Archive for category Evolution

“True” Religons, Weasel Looks, Ironic Morals, and Continental Responses

Today in this multi-piece article, we’ll talk about AiG’s method of finding out which religions are true, Richard Dawkins’ computer program that disproves creationist probability arguments, and why Jack Chick’s constant plea to get saved could be working against Christianity’s moral high ground.  Plus, there’ll a response to a recent comment on the site.

Creationists seem to enjoy saying that Christianity is the only true religion, and most Chick tracts are about that specific topic.  But Answers in Genesis doesn’t talk about it very often, which is why this article published on their Kids Answers website proves their assumptions about religion.  It’s called, not modestly, How Do We Know Other Religions Aren’t True?  It answers a question sent in by a kid named James, from Ohio, and his question is, well, how do Christians know that other religions aren’t true?  According to AiG, only Christianity has a book that tells us about everything (i.e., origins of everything, sin, etc), nor does any other religion have a savior that is, according to them, alive.  But what comes next is just plain idiotic.  AiG goes on to say that if a religion A) doesn’t accept the Bible, B) doesn’t claim that Jesus is God, or C) doesn’t say that salvation is the way to Jesus, than it isn’t a true religion.  Wow.  I’m actually having some mixed emotions right now.  AiG is only saying that to rig the rules, so that only their religon can be counted as “true”.  In my opinion, it’s pretty dang stupid.

Okay, how many times have you heard from a creationist that there’s “no chance” of evolution happening, or that complex organic structures couldn’t have happened by chance.  It’s pretty easy to shoot down those arguments, but Richard Dawkins once wrote a computer program that selects strings of twenty-six characters that most resemble the Shakespeare line “Methinks it is like a weasel”.  And sure enough, after only 180 generations, we get that exact line.  This info comes from the awesome book Monkey Girl.  Some might say that the program requires an intelligent agency to work, but the point is this: you can get a line of Shakespeare in only 180 generations, which is barely anything in evolutionary time.  In other words, complex structures can come about quite easily.  Other computer programs have proved just that, shooting down creationist probability arguments in an instant.

You know, creationists (particurally Kent Hovind) constantly complain that evolution caused the Holocaust, and that it’s the roots of immorality.  It’s a typical and easy to refute argument, but why not go a step further, and show that for all their claims of morality, super-right-wing “cartoonist” Jack Chick is actually just betraying the Christian community.  Take a look at the last panel from one of Jack’s tracts, The Gunslinger.

Ironic Morals

Ignoring the eerily Ku Klux Klan-like image in the picture on the right, take a gander at the main message of the panel: going to heaven is not a matter of good or bad.  Here’s my question: if Hitler or Stalin got saved, would they go to heaven?  According to Jack, yes.  What this panel says is that a lifetime of genocide, murder, and other assorted crimes against humanity can all be solved just by getting saved.  In my opinion, that isn’t very moral.

To cap this article off, let’s look at this comment that I approved very recently:

“You cannot assume that the rate of continental drift was the same throughout the earth’s history. You are forgetting the global flood and how destructive that event would have been.”

This is by a guy named Joe, and it was from Dooding=Intelligent Illustrator 3, where I say that assuming continental drift was constant, it would be impossible for the earth to be 6000 years old.  Joe is technically right-I was making an assumption.  But really, you think that the global flood caused continental drift?  There are two problems with that:

  1. It would be impossible for a global flood to pry apart plates and move the continents in that amount of time!
  2. Underwater earthquakes cause by quickly moving continents=tsunamis, which wouldn’t be very good for Noah’s Ark.

That’s all for now!  By the way, I recently dug up the mother load of Chick tracts!  It’s like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and most of them haven’t even been dissected by the Jabberwock yet, so expect some more reviews soon!

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In Case You Missed It…

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter (my name is MandHF), you probably didn’t see my commentary on the Christian Rapture-themed movie Left Behind.  And if you are on Twitter, just look up #leftbehindriff.  Basically, I watched the movie while tweeting witty stuff about it.  Besides being a heck of a lot of fun to do, it also got my mom a mention by the original Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  So, there’s an upside to being blasphemous.

In other news, I just challenged a classmate to a creation/evolution debate-and she accepted!  Now, sometime next week, I’m going to go head-to-head with her in science class.  My goal today is to finish off my PowerPoint presentation, called The Science of Evolution.  My opponent has no idea what she’s gotten herself into…

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It’s A Double Whammy!

Recently, I was reading Jerry Coyne’s totally awesome book Why Evolution Is True, when I noticed a picture that really got me thinking “Wow, this is both evidence against Noah’s Flood, and evidence for evolution!”  While this isn’t the exact picture, I’m pretty sure it’s the same specimen: a creature called Mei long, from Cretaceous China.

Mei long

It doesn’t look like much, I know, but it seriously is both anti-Flood and pro-evolution!

  • Anti-Flood.  It’s quite obviously in a sleeping posture.  Creationists claim that the fossil record was formed by Noah’s Flood, but if your house got hit by a tsunami at midnight, would you still be asleep?  Or at least in the same position?  There are several theories as to the cause of death, including toxic gasses (like carbon monoxide).
  • Pro-evolution.  Evolution (as I hope you well know) says that the ancestors of birds were dinosaurs.  There aren’t any feathers on this fossil, but it’s sleeping position tells us everything we need to know.  Many modern birds sleep the same way, with their head tucked under their wing.  Normally, in dinosaur-bird transitional forms, we either see behavioral evidence or physical evidence.  This is clear behavioral evidence.

It’s a prehistoric double whammy!

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The Knee-Mail Connection

So, here I was, reading Kent Hovind’s blog, when I see this Knee-Mail post.  In case you’re wondering, Kent does this thing on his blog called Knee-Mail, where he talks to God (or Biblical figures) in prayer, and apparently records it.  So, here I am, and I see Kent did a Knee-Mail with none other than Adolf Hitler!  Basically, the two are watching the Olympics, and Hitler is commenting on Jesse Owens.  So, basically Hitler says that Owens is “less-evolved” and whatnot.  Kent is (peacefully) arguing with him, but what does Hitler say?

“It’s all based on the science of evolution! Since the strongest survive and the weakest die off, we have decided to speed up the process by eliminating the inferior races of Jews and blacks. War itself will demonstrate which is the most fit race.”

Um, no.  How unbelievably stupid is this?  The Holocaust was not inspired by evolution!  Evolution, instead of saying the strongest survive, says that the fittest survive.  For example, antelope aren’t very strong, but they have managed to survive because of their long legs: they allow the antelope to run much faster, and thus evade predators.  Natural selection favors this trait, and the antelope survive another generation.  But if an antelope is born with even longer legs, it would most likely pass down its genes (and the longer legs) to its kids.  Eventually, the new antelope would become so distinct, a new species would be classified!

In other words, the only way you can blame Hitler’s actions on evolution is by understanding evolution yourself.  And Hovind here certainly does not.

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Hot Whales, Inheriting Air, Lots of Dragons, Policy Problems, and More

Time again for another multi-piece article!  First, we’re going to discuss the counterarguments for a graveyard of Chilean whales.  Next, I’m going to review the excellent evolution-themed play Inherit the Wind.  We’re going to look at several dragons from around the world and compare them to dinosaurs, in order to see if they really could be evidences for creationism.  I’m going to show you laughable quotes from a book on school policies, examine the new and controversial Rick Perry commercial, and finish up with a quick chat about quicksand.

Okay, first up, we have a little something from Kids Answers, in a piece called Whales in the Desert.  Basically, it talks about a large group of whale fossils that have been found in Chile.  That may not sound so outrageous-South America is known for its gigantic creatures-but here’s the thing: the fossils were discovered in the Atacama Desert, which is the hottest known location on earth.  So, here’s the question AiG poses: how could seventy-five whales (along with a tusked dolphin that I think might also be a small whale called Odobenocetops) wind up smack dab in the middle of the hottest desert anywhere in the world?  The answer for them, of course, is the global flood described in the Bible.  According to them, that’s the only way you could take a large group of whales and dump ’em in the desert.  Is there any other explanation?  Well, yes, if you look at it logically.

First, there’s the matter of the fossils themselves.  AiG claims that fossils can form quickly, and demonstrate it in a small, science fair-like experiment with no organic material at all.  Riddle me this, Batman-how do you know fossils can form quickly if you don’t test it with organic material?  Here’s what could prove your claim: subject a small creature (a rat or squirrel would do) to a small-scale tsunami, and have it buried under a large pile of sediment.  Wait about forty days and forty nights, and then see just how fossilized your test subject is.

But, I’m getting off track, aren’t I?  We know for a fact that whales travel in small pods, and that gray whales travel in masses for one of the largest migrations on earth.  Isn’t it likely that prehistoric whales behaved similarly?  If so, that explains why they were all there in the first place.  But how did they get to the desert?  Well, we can reverse engineer a global model, based on current continental drift, how the world looked back when the whales were buried.  At about the time whales evolved, the Sahara desert was a salt marsh.  It’s highly likely that water levels near South America were higher back then.  If so, then they simply could have drowned.  Easy as that.

Ah, the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.  Without a doubt, it was the biggest evolutionary hullabaloo until Dover/Kitzmiller, and one of the most dramatic.  But the legacy stretches to the superb play Inherit The Wind, which is similar but still very different from the actual happenings.  Instead of the small town of Dover, we go to the fictional little village of Hillsboro, where instead of John T. Scopes, a man named Bertram Cates has been arrested (actually not part of the punishment for teaching evolution) for teaching, of course, Darwin’s theory of evolution, instead of biblical creation as mandated by the Butler Act.  Despite all of the historical inaccuracies, the play is really, really good.  I mean, you can picture a troubled small town, understand the massive issues at stake, and best of all, feel the heart-pounding emotion of the Drummond-Brady standoff, which is based on a real event.  In fact, I’m even considering turning the CC tagline (a Mark Twain quote) into one of the lines from that awesome argument.  There’s just no other way to say it: Inherit the Wind is a truly great American play.

Ah, the old myth of dragons.  At least, we think they’re myths.  If the creationists are correct (and they rarely are when it comes to things like this), then maybe your fire-breathing favorites have some roots in the fossil record.  Let’s look at a couple of examples.  First, we have this dragon from the Ishtar Gate in Babylon:

Ishtar Dragon

Okay, at first glance, I can see where the idea that it was a dinosaur came from.  From a distance, you might call this thing a sauropod, and the neck/head are slightly similar, but look at the feet.  Even if you were ten meters away, you can automatically tell: those are talons.  No sauropods that we know of had feet like that.  Sauropods have elephant-like legs, not something that looks like it belongs on a chicken.  If that wasn’t enough, the body shape is too slim and rectangular to support what we know of as a sauropod body.  While I see the creationists’ point, the visual evidence is stacked against them this time around.  Next, we have a cave drawing of what some are calling a pterosaur, obtained from a pretty basic website called Discovery News, which I assume isn’t affiliated with the far better Discovery Channel:

Pterosaur Drawing

Does this bear any resemblance to known pterosaurs?  Actually, you can see a few traits that are common in large pterosaurs, such as the crest, but there’s one big problem here: the wings.  A) they’re barely distinguishable, and B) we know that their wings were shaped differently.  Instead of curlicued things that aren’t aerodynamic in the least, we see broad, sail-like appendages.  Plus, it’s entirely possible that this is a case of mistaken identity, with the Native Americans who drew this in fact seeing a bird, like a buzzard or vulture.  That also explains the long legs, which we don’t tend to see a lot in big pterosaurs.  Finally, we have a classic Chinese dragon.

Chinese Dragon

The creationists want us to believe that this was, in fact, a dinosaur.  Ahem.  *cough*  How unbelievably stupid is that?  First, we have the length of the body.  We see some dinosaurs that were really long, but none this lanky, and certainly none with splayed-out legs like we see here.  Then, there’s the fact that this thing appears to have fur and facial hair!  While lots of feathered dinosaurs have been found, none of them look anything like this.  The most likely idea is that the people were either seeing a monitor lizard, or it was just a figment of their imaginations.

Let’s finish off this four-step article with a few quick quote dissections from a book I have read, Opposing Viewpoints: School Policies.  This book tackles everything from dress codes to creationism in schools.  And why not have a look at one of the quotes supporting the latter!

“Even Darwin himself purportedly no longer believed in his own theory when he died.”

I’m really going to try to keep from laughing now.  The whole “Darwin rejects evolution” story is a huge myth.  The perpetrator of the fairy tale, a woman named Lady Hope, never actually visited Darwin on his deathbed, according to his children.  It’s just plain crazy.  Another section of the article is also written by a Christian, but this is about gay/straight alliance clubs.  The writer states that any self-respecting school wouldn’t allow a Marlboro/tattoo/drag racing club to exist, so why a GSA?  Well, Ms. Misrepresentation, there’s a fine line between a club that basically supports human rights and a club that is obviously inappropriate.  A gay/straight alliance club will not “indoctrinate” people into being homosexual.  It would just show them that gay and lesbian people are humans, too.  There’s nothing immoral about that.

Recently, Republican president wannabe Rick Perry aired a short commercial entitled “Strong”, in which he pretty much criticizes the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, saying that there’s something wrong with the country if gays can openly serve in the military, but children can’t openly celebrate Christmas.  I mean, REALLY?!  Children can obviously go to church and openly celebrate Christmas, or go caroling, or any other of a number of things that count as openly celebrating the holiday.  And yeah, gays can serve in the military, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  Then, he goes onto say that they can’t pray in schools.  And it all goes downhill from here.  Here’s the thing: kids can silently pray in schools, or pray during free hours like lunch or recess, but if he means to say that we should legalize school prayer, Rick is violating the freedom of religion.  If you want to have Christian prayers said openly in the classroom under the teacher’s guidance, you either have to include prayers from every other religion on earth, or you’re asking for another Engel vs. Vitale case.  You’d probably get sued anyway.

Rick keeps on going, saying that he’ll end Obama’s war on religion.  That’s actually not true.  President Obama never attacked religion in general, or even negatively criticized any particular religion (to the best of my knowledge).  All he said was “America is not a Christian nation.”  Even though the U.S. was partially founded due to religious discrimination in England, immigration up till today formed what some call the great melting pot.  Which is, to say, we are not just fundamentalist Christians.  We’re Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, and dozens of others.  Rick says that faith is what made America great, and that’s what will make her great again.  Well, our freedom of religion is a really good thing, but what about our freedom of expression, or press, or speech, or assembly?  Rick, being as right-wing as right-wing can get, is merely equating gay rights with being anti-Christian.  That’s not true.  I support gay rights, but I’m only anti-young earth creationism.

And, just to finish this article off, let’s say a few words about quicksand.  AiG has an article on their Answers Magazine site about the famous Velociraptor vs Protoceratops fossils, and attempts to debunk the various evolutionary explanations for their fossilization, eventually just sticking to their unscientific assumptions of the Flood.  One of the explanations, quicksand, was supposedly debunked by the fact that the animals would have tried to get away.  That may be true, but if prehistoric quicksand was anything like modern quicksand (there’s no difference between the two, but I’m just saying), the struggles of the fighters might have sunk them almost immediately.  On a related note, the two other “debunked” explanations, a sandstorm and a collapsing sand dune, were put down by the fact that they couldn’t carry the moisture needed to mineralize the bones.  Well, here’s my response: where do you think this photo comes from?  (Besides Wikipedia)

Perfect Fossils

That’s right-it came from the Italian city of Pompeii, where around 70 A.D., a volcanic eruption perfectly preserved the forms of the city’s citizens.  Just like the Mongolian dinosaur fighters, these fossils are beautifully preserved.  So here’s my question: did Mt. Vesuvius carry the moisture needed to fossilize these skeletons?  On that note, we’re done with the article.  See you around!

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Racist Churches, Dinosaur Ancestors, And More Flood Problems

AiG posted their latest News to Note article today, and I intend to deal with one of the news pieces covered, and what it says about evolution.  You see, a church in Kentucky recently banned interracial couples from taking part in services.  Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty racist to me.  I mean, just because a couple is of two different races does not violate their freedom to practice religion.  There’s nothing wrong with an interracial couple being good Christians.  But that’s not my point.  My point is about a quote from the article:

“On the other hand, some evolutionists, including Darwin, believing human beings evolved from apelike ancestors, have thought some ‘racial’ groups are more highly evolved than others.”

How does this A) have any relevance to the issue at hand and B) make any sense?  I can see where AiG gets their “racist Darwin” concept from: the full title of Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species.  The full title is On The Origin Of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (Thank you, Wikipedia!).  Whew!  Kent Hovind pointed out his theory that favored races equals racism, but that’s not true.  The races Darwin refers to are just different kinds of animals.  In fact, if evolution is true, there’s no need for racism, because all humans are one species and there’s no superior race!

Next up, we have a piece on the ancestors of sauropods and ceratopsians.  That may sound like gibberish, but they’re very real families of very popular dinosaurs.  Sauropods are the long-necked herbivores that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, and include such famous creatures as Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus.  Ceratopsians are the frilled creatures from the Cretaceous, and include the hugely popular Triceratops, as well as big-skulled Torosaurus.  But, if evolution is true, where did all of these guys come from?  The answer is staring you right in the face.

The origins of the sauropods are perhaps best represented by the Triassic prosauropod Plateosaurus, whose image can be found below.  This and the next photo were obtained via Wikipedia, which is a lot more accurate than you’d think.

Plateosaurus

As you can see, Plateosaurus has a fairly long neck, which we would expect to see in an ancestor of a sauropod.  The similarities between the arms and the legs indicates that it may have been able to walk on all fours, like its Jurassic descendants.  While the size is drastically different from the Jurassic Park behemoths we know and love, it’s a large step forward for this kind of creature.  One species of prosauropod, Mussaurus, had babies no bigger than mice!  It’s fairly easy to see how, as plants became bigger to cope with more carbon dioxide in the Mesozoic atmosphere, the animals that ate them had to grow, too.  This next photo shows a dinosaur you’ve probably heard of.

Protoceratops

Ah, yes.  Protoceratops.  These ancestors of the giant Triceratops are well-known finds from Mongolia.  While they’re no bigger than a sheep, the ceratopsian characteristics in this fossil are easy to see.  First, we have the prominent frill, which, as everybody knows, is a key component in the mental image of a Triceratops.  Then we have the horn/beak formation at the mouth, which in more recent ceratopsian skeletons serves as the third horn.  We’ve found multiple other specimens of “protoceratopsids”, which serve as saurian transitional forms in the ongoing search for knowledge about dinosaur evolution.

For our final article, I’d like to point out two more issues with the Flood.  I already addressed three major problems with the Flood in one of my earliest articles, but I’d missed a few, so let’s have a look at them:

  1. Everest-sized erosion.  Let’s face facts: Mount Everest is pretty dang high.  It’s the tallest mountain in the world, for gosh sakes!  So here’s my question: since all water on earth disperses evenly (as in, you can’t lower the level of one part of a bathtub without lowering the level of the rest), how high were the floodwaters, and if so, how thick did the rain need to be?  I mean, you wouldn’t be able to breathe if sheets of water were always falling on your head?  Some creationists propose that the earth was smooth, and that the Flood changed its geology.  But then, that would mean the Flood would need to carve around something, right?  Or else it would just cover the earth.  Which brings me to point two…
  2. Where’d all the water go?  According to the creationists, here’s the answer:

By the way, that’s one of AiG’s After Eden comics, by Dan Lietha.  So, let me get this straight: God just blew the water away?  The only way that would make any sense at all is if earth was as flat as the Discworld, and that isn’t likely.  If the water evaporated, it would have taken a really long time for the Ark to land.  This is just mounting evidence against the Flood.  Keep watching Confronting Creation for a new Chick dissection!

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Hominid Smiles, Sandstorm Fossils, Trilobite Explosions, And More

Today, we’ll be examining a few articles from AiG’s most recent News to Note article, as well as other creationist news and classic arguments.  First up is the newly discovered Australopithecus sediba, a new hominid species.  Recently, an artist’s interpretation of one of the fossil’s faces was created, that portrayed the specimen (dubbed “Karabo”) with a smile on its face.  AiG says that we’re jumping to conclusions, the reason being that just because an artist draws it doesn’t make it true.  They’re right about this, but we know hominids are very similar to, if slightly more advanced than, modern apes, who show lots of emotion.  I can attest to this, since I very recently visited the National Zoo in Washington D.C. (my hometown, as a matter of fact). The gorillas there displayed very humanlike behavior, including slapping one another (true story), and even curiosity.  While they can’t exactly smile, this doesn’t mean they can’t show happiness, anger, or even just plain wonder.  That makes hominids showing emotion a very likely possibility.

Another piece in the AiG article is about recent findings of Protoceratops babies in the Gobi Desert.  It’s a little-known fact that Protoceratops, as well as creatures like Plateosaurus, are spectacular evidence for dinosaur evolution.  Both of these species represent early stages in the development of two major dinosaur groups (for Protoceratops, it’s ceratopsians, and for Plateosaurus, it’s sauropods).  But that’s not the point.  The point is that AiG says that the main theory for how these dinosaurs died is that water-propelled sand buried them.  According to them, that leaves two possibilities: flash floods, or the global Flood.  While both could carry sand, there are alternative explanations.  Let’s have a look at pop culture to find another possibility: in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, we see firsthand how devastating sandstorms can be.  It’s no huge mystery that the Gobi Desert wasn’t that different from what we see today than it was in the Cretaceous, so sandstorms were likely to still exist.  Therefore, here’s what might have happened: a massive sandstorm, the likes of which can suffocate living things, buries and preserves the bones of the Protoceratops babies.  That also explains why we find so many well-preserved fossils from Cretaceous Mongolia.

It’s a well-known antievolution argument: the Cambrian Explosion, which produced hundreds of new species over a several million year period, is too abrupt to encompass evolution.  On the contrary-it’s one of evolution’s greatest successes.  During the Cambrian Explosion (which took place during the Cambrian, as you may have guessed), it’s true that many new species of trilobites and other invertebrates and fish, but that doesn’t make it evidence against evolution, despite it only taking a few million years to happen.  If I do recall, if human evolution is true (and the evidence says it is), man only had a few million years to evolve from more basic species of primate.  And that’s not counting that we’ve found pre-Explosion fossils that evolution predicts would exist.  So is the Cambrian Explosion evidence against evolution?  The overwhelming evidence says no.

On the AiG site Kids Answers, an article appeared about a new fossil species called Cronopio.  What makes this fossil so unique (and just plain neat) is that it bears a distinct resemblance to the famous acorn-hunting prehistoric squirrel Scrat, of the Ice Age film series.  What’s funny about this article is found in this quote from Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell:

“Cronopio just happens to have some features in common with living insect-eaters, some features in common with other fossilized extinct creatures, and enough unique features to give its discoverers the prerogative of naming it as a new species.  It is not a transitional form.”

The key word in this quote is “just happens” (Okay, it’s two words, but who’s counting?).  Elizabeth just assumes the fact that Cronopio has features of several different kinds of animals is just a coincidence.  That’s illogical, because which is a better explanation for an extinct species with several different features present in other animal families-the features just happen to be there, or the animal had shared lineage with other kinds of mammals?  The odds favor the latter.

For our final article, let’s discuss population control.  Today, there are roughly seven billion people on earth.  That’s not the issue here.  The issue is how many animals there are.  There are a lot of them, you can probably guess, and new species are often discovered (take the Census of Marine Life’s findings, for example).  Let’s add into the organism melting pot all of the extinct species.  As far as we know, there are over two hundred thousand.  And that’s just scratching the surface; it’s been estimated that we only have one percent of the Cretaceous fossil record.  So, there are most likely millions of extinct species that we don’t even know about.  According to what creationists say, all of these animals were present in the Garden of Eden.  But here’s the catch-they don’t know how big the garden was, nor where it was located. So, riddle me this, Batman-how is it humanly possible that a place we barely have any knowledge of (assuming that it even existed) could support millions upon millions of plants and animals, counting marine life?  It’s a tough question, one that creationists can’t answer without just saying that God did it and everything was fine.  ‘Cause that’s not science.  And on that happy note, I bid you guys adieu.

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