In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos (via whats-out-there)
The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, is known to modern readers from the Masoretic text, a compilation of Hebrew texts assembled by Jewish scholars in the seventh to tenth centuries A.D. from older scrolls and codices. That text, and thus the Old Testament, contain two creation stories. It is not unusual for cultures to have multiple creation stories, and throughout this booklet the paraphrases have melded two or more variations of a culture’s creation story into one. However, because the two stories in the Old Testament are so different, the two stories are recounted separately here as “Yahweh” and then “The Elohim”.
Yahweh’s creation story is from Genesis 2:4 to 3:24 of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. Extensive analysis of its style and content have led scholars of the Bible to conclude that the story was written in about the Tenth Century B.C.. That was around the time of King Solomon’s reign and in a time when Israel was a powerful nation. In contrast, the story in Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 was written three or four centuries later and under very different circumstances.
The author of the story in Genesis 2:4 to 3:24 is known to scholars as “J”. That is because J referred to the creator as Yahweh ( or “YHVH” in ancient Hebrew, or “Jahweh” in the German native to many scholars of the Bible, or ultimately “Jehovah” in modern usage).
Some scholars have considered J the more primitive or rural of the two authors of the creation stories in Genesis. Others are more generous and characterize J as a poet rather than a priest. J was probably recording his or her people’s oral traditions in written form. Certainly J’s story is a more human story of temptation and punishment than the austere story written later by the author known as “P”, and J’s creator is more anthropomorphic.
In J’s story, the humans that are created have names. To English speakers, “Adam” and “Eve” are just names, but “Adam” meant “man” in ancient Hebrew and may also have been a play on “adamah”, the Hebrew word for “earth” or “clay”. “Eve” was the word for “life”.
The Elohim’s creation story, the second of our two Hebrew creation stories, is from Genesis 1:1 to 2:3. It thus appears first in the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Genesis, but it is actually the younger of the two stories presented there. A considerable body of scholarship over the last two or three centuries has concluded that this story was written in about the sixth century B.C.. That was after Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and at a time when the Hebrews were faced with exile in Babylon.
The author of this later story is known to scholars as “P”, because he or she wrote from a much more “priestly” perspective than J, the author of the chronologically earlier story that appears in Genesis 2:4 to 3:24 (see “Yahweh”, above). P’s story is one of creation ex nihilo (from nothing), and the creation is a much more stately process than that in J’s story. Because of the timing of its writing and the grandeur of its language, P’s story has been interpreted by scholars “as an origin story created for the benefit of a lost nation in the need of encouragement and affirmation” (Leeming and Leeming 1994, p. 113). In fact, some scholars have suggested that P’s story was actually written in Babylon.
P used the name “Elohim” for the creator. “Elohim” (pronounced “e lo HEEM”) is actually a plural word perhaps best translated as “the powerful ones”. P also used plural phrasing in the Elohim’s creation of humankind “after our own likeness”. Scholars have suggested that the use of the plural “Elohim” rather than the singular “Eloha” may hearken back to polytheistic roots of Middle Eastern religions and was a way to emphasize the magnitude of the deity in question. P’s first people have no names at all, in keeping with the story’s focus on the grandeur of the creator rather than on the created.
Creation.com, the authors of “15 questions for ‘evolutiontionists’ that that they have already answered but we are going to continue to ignore those answers,” has recently release a trailer for their new movie where they apparently found 15 PhDs who are willing to embarrass themselves by documenting their scientific illiteracy. The film is “Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels,” and if the trailer is any indication, it is just a repackaging of the same creationist lies that have been exposed for decades.
The trailer starts out with the claim, “Most evolutionists have never critically examined their own position.” That is, if you don’t count the last 150 years of scientific examination, thousands of published peer-reviewed papers, and dozens of popular books carefully (what’s that word?) examining the evidence for evolution. We can add to that now the countless websites and blog posts critically examining every question creationists endlessly raise. Seriously, such a claim is either a bald-faced lie, or evidence of profound intellectual laziness.
The next series of “Achilles’ Heel” shockers is based on a misunderstanding of biology, genetics, and evolution. The voice on the trailer claims that mutation and natural selection “work in the wrong direction,” and so “how does evolution work?”
You can see where they are going with this. In their 15 questions propaganda, #3 states that mutations cannot add specific information, because mutations “degrade” information. Then #4 repeats the canard that natural selection only removes unfit genetics from the population, and does not add anything.
Mutations are known for their destructive effects, including over 1,000 human diseases such as hemophilia. Rarely are they even helpful. But how can scrambling existing DNA information create a new biochemical pathway or nano-machines with many components, to make ‘goo-to-you’ evolution possible?
These statements represent a fundamental misunderstanding of biology and genetics. The notion that mutations degrade the information in DNA, are inherently harmful, or that they “scramble” DNA is all nonsense. It assumes that one configuration of DNA is inherently better than another, or that there is a “correct” sequence for any gene – mutations can only “degrade” this information.
The truth is that the DNA sequence of any organism is already a complicated mess, because it evolved from the bottom up, and was not designed from the top down. Everything is a mutation – mutations are just change, they don’t inherently “degrade.” Most mutations have little or no effect – they don’t change the amino acid sequence, or they change one amino acid to another similar amino acid that has little or no effect on the protein structure or function. When mutations do change the function of a protein, it can be neutral, harmful, beneficial, or have mixed results with some benefits and some detriments. Benefit and harm, however, often need to be viewed in the context of the organism and their current environment and survival strategies.
They actually use the word “devolving” – there’s no such thing. All such change over time is evolution. The concept of “devolving” implies that there is a preferred direction to evolutionary change. Their isn’t. Again – all the creationists document is their own ignorance of the science they presume to criticize….
This Maori creation myth was compiled by Sir George Grey in the 1840’s and 1850’s when he was British governor of New Zealand. Faced with the need to communicate with Maori tribes then in rebellion against British rule, Grey compiled the tales to which many chiefs aluded in their negotiations with him. Grey’s compilation was published in Maori in 1854 and in English in 1855.
All humans are descended from one pair of ancestors, Rangi and Papa, who are also called Heaven and Earth. In those days, Heaven and Earth clung closely together, and all was darkness. Rangi and Papa had six sons: Tane-mahuta, the father of the forests and their inhabitants; Tawhiri-ma-tea, the father of winds and storms; Tangaroa, the father of fish and reptiles; Tu-matauenga, the father of fierce human beings; Haumia-tikitiki, the father of food that grows without cultivation; and Rongo-ma-tane, the father of cultivated food. These six sons and all other beings lived in darkness for an extremely long time, able only to wonder what light and vision might be like.
Finally the sons of Heaven and Earth decided something must be done. Tu-matauenga, the father of fierce human beings, urged his brothers to slay their parents. However, Tane-mahuta, the father of the forests and their inhabitants, argued that they should separate their parents, making Rangi the distant sky over their heads and Papa the earth close to them like a mother. After long debate, the brothers agreed to this plan, except for Tawhiri-ma-tea, the father of winds and storms, who was distraught at the idea of separating their parents. The other brothers nonetheless proceeded with their plan.
Rongo-ma-tane, the father of cultivated food, rose and struggled to separate his parents, but he could not do it. Tangaroa, the father of fish and reptiles, also struggled but could not tear them apart. Haumia-tikitiki, the father of food that grows without cultivation, had no better luck at separating their parents. Tu-matauenga, the father of fierce human beings, likewise failed. Tane-mahuta, the father of the forests and their inhabitants, slowly rose up and struggled, but with little success. Then he put his head against the earth and, with his feet against the skies, slowly pushed them apart. His parents cried out in anguish, asking how their sons could do this, but Tane pushed and pushed until the sky was far above. As light spread across the earth, the multitude of humans that Rangi and Papa had parented were revealed.
Tawhiri-ma-tea, the father of winds and storms, was furious that his brothers had so cruelly separated their parents and thrust their father away. Tawhiri-ma-tea followed his father and hid in the sky and plotted his revenge. Soon he sent down storms and squalls and fiery clouds and hurricanes to punish his brother Tane-mahuta, the father of the forests and their inhabitants, breaking off the tall trees and leaving the forests in shambles. Likewise the storms swept down on the oceans of Tangaroa, the father of fish and reptiles, and piled up waves and generated great whirlpools. Tangaroa, frightened by the havoc in oceans, dove deep to escape Tawhiri-ma-tea’s wrath.
Tangaroa abandoned his two granchildren, the father of the fish and the father of the reptiles. The fish and reptiles were left not knowing what to do, and they debated how to escape the storm. Finally, the reptiles fled to the land and hid in the forests, and the fish fled for refuge to the sea. Tangaroa, angered at the reptiles’ desertion and the forests’ willingness to receive and protect them, now struggled with Tane-mahuta, the father of the forests and their inhabitants, who in turn fought back. Thus Tane provided the canoes, spears, and fish-hooks from the trees, and nets woven from fibrous plants, to capture the fish of Tangaroa’s seas, and Tangaroa’s waves attacked the shores of the forests, washing away the land and all the life it holds.
Tawhiri-ma-tea, the god of winds and storms, also lashed out at his brothers Haumia-tikitiki, the father of food that grows without cultivation, and Rongo-ma-tane, the father of cultivated food, for their role in the separation of his parents and exile of his father. However, Papa, the earth-mother whom the brothers had taken as their home, clasped up Haumia-tikitiki and Rongo-ma-tane and held them close in her to save them from Tawhiri-ma-tea’s fury.
Only Tu-matauenga, the father of fierce human beings, withstood Tawhiri-ma-tea’s wrath as the winds and storms attacked. Tu-matauenga was impervious, having planned the death of their parents and having been abandoned by his brothers on the Earth. When Tawhiri-ma-tea’s gales finally subsided, Tu-matauenga began to plan his revenge on his cowardly and weak brothers. First he turned to Tane-mahuta, the father of the forests and their inhabitants, both because Tane had abandoned him and because he knew Tane’s offspring were increasing and might ultimately overwhelm Tu-matauenga’s human progeny. Taking the leaves of the whanake tree, he made them into snares and hung them in the forests, where he caught Tanes’s offspring and subdued the forest. Then he took on Tangaroa, the father of the seas and its life, and with nets he dragged Tangaroa’s children from the seas. With a hoe and basket he dug up the children of Haumia-tikitiki, the god of food that needs no cultivation, and Rongo-ma-tane, the god of cultivated food. He dug up all kinds of plants and left them in the sun to dry, to gain revenge on those two brothers.
Tu-matauenga, the father of fierce human beings, thus consumed all his four brothers on Earth, and they became his food. Only one brother, Tawhiri-ma-tea, the god of winds and storms, remained unconquered, and to this day his storms attack human beings on both land and sea in revenge for the rending of Heaven and Earth.