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Showing posts from January, 2009

Fighting dinosaurs

Here's an interesting question: After the Fall, did carnivory and animal violence originate gradually or suddenly? It seems to me that going from a world with no animal death to one where animals and people died would require a huge change in the entire creation. The old scenario of carnivores getting a taste of meat by nibbling on carcasses really doesn't cut it. Think about it: if you were a happy vegetarian, why would you ever take a bite out of some dead body? Ick. It's far more likely that carnivory originated by an intentional redesign of creation at the Fall.

A new paper in PLoS ONE is relevant to this question. In "Evidence of combat in Triceratops," Farke et al. looked at damage to the skulls of two ceratopsian species: the aforementioned trikes and Centrosaurus. Why two ceratopsians? It's rather clever, actually: Centrosaurus lacks the two large horns present above the eyes of Triceratops. Centrosaurus has much smaller horns above their eyes…

Darwin a plagiarist???

I read an awful book last summer called The Darwin Conspiracy. It was so bad, I found myself researching the claims, initially for a journal club session last fall, and later I wrote up my findings in a paper. Today, ARJ published that paper:

Wood, T.C. 2009. There is no Darwin conspiracy. ARJ 2:11-20. [HTML] [PDF]

Kudos to AIG for having the guts to publish what will undoubtedly be an unpopular paper. If you'd like more information on how Darwin really devised his "principle of divergence" (very much at the center of the plagiarism claims), read David Kohn's essay "Darwin's Keystone: The Principle of Divergence" in the new Cambridge Companion to the "Origin of Species".

In case I haven't made myself crystal clear, rest assured that Darwin was no plagiarist. There is no Darwin conspiracy.

From the Library: John Lightfoot's Harmony of the Four Evangelists

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For those just joining us, "From the Library" spotlights interesting items in the library of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College.

Seems like everyone with any stake in the creation/evolution debate knows about the year 4004 B.C. This was the year estimated by James Ussher as the year of Creation. The year 4004 B.C. (or something close to it) can be derived using the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11. Lesser known than Ussher's work is the similar chronological work done by John Lightfoot, vice chancellor of Cambridge University. These two scholars exemplify the seventeenth century interest in biblical chronology.

Lightfoot's chronological work was published in the Prolegomena of his book The Harmony of the Four Evangelists among themselves, and with the Old Testament, with an explanation of the chiefest difficulties both in Language and Sense, the first part of which was published in 1644. Our copy is from the thirteen volume Whole Works edited by Pitma…

BSG at AIG and "Genesis Kinds"

Hey look! BSG is on the front page of the AIG website today. It's Pam Sheppard's article that she wrote about the 2008 BSG conference. There's even a photograph of me that captures my best side. I do think it's awfully nice of them to write that up, and even nicer to post it for free for everyone. Now a lot more people can learn about what we do at BSG. Thanks, AIG!

Speaking of BSG, we're going to close registration for the "Genesis Kinds" conference in Hoddesdon, England on January 27. If you were thinking of going, be sure to get your registration in by the 27th (next Tuesday). We have to give the final count to the conference center, so only nonresident registrations can be accepted after January 27. ('nonresident' means you can come to the meetings, but you'll have to get a room somewhere else.)

More feathered dinosaurs

There's an interesting article on feathered dinosaurs and the evolution of feathers in yesterday's PNAS, "A new feather type in a nonavian theropod and the early evolution of feathers," by Xu et al. I'm not a paleontologist, and I'm not going to comment on the fossil itself. I'm sure there are some who might read this who think that feathered dinos are a bunch of evolutionary lies. I seriously doubt it, and I'm not sure where the animosity towards feathered dinos comes from. If God wanted to make feathered dinosaurs, what's the big deal? They're no more absurd than egg-laying mammals.

In any event, this was the sentence in the abstract that grabbed my attention:
This morphotype is congruent with the stage I morphology predicted by developmental models, and all major predicted morphotypes have now been documented in the fossil record.

The "developmental model" they referenced was outlined in a paper by Richard Prum, "Developmen…

Just what IS a species, anyway?

The title of this post might suggest to you that I'm about to launch into a philosophical discussion of species concepts. That's an interesting topic but not exactly what I have in mind. Even Darwin didn't know what a species was, and he identified dozens and dozens of barnacle species (but he missed the pink iguana [PNAS][photo]). In Origin, he just settled for saying that naturalists knew what they meant when they used the term. Historically, there's kind of two ways that people have thought about species. On the one hand, the experiments of Francesco Redi really focused attention on the idea that species are reproductively defined. On the other, Linnaeus' work emphasized the idea of immutable units of creation. Obviously, the modern biological species concept follows the reproductive idea, and Linnaeus' idea of species fixity has been all but abandoned (even by me).

Baramins throw a monkey wrench into questions of species. If, as I believe, baramins a…

Spring 2009 journal club schedule posted

For you locals reading, I just posted the schedule for the spring 2009 journal club at the CORE website. In case you've never heard of a journal club, Wikipedia (the recognized authority in all such matters) defines it as "a group of individuals who meet regularly to critically evaluate recent articles in scientific literature." We discuss more than just science, and we also present original research. I thought the last couple semesters of journal club were getting a little too philosophical/theological, so I tried to make this one extra science-y. I also twisted a few arms to get some new faces presenting, so that should be fun too (I like to share the joy of presenting at journal club). Bryan students, remember that you can attend journal club for credit as BIO 319 Current Literature in Origins Research, which is repeatable up to three times for credit for your origins minor.

You'll also notice I'll be summarizing my new monograph Animal and Plant Baramins, …

Tennessee Snowflakes

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Check it out! It was snowing this morning in Tennessee of all places (where it was a mildly chilly 21°F). Of course, I had to document the occasion:



What does this have to do with creation? I don't know, but it sure is pretty.

(In case you're curious, that's about the extent of the snowfall: six flakes.)

From the Library: The New Diluvialism

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For those just joining us, "From the Library" spotlights interesting items in the library of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College.

On December 5, 1940, a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Seventh-day Adventist science teacher and self-styled geologist George McCready Price dashed off an angry letter to fellow Adventist science teacher Harold W. Clark. Price had heard from a mutual friend that Clark had stopped using Price's book The New Geology in his classes at Pacific Union College. Price wrote,

...if you think that I am going to keep quiet when I see dangerous doctrines taught among Adventists, you have another guess coming.... I am simply asking you as a brother, and as an honest man, to tell me in some detail the grounds for your charge that my New Geology is "entirely inadequate in its handling of its problems." And until you do this, I intend to press my charges that you have been making statements about this book which you are afraid …

Frank's Lament

My post on Thursday must have struck a nerve, because I got a couple of email responses (which is more than the complete silence I usually get). Not surprisingly, other creationists have also been accused of being evolutionists. After reading these emails, I was reminded of a document in the Price papers [PDF] at the Center for Adventist Research at Andrews University. It was written in 1943 by Frank Lewis Marsh. At the time, Marsh was working on the manuscript of Evolution, Creation, and Science (originally published in 1944), and he'd sent the manuscript to members of the Deluge Geology Society for comment. The document to which I refer is titled "Confessions of a Biologist" and contains Marsh's response to the criticisms of his work. I thought you might get a kick out of reading it, so here's an excerpt:

Each of us has his personal opinion of the relationship between the present-day groups of organisms and the first forms of life to appear upon this earth…

I'm an evolutionist? I wish someone had told me

I finally sat down the other day to read the new Darwin issue of Answers magazine, and I noticed in the letters to the editor that someone (maybe more than one someone) wrote in to complain that my horse article from the previous issue was promoting evolution. I’ve been thinking about this a few days now, trying to think of a response.

It’s not like I’ve never heard this before. I once had someone take me aside at a creationist conference to tell me that I accept "too much evolution." He was totally serious, like he was trying to get me to repent of some sin. On the one hand, the absurdity of it makes me laugh. If I’m an evolutionist, I’m easily the stupidest evolutionist ever. On the other hand, I think it’s really sad that people can’t figure out the difference between legitimate scientific inquiry and religious indoctrination.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, trying to come up with a response. I thought I might explain again the various ways of…

Revolution clarification

AIG has posted my article "The Evolution of a Revolution" from the latest issue of Answers magazine. In it, I try to explain the cultural context whereby evolution became the dominant belief about the origin of species.

One thing I want to clarify is the claim that the church was effectively "asleep" by the time Darwin came along. By this, I meant that the church had already given away to science the authority to interpret scripture, by the doctrine of accommodation. Up to the time of Darwin, though, few (except maybe the scriptural geologists) perceived any threat to the traditional Christian doctrines. When Darwin published Origin, he omitted explicit reference to the evolution of humans, but people figured it out anyway. Making humans just an advanced ape was the major religious objection to evolution (for example, it was the motivation behind William Jennings Bryan's antievolution campaign). Reading antievolutionary works, I get the sense that people w…

A matter of life and death

I believe that one of the hallmarks of a young-age creationist is the belief that the punishment for Adam's sin was physical death for humans and animals. This isn't explicitly taught in the oracle of the Curse in Genesis 3, but it can be inferred from a number of passages (esp. in Isaiah and Revelation). This causes no end of snide (and frankly bizarre) comments about death before the Fall. Just last year I was at a conference where someone gave eating vegetables as a counterexample to "no death before the Fall." After all, plants are alive, right? Clearly, these people are not paying attention.

The standard creationist position is that plants in biblical terms are not alive and cannot be described as truly dead. The "no pre-Fall death" position we hold to only applies to animals and humans. So a year ago, when my Bryan colleague Doug Kennard asked me what I'd like to hear about at BSG, I requested a discussion of the Hebrew concepts of life and …

Genesis Kinds Again

Happy 2009! Just in time for the new year, here's a sneak peak at the upcoming Genesis Kinds: Creationism and the Origin of Species. It's the introduction to the book that will accompany the conference.

The Real Debate over Creationism and Species, by Todd Charles Wood and Paul A. Garner

If you were thinking about attending the conference at High Leigh in Hoddesdon, England, you need to register soon. Space is limited, and the rooms are going fast. The registration costs includes two nights accommodation at High Leigh, meals from Wednesday dinner to Friday breakfast, all the conference presentations, a copy of the book Genesis Kinds: Creationism and the Origin of Species, and a walking tour of Darwin's Cambridge on Friday. It will be a really great conference, and you can register by post at Biblical Creation Ministries or online at the BSG website. See the conference website for more information, or send me an email if you have any questions.

Hope to see you there!