30 Jun 2013

Jason Lisle on CNN

Religious 101 Comments

Jason Lisle, a PhD astrophysicist who now works for the Institute for Creation Research, appeared on CNN after Dr. Paul Broun Jr. (R-Georgia) got in trouble for saying the secular theory of evolution he learned in medical school was “lies straight from the pit of hell.” In this blog post, Lisle walks through how biased the CNN story was in its treatment. Needless to say, Lisle doesn’t view himself as advancing “faith” as opposed to “reason” or “science.”

101 Responses to “Jason Lisle on CNN”

  1. Silas Barta says:

    Broun hasn’t denounced any scientific theories. He has merely denounced unscientific conjectures – evolution and the big bang.

    Wha …?

  2. Yosef says:

    Lisle may not view himself as advancing “faith” as opposed to “reason” or “sciene” but that doesn’t mean it is not what he is doing.

    Lisle writes “We believe that 6,000 years is a better estimate [for the age of the Earth]” Per wiki, the earth is about 4.5 Billion years old (simply as a convenient source that Bob as cited before): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Earth

    By way of analogy, I could write “Paul Krugman, a PhD economist who now works at Princeton University, in his blog post walks through how biased Free Advice is in its treatment of economic events. Needless to say, Krugman does not view himself as advancing “statism” as opposed to “reason” or “science”.” How Lisle or Krugman, or anyone, views themselves (or the credentials in their field of study) doesn’t matter. What matters is what they are actually doing.

  3. Travis says:

    Very sad to see indeed. And I mean Lisle’s blog post. As one who was raised in a traditional, evangelical church and school, I am very familiar with Lisle’s arguments against evolution, and that kind of “research” is one of the major reasons behind the de-evangelization of the West. Many of my old friends are no longer Christians because they learned that the “science” we were taught in school is largely contrived to back up a specific reading of the Bible. It infuriates me to no end that people think that Lisle’s view is the only legitimate Christian view of scripture and relationship between faith and science. Lisle, and others like him, are forcing people – especially young people – to choose between the best scientific knowledge available, and faith (or rather, a particular reading of the Bible). This is a tragedy that has left the Light of the Gospel virtually extinguished in Europe, and steadily fading in North America.

    Lisle can arrogantly try to smear the bulk of scientists as “unscientific” all he likes, but the issue is settled in the scientific community at large – the earth is billions of years old and humans evolved over millions of years. The real problem is an epistemological one, or maybe I should say it’s a problem of authority. Evangelicals like Lisle take a literal view of scripture, because they are fundamentalists who hold to the doctrine of sola scriptura. And this is not the only view of scripture out there amongst Christians, no matter how much Lisle would deny it. For Lisle and most mainstream evangelicals, if sola scriptura and a literal reading of scripture become compromised, their whole system of theology is shot. The game would be over. For some, they would have to admit that the Reformation was a mistake and go home to Rome. Many others would lose their faith altogether, because their “faith” is not really faith at all – it’s a belief in certain facts, based off of an idolatrous view of the Bible (and don’t you dare challenge them on it, either….)

    This conflict between science and religion is not necessary. As an Orthodox Christian, I understand that faith is an orientation of the heart towards God, and have no problem accepting evolution as scientific fact because Orthodox theology is existential and can deal with advances in scientific knowledge in a creative way, instead of dogmatizing ignorance and a false model of reality. For more on the supposed conflict between faith and science, I highly recommend looking up Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Orthodox Church in Canada (who is trained as a physicist, by the way), who has a great channel on YouTube with some excellent lectures and spiritual talks.

    • Drigan says:

      Agreed. The entire reason that the Catholic Church created the scientific method was as a way to learn more about God . . . it’s not as if Faith and Science even *can* contradict each other. Why do people keep trying to use this false dichotomy?

      On the other hand, technically he *is* right that evolution is just a theory, as is the big bang. It really would be good for people to keep in mind that science cannot *prove* a theory, it can only propose them and wait for contradicting evidence . . . which, in the case of these two theories is likely going to be a *very* long time coming.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Travis and Drigan:

        Does it even matter to you guys that literally the current post at Lisle’s blog right now is this?

        • Ken B says:

          “Yes, we can learn new truths about things outside the Bible, mathematical truths, facts about ducks, or quasars. But the only reason we can know these things is because our mind and our senses have been designed by God to interface with the universe in a way that is truthful. If our mind and senses were just the result of chance mutations that conveyed survival value, there would be no reason to think we could ever know the truth about anything!”

          God couldn’t have created minds incapable of finding the truth, or with innate irremediable flaws? (One revealed religion — Islam — actually claims God did just that, created some men and blinded them to the truth so that they could be damned.)

          • Ken B says:

            “Yes, we can things things like the Bible, ducks, or jello moulds.
            But the only reason we can grasp these things is because
            our mind and our senses and ourt hands have been designed by God to be capable of that.
            If our mind and senses and our hands were just the result of chance mutations
            that conveyed survival value, there would be no reason to think we could ever
            know grasp anything!”

            • Ken B says:

              typo “grasp things” not “things things”

              The argument from design!

        • Travis says:

          This post is very similar to the one you initially linked to. Lisle is essentially saying, “I’m not being unscientific – you are!” He’s trying to re-frame the debate and I don’t think he and other evangelicals like him will be able to convince anyone. Here’s the main problem that I have with that post: making the claim that God created us with the capacity to learn about the universe and also saying that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God that is the ultimate authority on all aspects of life for all “real” Christians are two entirely different things. Lisle is attempting to flip the tables on the overwhelming majority of the scientific community in order to justify a particular, fundamentalist, literal reading of a poem at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and I can speak from firsthand experience that this is not going to end well for the evangelicals aligned with Lisle. As I mentioned before, I was raised learning the “science” that Lisle cites and many of my friends lost their faith entirely when they learned the real facts about evolution had been distorted in our middle school and high school classrooms. As it turns out, they weren’t classrooms – they were indoctrination centers.

  4. Major_Freedom says:

    From the blogpost:

    “When speaking at a church several weeks ago, Dr. Broun pointed out that evolution isn’t true, and that the earth is young. He is right of course. The science certainly confirms biblical creation and a young earth, as we have repeatedly demonstrated.

    Are Dr. Braun and Dr. Lisle talking about the “science” they read on the back of cereal boxes? .

    • Ken B says:

      This is worrying MF. We are in agreement on two topics this week: this and the Landsburg multiplier stuff.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Since you and I in our evolved ape status are made of almost identical physical matter, it would perhaps be more worrisome that we never agreed on anything.

  5. Mark Flowers says:

    1. Mark Flowers is a true dedicated Christian but a non denominational and non church going Christian, a praying man upon his knees and he gives all credit to his survival to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as his savoir and protector of him and his loved ones. Mark has to continually break all curses in Jesus Christ’s name, sent by witch craft and the Satanic agenda.

    2. Mark Flowers is a fighter, a man that will never bow to any evil corruption, to DEATH.

    3. Mark Flowers has had the fatherhood of his children stolen by the masons / system / The Australian Government.

    4. Mark Flowers is a survivor of more than a decade of intense murderous Freemasonry Gang Stalking {a term he coined} and raised in the Federal Magistrates Court Parramatter Sydney Australia in 2009 & 2010 whilst defending his rights to father his children.

    5. Mark Flowers has had so many attempts on his life in the process of Freemasonry gangstalking that they are too numerous to list, most have been whilst driving in road traffic accident setups by gangstalkers . But all manner of threats have come against Mark Flowers, One time a sour mason wielding a hammer at Mark’s head got a lesson in respect and kicked off Mark’s property. The police always fail to follow such death threats against Mark Flowers.

    6. Mark Flowers has self-represented in some 60 appearances in the Federal Magistrates Court, the District Court and the Supreme Court in Australia and all with nil formal education, in fact Mark left school at 14 years and first job was in a lumber yard.

    7. Mark Flowers is a Father first, and a former children’s safety film producer, but the dogs of gangstalking were released on him for doing so. Mark has been fighting ever since and will never give in, as the eternity in spirit and fear of God through Christ Jesus motivates him to be fearless against evil.

    If I fall in this good fight it will be into the arms of my saviour Jesus Christ.

    Brother Mark


  6. Grant McDermott says:

    Bob, just to help with the context, how old do you think the earth is?

    • Dan Lind says:

      I’m afraid of the answer.

      If I’m right, Bob’s going to achieve significant standing as his life unfolds and overall I think this will be a good thing.

      This stuff is potential grist for enemies’ mills…… a la Paula Deen, RP’s newsletters, etc.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      He has been cagey on other stuff before… people have tried to pin him down on homosexuality, for example, and so far they’ve come up with nothing.

      I anticipate either no answer or an old Earth-intelligent-design answer. I highly doubt he’s a young Earth creationist but I could be wrong.

      • Ken B says:

        Ha! You think pinning him down on THIS is hard! Try getting a response on OLG!!!

  7. Tel says:

    Neither Evolution nor Creationism are evidence based. This is easy to demonstrate because no possible future scenario can ever be a counter example to either theory. Try to think of something that might have to happen in order to prove either Evolution or Creationism wrong.

    Suppose for example, people start growing two heads, the Evolutionists will just say, “well there you go, clearly a biological mutation has proven to be successful, and there’s Evolution in action, right in front of your eyes.”

    On the other hand, the Creationists will say, “God wanted it that way.”

    We do have plenty of examples of selective breeding inside closed, controlled systems, and we have evidence that the person controlling the system can drive the breeding outcome in one direction or another. However, the Creationists just point out that’s evidence for design imposed from above… and it is when you think about it. Who is to say that God does not run selective breeding experiments on Earth? What evidence would disprove this?

    In a nutshell, the only thing useful is the ability to make predictions about the future. Explanations about the past are comforting, but on their own, a waste of time.

    • Ken B says:

      “Try to think of something that might….prove … Evolution ….wrong.”

      A pre-Cambrian rabbit.

      We have been down this path before; that is Haldane’s example for those who care to google.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        A pre-Cambrian rabbit would not prove evolution wrong. It would simply force a reorganization of the historical story one hears in school. Just as the fact that all the standard evidence one learns in school that supposedly demonstrates its validity is false, much of it the result of hoaxes – and yet that doesn’t stop it from being taught.

        Further, the story of creation would also preclude a pre-Cambrian rabbit, according to the traditional interpretation. The Cambrian explosion is a difficult thing to explain for an evolutionary process that is supposedly to slowly change things over millions of years, not the story of creation ex nihilo according to the will of God.

        • Ken B says:

          Matt, you make Gene Callahan look like a fount of wisdom on science and evolution. You simply do not know what you are talking about.

          • Matt Tanous says:

            That is a very qualitative critique, and definitely points out my errors of reasoning. You evolutionists really know how to present an argument.

            Oh, wait, no. It wasn’t. It was a wordy version of “nuh-uh!”.

            Especially strange because I never said whether one or the other was TRUE, simply pointed out some facts relevant to the case. School textbooks contain “evidence” for evolution that has long since been discarded as false or based in incorrect information. And that a punctuated historical event is logically more easily explained by postulates – right or wrong – that refer to punctuated short-term events (or events that happen “at will”) rather than a theory that refers to gradual change over millions or billions of years.

      • Tel says:

        Can you show me from first principles how the theory of Evolution leads to a logical conclusion that rabbits must not exist at any particular stage in Earth’s history?

        I’m sure Haldane has never worked through such steps, he is merely concluding that since we have searched through a lot of fossils and some particular thing hasn’t been found, therefore it won’t be found. That’s not based on any theory of Evolution, that’s based on a theory that observations are generally consistent with earlier observations.

    • Ken B says:

      Debating evolution deniers is often fruitless as they often arge 1) Darwin was wrong and 2) it’s not falsifiable. Think about the conflict!

      Anyway two links



      • Matt Tanous says:

        1) Keynes was wrong. 2) The idea that Keynesian stimulus works is not falsifiable – it just wasn’t big enough this time.

        These two claims are both valid claims to make. Why is there a conflict from claiming both of these? I can logically argue that Keynes was wrong – that his logic and evidence are erroneous – and that his proposals that government spending will help recessions are not falsifiable hypotheses,

        Why is there a conflict in claiming both that Darwin was wrong, and that Darwinian evolution is not a falsifiable hypothesis? I can say that he is wrong because the evidence put forth does not convince me – particularly when I know so much of it is either (a) incorrect, as with the Miller-Urey experiments or (b) a hoax, as with the embryonic drawings. And I can definitely say it is not falsifiable, because one can always say, in response to “why don’t we see any changes?” that “you are expecting it to be more rapid than it is”. This is the common thing when adaptation and natural selection are confused with evolution (i.e. in the former case, the traits already existed within the species and just become more prominent, whereas evolution additionally requires a mechanism for the creation of new and improved traits and the development of new species).

        • Tel says:

          Keynes was wrong – that his logic and evidence are erroneous – and that his proposals that government spending will help recessions are not falsifiable hypotheses,

          With the logical conclusion that all macro economics is not falsifiable (not in an experimental sense) because we never have a control world to compare with.

          Essentially, to make progress in economics you need to lower the bar of empirical proof… and that’s pretty much what the biologists have done with Evolution as well. If the story seems OK and everyone can sing along, then we call that “proven”.

          I have a bit of a problem with the sloppiness in both cases, but we also have only one biological history to work from, and nothing to compare that with either, so Evolutionary biologists have decided to abandon control experiments as well.

      • Tel says:

        Survival of the fittest, and “fittest” is defined as meaning whatever survived. A pure tautology, it is guaranteed to be true.

        Darwin was wrong to the extent that a tautology has either explanatory or predictive power. Of course I believe evolution is true, but stated as it is above (and that’s the common way it is put) it has no useful purpose. You can usefully do other things with Evolution, expressing it in different ways, but you won’t find any of that by starting with the statements above.

        “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

        Where “could not possibly” requires full enumeration of all possible scenarios, and thus safely forever avoiding pinning down. Also useless.

        However, these structures have been exhaustively studied in the scientific literature, and scientists have demonstrated entirely plausible evolutionary pathways.

        Very few if any Evolutionary pathways have been “demonstrated” this is just bunk. Lots have been speculated on. Plausible really comes down to how you want to feel about it.

        Modern DNA sequencing technology has provided a rigorous test of evolution, far beyond the wildest dreams of Charles Darwin. In particular, comparison of DNA sequences between organisms can be used as a measure of relatedness, and can further be used to actually construct the most likely “family tree” hierarchical relationship between a set of organisms.

        Isn’t that totally assuming what you set out to prove, and then proving it with the original assumption? I agree that we can observe that DNA exists, and we can observe similarity within near relations, but that doesn’t prove a relatedness of all things. Where does “most likely” come from other than a presumption that we know the statistics on timescales of millions of years? How do we know those statistics? Who has been doing DNA analysis of every ancestor all the way back?

        Craig Venter builds time machines now?

        • Ken B says:

          “Survival of the fittest, and “fittest” is defined as meaning whatever survived.”

          Not even a good caricature of the Modern Synthesis.

          • Tel says:

            Which extra bits have they added?

  8. Ivan Jankovic says:

    If Garry Kasparov could believe that Cicero lived in the 12th century AD, and Homer in 9th AD, why would not Murphy believe that Earth is 6 000 years old? All great intellects think alike. 🙂

    • Ken B says:

      Wow, Garry Kasparov is an Austrian???

      I did not know that.


      • Ivan Jankovic says:

        What do Fomenko chronology and the Young Earth creationism have to do with Austrianism? On the contrary, creationism is much more in tune with leftist thinking because it cannot comprehend how something meaningful, namely life, can originate from a blind process of invisible hand. Creationism requires a celestial central planner to takes care of everything.

        • Ken B says:

          Note the smiley. Note that this is an Autrian site over run with creationists.

        • TheDjinn says:

          That is exactly it.

          One of the major tautological statements evolution makes can, as one poster put it, be phrased as “survival of the fittest, the fittest being defined as whomever survived”.

          One of the major concepts in Austrian economics is a similarly stated tautology: “people demonstrate preferences with purchases, preferences being defined as what people are willing to give up in exchange for what they get”.

          Both are a slightly sloppy strawman, but the reason why I don’t generally hold anti-Evolution and Free Market Economics as compatible ideologies is because anyone who rejects evolution on the grounds that it’s a meaningless tautology or can’t be falsified just damned the entirety of Economics, if not at least Austrian Economics. Both can be derived from rational first principals and “a priori” reasoning, and it’s hard to truly falsify either of the two because, as of now, we don’t have a lab to test theories with, nor a robust enough model that can be handed to a computer to simulate experiments, due to the complexity involved.

  9. Ken P says:

    The laryngeal nerve of the giraffe casts a lot of doubt on intelligent design.

  10. Bob Murphy says:

    I am vaguely familiar with the various lines of evidence which the vast majority of physical scientists would cite, to argue that the Earth is much older than 6,000 years. Lisle claims that he has (on his blog and in his more formal work) pointed out several problems with this consensus interpretation. No one in the comments here has even acknowledged his critiques, let alone linked to (say) a Harvard PhD who refutes them. Instead it is eye-rolling and wondering how somebody could be this anti-scientific.

    It’s one thing for Daniel Kuehn to act this way, but it’s funny when a Major Freedom does it. MF you would flip out if a Keynesian pulled this move with, say, the gold standard. This isn’t a hypothetical; the media have done stories on Ron Paul, for example, saying how “economists do not agree with Dr. Paul’s views on gold” etc. I’m guessing you were outraged that they relied on the authority of the Ivy League professors, rather than letting the audience hear the actual arguments pro and con.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      I am not sure if I should be OK with your last paragraph or insulted by it… not sure what “it’s one thing for…” implies.

      If it means I’m on record as accepting scientific consensuses as being meaningful, then that’s fine.

      If it means “we never expect him to scrutinize arguments and evidence!” I’m a little insulted… I feel like I’m pretty good at digging into a claim.

      If I were to look into the old Earth/young Earth claims I would just be parroting the consensus and claiming that it sounds the most reasonable to me. I really am not evaluating it in any properly understood way (the way I evaluate and have an opinion on economic claims).

      That’s OK with me – that’s what we have science for. It doesn’t get us capital-T “truth”, but if we’ve got to bet on something it gives us the best bet given the circumstances.

      • Ken B says:

        ‘not sure what “it’s one thing for…” implies.’

        I think it’s like a roomful of bonoboes eventually typing Human Action.


      • Bob Murphy says:

        I am not sure if I should be OK with your last paragraph or insulted by it…

        I get what you mean, but I just meant, people who are Austrians spend all day complaining that the media just assumes they’re wrong because they lost the “market test” in academia etc., and we can talk for 6 hours straight about how the JET, JPE, etc. don’t publish articles challenging the statist Keynesian paradigm. So it’s weird then to dismiss a PhD astrophysicist who is saying the Ivy League consensus in biology is wrong, without even addressing a single one of his arguments.

    • Ken B says:

      Bob, at a certain point you just stop looking at the detailed design drawings for perpetual motion machines and fall back on the conservation of energy.

      Something like this happened in math recently, and was discussed over at Landsburg’s. A tip top mathematician — claimed he found a contradiction in the Peano Axioms. I and most mathematically trained readers just said, ‘Well I bet that’s wrong”, cited the proofs we have seen of their consistency (2nd order) and waited for some competetent specialist to find his error. We didn’t have to wait long.

      We won’t have to wait long with Lisle either. In fact, zero waiting time. A scientific literate should say “Well I bet that’s wrong”. And rather than waiting we can google.

      • Ken B says:

        I decided to poke around inside one of the perpetual motion machines. Guess what I found. Here’s a blogger who contends that Lisle endorse THIS argument:

        1. If the Bible were not true, logic would not be meaningful.
        2. Logic is meaningful.
        3. Therefore, the Bible is true

        Wow, what a saage bit of mockery huh? Who says this scurrilous thing about Dr Lisle? This guy http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/01/08/feedback-not-sound-logic

        • Matt Tanous says:

          Your contention can only be that the first premise is not true. Otherwise, the argument is in fact sound.

          • Ken B says:

            Did you read the link.? He says the argument is valid in form (right, as you note) AND that premises are true.

            As you suggest, I think logic can work even if the bible is false. I even think logic worked before the bible was written, that’s how hard-core I am.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Ken B. wrote:

              I think logic can work even if the bible is false. I even think logic worked before the bible was written, that’s how hard-core I am.

              Ken, Lisle was being admittedly sloppy with his syllogism, but no sloppier than you are being here.

              To spell it out:

              ==> What he should be saying, and occasionally does, is that logic only makes sense in the type of universe constructed by a rational God as depicted in the Bible. Absent some theory as to the origin of the universe due to an intelligent creator, we have no reason to trust our minds when they tell us what is a logical inference, etc. “A=A” certainly seems right, but then again it sure looks like there’s water in the desert, under certain conditions. Evolution could be playing tricks on us in both cases, if you think everything is just happenstance and natural selection.

              ==> You are being sloppy above. Lisle wasn’t saying the writing down of the Bible made logic work.

              So if we are going to forgive you for your sloppiness, we can do the same for Lisle. I know what he means to say, and I know what you are trying to say.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                i>”Evolution could be playing tricks on us in both cases, if you think everything is just happenstance and natural selection.”

                This argument is bizarre.

                In fact, evolution has both random and deterministic elements.

                The deterministic element is selection of advantageous traits.

                Our faculties of reasoning to the extent that they are genetically determined, far from being just “happenstance”, have been deterministically selected precisely because they have successfully allowed us to survive.

                If they were badly flawed or unreliable, then they would be not be selected.

              • Ken B says:

                So, if Lisle is saying something other than what he said, he’s right. And if I said something other than what I said, I’m wrong. Just so we’re clear!

                Bob, whatever Lisle said elsewhere, his syllogism there is plain enough. And note that I said first that I think logic works even if the bible is false. That is where I contradict Lisle and answer Matt. I *further* remark that I think logic worked before the bible was written. That emphasizes how silly I think the connection Lisle made is. But my direct rebuttal came first.

                Lisle uses his argument to justify the claim that the bible is right on *everything* not just in its picture of a rational god.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                E.g., take the law of non-contradiction.

                If we say “there is a lion in that cave”, then it follows that the negative form of that proposition — “there is no lion in that cave” — is false and cannot be true at the same time as the first sentence.

                We intuitively grasp this law of thought and it has no doubt served us as a survival trait.

                If it were merely a trick, unreliable, or unsound, then the obvious result would be our species would have died out long ago.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                LK wrote:

                We intuitively grasp this law of thought and it has no doubt served us as a survival trait.

                If it were merely a trick, unreliable, or unsound, then the obvious result would be our species would have died out long ago.

                And by the same token, there aren’t mirages, otherwise our ancestors would’ve died of thirst in the desert.

                I was a much more convincing atheist in college than you guys are right now.

              • Ken B says:

                LK:”then the obvious result would be our species would have died out long ago.”

                Perhaps we did. I have an unreliable evolved brain so perhaps didn’t notice we’re extinct.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “And by the same token, there aren’t mirages, otherwise our ancestors would’ve died of thirst in the desert.”

                (1) Since only a fraction of human kind face or have faced the problem of being lost in a desert and being confronted by mirages, this is in no sense a refutation of what I said, and

                (2) In any case, our intuitive inductive reasoning can be used to grasp, from experience, that mirages are indeed false. The fact that some people lived after being fooled by mirages also means they can have communicated this deduction to others.

                Anyway, inductive reasoning is yet another trait of the mind selected by evolution. As Quine argued, it if wasn’t a generally robust principle, we would not be here.

              • Ken B says:

                And by the same token, there aren’t mirages, otherwise god gave us fallible brains that could lead us astray.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        I like how you Google’d and didn’t actually investigate his scientific claims – such as, for instance, the problems with radiocarbon dating. I wonder why you instead focused solely on his arguments for God’s existence?

        • Ken B says:

          I resort to the conservation of energy. You can present me with any number of links “proving” water is actually made out of silicon and lead not hydrogen and oxygen, and I’ll cavalierly ignore them too.

    • Silas Barta says:

      “I am vaguely familiar with the various lines of evidence which the vast majority of physical scientists would cite, to argue that the Earth is much older than 6,000 years. Lisle claims that he has (on his blog and in his more formal work) pointed out several problems with this consensus interpretation. No one in the comments here has even acknowledged his critiques, let alone linked to (say) a Harvard PhD who refutes them. Instead it is eye-rolling and wondering how somebody could be this anti-scientific.”

      Well, no, in my case I was aghast that Lisle was claiming, not merely that BB/evolution are ultimately *wrong*, but that they’re not even scientific theories. He either doesn’t know what that term means, or seriously believes that there has never been any significant evidence favoring either theory.

      There’s a big difference between “hey, that theory is wrong, I have a well thought out critique” (which I would be skeptical of, but not aghast) and “that’s not even a scientific theory”, which Lisle is saying.

      • Ken B says:

        Tel too it seems.

      • Tel says:

        Anything can be a “scientific theory”. It’s a theory, you think up an idea and that’s a theory. Scientific is whatever you want it to be.

        The question is how one goes about proving and disproving each theory. So suppose I have a theory that there’s an elf in the cupboard, but the elf goes away and hides whenever anyone checks… if could be true, but all empirical attempts to measure the elf just “prove” that it really does go away and hide. It’s still a theory, but a useless theory because it never has any effect on what we do, or what we observe. The elf theory is even a falsifiable theory, because if anyone asks, “What would make you no longer believe in your theory that there’s an elf in the cupboard.” I would simply say, “Oh, you have to catch the elf outside the cupboard.”

        There you go, it’s a theory, it’s scientific, it’s falsifiable, and it’s useless.

        In terms of the age of the Earth, we can of course take measurements to determine that, but it hardly proves Evolution to have an old Earth. I mean God could arbitrarily make an Earth of any age, and populate it with creatures in any way, shape or form. God is another theory that explains everything we see, and everything we are ever going to see… just like Evolution does. Just so stories.

        To decide what makes a theory useful, you have to look at the predictions it can make. What does evolution predict about what humans will look like in 1000 years time? Not much. Will there even be humans in 1000 years? Show me how you get your answer from the basic principles of Evolution. For that matter, maybe for the record state what the basic principles are, because there seems to be some doubt about that.

        • Silas Barta says:

          Evolution/BB have reached a higher standard than the one you just mentioned about the elf.

          • Ken B says:

            If you are sniping at Tel’s fantasy I’m with you, but what is BB?

            • Silas Barta says:

              Big Bang, the other theory mentioned in this context.

              (And yes, Tel, it’s still a scientific theory, even if Lisle has a reason to believe it’s wrong.)

          • Tel says:

            So name a prediction that was made on the basis of evolutionary theory (the actual theory, not just a prediction that future observations will be consistent with past observations).

            As I already asked, even just list the basic principles of what Evolution is. I listed them already and Ken didn’t like it (but nor would he offer me any alternative).

            • Silas Barta says:

              Tel, as much as I’d love to have that conversation:

              Lisle didn’t say, “Evolution is unscientific because it’s unfalsifiable”; he said it’s “not a scientific theory” because it’s *wrong*, and that it’s therefore unreasonable to report it as one.

              Even if you don’t think evolution makes falsifiable predictions (or meets other requirements of a scientific theory), most working biologists do. And yes, they could be wrong, and maybe sometime we can have that conversation.

              *Nevertheless*, that’s way, way over the bar necessary for one to reasonably report evolution as a “scientific theory”. Reporters should not have to mangle the common, technical usage of the term “scientific theory” when they report news just because a fringe scientist thinks a particular theory is wrong.

              Again, that remains true *even if biologists had it wrong all along* and Genesis turned out to be a better guide to discovering biological truths than _Origin of Species_; it would simply make evolution an invalidated or superceded or weak theory (like Lamarckism).

              I’m not sure you appreciate how strong a claim Lisle is making, nor how independent it is of your personal evaluation of the theory of evolution.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Silas, I understand what you are saying, but Lisle is being over-the-top in reaction to the coverage, much like Bill Anderson often says “Paul Krugman is no longer an economist.” So you can either think Anderson is being funny or extremely inaccurate, but hey it’s the Internet.

            • Ken B says:

              I have Tel. Thou shalt find no pre Cambrian rabbit fossils. More seriously experiments have been done on the genetic variation of populations under stress, such as worms and finches. Recombinant DNA. Kitani made predictions in the neutral theory, about the existence of selfish DNA.

              • Ken B says:

                Kimura not kitani, memory is the second thing to go.

              • Tel says:

                Thou shalt find no pre Cambrian rabbit fossils.

                This is hardly derived from first principles. It is only saying that since a bunch of guys went and looked, and they couldn’t find it then probably no one else can find it either.

                If I check my pockets and there’s no coins in them, then I can happily predict no one else will be able to find coins in my pockets. The only theory at work here is consistency, nothing marvellous about that.

                Yes I agree, the universe yesterday is pretty similar to the universe today, but although that’s a good start, it says nothing about any principles of evolution.

                I did some search on the “neutral theory” and the “nearly neutral theory” but as far as I can see you just have to observe and then decide what counts as neutral, and what doesn’t. It’s all figured out in hindsight. Show me a link where someone actually starts with some evolutionary principles and then decides based on those principles what the outcome is.

                As for populations under stress, just ask any environmentalist, humans are reducing bio-diversity, and how are we doing that? Well, by putting stress on the environment of course. There you go, stress reduces genetic variation (except when it doesn’t).

                But at least those guys are attempting to measure something, i.e. diversity. But wait, every human is different right? So more humans must mean more bio-diversity? Hmmm, the environmentalists don’t seem to support that one.

                Anyhow, I asked for an enumeration of first principles, we can get to the conclusions later.

              • Anonymous says:

                No, it’s not a statement about the failure to find one in the past. It’s about the failure to find one ever.

                Is evolution, by which I mean the modern synthesis basically, falsifiable? Yes, easily. As is the neutral theory, which predictions that differ from the more adaptationist MS. My knowledge is out of date but the neutral theory is in some trouble these days I believe. But for the point at hand that’s irrelevant. The theories make different predictions.

    • Ivan Jankovic says:

      Here is a very simple proof that the Earth is indeed much older than 6 000 years. The Vostok Ice Core from Antarctica, covering 420 000 years. Some other ice cores are 800 000 years old. the error measurement depending upon the method of dating the cores could be 1000 years per 100 000 years.


      As for Leslie’s so called criticisms of modern science, he mentions the that C14 isotopes have a life less than 6000 years which “confirms” the young Earth. First, nobody denied that life time of C14 is such, but he does not mention various other methods that agree to considerable degree about the age of Earth being about 4.55 billion years. People already dated rocks 4 billion years BP, in Canada and Australia, among other places.



      • Ken B says:

        Cue Tel, “that’s not science, it doesn’t predict future ice sheets!”

        • Tel says:

          I only asked whether the theory predicted anything at all, any little thing, here or there. If it predicts ice sheets, that’s nice (although a lot of very well paid scientists have miserably failed when it comes to predicting ice sheets).


          There’s one example of a failed prediction, sadly it won’t stop the fools, nor even slow them down. Maybe ice sheets are a bit too difficult, aim small and build up from there. My demands are very reasonable.

  11. Nicholas J. Gausling says:

    As a point of clarification, it would be a fallacy to assume that one must either believe in secular macroevolution or else be a young earth creationist (i.e., that the Earth is about 6,000 years old). There are those who believe that macroevolution is a divinely-inspired process that perfectly falls underneath the authority of Genesis; that is not my view, but I have known godly people who hold it.

    Consider also the old earth creationist view, which denies macroevolution while acknowledging an ancient dating of the universe. This is my own view, and here are some resources regarding it:



  12. Ken P says:

    I don’t like arguments from consensus and don’t like the way the interview was carried out.

    Responses to C14 arguments against old Earth can be found here.


    Biologically, there is the laryngeal nerve, mutation rates of hemoglobin molecule matched up to taxonomy, etc.

  13. konst says:

    Skimmed through his blog. Not impressed with his reasoning.

  14. Sam Geoghegan says:

    Creationists are an embarrassment to religious institution, you should weed them out and marginalise them. The argument for God’s existence has precisely nothing to do with the age of the earth or refuting scientific conclusions. The argument is about dispositions and causation. It’s an elucidation of science; which currently makes tenuous claims about the existence of, and transition of matter. It is not a competing theory. Very clear distinction.

    • Ken B says:

      “The argument for God’s existence has precisely nothing to do with the age of the earth or refuting scientific conclusions.”
      Ah but that’s not what the argument is really about, which is biblical inerrancy. And science IS relevant to that.

      • Sam Geoghegan says:

        This is why the new atheists are winning converts. Despite their puerile sophistry and non-sequiturs, NA make creationists and unsophisticated Christians look like cranks. If that wasn’t enough, creationists use empirical methods to validate an easily scientifically refutable claim. This is worthy of contempt. Why present a competing theory, using the methods that will ultimately impugned your theory? Attack them on ontological and positivistic grounds.

        • Tel says:

          Atheists are not shackled to scripture, so they can move with new technology and new discoveries.

          Sadly, a lot of Atheists also do some really dumb stuff, but anyone who really believes in Evolution should not be bothered in the least by anyone doing dumb stuff. What really bothers me is people declaring their love of Evolution but when pressed don’t show a lot of understanding about what it means.

          • Sam Geoghegan says:

            There’s nothing controversial about evolution and there’s no reason to “believe” in it as such, like one doesn’t “believe” in electromagnetism. While I understand one is a law and the other, a theory, scientists will always strive to improve theories and apply verifiability, like you suggest.

            My gripe with detractors, and also science cultists, is that they do not understand that science is elementary human observation on a grander scale; it’s the stuff kids do when they show curiosity. Therefore, anti-science types & ID proponents, are deluded in thinking that alternative theories can be advanced in some way other than empirically. And the belief of scientism; that empirical methods reveal something about existence, other than
            what methods tell us, is superstition and faith.

            I believe there is no clash between science and religion, but there is however, with the way some people treat religion.
            True religion embodies something which science can not grasp, that is, goal directedness and causation; an attempt to understand the qualitative, as opposed to the pseudoscientific claims that if it can’t be measured, then it doesn’t exist.

            In short, this is why I believe religion should tackle issues of merit, instead of providing fodder to silly non-scientific atheists.

            • Tel says:

              My gripe with detractors, and also science cultists, is that they do not understand that science is elementary human observation on a grander scale; it’s the stuff kids do when they show curiosity.

              Point is, how many biologists have directly observed the creation of life on Earth spontaneously by method of Evolution? None, basically, because the theory is that it only happened once in human history.

              What we observe are the very long-term cumulative by products of a process that mostly happened millions of years ago, but <b.should in theory still be happening, except when politically inconvenient.

              True religion embodies something which science can not grasp, that is, goal directedness and causation; an attempt to understand the qualitative, …

              Why can’t science grasp this? Only because people calling themselves scientists on the whole are doing their best to waste their time on “just so” stories rather than attempt to tackle real issues.

              … as opposed to the pseudoscientific claims that if it can’t be measured, then it doesn’t exist.

              Look, I’m an empiricist, and have been for a long time, and I admit outright that there are some limits to what empiricism can do. That’s not saying that empiricism should be abandoned, it has its place. You mentioned electromagnetism, and Maxwell’s equations were discovered empirically, and can be tested empirically, any time you like, in any way you like. There’s nothing pseudo-scientific about empiricism, it has been hugely successful in certain fields of study.

              Evolution, and macroeconomics, and the progress of society, technology, culture, and so on cannot be tested empirically because we just don’t have enough samples to compare. In a nutshell we have no control experiment, and we certainly have no repeatable experiments.

              That’s a limitation of empirical reasoning, not a refutation of empirical reasoning, just that sometimes it isn’t the right tool for the job.

              In short, this is why I believe religion should tackle issues of merit, instead of providing fodder to silly non-scientific atheists.

              Same for evolutionary biologists, they also should be tackling issues of merit rather than providing comfort and solace which is rightfully work for priests.

              • Ken B says:

                Actually Tel, rather famously NOT all of Maxwell’s equations were discovered empirically. He invented a term in one of them, for tidiness and elegance, and out popped light!

              • Bob Murphy says:

                He invented a term in one of them, for tidiness and elegance, and out popped light!

                That’s what I’m trying to do here on Free Advice, thus far without success.

              • Sam Geoghegan says:

                Not knocking empiricism, it has yielded many great discoveries and technologies, but science is ill-equipped to handle ontological and metaphysical matters. As such, it just ignores them.

                Evolution is a good subject to apply these issues to.

                What causes evolution, the species, the prevailing environmental conditions, or unseen dispositions or tendencies? Science would invariably answer this in quite a ridiculous way; discussing all kinds of systematic processes that converge by sheer accident, yet to reduce such processes into their base components, results in immutable law, to which it is supposed, exist “just because”.

                In avoiding causes, science engages in constant contradiction. On one hand, cause is required to explain any phenomena and its interaction with other things, insofar as explaining local phenomena and avoiding the question of causation in general.

                Without cause or purpose, there can be no change. But science is fiercely opposed to such language.
                This is not only true for us on earth, but applied universally, it’s quite reasonable to assume that given favourable conditions, evolution is likely in any part of the universe, probably resulting in very human-like organism.

                This is just touching on the limitations of empiricism. There’s critical realism. -What we know is our self imposed nomenclature of objects, which is fine for clinical studies. Not so much for anything else.

  15. joe says:

    Scientific discoveries in the 19th century do not support a fairy tale written in the 1st century. Get over it.

  16. Michael says:

    long time reader, first time commenter. Very disappointed in you Bob (though a big fan).

    How can an anarchist who believes in markets think that reality requires a central planner? what the hell? completely inconsistent on a huge and overwhelming level.

    reconsidering fandom.


    • Ken B says:

      Bob takes the invisible hand literally.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Ken B., I’m taking the invisible hand exactly the way Adam Smith meant it. Call me crazy.

        • Ken B says:

          Interesting article. I had never seen the moral sentiments quotation before. Still looking at the quotes I don’t see anything except the usual notion of an emergent phenomenon here. The natural operation of a market ensuring food for the poor etc. Had this occurred in a larger essay on how god works his will then I could see fitting this into a Lisle-like mould, but the larger context here is the workings of the market isn’t it?

          I did a little searching and found a paper from some places called the Mises Institute. Not that it directly rebuts you but this is an interesting observation

          Adam Smith was not the first person to use the phrase the invisible hand, as it was
          already in use to describe supernatural action.20 Indeed, that is how Smith (1980, p. 49)
          used the phrase—derisively—in his History of Astronomy where he used the “invisible
          hand of Jupiter” to describe the beliefs of polytheism, savages, and the superstitious who
          would attribute all the irregular events in nature, like thunder and lightning, to the
          invisible gods. Smith was scorning those who concoct special explanations…

          source: http://mises.org/journals/scholar/thornton12.pdf

          So in short I don’t agree that Smith meant god, but I admit it’s possible.

        • Michael says:

          Bob: another major weakness in your work was in your lecture on mises.org re: introduction to anarchy where you solve the problem of property with God’s 10 commandments.

          About a year ago when I listened to that lecture I cringed and realized that you have a bad habit of using your religion as a crutch when you reach uncomfortable or difficult problems. This is another example of this.

          You should really work to separate your economics work from these issues. It’s fine for you to be religious but, strictly speaking as someone who looks to you for teaching and analysis this is affecting your credibility.

          • Ken B says:

            Wow. Keep this up and he won’t answer you on OLG!


            • Michael says:

              whats OLG?

              • Ken B says:

                Don’t ask Bob!

              • Ken B says:

                Ok seriously it stands for overlapping generations models. I published a detailed refutation of a claim Bob made about one. Scroll on my blog. Bob repeatedly promised a response, long long ago. Still to appear.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                And Michael:

                Murphy’s long awaited response to Ken B has nothing on Ken B’s long awaited response to my refutation of his “refuation” of Murphy.

                Apparently he’s still grappling with being able to separate a model that purports to show one possible future, with a model that purports to show the only possible future.

                One day, he’ll realize that being able to replicate the outcome of one model, doesn’t mean that model is invalid.

    • Oztrian says:

      Nowhere near as bad as an atheist statist.

      Or even worse, atheists who won’t accept that money evolved.

    • anto says:


      I feel you, I am a huge fan of Dr. M, but I find this post to be so troubling… I understand completely Dr. Murphy’s point above that we (some) libertarian/anarcho-capitalist/austrians get incensed when our views are blown off because they are not “in the mainstream” and because “most economists agree” that we are wrong… and how that is sort of analogous to the casual dismissal by the media of non-mainstream creation theories (as Lisle would call them, “secular” theories… which strikes me as troubling as well).

      At the same time, we can’t assume the fact that the “mainstream” is against something means it must be true! What troubles me most about Biblical creationism is not necessarily the criticisms of the theories of natural selection/evolution/big bang/old universe as being untestable… I can agree that as far as theories go these could be untestable theories about the creation of life and the universe, and there could be certain epistemological problems with asking the questions themselves.

      What troubles me is the reliance on the Judeo-Christian Bible as the God-given account of creation, and the attempts to match astronomy and physics to correspond with it. For instance, Biblical creationists have struggled to account for the “starlight” problem, meaning how can the Universe be 6000ish years old, if light travels at a given speed, and we can see stars from billions of light years away? Lisle published a paper addressing this problem in 2010 http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v6/n1/distant-starlight. In the paper he talks about simultaneity, and how events separated by trillions of miles and moving at various relative speeds to each other could conceivably explain the starlight problem, and show how the Universe could indeed be 6000 years old, to match the Biblical account.

      But why use the Biblical account? I mean, why not use the ancient Hindu Vedic texts? Some of them pre-date the Old Testament by thousands of years, and apparently the Rig Veda claims the current cycle of the Universe is around 311 trillion years old. Is there any doubt that a devout Hindu with a PhD in astronomy could make a theoretical case for why the light from the stars isn’t a mere few billion years old, but actually hundreds of trillions of years old, to match the Vedic account?

      Using the Bible as the definitive timeline, and then trying to make a theory about how it’s chronology could be scientifically plausible, seems so arbitrary. I mean, it could be that Dr. Lisle is right, and that physics and astronomy can explain the Universe being 6000 years old. If that is true, if that is actually how reality is, that means that a completely non-religious, sheltered, brilliant Chinese Buddhist astronomer, who has never heard or read anything about Biblical cosmology, could study the Universe and independently come up with the conclusion that it is indeed 6000 years old. Then, later when he read the Bible and found out that it too said the Universe was 6000 years old, presumably he would convert to Christianity.

      Does that sounds plausible to anyone? Isn’t it a bit backwards to have your conclusions, and then try to find the theory to fit them?

    • Dan says:

      Uh oh, you better become an atheist or Michael might not like you anymore, Dr. Murphy. Your relationship with God, or an anonymous fan on the Internet? The choice is yours.

      • Ken B says:

        Self improvement is always a worthy goal, but I think Michael isn’t actually pressing atheism on Bob, just suggesting he not rely on god talk in economics.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Ken B. wrote:

          I think Michael isn’t actually pressing atheism on Bob, just suggesting he not rely on god talk in economics.

          Or on Sundays, on my personal blog, in a post having nothing to do with economics.

  17. konst says:

    Assuming you ignore what time is or the nature of time, which all of you apparently do, there are other ways to arrive at an age of the earth.

    Carbon-14 is has it’s limits. There are other radioactive decay models.


  18. Michael says:

    No it’s more that it disconcerts me as a fan of your economics when I see that you are accepting such junk reasoning in another area of your life – it affects your overall credibility.

    If you say “I believe in God” – I can’t touch you. If you say “I believe in the events of the Bible, though some are metaphor” – again, I can’t really begrudge your beliefs.

    But once you start claiming the earth is 6,000 years old or defending someone who does – it’s worrying because that implies that you have an issue with evolution.

    and why would you have an issue with evolution when its the simplest and cleanest explanation of whats happening?

    The stock answer (and forgive me if I’m wrong here) has something to do with “Because what we see around is us too complex, it requires a creator”.

    And then you become a massive hypocrite for advocating free markets.

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