Does evolutionary theory provide any useful scientific benefit?

(Christy Hemphill) #394

Yep, pretty much. People believe what they want to believe and trust who they decide to trust.

It is my impression that much of the YEC propaganda has not been updated since I was a child thirty years ago. Since it has always been more rhetoric and ideology based than fact based, new facts don’t seem to impact the arguments much. You can always dismiss facts as merely “man’s wisdom,” and then they don’t matter.


Whatever someone’s motivation might be in asking “Does evolutionary theory provide any useful scientific benefit?”, it certainly serves a useful purpose. Lots of people surely react with “I don’t know. I hadn’t given it any thought.” And if they see for the first time a list of scientific breakthroughs, especially in medical science, which came from an understanding of evolution, that should at least serve as a reminder that complicated subjects pondered by scientists really do impact everyone’s lives.

I remember when NASA for several years worked hard to explain to the American people that the space program was a good investment for the average taxpayer: the electronics of integrated circuits, all sorts of synthetic materials including new fabrics, plastics, and ceramics, GPS, and even stories about Tang breakfast mix! I do think that campaign had a permanent impact on helping people connect scientific research to new discoveries and products. But I wonder if that mindset is falling away and the relationship between investments in “general science” research and “practical applications” will have to renewed.

A lot of people do appear to think statements like “the Theory of Evolution is the very foundation of the study of biology” as some sort of hyperbole. (A friend once told me that that idea is “nothing but Darwinist hype!”) But when high school science textbook publishers are fearful of treating the Theory of Evolution as anything but a chapter or two of emphasis in an entire biology textbook, we can’t really expect the average student to understand just how important is that foundation. It becomes a chicken-and-the-egg problem: textbooks can’t change (out of fear of no sales) until the average public school board and the average taxpaying citizen are better educated about science.


I am sure this applies to you as well as anyone Christy… that you are believing merely what you want to believe?

Your impression is wrong… there has been much updating going on, especially in the manner of evaluation of evolutionary concepts and “findings”. However, your use of the word propoganda is pejorative, and not “Christian” in my opinion. Although the basic assumptions of YEC may not have changed, the details of the problems with evolution, such as statistical probabilities, speciation, beneficial mutations, sedimentation have certainly been updated. Also the mechanism and understanding of a global flood has seen revisions, and the detailed problems with radiometric dating have been elaborated.


What is generally delivered to the public remains unchanged. Yes, if you dig deep enough you can find the occasional paper in an AIG “journal” or whatever. But the Young Earth Creationist movement arguments have changed so little that they continue to promote arguments that others within the movement long ago listed in “Arguments for a Young Earth Which Should Not Be Used.” Indeed, AIG publishes such a list—but then still uses some of those bad arguments at the Creation Museum!

If it quacks like a duck…

And what is the problem with something being pejorative? Was Jesus being “pejorative” when he called his opponents “white washed sepulchers”? Was Elisha being pejorative when facing the prophets of Baal and mocking their “absent deity”? Sometimes a silly argument merits mockery.

Of course, Christy didn’t mock and get “perjorative” about any individuals. She rightly criticized the propaganda by calling it what it was.

Yes, honesty is sometimes critical—and a big dose of reality can be bracing.

One of my favorite William Lane Craig videos shows a smug questioner complaining that Craig was allegedly guilty of “ad hominem” (yes, yet another clueless critic who thinks an ad hominem fallacy is simply an insult.) Bill thoroughly shreds him by not only pointing out his misunderstanding of ad hominems but explains that being insulting or even unkind is entirely appropriate when something is erroneous and is destructive to the progress of the Great Commission.

No. They have simply become more desperately lame and scientifically inane while being obfuscated. The R.A.T.E. Project was probably the most wasteful insult to the sad legacy of the “creation science” movements, an insult to science and human reason on a scale that even Duane Gish and Henry Morris could scarcely have concocted. For years they had lamented that they just couldn’t accomplish what “other scientists” did because they lacked the research funds. The R.A.T.E. Project showed us what some a bunch of confused and untrained (in radiometric dating methodologies) Young Earth Creationists could do with millions of dollars to waste.

Sometimes pseudo-science raises self-contradiction to the level of self-mockery. That was the accomplishment of the R.A.T.E. Project in their last gasp attempt at discrediting radiometric dating. To call it a vast embarrassment to Young Earth Creationism would err only in assuming that “creation science” was not already dead and buried and the remaining nutrients long since returned to the ecosystem. One can only embarrass that which still has some remaining shred of dignity. How much impact has the R.A.T.E. Project had on radiometric dating methodologies? Zero. Zilch. Nada. It gets quoted for scientific purposes mainly by experts who cite some of its more famous bloopers in teaching students what mistakes the untrained technician can fall into.

(I worked part-time in a radiometric dating lab in the late 1970’s as a lowly assistant. Even I knew how to avoid some of their silliest errors. R.A.T.E. was a great example where alleged “scientists” decide their conclusion before even starting the research. (Of course, they came from the ideological position that their science could NOT contradict their personal opinions about what the Bible should mean according to their tradition-driven interpretations. So they were unable to pursue the Scientific Method.) Indeed, one of the Board of Directors members who was a non-scientist greatly angered the R.A.T.E. team by getting overly excited in an interview and openly admitting that their conclusions were already determined BEFORE the research ever began. “We are going to prove that…” Of course, this is exactly what they promised the donors who had put up the cash. It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for them to reach any other conclusions—or the donors would have wanted their money back!)

(George Brooks) #398


Based on most estimates of Biblical chronology, the World Flood happened sometime after the 4th dynasty of Egypt and before the 6th dynasty.

Now much “updating” is required to explain that Egypt was NOT wiped off the face of the Earth sometime after the 4th dynasty. What does appear to have happened is the collapse of the Sumerian-dominated civilization in Mesopotamia. Could a massive REGIONAL flood do this? Perhaps.

So will a discussion of these “updates” include changing the global flood into a REGIONAL one?


Perhaps RATE was copying the evolutionists who need a presumed “date” for a rock before they can date it with radiometric methods.


Seriously? If I hadn’t read your…“interesting” post which introduced this thread implying that evolutionary theory had no “useful” scientific benefit, I might have assumed that you were making a joke—probably meant to recall with a chuckle the kinds of age of the earth debates we’ve all seen on forums frequented by Kent Hovind and Ray Comfort fans. When people with no science background bring an ICR-level slogan to a venue where real scientists are posting, the abrupt collision with reality can bring things to an uncomfortable halt. (“Did he actually say that?”)

OF COURSE a laboratory will ask for a rough quantification before assigning a sample for measurement! You don’t have to be a scientist to deal with that in a host of measurement situations in our daily lives.

If I’m selling wheat from the recent harvest, the first thing they determine at the grain elevator is which scale to use. Why? Each scale is appropriate for a different range of weights.

If I’m measuring the distance from my house to my mailbox, I’m going to use a different means of measurement, appropriate to the scale, than if I’m measuring the distance to the nearest town. Could the tape measure I used to measure the distance to the mailbox be used to determine the mileage to the city limits of that nearby town? Yes. And I doubt that I’d have to explain to anyone why using the tape measure for such relatively large distances would produce a lot of accumulative error because of the repeated measurements, point-by-point along the way.

Yes, I could try to use the odometer on my car to measure the length of my driveway just as I could use it to measure the distances between cities. Imagine if a car odometer happens to be digital instead of analog. In that case, using the car odometer to measure the length of my driveway could easily produce a ridiculous measurement of ZERO.

If my tape measure says the driveway is 50’ long but the digital odometer says that the driveway is 0.0 miles long, are you going to tell us that:

(1) our distance measuring devices and methodologies are unreliable and inconsistent?

(2) If you telephoned me and asked me to come over to your house and measure the length of your driveway, are you going to criticize me for asking you questions so that I can know whether to bring a tape measure, a surveyor’s transit, a hand-carried GPS unit, or just my car? Seriously? (You are using that same poor logic in complaining about radiometrics labs.)

(3) Are you going to proclaim “All car odometers are useless in measuring distances” because a car jacked up on blocks (so as to allow the car to be put in gear without the tires touching the ground) can be run for an hour and give a measured distance of 20 miles----even though the car has actually moved zero inches?

Those are exactly the kinds and calibers of ridiculous, nonsensical arguments against radiometric dating that you will find on many science-illiterate Young Earth Creationist websites. Why not consult actual scientists who specialize in radiometrics instead of propagandists who prey on sincere, good people who simply happen to lack appropriate backgrounds in analytical methods and laboratory procedures? (And yes, I call them “propagandists” because that is what they are. Ken Ham, for example, is neither a scientist nor a Biblical scholar. He is a origins-ministry entrepreneur, one of many who have made their fortunes selling disinformation to a lot of good people who deserve the truth instead.)

Oh my.

I worked in a lab which did all sorts of laboratory measurements on both a contract and walk-in basis, including some types of radiometrics. Yes, there was a multi-page “application for laboratory services” document which asked the client all sorts of questions including information that the client didn’t necessarily always have. But even rough approximations and guesses as to provenance, potential contamination, etc. would eventually prove useful. With all but the most experience clients, I had to go through an “interview process” to help them complete the application and to help them better prepare and protect the next sample they might bring in.

All sorts of contamination scenarios not only made things like age determination more difficult and uncertain, it also could have extreme impact on the total cost. That is, if the client lacked various kinds of information about the sample, the only way to reduce uncertainty was to undertake additional expensive tests.

[I remember my boss showing me a fossil a guy brought in that had been passed down through his family for several generations. It was glued to a beautifully polished pieces of hardwood in order to make it look almost like a trophy. (And the glue had been applied so liberally as to practically encase it in the clear glue.) The guy wanted it “carbon dated” but my boss had gotten exasperated explaining to him that the fossil was basically saturated with carbon because even without running tests for organic compounds, the glues of the likely era were usually plant or animal derived. The client finally said, “Then use your common sense and just take some nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol to remove the glue! I’ve used that before to dissolve this kind of glue on my grandfather’s old taxidermy mounts!” Yes, my boss had to explain that those organic compounds had also saturated the sample with carbon. I can just imagine some Young Earth Creationist take that to one lab after another until he got somebody to go through the motions of a Carbon-14 measurement—and then declaring it proof of young age! And yet JohnZ is trying to tell us that questions about provenance and estimated age are some kind of gotcha smoking gun!]

By the way, at the time I worked in that lab, I was still an anti-evolution Young Earth Creationist. And the Assistant Director of the lab was personally skeptical of evolution, although he certainly affirmed the billions of years of earth history. Yet both of us would ask clients for the same basic “intake information” so that we knew what methods to use and how to aim for the most accurate test measurements using the appropriate procedures which would accrue the lowest possible costs. Belief in evolution had nothing to do with it.

In case my explanations are not completely clear: Of course the radiometric dating laboratory will want to know everything that is known about a sample and a rough idea of its likely age is very helpful in reducing costs and saving time. But if it was ever the case that nothing was known about a sample, its provenance, its likely age, there are plenty of examinations and tests we could perform to ballpark the age of the sample and verify that rough estimate before moving on to the actual radiometric measurements. Yet, as @johnZ illustrated, it is far more effective and convincing with a science-illiterate audience to simply recite a standard anti-evolutionist slogan while pretending that it somehow makes sense as a criticism of carefully perfected methodologies developed by thousands of scientists scrutinizing, cross-checking, and refining over many decades and further improving their procedures with the help of the peer-review process.

When someone repeats the illogical slogans and cliched arguments of anti-evolution ministry websites, they convince any scientists among the readers that they have no understanding of ;analytical methods and how radiometric testing is conducted. Of course, that was a major reason why the R.A.T.E. Project was such an embarrassing disaster and a huge waste of millions of dollars. (However, it was a lucrative project for the “team members”, who during the rest of the year complain in the sermons at churches that “atheist evolutionist scientists” refuse to “admit the truth about evolution” because they have such a vested financial interest in preserving the lucrative status quo of the science academy. Somehow they have determined that the profit motive hopelessly corrupts peer-reviewed science but doesn’t seem to impede the integrity of IDists. Interesting.)

I’m very concerned that every time a long-ago debunked anti-evolution slogan is recycled on the Internet and in the Young Earth Creationist anti-evolution marketplace, non-believers point to yet another example of what they consider the “shameless dishonesty” of what they generalize to all Christians. Please. Truth matters. It would be far better if ministry leaders would simply say, “I don’t know anything about radiometric dating.” There is no dishonor in admitting a lack of education in a particular area. But there are seriously high stakes and a lot of damage to the progress of the Great Commission when Christian ministries get distracted from the Gospel message and what the Bible actually states and gets focused on pseudo-science babble.

Yes, I’ll admit it. When I see good, sincere, and honest people (like John, no doubt) get fed this kind of tired old anti-evolution slogans and cliched pseudo-science arguments, I wish those mega-ministry leaders could be brought before their local churches or denominations for appropriate and Biblical church discipline for bearing false witness and for polluting the Body of Christ with what some of those propagandist-entrepreneurs know to be lies. (I make that statement based upon private conversations with some of them. Yes, many of those leaders are simply science-ignorant and trusting the wrong “authorities.” But some actually know better and don’t care about the truth because they’ve got a good gig going.)


This reveals your lack of understanding. Certainly different sizes of scales can be used. But they are used based on their capability to handle the weight, not based on the type of material they are weighing. (Except for liquids vs solids…) If a large scale weighs a small sample, it should not register the weight. The variance should be equal to no weight being added to the scale. It should not be giving a 2 oz sample a weight of 500 pounds. Which is similar to what the radiometric methods are doing, which is why the explanation is for background material such as Argon 40. You need to understand the problem better before you start using your inadequate analogies.

There is no valid comparison to tape measures either, because the example goes the other way. It is not repeated measurements by a small ruler, but a measurement by a large long tape measure which is inaccurate. The odometer example is partially reasonable, except that it is wrong, because the analogy would indicate the odometer measuring a kilometer (instead of a tenth km), when actually the distance is zero… the vehicle has not yet moved, or has merely exited the garage. In this case, a zero measurement would NOT be ridiculous.

The errors are in the millions of years, not in the thousands, which would have been reasonable.

Your story about the glued fossil is valid, but irrelevant to the issues of dating that we are talking about. These samples were treated with the utmost care and procedures. The glue on the fossil didn’t need someone giving the lab an approximate date before testing. It obviously invalidated carbon dating by mere appearance alone.

What you don’t seem to understand is that the difference between testing for isotopes and “dating” is the assumptions needed between the two steps. If all a lab does is test for isotope ratios, then it need take no responsibility for giving an “age” for the sample. However, if it does give an “age”, then it must take responsibility for that. Asking for an “age” before testing, gives an impression of bias, prejudice, lack of partiality.

Asking for handling methods, procedure documentation, containment methods is valid and does not prejudice the isotope examination. You need to understand the difference and not conflate the two.

The rest of your comments are pure propoganda.

(Jon) #402

John bear in mind that SF actually understands the science involved, and how the dating methods work. As several people have noted, it is you who does not understand the dating methods. Several people have taken the time to explain to you carefully, using perfectly adequate analogies, why specific dating methods have to be used with specific samples, or they will give an inaccurate measurement. You have given another example yourself, here.

And it won’t. That does not mean the sample is weightless. It means the scale being used is an inappropriate measuring tool for the sample. This proves you understand the issue perfectly. You’ve just repeated in your own words what several people have told you already in their words. At least this means you now agree with them.

[quote=“johnZ, post:401, topic:548”]
What you don’t seem to understand is that the difference between testing for isotopes and “dating” is the assumptions needed between the two steps. If all a lab does is test for isotope ratios, then it need take no responsibility for giving an “age” for the sample. However, if it does give an “age”, then it must take responsibility for that.[/quote]

They do take responsibility for that. What “assumptions” are you talking about specifically, and do you have any evidence that they are invalid assumptions?

Why? To use your analogy, that’s like saying “Asking someone what they want you to weigh on a set of scales designed to weigh trucks, gives an impression of bias, prejudice, lack of partiality”. Why is it wrong to ask people if they’re using the right tool for the task?


This shows you do not understand the issue. No one needs to ask anyone anything when a small sample of grain is submitted. The size of the sample is obvious. And the material in the sample type of grain is obvious. The measurement of the sample will be imprecise if the large scale is used, but it will not be wrong. With radiometric dating, the measurement of the isotopes is not wrong, but the age assigned to the isotope ratio is wrong. This is a completely different thing, and why the analogy is inappropriate.

(Jon) #404

Sorry, this is just rhetoric. You say this to everyone who corrects you, especially everyone who demonstrates they actually understand the topic.

That wasn’t my analogy. Please read what I wrote. I said “Asking someone what they want you to weigh on a set of scales designed to weigh trucks, gives an impression of bias, prejudice, lack of partiality”. This is not a case of someone knowing you want to submit a small sample of grain to weigh.

But if you submit a small sample of grain to be weighed, and you say “I want you to weigh it on the scale used to weigh trucks”, then yes they will rightly ask “Why do you want to do that, given it will result in a completely inaccurate measurement?”. And if you then insist that they weigh it on the scale used to weigh trucks, and you then publicly declare that the scale used to weigh trucks falsely indicated no weight for the sample at all, and you claim that this means the scale is completely inaccurate and unreliable, then you are being dishonest.

Evidence please.

The analogy is appropriate because it was addressing your argument that if radiometric dating is accurate then carbon 14 dating should give accurate dates for igneous rocks.


It always goes back to the ridiculous claim that “All of the scientific academy is wrong in what they’ve been teaching in the textbooks for many years now----but even though I personally don’t have a clue how radiometric methodologies operate nor have I ever worked in such a laboratory, nor studied advanced graduate school course in radiometrics, nor published in the peer-reviewed journals. I’m telling you that I know better, as do the people who agree with me, 99% of whom just happen to share my theological views on origins.”

Old song. Tiresome tune. We all know the words.

If someone is convinced that the people who have spent lifetimes refining radiometrics are all mistaken, and if someone is convinced that they are qualified to remedially tutor the scientific world, by all means publish your evidence and analysis in a peer-reviewed journal and don’t waste such important information on a casual Internet forum. Einstein shook up Newton’s physics and became a hero. If the evidence supports one’s claims, there is nothing to stop you from shaking up the scientific world. Indeed, the academy loves revolutions of that sort. It is the best way to make your career and get an endowed chair. (Cue the vast conspiracy theory and appeals to the Ben Stein film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, my favorite movie title of all time.)

Meanwhile, the Young Earth Creationist protests against radiometrics were silly enough in 1962. The very same arguments are just plain sad in 2016.


And we all know that the ONLY reason that anybody is claiming radiometric dating is so allegedly terrible flawed is because of an agenda of promoting a young earth. If radiometric methodologies were as obviously flawed as Young Earth Creationist think, there would be lots of non-Christian young PhD candidates especially----people with no interest in origins issues or religious objectives and focused solely on making their mark in the science academy—who would be jockeying to go down in history as the scientist who exposed the flaws in radiometrics.

Radiometrics-deniers: Look around you. Have you ever noticed that 99% of the people who agree with your complaints about radiometric dating just happen to share most of your religious beliefs on origins? And did you ever notice that 99% of them copy-and-paste from Young Earth Creationist ministry websites and repeat most of the same long-ago debunked slogans and cliches?


Then please explain how the academy misunderstands the consilience of evidence for a young earth which involves the confirming of radiometric dating evidence by means of other independent methods, such as measuring plate tectonic movements.

Here’s a great example of the slum-dunk, smoking gun evidence for ancient geologic phenomena which destroy young earth claims:

So explain to us why the entire scientific academy has misunderstood this evidence and you have the correct approach. How do you explain the evidence?

(If your answer is “I’m not a scientist and don’t claim to have all of the answers”, then you are confirming what we already know: that you are entirely unqualified to declare the geology community wrong and “creation scientists” correct.)

@johnZ, this is a great opportunity to show that you can deal with evidence and not just rhetoric.

(George Brooks) #408


This is a very good observation !!!


I’m hoping that @johnZ will return to this thread and explain this for us. There are entire scientific journals which have been dedicated to refinements and quantity control issues surrounding radiometrics. (If you visit a radiometric analysis laboratory, you’ll sometimes find entire shelves of such journals if the lab is not on a campus with a departmental library in the same building.)

For years I’ve been challenging people like JohnZ to explain the compounded consilience of independence which tells us that the dating conclusions from radiometric analysis is extremely reliable. Does JohnZ think God filled his creation with such multiplied confirmations of billions of years of history just to confuse us? Why do we find much more consensus among scientists about the age of the earth and origins than we find even among Christian theologians who are interpreting the very same scriptures? Yet, most Young Earth Creationist pretend that fallible humans can reliably interpret God’s revelations in the Bible but not God’s revelations in the scriptures? Why is that?

If JohnZ were to address these questions in a meaningful way, it would be a first in my experience of many years of inviting Young Earth Creationists to address them. Bashing radiometrics is a popular sport for any AIG copy-and-paste fan. But getting them to stay around and explain the consilience of evidence----and explain how a young earth view can explain this evidence—would take a miracle!


Really? I said this? Really?

Of course, but that is not my claim. My claim is that if the scale indicated no weight at all, that the precision of the scale would be met. The problem is not giving no weight for the grain, but weighing 10 gms of grain as 200 kilos of grain. You like to bait and switch, don’t you. And trolling must be your favorite sport.


This is false. It is an old cannard. But radiometrics have had many flaws exposed. Still, deep faith in radiometrics continues to exist, and qualifiers continue to be used… ie., if one type of mineral does not give the desired “age”, then measure a different mineral. If the radiometrics match the fossils and the “story”, then well and good. If not, keep measuring and remeasuring and find new material, until the dates match and everyone is happy. Plead contamination or exceptional circumstances for those cases where “dates” do not match, and keep on trucking.


@johnZ, I challenge you to post an example of a peer-reviewed academic journal where a radiometric specialist did anything like what you are describing. Full citation with page numbers, please, along with the “smoking gun” evidence in the scientist’s own words. (No, a dishonest quote-mine from a Young Earth Creationist website or book is not a reliable citation. That, as you say, “…is an old canard.”)

JohnZ keeps forgetting that many of us came from Young Earth Creationist backgrounds. We’ve known—and even faithfully repeated them ourselves— these tiresome anti-radiometrics cliches for at least a half century. They’ve not changed any since Morris and Whitcomb.

(No doubt @Jonathan_Burke, @beaglelady, and others will want to enjoy this challenge.)


You said it, brother.