov saying something like, it's true the Earth is not flat, it's true the Earth is not a sphere, but people who think therefore both theories are equally wrong are themselves quite wrong. His point is that creationists who say "evolution is just a theory" are like people who would say both the flat Earth and the sphere Earth theories are equally wrong.

    Of course, this is an argument from analogy. But why think modern evolutionary theory is analogous to this in the first place?

    Besides, he's setting up a strawman, for not all creationists disagree with all of modern evolutionary theory.

    Besides, even if modern evolutionary theory were true, it's not necessarily unreasonable to believe in God and the God of the Bible such as Francis Collins does. In short, this guy didn't have to become an atheist just by thinking human evolution is true (if that's what his main basis for his apostasy is).

  • He thinks science is progressively correct. That we are "more right all the time." Or "less and less wrong" over time.

    But there have been periods in history in which "science" in at least some parts of the world regressed.

    Some parts of the world today are not substantially different from the Dark Ages in terms of scientific literacy.

    And there's no guarantee in the future that science will "progress." What if most of the world is wiped out like in one of those apocalyptic movies or TV shows? Who's to say we will retain our current knowledge of "science" enough to continue this march of progress?

    And he conflates gathering information with being able to analyze and understand this information. Just because we accumulate more information over time doesn't necessarily mean we are guaranteed to better understand this information. It could still all be white noise as far as we're concerned.

    More importantly, Steve knows far more about this than I do, but I would think this would likewise come down to a debate over scientific realism vs anti-realism. How closely do scientific theories correlate with reality or truth in the first place?

  • He attempts to psychoanalyze creationists throughout the video. He essentially sees creationists as ostriches with their heads intentionally stuck in the ground, or people who stop their ears to all reason and knowledge, who refuse to listen to the evidence and would rather live in their own imaginary la la land. What's more, he regards creationists as coercive, as if they were forcefully brainwashing people. He says creationists like Ken Ham "set themselves up, as it were, between God and men."

    Ironically, this tells us more about him than it does about creationists. Despite the video presented in a relatively calm voice, his points against creationism aren't terribly reasonable, but seem far more to reflect his own past emotional injuries. It's as if he harbors a huge grudge against his fundamentalist upbringing.

    There are plenty of sophisticated creationists (including YECs) who are likewise scientists and other scholars. Not sure why he chose to box with Ken Ham and the like who may be well-meaning pious Christians but who aren't exactly the best representatives. It'd be better to address the best arguments and positions a particular side has to offer.

Steve's post about missing links is worth checking out too.

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