Friday, December 21, 2007

Bits from a CORE dump

Years ago, I signed up to receive the newsletter of Citizens for Origins Research and Education -- or as I like to refer to this missive, the Kwarterly Kreationist Komix, since they never fail to amuse. Noteworthy tidbits from the latest issue:

A Creation Museum Fun House for Ottawa?
Inspired no doubt by the success of their hero Ken Ham, the CORE board wants to build the largest creation museum in Canada. Since our only other known creation museum appears to be a modest-sized bungalow, this is perhaps not too ambitious a goal -- certainly we're not necessarily talking anything approaching the magnitude of Ham's Folly. However, CORE president Ian Juby does promise animatronic dinosaurs, while acknowledging it will take many years and millions of dollars to pull this off.

Too bad the money won't be getting spent on real science education.

Coming soon, to an obscure cable TV spot near you:
Juby is also producing a TV show called Genesis Week, which sounds like it will air in some low-rent religious cable slot. From the website, it appears they get a lot of their material from Carl Baugh and Don Patton. If you've been involved in the C vs. E circus long enough to be familiar with the Rogues' Gallery of creationism, you will know this means bottom-of-the-barrel stuff -- the most fact-free, pulled-from-the-anal-orifice version of creation "science". Baugh (like Kent Hovind) is the kind of creationist who embarasses other creationists.

But hey, the show is shot in High-Def, so it's gotta be good, right? I may or may not get around to watching (and having some fun with) the YouTube versions.

Abiogenetic Irrelevance
Under the title"The Mathematical Impossibility of Life by natural processes", someone (presumably also Juby -- in the absence of other attributions, I assume the whole newsletter is written by him) writes:
Many evolutionists attempt to cop a plea by claiming that evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life. This is nonsense -- the entire point and principle of evolutionary theory is to remove the need for a Creator.
No: the above is nonsense. I'm sure Francis Collins and Ken Miller (not to mention Charles Darwin himself) would be surprised to learn that "the entire point and principle" of their work is to "remove the need for a Creator". The purpose of evolutionary theory is to explain terrestrial biology by the methods of science. Historically, it had the effect of knocking the props out from under a particular class of religious apologetics -- the Argument From Design -- but that is a philosophical by-product, not its intent. By Juby's logic, one might as well claim that the purpose of gravitational theory is to explain the solar system without the need for God to personally push the planets around (which was actually a live argument -- about 300 years ago!).

Juby continues:
But when one looks at the impossibility of life by natural processes, it quickly becomes evident why anti-creationists are avoiding this subject like the plague!
It's very convenient to just be able to make up claims about your opponents' behaviour, isn't it? Yeah, we avoid talking about abiogenesis, except when we don't. We then get Juby's attempt to prove that abiogenesis is impossible, which consists of a calculation of the chance of randomly assembling a particular chain of amino acids 200 units long (ie, a small protein). He correctly points out that the chance of getting this right on the first try is 20200, and that you would have to try some 10242 combinations every second for the entire 20 billion-year history of the universe to "produce one protein".

Basically, it's the Argument From Frighteningly Large Numbers. It's also a case of GIGO: what does forming some particular random short protein from an amino soup have to do with abiogenesis? Pretty much nothing. It's not even an argument. Does any serious scientist postulate that the way to start off life is to assemble some "magic" protein? Over the years, I've noticed that a lot of creationists don't seem to even understand what an argument looks like. For a discussion of abiogenesis probability calculations that deals with the real world (as opposed to creationist straw men), see the t.o FAQ.

Of course, Juby's "solution" to his invented problem is the usual GodDidIt. That's another common characteristic of creationist "argument" -- probably the single central fallacy at the core of all the others: they think "It happened by magic" is a respectable and scientific(!) answer.

Until the next CORE dump.....


Anonymous said...

Hi EK,

Hmmm, core dump, eh? Am I detecting some mainframe experience here?

"CORE" sounds familiar - are these the same twits who regularly embarrass themselves at RASC Ottawa meetings?

Happy (belated) Solstice!

Eamon Knight said...

The phrase "CORE Dump" contains multiple levels of meaning (none complimentary), the ferreting out of which are left as an exercise for the reader. I actually swiped the title from a 1994 post on And while I *am* old enough to have cut my programming teeth on an IBM 360, note that *nix systems still "core-dump" when provoked.

And yes, CORE also includes your pal "Kookie" Cucan (see very first two posts on this blog).

Anonymous said...

"And while I *am* old enough to have cut my programming teeth on an IBM 360, note that *nix systems still "core-dump" when provoked."

Hey, I cut my programming teeth on an IBM 360 too! My first programs were written in SP/k, a subset of PL/I, at Queens. I left that sorry-ass environment behind as soon as I got a taste of Burroughs' MCP, and have been working on MCP (for the most part) ever since. There are still referenced to 'core' in the MCP too, but happily they aren't literal references to core memory.

As for Unix, my first taste of it was in 1978, running on a DEC PDP 11. I was thoroughly unimpressed. I'm still trying to find a reason to be impressed, despite the fact that *nix flavours run on a sizable minority of the machines in this household.

Speaking of 'core', did you ever hear of Core Wars? I dabbled in this back in the mid '80s on my Apple II, but lost interest when I couldn't find anyone to compete against.


Eamon Knight said...

I recall Core Wars being written up in IIRC SciAm. I never played with it, though.