God - Or Gorilla? Archive

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Website Update - Reorganized 'God- or Gorilla?' Entries

God or Gorilla PicWhen I first posted the entries in my 'God - or Gorilla?' series, I posted them in both my Books and Skepticism, Religion categories. But just playing around and looking over my site, I realize that the 'God- or Gorilla?' posts kind of clutter those categories if you're just wanting to browse. So, I decided to make a subcategory under books called God - Or Gorilla?, and to move all of those posts into that new category. I left the first post in the 'Books' and 'Skepticism, Religion' categories so that people browsing through those will at least know of the existence of this series. So, if you're really interested in the 'God- or Gorilla?' posts, you can now find them all in one place. And if you don't like them all that much, you don't have to wade through them when reading the other entries.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Bonus Entry (And the End of the Review)

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicOne aspect of the book that I didn't discuss much were the photos. Every so many pages, a photo was inserted into the book. There were a total of 27 in the main body of the book. A few of these were relevant to the topic being discussed where they were inserted, but many were just random pictures of primates. There were also 19 photos in the appendices, most showing gorilla and orangutan skeletons or skulls. So, as one final bonus entry in this series, I figured I would make a post full of those photos.

Continue reading "Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Bonus Entry (And the End of the Review)" »

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Appendices, Part II (And the End of The Book)

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicThis installment covers the final appendices.

Here's a rather inconsistent argument.

[quoting G Frederick Wright -jrl] "But between 1680 and 1766 the Falls [Niagara Falls -jrl] had evidently receded about 412 feet. Between 1766 and 1856 the recession had been 600 feet. The average rate is estimated by Professor Winchell to be about five feet per year, and the total length of time required for the formation of the gorge above Fort Snelling is about the same as that calculated by Woodward and Gilbert for the Niagara gorge" - some 7,000 years, not 3,000,000 years!

These corrections have been adopted by the geologists as orthodox, but no parallel corrections have been applied to what they call the Eocene, or to the little squirrel-like father of the horse, the Eohippus, given, like the Niagara gorge, an age of 3,000,000 years.

Perhaps some day it will be quite as scientific to correct 3,000,000 years of Eohippus to 7,000 years, as it has been scientific to correct the 3,000,000 years of Niagara gorge to 7,000 years. (McCann 337)

For the moment, let's just grant that an early estimate for the age of Niagara Falls was 3 million years, when a more accurate estimate might be 7 thousand years. How would this change in estimated age of a singular geologic feature have anything to do with an estimate of when the Eocene occurred? It's not as if Niagara Falls is used in any way to date the Eocene. It's a feature made by erosion of older rock.

As a matter of fact, the 7,000 year estimate isn't too bad. The falls were actually formed around 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age when the glacier sheet overlying that area retreated.

McCann still doesn't like provisional statements.

At this point there is the suggestion of a thinly veiled doubt. The writer uses the "perhaps." "Perhaps," he says, "also the Rhodesian man had a wide nose in comparison with which the Negro or the Tasmanian's would seem narrow." "Perhaps" is always good! (McCann 345)

What's wrong with tempering statements this way? Would McCann prefer that people pretend to be certain where they're not?

McCann had found what he thought was certain evidence against evolution. He dubbed it the Triassic 'Shoe'.

In March, 1922, John T. Reid, member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, and mining director of the Nevada United Mining Company, brought to New York, where it was exhibited at the Herald Square Hotel, the "fossil sole" of a shoe or sandal, which, according to the orthodox methods of estimating age by geological processes, must be set down as between 36 and 360 million years old. ... There can be no doubt that the rock in which the fossil is imbedded is Triassic.(McCann 351)

Here is a picture of this 'fossil'.

'Triassic Shoe' Iron Concretion

His implications here would be correct, if only it were true.

A human fossil imposed on Triassic rock either means that the system of judging age periods, as far as geologists are concerned, is now and has been wholly and preposterously absurd, or that a Triassic shoemaker manufactured shoes in Nevada some thirty millions of years before the first monkeys appeared on earth. (McCann 352)
Out of this ridiculous muddle it can be argued that inasmuch as man could not have descended from a creature that did not come into being until some 30,000,000 years after man's arrival, that creature must have descended from man. To complete the absurdity, we are confronted with, an alternative for the "ape-origin of man,", and must now worry over the "man-origin of ape." (McCann 352)

What McCann doesn't want to consider is that maybe this isn't a human fossil. If it's not actually a human fossil, then all of his conclusions fall apart.

McCann tries to further build his case that this is in fact a shoe.

Obviously any authoritative recognition of this curious fossil will upset all Darwinian theories. Yet the sole of the shoe is so obviously the sole of a shoe, with its bevelled welt and hand-stitched seams, that no observer can doubt for an instant either its origin or nature. It certainly is the product of a human hand, and was worn on a human foot.

The New York Times says: "It would fit nicely a boy of ten or twelve years. The edges are as smooth as if freshly cut. The surprising part of it is what seems to be a double line of stitches, one near the outside edge of the sole and the other about a third of an inch inside the first. The 'leather' is thicker inside the inner welting and appears to be slightly bevelled, so that at the margin, half an inch wide, which runs outside, the sole is something like an eighth of an inch thick. The symmetry is maintained perfectly throughout. The perfect lines pursued by the welting, and the appearance of hundreds of minute holes through which the sole was sewed to the shoe are the things which make the object such an extraordinary freak in the eyes of the scientists who examined it.

"The edges are rounded off smoothly, as if it were freshly cut leather from an expert cobbler. The stone to which it is attached is about the size of a brick. The heel and part of the sole appear, the toe-end being missing." (McCann 353-354)

Take a close look at the photo of the 'shoe' (don't forget to click on the image for a larger version). As much as I look, I don't see any stitches. I see an interesting shape, and concentric bands, but nothing that unambiguously identifies it as the fossil of a shoe. In fact, it doesn't really look much like a shoe to me. It's curving too much in the top of the photo where you'd expect it to be continuing on a little straighter if it was truly a shoe.

Someone else has actually already addressed this rock (so far, the only other person I've found on the Internet who's read any part of this book):
Nevada Shoe Print? on paleo.cc

If you want to read a thorough debunking, follow that link. In short, the rock is nothing more than an iron concretion - interesting in its own right, but not a fossil shoe that's going to overturn all of evolutionary theory.

McCann had a series of photos in the appendix, comparing skeletons and skulls of humans to gorillas and orangutans. Here's one such example.

Ape Skull Photos

He made a big deal of the ridges on the top of the gorilla skulls, questioning how we could have evolved from an animal so different in anatomy (note that of course we didn't evolve from gorillas, orangutans, or chimps, but rather that we all share a common ancestor). However, McCann was a bit selective in the gorilla skulls he used. Whether it was deliberate omission or simply ignorance, he didn't include any photos of female gorilla skulls. This is significant because female gorilla skulls don't have the same ridge that male skulls do, making them appear much more similar to a human skull.

Female Gorilla Skull

For more photos of ape skulls, take a look at this page from the University of Edinburgh.

The last issue discussed in the book was a body supposedly found fossilized after being interred for only 6 years. The story was all hearsay, so McCann sent a telegram to the undertaker involved. I'm including this passage just because I found it so humorous. I can almost imagine McCann rushing into a telegraph office and breathlessly dictating this message.

This communication was received April 4, 1922, whereupon the writer sent a Western Union telegram to Mr. Willis Green, Battle Mountain, Nevada, which read as follows: "John T. Reid of Lovelock, Nevada, now in New York, informs me of your experience with a petrified body that had been in the ground but six years. Scientific interest urges me to appeal to you for facts and details. Will thank you to rush reply by wire collect." (McCann 358)

Finally, here is the closing paragraph of the final appendix - the last bit of text before the index. It was written about a response he received to his above message on the petrified body.

Under ordinary circumstances, had one not known the true history of these bodies, they could have been loosely but scientifically described as " fossilized. Moreover, they might have been 30,000 years old. Apparently fossils don't always tell the truth. (McCann 359)

Apparently, creationists don't always tell the truth, either.

And so ends McCann's book, and my review. I do have one bonus entry in store, though, so don't forget to check back next week.

Proceed to Bonus Entry (And the End of the Review)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Appendices, Part I

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicThis installment covers the first appendix, Note on the Word "Day".

McCann has made it clear that he accepts the Bible as accurate, but he's also an old Earth creationists. So, how does he reconcile an old Earth with the 6 day creation story from the first chapter of Genesis? Well, he doesn't think that 'day' means an actual 24 hour period. He thinks it means something else.

According to the Bible itself, the first three "days" of Genesis could not have been solar days in the strict sense of the term, because the sun itself was not created until the "fourth day."(McCann 333)

Well, I'm glad he's acknowledged this. Let's see how he continues.

How can the rationalists insist that the biblical word for "day," as used in Genesis, means a period of twenty-four hours, when in the second chapter, fourth verse, the entire period of "six days" is referred to as "one day"? (McCann 333)

I've already mentioned the discrepancy between the first and second chapters of Genesis. If I were McCann, I wouldn't be focusing on 'day'. I'd try to explain the chronological discrepancies. In fact, I think that 'rationalists' would say that there isn't a discrepancy in the use of the word 'day', but rather that they're two completely separate creation myths, that were both included in the Hebrew scripture.

McCann does make a point about non-literal uses of words.

The word "day" is obviously here a synonym for "time," in which sense it is frequently employed in scriptural phrases; as the "day of vanity," the "day of tribulation," etc. (McCann 333)

Here's a case where McCann's preconception that everything in the Bible must be accurate is biasing his reading of the book.

But to show the rationalists that the word "day," as used in Genesis, cannot be limited to a term of twenty-four hours it is only necessary to refer to chapter two, verse seventeen: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

Now, according to the genealogy, age and death of the patriarchs from Adam unto Noah, as narrated in chapter five, verses three and four, Adam lived 930 years.

Here is proof, in the Bible itself, and in the very book of Genesis quoted by the rationalists, that "a day" consisted of the hundreds of years between the fall of Adam and his death. (McCann 333-334)

Why can't it simply be a mistake? The Bible was not written as a whole, set in stone tablets, unchanging throughout history. It's a kludge. There are many books in it, and pretty good evidence that even individual books have multiple sources (such as the separate creation stories in Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis). The books we have now are copies of copies of copies, subjected to translation errors, to boot.

McCann once again makes a case for 'day' being used in a non-literal sense.

Entirely apart from its significance of time, secular historians who deal neither with religion nor science often refer to something done as a "day." They speak of the "day of Waterloo." The Bible employs the word "day" in the same fashion - the "day of the Lord," the "day of great wrath." As the "day of Waterloo" means the same thing, the act, operation, work or performance, regardless of duration, so the analogous terms "evening" and "morning" may signify the completion of one act and the beginning of another, just as moderns speak of the "dawn of prosperity" or the "evening of life." (McCann 334)

My biggest problem with this, is the larger context of how 'day' is used in the first chapter of Genesis. It's not simply, 'on the first day, Elohim created these things, and on the second day he created these other things, etc.' The bible actually says, "And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day." It really is presented in a way that makes it seem as if the writers intended 'day' to be understood as a 24 hour period.

Proceed to Appendices, Part II

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Chapter 26

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicThis installment covers Chapter 26, The Evolution of Evolutions, which is also the last chapter of the book.

This bit reminds me of the 'documentary', Expelled.

Charles Darwin, a youth of twenty-three years, embarking, 1831, as a naturalist on a surveying vessel, the H.M.S. Beagle, and looking forward to a voyage of five years in the South Sea Islands and Brazil, did not realize, as he became more and more interested in the ideas of Sir Charles Lyell, concerning the geological evidences of the "antiquity of man," what a tremendous impetus he was to give to the forces of war. (McCann 314)

Even back in McCann's time, people were trying to tarnish Darwin's reputation by associating him with war. Of course, this is an argument from consequences, which has no bearing on whether or not evolution is true.

I thought this passage was a bit humorous, just because it reminded me of that mindset where the world's 'going to Hell in a handbasket', or how things were so much better in the good old days.

Owen died, 1858, as Darwin's work was about to be given to the world, and with it a new conception of "conscience" destined to corrupt such morals as civilization could still boast of. (McCann 318)

Because morality was so much better prior to 1861, when slavery was still legal in the South, or prior to 1954, when school segregation was still legal. Or you could go further back to the Spanish Inquisition, or even further to the Romans, and consider how they fought wars. I've never quite understood the people who think modern society is so immoral compared to previous societies. From my point of view, it's been a slow progression.

I'm guessing McCann meant for this passage to make Darwin look bad, but it certainly seems reasonable to me.

Darwin's argument was that conscience proceeded from the dissatisfaction instead of the dissatisfaction proceeding from conscience. This argument was necessary if biology and evolution were to take the place of conscience and God. (McCann 319)

It's the old argument - are there any truly selfless acts? Do we do good deeds to help others, or do we do them to avoid guilt and/or get some pleasure from pride.

This is getting a little outside what most of what I've discussed in this series, but this complaint against Huxley certainly reminds me of the modern complaints against New Atheists. It almost makes it seem that there's really nothing all that 'new' to the New Atheism.

Like Herbert Spencer, he [Huxley -jrl] championed "The New Darwinism," and set out with the avowed purpose of attacking the foundation of revealed religion, declaring that "there is no evidence of the existence of such a being as the God of the theologians," rejecting Christianity with no appreciation of its historical effect as a socializing and civilizing force. (McCann 320)

But just to reiterate what I've been saying about arguments from consequences - whether or not Christianity has been 'a socializing and civilizing force' does not speak to the truth of Christianity's claims.

Once again, McCann has conflated abiogenesis with evolution.

Haeckel realized that this demonstration of Spallanzani completely shattered the evolutionist's theory of spontaneous generation. There was nothing to do but face the fact and to describe sympathetically what Haeckel himself must, therefore, characterize as "the famous experiments of Pasteur," which ended in the maxim, "Spontaneous generation is a myth." (McCann 324)

There's a big difference, though, between the concept of spontaneous generation that Pasteur, Spallanzani, and others disproved, and the start of life on the planet. Prior to Pasteur and others, it was thought that complex life would spontaneously arise out of certain non-living materials. For example, it was thought that maggots simply arose out of rotting meat. Notes from chemist Jean-Baptiste van Helmont even had recipes - a piece of soiled cloth plus wheat for 21 days for a mouse, and basil, placed between two bricks and left in sunlight for a scorpion. This is not nearly the same concept as abiogenesis, where very simple life would have gotten started given just the right circumstances.

Also, as I wrote before when reviewing Chapter 14, "There is... a very good reason why we don't see new life springing up any more - advanced life is already here. When life was first getting started on this planet, it had no living competition. There were no hungry critters to gobble up organic molecules floating about, or to gobble up any incipient life. Now, bacteria are everywhere. There's practically no nook or cranny with the conditions where new life could get started that isn't already inhabited by bacteria."

Here's another passage that would have fit right in in Expelled.

Marx insisted that society as we now know it has been evolved gradually out of many class struggles of the past; that the course of history has always been determined by economic factors, and that the present capitalistic society will inevitably be evolved into socialism. Thus Marxism became to social science what Darwinism became to natural science. (McCann 326-327)

I've said this over and over, but it still bears repeating. Consequences of an argument have no impact on the truth of the argument. Nobody would think to use the awful consequences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to say that nuclear physics was erroneous.

Besides, 'Darwinism' only describes what is, not what ought to be. Nobody thinks you should go around pushing people off buildings because Newton's theory of gravity says that things will fall.

McCann discussed several military types praising Darwin, but made the same mistake as above.

Carrying "the survival of the fittest" idea into its most brutal but none the less inevitable conclusions he says, page 35: "The state (which realizes the highest form of the culture of the race) can realize itself only by the destruction of other states which, logically, can only be brought about by violence." (McCann 329-330)

How is this an 'inevitable' conclusion of a theory that describes how things came to be?

Finally, here's the closing paragraph of the main body of the book.

That there should be no weakening of the fascination of "Darwinism," as the theory of man's ape-origin, is, to the writer, the most disquieting and at the same time most inexplicable phenomenon of the twentieth century, for the simple reason that the preponderance of scientific evidence, including all the established data and all the opinions based on truth as it has been stripped of error, have come into court solidly against the ape, whereas, on the other hand, there remains on the side of the ape nothing but the old inferences and assumptions, nothing but the old hypotheses and unsupported theories based on erroneous or deliberately fabricated premises, nothing but the old conflicts and contradictions, nothing but the old falsifications and exposures. In their choice the nations have the alternative of chaos or Christ. (McCann 331-332)

Although he's stated it before, by making this the closing paragraph, McCann certainly emphasizes why he rejects evolution. He thinks it goes against Christianity, and he doesn't want to be an ape. It really all comes down to his emotions, since anyone looking at the evidence objectively can't help but accept evolution.

However, McCann's not done with us yet. There are still the appendices, which I'll tackle in the next installment.

Proceed to Appendices, Part I


Selling Out