Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Ancient Cosmology, Baraminology, and the Structure of Water (Plus my first day of seminary!)
Anyway, interestingly enough, we talked about Genesis 1. The professor did an excellent job of walking us through the text and helping us read the text as it spoke to ancient Israel.
One thing that the professor emphasized was the cosmology of the ancients, and how tied Genesis is with that cosmology. For instance, the "firmament" that separates the waters above and below was likely thought to be a solid dome, to which the stars and the sun are attached. So when they are put in the firmament, it would conjure up to an Israelite the notion of a light being attached to a solid dome in the sky, kind of, as one student said, "recessed lighting". And because a cosmology such as that of ancient Israel does not allow for such things as Satellites and space technology, we should not use Genesis as a source of scientific inspiration.
Now, to begin with, I am unsure if the degree to which he expressed ancient cosmology as in disparity with modern cosmology is accurate. There is much in the Bible that seems to indicate that ancient societies were more sophisticated than we think. But even granting that the cosmologies were essentially incompatible, I think that this does not render the opening of Genesis as incompatible with scientific usefulness.
To begin with, I would agree with the professor that scripture should not be used as a science textbook. But rather, it _is_ a historical book, and as such can be used to aid in the understanding of science.
The issue is the same with any translation. In any translation, one must translate the categories of one language into the categories of another. People think, talk, and write according to their categories. Therefore, it should not surprise us that in a historical work about cosmology, that ancient Israelites employed their own categories to speak of it. This does not make it untrue. This is the same sort of thing when someone calls a whale a fish. Depending on how your categories are set up, a whale can in fact be a fish. And if you are observing or describing something, you can only report it with the categories that you have available to you.
And it is in this way that I take it that Genesis is true history, merely reported using the categories available to the writer at that time.
I am sure that if Genesis was reported using the categories available to us today, then in another few thousand years, people would have the same criticisms of us that we do of the ancient Israelites. But in fact, since we are treating it as history instead of science, the question is not "are the categories the Israelites using correct" (a question which would always be 'no' no matter what categories were in use -- simply on the nature of categories), but instead, "were the events reported with accuracy using the categories available to them, especially for the questions they are asking?"
[For a discussion of historical works in science, see this post of mine]
In a similar vein, let's look at The state of water in living systems: from the liquid to the jellyfish. In this paper Henry takes us on a fascinating philosophical tour of the role of water in ancient Creation stories. I'm not going to pretend to understand the whole paper (working on that, I'll hopefully have a whole report at some point in the future -- it's a MARVELOUS paper), but there is one part that stuck out:
[following a multipage analysis of water used in Genesis and other creation stories]
Scientists sticking to water as H2O, a tri-atomic molecule made from electrons, protons and neutrons, themselves made of quarks and so on may be quite skeptic about the usefulness of this analysis. It is however worth noting that words have been created for sharing ideas and concepts among human beings and not for assigning unambiguous names to material objects...
Focusing on immaterial attributes of liquid water (ability to flow) instead of its material composition (H2O), allows uraveling the deep wisdom contained in antique writings in deep coherence with other creation myths met around the world.
Anyway, I'm not quite sure how to put all that together, but I think it fits somehow :)
NOTE -- updated slightly from its original posting to correct an ambiguity
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The World From Different Magnifications
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Sources of Research for Design and Creationism
- Creation Research Society Quarterly
- Journal of Creation
- Occasional Papers of the BSG
- Proceedings of the International Conferences of Creationism
- CORE Issues in Creaetion (brand new)
- British Creation Society's Origins Journal
- ICR's Research Papers (not often updated)
- International Journal of Design & Nature (brand new)
- Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design (been a while since the last update)
- Geoscience Research Institute's Origin's Journal (been a while since the last update)
- And, of course, there are a number of individual monographs published by a number of publishers
Thursday, August 10, 2006
A Second Look at Walking Australopithecines and the Direction of Evolution
However, in the latest Journal of Creation, Matthew Murdock makes a case for Australopithecus walking upright on the basis of its pelvis rather than its feet. In particular Murdock uses muscle attachment evidence:
It is not only the shape of the pelvic bones that are important in locomotion, it is the attachment of the muscles. Abductors are pulling muscles that draw a body part away from the midsagittal line (midpoint or midline of the body), such as moving your arms outward, or spreading your legs apart. Quadrupeds have a gluteus maximus (muscle of the buttocks) that acts as an abductor of the thigh. In bipeds the ilium is expanded posteriorly, and the gluteus maximus originates behind the hip joint. So rather than abducting the thigh, it serves to pull the thigh back in one leg while the other is moving forward.
Both Lucy and Sts 14 have the posterior expansion of the pelvis that would allow the gluteu muscles to abduct the thigh in bipedal locomotion.
Both specimens (A.L. 288-1 and Sts 14) have a wide and thick ilium along with a long femoral neck which adds to the leverage the abductors can exert. The more leverage the abductors have the more efficient the creature can walk bipedally.
Murdock makes several additional points in favor of bipedality of australopithecines (if you want to know them all -- read the paper!).
As a side note, Murdock contrary to many creationists, Murdock puts homo erectus as an ape, rather than a human.
Murdock believes that australopithecus is an ancestor of modern chimps:
There are signs of degeneration in every bone of the chimpanzee body compared to an australopithecine. Every bone of the australopithecine body is more complex than a chimpanzee. There are differences in the skull, the vertebrae and the limbs that enabled the australopithecines to walk upright habitually, and which limits chimpanzees to walking upright only part of the time. When they do walk upright, they do so with knees and back bent slightly.
...[explains more interesting aspects of chimp walking]...
I will explore these differences and their implications at a later time, but can say that they all follow a degeneration pattern from biped to quadruped.
So Australopithecus could probably stand upright perfectly at first (in Eden for which we have no fossils) and then years later with difficulty, balancing as we see in Lucy (post-flood), and finally to what we now see today in chimps, which is habitual quadrupedalism, with only moments of awkward bipedality.
Murdock also commented that many of the problems in current human/ape paleontology come from coming to the data with the wrong assumptions. He says that the data, rather than pointing to australopithecus as an ancestor of humans, instead is like an ancestor of chimpanzees. Australopithecines are very much like a more complex chimp. The assumption that evolution is progressive is what prevents current paleontology from seeing the obvious patterns. As he says, "Nobody is looking for animals that are more complex than their living relatives in the fossil record (biblical view)".
Finally, he comments about the general relationship between australopithecines, humans, and chimpanzees:
Having studied not just the pelvis of australopithecines, but skeletons of three of them (two published, one unpublished), and comparing them with humans, other hominids and extant apes it is easy to see the similarities between australopithecines and chimpanzees. There are far more similarities than differences, whereas between ausstralopithecines and humans there are similarities yes...[description of dentition and pelvis]...but there are far more differences between the two.
Anyway, what I got most out of this article is:
- Pelvic evidence favors Lucy being bipedal (however, I don't think it's a closed case -- Wieland's complaints weren't addressed, but I think I can certainly agree that Lucy was better at it than modern chimps)
- Many of the problems in establishing phylogenies in evolution may stem from evolutionists looking at the wrong direction of evolution (this was also hinted at in a recent Science paper on prokaryotes/eukaryotes)
- I am now eagerly awaiting Murdock to expound upon his thesis that chimpanzees are devolved descendents of australopithecines
Murdock, Matthew. 2006. "These apes were made for walking: the pelves of Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus africanus". Journal of Creation 20(2):104-112.