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Unread 08-01-2012, 06:30 PM   #1
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Default And I want to shoot my paper...

Here is why and I will have something to ask you guys to do for me after reading these two articles that were in my local paper. The first was in on July 21st-22nd and the second was in today and put in as a Counterpoint to the former.


Genesis of a Social Divide
Article by: PETER M. LESCHAK Updated: July 21, 2012 - 6:34 PM

Nearly half of Americans still don't believe in evolution. I understand; I once was one of them.

One December evening in 1992, I set two books side by side. One championed "scientific creationism," offering an alternative to biological evolution. The other was a collection of essays by noted evolutionary scientists, rebutting special creation. My self-assigned task was to study a chapter of each book in turn, taking notes and highlighting differences. The goal, based upon my faith in the Old Testament record, was to further hone arguments in favor of the Genesis account. I was a crusader, assaulting the citadel of science, and entertained no doubt concerning the conclusion of my analysis.

A few days later I closed the books and reviewed my notes. Over many hours of intense concentration it gradually dawned on me that I no longer accepted my initial premise; I did not believe the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis were a literal chronicle of how the Earth and its life forms originated. It was an astonishing revelation, shattering my worldview, and a painful experience. Though devastated on one hand, I was also pleasantly awed that I'd confidently set out to accomplish precisely the opposite result, and this right-angle pivot in my mental life was as valid and honest as such mutation can be.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 46 percent of Americans believe "that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years." I understand why and how they believe this -- I was in their number for several years -- but even I was surprised that so many still support creationism. What does this mean? Is it just a tidbit of contemporary Americana that causes Europeans to shake their heads, or are there potentially serious consequences when almost half of us reject a basic tenet of modern science?

First, let's be clear that where you stand on creation (a k a intelligent design, these days) vs. evolution has nothing to do with personal intelligence. There are very smart people on both sides of the issue.

Second, the rationale behind most of the arguments against evolutionary science is to support religious faith. In a drive to place creationist textbooks in public schools, sympathetic organizations eschew all direct mention of God and divine agency in their publications, but that is merely cosmetic. If the universe was designed and/or created, the implication is clear: There is a designer and/or creator -- that is, God. There is nothing nefarious about such belief, but as I learned at my desk 20 years ago, it is not scientific.

Third, the word "theory" carries a popular connotation that does not exactly tally with the scientific meaning. In science, a theory is a body of knowledge that is incomplete, but not necessarily tentative. For example, science speaks of "The Theory of Gravitation." No one doubts the reality or effects of gravity; "theory" in this case just means we don't thoroughly understand how it works. Similarly, the vast majority of scientists do not doubt the reality of evolution, but debate over details of the process continues. In contrast, the popular usage of "theory" implies a guess or conjecture, that evolution itself is in question, and an alternative view is, if not likely, then certainly possible. The only option currently on the table is some variant of creationism, a religious solution.

So when I was a believer in a literal interpretation of Genesis, was I a danger to society? As are most creationists, I was a law-abiding voter, volunteer and taxpayer, involved with my community and concerned about the nation and the world. I did, however, support a self-righteous contempt for the scientific community -- how can you not when you believe its foundation is delusional at best, or Satanic at worst? This was not mere skepticism, which is an intellectually healthy response to data and pronouncements from all sources, including scientists. It was, rather, a philosophical hostility that denied credence and even sincerity to the other side.

In those years I was fond of arguing creation/evolution with all comers, and I recall the evening I dominated a sometimes heated exchange with an anthropologist. This individual later told me, laughing, "I wanted to kill you." He wasn't outraged by my actual arguments, but rather by my overweening stance of rectitude, and my smug disregard for the facts he marshaled in defense of his position. Despite my intransigence ("keeping the faith" in my mind), we remained friends, and simply avoided the topic instead of each other.

The problem I posed to society was not my beliefs, but their form of expression. In our politically polarized society we must at least allow that our ideological opponents are sincere, and that the vast majority mean no harm. As a stunning bad example, consider that the Virginia legislature, noting that coastal flooding is becoming a problem, nevertheless decreed this year that the term "sea-level rise" must be omitted from a state-funded study because it's "a left wing term." Courteous and honest discourse is the cornerstone of civilization, and a prime purpose of civilization is to avoid blood in the streets. Another motivation for courtesy is the understanding that you are highly unlikely to directly change anyone's mind, and that's especially true if you are arrogant and uncompromising.

Yes, my mind was altered dramatically concerning creationism/evolution, but I accomplished that myself, in solitude and not in disputation. A collateral benefit was that my hubris was tempered. My belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis had been rock-solid and long-held, so what other personal views might be worthy of revision?

Why is it that despite convincing scientific evidence so many Americans are creationists? For me, at least, the answer was clear: I had never seriously studied evolution and the facts supporting it. I'd graduated high school and college with honors and continued to read widely, and yet was not adequately exposed to a key concept of science. The chief fault lies with the scientific establishment. We hear much about the widening income divide between the haves and have-nots, but there is also a knowledge divide. Just as I was an arrogant religionist, so too are many scientists arrogant materialists. All too often those who reject Darwin and his successors are considered ignorant rubes by the cognitive elite. Scientists wonder -- incredulously -- how can 21st-century people possibly believe that God fashioned the world in seven days a few thousand years ago? Why? Because it is emotionally comforting and anthropomorphic -- the creation myth of our tribe -- and therefore naturally attractive to humans; and because those in the scientific community have failed to effectively share the knowledge they've gleaned.

In his latest book, E.O. Wilson, distinguished biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, addresses "the human condition," that is, the framework around the timeless questions of: What are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? He writes: "Religion will never solve this great riddle. Since Paleolithic times each tribe -- of which there have been countless thousands -- invented its own creation myth [revolving around] God, a tribe of Gods, a divine family, the Great Spirit, the Sun, ghosts of the forbears, supreme serpents, hybrids of sundry animals, chimeras of men and beasts, omnipotent sky spiders -- anything and everything that could be conjured by the dreams, hallucinogens, and fertile imaginations of the spiritual leaders." These creation myths were important to the cohesiveness of the tribes and therefore aided the survival of the group and the individuals comprising it. In that sense, in prescientific eras, the veracity of the creation stories, or lack of it, was irrelevant.

However, in a scientific age of fossil records, DNA, genomes and genetic engineering, there is a higher standard for evidence and truth. Wilson writes, "Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life."

It seems to me that if we are going to successfully navigate our way through the crises generated by our dominion of the planet, such as climate change, overpopulation, unsustainable agriculture, forestry, fisheries and energy use -- biological issues -- it would be helpful to collectively accept a scientific basis of our origins. Such acceptance doesn't preclude religion. For example, several years ago the Catholic Church officially recognized evolutionary theory as compatible with its doctrines.

In order to know where you are and where you're going, you need to know where you've been. If half the population is consulting a different map, then how can we possibly travel together? At the least, we should all do our homework, whether still in school or not. Too much to ask? Then so is democracy. And civilization

Peter M. Leschak, of Side Lake, Minn., is the fire chief in French Township and is the fire technician for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He is the author of "Ghosts of the Fireground," "Letters from Side Lake" and other books.
The Counterpoint.

The evolution of a creationist

Article by: ROSS S. OLSON Updated: July 31, 2012 - 7:09 PM

Order of the kind seen in life does not arise spontaneously by natural law and requires an intelligent intervention.

In "Genesis of a Social Divide" (July 22), Peter Leschak described his change from belief in biblical creation to evolution. I went through that transformation, too. But later I went beyond it -- back to young Earth creation, backed up by scientific evidence.

It happened when I was given a book by biochemist A.E. Wilder-Smith, "The Creation of Life," which showed clearly that order of the kind seen in life does not arise spontaneously by natural law and requires an intelligent intervention.

Why was I never shown this evidence before? I began to read widely.

We recognize an arrowhead as a product of intelligent manipulation -- even though it is theoretically possible that erosion might form one. A living cell is as complex as a city; the human brain is as complex as the Internet; no natural process produces things like the Encyclopedia Britannica. In fact, time and chance degrade information.

The mathematical odds of forming, by chance, a single protein molecule from its component parts can be shown to be so unlikely that it could not have happened anywhere in the known universe in 30 billion years. Much less could it be combined with the hundreds of other components to form the simplest possible living cell.

Similarity of form does not prove common ancestry. It can also mean common design. (Young Earth creationists believe that the original Genesis kinds were intrinsically capable of great diversification, something we have seen with the breeds of dogs -- who remain dogs, nonetheless.) And fundamentally, fossils require rapid burial. Closed clams, seen all over the world, were covered before they could open in death.

As to the age of the Earth, this seems to be the most formidable barrier to accepting biblical creation and requires more technical knowledge. Let me cite a few examples that point out the weakness of the arguments for old age and the increasing scientific respectability of a young earth view.

Firstly, the geologic column is said to be the result of the slow deposition of material over tens to hundreds of millions of years. Yet there are sharp distinctions between the layers, as if something suddenly changed.

Further, in the Grand Canyon there is a 200 million-year gap in the sequence, between the Cambrian and the Mississippian with blending at the junction. The lower layer would have had to remain soft for 200 million years, waiting for the next geologic epoch.

It is much easier to see this as the result of a truly worldwide flood, with massive erosive forces caused by tidal waves sweeping over the entire globe, depositing their loads in twice daily low tides.

Formations such as the very pure St. Peter sandstone require rapid current to sort and move it, usually attributed to river deltas. Yet it covers an area from Minnesota to Missouri, Illinois to Nebraska, to a depth of 100 to 300 feet. The presence of marine fossils rules out desert sand dunes. The flood model also can explain the presence of huge deposits of pure uncontaminated salt and gypsum as chemical deposition of mixed brines, not as the remnants of evaporated seas.

The source of the water and the mechanism of a worldwide flood are being worked out in competing models. But the fact remains that the uniformitarian origin of the layers is not credible, as shown by polystrate fossils, such as 30- to 50-foot tree trunks standing upright. Obviously, they could not wait for thousands much less millions of years to be covered and fossilized or they would have rotted. And the ocean would be like the Dead Sea if it had been taking in salt for billions of years.

Radiometric dating has been used to support long ages, but dating of lava samples from volcano eruptions of known historical ages has given erroneous ages in the millions. Recently the project called RATE has shown that rocks contain too much helium to be millions of years old and also there is measurable carbon 14 in all fossils, oil, coal and even diamonds when it ought to be totally gone, implying a young and similar age for all those materials.

Evidence of coexistence of humans and dinosaurs is vigorously opposed by the evolutionary establishment but is actually quite convincing. Human and dinosaur tracks have been found in the same strata and have been uncovered on film to prove that they were not manufactured.

Recently a T Rex bone was found that contained blood vessels, cells and collagen fibers in the marrow cavity. Rather than admit that this specimen could not be 65 million years old, the response was to claim that we need to rethink how soft tissue is preserved for long ages. In a demonstration of the incredible power of professional peer pressure, the discoverer, a self proclaimed evangelical Christian, claimed that young Earth creationists were "hijacking" her data.

But bucking peer pressure, plant geneticist J.C. Sanford, asked, "Can natural selection improve the human genome?" The result is in his book, "Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome."

The conclusion? Natural selection cannot improve the human genome. It cannot even prevent steady deterioration. There are at least 100 new mildly deleterious mutations in each surviving individual with each generation. (The severe defects do not survive.) The overall fitness of the human race is decreasing by about 1 to 2 percent per generation. He concludes that we are headed for extinction as a race and that the human genome cannot yet be a thousand generations old or we would already be extinct.

This, of course, is contrary to evolution but fits completely with the Biblical account of a perfect creation, spoiled by sin and with a world that will someday -- perhaps very soon -- come to an end.

Ross S. Olson is a pediatrician in Minneapolis
Now, here is what I am asking you to do and putting forth.

First, does it even look like if the second article takes anything the first was saying into account or is it spouting religious bullshit backed by a bad understanding of the science? I say no.

Second, can anything that the second guy cites as evidence be explained through other natural and physical processes? I say yes.

Please, I want to be able to put together and send in something to my local paper that not only admonishes them for publishing what amounts to drivel but had nothing to do with the original opinion essay it was a counterpoint too.

Do me proud NPF!
NPF's resident Crazy Magnificent Bastard Ass Son Of A Bitch (CMBASOB)

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