Systematic Selection Bias

An eternal theme in evolution is the act of favoring your own in group. Primarily, this is your family, of course — but your sphere extends beyond your closest members to your friends, and those who share your outlook and/or genes. There are many interesting neurological relationships between who you view as part of your community and who you view as part of the group known colloquially as “others”. This is important.

Selection Bias itself refers to choosing people for a poll or experiment that will yield the desired results. An egregious example of this would be polling a group of white males with the question “Do you think race tensions are a problem in modern day America?”

Surely, some will say it is still an issue, but your answer will be massively skewed in one direction. I would say there are more subtle ways to implement an intentional selection bias while hiding the fact (of course there are), but that isn’t the point of this particular post. This post is pointing out intentional selection bias that is not only NOT hidden, but positively heralded. YEC selection bias in action is almost hilarious in its transparency.

The funny thing is by engaging so thoroughly in systematic selection bias, people outside of their group hardly realize it is happening, like a meeting happening in the sound proof room next door. They could be working towards dark purpose, but without someone actually going into the room, you’d never know. Lucky for us, the room is open!

YEC is the perfect case study for selection bias; their ideas fly in the face of accepted science, and yet, as I have so frequently quoted “At Liberty University we are doing better science than any secular university, because we are Liberty University. Liberty University.” They obviously make claims towards scientific knowledge, and herald to the skies that their scientists, too, publish to peer reviewed journals! They have set up an obstacle course of excuses that I get nothing but pleasure from running.

Let’s take a couple of examples from my very favorite YECs, the staff at the Creation Today show. They have a 4 episode series titled The Origin of Life, which is rich with content, densely packed and well organized in such a way as to give me a point by point series of data to play with. Really, I won’t lie, I am glad they published something that can so easily be played with. I have been passively researching the YEC theories and their evolutionary counterparts for years, over thousands of pages of text and hundreds of hours of videos — there was no way for me, a layperson at best, to compile it all into bite sized chunks. (The entire series is available for free. Episode one is located here: http://creationtoday.org/the-origin-of-life-part-1-s03e09/ )

The first topic they tackle is “Dinosaurs walking with humans.” Their … Well, I hesitate to call it evidence. In court, in a legal trial, the judge would look at you funny if you tried to present accounts written hundreds of years ago whose veracity cannot be ascertained as binding evidence, but here we go.

The evidence they supply that humans walked with dinosaurs is the prevalence of literature and artwork presenting dragons. Dragons, in contemporary lore, are large reptiles. This is, obviously, very descriptive. Why, I could practically draw the biological diagrams of how their internal organs worked with this knowledge!

Alright, enough of the mocking, let’s move on to some of what they present. First is a bronze cast statue of a dragon that comes from ancient China. Here is where selection bias comes in; for verification they send this statue to a very careful researcher! Well, that doesn’t sound so bad… Except for the fact that the researcher they sent the bronze statue to is a fellow YEC who has written a book about dinosaurs walking with humans. And here’s the thing; the guy who put forth the idea that the bronze cast is proof of dinosaurs walking with humans runs his own website (genesispark.com) which is a YEC apologetics site (and obvious parody of Jurassic Park, if you missed the subtle reference). So we have a YEC asking for verification from another YEC. That’s a great peer review process!

Another major form of bias in YEC science their reliance on what they can see today. This is very, very visible when speaking with or to YEC geologists. The Grand Canyon is a major point of concern for YECs, as the standard understanding of its formation is that of millions of years of river water flowing through the canyon and carving the deep chasm. The YEC view cannot, obviously, suffer the idea of “millions of years”, so they have to come up with something of their own. In one episode (again, my favorite guys!) of Creation Today, they perform an experiment wherein a wall of sand is created, and water is run at high pressures against it. Lo! Behold, for a narrow canyon was carved through the wall of sand! Grand Canyon confirmed, the flood water went through and made it in a month or two! Of course, only YEC scientists seem to be able to prove this, so they always send their “research” to other YECs for peer review. Technically, I suppose, those scientists would find something closer to a “peer” in that group, but that is kind of crippling the spirit of science, if not the word of the law.

Another interesting thing done is how they judge “real” science, through a type of article analysis they call “Fuzzy Word Analysis.” (Does it not worry anyone else that their version of science can be reduced to the acronym “FWA” which is the sound I make when I don’t even understand the idea of what a person is telling me? Maybe just me.) Now, Fuzzy Word Analysis in practice is to take popular science articles, and highlight anything that isn’t definite (Things like “It is believed,” or “It seems,” or anything that isn’t “This is exactly how it happened.”). The vacuousness of this approach to science is, again, tough to capture in only a few words. First, why would you target popular science articles? They are the lowest common denominator of science. It is like they believe by going after journalists, they are discrediting scientists. The other reason it is vacuous is that it is very difficult to prove with p>0.0000000 (apparently that is their standard) anything that has happened say billions of years ago. The other thing in science, though, is that you almost want to be proven wrong, or rather, and more explicitly, science continues forth by people making their theories public, and they stand until they can be proven wrong empirically. A fuzzy word is an invitation to be proven wrong; science has pride, but by definition it is not arrogant. A scientist may fight against evidence in defense of a theory, but you will fall if you do not have something to stand on.

Let’s continue onto a systematic attack on science that shows a level of either ignorance or disingenuity that baffles the mind. From just a SINGLE episode of “The Origins of Life” by creation today, these are some quotes that I managed to glean; they “blend frogs in a blender” (they do this off screen, so one assumes they did not do so, what with the fact that there are very few people so morally barren as to kill so indiscriminately), but that’s not the point. The point is what they said afterwards: “We have all of the molecules of life in this blender, and we keep adding energy, but I do not see life. That really proves that you can’t get life from random molecules and energy.” (Emphasis mine)

“If you have some evidence that does not fit a theory, you throw it out. They’ve (evolutionists) invested so much intellectual capital in the model of evolution that they cannot throw it away.

“We will talk about the origins of life in the coming weeks knowing all along that we’ve got the right answer.

Oh, where to start? First, performing one completely flawed, scientifically invalid “experiment” and passing that off as factual just seems silly. I know they are more intelligent than that, but the idea that they would say “This proves,” in this context at all shows intellectual dishonesty that is frightening to behold.

They have made numerous accusations that biologists are painting a moving target of evolution, despite (again) accusing them of sticking to a single theory. The theory of evolution is living and breathing; many pieces of the puzzle are locked in, but many have yet to be placed. Biologists are accused simultaneously of being too open minded and too closed minded. The theory is regenerated, changed, and fixed based on new evidence constantly; that is science in a nutshell. We understand more every day, and that is wonderful; if we knew everything (as YECs often profess they do), the world would be devoid of wonder.

They argue that “The Earth had less oxygen in the early stages of its formation” is a presupposition made without evidence (there is tons of evidence, of course, based on mineral analysis, and in more recent years (still going back hundreds of thousands of years) in analysis of ice cores taken from Antarctica)), then, only a SINGLE BREATH later, say “… [K]nowing all along that we already know the answer.” I am open to them making statements, but I would like it if they would at least be even handed enough to play by the very rules they laid out. Science is, if nothing else, internally consistent.

Now, this next bit is not as egregious (though it does offend me personally as much as the rest), but it certainly is a brush stroke on the same canvas. Science does not yet profess to know how life formed; we have theories and models, ideas and guesses that fits the current evidence, but it is not satisfactory. We are building a puzzle with some pieces missing, and then being asked (by scientists) and told (at gunpoint) (by YECs) that we must STAND AND DELIVER! “You have half the puzzle pieces! That is plenty enough to draw the whole picture!!!”

“Oh, you don’t know what the full picture looks like now?” we are asked, indignantly. “THEN YOU WILL NEVER KNOW!” After this outburst, they often run off cackling before we (that is to say, the scientific community, both the professionals and laypeople) have a chance to rebut.

I’ve mentioned in the past the YEC tendency to attack a single idea or person (sometimes going as low as to just make fun of the person) in the effort to discredit the scientific community as a whole. In “The Origin of Life” series, they continue that revered tradition. Panspermia, an outside idea that does not in any way represent a scientific consensus, is the idea that life on Earth began outside of our own atmosphere. (The cores of the idea rely on either an external body impacting Earth with proteins that could have kick-started life, or in aliens seeding the planet intentionally.) The problem is that, while panspermia has some very strong underpinnings (molecules that could represent precursors to life have been found on meteorites under close observation, though anyone will admit that it could be a case of contamination), it is young and very open to changes based on ongoing evidence and research.

In the second episode of the “Origin of Life” series, they speak about (not using these words, but using this idea) cognitive dissonance in science. They say that since scientists (who are all of one mind obviously) sometimes disagree with each other, that means that God created the Earth, life, and all that is in the Heavens. It is odd to throw that stone, given all that is written in the Bible (Am I supposed to follow Mosaic law or not? Matthew 5:17-18 illustrates Jesus himself saying that he has not come to abolish the law, and not even one letter of the law shall be removed until he comes again [ie: Follow Mosaic Law]. Alternately, Galatians 3:13 states that Jesus freed us from “the curse of the law.” [ie: Do not follow Mosaic Law]. Worth noting, of course, is the wording; Paul accuses (indirectly) God of CURSING us with the law.). The dissonance in the Bible is staggering, and which of the opposing sides of the coin you choose says a lot about you as a person.

The point of this whole post is this; if you talk only to people who already agree with you, it will be difficult for you to ever understand where you are flawed. To that end, I read and watch YEC literature, and scientific literature in equal measure. I will not lie, their telling me that science is flawed has led me to a much deeper understanding of evolution, as I go out to learn and educate myself about what they have said. I will not lie, it could be said that I am biased in this regard; the previous sentence read (in revision 1) “… as I go out to prove them wrong,” but that is not really correct, is it? If science agrees with them, as it does occasionally, then I have still learned something new and deepened my understanding.

Don’t just listen to people who agree with you before the race even starts. Try to reach out and understand the world around you, do not apply your ideas to it, let nature apply her ideas to you. Or if, as me, you are not close to one with nature, let scientists do it for you. Maybe not 100% as effective, but I find enjoyment in it. .

As a final postscript, is it odd that the idea of social community (absolutely integral in evolution) is shown so strongly (almost militantly) by the YEC culture? One might find that ironic, I think.

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