SGU Episode 439

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SGU Episode 439
December 14th 2013
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 438                      SGU 440

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

R: Rebecca Watson

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.


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Show Notes
Forum Discussion


You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

This Day in Skepticism (1:09)[edit]

  • December 14, 1546: Happy Birthday to Tycho Brahe

News Items[edit]

Atmospheric Mystery (7:13)[edit]

Mima Mounds (12:20)[edit]

Exploding Pig Farms (18:54)[edit]

False Memories (29:20)[edit]

Oldest Human DNA (39:07)[edit]

Mars Radiation (46:48)[edit]

Who's That Noisy (50:58)[edit]

  • Answer to last week: audio distortion

Questions and Emails[edit]

Question #1: Creationist Questions (54:53)[edit]

I’m a big fan of the show. I met a number of you at NECSS 2011; I was Massimo’s (“Rationally Speaking”) guest speaker. Steve may remember me as the idiot at the dinner with Randi who didn’t know that Joe Nickell was the “shroud of Turin guy.” I’ve got something I really hope you can talk about on the show. I recently came across some biological claims in a creationist’s arguments that I had never heard before and are beyond my expertise. I tried to find someone creditable online that has already taken them on, but I came up empty handed. They come from a student of a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, but teaches at a large religious institution. By no means is my friend a creationist (nor is her school “fundamentalist”), but the student (who was raised fundamentalist) wants to engage in dialogue and she’s not sure what to say. I was able to identify a number of logical fallacies, and a misunderstanding of the nature of science, involved in his argument, but I am unable to speak directly to his scientific examples. I’m hoping you can help out. I’ve pasted his e-mail below, so you can have the entire context.Specifically I’m wondering:(1) Are his examples about epinephrine and Iodine accurate, or has medical science already reversed on this—or is he just off base?(2) Is what he says about base pair errors accurate, and is that even relevant to whether or not natural selection can occur? (And it seems that, even if true, this would not be evidence against evolution–just against natural selection of individuals as a mechanism.) (3) Is his claim that “no errors in the DNA of early humans” (e.g., Adam and Eve) would have allowed them to live long lives and mate with siblings (without having genetically abnormal children) accurate? Really looking forward to what you have to say. Keep up the good work. David Kyle JohnsonKing’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PAHis email begins: ”The problem is that once an idea becomes generally accepted in academia , it becomes almost impossible to challenge an accepted “truth”. In Medicine, there are certain truisms that, although, provable false, are almost impossible to challenge because they continue to be taught as “fact” in all medical schools:-epinephrine injected into a digit like a finger or toe can result in loss of the digit (never proven. Belief based on a study done in the 1940’s showing that people injected with novocaine with a pH of 1 lost digits. Epinephrine only used in 50% of the cases, and 100% of the cases involved acidic novocaine. Yet. Epinephrine gets the blame)-if you have an allergy to seafood you are allergic to Iodine (based on a study in the 1970’s showing that people who are prone to allergies tend to have more than one allergy. Never mind that almost all table salt has iodine in it, and if you can take table salt you probably can handle Iodine).When someone grows up hearing that certain “facts” can never be challenged, it is very difficult to accept any criticism of these facts. In my case, for example, I grew up believing in evolution. My Dad taught me evolution, so did my teachers, and any book I ever picked up. It was not until I went to college and began to learn the inner workings of the cell and molecular biology that I began to realize that evolution is a faith based religion in spite of the evidence. With every generation children inherit 12 to 30 base pair errors in their DNA from their parents. These errors are passed to each generation along with an additional 12 to 30 base errors. Over time, these errors accumulate in a net information loss, not gain. To claim mutations result in information “gain” is to claim that chaos is information. In some cases mutations have been protective, such as antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria, but this is only true in a very strict environment, and still only because the bacteria has lost the ability to metabolize that antibiotic, there “evolution” is based on a loss of information, and once that same bacteria is reintroduced to environment where bacteria without the mutation are present, the mutated bacteria quickly demonstrate they are unable to compete. The truth is humans are actually devolving. The mechanisms within the cell are impossible for random process to produce. Like trying to hit the moon with a bow and arrow. It does not matter how many times you try, the feat is impossible. That is also why Evolution is not compatible with the bible. The evidence shows we are losing information in our DNA code with each generation. Evolution claims the opposite. The Bible teaches that initially Men lived long life spans but after Noah there was significant reduction in the life span. This makes sense, because Noah’s family (the 8 on the ark) would have acted like a genetic bottle neck resulting in a drastic increase in genetic errors in forth coming generations. This accumulation in genetic errors would have resulted in impaired metabolism and increased susceptibility to disease. This is most likely why God allowed Noah and his family to begin eating meat after the flood. Also, this also why, in the beginning brothers could marry their sisters without fear of genetic abnomalies (Most likely Adam & Eve were created genetically perfect (i.e. no errors in the DNA), but once they were removed from the Garden God no longer sustained them in they way he previously had, and the mutations were allowed to accumulate which subsequently resulted in both of them dying of old age (aging is secondary to impaired cell division over time), they also passed on mutations to their children, and those children passed on not only the mutations they inherited, but new mutations with each generation. Defomed children born as a result of Incest are deformed because close family members share similar mutations. Since most mutations are recessive, if a person has a child with some who is not a close family member, the odds are they do not share similar mutations, and can have a relatively healthy child. This is why Cain most likely was able to marry his sister. At that time (one generation out from Adam Eve), not enough mutations had accumulated to warrant a threat to their offspring. Again, the facts of genetic information theory makes sense in what the genesis record tells us, but evolutionary theory does not even agree with the facts. ”

Science or Fiction (1:04:23)[edit]

Item #1: Scientists report a new technique that can distinguish a DNA paternity test between identical twins. Item #2: Researchers have discovered a new atmospheric chemical that, molecule for molecule, is 7100 times the global warming impact as carbon dioxide. Item #3: New measurements find that Mercury has expanded more than previously thought – about 100 kilometers in diameter over the life of the solar system.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:17:08)[edit]

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”- Voltaire

Announcements (1:17:49)[edit]

E: I have an announcement. There was a passing recently in the world of—well, the greater world of skepticism, in a way. Lloyd Anthony Pye departed us on December 9, 2013. American author and paranormal researcher, best known for his promotion of the Starchild skull[1]. And if you go to his Wikipedia page, under the section called "The Starchild Skull", part of it reads, "American clinical neurologist Steven Novella believes the skull belongs to a child who suffered from hydrocephalus."

S: Yeah, it's an over-simplification. It's funny because I've been... I think I'm the only skeptic to really take him on head-on. I mean, others have touched on it—you know, Brian Dunning wrote about it briefly[2], but I did sort of a full take-down and have been following the Starchild skull shenanigans. And it's interesting... ironically, just recently, I've sort of re-examined the whole thing because it came up in the comments of one of my blogs. So... I didn't realize that Pye was sick. But we'll... this just happened; usually we do a "in memoriam", where we talk about the people in the skeptical universe who passed over the last year. So we'll talk about this some more in the year-end wrap-up show. Well, thank you for joining me this week, everyone.

R: Thank you, Steve.

B: You're welcome!

J: Thanks, Steve.

E: Heyyy.

S: And until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at, where you will find the show notes as well as links to our blogs, videos, online forum, and other content. You can send us feedback or questions to Also, please consider supporting the SGU by visiting the store page on our website, where you will find merchandise, premium content, and subscription information. Our listeners are what make SGU possible.


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