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Let's Talk Origins

02 October 2012, 08:11

I have spent some time studying TalkOrigins.Org and discovered something very interesting on this site. It was at the urging of CharlesEvenDumber that I did so, and it was ultimately rewarding. They are, in essence, doing what the Creationist sites are doing. Now I’m not talking here of people like Kent Hovind, who looks like an advertisement for Evolution, but serious scientists. Not all, or even most, scientists who believe in Creation are being dishonest or disingenuous. They have looked at the evidence, not objectively, true, but examined it and found it to be flawed in the light of science.

It is my opinion that, in such an emotionally charged subject, it is impossible to be objective. It has been my experience, first from one side of the fence, then the other, that we have a conclusion in mind, then fit the available evidence to form that conclusion. I’m speaking as a layman, of course, and looking at this philosophically, rather than scientifically, so I’m going to go back a very long way, with quotes from both sides of the divide. I want this article to be fair, even though I’m pre-disposed to the Creationist side of the argument.

Phil Fernandes: ‘The big bang model also teaches that the universe had a beginning. In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding at the same rate in all directions. As time moves forward, the universe is growing apart. This means that if one goes back in time the universe would be getting smaller and smaller. Eventually, if one goes back far enough into the past, the entire universe would be what scientists call "a point of infinite density." This marks the beginning of the universe, the big bang.’

Robert M Wald: ‘Do we expect the theory of general relativity to break down in the extreme conditions near a spacetime singularity? The answer is yes. We know that on a microscopic scale, nature is governed by the laws of quantum theory. However, the principles of quantum mechanics are not incorporated into general relativity. Hence, we do not believe that general relativity can be a true, final theory of nature. Classical mechanics (that is, Newton's laws of motion) provides us with an accurate description of the motion of macroscopic bodies, but it breaks down when we attempt to apply it on atomic distance scales. In a similar manner, we believe that general relativity provides an accurate description of our universe under all but the most extreme circumstances. However, near the big bang singularity when the scale factor a goes to zero and the density and curvature become infinite, we expect general relativity to break down. What is the new, fundamental theory of nature which incorporates the principles of both general relativity and quantum theory? What does this theory say about spacetime singularities? Even the most optimistic theorist can only hope for the beginning of an answer to these questions within the foreseeable future.’

Dr. Phil Fernandes is a Christian apologist and highly educated layman when it comes to science. Dr. Robert M Wald, on the other hand, is a physicist at the University of Chicago. And although it seems he contradicts Fernandes, he essentially agrees that, yes, there was a beginning. The singularitiy. And let us not forget, the singularity is a mathematical construct: we have no idea what it really was. All serious scientists now accept it, as the expansion of the universe can be observed.

Now we come to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: Heisenberg was a Quantum Physicist, working in a field that deals with the atom and the motion of subatomic particles. The principle of indeterminacy states that it is impossible to determine both the position in space of a subatomic particle and that particle’s motion at the same time. Therefore, subatomic particle movement is currently unpredictable for man. This simply means that scientists aren’t yet able to accurately predict where a specific particle will be at a given moment. Some scientists have wrongly concluded from this that things can occur on the subatomic level without a cause. If this were true, then it would be possible that the universe just popped into existence without a cause. If this were the case, it would not favour either evolution or creation. If things can come into existence without a cause, then the basis for modern science crumbles. All experiments would be a waste of time, for any given phenomena could have come into existence without a cause. Therefore, there would be no need to study the elements of the universe any longer. Modern science would die.

Albert Einstein believed that Heisenberg’s principle did not prove that things can occur without a cause. Einstein held that the causes actually do exist, though man may not be able to find them. Man is limited in knowledge, and there may be some causes he is unable to find. Heisenberg’s principle, therefore, cannot come to the aid of evolution; the universe (since it had a beginning) needs a cause.

Stephen Hawking, until recently, held that there must be a designer, then changed his mind and stated that all that is needed is gravity. There remains a ti-i-ny problem with that statement. The singularity had no mass, therefore gravity could in no way affect it, or it gravity.

The age of the universe has been dated to about fourteen and a half billion years. YECs disagree, but they are in the minority. The science they claim is easily refutable, as is the mere fact that a careful reading of the Genesis account reveals the shortcomings in their argument. And the fact that ice-core samples from the Antarctic have shown the ice cap to be at least four hundred and twenty thousand years old.

It has been written on this site that the scientific method requires, not absolute certainty, but near certainty. The Large Hadron Collider is used as an example, where 99.5% certainty was required before they would announce their findings. This has, unfortunately not been the case in every field of science. The sheer paucity of the fossil record illustrates that. We do not currently have enough bones to make up one skeleton, so the method is obviously not applied equally.

Make no bones about it (pun intended), these are not people attempting to perpetrate a fraud! Their findings come under intense scrutiny from their peers. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous at best; dishonest at worst. When Lucy was found, there was much excitement in the scientific community, along with an equal dose of skepticism. I know; I was then on that side of the fence and was one of the many very excited people.

However, without for a moment wishing to question their honesty or demean their efforts, they were going there with an agenda and preconception. I cannot think of a person free of preconceptions and I know that, when I first became a Christian, I desperately tried to harmonise Evolution with the Bible. I do not believe it can be done.

From TalkOrigins comes the following excerpt:’ The word "hominid" in this website refers to members of the family of humans, Hominidae, which consists of all species on our side of the last common ancestor of humans and living apes. Hominids are included in the superfamily of all apes, the Hominoidea, the members of which are called hominoids. Although the hominid fossil record is far from complete, and the evidence is often fragmentary, there is enough to give a good outline of the evolutionary history of humans.

The time of the split between humans and living apes used to be thought to have occurred 15 to 20 million years ago, or even up to 30 or 40 million years ago. Some apes occurring within that time period, such as Ramapithecus, used to be considered as hominids, and possible ancestors of humans. Later fossil finds indicated that Ramapithecus was more closely related to the orang-utan, and new biochemical evidence indicated that the last common ancestor of hominids and apes occurred between 5 and 10 million years ago, and probably in the lower end of that range (Lewin 1987). Ramapithecus therefore is no longer considered a hominid.

The field of science which studies the human fossil record is known as paleoanthropology. It is the intersection of the disciplines of paleontology (the study of ancient lifeforms) and anthropology (the study of humans).

Sahelanthropus tchadensis

‘This species was named in July 2002 from fossils discovered in Chad in Central Africa (Brunet et al. 2002, Wood 2002). It is the oldest known hominid or near-hominid species , dated at between 6 and 7 million years old. This species is known from a nearly complete cranium nicknamed Toumai, and a number of fragmentary lower jaws and teeth. The skull has a very small brain size of approximately 350 cc. It is not known whether it was bipedal. S. tchadensis has many primitive apelike features, such as the small brainsize, along with others, such as the brow ridges and small canine teeth, which are characteristic of later hominids. This mixture, along with the fact that it comes from around the time when the hominids are thought to have diverged from chimpanzees, suggests it is close to the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.’ 99.5% certainty? I think not.

Orrorin tugenensis

‘This species was named in July 2001 from fossils discovered in western Kenya (Senut et al. 2001). The fossils include fragmentary arm and thigh bones, lower jaws, and teeth and were discovered in deposits that are about 6 million years old. The limb bones are about 1.5 times larger than those of Lucy, and suggest that it was about the size of a female chimpanzee. Its finders have claimed that Orrorin was a human ancestor adapted to both bipedality and tree climbing, and that the australopithecines are an extinct offshoot. Given the fragmentary nature of the remains, other scientists have been skeptical of these claims so far (Aiello and Collard 2001). A later paper (Galik et al. 2004) has found further evidence of bipedality in the fossil femur. ‘

As I said earlier on, I do not believe these people are dishonest or charlatans posing as scientists, or there wouldn’t be the scepticism.

Ardipithecus ramidus

‘This species was named Australopithecus ramidus in September 1994 (White et al. 1994; Wood 1994) from some fragmentary fossils dated at 4.4 million years. A more complete skull and partial skeleton was discovered in late 1994 and based on that fossil, the species was reallocated to the genusArdipithecus (White et al. 2005). This fossil was extremely fragile, and excavation, restoration and analysis of it took 15 years. It was published in October 2009, and given the nickname 'Ardi'Ar. ramidus was about 120 cm (3'11") tall and weighed about 50 kg (110 lbs). The skull and brain are small, about the size of a chimpanzee. It was bipedal on the ground, though not as well adapted to bipedalism as the australopithecines were, and quadrupedal in the trees. It lived in a woodland environment with patches of forest, indicating that bipedalism did not originate in a savannah environment.

A number of fragmentary fossils discovered between 1997 and 2001, and dating from 5.2 to 5.8 million years old, were originally assigned to a new subspecies, Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba (Haile-Selassie 2001), and later to a new species, Ardipithecus kadabba (Haile-Selassie et al. 2004). One of these fossils is a toe bone belonging to a bipedal creature, but is a few hundred thousand years younger than the rest of the fossils and so its identification with kadabba is not as firm as the other fossils.’

Again there’s supposition as opposed to certainty. And I know that science is as much about questions as answers. There is, however, the 99.5% principle, which is not being applied here. One cannot claim something as ‘fact’ if there’s so much doubt surrounding it.

I know Scott Adams is not a scientist, but he makes a valid, if satirical remark. ‘The problem with evolution is finding a spoon in one layer and a fork in another, then stating that the one proceeded from the other.’

We now come to archaeology, which is also a science, and an exacting one. Archaeologists working in the Middle East for the last hundred and fifty years or so, have uncovered mountains of evidence suggesting the reliability of the historical narrative in the Bible. And when archaeologists announce something, they do not say, ‘We believe this to be so because it is the best explanation of the findings.’ When they state something, they state it as fact.

This article is long enough without my having to repeat the archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Bible and the person of Jesus. But this I will state: a while ago, I asked readers on this site to act as a jury for the evidence I presented, giving both sides of the argument, which I feel is fair. Today I’ve given primarily one side of the argument, the one with which I disagree. The evidence is necessarily truncated, as I could not give the entire timeline of hominid evolution, so I gave three early examples of human evolution.

As to general evolution, I again quote Fred Hoyle: ‘Life cannot have had a random beginning ... The trouble is that there are about two thousand enzymes, and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in 10 to the power of 40 000, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.’  Evolution from Space, 1981.

There’s the evidence; it’s up to you what you do with it. And while I realise evidence is not proof, I do believe the evidence for evolution is nowhere near as watertight as a large section of the scientific community would have us believe.

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