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Brandon Petaccio



Brandon Petaccio

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This is pretty rough, but I wanted to get it out there in time for this special occasion. There will be editing.

Darwin Day: Reflections on a Personal Evolution
In honor of Charles Darwin, whose rhetorical modesty and bold intellect I greatly admire, I thought it was about time I traced my own evolution from a timid, perhaps naive, wayfarer, traipsing through a jungle of technical obfuscation and controversy, to what I am today: a marginally better-read version of the same thing. To begin with, I was raised in church, and many of my similarly religious friends were spending their adolescence taking up arms against this thing called “evolution”. Darwin was assumed to be one of history’s great villains, and his ideas were to be vigorously opposed. For my own part, I lacked the confidence to engage in such conversations. Something in me sensed that this was a losing battle. My creeping suspicion was that certain, most-cherished beliefs were opposed to certain, best-established science, and I did not muster the courage to confront so uncertain an outcome until well after high school. It wasn't until some time in college that I first allowed myself to contemplate the issues that had long been laid before me, and, being in the midst of students of all manner of sciences, my situation had become much better suited for exploration.

So I explored. And predictably, evolutionists characterized my questioning as ignorant - a charge to which I plead no contest. Evolutionists were a bombastic  bunch, but they had a knowledge of chemistry and paleontology commensurate with their demeanor. This was just what I had expected: a losing battle against a well-equipped, more experienced army of spiritual progeny of what I assumed was a militant Darwin, posthumously leading the charge. But I was in this to learn, not to win, and in time, I began to learn about Darwin the man. I discovered that he is nothing like his modern heirs to the throne of science.

A Discrepancy of Character
I recently came across a bit of research which showed that individuals with “higher cognitive ability” exhibit a “larger bias blind spot”. One interpretation I read was that smarter people are overconfident, and so are not as careful in consideration of their own views. If I knew anyone at risk for overconfidence, it surely was the most confident people I knew: evolutionists. Their general air of hubris turned out to be in stark contrast to the object of their indelible affections - Darwin - who was remarkably humble. Indeed, Darwin took very seriously the challenges to his seminal work on common descent. He regularly cautioned those in his own camp against credulity, particularly on the subject of abiogenesis (variously called by other names in Darwin's time), despite characterizing this as an issue of "transcendent importance". Darwin took great care to avoid blind spots, and didn't seem to have any, near as I could tell. It's just that he felt he had the best interpretation of the greatest number of facts, despite any anomalous information.

Evolutionists today also feel that they have the best interpretation of facts, but they seem hypersensitive to any suggestion that there remains anything anomalous in modern evolutionary theory. Most surprising of late has been when evolutionists argue with great rigor against facts that come from the mainstream scientific literature, but that they initially assume to have come from some "creationist" website. I am not alluding to singular facts, but to foundational principles and mysteries of modern science that evolutionists, at least the ones I talk to, seem invariably unaware of. These are their blind spots, and I will delineate the three most pervasive.

Blind Spot 1: Digital DNA
Whenever I open the question of the information content in DNA, you can be sure that a large proportion of responses from evolutionists will characterize these biochemical systems as “just a bunch of chemistry,” and not as digital information systems. But this betrays an ignorance of what it means to be digital ( It does not mean that information systems are not amenable to physical law. It means that a limited (quantized) set of well-defined (discrete) characters (signal components) are transmitted across an information channel, and are then translated. The alphabet is digital. Binary is digital. The cell’s biochemical information system transmits sequences of DNA’s nucleotide base pairs (discrete, quantized, signal components) across an information channel (mRNA), then translates it (in the ribosome) into polypeptides, which fold into usable proteins. In other words, DNA and its protein machinery possess all of the qualities of a digital information system. Those who argue to the contrary are stuck in a mode of thinking that went out of vogue half a century ago, when the cell was thought to be a gelatinous amalgam of physical necessity. Such ideas proved to be unfruitful after the elucidation of DNA’s structure in 1953, and researchers grappled with the mystery of heritable traits. It was finally agreed upon that DNA was responsible for inheritance, but researchers were stuck trying to figure out how the physical properties of the nucleotides were responsible for the production of proteins. It wasn’t until Francis Collins’ sequence hypothesis that anyone realized they weren’t. Rather, it was the sequence of nucleotides, not their physical properties, that carried information about heritable traits. From the view that DNA represented a full-blown information system, Collins was able to make a series of risky predictions about the existence of intermediary translation apparatuses, for which there was not yet a shred of evidence, but that soon proved to be remarkably accurate.

Thus, not only is it technically accurate to characterize DNA and its protein machinery as a digital information system, but this view proved heuristically productive and prescient at a time when researchers were at a standstill. The fact of the cell’s information system has become a foundational assumption in the science literature, yet evolutionists still regularly argue the point.

Blind Spot 2: The Tree of Life
A second blind spot happens to be a point of particular confidence among evolutionists: the fossil record. I often see the words “we have the fossils; we win” being bandied about on the internet, but few evolutionists I talk to seem aware that the proverbial tree of life also represents the biggest problem for Darwin’s theory. Darwin anticipated that the geologic record should reveal a “finely graduated organic chain,” and openly recognized that the absence of this pattern was “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” (

The inevitable response is that 150 years of paleontology has vindicated Darwin, just as he hoped, but the science literature tells a different story. So pervasive in the literature is this alternative reality that it is hard to choose only a few references, but one that stands out comes from an article in the journal Evolution, titled “A Comparative Study of Diversification Events”:

“The fossil record suggests that the major pulse of diversification of phyla occurs before that of the classes, classes before that of orders, orders before that of families... The higher taxa do not seem to have diverged through an accumulation of lower taxa.”

In other words, the fossil record does not corroborate Darwins narrative that disparate forms are the product of cumulative diversification. If evolutionists turn out not to be ignorant of Darwin’s own concerns with the fossil record (rare), they surely have proved ignorant of the fact that the problem persists today, and is made more acute by the disparity-first pattern in the history of life that is exactly opposite of Darwin’s expectations. From a 2013 article published in the journal New Scientist, titled “Missing rock fuelled Cambrian explosion of life”:

“In a geological blink of an eye, most groups of the animal kingdom appeared in the Earth's oceans and then diversified.”

2013 was a significant year for paleontology, for it also yielded a book by leading paleontologists Douglas Erwin and James Valentine, titled "The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity":

"Morphologic evolution is commonly depicted with lineages more or less gradually diverging from their common ancestor. New features arise along the evolving lineages... but neither the Cambrian nor the living marine fauna display this pattern."

But few capture the situation as poignantly as Eugene Koonin, who remarked in his 2007 work titled “The Biological Big Band Model for the Major Transitions in Evolution”:

“The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin’s original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution.”

That is just a very minute sampling of the wealth of information in the science literature analyzing life’s pattern of disparity-first. Nowhere does any serious researcher pretend that this pattern does not exist, or that it is not contrary to Darwin’s prediction. Yet, evolutionists have somehow been convinced that “we have the fossils,” despite the overwhelming reality that the geologic record of life continues to present a problem for Darwin’s theory that today is even more acute than in Darwin’s time.

Blind Spot 3 - Falsifiability
A third blind spot is the use of demarcation arguments to categorically dismiss alternative ideas as “non-science”. I characterize this as a “blind spot” because those employing such tactics usually prove themselves to be ignorant of the history and operations of science. There are a number of demarcation arguments, but none is more egregious than falsifiability. It is not insignificant that the popularizer of the falsification criterion, Karl Popper, did not believe that the Darwinian framework was falsifiable. Nor did he believe that unfalsifiable ideas could not have scientific value. More importantly, though, is the work of historian of science Thomas Kuhn, who showed the resilience of large scientific frameworks, like Darwinian evolution. Science operates on the preponderance of evidence, not singular facts where the outcome of one true-or-false proposition determines the success of failure of larger propositions. Rather, scientific frameworks, like Darwinian evolution, are built upon a series of smaller propositions which, together, converge upon certain grand conclusions. Falsify one proposition, and there are still many others supporting the framework. In this way, Kuhn showed, scientific “paradigms” have an inherent tolerance for anomalous outcomes. Yet few would argue that such paradigms are unscientific simply because, as a matter of science history, they are never falsified in one fell swoop. Nevertheless, evolutionists act as though an idea can have no scientific value if it is not falsifiable, even though Popper, from whom their belief is derived, would not have agreed, and despite the questionable falsifiability of large scientific frameworks.

Darwin: No respecter of hubris
As I continue to study Darwin, my admiration grows. He was intellectually sharp, articulate, and honest. He was as confident in his theory as he was candid about its weaker points. I sometimes wonder, if he were suddenly popped back into existence in the year 2015, what he would think about DNA. Would he see it as the “complex organ” that would cause his theory to “absolutely break down” ( Would he be surprised that, 150 years later, the fossil record does not corroborate his tree of life? These questions are intriguing because it is so hard to tell, from what we know about the man. One thing we can be sure of is that he would not be impressed with the hubris of his representatives today. If there’s anything I have learned from Darwin, it’s that the most proud are most deserving of our skepticism. And evolutionists are the proudest people I know.
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Noah G.
+Bill Ingram if Americans come from Europeans then why are there still Europeans?
Learn some basic evolutionary science of you want to keep from sounding like an goober with old tired arguments that should have died out in the 90s.
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Good idea.
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Etymology: Micro-Macro Evolution
etymology - the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history

This is a series on the origin of key phrases in debates between theists and non-theists. Theists are often accused of inventing pejoratives with no real heuristic value, just to obfuscate the debate. Most of the time, I don't think this is true. To find updates to this series, search the Christian Apologetics community for hashtag #etymology .

Micro-Macro Evolution
It's commonly argued that the difference between microevolution and macroevolution is just a Creationist invention to conceal the fact that there is no real difference, that we can extrapolate large-scale changes from small-scale changes, and that "real" scientists never make this distinction or use these terms. But in fact, "microevolution" and "macroevolution" appear in numerous textbooks and other peer-reviewed literature.

Campbell Essential Biology 4th edition
This 2009 textbook defines "macroevolution" as "Evolutionary change on a grand scale, encompassing the origin of novel designs, evolutionary trends, adaptive radiation, and mass extinction."

Other books in the science literature use "macroevolution" in their titles:

Macroevolutionary Dynamics by Niles Eldredge (1989)
Macroevolution: Pattern and Process by Steven M. Stanely (1998)

The phrases also appear in the peer-reviewed science journals:

In a 1978 paper titled Paleontologists confronting macroevolution, published in Science, Robert E. Ricklefs explores punctuated equilibrium.

In a 1980 paper titled Evolutionary Theory Under Fire, also published in Science, Roger Lewin wrote, "The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution."

In a 2000 paper titled Macroevolution is more than repeated rounds of microevolution, published in Evolution and Development, Douglas Erwin not only uses these terms, but explains the difference between them:

"Arguments over macroevolution versus microevolution have waxed and waned through most of the twentieth century. Initially, paleontologists and other evolutionary biologists advanced a variety of non-Darwinian evolutionary processes as explanations for patterns found in the fossil record, emphasizing macroevolution as a source of morphologic novelty. Later, paleontologists, from Simpson to Gould, Stanley, and others... argued that rapid speciation produced a discontinuity between micro- and macroevolution...These discontinuities impose a hierarchical structure to evolution and discredit any smooth extrapolation from allelic substitution to large-scale evolutionary patterns. Recent developments in comparative developmental biology suggest a need to reconsider the possibility that some macroevolutionary discontinuities may be associated with the origination of evolutionary innovation. The attractiveness of macroevolution reflects the exhaustive documentation of large-scale patterns which reveal a richness to evolution unexplained by microevolution. If the goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the history of life, rather than simply document experimental analysis of evolution, studies from paleontology, phylogenetics, developmental biology, and other fields demand the deeper view provided by macroevolution."
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Micro and macro evolution are the same
Micro and macro evolution are different
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I was trying to be patient, but you added "hypocrisy" to the mixture of guideline violations. Goodbye. Hope you didn't put too much effort into those comments.

Besides that, you already conceded that at least one peer-reviewed publication "argues that there is one [a difference between microevolution and macroevolution]".
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Yeah, great way to start a conversation.
Privileged Species is a new 32-minute documentary that has just been released this week, and can be viewed for free on YouTube (and by simply clicking below). I assume it will argue that the world we live in is designed for complex life, specifically human beings. This is an argument that I am still withholding judgment on until I'm sure I understand it in its strongest form (the principle of charity), and this documentary is sure to be an enjoyable way to explore further.
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Granted, and most of the time, I would agree with that assessment, but in this case, I think it's perfectly reasonable to assume that a universe which precludes the combinatorial space required for life, as defined above, also precludes life.

As for evidence, I don't mean that I accept what they present as evidence, only that they do. I would say less than half of the evidences directly support the argument as I described it, and the rest, while still very interesting, are harder to connect to the argument. A lot of those, I will have to contemplate more.
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Etymology: Irreducible Complexity
etymology: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

I want to do a series on the origin of some key phrases in debates between theists and non-theists. Theists are often accused of inventing pejoratives with no real heuristic value to obfuscate the debate. Most of the time, I don't think this is true. To find updates to this series, search the Christian Apologetics community for hashtag #etymology .

Irreducible Complexity
Behe famously used the term "irreducible complexity" in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box. But ten years earlier, in 1986, Michael J. Katz used the term "irreducibly complex" to describe the same problem:

In the natural world, there are many pattern-assembly systems for which there is no simple explanation. There are useful scientific explanations for these complex systems, but the final patterns that they produce are so heterogeneous that they cannot effectively be reduced to smaller or less intricate predecessor components. As I will argue in Chapters 7 and 8, these patterns are, in a fundamental sense, irreducibly complex…” (pp. 26-27) - Where does the particular form or configuration of a pattern come from, and how is it propagated from pattern to pattern? Templets and the Explanation of Co...
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What kind of engineering is the coolest, and why?
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lol, you guys are awesome
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This is an excellent collection of research bearing out the positive effects of religion, but I was wondering if anybody knows of any resources with more recent information?
A steadily growing body of evidence from the social sciences demonstrates that regular religious practice benefits individuals, families, and communities, and thus the nation as a whole.Policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels shouldtherefore encourage an environment in which religious institutionsand organizations can thrive and citizens can actively practicetheir faith.
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+Brandon Petaccio Here's a few articles I found that really stood out to me.  However, there are many, many more that discuss religion and spirituality as significant protective factors against suicide, depression, substance abuse, etc.,.

Benefiel, M., Fry, L. W., & Geigle, D. (2014). Spirituality and religion in the workplace: History, theory, and research. Psychology Of Religion And Spirituality, 6(3), 175-187. doi:10.1037/a0036597

In sum, SRW [Spirituality/ Religion in the Workplace] is an emerging area of scholarly inquiry that has an atypical history in that it has its roots in philosophy and theology rather than in a more established field of social science such as, in this case, the psychology of religion and spirituality. However, since the landmark study by Mitroff and Denton (1999), SRW has begun to experience some convergence, both theoretically and empirically, on the importance of an inner life or spiritual practice in fostering a vision and set of altruistic values that satisfy fundamental spiritual needs for calling and community, which in turn positively influence important individual and organizational outcomes

David, P., & Stafford, L. (2015). A relational approach to religion and spirituality in marriage: The role of couples’ religious communication in marital satisfaction. Journal Of Family Issues, 36(2), 232-249. doi:10.1177/0192513X13485922

Results indicate that one’s individual relationship with God is important to marital quality indirectly as it appears to manifest itself in religious communication between partners, which in turn is directly linked to martial quality. Also, one’s own forgiveness and forgiveness of the spouse are both positively linked to marital quality, whereas one’s tendency not to forgive and one’s spouse’s tendency not to forgive are both detrimental to marital quality.

Zenic, N., Stipic, M., & Sekulic, D. (2013). Religiousness as a factor of hesitation against doping behavior in college-age athletes. Journal Of Religion And Health, 52(2), 386-396. doi:10.1007/s10943-011-9480-x

Multiple regression calculations revealed religiousness as the most significant predictor of the social, health, sport and legal factors of hesitation against doping behaviors in both genders.
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From our moderator +Kevin Mac:

A great article about the minimal facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus and objections to interpretations

“The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity.” -- Antony Flew
The Minimal Facts of the Resurrection · Jesusresurrection written by Aaron Brake. “The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It's outstandingly different in quality and quantity.” —Antony Flew—. INTRODUCTION. The truth of Christianity stands or ...
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+John Ferguson​ Yes, it is indeed your job to challenge!

I've been doing quite a bit of research on the passage in question, and I've come across almost as many different opinions as articles I've found on the topic.  I think that, as seekers of the word, we must use what we know about the time period; to include literary techniques, references to other books/ prophecies, and political instability, to draw the most reasonable conclusions in these instances.  This is why it's so important to continue to read the word; over and over; to study it.  I agree that to simply refer to such difficult passages as symbolic is a cop out, but sadly this is something many people still do with difficult passages.  Not to say there isn't plenty of symbolism within the Bible at certain points. 

But one of the most unique and compelling things about reading the Bible, is that it will often reflect whatever is in your heart.  You can read the same passage over 100 different days, and derive 100 different meanings from it, depending on where your heart is at each time.  It's really a transcendent sort of thing.   Those that read it with a cynical heart will find reasons to spite it.  Those that read it with a hateful heart,will find reasons to hate it.  Those that read it with a seeker's heart will find answers to questions.   Those who read it with love in their heart will find love returned a million fold.  It is a window to the human condition and an open door through which we can escape it.      
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An apologetics community that welcomes everyone. A place where we don't pretend to have every answer, but we're not afraid to ask the questions. Candid apologetics, if you will.
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Brandon Petaccio

Culture  - 
Some interesting research results.

The Baylor Survey found that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology (Ch. 15, "Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot"). Still, it remains widely believed that religious people are especially credulous, particularly those who identify themselves as Evangelicals, born again, Bible believers and fundamentalists. However, the ISR researchers found that conservative religious Americans are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans, with self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious far more likely than other Americans to believe. The researchers say this shows that it is not religion in general that suppresses such beliefs, but conservative religion.

"There's an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it's true. That is to say, religious people don't believe this stuff, but there's no education effect," Stark said.

Among other interesting findings on paranormal or occult beliefs: People who have read The Purpose-Driven Life or any book in the Left Behind series are less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal, while those who have read any book on dianetics or The Da Vinci Code are more likely to believe.

The Book:
The Article:
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Religious people are more credulous
Non-religious people are more credulous
All groups are equally credulous
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+Brandon Petaccio

I don't think you really took into consideration what I said.

You're correct.  As I said, what does atheism have to do with anything.  Atheist != Skeptic and Skeptic != Atheist.  There are plenty of atheists who are not skeptics and plenty of skeptics who are not atheists.

"ridiculous" is not acceptable in the community, btw. fyi.

Still not caring.
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Brandon Petaccio

Science  - 
Inverted Retina: Good Design
It has always puzzled me that one of the most common arguments against God is "bad design," since it argues from ignorance (we don't know the purpose, therefore purposeless nature dunnit). I suppose it is an alluring argument, since it appeals to our intuition, but reality is not always intuitive. Any critical thinker should be more wary than to accept positive conclusions on the absence of information.

One of the most iconic examples of the "bad design" argument is the inverted retina of the vertabrate eye. Even recently, I've been told - emphatically - that this design has no function. Not according to the latest work of Erez Ribak and Amichai Labin. From Wednesday's article at Scientific American:

These results mean that the retina of the eye has been optimised so that the sizes and densities of glial cells match the colours to which the eye is sensitive (which is in itself an optimisation process suited to our needs). This optimisation is such that colour vision during the day is enhanced, while night-time vision suffers very little. The effect also works best when the pupils are contracted at high illumination, further adding to the clarity of our colour vision.

The lessons for me: a) The design inference continues to erode the already-precarious "bad design" argument. b) Do not be swayed merely by the confidence with which a person speaks.
The reverse-wiring of the eyeball has long been a mystery, but new research shows a remarkable structural purpose: increasing and sharpening our color vision
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+Brandon Petaccio

Some of the words you listed are negative, and some of them are positive. It's not hard.

I don't consider any of them negative, then again, if I hold an illogical position, I'd prefer someone point it out and give me the reasons why so that I can correct it.

These words are descriptive.  Some statements/positions are naive, illogical, nearsighted, etc.

A desire to obfuscate that or to prevent people from pointing out such shortcomings can only being intellectually dishonest, so far as I can tell.

But then you've lost the distinction.

You've failed in explaining why the distinction is meaningful or useful.  Either the being can or cannot.  Either it has what is necessary whether it be a binary qualification or a minimum degree, or it does not.

On the assumption that it has these things, the question becomes, "does it make any sense that a being which would possess these requisite qualities would not possess the requisite qualities to identify flawed mechanistic design?"

As far as I know you believe in some form of the Christian God, as such, I presume you believe this designer did not merely design life, but the physical systems themselves.

Are you really asking me to believe that a being capable of such does not have the foresight to see that thousands of its creation will die every year from choking on their own fuel?

And that's just one example.
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Basic Information
May 3