Wikileaks obtains Kent Hovind’s Ph.D. “thesis”.

If you don’t know who Kent Hovind is, well, I count you among the fortunate people of this world.  So fortunate, in fact, that I recommend you navigate away from this page before I steal your innocence.

Are you gone?

…. Really?  You’re still here?

…. Okay, you get what you deserve, then.

Kent Hovind is a Young Earth creationist who has been railing against evolution for years;  he’s also famous for starting a creationist theme park in Florida called “Dinosaur Adventure Land”, and more recently, for going to jail for 10 years in 2006 for failing to pay years of taxes.  His theory was that he was a minister of God and because of that, everything he owned belonged to God and the US government had no right to tax him on money he received for doing God’s work.  The IRS, not surprisingly, was unamused by this.

I’ve never given Hovind too much thought, because let’s face it, he’s so nuts that other creationist organizations (like Answers in Genesis) have disavowed his antics.  But I’ve always been curious about his purported Ph.D in “Christian Education” from the Patriot University, which Hovind’s Wikipedia entry states is a non-accredited correspondence university.  And today, via Pharyngula, I learned that Wikileaks has obtained and published his “thesis”, which Hovind has refused to allow anyone to see up until this point.

Failing to share your Ph.D thesis is, at the least, a breach of scientific etiquette.  Common practice is to send a copy to anyone who asks for one;  usually, the university will have the thesis on file, or you can ask the person directly, but it’s bad form to withhold your thesis and doesn’t speak well of it.  However, having wasted about 10 minutes of my life reading the introduction and half of the first chapter, I can see why Hovind would be embarrassed to have anyone read it.  Putting aside his writing style, which reminds me of a high school student who has been socially promoted, the thesis is both breath-taking in its purported scope and inanity.  In the introduction, he claims that the ten chapters to follow will completely demolish evolution, and that’s not even the end of the thesis – it goes on for another six chapters after that.  How useful for creationists!  Sadly, the material seems to be a rehashing of arguments that were old even when he wrote this mess, but don’t let that stop you from amusing yourself for as long as you can stand it.

(Interestingly, he claims that the chapters of the thesis originate from his radio show, which I don’t know much about.  This is what passed for an original contribution to the scientific literature at Patriot University?)

I’ll leave you with a Hovind thesis quote:

While all of the evidence is not in yet, I feel it is still the best option to take God’s word at face value.  The Bible has never been proven wrong yet, and I believe it never will be.

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45 Responses to Wikileaks obtains Kent Hovind’s Ph.D. “thesis”.

  1. vvladd says:

    Open your eyes.

  2. vvladd says:

    Sure. My point is the same as Hovind’s : both creationist and evolutionist (+ whatever God denying societies) are based on belief. I cannot prove that God exists, you cannot prove that big bang occured at all!
    Concerning “open your eyes” – only from our humble empirical knowledge, if we inspect any non trivial object, it is more convenient to say it has an author than to say “it is just a chance”. So, i find more reasonable to think that there is intelligent designer. For me it is the God from Bible. I hope i made my point clear enough.

    • Winawer says:

      Nope. Evolution is a fact based on empirical observation and the converging lines of evidence from multiple scientific disciplines. You’ll have to talk to a physicist for details on the Big Bang, but I’ll just go ahead and say that that’s pretty well-supported too. Your magical sky fairy? Not so much. Not a single piece of credible evidence, not a single testable hypothesis.

      I’m sorry that you find the truth to be inconvenient, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

      • vvladd says:

        “Evolution is a fact based on empirical observation” – you make hard statements without showing any evidence. I studied archeology and paleontology a bit and i know – there is a lot of evidence which is not accepted just because it doesn’t fit the modern science theory. Do you know the book “http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-History-Condensed-Forbidden-Archeology/dp/0892133252/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287558566&sr=8-1″? It is non-christian view by professional in this field.

      • Winawer says:

        you make hard statements without showing any evidence.

        I’m not going to recapitulate the entirety of evolutionary biology because you can’t be bothered to educate yourself. But I’ll tell you what: unlike you, I’m actually well-educated in this field. I’m a behavioural ecologist who uses and studies evolutionary theory in his every-day work; if there’s something about evolution that I don’t know, I know where to find the answer, or I have someone in my contacts who *is* an expert in that. So, if you feel that evolution is so bereft of evidence, feel free to question away. Throw down the gauntlet, so that I can slap you silly with it.

        I studied archeology and paleontology a bit and i know – there is a lot of evidence which is not accepted just because it doesn’t fit the modern science theory.

        Oh, good, another engineer who took a couple of intro science courses during his undergraduate work and now fancies himself an expert. (Arrogance of ignorance, anyone?)

        But even if you were a full-blown double Ph.D in archaeology and paleontology, I would point out that you clearly don’t do any actual science, or else you would know that science is a process, not a static body of dogma. And even if it were true that there were a massive body of evidence about something that was being ignored, I would tell you that the nature of the scientific enterprise is that sooner or later the truth will win out. It’s a messy process, and it can take longer than it should. But it has always happened, and it always will. It’s the greatest strength of science, and the greatest weakness of organized religion: the ability to adapt to the truth.

  3. vvladd says:

    I have a question for you : do you admit that there exists a possibility that the God may an author of everything? No hidden tricks.

    • Winawer says:

      I have a question for you : do you admit that there exists a possibility that the God may an author of everything?

      That’s a surprisingly topical question. I’m reminded of an argument that PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne have been having about whether there could be any admissible evidence for the notion of “God”. That’s an epistemological debate I don’t really need to get into. My intuitive stance on this is that any repeatable, empirical observations that pointed to a supernatural sky fairy whimsically interfering in our lives would be enough to get me to consider the idea, but until that – or a scientific theory that presents actual testable hypotheses about the existence of God – appears, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

      • vvladd says:

        So, a strict no. Then any of those should be true :
        1) you know everything – no place for the God to live anywhere
        2) you are not honest (even with yourself?) – evolution is still a theory, just by forcing the usage of word “fact” doesn’t make you more persuasive.

      • Winawer says:

        So, a strict no.

        Read it again, and don’t try to put words in my mouth. I didn’t say “no”, I said it was exceedingly unlikely.

        Then any of those should be true :
        1) you know everything – no place for the God to live anywhere
        2) you are not honest (even with yourself?) – evolution is still a theory, just by forcing the usage of word “fact” doesn’t make you more persuasive.

        False dichotomy.

        3). I don’t believe in God, and am getting along just fine without such a belief. Further, all of the evidence that has been collected to date suggests that either there is no God, or that S/He is in hiding. But if actual evidence were to show up that demonstrated the existence of a supernatural force, I would pay very close attention.

  4. vvladd says:

    Hmm… you typed alot and you are quite aggressive! :) Well, yes i am not an expert in this field but there are few things in which i am not lower than you. Let me pin down some of my thoughts :

    1) Yes, I can cite anything as being destructive for evolution but you will *always* find a reason to dismiss it. Completely the same way many prehistoric items were found in “wrong” layer and they were deemed to be wrong : scratches were made by pression, no approved scientific committee was present etc etc (i can list). If the same principle would be applied to evidence like Java Man, Piltdown Man etc, they could be rejected for the similar reasons.

    2) Who said that your contacts list is “correct”? Just because you share same ideas and convictions? Because you dance around the same “proofs” and keep bubbling about that evolution is a fact?

    3) “Oh, good, another engineer who took a couple of intro science courses during his undergraduate work and now fancies himself an expert.” – What allows you to say that? Even me or any other person, can’t we take the offered facts, conclusions, discussions and make our own judgment? Why it would be “wronger” than yours? .. the same thing for if i had phd in that domain.

    4) “I would tell you that the nature of the scientific enterprise is that sooner or later the truth will win out” – common excuse. By this you automatically say that you don’t know everything. Even more, what guarantees that you go in right direction? Sometimes theories are shown to be false and everything should be started from zero. It is understandable why evolutions “gold standards” or “references” are Holy and untouchable –
    (a) layers (existing only in textbooks);
    (b) dating methods (shown to be wrong on known age samples but being re-re-re-tested to get desired numbers)
    (c) vestigial organs (which should be abundant and *everywhere*).
    … and more

    5) “It’s the greatest strength of science, and the greatest weakness of organized religion: the ability to adapt to the truth.” – your truth changes in the way you would like to see it and adapting to any changes that might come across, mine – remains the same.

    • Winawer says:

      Hmm… you typed alot and you are quite aggressive!

      You started this. And if you had come in here with a respectful tone, I would have treated you with respect in return. But you didn’t, so I’m not going to.

      1). … (i can list). …

      Feel free to list all you want. So far, you’ve danced around asking any specific question. I’d prefer that you stick to evolutionary theory, for reasons of sheer breadth, but you’re free to ask any actual, detailed questions you want. But if you’re just going to reject the evidence I present to you out of hand, because it doesn’t fit with your beliefs, then stay off my blog and don’t waste my time.

      2) Who said that your contacts list is “correct”? Just because you share same ideas and convictions? Because you dance around the same “proofs” and keep bubbling about that evolution is a fact?

      I didn’t say anything about my contacts list being “correct”. But I do routinely speak with very smart people who have spent their whole lives studying evolution and doing good science. We fight often about details (as real scientists do), but evolution as an organizing principle and a fact is accepted by practicing scientists. If you don’t want to listen to us, why did you come here to start this fight? If you want me to demonstrate to you how evolution is a fact, then fine, ask your questions. If you just want to throw feces, then I’ve got better things to do.

      3) “Oh, good, another engineer who took a couple of intro science courses during his undergraduate work and now fancies himself an expert.” – What allows you to say that? Even me or any other person, can’t we take the offered facts, conclusions, discussions and make our own judgment? Why it would be “wronger” than yours? .. the same thing for if i had phd in that domain.

      Did you read the link I gave? You should, because the text describes you perfectly. You’re out of your field, you’re ignorant about the basic principles involved, and yet you’re convinced that you know more than the thousands of really intelligent people who’ve spent their entire lifetimes collecting data and putting together evidence to show that evolution is true. It’s not to say that you *can’t* have some insight that we’ve missed. That’s certainly possible, even if it isn’t likely. But if you’re going to convince anyone of anything, you have to do what we do: you have to formulate an alternative theory, collect evidence for it, and present that evidence to the scientific community.

      As to your own judgments, I can’t stop you from making them. But if you’re not going to back them up with arguments based on actual data and facts that we can observe, then I’m not interested in your judgments in the least.

      In short: put up, or shut up.

      (And the crack about engineers is due to both skimming through your own blog and because it’s pretty much a cliché for engineers to be critical of evolutionary theory, for reasons that nobody really understands).

      4). … By this you automatically say that you don’t know everything.

      Actually, I would shout from the rooftops that I don’t know everything. In fact, the more I learn, the more I understand about how little I really know. It’s the reason I do science, to try and clear away the cobwebs of my own ignorance. But there’s a difference between understanding my own lack of knowledge and assuming that evolution has to be wrong because of it.

      Even more, what guarantees that you go in right direction?

      The scientific method does. If you don’t accept that the scientific method is the best way we have of discovering things about the universe, then we have nothing left to talk about, and you might as well not bother replying to any of this.

      … and more

      Again, I implore you: ask a specific question already. If you’re going to keep throwing vague barbs, you’re going to bore me to death.

      your truth changes in the way you would like to see it and adapting to any changes that might come across, mine – remains the same.

      My truth changes when the evidence tells me it should change, which means that I can change when the world tells me to. You? Your truth is based on a fiction laid out in a book that is riddled with contradictions of such breathtaking number that it boggles the mind, fed to you by mindless drones who fight to oppress anyone that don’t share their exact beliefs (when they’re not murdering each other in the name of their sky fairy), and used to deny anything about the world that you don’t happen to like. The difference is: if evidence came down tomorrow that showed that evolution was fundamentally wrong, I would be in shock, but I would be able to change my beliefs. Or the next generation of scientists would do it for me. You? You and everyone else that you manage to indoctrinate will never give up, no matter how much evidence is shown to you.

      • raman says:

        Sorry to correct u. But our kind is capable of change. I assure u if solid evidence was presented.I would drop god like a hot rock. There seems to be some evidence in ur statement( that we would not change our mind whatever) that ur views and ideas are fixed no matter what evidence is presented. I am not trying to attack u,but will be spending time on ur blog. Trying to find solid evidence. I admire ur passion. Could u tell me ur most important points for evolution. Ie dinosaurs,etc etc

  5. vvladd says:

    I have another question for you. Hovind and his son asks it and i was curious to know how evolutionists respond to it.

    “How you tell what is right and wrong?” … and here i will add my own : “why there is such a thing as right or wrong?”

    Evolution theory basically states that from nothing become (automagically by magic billions of years) something and quite well ordered. And that only strongest or most adapted is deemed to survive and go on. This is cruel! It is illogical to say that from this evolution “guided” us think that there is “right” and “wrong”. Even more, evolution wouldn’t allow anything “religious” to be in minds of humans since it is deemed *today* incorrect and non-beneficial.

    • Winawer says:

      Evolution theory basically states that from nothing become (automagically by magic billions of years) something and quite well ordered. And that only strongest or most adapted is deemed to survive and go on. This is cruel! It is illogical to say that from this evolution “guided” us think that there is “right” and “wrong”. Even more, evolution wouldn’t allow anything “religious” to be in minds of humans since it is deemed *today* incorrect and non-beneficial.

      Wow, that’s impressive. Every sentence you wrote in this paragraph contains a major error. It’ll be instructive to show you the problems, so let’s go sentence by sentence.

      Evolution theory basically states that from nothing become (automagically by magic billions of years) something and quite well ordered.

      Right off the bat, you’re making huge gaffes. First, it’s not “from nothing”. It’s from basic chemical components that formed the first replicating life. And there’s nothing “automagically” about it. It’s the process of natural selection, which we can see ample evidence of, even occuring before us right now. Hell, we can even make it happen ourselves. As for “ordered”, well, that’s a loaded word. I think you might be trying to slip in implications of design, which are simply non-existent. But you might do better with “complex”.

      And that only strongest or most adapted is deemed to survive and go on.

      Ooh, fairly close on this one. But there’s no such thing as “strongest” in evolution. There’s only relative fitness – how many offspring does your genotype generate compared to other genotypes?

      This is cruel!

      Since evolution is a mindless process driven by chance and selection, the world “cruel” is meaningless here. Every definition of “morality” that I’ve ever seen requires intention, and there is no intention in evolutionary processes.

      It is illogical to say that from this evolution “guided” us think that there is “right” and “wrong”.

      It’s incorrect to say that evolution “guided” us to do anything. If we ended up with a sense or morality, it’s either because it provides us with advantages (e.g. in group-living situations), or it’s a by-product of other adaptations that serves no purpose.

      Even more, evolution wouldn’t allow anything “religious” to be in minds of humans since it is deemed *today* incorrect and non-beneficial.

      Seriously, are you addicted to envisioning evolution as a man in white robes with a long beard pushing pieces around on a game board? Evolution doesn’t “allow” or “dis-allow” anything. And I’m just going to let that howler about a sense of morality being “deemed … incorrect and non-beneficial” slide right on by with only a minor guffaw. But again, I state: evolutionary principles dictate that a sense or morality either confers (or once did confer) fitness advantages, or it’s a by-product. These are testable problems, and there are people working on these very issues right now. In fact, I just spoke with someone today who’s doing work on religious influences on moral choices from a strictly empirical view.

      See? Here’s the wrap-up for you: evolution is a natural process free from design or intention, driven only by chance and adaptation. If morality exists in our society, evolutionary theory suggests two alternatives: it’s adaptive, in which case we should be able to sooner or later provide evidence for the benefits to it, or it’s non-adaptive, in which case we should be able to find the costs associated with it. The process may operate on multiple levels, possibly simultaneously: it could have a genetic component (and religious belief is, indeed, heritable), it could have a phenotypic component, and/or it could be a cultural phenomenon. Figuring out what is true about our sense of morality is an exciting question, and I look forward to reading the work of scientists who test these alternatives and find answers.

      As for the question posed by the Hovinds, well, I don’t know where my sense of right and wrong come from. My best guess is a combination of evolutionary pressures resulting from the need to get along with others in a group setting. But I do have one, and it’s clear from the number of perfectly well-adjusted athiests running around that it’s possible to be good without God. I find it deeply ironic, mind you, that the question is being posed by a man who is spending a decade in jail for what amounts to tax fraud.

  6. vvladd says:

    Answering each paragraph again would make thing longer and more senseless – i agree. In which domain you are more or less specialized? Then i will ask you more precise question.

    I am glad that you said at least “exceedingly unlikely” for the presence of God. This says you are not 100% sure in what you believe.

    “Wow, that’s impressive […]” For this part – you didn’t understand me at all. My specific question is then : where all these starting chemicals came from? You have a chicken and egg problem here.

    “[…] if evidence came down tomorrow that showed that evolution was fundamentally wrong, I would be in shock, but I would be able to change my beliefs […]” – are you serious? At least in the book i showed you there are TONS of anomalous evidence. I suspect that this will be simply always the case – if something doesn’t follow the established guidelines/dates/expectations then you will automatically discard it as unprofessional, incompetent and so on. Don’t tell me tales!

    I am not engineer but a phD candidate in Computer Vision, Image Processing using Machine Learning techniques. My thesis is more applied than theoretical that’s why you saw my notes on interesting papers and code i found on the net.

    • Winawer says:

      As I said, I’m a behavioural ecologist. From Wikipedia: “Behavioral ecology, or etoecology, is the study of the ecological and evolutionary basis for animal behavior, and the roles of behavior in enabling an animal to adapt to its environment (both intrinsic and extrinsic).”

      “Wow, that’s impressive […]” For this part – you didn’t understand me at all. My specific question is then : where all these starting chemicals came from? You have a chicken and egg problem here.

      Really? I thought I understood you just fine when I was taking apart your ideas on how evolution proceeds. But let’s get to your question then. In the short term, the answer is, “I don’t care”. Evolution talks about the change in organisms, not where life began. Once those first chemical components assembled themselves, evolution took over, but before that you’re talking about another field of scientific inquiry, which is called abiogenesis. Nobody doing work on evolutionary theory is required to answer your question.

      Having said that, let’s address it anyways. Abiogenesis isn’t a well-understood process yet, but there are a number of plausible models supported by experimental work. If you want to go into the specific details, we can, but the short story goes something like this: Somewhere around 4 billion years ago, conditions on earth were violent, but chemically rich. Plenty of the building blocks of biochemistry, such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorus, were in the atmosphere. Through a chemical process (plausible mechanisms have been demonstrated in the lab – see the Miller-Urey experiments – but the exact one that occurred 4 billion years ago is still under resarch), the basic building blocks of proteins, amino acids, were formed. Now, there’s more than one way that things could have proceeded after this: proteins might have come first, or nucleic acids, or perhaps there was another intermediate step, but the end results was either RNA or some other replicating molecule. From there, evolution takes over.

      I’m equivocating a lot in this description, because these questions are still under very active research. That means that we don’t have all the answers. But the exciting part is that we get to go look for them.

      If this isn’t enough for you, well, I can go talk to some people in the biochem department when I have time.

      are you serious? At least in the book i showed you there are TONS of anomalous evidence. I suspect that this will be simply always the case – if something doesn’t follow the established guidelines/dates/expectations then you will automatically discard it as unprofessional, incompetent and so on. Don’t tell me tales!

      Oh goody, more of your vagueness. “TONS”, eh? I never said where your questions had to come from. I’ve never read this book you’re talking about, but if you feel that this one book has all the evidence you need to disprove evolution, then bring it, son. Crack it open, pick a question, and let’s get to it. So far, I’m the only one who’s done any work here – are you going to dance around, or are you going to throw a punch?

      I am not engineer but a phD candidate in Computer Vision, Image Processing using Machine Learning techniques. My thesis is more applied than theoretical that’s why you saw my notes on interesting papers and code i found on the net.

      Hmm, my apologies for an unjustified assumption about your field, though the arrogance of ignorance applies as well to Comp. Sci. people (or whatever actual department you’re in) as it does to engineers. You don’t know anything about evolution, but you feel qualified to criticize it. Shall we have a long discussion about how machine learning is nonsense because of this one book I read?

  7. vvladd says:

    What about Hovind, he is not absolute standard for me – he is just a human. I don’t know what he did is really true or not. But i can easily imagine when his “friends” will find a case for him.. if you look for something – you will find it.

    I will tell you one thing, i saw many of his seminars and also debates. If evolution theory is so well founded and explained – why no doctor showed some real evidence? And why, when he comes to some university, profs don’t come but send their students?

    • Winawer says:

      Seriously, what would you accept as “real evidence”? As evidence of evolution, as evidence that Hovind was a fraud – do you even know what the word “evidence” means?

      And don’t give me this “oh, boo-hoo, nobody came to debate him” line. Hovind, and creationists like him, are not worth the time or the legitimacy that a debate would give them. If they really want to debate evolution, they can do it where everyone else does: in the scientific literature. It’s not that hard – design an experiment, write a paper, submit the results – so why don’t any of them ever do it? Oh, but wait, I’m sure you’re convinced that the scientific literature is just a big conspiracy designed to keep creationists silent. Hmm. Well, what to do, then? Tinfoil hats, maybe?

      • vvladd says:

        Nope, not counted as an answer. The book i mention you third time is exactly about people going to the site, excavating, making notes, following standard procedures and using current assumptions/dates/dating methods/etc and… what? they got their papers declined just because of doubt : this flint tool i found in a site in Europe in the layer which is too old for the first intelligent people to exist that time (i will list you some when i will get back to the book). Even more, they got discredited because of fraud! That’s beyond science!

  8. vvladd says:

    And you didn’t reply to my last question how to tell what is right and wrong. I think that this is even more important than knowing exactly how and when all things were created (or came up just by chance as you claim). If we don’t have it, then we will be much tempted to say : “I will set these rules!” This is where danger comes from.

    • Winawer says:

      I don’t even know what you’re asking me here. I’ve already discussed the origins of a sense of morality – or are you trying to rehash several thousand years of moral philosophy? Are you asking me the process by which individual people make decisions about whether a specific situation is right or wrong, the specific criteria that we’re supposed to use to make those decisions? I’m not qualified to answer that, and frankly, neither are you.

      Can I get some clarification here?

      • vvladd says:

        This i where you should open your eyes. Look at the society : why we see so many disorders, violence, ever descending morality, wars and similar? Things do not happen just *flash* like that – there is always reason behind. Why do you reject the possibility of existence of spiritual world? Just because you cannot put in laboratory to test and examine it? I believe that there is an Author who also knows what is better for me. I lived enough and saw quite enough to tell what gives humanist or materialistic world with comparison to spiritual values. Former doesn’t give clear answers to : who am i? where i am going? what is the purpose of all the world and my living?
        This is the point i tried to show you.

      • Winawer says:

        This i where you should open your eyes. Look at the society : why we see so many disorders, violence, ever descending morality, wars and similar?

        Ooh, nice try! But let’s look at your assumptions. (I love it when creationists and conservatives – not that you’re necessarily a conservative – do this). Let’s start global and work our way down:

        War: Have you ever read the Human Security Report? You should. I think you’d find it interesting. For instance, did you know that globally, the number of wars since the end of the Cold War have fallen by 70%? Global deaths from war are falling, too. Go ahead, take a read – it’s good stuff. I’ll quote one passage as a teaser:

        In fact, in terms of battle-deaths, the 1990s was the least violent decade since the end of World War II. By the beginning of the 21st century, the probability of any coun- try being embroiled in an armed conflict was lower than at any time since the early 1950s.

        Terrorism: You didn’t put this in the list, but it bears mentioning. The HSR also describes a dramatic drop in the incidents of terrorism world-wide, and a serious improvement in the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Again, go read it – the numbers are fascinating.

        Violence: Well, that’s a complicated question, because “violence” is a multi-faceted concept. But since I’ve already discussed war and terrorism, how about crime? Violent crime is surely increasing massively … right?

        Hmm. Well, it turns out that both the overall and violent crime rates in Canada have been falling for over a decade now (source). Well, how about the U.S., then? We all know that the United States is a hotbed of crime and death, right? Oh, wait. Violent crime has been cut nearly in half in the last decade or so? Every sub-category of violent crime, from murder and rape to robbery is down across the board? Huh. I couldn’t find longitudinal stats for the country you live in (don’t worry, I won’t say), but published yearly data suggests that it’s a pretty safe country.

        Disorders: I don’t know what you mean by this. Disorders in what? Hey, I’ve got an idea: why don’t you define this term, and then go find data for me, because I’m tired of spending all this time to show you that you’re living in a fantasy world.

        “Ever-descending morality”: Same problem. Give me a definition, one that we can measure.

        I’m not saying that the world doesn’t have problems; wars, terrorism, crime, these things all still exist, and they are terrible when they happen. But the overall trend is that, in this regard, the world is getting better. Maybe it’s time you cracked a smile and took a deep breath?

        (I’ll tell you what: I’ll even spare you the long discussion on the correlated fall in church attendance, let you off the hook this time. I wouldn’t want to melt your brain here.)

        So, how about you re-formulate your assumptions based on the real world, and try again? Just one more thing, though:

        Former doesn’t give clear answers to : who am i? where i am going? what is the purpose of all the world and my living?

        Funny, I have no need for a God for answers to those questions. I’m getting along just fine without the magical sky fairy to tell me things I should be able to figure out on my own, like who I am, or whether beating some random passerby to death with a stick because I’m having a bad day is wrong or not. And there’s plenty of athiests like me who do just fine in that regard too.

  9. vvladd says:

    “I thought I understood you just fine when I was taking apart your ideas on how evolution proceeds. But let’s get to your question then. In the short term, the answer is, “I don’t care”. Evolution talks about the change in organisms, not where life began.”

    How is that you don’t care??? We are talking here about the origins. I can easily imagine my professor being angry with me or laughing when i pop-up just from air with an equation which just works on the data i have. What will he say? He will say : nice, BUT, where did you get this? where is the path how you get to this? where are the references and comparisons? It is easy to come up with theory which works on MY data. This is funny. And you call “that” science!
    I agree that evolution is a theory but never as a fact!

    You believe that there was a big bang, you believe that prehistoric soup was stroked by a lightning and *voila* you get first amino acids, which miraculously make proteins, then combine up (how???) into first living cells and so on. Basic probability will tell you that such event practically cannot occur. Don’t forget the probabilities getting food, right environment and so on.

    • Winawer says:

      How is that you don’t care???

      Jesus, vvladd, I can only imagine that you’re intentionally misreading what I write. I didn’t say that I don’t care about origins. I used a rhetorical flourish in pointing out that abiogenesis and evolutionary theory are dealing with different questions. How do you interpret that? As me writing off the study of the origin of life as interesting. And then you go on another brain-dead rant about how evolution is just a theory. I love how you get there:

      1). You ask a question unrelated to evolution.
      2). I point out that it’s unrelated to evolution, but try to answer it for you anyways.
      3). You ignore everything I say and take an imaginary response as evidence that evolution is “just a theory”.

      I hope you do better math than this, because your reasoning skills are terrible. And if you don’t want to bother responding to what I ACTUALLY SAY, just let me know, and I’ll know to stop bothering to talk with you.

      After pointing out the difference, I gave you a clear and plausible path from early Earth conditions to the origins of life, even though it’s not even in my field. And how do you respond?

      You believe that there was a big bang, you believe that prehistoric soup was stroked by a lightning and *voila* you get first amino acids, which miraculously make proteins, then combine up (how???) into first living cells and so on. Basic probability will tell you that such event practically cannot occur. Don’t forget the probabilities getting food, right environment and so on.

      Okay, first, I’ve already said that the science regarding this is still forming. (If we knew everything, we wouldn’t have to do science. You’re familiar with this idea, right? Surely you have to be, to be in a Ph.D. program, unless you’re getting your degree from a cereal box.) But there are plausible mechanisms, backed up by actual experiments to show that they could work. Is there a specific issue in the biochemistry that you want to discuss? I’d be happy to do that, but somehow, I don’t think you’re actually interested in that.

      Oh, and regarding probability: don’t make me laugh. If you want to discuss basic probability, go right ahead. “Basic probability” is entirely compatible with abiogenesis. Creationists like to try to chain together a series of estimates of improbable events and treat them like independent events, but anyone who’s not a drooling idiot has to see that the events in question are not independent. They follow decidedly non-random processes laid down by the laws of biochemistry, and even though the probabilities of the individual steps in the sequence is still low, you’re ignoring the fact that billions of trials would have been occurring simultaneously. It would have been one of the most impressive examples of parallel processing ever seen on this planet! (That’s right: the origin of life is embarrassingly parallel.)

      And “food” or “environment”? “Food” and “environment” would have been the same thing: early subunits of life would have been replicating chemical structures, like the self-replicating peptides that we’ve managed to construct (e.g. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9338780&dopt=Abstract"here and here), which would have relied on nothing more than elements floating around in the environment. Early life that followed, whatever form it took, would have been similar to bacteria, which we know – from empirical observation – can live in environments as extreme as deep-sea hydrothermal vents. In fact, this is a reasonable place for life to have began in the first place.

      • vvladd says:

        “Jesus, vvladd, I can only imagine that you’re intentionally misreading what I write. I didn’t say that I don’t care about origins. I used a rhetorical flourish in pointing out that abiogenesis and evolutionary theory are dealing with different questions. How do you interpret that?” Excuse me, you i just sticked to your words – nothing more. You said that you don’t care but instead you are interested in things that are after and bla bla bla. Now you say that it was rhetorical?

        “But there are plausible mechanisms, backed up by actual experiments to show that they could work. Is there a specific issue in the biochemistry that you want to discuss?” Yes, why not. List me some – at least i will learn something new.

        “[probability]” Parallel? How do you see that? Yes, you are right about the fact that not all the events are independent. In this case, you should bring in conditional probabilities which will just add more mess since you don’t know a priori what is the model behind (yeah, you may guess). To prove that, we should have an experiment which shows us that. Do you have one? Is that Miller-Urey experiment?

        For the things you claim i forget : this discussion will explode if i will answer/question again each commentary you make.

      • Winawer says:

        You said that you don’t care but instead you are interested in things that are after and bla bla bla. Now you say that it was rhetorical?

        I said that evolutionary theory is only relevant to things that occur after the origin of life. I didn’t say anything about my personal feelings on the origins of life. And yes, “I don’t care” was a rhetorical device. But you know what, I apologize, because apparently it was too complicated for you. Maybe I’m being too harsh on you. English clearly isn’t your first language, so perhaps I’m expecting too much and treating you poorly because of it. I’ll make a deal with you: I’ll try to keep it simple, and you try to actually read it, okay?

        Yes, why not. List me some – at least i will learn something new.

        No, sweetie, that’s not how this works. I’m already doing a hell of a lot more work on this than you are – if you want answers, ask questions. I’m not going to ask the question and then answer it for you.

        Parallel? How do you see that? Yes, you are right about the fact that not all the events are independent. In this case, you should bring in conditional probabilities which will just add more mess since you don’t know a priori what is the model behind (yeah, you may guess). To prove that, we should have an experiment which shows us that. Do you have one? Is that Miller-Urey experiment?

        Parallel is simple: billions upon billions of chemical reactions occurring simultaneously across the Earth’s surface in the chemically-laden atmosphere and oceans. The first time any of those simultaneous trials creates a replicating subunit of life which survives, that’s a success. If you’re working in machine learning, how is it that you’re having trouble grasping parallel computation?

        And yes, the Miller-Urey experiment is an example of this process. Now, that’s a pretty dated piece of work by now, and the atmospheric mix they used doesn’t match what we know about early Earth conditions now. But the experiment has been replicated and modified and re-tested over the years; a recent version by Jeffrey Bada (here’s the first source I can find on this in a quick search for it) updated it for our better knowledge of those conditions and found even better results. Now, there’s plenty of room for discussion in here, and people are still working out all of the details. If you want the One True Answer, go back to your Bible, because we don’t have it yet. But experiments and models like this show a plausible process for this to have occurred, which beats the pants off “the sky fairy did it”.

      • vvladd says:

        “1). You ask a question unrelated to evolution.
        2). I point out that it’s unrelated to evolution, but try to answer it for you anyways.
        3). You ignore everything I say and take an imaginary response as evidence that evolution is “just a theory”.

        I hope you do better math than this, because your reasoning skills are terrible. And if you don’t want to bother responding to what I ACTUALLY SAY, just let me know, and I’ll know to stop bothering to talk with you.”

        I ask some less related questions because they are linked or are as consequence. “Theory of evolution is a fact” – well, then you should be discuss the consequences if that is true : morality, religions, purpose of life and so on. For me this is more important than knowing how all exactly happened although it is relevant.

        I asked you a couple of questions along and i didn’t get satisfactory answers. I asked you few more in latest comments.

  10. vvladd says:

    Until i get to my book, here are some questions :

    1) if earth existed for billions of years, why erosion didn’t make all the surface flat? Continent movement is still too slow in comparison to that.

    2) how do you explain that certain sun system planets turn in another direction? Angular momentum conservation law would not permit that, “knowing” that our sun formed from dust and all the rest is the remains and should turn around the sun in one direction.

    3) how do you explain the magnetic field of the earth which is getting weaker and weaker. Even several couple of 10 thousand years would tell that it was much to strong! And there is no such thing as pole reversal!

    4) why do we observed too thin layer of dust on a moon when americans first landed on it?
    They expected to find meters deeps extremely fine powder but in reality that measured in centimeters.

    5) why do we have those (Hovind’s beloved) petrified standing trees connecting numerous layers?
    I asked one evolutionist during his presentation to large public about that. He responded that this is just local anomaly and it will be explained someday. False! Such thing appears all over the world more than locally. Conclusion? Those layers could have formed much faster. Even more, in a moving water for example, you may have several layers forming simultaneously!

    • Winawer says:

      Are you kidding me? What did I say, vvladd? I said, keep it to evolutionary theory. That’s all I asked you for. That’s it. And what do you come back with? Questions that you should ask

      1). A geologist.
      2). A physicist.
      3). A physicist, preferably a geophysicist.
      4). Oh, come on. The MOON? Really? Talk to an astronomer.
      5). I’ll tell you what – this is *still* not an evolutionary topic, but if you give me a source for it, I’ll take a swing at it anyways.

      So, 4 out of 5 violated the simple restriction I placed on this, and the 5th is pretty damned marginal. I said “evolutionary theory”, vvladd. Here’s a list of topics (by no means exhaustic): animals, physiology or behaviour. Natural selection. Sexual selection. Speciation – allopatric, sympatric, who cares, I’m good. Genetics. Molecular biology, even. Ecology (including, oh, I don’t know, behavioural ecology). I mean, for crying out loud, vvladd, you went to the trouble of asking me what my “specialty” is, only to ignore it completely? How in the hell is moon dust a question that I’m going to answer as a biologist?

      One last chance, vvladd. One last chance to get on topic and ask specific questions. If you can’t get your crap together enough to do that, then I’m going to stop talking to you. This is already taking up enough of my time; I’m still doing it because I’m trying to help you, but you’re starting to really piss me off.

      • vvladd says:

        I, computer vision guy, know better about evolution in geology, physics and astronomy (yeah, i had some heavy courses in radio-astronomy) and you cannot answer even partially? You are much closer to that than me.

        Biology, genetics… ok, here you are:
        1) science says that DNAs of chimpanzee and a modern human are over than 90-95% similar (not sure about exact numbers). Hence, they should have the same ancester. At the same time it was shown by some others that even changing very few (enzymes?) in both of them is fatal for a creature. How you comment that?

        2) there was special on the question : can micro-evolution be extrapolated for longer periods so that the gain should be beneficial in long term? During this conference they concluded that “no”? What do you say here?

      • Winawer says:

        I, computer vision guy, know better about evolution in geology, physics and astronomy (yeah, i had some heavy courses in radio-astronomy) and you cannot answer even partially? You are much closer to that than me.

        I said, keep to evolutionary theory for reasons of time. I can answer questions like the ones you posed, vvladd, I just don’t want to have to spend my time on it. Because, unlike you, I research things. I base my opinions on sources, and if I’m going to respond to a question from you, it’s going to include sources so that you can go read and find answers on your own without having to take my word for it. And what do you do? You come back with a list of questions that are completely out of my area, knowingwhat I asked for from you. It’s all I asked for from you. I’ve asked you repeatedly now. Are you too stupid to keep on topic, or are you too scared?

        Biology, genetics… ok, here you are:
        1) science says that DNAs of chimpanzee and a modern human are over than 90-95% similar (not sure about exact numbers). Hence, they should have the same ancester. At the same time it was shown by some others that even changing very few (enzymes?) in both of them is fatal for a creature. How you comment that?

        (enzymes?) Sure, you can change a single enzyme in a person and kill them. If I remove all of the enzyme hexosaminidase A from your body, for instance, you’ll probably die from a condition similar to Tay-Sachs disease.
        You can change a single gene and end-up with non-viable offspring. This is true.

        But the larger truth is that almost all changes at the genetic level (mutations) are neither fatal nor helpful, and some are helpful. This happens on all levels. For instance, the genetic code is redundant; there are more nucleotide triplets than there are protein products. A single point mutation may just end up coding for the same protein. On a higher level, changes at the DNA level may lead to a slightly different protein that ends up working in a different chemical reaction. Another protein may work on the same reaction that the first one did, meaning that there was redundancy but now we have two proteins that perform different tasks – we’ve improved the organism. Single-gene mutations can improve organism function all the time, though it can be hard to see this sometimes. HIV resistance can be increased by a mutation in the CCR5 gene (e.g. here). Examples like this are plentiful, but I’m not going to give you a course in molecular genetics in a blog. If you have more specific questions (with sources, please), I’ll follow-up.

        2) there was special on the question : can micro-evolution be extrapolated for longer periods so that the gain should be beneficial in long term? During this conference they concluded that “no”? What do you say here?

        Ah, a creationist who can’t get over the term “microevolution”. First of all, biologists don’t use that term. Secondly, I don’t know what you’re trying to ask me. Do you mean can evolutionary changes confer long-term benefits to individuals? Of course they can. Lenski’s e.coli experiments are a brilliant example of this (here), where he evolved e.coli to be able to digest an entirely new food source. Or how about speciation in the Galapagos island finches? Rosemary and Peter Grant have spent decades of their lives showing how changes in the beak to accommodate different food sources has led to benefits for the finches.

      • vvladd says:

        “there was special conference” <– missed a word in previous comment

      • vvladd says:

        About the moon… didn’t you get it? If we had those billions, ok, the last few millions of years, we would observe a thick layer of dust since it is attracted by moons gravity and is rather constant. I just point you in direction that a moon should be relatively very young. Keeping this in mind, earth-moon system should have evolved together – that will tell you every astronomer. From this you may start doubting about the age of our earth as well.

  11. vvladd says:

    “Shall we have a long discussion about how machine learning is nonsense because of this one book I read?”
    Mathematics is precise,strict and far not as fuzzy as theory of evolution. In math you don’t have “skeletons” which are just accepted as our ancestors without proving strongly that they really are as old as claimed and above all – were they humans or just chimapnzee and did they have any kids at all!

  12. Winawer says:

    vvladd, this is taking up too much of my time, and you’re not learning anything. If you want to reply to the comment regarding your list of questions with questions that are actually relevant to me (like in the categories I’ve laid out, or in any other category relevant to evolutionary theory), then I’ll answer them. For the rest, I have other things to do with my time – like science, frankly.

  13. vvladd says:

    About redundancy in genes:
    1) What tells that this and this gene is redundant? How can you be sure that it is not activated in some rare cases or even combination of them?
    2) What causes this beneficial gene mutations? We know that x-ray for example are harmful. There should be some guiding process. By throwing piece of metal in the air again and again won’t make you an airplane, right?

    Commentary on genes from computer science : occasionally i come across the papers where people are trying to “label” or to discover functionality of that and that gene. Data is extremely large in amounts, high dimensionality (http://www.stat.ucla.edu/~sabatti/statarray/textr/node5.html – horrible thing) and extremely scarce labeled. It is very expensive to obtain labelings. I got an impression that what we know in this domain is still negligible to what we should know to make far going conclusions. I may be wrong but for now i kind a stick to it.

    • Winawer says:

      About redundancy in genes:
      1) What tells that this and this gene is redundant? How can you be sure that it is not activated in some rare cases or even combination of them?

      Well, there’s a number of lines of evidence you can pursue. Most gene redundancies will be straight duplication, i.e. the gene is a perfect copy of another gene. But it most cases, it will be simply a function of the protein coded for by the gene. If you isolate the protein and determine that it is the same protein, that’s pretty straightforward. You could also do knockout studies to show that removing the gene leads to no functional differences in the organisms – this is done with mice, with plants, in bacteria, etc. on literally a daily basis. We’ve gotten very good at manipulating genes in this way.

      For gene duplication itself, here’s a nice paper you can read in PLOS Biology.

      2) What causes this beneficial gene mutations? We know that x-ray for example are harmful. There should be some guiding process. By throwing piece of metal in the air again and again won’t make you an airplane, right?

      vvladd, if you’re going to talk to people in biology, you have to learn how to talk to them without making them cry from frustration. Re-hashing Hoyle’s Fallacy (which is a bit of a misnomer, since it predates Hoyle by quite some time, but you use the same language he did 30 years ago) as if it’s an argument that hasn’t been beaten to death with a stick is just annoying. The argument has been dealt with again, and again, and again. I’m not going to do it another time here. Start with the Wikipedia page (here) and go from there.

      As to x-rays and beneficial mutations. You’re confusing form with function. It’s not the source of the mutation that’s important. If a mutation causes a beneficial change, it doesn’t matter whether it came from a transcription error that wasn’t repaired, a chemical mutagen, ionizing radiation, a virus, or whatever other source. Mutations are only important in the effect they have on the genes themselves – the proteins that they code for, and the relationship of the genes within the gene regulatory network.

      It doesn’t matter what caused the base-pair deletion that led to the change in the CCR5 gene; it only matters that the result is an increased resistance to HIV. It doesn’t matter what caused the sickle-cell mutation which confers resistance to malaria – it only matters that the mutation gave such a selective advantage to individuals in regions with malaria that it spreads through populations even though homozygous individuals develop sickle-cell anemia. (In fact, this resistance is so beneficial that it seems to have arisen multiple times, independently, in different places).

  14. vvladd says:

    In case that my last comments were really the last… i don’t regret this discussion. I will read the sources you provided.

    I do admit that some of my arguments were blurry and inconsistent to you. And my reasoning capabilities are not on top – i know that. However, nothing from your discussion was useful, i mean, informative for me in the sense so that i can start doubting in what i believe. Your answers were also fuzzy enough and sometimes you didn’t understand me what i said. Also, either you don’t know completely what spiritual world is or you are willingly ignorant about it. You seem to know nothing about spiritual world.

    Finally, in my thoughts i never considered you as an adversary as a person. The evolution theory – it is enemy for me.

    • Winawer says:

      (I’m going to take the last word on this because, well, frankly it’s my blog).

      However, nothing from your discussion was useful, i mean, informative for me in the sense so that i can start doubting in what i believe. Your answers were also fuzzy enough and sometimes you didn’t understand me what i said.

      I wish you luck, vvladd. You came in here with an insulting tone, and I gave you one back, but I really do hope that you can learn enough to see how little you know (you might try this book as a start and then go from there). Because this is really the problem: my answers aren’t fuzzy, I’m just not able to explain things fully in a blog. This is a typical creationist problem. Creationists show up in some forum and demand a single sentence or a single paragraph that will “prove” evolution. It would be like me showing up on your blog and demanding that you explain the entirety of the Linux kernel in a couple of sentences, or I’ll never believe in computers again. Oh, and I don’t actually know anything about computers – I barely know where the power switch is – but you have to explain kernel architecture to me when I challenge every word you say because I don’t understand what any of them mean. (This isn’t true, of course: I’ve been programming since I was in grade 3, and I do computational modelling all the time, but perhaps you get the idea).

      The gulf in understanding when it comes to evolution is even larger between you and me, and I’m not even a heavyweight in this area. I know enough, and use enough, to understand evolutionary theory and know that it is a well-supported fact, but I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life acquiring that knowledge. You want me to impart that in a few minutes on a blog page, when you’re arrogant enough to not even bother to read and learn anything before you show up?

      Also, either you don’t know completely what spiritual world is or you are willingly ignorant about it. You seem to know nothing about spiritual world.

      I know what the “spiritual world” is, vvladd. I was raised Christian. I studied it, determined that it had no functional impact on my life, saw the contradictions inherent in it, saw the atrocities that were committed by organized practitioners in its name, and rejected it in its entirety. I have no problem with people who hold to a spirituality of their own, as long as they keep it to themselves and don’t try to force it on me. But when people like you show up, and try to stifle science because it doesn’t fit with your beliefs, or tell me what I have to believe because their God or Allah or Flying Spaghetti Monster told me I have to believe in Him / Him / His Noodliness or I deserve to die (which has happened) or go to Hell or fry in the eternal pasta sauce, then that’s when I get ornery.

      Finally, in my thoughts i never considered you as an adversary as a person. The evolution theory – it is enemy for me.

      Truthfully, I don’t really care what you think of me or evolution, vvladd. If you want to be a God-fearing Christian, think that evolution is bunk, and believe that I’m going to hell because of my dedication to science, that’s fine. Evolution is true whether you want to accept it or not – not because some voice in the sky told me, but because the sheer mountain of evidence cannot be swept under the Godly rug. My purpose in life is well set: I will try to leave the world a better place than when I came into it, and I will do so by dedicating my life to the advancement of knowledge. And while creationists spend their time trying to deny what I do, I’ll do my best to push forward science that will one day have a positive impact on their lives, whether they like it or not. You asked me how I answer the questions of “who I am”, and “what is my purpose”. Well, there you have it.

      Good luck to you, vvladd. I hope your Ph.D. goes well, and I hope your life is a comfortable one.

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