Friday, May 25, 2007

What You Don't Know: Coelacanth Hurt You

There's a cheapie monochrome sci-fi movie from the fifties which has stayed in my head. Called MONSTER ON CAMPUS, it's the story of a college professor who gets a hold of the long-extinct frozen Coelacanth, which is a breed of fish. A mosquito feeds on the blood and becomes a gigantic pre-historic monster mosquito; the scientist somehow puts his hand in the Coelacanth's mouth, gets "bitten" and finds himself reverting to caveman form, only at night. Kind of a were-caveman, if you will. If you take the fish out of the equation, ALTERED STATES is a remake of MONSTER ON CAMPUS.


Much as I love the 'canths, (by the way, another one was caught in 1998) the story might not have come to my attention if it hadn't been flagged by the WHERE ARE MY KEYS blog, because somehow the existence of a Coelocanth disproves evolution.

I'll tell you what I thought was extinct - debate about evolution. And like that Indonesian, I'd heard that such a thing exists but I never thought I'd see one face to face. But I have spent the better part of the week arguing about the origin of species. While I kept imagining myself in a white 3 piece suit, mopping my brow with a cotton handkerchief while gently mocking my learned opponent before a jury of farmers, the thing that fascinated me most is these bloggers weren't creationists. They were simply conservatives.

It's no longer a battle of faith versus science. Apparently now it's a territory war. The Right believes that the schools have a liberal bias and they want back in. You can add schools to the media, Muslims and the blogosphere on the list of organizations which somehow are against them. The evolutionists control the banks and the media!

My problem with teaching creationism in science classes is, of course, that it is the opposite of science. Creationism is philosophy. Come to think of it, how would those people react to a requirement that Darwin be given equal attention at Bob Jones University? I brought something up in the debate but no one reacted to it: you can believe in God AND evolution pretty easily. Why not a world where God creates, then allows things to evolve? The thing that bothers creationists is the fossil record is older than 4000 6000 years, which is how old they think the bible says the Earth is. If you buy evolution, you can't buy a literal Bible.

And since very few people think that way, creationists keep that part on the downlow. Pin one of 'em down on it some time. It's fun!

Anyway, let's tie up the loose ends. A. Finding a long-thought-extinct species doesn't disprove evolution, it proves we were mistaken about it being extinct. If a branch of the Coelacanth didn't evolve, it simply means that branch was able to survive under its local conditions. B. There is such a thing as evolution. You will never be able to prove it to creationists (I gave up trying) in the same way that you'll never convince some people that we never landed on the moon. Faith trumps evidence; it has to. Otherwise why call it faith? C. Just because they didn't respond to the age-of-earth thing, doesn't mean they wouldn't have a counter-argument. I'll grant that.

Oh, and D. The were-caveman is a metaphor for the regression of rational thought. I wish I could have done that one more artfully.

8 comments:

wamk said...

Just saw this post on my post from this past week.

While I am a conservative, I'm not necessarily a creationist. I have read on both topics, and can see valid arguments on both sides of the discussion.

I do find it interesting that those on the Left who consistently badger the Right for being "close minded" can't even begin to entertain that they might not be 100% correct on creation/evolution.

The following link: http://evolution-facts.org/Evolution-handbook/E-H-6a.htm provides some of the scientific problems with the various dating methods being used be science today. Does it prove that the dating methods are faulty? Of course not. Does it cast some doubt on the validity of those dating tests? Yes.

There are a lot of things that evolutionists can't explain as well. If there was a "big bang", how was the empty universe created for it to explode in? What caused the explosion if the universe was empty? If all the particles from the explosion raced outward away from the center of the blast in frictionless space (I picture a fireworks explosion), what caused them to suddenly go from a linear movement into a circular orbit, causing the planets to form?

Just as lots of creationism make no sense to you, there are lots more that make no scientific sense to creation folks.

I'm just sayin'.

Danielk said...

So you yourself aren't a creationist, and yet you're here stumping for it to be taught in schools. Kinda suggests I'm right about the territorial motive, eh?

Skot said...

It's my big reactive day today. And I happen to have a subscription to Scientific American.

This is address to WAMK: Mother, Mary and Joseph, what sort of cosmology questions are those? Didn't they teach you anything in blogger school?

"There are a lot of things that evolutionists can't explain as well. If there was a "big bang", how was the empty universe created for it to explode in?"
--This question is meaningless. The Big Bang was not a grenade going off somewhere: it was the singular event that created all space, time and matter, 13.7 billion years ago.

"What caused the explosion if the universe was empty?"
--See above. There is some interesting work going on this area of theoretical cosmology. Our universe may be a localized phenomenon in a larger "multiverse."

"If all the particles from the explosion raced outward away from the center of the blast in frictionless space (I picture a fireworks explosion)"
--Picture it all you want. It don't make it so.

"what caused them to suddenly go from a linear movement into a circular orbit, causing the planets to form?"
--There was no linear movement, only the coalescence of matter from an energy-dominated early universe. Gravity took care of the rest: the formation of the Milky way, the condensation of the solar system and the Earth, making a convenient platform you can stand on and call flat.

Honestly. The Catholic Church has has found the existence of The Big Bang and Evolution are not contradictory to faith. Why is this such a problem?

--Skot

wamk said...

This post reminds me of a joke, that perfectly sums up why/how I question the Big Bang and evolution:

The best and brightest minds in Science on the planet get together to prove the existence of evolution. After years of hard work, they are able to create every living thing on the planet from a teaspoon of dirt.

They get an audience with God, to show him what they have discovered. God says "show me what you have found." One of the scientists bends down to scoop up some dirt and God says "Wait a second. Use your own dirt, please."

Sums up the which-came-first, chicken/egg argument nicely, don't you think?

If everything happened exactly as Skot says up above, where did the conditions/universe he mentions up above come from? Something had to make the Big Bang "bang", right?

Danielk said...

I believe what Skot is saying is that God was responsible for the Big Bang.

Skot said...

Ha ha. I'm sure the Lord was just loosening up, after creating a rock so heavy He couldn't lift it.

And we're back.

"If everything happened exactly as Skot says up above, where did the conditions/universe he mentions up above come from?"
--It's turtles all the way down. (That's the punchline of a pretty good joke, actually, an Eastern version of the one WAMK quoted.)

It's impossible to know directly what exists outside our universe, as existence in ours is mediated by it's specific physical laws.

Theoretical cosmologists have to look at other things, like the values of the physical constants, and extrapolate that if one set exists (our universe's), others must exist as well. The "multiverse" which our universe nucleated is an infinite, quintessential state which continually creates universes which embody every possibility and combination of physical laws. If this sounds weird, that may be because this is a simplified version.

"Something had to make the Big Bang "bang", right?"
--No. According to the multiverse theory, "Big Bangs" occur when the scalar fields of energy in the multiverse randomly create a local density sufficient to start one-- much as a storm at sea will, given enough time, create a 100-foot rogue wave.

Personally, as a person who believes all human beings possess a divine, transcendent spark and are connected to God, I have no problem making room for these ideas because they explain why the universe looks the way it does.

In terms of where God fits into things, I look elsewhere-- the existence of conscious beings like us, for example. Just how is it possible for walking piles of meat to make speculations and observations of the very existence of reality? There are things about the way our brains work, WAMK, that science cannot begin to explain. Read William James.

--Skot

wamk said...

Skot:

I agree that there are lots of things outside our realm of understanding, which probably point towards the existence of a Creator.

The act of a single cell dividing, then dividing again and again to "make" a human is fascinating and a miracle.

You seem to feel there is some divine intervention taking place on some levels, but not on the creation of the universe/multiverse. There had to be a "starting point" somewhere, right? If on Monday there was nothinh, and then on Tuesday there appeared our univers/multiverse, where did they come from?

Skot said...

Argh!

"The act of a single cell dividing, then dividing again and again to "make" a human is fascinating and a miracle."
--Fascinating, yes: A miracle, no.

No miracle or divine intervention is needed to create a soul. Large brained primates evolve ever more complex brains. Eventually, a self-aware consciousness will arise from the complex neural networks of a large brain, and natural selection gives conscious beings an advantage (we sure run things on Earth now, huh?)

Here's the interesting part: Think of the brain as a sort of antenna. When it gets big enough, it can pull in more signals. The mystery of consciousness (like, what is is and why we are) may very well be tied into our brain's ability to "connect" to a larger consciousness.

Puzzling evidence: There is no organ or process in the brain scientists can detect-- or even theorize-- can measure and detect the passage of time. Animals cannot detect time, only respond to stimuli. They speculate there may be quantum-level processing going on in there. Proof?

William James said all of this 100 years ago in "The Will to Believe." Is science confirming it?

However, NONE of this points to "Divine Intervention." Rather the opposite: we seem to have EVOLVED TOWARDS this communion of spirit.

As for the "there was nothing, then something" question: You really, really seem keen on somehow finding some proof, some equation or logical product that you can point to and say, "see? God!" Living human beings will never be able to understand or comprehend God, and if He has indeed intervened directly in Earthly affairs there will never be empirical evidence. Accepting these facts is called Faith.

Similarly, our physical universe's laws prevents us from ever directly observing the conjectured Multiverse, the quintessential fabric from which all reality was woven. Coincidence?

--Skot

p.s. this is a blast. Don't often get a chance to wax metaphysical at work.