Monthly Archives: May 2012

Creationist Drivel – Pasteur

Posts in this series.

In the time since my last related post, remnant has been stinking up the Fundamental Forums a treat. His (or more likely, her) tactic has been to copy articles from the Institute of Creation Research and paste them all over the place, such that more than half of all posts were taken up with this.

One thing, however, that remnant hasn’t done, is to complete the series of posts from the Vance Ferrell’s Evolution Handbook. So I’ll just have to go on without any further input from remnant.

Ferrell continues, in his own inimitable style:

It is a remarkable fact that the basis of evolutionary theory was destroyed by seven scientific research findings,—before *Charles Darwin first published the theory…

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was another genuine scientist. In the process of studying fermentation, he performed his famous 1861 experiment, in which he disproved the theory of spontaneous generation. Life cannot arise from non-living materials. This experiment was very important; for, up to that time, a majority of scientists believed in spontaneous generation. (They thought that if a pile of old clothes were left in a corner, it would breed mice! The proof was that, upon later returning to the clothes, mice would frequently be found there.) Pasteur concluded from his experiment that only God could create living creatures. But modern evolutionary theory continues to be based on that out-dated theory disproved by Pasteur: spontaneous generation (life arises from non-life). Why? Because it is the only basis on which evolution could occur. As *Adams notes, “With spontaneous generation discredited [by Pasteur], biologists were left with no theory of the origin of life at all” (*J. Edison Adams, Plants: An Introduction to Modern Biology, 1967, p. 585).

Ferrell makes the sloppy error of claiming that an experiment from 1861 disproved a theory published in 1859 prior to publication. While this is not a central point, it is again indicative of Ferrell’s rigour, or lack of it. Unsurprisingly, Ferrell also confuses evolutionary theory (the process(es) by which species, over time, change), with abiogenesis. Continue reading


Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #10

As promised, I’ll put in a few videos of the mega-bands of the 1970’s. And they don’t come any bigger than Pink Floyd. Indeed, a few years ago Q magazine rated them the biggest of the big. How they worked that out I don’t know, but they must be up there somewhere.

While the Syd Barrett era is important in some respects, the idea that Floyd lost out following his breakdown is unsustainable. Instead, it let loose some of the best writing and some of the best music that we could ever hope for – simply speaking, they are peerless. Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall still sound good today. Everybody loves Pink Floyd, and for good reason.

The video below is relatively recent, taken from the time after Roger Waters left. That wouldn’t denigrate it though, the song would be a classic whichever version of Floyd performed it. It also comes from the Pulse tour, one of the three best music videos ever for my money. (The others being The Last Waltz and Beside You in Time).

Note that some UK viewers have this content blocked. For me, it depends on the computer I’m using.

Truth and Objectivity

To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.


Just a recap from the last post on truth. In common discourse we like to think of truth as correspondence with reality. Yet it’s commonplace to hear such things as “that’s a matter of opinion”, “it’s true to them”, etc. etc. The implication here is that either there are a number of competing truths, of which only one’s own, or none of which, has any special privileges, or that objective truth as correspondence with reality is an illusion. In fact (should I even be saying that?) it seems that this is how most people view truth – as something that corresponds not with reality as much as their own pre-existing beliefs or ideology. It’s much easier to see this (or as an argument-stopper) to imply or infer it in others while denying it for oneself. You don’t much see people basing their arguments on such grounds as “believing that is useful to me” or “that corresponds with my other beliefs”, although I do recall a poster on the FFF denying the validity of theistic evolution on the grounds that sin could not then have entered the world through Adam and therefore it was untrue on the basis that it contradicted his previous belief. More commonly one hears such things “I’m a Catholic and therefore I believe that…”.  True beliefs will not contradict other true beliefs, of course, provided that the truth of at least one of them can be rationally established.

Moving on, for an example of how other peoples’ view of truth is pejoratively compared to one’s own, see the Jim Denison’s comment below, from here via the FFF:

You state that there is no such thing as absolute truth, which is itself an absolute truth statement.  You remind me of the ancient Skeptics three centuries before Christ whose philosophy could be summarized:  “There’s no such thing as truth and we’re sure of it.”

I could assure Denison that not all of us subscribe to that position, and I strongly suspect that what it is that he calls true in this matter is but a mere convenience. However, although he is probably equivocating, he is correct in his analysis of scepticism as long as he means universal scepticism – some other forms of scepticism are completely honourable and a reasonable approach to truth-seeking. Like simple relativism, universal scepticism is untenable in that to claim it’s truth would be to claim that it isn’t true, and therefore there aren’t really any universal sceptics, even if they so label themselves. Even Denison recognises this. Continue reading

A Bit of Excitement on a Thursday

It’s a good thing and a bad thing that in Hereford nothing much ever happens. Usually the big news is something like “Girl breaks leg falling off horse at gymkhana” or “chip-shop sign stolen”. (These are real front-page headlines in Hereford). So in the surrounding villages, one can barely imagine anything happening at all – “battery fails in camera”, for example, is big news.

But today was different. The Olympic flame passed through my village, only about 100 metres from my house, and we were out all there in force to cheer it on.

The level of excitement was maintained, every thirty seconds or so, by police motorcyclists, buses, sponsors’ lorries and council vans – all getting a great cheer. At long last the flame arrived, and just as the carrier came…my camera died.

But I did get a rear view. Better than nothing.

All-in-all, about fifteen minutes. But well worth it. It’s not going to happen here in my lifetime again, and it’ll definitely never be so close. The sense of occasion is certainly building up, and whatever one might think about the individual sports or the behaviour of the IOC, it’s a great time to be a Brit right now.

Getting Through the Summer

I’ve been inundated with requests to keep this blog up to speed. So many, indeed, that it’s distracted me from any further offerings for the last week or so.

Of course, the above isn’t true. Life is just very busy at the moment, and I’m just so dissatisfied with my second attempt to analyse “truth” that I keep changing it round.

And it’s the summer. I always say that the best day of the year is the day the clocks go forward. Give me a light evening and a dark morning any day. I have no idea why we don’t have the same time as Western Europe – makes much more sense. Continue reading

Good News for Freedom, For a Change

I’ve been a republican as long as I’ve been a non-believer – that’s pretty much all my life. Similar thoughts about iniquity went through my mind at a similar time. I’m not sure whether I’m a British republican, or an English republican, or whether I just want an end to a system where the only qualification required for Head of State is who’s womb you passed through.

That said, the British political system isn’t the worst in the world though by no means the best. The Head of State does have useful functions, maintaining political neutrality being one of them. All parliamentary legislation is done in the name of the Head of State, and government is, nominally at least, accountable to that Head of State. Personally I don’t see why the Speaker of the House of Commons can’t fulfil that role as well as his own.

Every year, the government has to list its planned legislative programme prior to the start of each Parliamentary session. The agenda is read out by the sovereign in a document known colloquially as the Queen’s Speech – obviously once the Prince of Wales or his son assumes the role that will change.

Considering the current problems in double-dip Britain, and the strains within the Conservative-Liberal coalition this year’s speech didn’t set the world alight – most of it worthy, some of it welcome. However, there was one proposal that didn’t make it to the mainstream news, and it won’t affect many of us directly, but is a massive boost to freedom of speech, provided it doesn’t end up being diluted. The English libel laws are to be reformed, and not before time. Given that all political parties have ostensibly supported reform for many years it’s surprising (or perhaps not) that it took so long. Continue reading

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #9

Music is a funny thing. When I’m at home I just play music all day long. (God bless the ipod). But, although we accept that sometimes peace, quiet and solitude is sometimes appropriate, why would people like myself be like that. Music hits an emotional chord, it seems. It’s different for different people. Some people like choral music, for example, and gain inspiration from it. I know quite a few non-believers who will say much the same.

That’s not for me, though. I prefer my music to be visceral, and no-one does it better than Keith Richards. I remember some documentary about the Rolling Stones where someone that I don’t recall said something like “Mick should be pleased that Keith allowed him in his band”. I’m not usually an advocate of Platonic Forms, but Richards conjures some sort of essence of rock’n’roll, and he’s up there with Jefferson and Orwell. It’s something that I’ll never get close to understanding. Anyone who never saw the Stones at their peak is missing out.

Gimme Shelter is perhaps the ultimate rock’n’roll song. Lisa Fischer gets a note that shouldn’t be humanly possible at 3:15. This is one of my two favourite videos, and the next few ditties will feature the mega-bands of the 1970’s, the like of which we won’t see again.

The Tradition of “Tradition”

Normally I’m not one to accept a claim of “we’ve always done it like that” to indicate that that’s the way it should always be done. But as I’m sometimes accused of being religious about sport I can make an exception from time to time.

Take cricket. The problems with cricket in the past were that it took too long and nobody watched it (and after days of play, there might not be even be a winner, but as I’ve said elsewhere, to me this is actually an attraction). To arrest the decline, the cricket authorities introduced a number of innovations, and one-day cricket competitions began in the 1960’s in England. So successful (relatively) were they that nowadays this is by far the most popular form of the game. The length of games has been further reduced, and teams have taken to wearing distinctive brightly-coloured kits with names and numbers. This has culminated in the “Twenty20” competitions which are started and finished within three hours. In parts of the world this has been enormously successful. Cricket is now the second most-watched spectator sport in the world, I’m led to believe. It’s true that this has been led recently from the highly-populous countries of the Indian subcontinent, but interest in cricket, especially this type, has increased even in the UK.

Meanwhile, good old county cricket continues to languish, at least relatively. And I can’t help feeling sad about all this. There’s nothing quite like sitting all day with a warm beer and a sandwich watching Derbyshire County Cricket Club (Not the Derbyshire Falcons or the Derbyshire Phantoms or the Derbyshire Scorpions) get thrashed again at Chesterfield. (I stress that I am not in that picture). Tradition, it seems, has gone to the wall. Continue reading

Creationist Drivel – Mendel

Posts in this series.

I’m in danger of catching remnant up, so sparingly is he releasing his eagerly-awaited information.

Before I look at Gregor Mendel, just  couple of points:

Firstly, I discovered that the Evolution handbook author is one Vance Ferrell. In future I’ll refer to him by name. Ferrell is a prolific writer with a peculiar style. He is a creationist, but also has written in support of “natural remedies” and against innoculation, the evils of rock music, the “End Times” and curiously, the story of the Bounty.

Secondly, I thought some more about entropy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics has many applications but essentially states that with time, overall entropy will increase. Creationists have taken this to mean that there is a physical law that states that complexity will tend to decrease – albeit their interpretation is faulty. Now the reason that complexity increases, in the natural world, is that the Earth / solar system is not a closed system, and allows for local increases in complexity at the expense of a general increase in entropy. So non-creationists have a workable explanation. Not so the creationists. They are of the opinion that all physical and chemical laws are god-created, maintained and sanctioned, rather than a feature of physical universe. Therefore if they accept that God created the second law they must also accept that the second law doesn’t work, as on Earth there are many examples in which there is no tendency towards higher entropy – as Route_70 pointed out, embryology is one of them. Therefore God created a law that he broke and continues to break. How are we to even define a physical law in such circumstances? Continue reading

On a Positive Note…

I see the Catholics in Ireland are in trouble again. Hot on the trail of the “indecent images” farce, the Primate of All-Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has been implicated in a cover-up of the details of a prolific paedophile priest. Himself a priest at the time, it has been alleged by at least two of the victims that Brady, outside of the presence of parents, police or professional counsellors, swore them to secrecy and thus allowed the paedophile to continue his activities. Brady also was informed of the details of other potential and actual victims and chose not to pass these details on to civil authorities – he did inform his then boss, who kept it all under wraps as well. His defence is not that he was innocent of these accusations, but that no specific policy for dealing with such issues existed at the time, either church or state-sanctioned. Moreover, at the time he was in a more junior position, with no authority to act against the paedophile, albeit that he accepts that the overarching culture of the church at the time was to protect its own interests. Will these people never learn? The suppression of the truth of some incident for the benefit of some interest becomes the issue itself at least as much as that initial incident upon its discovery, and as a result much worse for the culprits. The recently-departed evangelical Christian, Charles Colson, would have said as much.

Incidents like this, amid countless others, make it seem that the Catholic Church has been and continues to be very much a malign influence. For many years my own thoughts have been that I couldn’t think of a single reason to believe that the church benefited humankind at all. However, I might have been unfair here to some extent. Britain’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has recently been critical of the coalition government’s tax policies, in particular their affect on the rich / poor divide. In a week when it has been revealed that the rich in Britain have, on average, been getting richer while the country as a whole has returned to recession, Cardinal O’Brien’s intervention could be seen as welcome. Of course, the government disputes his analysis, but it does seem completely transparent that the super-rich, at least, have little or no need of the tax reduction given to them via the recent budget. While I don’t intend to comment on the efficacy of government tax policy, it is good that a person of influence like O’Brien, is at least seen to be attempting to protect the interests of the less fortunate among us. One could be cynical and explain his action, again, as an attempt to protect or promote the interests of his organisation. However,he could have quite easily remained silent here. Continue reading