Tuesday, December 09, 2014

20 Questions to Ask Your Evolution Professor - Who Can’t Explain Intelligent Design

This is a reply to a blog post by Dr. Richard Ruhling.

I have answered the questions the the best of my ability. But here are a couple of notes.

Many of these questions are not questions that should be asked of an evolution professor as they are not questions about evolution. I have mentioned the field(s) of study under each question.

It is important to define what evolution is and what it is not.

It is the explanation for the diversity of life.

It is not the big bang. It is not accretion of the planets and it is not abiogenesis.

So here are the questions/

How did we get such nicely rounded spheres from a Big Bang that should have given jagged rocks?

Cosmology, not evolution.

The simple answer is gravity. Planets are not perfectly spherical for 2 reasons. 1. They are generally oblate spheroids. 2. They aren't perfectly smooth (think Everest and Mariana's Trench).

How did all the planets come into orbit after such an explosion?

Cosmology, not evolution

Again, the simple answer is gravity. I think you may be confusing the big bang and accretion.

The big bang is the idea that the universe came from a single point at some point in the past (around 14,5 Billion years). The motion of the galaxies tell us this in precisely the same way you can predict where a ball will land and catch it. The big bang made a prediction. That there should be background radiation in the universe. We looked. There is and you can see it in the static on your television set when it isn't tuned into a channel. N.B. The big bang was neither big, nor was it a bang.

Accretion is the formation of solar systems and their planets. Gravity is what causes the formation of the planets.The dust from an exploded star moves outwards from where the star exploded but the force from the explosion is taken over by the gravity of the dust left over.

Why do the planets vary in distance from the sun so greatly, and still stay in orbit?

Cosmology, not evolution.

Again the simple answer is gravity. Different sized planets,different speeds mean different orbits.

Here's a short video explaining orbits.

With more than 100 moons for the planets (Jupiter having 63), how did they come to orbit planets if they didn’t explode from them, and what evidence would we have that our moon exploded from earth, or where did it come from? Can we see significance to its orbit giving us our months?

Cosmolgy, not evolution.

I'm not entirely sure where you heard that moons "exploded from their planets". They are generally formed when 2 objects in orbit around the sun collide or when one object is captures by the gravity of the other.

Isn’t it strange that these huge heavenly bodies don’t collide, and that we can set our time by them?

Cosmology not evolution.

They do, That's how moons are sometimes formed. Comets crash into the planets on a fairly regular basis and we are bombarded by hundreds of meteorites every day. However, 2 objects in a stable orbit around each other will never collide until their speeds drops to a point where they will (which, given there's no friction in space, means millions of years at least).

How did earth develop its rotation so that we have day and night, and don’t fry on one side or freeze on the other?

Cosmology, not evolution.

Earth got it's rotation from the initial movement of the dust and gasses rotating in the solar system when it formed (see accretion above).

Was it just chance that earth has all the ingredients necessary for life?

Cosmology and chemistry, not evolution.

Given the number of planets in the universe (the estimated number is at least in the trillions) it's almost inevitable that some planets are going to contain what we call "life". It's quite likely that at least 1 other body in our solar system alone will have life of a basic form. (Mars and Europa are 2 possibilities).

If we exploded off the sun, where did we get our atmosphere that was needed to support life?

Cosmology and chemistry, not evolution.

We didn't "explode off the sun". A dying star exploded and over billions of years the chemical rich cloud from that explosion settled (again see accretion above) coalesced through gravity to form the sun and the planets.

How would an explosion from the sun give us all the elements we see on the atomic chart?

Cosmology and chemistry, not evolution.

Again, the simple answer is gravity. That's what suns do. It's how they work. It's called fusion. Gravity at the centre of a sun is so massive that elements like hydrogen fuse together to form helium and the larger elements.

What would be the mathematical probability of an explosion in a junk yard giving us a jumbo jet? (That would be far easier than an explosion giving us any form of life)

Probability, statistics, physics, chemistry and abiogenesis, not evolution.

The chances of an explosion in a junk yard forming a jumbo jet are so close to zero as to be practically impossible on the timescale of our universe. (Your analogy gives away your non-scientific sources).

Life doesn't form via one sudden explosion. Your jumbo jet analogy is a false one. Over billions of years, the earth settled to a stable orbit and relatively stable tectonic plates and atmosphere. The energy from the sun and other sources like lightning, volcanoes, earthquakes etc... allowed atoms to overcome the activation energies that normally prevent them from reacting with other chemicals. which led to the formation of more complex molecules.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says the energy systems tend to run down unless acted upon by an outside source. What is the Source that keeps our universe from becoming like a city dump?

Cosmology and physics, not evolution.

The second law of thermodynamics refers to closed system, You are right that the universe is a closed system. However, their is nothing that prevents a decrease in entropy in local systems. The earth is a local system and has vast amounts of energy pumped into it from an external source. The sun.

Darwin assumed that future discoveries would reveal “missing links” in the evolutionary chain, but after 150 years, we are still waiting. Where are the missing links, or could Darwin have been wrong?

Finally, a question relating to evolution

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by the term "missing link". Missing between what and what? In biology, there is a term "transitional fossil" of which we have millions. That's because every fossil is transitional (as is every living organism). Life is a tree, not a chain.

There is no direct link between currently living organisms, so there will be no missing link. Currently living organisms are related to each other as cousins and not as descendants of one another.

Living organisms have systems intricately complex and dependent on all parts to be functioning as a whole. Did they all evolve simultaneously?

Good, another question about evolution.

The systems organisms have are currently interdependent but haven't always been. Complex systems come from simpler ones. They can't come from more complex ones as that would be begging the question.

Here is evangelical christian and molecular biologist Ken Miller demonstrating that irreducible complexity (the argument you are using) is not a valid one and is nothing more than an argument from incredulity.

Wouldn’t primitive man have bled to death from a cut without the blood clotting mechanism with its cascade of reactions working from the beginning?


Blood clotting factors evolved way before primitive man. All mammals have similar blood clotting factors and all vertebrates have some from of blood clotting systems. Some of them much simpler that for humans.

Here is a presentation on the evolution of blood clotting.

Did mammals all evolve into male and female simultaneously so that after billions of years, they both arrived on the scene at the same time and could reproduce?


Mammals didn't evolve into males and females. Male and female evolved long before even blood clotting did. It's not something I know a lot about but it happened when  our ancestors were single-cellular or basic multi-cellular organisms.

Here is a link to over 2 million scholarly articles on the topic.

With water so essential to life, how did earth get its vast supply if we exploded off the sun?

Cosmology, not evolution.

Again, we didn't "explode off the sun". Most of the water from comets that collided with us (we're talking millions and millions of comets). You can get an idea from the moon just how many times we have been struck by such objects.

As the latest ESA Philae Lander mission to land on a comet has confirmed, comets are largely water.

With atomic nuclei having protons of positive charge, what keeps them from repelling each other?

Chemistry and nuclear physics, not evolution. 

The strong nuclear force holds the nucleus of an atom together.

Did everything in the universe come from nothing, or how did it all happen?

Cosmology and philosophy, not evolution.

No-one knows. There is no way for anyone to know given the extent of human knowledge. What happened "before" the big bang is unknown and may be forever unknowable. "Before" might not even be a valid word in that context.

Comparing tiny atoms with our gigantic solar systems, each with orbiting electrons or planets, it is not difficult to see similarity or design. Dare we say Intelligent Design?

Nuclear physics,cosmology.

Despite the name, electrons don't orbit nucleus like planets orbit the sun. Electrons are a cloud of negative electrical charge. Our knowledge of the shape of that cloud is based on the probability of finding the electron at a particular point.

If we tore 100 pages out of a book and scrambled them, wouldn’t the chance of our picking them up in order blind-folded be better than all of the above happening by chance?


Yes, the chances of picking up all the letters in the right order would be quite small. But the analogy is wrong.

Here's a better one. Imagine you had 100 dice. You can roll them as many times as you like. How many times would you have to roll them to get 100 sixes? A huge number of times, right? In fact about 6x6 ... 100 times. Which turns out to be a number with 77 zeros.

However, that analogy misses out natural selection. Imagine now, that you are allowed to roll the dice as many times as you want but after each roll you get to set aside any sixes that are rolled. That vastly reduces the odds. In fact, you can probably get 100 sixes in less than 100 rolls of the dice.

Each generation in evolution is not a brand new roll of the dice. Each generation works with what it has inherited from their parents plus a few variations. Those offspring most suited to the environment are more likely to survive to pass on their particular variations.

I hope these answers help.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scottish politics have only just started to get interesting

We lost the vote, but the people my heart goes out to are those that voted no in a postal ballot and those voted no in the hope of keeping the status quo.

We who asked for a yes, voted yes, encouraged others to vote yes and did our best to make it happen. We managed to get 45% of the vote and on an 85% turnout. 10 years ago, even the idea of an independence referendum was almost unthinkable. We didn't get the majority, but that's politics and we live to fight another day. It was a political fight and we lost it.

Those who voted no at the ballot box, knowing that a no vote meant implementing "The Vow" and wanted that could vote no in the hope that is what they would get. They voted no and that, we hope, is what they will get.

Those who voted no by postal ballot or were looking for the status quo will, I fear, end up the worst of both worlds. Their vote was made effectively null and void when the party leaders suddenly put the vow on the table.

The position we are in now is the least stable position we could possibly be in.

Had it been a straight fight between independence or the status quo from the beginning a 55%/45% split either way would pretty much have put the issue to bed. We'd have either become an independent country or the country would have made it clear that it was no to independence and the whole idea of another referendum would be dead at least in any of our life times.

Had there been three options on the ballot paper from the start, then the decision would have also been a fairly clear one. Either independence, the status quo or devo max would have won.

The problem we have now is the that the implications of a no vote changed half way through making the no vote a completely unclear one. Some people would have voted no because they wanted the status quo, some people will have voted no because they wanted Ed Miliband's version of the vow and some people will have voted no because they wanted David Cameron's version of it.

It's messy. Really messy.

If the changes do not go through Westminster (and that includes more powers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) then you have 45% of Scotland who voted yes along with another unknown percentage of people who went with "the vow" because they though it was the safer option,

It means the issue of independence has not been put to bed. A failure of Westminster to live up to it's word will leave a Scotland that has woken up and is now politically alive and who will be even more disillusioned with Westminster than they were before the referendum

We have the best interests of Scotland at heart. Now we wait and see if Westminster do too. If not, then unbelievably, there may well be another independence referendum in my life time. And all because Westminster panicked at the 11th hour.

Scottish politics have only just started to get interesting!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Was I There?

I was asked "Was I there?" in a Youtube comment on the following video. He covered a lot more in the comment including C14 dating, observing the creation of stars and many others. It sounded like he was jumping from one piece of science to another because he had heard from someone they were areas of science that were in doubt. 

Comments section here.


Was I there?

What a disingenouous question. You know I wasn't there. Perhaps you should use that inquisitive brain to ask "how do we know"?

We know in precisely the way we know you are related to your cousins from DNA alone. Or related to me for that matter.

How do you think forensic science works? Forensic scientists were "never there" at the crime scene.

That is how almost all science works. Not by direct observation but by observation of the effects.

By the way, C14 dating isn't used for fossils or anything else that is evidence for evolution. You know why? Because the half life of C14 is only 5000 years. That means the ratio of C14 to C12 is too small to be able to measure accurately. Yes, C14 is in everything. We can measure it, but in older objects we can't measure it anywhere near accurately enough.

The reason C14 is in the air is because it is created from the decay of N14. Living things take up the C14 but when they die, there is no longer any exchange of atoms with the environment (part of the definition of "life" is exchanging atoms with the environment).

Instead we use numerous other forms of radiometric dating (which have longer half lives) Such as K-Ar dating. Potassium has a half life of around 1 billion years. As do the others that are used.

"We can measure and deduce many predictions all pf which repeatedly work and be tested...EVERY TIME....WITH ZERO SPECULATION."

No, we can't. Even Newtons laws are wrong for extreme speed or high gravity fields. Only until Einstein came along, could we explain this. We have to change the GPS satellites by 11 seconds every day to account for Newton's laws not being right.

And, if new evidence comes along that Einstein's equations aren't quite right for some specific cases then science will update too.

We can and do observe the formation of stars. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is not broken by evolution (the earth isn't a closed system).

The reason we don't see life "coming from pond scum", as you put it, is because life has already taken hold here. The original life forms were very delicate and any competition (such as bacteria/algae) that currently live in ponds would out-compete them.

But, even given all that. Let's say you disproved evolution (your Nobel prize would be  a certainty) You would be no closer to demonstrating that a "god did it".

If you have evidence that evolution is untrue then take that evidence, test your hypothesis and write a scientific paper on the topic

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


This was a response to a comment on a youtube video by someone that didn't believe there were many denominations of christianity or that all claimed to be biblical.

Don't believe in the trinity. Don't believe man is born sinful. Prefer not to use words like "father" for god as that's a human term and we can't use human terms to describe  such an ethereal concept.

And they're a very common branch of christianity. They even marry atheist couples.


Church of Christ
Believe in baptism of the dead and plural marriage (not practiced but the doctrine stands). They can give biblical reasons for all of these.

Catholic & Orthodox vs protestant
Catholic church teaches the bread and wine actually, in reality, become the body and blood (They mean really and truly change). Protestants believe its symbolic. This is no small matter. Millions have been killed over this issue.

Plymouth Brethren
Have no clergy whatsoever (which breaks the whole idea of the apostolic succession that catholics and many other protestant churches follow). But again, they point to the bible for their reasons.

Speak in tongues and believe that this is the spirit working through them (again because of references in the bible such as the spirit appearing to the disciples in the upper room). Many, many other denominations completely denounce this as evil and demonic and (yet again) use the bible for their references.

Believe that god is open to all. They don't condemn sin. Indeed, they welcome practicing LGBT people, for example. And, as ever, use the bible as the basis for their beliefs.

Keep in mind that almost all denominations use phrases like "one true church" despite all the various beliefs

Would you like me to go on? I can do this for ages.

BTW, my number was wrong, it's 41,000 denominations of christianity. All of whom (by definition, and probably involving violence) believe different things that are fundamental enough to cause a new church.


[EDIT]: I should add that there are other denominations that use revelation as their basis and the bible as a reference. Personal revelation is taken as more recent and accurate evidence for god rather then a second (that's being generous) hand translations of copies of translations of word of mouth tellings of some vague remembered person that saw something once.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Farage, as in barrage and not as in garage, apparently.

So Farage (he pronunces it the French way for some weird, hypocritical reason) just said on radio 2 "We want our country back".
1. Who from?
2. You're showing your true colours now that you have garnered some protest votes (don't mistake them for real votes).
Scared, racist, fearful "little Britisher" who relies on mis-quoted statistics and funding from his rich donors to whip up fear in the ordinary hard-working people of this country (N.B. he is one of the elite and a professional politician like the rest of them).
He forgets the entire strength of Britain comes from our mongrel nature. We've been mongrel since the first people came to this piece of land.
I wrote the following short blog post after the Olympics thinking, naively it turns out, that perhaps Britain had turned a corner.
How fickle we appear to be as a nation.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Scottish Independence

This is in reply to Andrew Copson, chief executive of The British Humanist Association who wrote the following tweet about Scottish Independence.

I should nail my colours to the mast. I am pretty much pro-union, with a few things that may sway me the other way. I thought I should let Andrew know what those influences are and it might help to answer his question.

What is it that might tempt me towards Independence?

Since its opening, the Scottish Parliament has been largely secular, certainly more so than Westminster. The four words on the parliament's mace are "Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity". No pledge to a god, no pledge to a monarch, no pledge to the head of a church. So far, despite some disagreements over policy, these 4 simple principles have held and long may that continue (in a devolved parliament at least). Scotland as a whole has been dogged by religious in-fighting but the intentions of the parliament are sound, I think.

Secondly, I think Scotland has a slightly more humane (if shorter) record on human rights than the UK as a whole. See the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Cameron's pledge to abandon the Human Rights Convention. I suspect this stems from the founding of the parliament and the principles installed then (see above) and its history as a less imperial nation.

Lastly, The debates in the Scottish Parliament seem to be more constructive with MSPs working together far more often and consulting with the public far more widely (along the lines of other European countries) rather than the "yaboo-sucks" impression that is conveyed from Westminster. The working hours are friendlier, the debates are more calmly executed and a more evidence-based approach seems to be taken.

What "love bombs" should we see from Andrew and others?

We should remove the bishops from the house of lords and the unfair privileges that gives the church to veto bills and prevent them passing into law.

We need to fight for more Human rights in Britain as a whole. The fact David Cameron felt comfortable suggesting that we leave the human rights convention behind is very telling. He must have felt he would have had enough support for it. Human rights are there for the difficult times when we need to apply them equally to people with whom perhaps we wouldn't want to pass the time of day.

Fight to make debate in Westminster more co-operative. Make the working hours friendlier for women (and men) and make the whole democratic process more transparent. Make sure evidence is used when the government debates its laws and bows less to party politics with more un-whipped bills.

And finally, give England a regional parliament! England, I suspect, has felt a little pushed aside by all the attention Scotland and the other nations have been getting. England has ahead of it the task of working out its own priorities (regardless of the outcome of the independence vote) and the terms England and Britain have, over centuries, become synonymous. England has a great cultural and scientific history. It needs to re-discover those things.

One of my main reasons for wanting to keep the union, of course, is that I don't want family and friends who live in England to be stuck with a perpetual Tory government.

I have met Andrew a couple of times at AHS and BHA events. He is completely passionate about human rights so my reply is aimed at all of us and not at him personally. We all still have a say in the UK parliament and it's up to everyone to fight for these things.

Ken Ham says Bill Nye is like Eve picking forbidden fruit.

Oh dear! Has he not learned?

Creationist Ken Ham compares Bill Nye to Eve for offering fruit from ‘Tree of Knowledge’ (via Raw Story )
In a video published Wednesday, Creation Museum founder Ken Ham compared Bill Nye “the Science Guy” to Eve in the Book of Genesis. “It really comes down to — here is the difference: We are saying that we start with the word of God who knows…