Comment on The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop by Sean Pitman.
There seems to be an underlying assumptions in all your writing articulated yet again in your last comment where you question me on my acceptance of the tenents of fundamentalisms that you do base your religion on the 5 Christian fundamentals
1] the inerrancy of the text of the canon (and writings of EGW).
There are errors in both the Bible and in the writings of Ellen White. However, these errors are not errors with regard to the basic concepts being presented and observations made. The Bible has proven itself to be extremely accurate and reliable in this regard. For example, the Gospel accounts seem to disagree as to how many times the rooster crowed before Peter denied Jesus three times. But, that is hardly relevant to the main point that Peter denied Jesus in no uncertain terms that that Jesus predicted this denial and that Peter realized what he had done when he remembered Jesus’ prediction of the rooster crowing… You get my point.
2] the virgin birth of Christ
Without the virgin birth of Christ, Jesus is not God and Christianity is pointless. The virgin birth of Jesus is a key element to the validity of the Christian Gospel message to the world. If you don’t believe in the virgin birth, you really truly aren’t a complete Christian regardless of what title you may go by and regardless of what other particular elements you may or may not accept.
3] Christs death was the atonement for sin
Again, this is a key element of the Christian Gospel.
4] the bodily resurrection of Christ
I know you don’t believe in a physical resurrection, but without the physical resurrection of Jesus, everything else is pointless. This historical event was the main central element that established the early Christian Church. Without it, there would have been no Paul and there would have been no Christian Church.
5] The historical reality of Christs miracles.
That’s right. If you don’t believe that God can act within our world with deliberate intelligence and design, there’s no point to Christianity or the Gospel message.
All of these elements are in fact “fundamental” to the Christian Gospel message.
I am happy that you can accept the fundamentalist perspective but none of these positions are addressed by conventional science based on methodological naturalism. Like many evangelicals and neo-orthodox I am happy to admit I accept most of these based on faith but do not seek evidentiary basis for them in science.
You accept most of these? Which ones do you accept and which ones do you deny? I only ask because you seem to reject the concept of a physical resurrection. . . claiming that carbon-based life forms could not avoid the natural order of things to include the cycle of life and death – and that death isn’t such a bad thing anyway (as you repeat again at the end of this post). Given this position, it seems like you must also reject the physical Resurrection of Jesus? You seem to also reject the idea that the death of Jesus was an atonement for sin. You also seem to reject that many if not most of the miraculous stories described in the Bible really happened as described. It seems, then, like you actually reject most, if not all, of these “fundamentals” you’ve listed.
What then do you accept as “fundamental” to Christianity? Do you really accept the truly “virgin” birth of Jesus? – because others, like Kenneth Miller for example, do not. Kenneth Miller refers to both the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Jesus as “allegorical”. What is your view?
As far as evidence is concerned regarding these fundamentals of Christianity from my own perspective, if there were no more evidentiary basis for these elements of Christianity, no more evidence for them than the existence of Santa Claus for example, again, why would I choose to put my faith in this vs. that? – just because of wishful thinking? That’s the very definition of fideism. This isn’t real Biblical faith as I read it.
I’m a Christian not simply because I’m desperate for the hope that Christianity claims to offer, but because of the evidence that I see in its favor. Lot’s of religions claim fantastic things. However, only Christianity has the detectable Signature of the Divine in support of its claims – evidences to include dramatically fulfilled prophecies throughout the Bible, general historical accuracy, the willingness of the Biblical witnesses to put their lives on the line for what they claim they saw, the consistency of the Bible’s claims regarding human nature and sin with my own experience of the same, and the consistency of the Bible’s descriptions of nature and its origin with what I myself see in nature. All of these elements come together to give the Bible’s Gospel message superior credibility.
Your wish for scientific validation and concomitant deprecation of faith means that you have invented both a distorted definition of science and idiosyncratic approach to faith. Your definition of science excludes the canonical writing and synthesis of models by scientists as the core knowledge of science and cedes the centre of scientific understanding to the masses of journalists and youtube videos. I cannot see why you feel compelled to do that but do see that it is entirely consistent with your reluctance to even try to engage with the process of science by writing for the peer reviewed journals.
Why build a strawman like this? I have nothing against scientific journals. I read them and use them all the time in my practice of medicine and in reference to other interests outside of medicine – to include the topic of origins. Of course, I do not consider scientific journals to be “canonical”, the very definition of science, because of the fact that many things get published which simply aren’t scientific – which are nothing more that just-so stories that aren’t testable in a falsifiable manner. This happens in medical journals as well as other fields of science. It seems to be part of human nature to want to tell some kind of story in an effort to explain some phenomenon – regardless of if the story can or cannot be tested.
Again, science isn’t based on publishing this or that story and calling it “science”. Real science is based on if your story can be tested in a potentially falsifiable manner so as to establish some kind of useful predictive value. If your story cannot do that, then it isn’t science, regardless of if you got it published in some “scientific” journal and regardless of your fideistic “faith” in the validity of the story.
I clearly have not articulated the question about Matt 17 well as you completely missed my point. I simply ask; to whom was Jesus words directed? In the context after healing a boy which the father described as epileptic and from whom Jesus cast out a demon he said;
“Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The plain reading of this text is that Jesus as God was telling us that healing of epilepsy/demon possession is by pray and fasting. This is clearly the normative process for healing and He makes no mention of natural cause or therapy at all. Surely if there was a natural cause for epilepsy he would have revealed it at this point just like if Evolution was true he would have said so in Gen 1. Is that not logical?
No, it’s not logical for several reasons. One reason is that Jesus had to deal with the level of technology and medical understanding of the day in which He was living. Jesus could have revealed how to cure cancer or treat diabetes or deal with post-menopausal bleeding, etc. But, he didn’t. He lived with and dealt with the technology of the day, just as we must live and deal in our day.
The point Jesus made is that when we come to the limits of human understanding and creative power, we need to turn to God for assistance. Even in this modern age, there are cases of epilepsy which simply go beyond our modern ability to effectively treat, but no case is beyond God’s power to treat. And, when it comes to demon possession (which I believe was truly the cause in the case presented in Matt 17), no human power then or now or in the future is going to be able to deal with that. Such can only be dealt with by God. Our part to play in such cases is entirely dependent upon “prayer and fasting”.
In any case, Matt 17 is not an indictment against medical practice or human efforts to use medicines and various technologies to heal our fellow man. Not at all. Jesus also referenced the necessity of caring for the physical needs of others using what one knows about such care – such as the medical care given by the “Good Samaritan” to the wounded man along the road. Jesus is not suggesting that when we see someone injured or in need of care that we should just say, “I’m praying for you”, and do nothing more. That’s a ridiculous conclusion from the reading of the Gospels.
Plain reading of both Genesis 1 reveals a description of instantateous creation by divine fiat and a description of healing in Matt 17 by divine fiat. In both instances the process is described as supernatural or a miracle. I interpret both in the same way you interpret one and not the other. I see it as high level descriptions by inspired prescientific minds of natural process they did not understand and see that we now describe both healing and causes of disease as natural process and do not seek the divine as the normative response.
No natural disease process causes an insane person to say, when asked for his/her name, “My name is legion for we are many”, and then ask Jesus if they could go and invade some pigs after they depart from the man – and then, when Jesus gives His permission, the pigs run into the sea. That’s not a description of some natural disease process. That’s a description of true demon possession.
Also, it doesn’t matter if one does or doesn’t understand the underlying cause of what one is describing. Regardless, the description of what is being observed is still valid. As I’ve pointed out before, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that when it gets light and dark – as in a description of “evenings and mornings”.
You probably agree with me in the case of health care but clearly cling to a miraculous cause for speciation and origin of diversity of life forms. That you pray over your patients is commendable but how much effect has at the molecular level of a disease process I do not know. Certainly I can find no instances in the medical literature of clear evidences of divine intervention and do not think that you are confident enough in the plain reading of Matt 17 to forgo any evidence based interventions to rely entirely on divine intervention and prayer for the miraculous. I am sure you will present a whole raft of sophistry to say why we can use naturalistic medicine now but that comes down to interpretation.
I’m still at a loss to see how anyone could seriously reference Matt 17 as suggesting that we must only pray to help others in need – that we have no part to play in helping others with our own hands and our own God-given abilities to assist in healing and general medical care. Your suggestion that God is telling us to say, “I’m praying for you, but I’ve been told not to do anything else for you”, is utter nonsense. Jesus himself said to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise”, in reference to the actions of the Good Samaritan. The same is true today. We work with God. We do not expect God to do everything for us or to completely circumvent natural laws on a routine basis in this fallen world. If He did this, there would be no basis to distinguish between the natural and the supernatural, between the non-intelligent workings of natural law and the activities of deliberate intelligence manipulating nature.
As for salvation there are more than Anselm’s model of the atonement within Christian thought. Personally I prefer the Christus Victor model but that is a whole different discussion. The nature of the resurrected body is also not as clear as you suggest as I have yet to see a carbon based life form walk through a wall or be transported instantaneously from place to place. I also have to respect for Pauls writings 1 Cor suggesting we shall all be changed and interpret this as indicating a change beyond carbon based life which can only exist with death as an integral and essential component.
Then you do in fact reject the physical Resurrection of Jesus? – and the fact that He Himself claimed to have a physical body of flesh and blood after His Resurrection? Your notion that life can only exist with death as an integral component strikes at the basis of the Christian Gospel message of hope for a new world where death and suffering for all sentient creatures is no more. I’m sorry, but your vision and your faith are very limited in this regard – falling short of full Christianity.
Lest you monopolize neologisms I would suggest rather than mindless natural mechanisms I am a firm believer in mindful natural mechanisms.
So am I. It is just that mindful natural mechanisms, like human-level intelligence and creative power, comes at different levels. Just as human-level intelligence is “natural” to us, so is God’s level of intelligence and creative power “natural” to Him. It’s all relative. What is “natural” vs. what is “supernatural”, is all dependent upon one’s perspective.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
When I talk about the concept of science, I’m talking about how any new information is learned in a useful manner that is superior to wishful thinking (aka blind faith). One’s understanding of the Bible as the Word of God can be and I believe should be based on the weight of evidence that is currently in hand. Coming to the conclusion that the Bible is God’s Word requires work. It is not inherent knowledge, but must be learned based on evidence, not direct revelation.
“God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high, and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science, but the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. We are thus led to adore the Creator and to have an intelligent trust in His word.” – Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 115
“In the days of Noah, men, animals, and trees, many times larger than now exist, were buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but men, with their vain reasoning, fall into the same error as did the people before the Flood–the things which God gave them as a benefit, they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them.” – Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 115
“God never asks us to believe without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith . . .” Steps to Christ, p. 105;
Consider also that, “perfect assurance . . . is not compatible with faith. Faith rests not on certainty, but upon evidence.” Letter 19d, 1892, cited in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1029, 1030.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20 NIV
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalms 19:1 NIV
God does not desire blind faith or blind obedience without the input of rational thought and understanding (which is also God-given by the way). Our faith in the Bible should be based on something more than some kind of internal warm fuzzy feeling or personal desire. Our faith in the Bible as the Word of God should be a rational faith that is based on the weight of evidence and its established predictive power – i.e., a form of scientific reasoning and understanding which forms the basis for a logical, rational leap of faith. It is in this manner that faith and science can, and I think must, walk hand-in-hand.
The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
God (and Truth) never changes. However, our understanding of Truth does change over time.
We learn and grow in our understanding of truth – to include our understanding of Biblical truth. One is not automatically born with the knowledge that the Bible is the real Word of God or how, exactly, to interpret it and all of its statements and passages. On the contrary, this requires effort and careful investigation and rational thought on our part.
Again, there’s nothing to fear from subjecting the Bible to careful investigation against the weight of evidence. God is the author of the Bible and true science…
I appreciate your desire to uphold the Bible regardless of what the external evidence might say about it. However, I think this is a mistake. The Bible has nothing to fear from true science (vs. “science falsely so called”) or from a truly rational investigation into its claims. The Biblical authors always provide empirical evidence and rational arguments as a basis for faith (as does Mrs. White). We should not be like my LDS friends who believe in the Book of Mormon regardless of the weight of evidence against it. The Bible is to be believed because of the weight of evidence in its favor – because it is the most rational choice that the intelligent candid mind can conclude. Our faith need not be blind to the weight of evidence. Rather, faith and evidence can and should walk hand-in-hand.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
As far as the current article is concerned, I know of no “outdated” information. The information is current as far as I’m aware. The detrimental mutation rate is far too high for complex organisms to avoid an inevitable downhill devolutionary path. There is simply no way to rationally avoid this conclusion as far as I’m aware.
So, perhaps your friend could be more specific regarding his particular objections to the information presented?
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
Look again. I did reference the 2018 paper of Basener and Sanford (which was the motivation for me writing this particular article). Of course, as you’ve mentioned, Sanford has also written an interesting book on this topic entitled, “Genetic Entropy” – which I’ve previously referenced before in this blog (along with a YouTube video of a lecture he gave on the topic at Loma Linda University: (Link). For those who haven’t read it or seen Sanford’s lecture on this topic, it’s certainly worth your time…
Evolution from Space?
I will try to do it someday, but lately I’ve been swamped by speaking appointments, my real job, and my two young boys 😉
However, 300-400 people do visit and read articles on my websites per day – which isn’t bad for now. I also get very encouraging E-mails on a regular basis from those who have been helped by these postings. Some of these are teachers and professors who use this information in their own classrooms throughout the country – but often without giving the source for their material in order to avoid the automatic bias that comes with it.
The reason that no competent scientist will date the “soft tissue” of dinosaur bones is probably because the techniques used to extract that material seriously contaminate the extract from a 14C perspective. I am checking on that with several biochemists, but I suspect that this is true.
If that’s the case, then how can radiocarbon dating be relied upon to date the remains of mammoths or other late Pleistocene animals? How can you have your cake and eat it too?
Beyond this, aren’t there supposed to be ways to detect and eliminate contamination and to harvest material without causing significant 14C contamination? – especially when it comes to very well preserved collagen and other original soft tissues (as well as bioapatite)? After all, we’re talking about a lot of contamination here – up to 10% of the total carbon within the dinosaur bone. What kind of source could explain such a high degree of contamination? Also, as an expert in radiocarbon dating, isn’t it basic procedure for those in your profession to be able to detect if not remove 14C contamination from specimens? – as part of the AMS testing process?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if collagen and bioapatite fractions show concordant radiocarbon dating, then isn’t this taken as a valid radiocarbon date? free of significant contamination?
If so, this is what was done with the dating of some dinosaur bone specimens as well: “Collagen and bone bioapatite and/or total bone organics gave concordant C-14 dates after careful extraction and purification of those fractions.” (Link)
Is this not the proper procedure? Is this not what is also done when dating ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloth dung, and giant bison?
All of the evidence presented by you and those who agree with you have been dealt with so many times by so many competent scientists that a reasonable individual would almost certainly say something like: Well, anyone who continues to dispute the scientific evidence on this point apparently just can’t bring themselves to admit the truth of the matter for some religious reason.
An argument from authority already? That’s the best you have? As long as it’s popular among the experts in a given field of science, even if one doesn’t personally understand it and suspects that something isn’t quite right, you’d recommend just going with the flow without question? – trusting that someone else must know the answers?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that the popular opinion of experts in a particular field of study should be taken into careful consideration. However, such “expert opinion” isn’t the end-all of science and has often turned out to not only to be wrong, but painfully wrong. I guess it’s Ok if I’m too lazy or don’t care enough about a particular topic to investigate it for myself to simply trust in the expert opinion of the day. However, let’s not confuse that with conclusive “science” or a valid scientific explanation. Such blind appeals to the authority of “experts” or the status quo within the scientific community, by themselves, are not at all helpful when it comes to answering valid questions in that they have no explanatory power in a discussion like this one. After all, don’t you realize that this is the very same tactic often used by those promoting some religious agenda? – who don’t have anything else beyond an appeal to authority to fall back on? – no reasonably understandable argument besides, “My holy book says so”? – or “most theologians agree”? I believe it was Carl Sagan who once said:
One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. – Sagan (July 6, 2011)
Consider also this humerus exchange between Socrates and Meno:
Meno: Is this true about yourself, Socrates, that you don’t even know what virtue is? Is this the report that we are to take home about you?
Socrates: Not only that, you may also say that, to the best of my belief, I have never met anyone else who did know.
Meno: What! Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
Meno: And you still didn’t think he knew?
Socrates: I’m a forgetful sort of person, and I can’t say just now what I thought at the time. Probably he did know, and I expect you know what he used to say about it. So remind me what it was, or tell me yourself if you will. No doubt you agree with him.
Meno: Yes, I do.
Socrates: Then let’s leave him out of it, since after all he isn’t here. What do you yourself say virtue is?
– Plato, Meno, 71c, W. Guthrie, trans., Collected Dialogs (1961), p. 354
So, I ask you again: In your own words, please do explain to me where, exactly, mainstream scientists have so clearly and reasonably dealt with some of the fundamental problems of Darwinian-style evolution that seem so difficult to me? You don’t even appear to understand the difference between Mendelian variation and the mechanism of Darwinian evolution (random mutations in the underlying gene pool combined with natural selection). You don’t seem to understand that animal breeding is based on phenotypic selection alone, as is natural selection, or that Darwin himself used animal breeding as an illustration of how natural selection is supposed to work. Where can any reasonable explanation be found as to how novel genetic information can enter a given gene pool, via the Darwinian mechanism, beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time? Also, where has any scientist produced a reasonable explanation as to how very well-preserved soft tissues, proteins, and antigenic fragments of DNA can be preserved for even 100k years? – at ambient temperatures? These are honest and sincere questions for which I have found no reasonable answers from anyone – scientists or otherwise. If you know the answers, if they are so obvious to you, why not share them with me here?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me, at this point in my own search, that you, and scientists in general, are not immune from personal bias or from philosophical/religious motivations – or from peer pressure (the fear of being unpopular in your community). In short, you’re human just like the rest of us. 😉
One more thing, your notion that religion and science do not and cannot mix is fundamentally at odds with the existence of a personal God who created the universe and died on the cross for the salvation of humanity. If such a God actually exists, He is the Creator of science and scientific thinking as well as everything else and His Signature can therefore be rationally detected in the things that He has made (Psalms 19:1-3). If this cannot be achieved, then your notion of “God” is essentially the same as atheism – for all practical purposes.
I’m sorry, but William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, makes much more sense here (in a speech he gave for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
No gods worth having exist;
No life after death exists;
No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims. Darwinian-style evolution is just one more argument for the philosophical position of “Philosophical Naturalism” – a position that suggests that everything within the physical world, everything that we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell, is ultimately the result of non-deliberate mindless forces of nature. And, you yourself can’t tell the difference since, as you once said, you wouldn’t be able to give your own granddaughter any good evidence for the existence of God if she were to ask you for such evidence. Why then do you even pretend? – why even give lip service to Christianity?
I have checked with the director of the lab which was supposed to have dated a “soft tissue” extract and he wrote back almost immediately that what they had been given was a whole bone, not a “soft tissue” extract and the bone was badly degraded from the point of view of any organic carbon. The date they obtained was obviously contamination and they reported that fact to the submitter.
That’s hard to believe given that many dates on many different specimens where reported by The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, and others, without any mention of contamination – using the same procedures that they would for a portion of mammoth or mastodon bone (and no one claimed here to have submitted a “soft tissue extract”). After all, the youngest radiocarbon date for a mammoth fossil (3685 ± 60 yr BP) comes from the remains of one discovered on Wrangel Island off the north-eastern Siberian coast (Vartanyan et al. 2008). Yet, no one cites “contamination” when discussing such dates for mammoths. Also, great care was taken to prevent contamination when obtaining the dinosaur bone specimens that were dated. It’s hard to imagine, then, how these dinosaur bones could have been contaminated to the degree that you suggest – which would have had to be between from 1% (40kyr BP) to up to 10% (20kyr BP) of the total carbon within the bone (Plaisted, 2017).
AMS labs know this. You see, it wasn’t until the AMS lab at the University of Georgia discovered that the bone specimens they were analyzing were actually dinosaur bones that they recanted their own results and refused to do any additional 14C testing. Up until this point, they never suspected such a degree of contamination… a mechanism for which is quite difficult to imagine.
Note that both the whole bone and bioapatite in the dinosaur bone was dated. The bioapatite was C14 dated at 41,010 ± 220 years BP, having 0.61 ± 0.02 pMC (percent modern carbon). No mention of “contamination” is listed here. The very fact that they separated out the whole bone date from the bioapatite date is what makes me think they really thought they had original bioapatite from the bone sample.
A couple years later this was followed by:
Consider also that the triceratops horn was well preserved and had well preserved soft tissue within it, to include blood vessels and cellular structures (Link). The fossil’s bioapatite was dated (not the well-preserved soft tissue, which is interesting). According to a 2009 report in the journal Radiocarbon, bioapatite is actually preferable to soft tissue in many cases. Yet, it was also 14C dated by AMS at 33,570 ± 120 years. How is that explained?
Then, there is this report from John Fischer (2014):
Triceratops and Hadrosaur femur bones in excellent condition were discovered in Glendive Montana, and our group received permission to saw them in half and collect samples for Carbon-14 testing. Both bones were tested by a licensed lab for presence of collagen. Both bones did in fact contain some collagen. The best process (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) was used to date them. Total organic carbon and dinosaur bioapatite was extracted and pretreated to remove potential contaminants, and concordant radiocarbon dates were obtained. They were similar to radiocarbon dates for ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers of the Los Angeles LaBrea Tarpits, sloth dung, and giant bison. (Link)
Notice here that both the bioapatite and the collagen within the bone was 14C dated by AMS with resulting “concordant radiocarbon dates” – which is usually used to support the argument that the dates obtained where not the result of contamination.
Now, is this conclusive evidence that dinosaur remains are not millions of years old? I wouldn’t say that this data is conclusive in and of itself – taken one test at a time. After all, a particular lab might not have been able to completely isolate a particular fossil’s original bioapatite – so a particular result may have contamination in it as you suggest. However, I do think that after a certain point of consistent results from multiple tests by multiple labs the weight of evidence starts to add up – adding credibility to the idea that perhaps dinosaurs are not millions of years old after all. When you also consider the fact that pretty much all dinosaur bones with residual organic material in them (and other things that are supposed to be millions of years old – like coal and oil and other “ancient” organic remains) have been consistently dated as only being 15k-40k years old, you have to at least conclude that there is something wrong somewhere. Either the 14C dating system is not as robust as some want to believe, or the fossils are not as old as some want to believe. This is particularly relevant given the existence of very finely preserved original dinosaur soft tissues, proteins, and DNA fragments that simply shouldn’t be there according to all known data on the decay rates of such things.
Here’s an interesting presentation 15-minute presentation (Link) that was given by Dr. Thomas Seiler, a German physicist. In it, he reports on the carbon dating of dinosaur bones, other megafauna (such as mammoths), and plants. In all cases, these materials are supposed to be millions of years old, but they all have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. Of course, one possible explanation for these results is, yet again, contamination. It is possible that “modern” carbon has infiltrated into all these samples, and that’s what is being detected. However, Dr. Seiler presents several arguments that tend to cast doubt on the contamination explanation. First, all the standard treatment used to make a fossil ready for carbon dating was done, which is supposed to get rid of contamination. Second, in some cases, they were examining actual proteins, such as collagen. If “modern” carbon contaminated these fossils, how did it become incorporated into the original collagen? Third, there are some chemicals (like humic acid) that are common contaminants, and it was confirmed that the treatment done on the samples removed those contaminants. Fourth, the amount of carbon in the vicinity of the fossil decreased as you moved away from the fossil. This indicates carbon was “leaking out” of the fossil, not moving into it.
Here’s another interesting article on this topic written by Dr. Jay Wile (2012): Link
So anyway, again I ask you, why not run your own tests? Or why doesn’t Jack Horner or Mary Schweitzer do it with pure finely-preserved dinosaur soft tissues?
As far as breeding vs. natural selection, what’s the real difference if both select based on phenotype alone? You wrote:
It was clear to Alfred Russell Wallace, who, with Darwin, first came up with the idea of natural selection, that you could not use animal breeding experiments to simulate natural evolution.
Please do explain this to me. After all, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing special about the selective breeding of animals in this regard. Even a human breeder could never get one “kind” of animal to evolve into another “kind” of animal (where novel functional genetic options are produced within the gene pool) using breeding techniques with very high selection pressures alone. Why not? Because, selective animal breeding produces no novel information within the gene pool of the animal population in question. Breeding is based on a simple selection of pre-existing information as it is expressed in the various phenotypes of the offspring over time. Exactly the same thing is true of natural selection – which can also produce very rapid phenotypic changes, in the wild, in response to rapidly changing environments or the sudden realization of entirely new environments based on the very same underlying static gene pool of options (no genetic mutations required).
By the way, it was Darwin himself who coined the term ‘selective breeding’; he was interested in the process as an illustration of his proposed wider process of natural selection. Charles Darwin discussed how selective breeding had been successful in producing change over time in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Its first chapter he actually discusses selective breeding and domestication of such animals as pigeons, cats, cattle, and dogs. (Link)
Wallace, on the other hand, argued that the development of the human mind and some bodily attributes were guided by spiritual beings rather than natural selection… (Link)
But please, do explain my mistake here regarding the fundamental differences between the selective breeding of animals vs. natural selection. I’d be most interested, because this concept is fundamental to my own understanding of the clear limits of Darwinian-style evolution via random mutations and natural selection.