Sunday, 26 March 2017

Never mind the Punc Eq, where's Adam and Eve?: SJ takes on genetics

I've had a lengthy response to my objections to Christianity from SJ Thomason. Rather than analysing it in one go, I'm going to break this down into smaller (and hopefully more readable formats).

The Red Herring

S.J. Thomason responds:

Let me begin by noting his reference to the flavor of Christianity. I draw attention to this statement because atheists often ask Christians to identify the “correct” Christian sect. I am of the opinion that so long as the Christian sect draws its knowledge from the Bible, embraces Jesus Christ’s divinity, and encourages people to live by the example of Jesus Christ, then the sect is correct.
This is a red herring. It would be relevant to state whether the belief in Adam and Eve in the sect the reader belongs to, are supposed to literally exist, or exist as allegories instead.

People have varying needs in the ways they grow closer to God. 
 The rest of this paragraph has nothing to do with the genetics problem. It's a description of SJ Thomason's beliefs. This suffers the defects of being irrelevant to my objection, and is boring. 

Some prefer liturgical, ritualistic churches in which the congregation sings hymns and develops an appreciation of sacraments and traditions, such as the Lutheran and Catholic churches. Others might prefer contemporary sorts of churches in which the congregation sings contemporary Christian songs and listens to informative sermons on the Bible, such as the Baptist church. Other churches blend these options and offer various interpretations of the Bible based on variations of adherence to literal interpretations of the Bible. No matter the door, all ultimately lead to Jesus. “The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will be open at last” (Lewis, 1949).

The Strawman Fallacy

To answer Kaimatai’s next issue, which speaks to the origins of the universe, earth, and life on earth, I draw from Hugh Ross and his book Improbable Planet.
And straight to the strawman fallacy.  I gave as a specific example that genetics refuted that a literal Adam and Eve existed.  These are examples of an absence of evidence where there should be evidence.

“The Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun, the Moon, and the configuration of the solar system’s planets and asteroid belts reveal how Earth obtained its unique stockpile of elements and minerals that enable Earth today to sustain such an enormous biomass and biodiversity. The fossil record, isotope records, geological layers, sediment cores, ice cores, and biodeposit (biological decay products embedded in Earth’s crust) inventories provide biologists and ecologists with a chronicle of Earth’s life. Earth’s preserved record of past physical and biological events reveals an unanticipated synergy (p. 16-17).”
The conspicuous feature of the paragraph is the absence of any mention of genetics.  It's irrelevant.

“Charles Darwin presumed that the development and transformation of life throughout Earth’s history was gradual, smooth, and continuous. 
 That was in 1859.  And it was a hypothesis, that even some of his supporters (like Huxley) remained unconvinced by.  By the early 1950s, the development of population biology and speciation modes like allopatric speciation, had undermined this gradualistic view.  It persisted longer in paleontology however. 

The Appeal to (False) Authority

However, in landmark articles published in 1972 and 1977, paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould pointed out that the fossil record is typified by species remaining in extended stasis (little or no net evolutionary change) interrupted by quantum jumps where species suddenly disappear and then are followed quickly by sudden appearances of very different species
Correct, as a necessary consequence of speciation beginning from small populations, where the odds of leaving fossils behind are very unlikely because the populations are too small! Not because evolution works by jumps.   And we have plenty of good examples of gradual change occurring in the fossil record.

This argument is completely fallacious. Ross isn't an evolutionary biologist, or geneticist, or paleontologist.  He's a physicist. He doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. 
…It is not only at the species level where quantum jumps are observed but also at the level of families, orders, and classes of organisms (p. 19).
I'm sorry, but what did I just read!?  Pretty much all terrestrial animals are just one thing. A segmented worm-like creature with optional appendages.  We're bilateral triploblasts.  There aren't "quantum leaps". Just some tinkering with an animal with a feeding tube that runs down the centre.

“Primitive life, that is unicellular bacterial life, is but the simplest form of life on Earth. There are three other general divisions of purely physical life: (1) differentiated multicellular organisms (for example, fungi); (2) plants; and (3) animals. 
 Oh the stupid just burns now. There are three domains of life. The three divisions mentioned here make up just one of them. I know Ross is old, but it looks like he learned his biology from Darwin himself.

In addition to purely physical life, Earth today contains two kinds of life that possess distinctly nonphysical attributes. One of these kinds is a group of animals that possess a mind…that is capable of experiencing and expressing emotions, exercising intellectual analysis, and making decisions in response to that analysis and the animal’s emotional state. All mind-possessing animals share in common the attribute of parents providing sacrificial care for their offspring. Animals in this category include all mammals and birds and a few of the more advanced reptilian species such as the crocodile and the alligator” (p. 21).
 Sigh, "advanced" is not a thing in biology.

Putting the Cart before the Horse

“Another kind of life-form possessing nonphysical attributes is the species Homo sapiens sapiens. Human beings not only possess a mind, but they are also endowed with a spirit…(which) enables humans to engage in philosophy and theology and to address questions of ultimate meaning and purpose” (p. 21).
 The claim we have a spirit is a religious one. As it is embedded in the god-belief, which is disputed, the argument is a fallacious 'affirming the consequent'. Ross is putting the cart-before-the-horse. 

Again, this is irrelevant to my objection, and is resorting to an appeal to (false) authority. 

Argument by Assertion Fallacy

In other words, the earth today contains diverse and abundant species in multiple levels of advanced life, many of which appeared suddenly via quantum jumps. Such an explanation helps to explain the way the most advanced life forms possess consciousness (i.e., awareness) and spirituality, while less advanced life forms do not. Such an explanation further suggests that the first humans appeared suddenly.

  1. 1. There's no such thing as more or less advanced in biology. Organisms can have basal or derived characters.  The idea of 'advancement' is a religious relic based on the Scalae Naturae. It does not exist. 
  2. 2. Molecular evidence shows that species don't appear in sudden leaps. Fossils are a function of population abundance. Species that originate with low populations leave few or no fossils. Molecular evidence shows that we don't see leaps. 
    1.  The decoding of the mouse genome showed that over 99% of the coding genes in a mouse and a human were the same.  A 1% change of over 65-75my isn't a jump.
  3. Humans didn't appear suddenly.  That's what the genetic evidence tells us. 

Final Score

So as far as a rebuttal goes, it's a complete fail. 
  •  The genetic evidence against a recent human origin from two individuals was not addressed. No evidence from the field of genetics was even produced!
  • A strawman argument was conjured in its place
  • An appeal to authority was attempted, but the authority was ignorant of the topic at hand!
  • Assertions were frequently just wrong.


  1. In Steph's defense, I'd fare as badly as she did here were I to try argue with her about business/commerce. She's just out of her element, and it shows. But she's trying!

    1. I am surprised she went for the full assault on evolution, rather than the safe "Adam and Ever are allegorical" tactic. Especially as Ross sends up a lot of red flags as an 'expert'.

  2. If my rebuttal is so weak, why did you block me? Now, if you unblock me on Twitter, we can have a delightful time chatting about being a vegetarian, biking and your passion for hummus and photography. We can also chat about the way Jesus is working through me to get to you. ✝️✝️❤️✝️✝️

    1. If it was irrefutable why did I continue to patiently go through your responses, and reply to them?

      Don't you think this gambit of dishonestly pretending you always win is going to cause people to give up engaging you?

      We didn't talk about those on twitter to begin with. Don't you think seeing people mostly as potential converts is something we can perceive, and not be impressed with?