Sidetrack Dan (by John Mackay)

SIDETRACK DAN is a good label for what you have often tried to do in this debate on fossils and genetics support evolution etc Dan. I have ignored most of them such as homosexuality, the age of trees and Old Testament being in error about slaves, therefore not inspired etc, so let me just put a perspective on this.

You raised C14 age of trees as indisputable evidence the Genesis record could not be taken literally. That would be a great argument except for one thing! Dating method results are not facts. You may choose to believe that whatever Carbon 14 is doing now it has always done, a basic necessity for the method to work, which is your only option if you have no authoritative witness from the past. But you need to admit that you got this assumption from the founding father of modern Geology from Charles Lyell who is on record as declaring the reason for his choice of such an assumption was his aim “to free the science from Moses!”( ref…)

He was well aware Genesis teaches the opposite. The present is very different from the past. Lyell knew nothing about C14 but he knew Genesis teaches God made the world very good. Ipso facto: in a good world devoid of death and suffering there was no loose canon H.E. radiation from above or below. Implication; not even short lived isotopes such as C14 would prove reliable in trying to reach beyond Noahs flood. Again – its not the facts that contradict genesis – it is your opinion as your create arguments. The reason why C14 and all the other methods contradict Genesis is they are designed to do this as Lyell and his disciple Darwin and their descendant Sidetrack Dan. Besides the most important point here is the age of a tree has little to do with how it got to be a tree. So where are your fossils and genetics Dan. All favour the mate. Sudden appearance and after their kind.

You are on your own Dan: “In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation” – Mark Ridley, ‘Who doubts evolution?’, New Scientist, vol. 90, 25 June 1981, p. 831 plus: “Fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary and open to various interpretations. Fossil evidence of chimpanzee evolution is absent altogether”. Henry Gee, ³Return to the Planet of the Apes,² Nature, Vol. 412, 12 July 2001, p. 131.

AS FOR ADMITTING a god for the purpose of the debate, the real God was unimpressed and neither was I his servant.

When you claim that some of the statements re slavery show the fallibility of scripture be careful Dan. Atheist philosophers are normally those who favour woman’s rights to kill their babies in the womb, of getting rid of the elderly when it is convenient, and of assisted suicide, so you are not in a moral position to judge how to treat slaves in a culture far different than yours. Of course if you are against any or all the above, now is the time to say so and then explain why. I can. God as creator has the right to tell us what is wrong. Stronger than that even. He has the right to judge us and will do so one day. Better yet. The Creator Christ came down to earth to die in our place so we could be forgiven all the murders and immorality thefts and adultery etc, that plague mankind, if we but humble ourselves and ask. I did.

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One thought on “Sidetrack Dan (by John Mackay)

  1. As I pointed out as early as my debate summary, the question of whether the Bible is right about homosexuality and slave-beating is entirely relevant. That”s because the Bible is John’s primary source of evidence – of course I had better spend some time on it!

    Why do I say that the Bible is John’s primary source of evidence? (After all, he claims be doing “creation science.”) First, we know that either John or the biologists have to be misinterpreting the evidence, and John’s inerrantist dogmatism is the only valid explanation for this that is left on the table. Second, John is very clear about his dogmatism on his website: he admits that while “the scientific aspects of creation are important, they are secondary” to his religious convictions.

    Third, this debate has clearly shown that the Bible is John’s primary source of evidence – he’s constantly struggling to make the evidence fit with it (in the few cases where he even makes the attempt). What he says here about Carbon-14 dating is a perfect example. (John is responding to my post So-called “flood geology”.) He has to say that the radioactive decay rate of Carbon-14 was much faster in the past, otherwise the low levels of C-14 we find in many biological remains would be impossible. Problem is, radioactive decay is a consequence of processes and forces at the most fundamental level, and we’ve tested C-14 dating on known dates of tree rings (which go back over 10,000 years), and so independently confirmed its validity. So John has to say that the fundamental laws of physics changed and that trees used to lay down many more rings per year too!

    (Of course, young earth creationists are happy to accept C-14 dating as accurate in cases where it confirms Biblical chronology, e.g. estimates of when David and Solomon were alive.)

    For some other dating methods, he has to say that first they were very slow (after Creation), then hundreds of thousands of times faster, and now very slow again. Despite the fact that old light coming from supernovae confirms that these rates haven’t changed in millions of years. So he has to say that the fundamental characteristics of light have changed too, including its speed.

    And he has to say equally crazy but entirely different things about each of the 39 dating methods in my list (and more), many of which have absolutely nothing to do with radioactive decay. And which all agree where they overlap.

    And he has the effrontery to baldly state that scientists have “mere faith” in these dating methods! Worse: according to John, we are ultimately, along with Darwin and Lyell, just making stuff up in order to undermine The Bible. (That’s quite the conspiracy theory, even more impressive than the secret political agenda he attributed (speculatively) to biologists.)

    It’s patently obvious that the scientists aren’t the ones operating on the basis of pure faith. In other words, John doesn’t reject evolution on the basis of scientific evidence, he rejects it on the basis of his belief in an inerrant Bible. Since the Bible is his main piece of evidence, it is obviously not a sidetrack on my part to challenge its inerrancy! (Too bad – I kinda liked the name “Sidetrack Dan”!)

    So let’s consider John’s response to my argument that the Bible can’t be inerrant because it contains an obviously false claim: that it’s OK to beat your slave to death, as long as they don’t die right away. His response is: how do I know that would be wrong in the context of ancient Levantine society? That’s absurd. They may have thought it was OK, but there can be no “special societal conditions” that could justify such horrific torture and killing. Give me a break. (John: I am glad to hear, however, that you don’t think it would be OK now. For some reason, you don’t have the same flexibility with regard to homosexuality, which you regard as an abomination. Why is that?)

    Of course, there are many other Biblical claims that can be questioned – no rainbows before 2500 BC, the mustard seed is the smallest seed, the Earth rests on pillars, David had both (only) 600 and 6000 chariots in the same battle, God created humans both before and after the animals, etc. etc. Much ink has been spilled trying to square these absurdities with reality. In my view, that is not a productive project.

    OK, you can stop here – the rest isn’t relevant to the debate. However, John is curious about my own moral views on some issues – indeed, he has accused me of being amoral, because he thinks morality must have a religious foundation. Not so; morality is based on caring about others, not religion. This is an important area in which atheists like myself need to fight against prejudice.

    When it comes to issues of life and death, I think the fundamental question is whether death would result in someone losing a valuable future. In some cases of the terminally ill, it is a sad truth that further life is in fact harming the person (terrible pain, loss of dignity, etc.). In such cases, the patient’s future is no longer valuable to them, and it is no harm – and indeed a benefit – for their life to come to an end. So in some cases there are patients we ought to help (by assisting their suicide), and not harm them by forcing them to stay alive. (The legalization question is more difficult, I think – it would certainly require very careful safeguards, some of which have been explored in other jurisdictions. I recommend The Royal Society of Canada’s thoughtful Nov. 2011 report on this question, here.)

    Abortion is more difficult. Does someone lose a valuable future? In the case of a third trimester fetus, with a functioning brain and conscious mind, I would say that is definitely a “someone”, and it would be wrong to kill them because you would be taking away a valuable future. I also think that killing sperm and eggs (e.g. via contraception) is not killing someone with a valuable future – there is no “someone” there to kill. But, of course, there is a continuum of development between sperm and egg, and a late-stage fetus. At what point is there a “someone” with a valuable future to lose? That’s a difficult question. My current inclination is to say that there is a “someone” there when the fetus has a conscious mind. Neuroscientific evidence suggests that may happen as early as 22 weeks. So my (tentative) view is that abortion is permissible before that stage, but not after.

    John probably believes there is a “someone” there at conception, when God inserts a soul. I think we agree on the moral question (it’s wrong to kill someone); where we disagree is on the facts. His “facts” come from religious dogma, whereas I think knowledge can come only from good reasoning (which is all science is – carefully applied good reasoning).

    Oh wait – the Ridley quotemine from New Scientist – I love this one! (You should really read the stuff you quote from, John!) You know what Ridley’s saying here? He’s saying that nobody who knows anything would defend evolution against creationism (of any stripe, young earth or old earth) on the basis of the fossil record because there are much better arguments to use: “from the observed evolution of species, from biogeography, and from the hierarchical structure of taxonomy.” (Not at all because the fossil record favours creationism.) Well, I managed two out of those three, with a little bit of biogeography (how evolution predicts the distribution of species) in the “language analogy” thread.

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