There is no scientific controversy over evolution...

... but there is a political controversy, and a religious controversy.

What brought this on? Well, as a couple of previous posts have intimated, Sydney Atheists popped on up to Toongabbie Anglican Church over the weekend. During the discussion afterwards, I was chatting with a member of the congregation, I believe one of the pastors. Sorry dude, forgot your name, but you'll soon know who you are.

The conversation, paraphrased, went something like this. I'm 'J', Mr Christian is 'X'

X: But evolution is just a theory, right?
J: You're misunderstanding the word "theory". It does not mean the same as "hypothesis".
X: But there is a scientific controversy, right?
J: No, there is no controversy in the scientific community
X: But there are reputable, non-religious scientists who publicly doubt evolution.
J: Yes. There are about two.
X: Obviously you're biased. Anybody with your bias would see it that way
J: [Facepalm]

And so on it went, careening off the sanity highway and into the underbrush of nutbaggery. I hadn't really expected to run into such clear creationist talking points in Toongabbie, though with hindsight perhaps that was excessive optimism.

Let me expand on my responses, because while they may sound flippant, they are actually pretty much factual, allowing for a litle conversational latitude.

The conflation of 'theory' with 'hypothesis' is a well-known gambit among creationists, and it exploits one of the common-usage definitions of the word 'theory'. Trouble is, when a scientist uses the word theory, he/she actually means a well-supported framework of explanations for observed phenomena. The theory of evolution, or more accurately, the modern evolutionary synthesis, is as close to a fact as the theory of gravity and the theory of plate tectonics.  It's been very very well tested and has not yet fallen over. I don't expect it to fall over, though I expect details to be refined.

So is there a scientific controversy?

Frankly no. As I mentioned earier, there's a political and religious controversy. The vast, overwhelming majority of scientists working in biological sciences accept the modern evolutionary synthesis. They simply would not be able to produce useful work without it, as it underpins so much of modern biology, especially in microbiology, where evolution by selection can be directly observed, and in molecular biology, where some of the most exciting advances in genetics are being made.

In other sciences, where evolution is less relevant, there is a higher proportion of dissenting scientists, notably among engineering disciplines, where design is at the forefront. This is not surprising give that these are design-oriented people, but the proportion that question evolution is still not a high proportion. It's vanishingly small, perhaps in the order of a percentage point at most. This is generally where the "reputable non-religious scientists" referred to above are drawn from. Think tanks such as the Discovery Institute salivate openly over these scientists, because they are a source of scientific credibility and authority, while at the same time being entirely clueless over the actual facts of the modern biological synthesis.

Bias? Sure. I'm biased towards the scientific explanations, and I will absolutely hold up my hand and say it.

Thing is, reality also has a notable pro-evolution bias. Honest, rigorous observation shows that evolution is a fact.

So don't deliberately tell me that there's a scientific controversy about evolution. Because I will take your talking points apart, piece by piece, until you look even more stupid than you already do.

Now, I don't expect you to just believe me outright. I also don't expect to be able to convince you with hyperlinks, which you'll notice are quite thin on the ground in this post. This is a choice I've made deliberately, because I don't expect you to trust a hyperlink handed to you on a plate by an avowed darwinist such as myself.

The deal is this: Lie about evolution in my presence again and you will be taken to fucking tiny pieces, either verbally or in hypertext. Do some research, and not at the Discovery Institute's website. Try science, because science is the best authority on the subject of science. Do not be taken in by the warmed-over creationism called "intelligent design". Do not trust what ministers tell you on the subject of biology, do not trust what engineers or neurosurgeons tell you on biology, and especially don't trust Casey Luskin. On anything.

That is all.

Response to David @ Toongabbie Anglicans

I've been trying, for quite some time now, to post this response on Toongabbie Anglican's website. All I got was fucking fail:

 I'm a bit fucking annoyed about this. Still, I saved the comment and can post it here. Original thread HERE.

Hi David,

I can understand why you’d feel a little intimidated at the thought of entering a pub full of atheists. After all, you may interrupt us while we’re eating babies and plotting our next shopping mall rampage. Obviously we couldn’t let you out alive if that happened.

Note: that is a joke.

Anyway, as for discussion with Sydney Atheists as a group and with individuals:

We have an official blog at as well as other channels of group communication.

Dave the Happy Singer blogs at

Alan and Rachel blog at which is also the official seed point for the podcast of the same name

I personally blog at

From those you should be able to engage quite nicely.

Be warned, my blog is my own personal space for rants and raging. I pull no punches and I often employ a scorched earth methodology. Bring a very thick skin and a sense of humour if you want to go there. It’s not the shallow end, and there are no lifeguards. If you meet me in person, I am, for the most part, polite and civil. I’m not a psychotic maniac, but I play one on the internet.

I can give you my take on the four standard arguments pretty quickly: All four ‘arguments’ fall down if examined openly.

Ontological: These tend to be self-supporting, and not in a good way. All could be equally applied to Unicorns, Leprechauns or Gremlins. No evidence is offered, just self-contained logic. Easily dismissed.

Cosmological: Sorry, just because the universe is large and complex, doesn’t mean a god automatically exists. Science has good naturalistic explanations which do not involve gods, though you can maybe have the period before one Planck time after the big bang, where we can’t reliably apply strong theories. That’s the time it takes light to travel the Planck Length, or 1.6*10^-35 metres. It’s very, very small.

What happened during that first planck time, we cannot currently say. After that, there is no evidence for or requiring a god or gods. So you can have a maybe there was a god and maybe he/she/it did something during the first planck time.

We reserve the right, as science does, to revise the previous paragraph based on further scientific observation.

From Design: It’s kinda natural for humans to assume organised complexity must arise from a designer, but these arguments fall foul of recursion (if everything needs a designer, then who designed god?) and observable reality. We have many examples of self-organisation and ‘reversal of entropy’ within nature (starting with the most basic, simple crystals) and strong frameworks to explain the observable universe (See also cosmological arguments), none of which require an extraneous designer.

Incidentally, I have a blog post in draft at the moment about a prominently reported “letter of support” signed by scientists who doubt evolution. The letter in question was overwhelmingly from Engineering scientists, who specialise in human design, and are predisposed to seeing design even where it may not exist. Active biological scientists are conspicuous by their scarcity on the list, and those that are on the list are conspicuous by their lack of substantive recent work.

Moral Law: Again, science has very good explanations of how morality arose, some of which I tried to introduce on Sunday, though I’m not sure the format was good for this explanation. Suffice to say morality arises naturally in social creatures via selective pressure, and our particular forms of morality have a number of very good explanations, none of which include god or gods.

I’m particularly fond of the “intentional stance” theories outlined by Daniel Dennett et. al., if you want to know more, search wikipedia for “intentional stance”

Right now, on this planet, we are the creatures with the most complex society, but it’s not hard to draw observational parallels with behaviour in other social creatures, going downwards from Chimps and Bonobos through the entire gamut of primates, past wolves, bovines such as cows, oxen and deer, ovines such as wild sheep and goats and all the way ‘down’ to formicidae, apoidea and other cooperative species.

These are pretty darn good theories, and by theories, I do not mean hypotheses. One of your number tried the “evolution is just a theory” gambit on Sunday, and he’s about to be speared on the trident of my blog.

In summary

This a very quick throwaway rundown on my view of the four classical arguments. There is much more to be said, others may have more to add, and a blog comment is probably not the right place, but, in essence, classical arguments FAIL, badly.

I’m cross-posting this response at my blog, btw, just in case.

So, I did post this to my blog, and I'm posting a link back to the Toongabbie Anglicans. FFS, L2 blog, christards.

BTW, no fucking whining. I warned you earlier that this is not the shallow end. Comments whining about civility get burned.



Monday Musical Madness: Even more Ukulele

Bitches don't know about Uke tech

Toongabbie Anglican: nice people, still wrong

A contingent of Sydney Atheists ran a little sidequest this evening, off to Toongabbie Anglican church in Sydney, where the specialised subject was: "Tough Questions: Does God Exist"

Firstly, this is not a tough question, though I will admit some people have trouble.

Secondly, well, nothing in the sermon added substantively to existing knowledge, which while not entirely unexpected, was slightly disappointing.

We did, however, get a new argument for the existence for god.

It goes like this, and forgive me if I'm misremembering. If you're annoyed about this, L2 read my title bar.

So a christian sits down with an atheist and over lunch they discuss the existence of god.

"So", says the atheist, "have you ever seen god?"

"no", says the christian.

"Have you ever smelt god?"

"no", says the christian.

"So how do you know he exists?"

Well, says the christian, have you ever seen your own brain? Have you ever smelt your own brain?

And that's it. The argument from the inability to smell one's own brain. WIN.

This is awesome.

Things they did right (this is a short list)

  • Immediately dismissing the Ontological and Cosmological Arguments outright, along with the argments from Design and Moral Law. The pastor at the dais at least has this under control.
  • Not immediately burning the atheist interlopers at the stake

err.... that's about it. Teleology still loomed large, despite the argument from design having already been dismissed piecemeal.

The sermon focused, apparently, on John 1: 1-18, which for some reason, always reminds me of this:

The failure is still coming folks, don't let the uke distract you. Looming large within the sermon was Psalms 14 verse 1. Against my usual practice, I shall actually post the text of this fucker, because this is good:

14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

You hear that, assholes? You atheists are all fools! Hahahahaha!

5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

[emphasis mine]

Oh, wait! Shite! I just called atheists fools, and whoever shall say "thou fool" is in danger of hellfire! Stick a fork in me, Jesus, I'm done!

Cans't thou say, PETARD*?

Also, a fool hath said in his heart "there is no god"; The wise man hath said it out loud.

Cluedo also featured in the sermon, which was moderately unxpected, since I myself am a proponent of the Argument From Sherlock as a rebuttal to scriptural arguments. Allow me to digress and explain this.

Sherlock Holmes clearly existed, and was clearly something more than the common man. We have a long series of stories told by a close confidant of Sherlock. These stories tell of Sherlock's amazing adventures in apprehending criminals, in essence solving problems of sin, during the late Victorian era, over 100 years ago.

Sherlock died, tragically, by falling over the Riechenbach falls, as Watson reports.

Yet Holmes reappeared shortly afterwards; resurrected, one may say, and was met by Watson who at first did not recognise him.

Holmes often astonished those around him. Some may say in a miraculous manner. We have documentary evidence of the existence of Holmes, written by eyewitnesses. Better still, we have a museum, in the very house Holmes used as his spiritual home.

The only downside is that Holmes was entirely fictional.

Those readers who know me will know what comparison I'm drawing here

Anyway, back to Toongabbie. Having spread fallacy all over the building, we moved on to more singing, which incidentally must be a massive moneyspinner for certain publishing companies. Every song sung had a prominent copyright notice at the foot of the lyrical powerpoint presentation. This is a subject for a later blog.

After the singing and praying, we moved on to a prayer, delivered by the bass player of the church band.

Now, I'm a bass player myself. Admittedly not exactly a hard-working gigging, kinda Guy Pratt sorta Victor Wooten sorta awesome all-styles all-day kinda bass player, but nonetheless a bass player. I would have gone insane playing the root-note garbage this pooor man was cheat-sheeting all evening, and clearly that's what happened.

You see, our friend had no idea there were atheists in the room

I'm sure if he'd known, he would have hurriedly re-written the prayer for the night, which can be summarised thusly:

Oh, those atheists. They don't believe in you, and they're so arrogant because they think they know a thing or two about a thing or two. Baaaaw. Oh please god, fix them. Oh, and fix us because we're sinners. But mostly fix the atheists, because they're all bad, like that Richard Dawkins fellow, you know, the one who is always eating babies and murdering people in shopping centres and generally being all nasty and mean. Baaaaaw.

At which point, it was all pretty much over and we, in essence, took off our masks and revealed ourselves.

Or, more specifically, got asked about our opinions, and were honest.

You see, no-one had asked us anything, up to that point, which may have outed us.

So, conversation ensued. Some highlights:

  • Do you feel angry about the 2004 Tsunami? (answer: no. Being angry at plate tectonics is not productive. L2 ask questions)
  • What if the Tsunami did good for society? Would you then still be indifferent about causes? (see above)
  • And my particular favourite, for which I shall break out of bullets. Regarding the Bible's reliability and historicity, isn't it amazing that all the gospels are so consistent with each other?
Errrrr.... no.

Don't invite an atheist, who is packing an annotated bible, to agree with you on the consistency of the gospels

I give you Matthew 28, concerning the discovery of Jesus's empty tomb:

28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

Then I give you Luke 24

24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
24:2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

OK, so. First up. How many women turned up?
  • Matthew says just the two. Mary Magdalene, and "the other Mary". Fine, whatever.
  • Luke refers to "the women who came from Galilee" from an earlier passage, and "certain others with them". And that's just two of the four gospels.
  • Mark mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome.
  • John Says it was JUST Mary Magdalene.
Can these guys not get it together?
  • Worse, Matthew mentions an earthquake, and angel, a moving back of the stone, and a smug fucking stting-on-the-big-heavy-stone moment while the women watched.
  • John says the stone was already moved by agencies unknown and there was nothing in there.
  • Luke says the tomb was already open, and two dudes in shining clothes were hanging about there.
  • Mark says the stone was moved, and one mysterious dude was there, ready to impart a bit of info.
I mean, fuck. Can these guys really not agree? Honestly? This, you would think, is relatively important.

OK, fair enough. If you lock me and three of my friends into separate rooms and ask us to retell the story of Cinderella, I'm sure we'll differ in some elements, but let's face it, none of us are willing to base our entire lives on Cinderella.

Seriously, L2 consistency.

And please, do not claim that the writers of the four gospels were direct eyewitnesses to the events concerned and at the same time didn't know each other. I mean, please. Do I have to expand on this? Honestly?

Anyway, there was some relatively good discussion, once you get past the swimming-in-treacle aspect of getting past the logical fallacies. Toongabbie Anglicans are nice people, but fundamentally they're on the other side of the barrier between belief and disbelief and it's a hard barrier to cross.

I got prayed for by a rather pleasant young lady who is getting married in a few weeks. I wish her luck, and I'll be sure to let you know as and when the personal revelation shows up. You're not the first to pray for me though, sorry.

And for the guys that somehow tried to imply that we'd somehow blame someone for tsunamis? L2 nature. And L2 talk to atheists. Stop anthropomorphising nature and look up the Intentional Stance, which I introduced you to earlier. You might see where you're misfiring in your view of reality.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, hopefully next time we'll have some more substantive discussion, and maybe you'll be less insulting in your closing prayers.

Or maybe not

Maybe, it's just possible you'll come up with some better proofs, and maybe you'll convince us all with some solid evidence rather than re-hashes of prior arguments, logical fallacies and misplaced intentional stance evaluation

Or maybe not


p.s. Dear friends, it's late. Please check my grammar, spelling and general fail levels, and post corrections in comments

* It's only two letters from retard, so it's not that difficult.
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