Thursday, January 20, 2011

But they said it will make money......

Ken Ham is a creationist from good ol' Queensland who didn't have much success trying to introduce creationism into the science curriculum here so he moved to the USA. This is his logic in a nutshell:

He is now trying to build a theme park based around the story of Noah's Ark.

He already has a creation museum in Kentucky. The motto is "Creation Museum - prepare to disbelieve." Mad Magazine voted it no. 14 on its most dumbest things of the year 2007. Let me quote what they said:

"Finally there is compelling evidence that the theory of evolution is wrong! For proof positive that man's intelligence has not evolved in eons, consider the Cro-Magnon brained imbeciles behind the recently opened Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum's exhibits don't merely challenge science, they ignore it completely! It's the only place in the world you can see man riding bareback on a dinosaur — except, of course, in an old episode of The Flintstones."

His Noah's Ark theme park was endorsed by Governor Steve Beshear who has decided to provide $45 million in tax incentives to the project. His reason for this? Because a report said that the park would bring in 1.6 million visitors and $250 million to the state.

Let's look at this report. It was a feasibility study commissioned by Ken Ham and written by his mate Brit Breemer. It's 10,000 pages long. So you would expect the governor or his staff to have read the study, questioned its findings and had independent analysis of the document. Only after such deliberation would you commit $45 million.

An article in the looked at the claims made and questioned the findings of the study. When pressed about the proposed funding by the government:

"Beshear's aides later acknowledged that the state never obtained a copy of the study.

Spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said that wasn't necessary because the governor's staff had met with Ark Encounter staff and knew the study's conclusions."

So this governor just promised them money because they said it would be good for the state. Well, if they believe creationism, they will believe anything. By the way, I've got a bridge that's up for sale.......................

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just 'cause we haven't found anything yet.... part 2

Following on from the last post, what should we expect to find if bigfoot did exist? If they do exist, then they must leave some sort of a trace.

Let's assume that bigfoot is a primate, more specifically a great ape.

Facts about great apes
- Gestation period is roughly 9 months for all great apes.
- Females and offspring stay together for at least the first 3 years of the child's life.
- Females give birth every 4 - 7 years once they reach the mature age of 10 years. (Humans being the only exception).
- Average life expectancy in the wild is a maximum 40 years. In captivity, about 10 years more.
- Sustainable population is at the very minimum 1000. Less than this and they are classified as critically endangered. Every the bigfoot true believers think there has to be at least 2000.
- Most of the time spent eating and pooing. Humans again the exception because of the amount of meat we eat. The mountain gorilla eats about 34kg of vegetation a day!

Let's start with 1000 creatures, half female. Of these females if we spread them out over a 40 year life span, 3/4 are over 10. Of these, let's say 1/4 or these give birth in one year. That's about 90 births a year. Not all of these children will survive to adulthood. Let's be tough and say there is a 90% chance that the baby doesn't make it to adult hood. So that leaves about 10. Now, if the population is stable, this means that to balance out the births, we need 10 adult creatures to die every year. If they have been around for over 10,000 years, there should be at least 100,000 corpses in varies stages of decay. So we should be able to find some remains, eg, Hair, bones. Status: None found. Isn't it strange that when people say they have found such evidence the material always gets away.

With 1000 specimens out there, surely we should have conclusive pictorial or movie evidence. I mean, the Amur Leopard is smaller, exists in a more inaccessible habitat, consists of only 30 - 35 left in the wild and we can get superb footage of it.

We should have found faeces. These would contain the DNA of the bigfoot. Has such evidence been found? No.

That's a lot of food they eat. Where are the food scraps? And spending most of the day eating means that you probably spend most of the time in one place, especially the female caring for its young. So why has no one come across bigfoot nests, or a bigfoot den? Here you would undoubtedly find hairs and poo.

Unless they are carnivores, although we should still find poo. But then we should have found the bones of the creatures they ate with bigfoot teeth marks. Again, nothing found.

Also, from a historical perspective, there is absolutely nothing in the fossil record to show that a creature of this type could have evolved on the American continent. No evidence that a creature such as this could have migrated either. Nothing.

This is when you need to think well, maybe absence of evidence IS evidence of absence. The less you find the more likely it is that the creature does not exist.

A final note, does anyone remember a couple of years ago when two men claimed to have found bigfoot and had the corpse in a freezer? The Age newspaper ran two articles on it (here and here), I even heard Red Simons on 774 radio interview one of the men. Not much questioning went on. They sent samples away to be DNA tested.

Well, guess what? The DNA samples came back and showed it to be a mixture of human DNA and opossum DNA. Then, others were allowed to look at it, and what do you know, it turned out to be a gorilla suit. Here's a news report.

Personally, it would be fantastic if such a creature existed. It would revolutionise our understanding of evolution and we could extend our knowledge of primates. But reality has to kick in. People have searched for so long and nothing is found. What does all the evidence point to? That such a creature does not exist.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Deadpool '11: First entries in

Here are the first entries:

Come on peoples, you know you want to be in it.
Edit: Welcome aboard Andrew.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just 'cause we haven't found anything yet....

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

I've head that a lot from believers when it comes to discussing whether bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, or any other cryptozoological creature exists. "Just 'cause we haven't found anything yet doesn't mean it doesn't exist". True. However, this doesn't mean that it does exist.

What we need to do is ask the individual who is making the claim to lay out their evidence. And we should start with the idea that their claim is false. Why? Because it is the default position. Before I made the claim, the claim didn't exist. For example, if I make a claim that there is a polar bear living in my house, you should start off with the assumption that I don't and not believe my claim. (In general conversations this form of questioning would piss people off if you did it for every claim they made. For instance, if I said that there is a cat in my house, you would probably accept it. But if an extraordinary claim was made, I reckon that's when it's OK.)

OK. Once the claim is made, let them bring forward their evidence. Now the more extraordinary the claim, the better the evidence should be. And, this is crucial, we should look at all possible explanations. Then after looking at the evidence we should say which explanation is the most likely based on what we already know.

We should have an evidence meter.

And it should start in the grey section down the bottom, meaning no evidence.

For bigfoot, the Patterson-Gimlin film is put forward as evidence.

Now we ask ourselves, is that really bigfoot, or is the most likely explanation "a guy in a suit". Well, Greg Long researched this by interviewing the people in the town where Patterson lived and found that Bob Heironimus claimed he was the guy in the suit. Other townsfolk said that they had seen the suit and that everyone in the town at the time knew it was a hoax.

OK. Let's see which claim (it is truly bigfoot, it is a guy in a suit) is the most likely. We should start with the null claim. That it's a guy in a suit. Then look for signs that rules this out emphatically. And I mean complete rules this out. First let us look at the video but this time remove the shakiness by using modern stabilisation techniques.

Looks like a man walking in a suit to me. But what about Bob's claim that it was him.

Is it possible that it was Bob in a suit? Yes. What is the most likely explanation? Guy in suit. Why? Because we know of previous occasions when people have dressed up in animal suits. Fancy dress parties, gorilla grams, etc. There is no extraordinary evidence in this footage to make us change our minds. In fact when the townsfolk first saw the film, they said that it was Bob. That's how Bob walked, they said.

But that doesn't mean that Bigfoot doesn't exist. Remember "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." But this is not always true. I'll look into this next post.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Deadpool '10: The final result

Well, the results are in. It was not a good year for predictions. Unlike last year, where you needed 6 hits to win, it only took two.

So this years winner is, me.
Thanks for the entries. If anyone is interested in Deadpool '11, just make your wishes known in the comments section.