Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Whackjob question time

Carrying on with the Harun Yahya extremist propaganda by Oktar Babuna and Cihat Gundogdu: do remember that mainstream Islam doesn't have a problem with evolution: something else not mentioned by the speakers or the organisers. 

Probably 80 people here.

Question 1: you don't see natural selection as beneficial and there's no beneficial example. How about the Gypsy Moth, over the past 100 years? It was bark-coloured. With the industrial revolution, it changed colour to match the polluted environment to remain safe, and is now reverting to the original colour. His father is a dairy farmer - has selectively bred for more milk production rather than beef.

Answer: even evolutionists don't use the gypsy moth example any more because it's a fake. As to cows: variations isn't evolution. The genes don't change, so there's no evolution.

Q3: Are you saying that if evolution's true, there should be plenty of transition fossils.
A: Trillions.
Q: And you say all species spontaneously appeared - in complex forms - with the Cambrian explosion?
A: Yes. 3 phyla before the Cambrian, millions in the Cambrian, 35 now.
Q: So millions of species decline to 35 phyla. So are humans and rabbits there in the fossil record if they all existed in the Cambrian period?
A: We never said they appeared at the same time. There's an order of creation. The Phyla tree is false.
Q: So did we start with simple and get more complex life-forms?
A: No. We start with complex forms. There's no progress.
Q: So where are the Cambrian humans?
A: Photosynthesis existed a long time ago and we can't do it in the lab: so no evolution.
Q: But no rabbits or humans?
A: Trilobites have the most complex eyes ever and they're extinct. So complexity was there from the start.
Q: Bones survive: fewer remains of soft-bodied organisms. How can you find the fossil of a bacteria as often as that of a dinosaur? How do you tell the difference between designed gradual complex appearance and evolution?
A: God wanted it this way.
Q: DNA insertion experiments prove the addition.
A: long rambling claim that God invented DNA and everything started in one go.

(Unfortunately a lot of the students are just laughing at the speakers' little jokes at the expense of the questioners and are clearly uninterested in referencing, peer review and experiment: just in the religious credentials of the speaker). Biology lecturer walks out because his questions are being silenced: students mock him. 'What have you evolved from?', jeers one. Moderator is clearly losing it.

Q. What's the name of the Pharaoh you referenced?
A. I don't know. One of the Pharaohs.
Q. What do you mean by pagan?
A. Belied based on nothing. DNA means there's an infinite wisdom far superior to human intelligence. Humans can't create life so there must be a god.
Q. A famous scientist (can't catch the name) traces hominids back to Kenya. Where did man come from?
A: Only the revelation of God can tell us. Qu'ran tells us we're the same as the first man. Science tells us that new DNA information can't arise so we're the same as the origin. 350 million fossils show there are no intermediates or transitions and Darwin, Gould and Dawkins agree.
Q. Dawkins says every fossil is intermediate.
A. Dawkins says they are planted in the pre-Cambrian.
Q. No he doesn't. He says 'appeared' and then explains why.
A. No transitions. No evidence. Evolution never happened. The Qu'ran says so.
(More students leave, clearly not impressed).
Q. (Me) how is it that blind trilobites appeared later than the ones with the eyes? How many peer-reviewed publication do you have? After all, I have to submit my work to the scrutiny of my colleagues to achieve credibility amongst them and my students: why hasn't he?
A. Trilobites existed in the Cambrian and not before. Eyes can't emerge step by step. Missing elements mean it wouldn't work (me: isn't this a design flaw?).

I ask again:
"Darwinism controls scientific journals'.
'Complexity to simplicity denies evolution', he says. Which is a total lie and he should know better. Darwinism says that species evolve to fit niches. If a simple model works better, that will emerge. This is the case with eyeless trilobites: they emerged (I point out to him) where trilobites lived in lightless places: why expend energy on an unnecessary eye? He again mocks this and ends the session.

Session closed: very hastily. There were no questions from anti-evolutionists - probably because they don't have the scientific background to make serious points: the event was an exercise of authority. Afterwards, quite a few attendees ask questions of myself and the biologist sitting next to me - they're not convinced but at least they're curious.

What a simultaneously enjoyable and annoying experience. I haven't seen such blatant lies, distortion and misdirection since I went to Catholic school. I hope I didn't come across as a humourless naysayer - I also hope that the speakers' ranting, use of spiteful jokes and repeated evasion of specific questions were noticed by the students.

PS. He keeps going on about proteins and the impossibility of them evolving: try this paper in Nature, the most rigorous science journal in the world.


Zoot Horn said...

10 out of 10 for attending Vole. Sounds like a fascinating event for all the wrong reasons. Did he tell you what god evolved from?

The Plashing Vole said...

Sadly we ran out of time to get an answer to that one…

Edward Woodward said...

I'm glad I was able to find your account of this event via Google. What a horrific, yet entertaining experience.

I tried to be as quiet as possible during the "show" out of politeness, but found it difficult with all the quote mining going on. I actually regret remaining so quiet now, as I had no idea the Questions and Answers section would be a white-wash Question and Avoidance session.

I wrote up my account of the session here:

It's a shame I discovered my video camera was broken upon arrival. I look forward to seeing their recording...if we ever do.

PS: I am not a biologist, but am pleased you mistook me for one, even if it were an incompetent one :)

Edward Woodward said...

PS: I phoned the other universities on their itinerary to warn them of what to expect, and to suggest having an evolutionary biologist present with instructions to speak up at every inaccuracy.

This is how the Harun Yahya machine works I'm afraid. Dawkins did a good talk on his book "Atlas of creation" here


The Plashing Vole said...

Hi Edward (have you met my regular reader Ewar Woowar?). Great to hear from you - I regretted not having a chat with you after the event. For a non-biologist you sounded very informed.

By the way, everyone: young Edward has one of the most magnificent waxed moustachios I've seen in many years.

The whole event was a disgrace - good on you for warning other universities. Some of the management here are actually angry enough about it to be taking steps.

Apart from the stupidity of the whole thing, I was disappointed with their arguments - underneath a whizzy powerpoint were the exact same arguments used since the 1850s: eyes/transitional fossils. The protein one is old too, and disproved.

Oh well…

The Plashing Vole said...

I've pointed out in a polite email to the organiser that they failed to explain to their audience that mainstream Islam has no problem with evolution. By presenting these speakers as credible scientists and informed religious scholars, they're pushing the students towards extremism through misdirection and misinformation.

The Plashing Vole said...

Oh yes, I bet our contributions are edited out!

The Plashing Vole said...

The link Edward gives is to a Richard Dawkins video in which he points out every single scientific error made in the presentation we saw. Highly recommended:


The Plashing Vole said...

Part 2 of that speech is here:

Edward Woodward said...

You can't help learn a few things about the real world when debating with creationists and investigating Quran miracle claims.

I've learned quite a lot as a result of it, it's a fun way to learn. Still so much more to know though.

The Quran outright contradicts evolution which is why people like this are trying to make it look "debatable." I suspect most Muslims in the UK just don't bother thinking about it. Which is a good thing, because then they don't need to be taught anti-skills such as forming conclusions from a lack of evidence.

I was happy to get him to move from "all species were created at the beginning" to a position of admitting life appears in stages. If the Q&A session had been better I'd have liked to have ask him to explain endogenous retro viral infections shared across species...that would have been good fun :)

Anyway, it was good to have you and Adam in the room too, it was nice meeting you both.

The Plashing Vole said...

I was disappointed that other students didn't speak: I got the impression that they didn't have the scientific confidence to discuss specifics, and were too awed by the theatricality (suits, MDs, jargon) to challenge power. That's what annoyed me most: the pantomime of credibility without the substance - I'm sure most of the people there wouldn't notice the partial and distorted quotations, for instance, because what they heard sounds like what they want to believe, and because it sounds science-y.

Edward Woodward said...

People need to learn to question everything they hear as if they were being told something they don't wish to be true.

I managed to dispell a few fallacies at the end for a small group.

1: Evolution is not a ladder with humans at the top.
2: Complexity must come after simplicity, but that doesn't mean life always moves from simple to complex.

I gave a hypothetical example of how crabs could evolve to lose their eyes which seems to have been accepted, and also explained how new information is added to DNA.

I was really surprised that so many didn't even know humans have vestigial tails.

Most importantly though a few seemed quite genuine in saying that they would read a pro-evolution book. I hope they do.

Ps: perhaps you should get your university's Islamic association to present another "Evolution, fact or fiction?" session but this time with someone presenting an argument in favour. That would be I interesting, so make sure you let me know if it happens.

The Plashing Vole said...

Hi Peter. Great that you were around and also that some of the students did ask questions. I spoke to one girl who wasn't entirely convinced but was curious, which is a good start.

Good job there were people like you and Edward there - shame the biologist who left early had to go. He was very frustrated.

Good idea: I'll suggest it to the Islamic Society and any other group who challenges evolution.

The Plashing Vole said...

Er… Edward. Slight error there.

Edward Woodward said...

I wanted to write to you privately but do not have your email address, would you mind emailing me?

therationaliser at gmail dot com