“Truth in Science”

A group calling itself “Truth in Science” has sent DVDs to schools across the country, claiming that “professionals” (unnamed) have “concern” that vulnerable children are being confused about gender identity, and instead of growing out of it naturally at puberty they change sex. The usual nutters, I thought- some name unconnected to trans, which mysteriously only campaigns to reduce trans rights, and attempts to frame the issue as anything but trans rights. Some nutters are part of four “separate organisations”, some will sign their name to any transphobic rubbish going.

But no. This lot are “Christians”!

I went to their website, and found their one other concern is Creationism. They claim that “the existence of superbly engineered birds remains a significant challenge to neo-darwinian evolution”. Totally barmy (I have decided not to use the other British word, “Batty”, because it may be misunderstood). That writer, Dr Marc Surtees, works in pharmaceuticals, but appears not to be attached to any university.

Surtees’ article is interesting as a specimen. It gives references to real scientists, and discusses their evidence at length. I cannot be bothered looking up the minutiae, but Surtees has not addressed all the evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and the article is obviously rubbish if you have any concept of how evidence may add up to become convincing. Birds descend from therapods, which are saurischian, lizard-hipped; confusingly not ornithischian, bird-hipped. The resemblance of ornithischians to birds was only superficial.

Professor Andy McIntosh, who signed the letter to schools about “The Transgender Agenda”, is a meretricious professor of thermodynamics at the University of Leeds. Sorry, “Emeritus,” which means that he is retired, but holds the title as an honour. He has done serious scientific work. I used to wonder- do Creationist scientists actually believe the rot they peddle, or do they lie for money? Who could tell. It’s the old “Are they fools, or knaves?” question. The answer is usually “both”: fools not because they are stupid but because they have huge blind spots preventing them seeing reality.

The video has experts, though again the ones with most screen time are propagandists. Peter Saunders is chief executive of the ICMDA- that’s the International Christian Medical and Dental Association. I had a look at their website, found nothing in a search for “transgender” or “homosexuality”, and found their “Coronavirus resources” were unobjectionable links to the BMJ, Lancet and WHO. Their aims are to discuss “Christian faith and ethics” in the context of medicine. The Christian Medical Fellowship, a linked British organisation, has the usual propaganda against gay people.

So what of the DVD? Over a doomy ostinato more suited to a horror film, Julie Maxwell, a paediatrician, says “We are losing our parental rights to teach children according to our family values”. Dr Carys Moseley says children are “traumatised and terrified” by LGBT lessons in primary schools.

“We know from anecdotal evidence” says Carys. Huh. Only the strongest evidence could show how birds evolve, and these people will always quibble about it. “What my mate said” is good enough for them to attack LGBT+ people.

Peter scaremongers about reverters. They will come back to doctors and demand justification for hormones and surgery! That scaremongering is better addressed to doctors than teachers, I suppose, but fling it at the wall anyway.

Should trans people bother about it? Probably not. Schools get a lot of rubbish sent to them. Teachers have no time to waste on it. We should be worried about Department for Education guidelines, which show dangerously right-wing views, but not this stuff. “Teachers will ignore it,” says my nonbinary teacher friend- anecdotal evidence you can trust!

Humanity’s cousins

The closest relatives of humans are apes, monkeys, lemurs, but once you go beyond primates and tree-shrew type animals, we are Euarchontoglires, and our next closest cousins are rodents and rabbits. Not lions, horses, dogs, deer or whales, but rats and mice. I find this fascinating and beautiful, linking us in to life on Earth, showing the weird accidents resulting in our presence here; and I am proud to be related to such a successful animal as a rat.

Euarchontoglires are Boreoeutheria, distinguished by the scrotum in males, though some animals have evolved to no longer need a scrotum- hedgehogs, rhinoceroses, and some trans women. The evidence of this is in our DNA, rather than in fossils: the common ancestor lived between 100 and 80 mya (million years ago), and though its fossils may never be found its genome sequence might be predicted from its descendents to 98% accuracy.

Laurasiatheria are also Boreoeutheria: shrews, moles, hoofed animals, animals that chew cud, whales, bats and pangolins, and all the Carnivora in one Order. Most animals constantly renew their teeth, but mammals stopped doing this, with most only having an infant set and one adult set, because mammals lives were so short there was no need. Some Euarchontoglires started growing teeth again, though not humans- yay Euarchontoglires! Sharks grow new teeth constantly. Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose jaw could exert 3000lbs of pressure on one tooth, broke teeth and renewed them constantly. The whole human mouth can bite at 175lbs.

Eutheria, with a common ancestor in the early Cretaceous or late Jurassic about 161mya, were named “True beasts” by Theodore Gill, and are defined by certain aspects of the skeleton such as the joints between the metatarsals and the cuneiform bones. Every football fan knows what a metatarsal is. I thought a “beast” was an animal, which made me wonder what metatheria, not quite beasts, were. They are marsupials; all living eutheria are placental mammals, though some eutheria were not. Theria- beasts and sort-of beasts, includes marsupials.

Mammals all give milk to their young. Nipples evolved from sweat glands, so there were young of ancient nearlybeasts that licked their mothers’ sweat. All mammals alive now are Trechnotheria; a mammal called Kuehneotherium with different teeth evolved in the late Triassic, and that line all died out just like most animals. There were Mammaliaformes, mammal-like animals, which gave rise to mammals and to Morganucodontidae, “Glamorgan-toothed” animals. This says nothing about Welsh people now. One hypothesis of mammal relationships shows Mammaliaformes, mammalia, theriformes, holotheria, trechnotheria, cladotheria, zatheria, tribosphenida, theria then eutheria. So if you want to confuse someone, which of course I often do, you can say you are a theriforme. Therefore you are not a monotreme, an egg-laying mammal, but closely related.

Before Mammaliaformes there were Mammaliamorpha, a wider clade including more extinct animals. That included the Tritylodontidae, three-knob teeth animals, which also died out and left fossilised teeth. The name shows the evidence: dont appears in the name of lots of extinct life. The Morganucodontidae’s teeth survived, showing a difference from all beasts, a branch on the single tree of life. And teeth are close to my heart on my mind in my thoughts at the moment- those first two images are horrible- as I might lose one.

Mammals are not descended from reptiles. We are Therapsids, not Therapods (or, mostly, therapists) and Synapsids, evolving separately from Amniotes, animals laying eggs on land. It’s all to do with how there are holes in the skull for the eyes to peer through, though I am not quite sure how they differ and even I can’t be bothered finding out how, now. So reptiles or Sauropsids, with different eyeholes, and in turn dinosaurs and birds all with reptilian eyeholes, evolved separately from the amniotes laying eggs out of water. The word Amniote comes from Greek, meaning “membrane surrounding the foetus”, and earlier “bowl in which the blood of sacrificed animals was caught”. Amniotes evolved in the Carboniferous period, 323-298mya.

So we are related to all reptiles, because they have a membrane round the foetus, and then to all amphibians, even though they don’t, because the adults breathe as land-dwellers. Then we are part of the clade tetrapoda, four-footed creatures, with the same basic body structure- heart, lungs, liver, spleen, legs and toes. Tetrapods evolved from Sarcopterygii, lobe-finned fishes, around 390mya, crawling onto the land.

Tetrapods evolved from Chordates- animals with a nerve cord, a tail behind the anus, and blood circulation. Chordates include vertebrates, with a backbone, so including fish, as well as Tunicata such as sea-squirts. Even a sea-squirt has a heart. Chordates evolved from bilaterians, which are tubes- at first animals took in food the same way they excreted waste, but then evolved into one-way systems. Humans are deuterostomes: in our foetuses, the anus forms before the mouth does. Insects are Protostomes, where the mouth forms first. We are “Bilaterians” because we have a distinct left and right side, not because we have two ends of a tube to feed through. All bilaterians are symmetrical as embryos, but some are not as adults, including echinoderms, such as starfish.

Simpler than that, we go back to the Ediacaran, 600mya. So we are related to all multicellular animals. With more distant common ancestors, we are Eukaryotes, because our cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes, and mitocondria. Those mitocondria may have been prokaryotic cells, absorbed into others in a symbiotic relationship, though there is also the autogenous hypothesis, where they evolved within a more primitive cell. So we are related to plants and fungi. And beyond that we are related to archaea and bacteria, and all life on Earth.

Helpful beliefs

What you believe may be helpful or harmful not so much as to whether it is true or not, but how it helps you to navigate the world. If natural selection is true, we form our beliefs in a way inherited from ancestors who formed beliefs which aided them to survive and reproduce. Possibly, false beliefs may profit those who believe them. For some jobs, objective assessment of truth matters in the job itself- doctor, forensic scientist, police officer- but they might be able to be truthful there, yet hold false beliefs which do not directly impact their work.

I place a high value on truth. Possibly, that inhibited my acting in my own interests. I wondered, “Am I transsexual?” I assessed that by my understanding of the concept of transsexual, what observers considered it entailed, but now believe it is in part socially constructed and the important matter is the desire to transition. How should I judge people who habitually deny the truth?

Yuval Noah Harari writes that fiction helps people. Peugeot as an entity, rather than as a group of people and physical assets, depends on belief. The “Good-will” of a company is based on belief in it as an entity. Religions help people trust strangers, and co-operate.

Traits come in a range of strengths. People are varied. So, just because your ancestors held their beliefs in a particular way, and had offspring, does not mean that you will. I have no children, and neither had my uncle, who only married late in life, or aunt, who never married, and died in her early forties. Some inherited trait may be holding us back. My sister has children.

People hold contradictory beliefs. A belief may be useful for some purposes, but not for others; so you might ignore it in contexts where it is harmful. For the creationist doctor, scientists are arrogant fools when they disprove Creationism, but believeable enough when they research medical treatment. Or at least his suspicions of scientists do not result in angry denunciation, when it relates to his job.

Creationism in Christians could draw the community together. The community values belief in this sibboleth, and because outsiders despise it they have an Out-group to define themselves against. They might collect arguments for their position, building community.

It affects their understanding of wider society. They observe that there is a large group of people whose profession is (they believe) to make illegitimate conclusions from sparse, contradictory evidence, but who assert those conclusions with a high degree of confidence and despise the Creationists. Believing that so many people would have a professional interest in asserting falsehood would decrease trust in wider society. But perhaps they would not work out the full implications, which would cause cognitive dissonance.

I have been wondering about this after a Creationist wrote, I have solar on my roof, and I drive an electric car. I take better care of the environment than most, and have a smaller carbon footprint than many… all it would take is one large volcano eruption to put us into a persistent Global winter. I can find no assertion of persistent global winter from volcanoes, though that was one result of the Chicxulub impact. The second largest eruption of the 20th century, in Mount Pinatubo, put gases and solids into the stratosphere only for three weeks, but sulfate aerosols persisted for 3-4 years. The troposphere generally cooled, but warmed in winter. So says NASA: I don’t know how trustworthy he finds them. They have to be careful of truth while engineering rockets, or the rockets would not work. In 1816 the Tambora eruption in Indonesia created a “Year without a Summer” in the US and Western Europe. That would have been observed, by Christians, so have a high degree of credibility, but the connection is made by scientists. That was the largest volcanic event for 1300 years.

His understanding of science is grievously affected by his creationism, which requires him to disbelieve scientific knowledge and distrust science as practised. He misunderstands about volcanoes. Yet he behaves morally, as if climate science were true.

It is clearly easier for a science denier in one field to be a denier in another. Creationists are more likely to be climate deniers.

Possibly I overvalue truth. Trust in climate science, and indeed the scientific account of the history of life on Earth and the development of the Universe, is part of my trust in wider society. It feels like seasickness when someone denies the clear truth, either a Creationist or a conspiracy theorist. I feel angry when someone I know asserts that Saggitarians have particular traits, Diana was assassinated, or the World Trade Center was demolished by explosives rather than planes. I feel I depend on being able to discern truth. I don’t, really. The world is a complex and confusing place, and weird things happen. Knowing the age of the Universe does not make it more controllable.

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!

An open mind

How could you know if you had an open mind? If something disproves what you believe you know, could you change your opinion, or would you just ignore it?

I still debate with young-earth Creationists, mainly on Violet’s blog. I listened to this fascinating programme on the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum. About 56m years ago, over a period of about 1,000 to 20,000 years, vast amounts of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere, by volcanoes and burning coal deposits, and the temperature of the planet increased. There were forests at the poles. Global temperatures increased by 5-8°C. Different assertions will have different levels of dispute or certainty, and for the educated layperson a scientist might elide certain details for ease of explication, but the broad outline is clear. I find it wonderful how the evidence is recovered and interpreted, the care and precision of the investigators, the wealth of evidence. So I recommended the programme to two YECs, hoping that they would be as inspired by it as I was.

Sadly, Tiribulus wasn’t. He did not intend “sneering derisive dismissal”, he said, but accused the scientists of “spectacular intellectual dishonesty”. He claimed to understand their “claims”, but also their “method bias and out of hand pre-conclusions”. All unbelievers have similar bias, he says.

His response makes me miserable. The language of “bias”, formulated to enable us to see how we misinterpret evidence and help us perceive more clearly, he uses to write off something which challenges his view. Unbelievers cannot think properly, he says, as Jesus quoting Isaiah predicted- He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.

He is defended against challenge to his falsehoods, because he has a great need to believe them- so that he can remain part of his community, so that he is not distressed by the falsehoods the community spouts, perhaps so that he can feel superior to outsiders, or ignore them, and possibly because he experienced his life before conversion as chaotic and “sinful”, and feels any backsliding from his current position means falling into similar sin.

He has threatened to recommend something to me, claiming “fairness” would oblige me to listen or read it. I might not spend fifty minutes on it.

How would I know if I were open minded? I am open minded on Creationism. I am aware of theories of the origin and development of the Bible, and how the story of the Flood was adapted from a Sumerian legend, part of the epic of Gilgamesh. As I pick up more about the detail and complexity of understanding of the geologic column, I am inspired by the beauty of it. But then my community does not require me to believe idiocies.

Why does he comment there? Because he sees unrepentant sinners, and wants God to “save us from our sin and give us a new heart”- Because you are fellow bearers of the image and likeness of our God and I care about you. 

Tiribulus believes he understands about the Bible and the errors of unbelievers, and that prevents him coming to the truth. I will not be open minded where I particularly need to believe something, or imagine I understand but do not. When I am not open minded I may imagine I am- for I could not know. I have sought out hints and subtle indications, and sometimes been rewarded.

Perhaps it is all a waste of energy. I grope for greater understanding, but perhaps those who are satisfied with their understanding are better off, devoting their attention to more important, worthwhile things. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. They might be more effectual.


I am a Catastrophist. So are you, if you have thought about it: catastrophism is the belief that the Earth has been affected by catastrophes in the past, radically changing its geology or biosphere. Two I can think of off hand are the Chicxulub impact which may have killed off the dinosaurs and enabled the rise of mammals- I can’t make a judgment and am unaware of the current consensus- and the impact which left us with the Moon, which has no iron core so is parts of the crust of both planets. Oh, and the Deccan Traps?

Pause for Wikipedia-

No, Livescience: Gigantic deluges of lava known as flood basalts have been linked with mass extinctions throughout history.

I had heard that Catastrophism and “Uniformitarianism” are opposing theories. Creationists are Catastrophists, seeing the evidence of Noah’s Flood everywhere; Creation-deniers are

(What did she just say? “Creation”-deniers??)

Uniformitarians, believing that the same natural laws have caused the deposit of strata throughout the Earth’s history. Creationists would argue the two theories are mutually exclusive. That idea infected my understanding of Georges Cuvier, who coined the words, but again from Wikipedia I learn he was a serious scientist, proving some fossil species had become extinct. Previously it was thought they must still live somewhere- an idea coming from Biblical understandings.

Whereas, I am both. Strata have formed in similar ways over the last billion years, and there have been catastrophes. (Yellowstone may produce a flood of lava/basalt! We’re all going to die!)

The point of my sermon this morning-
or mid to late afternoon, if you are in the US-
or any time, if you are reading this later-
is that understandings can entrap us. “Catastrophism” is a useful concept, but not if seen as rigorously distinct from Uniformitarianism. Particularly, identifiers of what we are not, such as imagining I am not a Catastrophist because that has to do with belief in the Flood, can create a blind spot preventing understanding.

Understanding must always be open, a jumping-off point for further understanding. Ideas can liberate and enslave us.

I have a question for you. A blogger called “Francois Tremblay” wrote this:

Trans genderism, through intimidation, death threats and sexual bigotry, pushes one giant act of erasure: they seek to destroy all women-only spaces, which means erasing any possibility of feminist advancement.

That makes me a monster. Any action to defend women against my destructive attack is justified. Now, Francois Tremblay is not one of those bloggers entirely obsessed with trans women, and s/he writes of other feminist issues as well. My question is, have I a right to object to someone quoting that blog on something unrelated to trans issues, in fact something I agree with? If she was unaware of FT’s attitude to trans women, should she now agree not to quote FT again?

And what is a reasonable analogy? Is it like quoting the Vegetarianism posts of a white supremacist? Or someone who blogs on how monstrous Trump voters (rather than Drumpf himself) are, but then about how they are so completely wicked and incorrigible that you might being to think, wait a moment, steady on- all of them, merely monstrous? I might happily interact with a blogger after they produced just one post strongly opposing BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, but how might a Palestinian feel about that?

giovanni-martinelli The Three Graces

Ice House Earth

For most of its history, the Earth has had no ice at its poles. On the greenhouse planet, carbon was CO2 in the atmosphere rather than trapped in the rocks. Forty million years ago, with continental drift moving Antarctica to the South pole, and ocean currents moving around the continent rather than bringing warm water from the Equator, ice began to form there, reflecting the Sun’s radiation back into space and cooling the planet. The last 2.7m years have had many cycles of interglacials and glaciation- the term “ice age” was coined in the early twentieth century when there were thought to have been three or four glaciation periods in history, but there have been hundreds.

Also in the early twentieth century, Milankovitch calculated the variations in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit, its axial tilt, and the precession of the Equinoxes. The more the axis of rotation varies from 90° from the plane of the orbit, the more the seasons vary and the more regions cool in winter. These cycles can influence when the glaciers advance.

We can calculate how much ice there is at the poles from the oxygen isotope ratio. Oxygen forms two stable isotopes, O16 and O18. Water molecules with O16 in them are lighter, so more prone to evaporation. When there is ice at the poles, water falling as snow there will remain for thousands or millions of years, and the ratio of O18 to O16 in the seas will be higher. Seashells and coral are made of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, and so the ratio of the two oxygen isotopes in the water may be calculated from ocean bed fossils, whose age is indicated by their place in the geologic column.

I find that fact beautiful. The elegance of the idea, and the complex effort required to produce and analyse the evidence of changing temperatures makes me proud to be human and delighted to be alive at this time in our history. Antarctic ice cores now go back 800,000 years, each year making a new layer of snow, and preserve samples of the atmosphere in the past: we can find the varying proportions of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide. The wilful ignorance of young earth creationists and the deliberate deception of those who purport to argue their case scientifically gets more shocking- and pitiable, as they close their awareness to the wonders of human ingenuity and discovery. They are driven to more desperate quibbling as the weight of evidence increases.

As coral grows just under the surface of the sea, coral remains show that sea level has varied from a hundred metres below current levels during glaciations, and five metres above in the warmest parts of interglacials. The Earth’s temperature has varied by far more than the 4° predicted for this century; but never so quickly. Species have had time to adapt; not having that time is causing the incipient mass extinction of the anthropocene epoch.

Arcimboldo, Summer

The Geologic Column

The Geologic column demonstrates the age of the Earth is at least hundreds of millions of years old, and by the intricate order of fossils demonstrates evolution. It is the atheist’s friend, refuting fundamentalist evangelicalism. So it is disturbing that six of my first nine Google results for “geologic column” are Creationist. First of those is “Ten Misconceptions about the Geologic Column” by Steven A Austin, PhD.

Creationists drafted the GC, he shouts! Well, before nuclear fusion was understood, Lord Kelvin calculated the age of the Sun as only thirty million years. Science can be wrong. He noted the “Denudation of the Weald” had taken 300m years, and wondered at the difference. That denudation remains controversial.

Adam Sedgwick, whom Austin names, was the son of an Anglican vicar, born 1785. He took holy orders. Yet he opened his lectures to women, and campaigned to allow non-Anglicans to enter Cambridge University. This progressive is a strange hero for a creationist. He described and named the Cambrian era based on physical characteristics of rocks unique to Wales, after research involving Charles Darwin as a field assistant. He believed in evolution- “We all admit development as a fact of history”- yet not natural selection, believing that there is a moral and metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. He thought God was involved, but that did not make him deny the age of the Earth, or the progress of fossils over millions of years. He changed his mind about the Biblical Flood when certain deposits were shown to have been made by glaciers, not floods.

I don’t know whether anyone believes Austin’s “misconception No.3”, The strata systems of the geologic column are worldwide in their occurrence. Where would all that rock come from? It is a wonder that 0.4% of the Earth has all ten sedimentary systems. Elsewhere, earthquakes have folded rock from under the surface over later rock, so that the strata may be upside down or vertical; the upper rock may erode, over hundreds of millions of years.

This means there are doubts, as with the Weald. Particular rocks may be dated in different ways: radiometric, or by the position of fossils. Austin calls this “special pleading”- yet while the date of any particular rock formation might be disputed, the general idea that rocks form in strata over millions of years, and may be dated radiometrically or by fossils is clear.

I would have said “indisputable”. Someone with no regard for truth, or for the integrity of the scientific community, clearly may dispute them. Austin has accumulated knowledge: the Cambrian System on an intercontinental scale is typically composed of quartzose sandstone, overlain by glauconitic sandstone with dark-brown shale, overlain by impure, light-brown limestones.

Some of his dissembling is only thinly disguised by the use of specialist words. Some fossils appear to be distinctive of certain systems [but] (most fossil taxa range through a few to several systems), he says. A taxon is a classification: Chordata, having a spinal cord, is a taxon of animals since the Cambrian.

Ken Ham’s picture may give some part of the motive.

l morality based on Bible

Beside the lie that only bad people, who if they were ever worshippers were never true Christians, would be gay, have an abortion or need a divorce, the lie that the geologic column is consistent with literal belief in Genesis 1 is tiny. Jesus warned against such people. The illusion may be comforting until the hapless believer is “bad”, suffers terror of being discovered, then is cast out.


On Friday, during the partial eclipse I was tempted to look at the Sun.
I had heard the warnings.
I looked at it, and my eyes smarted.
I was still tempted to look at it.
What’s this deferring gratification thing? Weighing a glimpse of the sun as a crescent against the chance of permanent damage to eyes, I am still tempted!!

I then spent much of the day with the Three Guardians puzzle. Before I came up with the right questions, I spent hours with wrong questions and what various answers to them would mean. I am very pleased with having the right answer, and having thought of a fourth guardian which answered randomly, like a coin-toss, could answer that more complex problem with between five and eleven questions. Probably I should have done my washing, and in the beautiful sunshine a walk round the lakes might have been more relaxing, but working on that puzzle was the immediately gratifying thing.

A hug felt sexier than an ordinary friendly hug, and was followed up with an email addressed “Dearest Abigail”. She would be in touch, she said. Over a week later, I am on tenterhooks and wondering if she is messing with me, which feels cruel: that “dearest” touched my heart. I create theories of why she might deliberately hurt me, which feel possible but unlikely; but likelier the longer time goes on. Why would she would want to mess with me? Becoz I is trans, or because I had irritated her in some way I cannot imagine, or randomly without reason. The thought that she might not be in touch because of shyness or vulnerability in her came to me only later.

In The Last Battle, the dwarves go into the barn which is actually the gate of Heaven. The children see Heaven with its beautiful scenery getting more beautiful as you go further up and further in, but the dwarves see only a derelict barn with stinking old straw. So the children pick flowers for the dwarves, and the dwarves react angrily: Why are you shoving straw in our faces?

I came across “thetruthisstrangerthanfiction” on Violet’s blog. He is creationist. I find the complex, interlocking explanations of all the evidence of the age of the Earth fascinating and beautiful, and he finds them repellent: the desire to keep a meddling God with His meddling “morality” and call for “repentance” etc., is the real motivating factor at play behind the scientists’ rejection of young earth creationism, rather than the search for Truth which I perceive. Then again, his flowers- a literal interpretation of Genesis- are mouldy straw to me.

I want to persuade him. He is not persuadable, because he is immovably convinced that he has something better (as, mutatis mutandis, am I). I put long comments on his blog, rather than walking by the lakes or doing my washing. I wrote on facebook, to acclaim, I do not need you to be other than you are to validate who I am but one benighted stranger on another continent and a woman who may be hostile seem to indicate otherwise.

What I want may not be what is best for me.

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Creationism and Christianity

Giovanni di Paolo, The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise (2)Creationism is about preserving the social order, argues Paul Wallace. It is a conservative creed: we can understand the world, because we understand the Bible, and from the Bible we get clear morality for Complementarianism and against equal marriage. But Christianity is about subverting social order. “Behold, I have made all things new,” says Jesus. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the humble. Maranatha- “Come, Lord, Come”- is a brave, or foolhardy thing to say. So Christianity has to give the answer to Creationism.

Here is a striking argument. What sort of God would create the World with evolution? A cruel one: Evolution is a cruel and inefficient way for a holy God to create life.  There were billions of years of life before the first eukaryote, 1,200 mya. There is no cruelty there, but God taking God’s good time, observing the beauty of the changes. God is eternal, but short-lived humans want results immediately. And then life evolves, and predators prey on herbivores, so that the herbivores which survive and breed are those which are best at getting away. Less cruel than having herbivores Giovanni di Paolo, The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradisewhich never will have a chance to escape.

There are observable botches in creation. Mammary glands evolved from sweat glands. The creationist has to explain the similarities some other way.

The same blogger claims that while Evolution says our future is indefinite, God says God will create a new heaven and a new Earth. The question is, How? Through God’s servants. The Creationist model of the World has God intervening directly because God’s servants are insufficient: original sin in Eden as soon as God had popped out for a bit; substitutionary atonement because humanity cannot be good; and soon the Rapture, God’s armies of angels blasting the devil, and a new society ruled by God so we become completely unable to make a mess of it ever again. Or, the Christian model, where God’s servants on Earth create God’s kingdom on Earth, here, now, with our love in our communities, with the Spirit in our hearts.

God is not constrained by modern science or the shackles of naturalism. This is close to Occasionalism. God, being a loving God, has given humanity a universe we can explore and begin to explain.

The Class Warfare Blog does not put any argument beyond that Creationism is silly- well, yes- which is insufficient in itself to argue that it comes from American Exceptionalism, but he has a point.