Thursday, March 12, 2009

Evolution and me: a personal story (part 10)

Part 10: Layers in a trifle

After taking a break from my Evolution and Me series, I've decided to resume with this post by considering a trifle. The interesting thing about this desert is all those layers
they all tell a story. My mom, for example, might make a trifle as follows: first at the bottom of the bowl, add a layer of finger biscuits or sponge cake. Next add a layer of custard, then fruit, then jam, then mince. Finally, top it all off with some whipped cream (yum!)

Next time you sit down, ready to enjoy this desert, look at the various layers and ponder the question: which layer was placed down first? It only seems logical that the bottom most layer in the above example (i.e., the finger biscuits) was first, followed by every consecutive layer. The uppermost layer, the whipped cream in this case, is logically the youngest layer of the lot. If you understand this, then you understand what geologists call the Principle of Superposition: that any layer must be older than the one above it.



Long before Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species, geologists noticed that the Earth's rock is structured in much the same way, into distinct layers, or strata. And interestingly enough, most strata contain their own distinct fossils of living organisms now long extinct. But what is even more interesting is that these fossils, when taken as a whole, tell a very perplexing story.

Increase in complexity
One element of this story is that the very earliest layers contain the remains of simple creatures, and as you work your way up to the upper layers, fossil remains generally become more complex in structure. If you accept the Principle of Superposition, you would logically conclude that simple creatures were placed down first, followed by more complex creatures. One would have to ask why complex creatures are absent in the oldest layers.

Observed linkages?
But most interestingly, fossils do not appear randomly across various layers. They seem, in many instances, to follow a pattern that suggests that fossils between layers are linked in some way. We often observe that the characteristics of newer fossils seem to be modified forms of earlier fossils. How do we explain this?

If we look at these, and many other, patterns in the fossil record, one is left pondering why we observe what we observe. I believe that evolution is the best idea that we have come up with that can make adequate sense of these patterns.

In my next post, I will focus on some of these observed linkages, examples of what palaeontologists refer to as transitional fossils.

Next post: A long line of photographs
Return to the table of contents for 'Evolution and Me'

26 comments:

Lorena said...

Fascinating! But I would rather have a shot at that trifle. Boy, does it look good or what?

Nikeyo said...

I believe this is one of the best "data" (if that's the best word?) for the evolution theory: the fossil strata record.

Mainly because it is falsifiable. If we one day find a fossil clearly anachronistically out of place, the theory goes to pot. Which is the marvelous thing of science. Being able to face that, and accept the data for what it says as it's found.

Never heard of a trifle before now though I must say...

The Spear said...

Yeah, It is kind of strange how not even one dinosaur made it up to the same depth in the layer as say, mammoths. So I guess there goes the young earth theory and that we walked among dino's.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

Thanks for highlighting one of the more critical factors considered in determining the age of the earth and "progession" of life on earth. As a young earth creationist, I of course have a different understanding of the fossil record and geological strata. Typically, the YEC position is not represented very well because some of its more outspoken proponents are some of the most ill-informed people when it comes to the natural sciences. If you're interested in a good summary (and quick read) of this position widely held in the Christian community, I'd recommend the book "Old Earth Creationism on Trial" by Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle. It's technically written to address Christians (old-earth creationists, as the title suggests), but it does a good job of identifying erroneous starting assumptions which have long been attached to popular fossil record interpretations, such as the one you've suggested here.

phil

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Phil

Hope you are well, and thanks for the comment. Do you perhaps know of an internet page where they have posted information on their understanding of the fossil record? I'm very interested to take a look, and I might even link to it from my blog.

Or maybe you can write up, in this comment section, the main points of their explanation of what we observe in the fossil record.

All the best
Kevin

Anonymous said...

Hi again Kevin,

I don't know off-hand of an online link to the info-- I read it straight from the book-- but I'll send you a link if I can find it, or try to summarize some of the points myself if time allows. On a related note, there is a new article (link below) featured in Answers in Genesis which addresses issues concerning what we should expect to find in sedimentary deposits in the geological strata. I haven't spent much time on it (just a quick read), but it seems relevant to your post.

phil

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v4/n2/folded-not-fractured

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Phil

Thanks a lot for the link. I will follow it up.

All the best
Kevin

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Phil

I've taken a read of that article, and find it extremely interesting. I don't think the Flood theory is in conflict with the Principle of Superposition. It doesn't matter if the layers were deposited over millions of years or just over one year, we can still agree that any layer is younger than those layers that appear below it.

The major contention, I think, is over the time it took for the layers to be deposited, and this is where I would err on the side of old-earth theorists. Although the article provides an alternative theory to why we observe layers (i.e., they were deposited during the Flood), it don't provide testable explanations for why we see the specific patterns I covered in my article. If the Flood did deposit all the layers in just a year, wouldn't we see a more random distribution of fossils (e.g., human fossils mixed up with dinosaurs, etc)? What mechanism does the creationist appeal to in order to explain why we observe fossils, that are similar to each other, appearing in layers that are close together?

I am probably ignorant of the current work done by Flood geologists, but at the moment my own view is that there various observations that the Flood theory doesn't yet explain very well, some of which I've covered in this blog entry.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

Thanks again for taking time to read and respond. Rest assured I am learning much through our interactions!

I agree with you in that there is no contention between the biblical flood account and the general principle of superposition-- length of time is indeed what is in question.

You also made an important observation when you stated that alternative theories "don't provide testable explanations for why we see the specific patterns I covered in my article." However, if by "testable explanations," you mean recreating the precise conditions which would have been present at the time, your statement really is true of any theory regarding origins. What we can do for any theory, however, is hypothesis testing (asking what we would expect to observe today if a certain theory were true). Hopefully, the above-linked article sheds some light on the strength of certain aspects of the creation/flood theory when scrutinized according to hypothesis testing, as well as some examples of how the old-earth position may be considered falsifiable by many scientists.

You also asked, "If the Flood did deposit all the layers in just a year, wouldn't we see a more random distribution of fossils (e.g., human fossils mixed up with dinosaurs, etc)?" Not necessarily. The first article linked below (also from Answers in Genesis) hopefully will clarify some of the reasons why what we observe in the fossil record is perfectly consistent with the biblical flood account-- in fact, it specifically focuses on the human-dinosaur fossil issue. The second link below is a related issue which you also may find interesting. Evolutionists and old-earthers are largely baffled about how to understand the discovery of preserved T-Rex soft tissue, but this finding represents many such discoveries which I believe are consistent with the events described in Genesis. Both articles also shed light on how many scientists (both religious and non-religious) tend to interpret evidences in light of their starting assumptions much more than they realize.

phil

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/human-and-dino-fossils-together


http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/human-and-dino-fossils-together

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I copied the first link twice in my above post. The second link is here.

phil

http://discovermagazine.com/2006/apr/dinosaur-dna/?searchterm=schweitzer

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Phil

Thanks for those links. You’ve definitely given me some interesting stuff, and food for thought.

With regards to the first article on why we don’t see human fossils with dinosaur fossils. Basically, if I read the article correctly, the argument is that it is possible that human fossils from the Flood coexist in the geological record with dinosaur fossils, but we haven’t yet found them.

I could be wrong, but is this not an appeal to ignorance? UFO believers might use the same argument to explain why we haven’t found evidence in the fossil or archaeological records of alien visitations to ancient civilizations. “Well, they did visit us,” they might argue, “but we haven’t found evidence yet because the aliens were clever enough not to leave too many any traces of their visit.” If you argue from what we haven’t discovered rather than from what we have discovered, you can argue for any kind of crazy belief, because such line of reasoning doesn’t lend any validity to the position being argued for.

In other words, the article doesn’t provide any physical evidence, but only explanations for why we don’t observe what we should observe in the fossil record if the Flood theory is true. It’s okay to provide explanations, but all of these only make sense if you already believe that the Flood occurred. For example, they argue that pre-Flood population counts were very low, but the only source for such reasoning is from the Bible. Is this not a form of circular reasoning? The point of Answers in Genesis is to prove the Bible true, but in the end they appeal to the Bible in an attempt to ‘save’ the Flood theory.

Also, such a pattern doesn’t apply only to humans. Why don’t we find trilobites in the upper layers; why are angiosperms missing from the lower layers where we find gymnosperms, etc. I grant that it is possible that humans and dinosaurs lived together, but I find it more rational to provincially base my beliefs on what has been discovered, rather than on what has not been discovered.

The second article is also interesting, but even if organic material was found, this does not necessarily mean that the fossil in which it was found is recent. The rock in which it was found was dated as being millions of years old, by 86 separate chemical analyses.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts on those articles, Kevin. I understand your reasoning about an "argument from silence," and the comparison to UFO believers is a good analogy. However, I don't think that discredits the article from providing rational and logical explanations about why what we know about the geological record reflects what it does. As the previous article I had linked to showed, there are also numerous findings which DO support a young earth position over an old-earth one. The main point of difference, as we have both alluded to, regards what one's starting assumptions are. Since the Christian's starting assumptions are the existence of God and the reliability of the biblical record, it makes sense to interpret evidences in light of these assumptions. As an illustration, we Americans assume an American Revolutionary War occurred in the 1700's even though none of us here today were alive to witness it. Why do we believe such an event occurred? Because we believe we have sufficient documentary evidence to substantiate such a belief. Therefore, discoveries on past battlefields are interpreted in light of what we already assummed had occurred there. On the other hand, the old-earther interprets evidence (and yes, even lack of evidence) in light of their starting assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism, which I believe are unreliable foundations. I strongly recommend checking out Chaffey and Lisle's book for a good, thorough explanation of why this is so.

phil

Lui said...

The great Flood - in the sense of a deluge covering the entire planet - never happened. This is something that virtually every geologist is unequivocal about. What's more, the notion that the Earth is a mere 10,000 years old or less is, frankly, preposterous enough not to require any further comment, and it can be dismissed along with the likes of astrology, alien abductions and other quack "science". But I'll briefly give a couple of reasons why it can be dismissed completely out of hand, and why no one should waste any time on it. For it to be true, it necessarily means that every cataclysmic event ever uncovered by science must have taken place within a tiny window of a few thousand years. Think of all the meteorite impacts we know about, as well as the major volcanic eruptions like the Siberian Traps during the late Permian. The impact that is reputed to have contributed to the downfall of the dinosaurs didn't even produced the largest mass extinction, but it was horrendous enough, and there is no doubt that it would have been recorded by any humans alive at the time. The Permian mass extinction - the greatest of these - wiped out some 95 percent of all species alive at the time. Yet we are given no indication of such a monstrous happening in the Bible. If such things were taking place so regularly, there'd have been nothing left alive. And this isn't even counting the "Great Flood". The reason that we see flood mentioned so prominently in ancient mythology is two fold: because a lot of the settlements and civilisations at the time lived near large water bodies and suffered occasional floods, which would have had dire consequences for them (and hence would have acquired a legendary status), and because these myths are recycled and passed on from generation to generation, becoming the basis for the creation stories of later religions. Trying to strong arm science to make it fit a literal interpretation of these myths is never going to work, and it hasn't. Sorry, but anyone who seriously believes that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old is deluding themselves to the same extent as someone trying to convince themselves that the Sun orbits the Earth. Real geologists simply don't pay any attention to YEC, and nor should they. YEC has uncovered no new facts, it has no research program to speak of, and it has a demonstrable religious agenda that sets the boundaries upon what science can be accepted and what science must be ignored and rejected. What's more, it's a completely negative enterprise, dedicated almost solely to poking holes in the scientific account. And it's an insult to the many Christian scientists who realise what genuine science is all about, and who feel no need to adopt a literalist interpretation. It's arguably also an insult to the creation myths themselves, which were meant as narratives to help people come to terms with their world and their relationship to their gods. It's a grave insult to science, the most honest, self-checking, and thorough enterprise yet devised by human minds. For anyone to try to shoehorn the wonders unveiled by science - the mind-expanding, boundless fascination of billions of years of cosmic and biological evolution, of countless dynasties of animal and plant life flowering and and going extinct, of countless oddities, quirks and contraptions - to try to make it confirm to a parochial narrative is, if I may borrow a religious term, sacrilege. It's an insult to human ingenuity. The universe as investigation reveals is is rich and beautiful beyond measure. Evolution and cosmology present to us the grandest stories. Creationism, in contrast, is a mind-shrinking fallacy, a reassuring and infantile lie to placate those who can't or won't come to terms with the truly transcendental reality of billions of years. What a waste to be living at a time of such exciting developments, at a time when we know more about the universe and ourselves than at any point in our short history - knowledge that should be the right of every person to know about - and to then substitute that knowledge for a literal interpretation of an ancient myth.

One final point (and I present this as representative of a broader category of facts that make creationism completely untenable): most of the marsupial species in the world are located in Australia. It's rather odd that this should be so if one supposes that a great flood engulfed the Earth, with Noah taking a pair of every species (or "kind", a vague creationist term that has no biological significance) and then, after finding land, that all the marsupials should have found their way back to Australia, along with all the plant types they've adapted to. It makes perfect sense, though, if we suppose that these marsupials are descendants of a common stock which arrived in Australia a long time ago (read millions of years ago), became isolated due to continental drift, and evolved into the myriad forms we see today. Actually, something like this is undeniable. Genetically, the marsupials are more similar to one another than they are to species on other continents that look more like each respective species. This is the result of convergent evolution: the evolution of similar traits in response to similar environmental constraints and demands. The Biblical account is not only convoluted, but there is not the smallest shred of evidence for it. On the other hand, if your "starting point" is a literalist interpretation of Scripture, then you've already opted yourself out of any rational discussion about the evidence, because you've placed yourself above it. Your only criterion is "does this conform to the Bible?" If that's so, then you can't even talk about being centrally concerned with science, because it's absolutely clear that your overriding interest is to construct a picture that bolsters your religious beliefs. And so you will be forced to resort to endless epicycles, constructing a gigantic patchwork of contradictory facts that can only be held together with "God did it". Of course, you're free to partake in this, but don't imagine that anyone else will find it at all compelling, or that it even approaches anything like intellectual rigour. Since your dogma is beyond evidence (in the furtherance of a great Truth, of course), you won't see the need to conform to it, and that's a transparent reversion to mysticism.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

I thank you for the great amount of thought and detail you put into your above comments; you obviously feel very strongly about this-- but, you are simply mistaken on many of your facts, beginning with the statement that "This is something that virtually every geologist is unequivocal about." There is a considerable amount of debate, even among secular geologists, concering whether what is observed in the strata are the result of billions of years, certain cataclysmic events (like a universal flood), or some combination of the two. To give the impression that there is an intelligent professional consensus about these matters is misleading. Your statement, "Real geologists simply don't pay any attention to YEC" is also simply untrue, because there are plenty of "real" (meaning professional level) geologists who do. Perhaps you mean there are no geologists you agree with who pay attention to YEC? There are many other theories which present strong alternate interpretations of the evidences you used above to dimiss YEC, and to simply discredit them by calling them "fake geologists" or something similar is an insufficient argument.

phil

Lui said...

"There is a considerable amount of debate, even among secular geologists, concering whether what is observed in the strata are the result of billions of years, certain cataclysmic events (like a universal flood), or some combination of the two."

Sorry, but that's absolutely false. It's clear that you have gotten your "science" from creationist propaganda mills eager to stoke up an image of a "controversy". The Flood story, as I said, is flatly ridiculous in every sense.

"To give the impression that there is an intelligent professional consensus about these matters is misleading."

It's misleading to suggest otherwise. There has been a professional consensus on an old Earth for decades now. That's common knowledge to anyone even remotely acquainted with geology.

"Your statement, "Real geologists simply don't pay any attention to YEC" is also simply untrue, because there are plenty of "real" (meaning professional level) geologists who do."

No, there aren't. The image you're attempting to portray is diametrically opposed to anything even remotely mainstream. YEC is absent from the peer reviewed literature, and it is totally irrelevant to professional geology as it's actually practised. There are some creationists who have PhDs in geology and who do publish in the literature, but they always say one thing when they're publishing (accepting an old earth) and another thing to their flock. It's of course entirely understandable that creationists would seek to milk the mileage of their PhDs as much as they can: lacking a coherent edifice and research program, they must resort to building up an image of respectability by co-opting the honourable place of science in our society. They have nothing else to go on.

"Perhaps you mean there are no geologists you agree with who pay attention to YEC?"

No, that's not what I meant.

"There are many other theories which present strong alternate interpretations of the evidences you used above to dimiss YEC"

"Strong" meaning "conforms with my theology". There are no viable alternatives to an old Earth.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

You brought up an important related issue here: the intentional suppression of YEC research from the peer-reviewed literature. One reason why this position is not, as you call it, "mainstream" has a lot to do with what a secularly-minded group of individuals chooses to censor and suppress. The outcome we have witnessed is what anyone who believes in the bible should expect (Rom. 1:18b). I don't look for truth in "mainstream" science (or mainstream anything), but in those who operate from consistent and reliable foundational viewpoints.

phil

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Phil

The main point of difference, as we have both alluded to, regards what one's starting assumptions are.

Thanks again for your thoughts. A Christian friend of mine and I had a discussion once on similar matters, and at the end of some friendly debate he also argued that it all boils down to what our starting assumptions are. I appreciate and understand this argument, but it seems as if creationists use it too often, as if to say: “well, the arguments and evidence don’t really matter at the end of the day, because whether you accept old earth or young earth theories is based on what assumptions you hold as an individual”.

I admit that, in order to accept any kind of theory or idea, we have to start out with some (maybe unproven) assumptions about how the world works, but I would argue that differing worldviews are not equal in validity because of this fact. All that one has to ask is: which idea has the least unproved assumptions?

To accept Flood theory, I have to accept the following (I believe unsupported) assumptions, that: (1) there is a supernatural realm, (2) a supernatural God exists, (3) this God is the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible, (4) this God was the creator, and (5) miraculous creation events – where God makes thing pop into existence out of nothing – can occur.

In order for me to accept old earth theory, all I have to accept are the assumptions that (1) we live in a natural world with observable and understandable natural processes (e.g., the slow processes of erosion and continental drift), and (2) that the nature of these processes was no different in the past.

The theory with the most assumptions has a higher probability of being incorrect, so it only seems logical to approach a problem first with a worldview that has the least number of assumptions; in this case naturalism.

After all, almost all of us are naturalists when solving everyday problems. If your computer doesn’t work you automatically suppose a naturalistic explanation, not a supernatural one. I don’t see why we should approach the topic of evolution or the age of the earth any differently.

Temaskian said...

Great post! Helps to strengthen my faith in evolution. Easy and fun to read.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points, Kevin! Actually, two books that I previously referenced address these issues very well. You state that 5 assumptions are required to accept the flood theory, and Winfried Corduan's "No Doubt About It," does an excellent job of systematically explaining why all five are not only appropriate, but also are the most logical assumptions to hold (I'm not certain, but he may even address them in the same order you did). Also, Chaffey & Lisle's "Old Earth Creationism on Trial" addresses why the two "old earth" assumptions you mentioned (naturalism and uniformitarianism) are either faulty (in some cases) or actually are contingent upon biblical principles (in other cases, though of course secularists don't usually realize they are borrowing their logic from biblical principles).

I don't believe the question we should ask is "which idea has the least unproved assumptions?" but rather, "which assumptions are the most logical ones to hold onto?"
I know a lot of books get recommended in this comments section, and there's no way we can read them all, but I hope at some point you might find time to give one of these a read.

phil

Temaskian said...

I would like to interrupt both of your discussion to say that though I am an atheist, I have yet to find a very satisfying and simple-to-understand answer on why it is possible to dig up dinosaur bones that still have fleshy parts in them. This subject was mentioned by phil in one of his earlier comments in this post.

Kevin, if you have written on this before or know of any good link to this subject, please let me know.

Lui said...

"One reason why this position is not, as you call it, "mainstream" has a lot to do with what a secularly-minded group of individuals chooses to censor and suppress."

Certainly this is a common excuse among those pushing fake science. Since their "research" is paper thin - contributing absolutely nothing of value to science or to the application of science, unlike, say, evolutionary theory - they are obligated to cry foul about a supposed conspiracy against them. I suppose that this is inevitable in a sense. They have been primed to think of anything that contradicts their literalist interpretation of Scripture as rebellion against God, so it can only seem logical to them that the entire scientific community is also part of this rebellion. But as Galileo is reputed to have uttered, "And yet it moves." In a sense you're correct, though. Peer review is a system designed to keep out garbage. Being fallible (like any other human enterprise), plenty of good stuff also gets rejected, but the virtue of this system is that nonsense has a very hard time making itself respectable. Peer review is like democracy: it's the worst system ever devised, except for all the other ones we've tried.


"I don't look for truth in "mainstream" science (or mainstream anything), but in those who operate from consistent and reliable foundational viewpoints."

Translation: those who start off with presuppositions consistent with your theology. This will ensure that you give no heed to the criteria that actually counts in science - and since you don't adhere to that criteria, you're then free to complain that the rejection of YEC is nothing but dogmatic suppression by a secular priesthood (which, as I mentioned above, it is in a way, though not for the reasons you would explicitly claim). Of course, there is Orwellian double think at play here: you still utilise the fruits of modern science when it provides you with Pentium chips and electronic communications, or vaccines and antibiotics, but you reject that very science when it yields conclusions you don't like. You simultaneously accept and reject modern science, imagining there to be an alternative "interpretation" that one can give to the historical data that is just as, if not more, compelling than the mainstream version. There isn't. The mainstream version is simply the same science applied to uncovering the past - and using as few assumptions as possible, trying to test those assumptions when they can be tested, and finding the most parsimonious picture that can be constructed in accordance with the totality of evidence. Within that broad edifice, there are controversies and countervailing currents - in other words, there is genuine room for disagreement. This is simply because not all the pertinent evidence is in and a respectable case can be made for several interpretations of the data. But broadly, as I say, the evidence is unequivocal about certain things (like the age of the Earth). The virtually unanimous opposition between the entirety of modern science (which actually works and yields practical applications, consistent and parsimonious explanations and descriptions for phenomena, and a viable and dynamic research program) and YEC (which has not produced a single practical application to date, is built upon tortuous logic, countless ad hoc fixes, and solutions that violate anything even approaching parsimony, and has no research program to speak of) should make you question whether you subscribe to a reliable foundation viewpoint at all.

Lui said...

Temaskian wrote: "I would like to interrupt both of your discussion to say that though I am an atheist, I have yet to find a very satisfying and simple-to-understand answer on why it is possible to dig up dinosaur bones that still have fleshy parts in them. This subject was mentioned by phil in one of his earlier comments in this post."

The first thing one should ask when confronted with an oddity like this is: does it actually seem to warrant the rejection of the whole edifice upon which a whole field of science is constructed up to this point in history? Is it of such a nature as to revolutionise the field, overthrowing the prevailing paradigm - or can it be absorbed by that paradigm and incorporated into it?

Creationists are often eager to seize upon cases like this, for they think that such things mark the beginning of the end for an old Earth and hence for evolution. But ask yourself, what seems the more extraordinary: that mainstream geology is wrong and that the masses of evidence all pointing to an old Earth are erroneous, or that there is an unknown process that sometimes leads blood to be preserved for longer than we had previously supposed possible? Creationists will complain that the latter proposition is cheating, because it unfairly biases the outcome to conform to what the naturalist wants to see. Yet the very same argument could be made in the reverse direction, and actually with more justice: creationists ignore or "explain away" (a common accusation levelled against scientists) all the evidence for an old Earth, including the dozens of discoveries that reaffirm the great age of this planet and the evolution of life for every oddity that arises. When considering the broad picture, facts don't stand alone; they must be considered against other facts, which together give us an indication of the most likely narrative. Alternative narratives are judged based upon how well they integrate disparate information, how successful they are at making predictions, and how convincingly they can incorporate new facts. Some do badly at these things, others do well. The ones that have done best are what we collectively call "modern science".

Now of course it's possible that this find will be part of a larger suite of discoveries that will spell doom for an old Earth. The Earth can't be both 6,000 years old and 4.55 billion years old. At least one side has to be wrong. But no one should be intimidated by cases like this, and creationists should resist drawing much comfort from them. Just on the face of it, it doesn't seem likely to have the world shaking world-shaking implications they hope for. For certain specialists it might, but it's nowhere near a paradigm shift in the sense alluded to above. It's an interesting new addition to our knowledge about the world, but I doubt it's the harbinger of a fundamental change to it.

On the actual science of this case, I'm not qualified to even conjecture, but here are two short responses to it from Talk Origins (which defends the scientific consensus on matters of evolution and Earth history), here and here (there are additional links on the pages). What seems to me pertinent in the general sense I've used in this post is this:

"If dinosaur fossils were as young as creationists claim, recovering DNA and non-bone tissues from them should be routine enough that it would not be news." (my emphasis)

So this does seem to be an oddity - which goes at least as much against the notion of a young Earth as it might go against an old one. Ironically, then, the fact that it's an oddity should, if anything, make creationists worried.

Temaskian said...

Thanks for your answer Lui, just that anything that has lasted at least 65million years really staggers my imagination.

Not that it's impossible, though.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

I understand how peer review works as a filtering system, but what has been demonstrated by rejection of YEC and, to a large degree, intelligent design, is not a reflection of limiting the spread of poorly conducted science, but rather the a priori dismissal of a philosophically viable worldview which has a consistent rationale for interpretation of evidences. It is one's worldview which determines how one conducts science, not the other way around. In that regard, I am not inconsistent if I believe in biblical presuppositions and, at the same time, "still utilise the fruits of modern science." Science is not the enemy, just faulty logic and unmerited prejudice against legitimate worldviews.

phil

Lui said...

"I understand how peer review works as a filtering system, but what has been demonstrated by rejection of YEC and, to a large degree, intelligent design, is not a reflection of limiting the spread of poorly conducted science, but rather the a priori dismissal of a philosophically viable worldview which has a consistent rationale for interpretation of evidences"

You provide no argument to corroborate this; you merely intone it. Intelligent design has been rejected because it's not science. It has made no claims that have been demonstrated, its proponents keep changing the goal-posts each time their claims are debunked, and it has produced no analytical tools that have been fruitful in developing successful models of biological phenomena.

"Science is not the enemy, just faulty logic and unmerited prejudice against legitimate worldviews."

That argument could be used to justify any worldview whatsoever, and here, again, it's being used as an excuse. If something doesn't conform to your beliefs and assumptions, just label it "faulty" or "unmerited". You haven't demonstrated any faulty logic on the part of mainstream science.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

Regarding my "argument to corroborate" belief in God in general as a philosophically viable worldview, see my comments in Kevin's previous post "The birth of a snowflake" and the discussion that followed. Regarding usage of and reliance on the Bible in particular, our understanding and acceptance of historical records underscores the reason why an a priroi dismissal of biblcal claims is unjustified (also check out Corduan's book which I referenced above).

phil