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Creationism/Evolution Spam

No SpamI received an interesting spam e-mail the other day.

Hi Jeff,

We posted an article that we thought you and your readers might be interested in having a look at, "Yay or Nay: 20 Sites Debating Evolution vs Creationism" ( [link removed - jrl] ). Just thought I'd let you know that you would be interested in featuring or mentioning it in your blog.

Thanks for your time!
Sheryl Owen

It looked superficially honest enough. Only the included url (that I deleted) gave it away. It was to a site called 'change of address dot org' (with spaces removed and the dot as a '.'). They'd thrown together a handful of links on the topic, with the pretense of it being a useful resource, but it was obviously just a hook to try to bring eyes to their site so that they could sell you something.

I'm not going to link to that site, since that would reward their practices with an improved Google ranking. However, if you want to see it for yourself, just do a Google search for 'Yay or Nay: 20 Sites Debating Evolution vs Creationism', and it will pop up along with its clones.

First of all, it's set up as if there's a legitimate debate on the issue, with 8 pro-evolutionary science sites, 8 pro-creationism sites, and 4 'Middle of the Road Options'. Now, that's fine if you're trying to understand the culture of the debate, but it's not very useful for getting at the truth. There's no real scientific question over the truth of evolution - it's entirely a cultural issue, with people refusing to accept evolution for other reasons (such as religion).

But even looking at their links to pro-evolution sites is a bit odd. I've been rather caught up in the evolution/creation debate for several years now, so I know some of the better websites that deal with the issue. Their links left off some of the best. Here are the links they chose, in the order they presented them:

None of those are bad sites. In fact, if I had to make a list of the 8 best evolution sites that I knew of, I'd probably include a few they mentioned (especially The Panda's Thumb). But where is The TalkOrigins Archive? How can you possibly mention the evolution/creationism debate without including that site? In my opinion, it is the best resource for people who misunderstand evolution because of misinformation from creationist leaders. And what about Berkeley's Understanding Evolution site, PBS: Evolution, or even the National Center for Science Education?

Their pro-creationism sites were also odd. They included a link to the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Answers in Genesis, which I fully expected, but left off links to the most prominent Intelligent Design sites, such as Uncommon Descent and The Discovery Institute.

Oh well. I get lots of spam, and I hardly ever mention it on this blog. And this entry ended up turning into something longer than the e-mail actually deserved. It's just a bit irritating to get an e-mail that initially looks like something that may be worth posting, only to discover that it's a scam. Plus, this was a decent opportunity for me to post links to some good resources on evolution.


For a post that I didn't consider terribly interesting, this one has already gotten a troll in the comments, and an e-mail from Robert Luhn of the NCSE (that's a lot of traffic for me, so back off </Billy Madison voice>). I may respond to David Buckna in the comments, but I thought I'd include up here two more evolution resources from the NCSE e-mail.

We've excerpted a ton of evolution books on our site. Check out our archive here:
http://ncse.com/resources/free-evolution-book-downloads

Another good resource: our Antievolution Legislation Scorecard at:
http://ncse.com/evolution/antievolution-legislation-scorecard

Those are good resources worth taking a look at.


Update 2012-03-07 - If you happen to be reading this on one of the archive pages on this site, note that there was a rather long exchange between a reader and me in the comments section. You may want to click on the 'Read more' link to read the comments.

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Comments

Evolution: The Creation Myth of Our Culture
by David Buckna
http://www.trueorigin.org/evomyth01.asp


A Theory of Creation: A Response to the Pretense that No Creation Theory Exists
by Tim Wallace
http://www.trueorigin.org/creatheory.asp

Mr. Buckna,

In response to the first site you linked to, it reminds me of a written version of the Gish Gallop. You list many arguments, but none stand up to scrutiny. Almost all of them have already been covered, mostly in the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims, so I'm simply going to include a link counter each of your claims. Sometimes more than one entry in the Index would have been appropriate, but I tried to keep this reply short. If you really want, just browse through the entire list.

I'm sure your also aware of the series of pages, Dinosaurs and Evolution, written by Jeff Poling in resopnse to your article submitted to Journal of Dinosaur Paleontology. It covers in detail some of the claims you had on that site.

  1. CE420. The big bang theory is wrong.
  2. CE260.1. Retrograde motion of planets disproves the big bang.
  3. CE261.1. Oort cloud and Kuiper belt are ad hoc fantasies of astronomers.
  4. not exactly on diamonds, but: CD011.6. Ancient coal and oil are C-14 dated as only 50,000 years old.
    See also my own page, Book Review - Thousands, Not Billions, Part II
  5. CD001. Radiometric dating falsely assumes rocks are closed systems.
    CD002. Radiometric dating falsely assumes initial conditions are known.
    CD015. Zircons retain too much helium for an old earth.
  6. CB050. Abiogenesis is speculative without evidence.
  7. Wikipedia - Evolution of ATP synthase
  8. CI100.1. Look; is design not obvious?
  9. CB102. Mutations do not add information.
  10. CB901. Macroevolution has never been observed.
    or CB300. Complex organs couldn't have evolved.
  11. CC341. Recent pollen has been found in old rocks.
  12. CC300. The Cambrian explosion shows all kinds of life appearing suddenly.
  13. I haven't found a good source on this, yet, but trilobites weren't living at the 'earliest stages of life'. They were already fairly complex organisms, with a long history of evolution leading up to them.
    Wikipedia - Evolution of the Eye
  14. FossilMuseum.net - Soft Tissue Fossilization
  15. Wikipedia - List of transitional fossils
  16. CC371.1. Soft tissues from a Tyrannosaurus bone indicate recent burial.
  17. CC215. There are gaps between reptiles and mammals.
  18. These are legitimate gaps in our knowledge, but ignorance of how exactly those traits evolved is not evidence that they did not evolve.
    Wikipedia - Pterosaur Origins
    Berkely - Chiroptera Fossils
  19. Dinosauria - Dinosaurs and Evolution: Archaeopteryx, dinosaur skin, and the progression of evolution.
    Book Review - Archaeopteryx: The Icon of Evolution
  20. This is also a legitimate gap in the fossil record, but there are plausible scenarios for how wings might have evolved.
    Origins Blog - How Did Insects Get Their Wings?
  21. CB311. Butterfly metamorphosis is too complex to have evolved.
  22. Wikipedia - Bee Evolution
  23. Darwin himself credited Blyth in The Origin, but it's also obvious that it was The Origin that presented natural selection in such a way, with supporting evidence, that it was truly accepted. Besides, if it wasn't for Darwin, someone else would have discovered natural selection.
  24. CB601. The traditional peppered moth story is no longer supportable.
  25. CC201.1. Punctuated equilibrium was ad hoc to justify gaps.
  26. The Loom - A Career Among The Finches
  27. CB200. Some systems are irreducibly complex.
  28. CC052. Laetoli footprints were human.
  29. The Loom - Skull Caps and Genomes
  30. CA610. Evolution is a religion.
  31. CA211. Evolution can not be falsified. (again)


The second article you linked to confuses methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism (or metaphysical naturalism). Methodological naturalism deals with evidence, no matter where the evidence comes from, even if it's something that would be considered supernatural (such as fairies, if they existed). The only things that can't be studied with methodological naturalism are those things that leave no evidence, and the only way to leave no evidence is to not interact with the universe at all, making those things irrelevant to study of this universe.


If you come back here and really want to make a point, I'd suggest picking one or two arguments that you think are the best to discuss in detail.

This comment was originally held up in the spam filter due to the number of links. Mr. Buckna e-mailed me and asked me to post a slightly different version. This comment is from that e-mail. -JRL

Whether ID is Science isn't Semantics
by Alvin Plantinga
http://www.discovery.org/a/3331


Methodological Naturalism? Part 1
by Alvin Plantinga
http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od181/methnat181.htm


Methodological Naturalism? Part 2
by Alvin Plantinga
http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od182/methnat182.htm


http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/07/history_creation_and_science_t048151.html

The Role of Creation in Science: The Real Story, a Breath of Fresh Air Michael Flannery July 2, 2011 1:44 PM

[snip]

The assertion that only methodological naturalism counts as science has been ably challenged by Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and others.

Mr. Buckna,

I asked that if you come back, that you pick what you thought were your strongest arguments and to go from there. The 4 links you provided are all down to semantics, and I think I already covered the argument pretty well in my previous reply to you. But let me reiterate. Ignore the term 'methodological naturalism' for now. Anything that leaves evidence can be studied through science. Whether the Earth orbits the sun, battles of the Civil War, even what I ate for breakfast or whether or not I love my wife - these are all things that leave behind evidence, meaning they can be studied scientifically.

Most Christians aren't deists. Most believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, and others believe that it's at least a human written description of interactions with the divine. In other words, most Christians believe in a god that interacts with the universe and leaves behind evidence, and therefore, those things can be studied through science.

Prior to Darwin, creationism was the dominant theory for life's diversity. Most scientists accepted creationism. Additionally, most European scientists of the time were Christians. They didn't accept evolution via natural selection because they were looking for a way to reject God. They accepted it because that's where the evidence pointed.


So, if you wish to discuss this further, let's stay out of arguments over semantics. Please present me with the strongest evidence based arguments that you have. And please provide a bit of your own commentary, not simply links to other people's articles.

Oh, I nearly forgot to include this link. I already have written on this particular semantic issue in another blog entry, Scientific Facts

In your Scientific Facts entry, you write:

"Calling something a 'scientific' fact is redundant. Statements are either true or not, and if they're true, then they're facts. Since we can study everything with an objective answer through science, it really doesn't add anything to describe any facts as scientific. If they're not scientific, they're not really facts to begin with."

Evolutionists such as PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, and Richard Dawkins say evolution is a fact.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRDsNjhZn34

Well, certainly microevolution is a fact, but creationists refer to that as microvariation.

But if by evolution Myers, Scott and Dawkins also mean vertical evolution (information building evolution), then can they (or you Jeff) give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?

Richard Dawkins has, in fact, already addressed this issue, in the article, The Information Challenge.

There's also a good discussion in the Index to Creationist Claims, under claim CB102. Mutations do not add information.

Personally, I like Richard Lenski's experiment, where e. coli developed mutations that gave them the ability to digest a new food source (citrate). This certainly shows that random mutations can result in new functions (unless people want to argue that an Intelligent Designer manipulated the bacteria in Lenski's lab).

Dawkins addressed the issue, but let's read about if from another perspective:

Was Dawkins stumped?

http://creation.com/was-dawkins-stumped-frog-to-a-prince-critics-refuted-again

As for mutations, there are gain-of-function mutations and loss-of-function mutations.

Dr. Jean Lightner writes in:

http://creation.com/gain-of-function-mutations-at-a-loss-to-explain-molecules-to-man-evolution

"It is worth noting that mutations produce new alleles (variant forms of a gene) and certainly add variety. However, molecules-to-man evolution requires the generation of new information to build new, complex, interdependent biochemical pathways. Despite the deceptive wording found in the gain-of-function definition, there is no increase of information or improvement of biochemical pathways. Without a mechanism for developing such pathways, evolution is nothing more than a myth. Instead, what we observe fits exactly with what we would expect if the Bible is true. Living things are very well designed. Errors introduced by mutations do not build new, well integrated biochemical pathways; instead they often cause disease."

And as for the Richard Lenski experiment, Don Batten writes:

"Now the popularist treatments of this research (e.g. in New Scientist) give the impression that the E. coli developed the ability to metabolize citrate, whereas it supposedly could not do so before. However, this is clearly not the case, because the citric acid, tricarboxcylic acid (TCA), or Krebs, cycle (all names for the same thing) generates and utilizes citrate in its normal oxidative metabolism of glucose and other carbohydrates.5

Furthermore, E. coli is normally capable of utilizing citrate as an energy source under anaerobic conditions, with a whole suite of genes involved in its fermentation. This includes a citrate transporter gene that codes for a transporter protein embedded in the cell wall that takes citrate into the cell.6 This suite of genes (operon) is normally only activated under anaerobic conditions. "

The bottom line being there was no increase in information.

Maybe you have some other examples?

While the Dawkins link I included mentioned the interview, it was only in the introduction, and the point of Dawkins' article was information in the genome, not the interview itself. I don't see what your first link has to do with evolution.

You quoted Dr. Lightner as writing, "It is worth noting that mutations produce new alleles (variant forms of a gene) and certainly add variety." I don't see how you can admit that, and then deny that mutations can add information. That's practically the very definition of adding information.

Are you instead trying to argue, that rather than mutations not being able to add information, that they can't generate the specific types of mutations needed to create "new, complex, interdependent biochemical pathways"? That's a different claim, but still one that's been addressed. I just did a Google search for "evolution of new biochemical pathways", and the first result was this article, Biochemical Pathways in Prokaryotes Can Be Traced Backward through Evolutionary Time. This is also covered, as most of your claims have been, in the Index to Creationist Claims, in Claim CA350. No gradual biochemical evolution models have been published.

Here are two good article on Lenski's experiment from Carl Zimmer's The Loom blog - A New Step In Evolution and E. coli Evolution Follow-up. I think it's rather clear that this does constitute a new ability.

And, as I included in my first response to this point, there are more examples in the Index to Creationist Claims, under claim CB102. Mutations do not add information.

And just doing a Google search on "evolution of novel genes", I found this - The evolution of the novel Sdic gene cluster in Drosophila melanogaster. And there were many, many other articles on the evolution of new genes.


I'm not a biologist - just a reasonably well informed layman. But it's not hard to find this information that you're asking for. Perhaps next time, before asking me to provide a bit of information, you might want to do your own Google search, first. I don't mind answering honest questions, but I know that you're not naive on these issues. You've been mentioned on the blog Pharyngula, not to mention Jeff Poling's response to you that I mentioned early on in this comment thread. This blog is only a hobby of mine, and while it might be fun for a while, I don't have enough time to answer every creationist canard. Unless you're presenting a novel argument that hasn't already been covered in the Talk Origins Index to Creationist Claims, I feel I'm wasting my time.

Jeff mentions "The evolution of the novel Sdic gene cluster in Drosophila melanogaster. "

http://crev.info/content/fruit_flies_not_evolving

[snip]

"This experiment was begun in 1975. After 35 years and 600 generations, accelerated by artificial selection, the net evolution (in terms of adaptation and improvement in fitness) was negligible if not nil."
===
1. Burke, Dunham et al, “Genome-wide analysis of a long-term evolution experiment with Drosophila,” Nature 467, 587-590 (30 September 2010); doi:10.1038/nature09352.

The blogger concludes:

"Natural selection is always presumed to be the wonder-worker that can produce eyes, ears, sonar, flippers, jaws, hearts, and brains with its gradual, step-by-step improvement of natural variation, without design (07/20/2010, 05/04/2010). OK, where is it? It doesn’t work theoretically (09/28/2010, 06/11/2010, 03/21/2010, 03/17/2003), it doesn’t work rhetorically (04/17/2010), it doesn’t work historically (08/05/2010), and it doesn’t work experimentally (09/22/2010). It doesn’t work in the lab, and it works less in the wild. Unless you include “reverse evolution,” (06/26/2010), it doesn’t work at all. Game over, Charlie (05/14/2010). Stop the hype (08/13/2010)."

Jeff writes: "Here are two good article on Lenski's experiment from Carl Zimmer's The Loom blog - A New Step In Evolution and E. coli Evolution Follow-up. I think it's rather clear that this does constitute a new ability."

Don Batten's comments address this. There is no evolution of a new biochemical pathway; the citrate pathway _already existed_. There was a modification that allowed it to be used under different circumstances. Creationists have no problem with this type of adaptation. Evolutionists need far more than this to happen quite regularly to explain the many different kinds of creatures that exist today.

Jeff writes: "I just did a Google search for "evolution of new biochemical pathways", and the first result was this article, Biochemical Pathways in Prokaryotes Can Be Traced Backward through Evolutionary Time."

This is not observed, it is _inferred_. There certainly are other examples that have been set forth by evolutionists. The advantage of only _inferring_ is that these changes can be made on paper and look good. It's nothing more than story telling. A Just-So story.

This can be very different than having the change occur in a living creature that must survive and reproduce.

*

You appear to be buying the Shannon-Weaver definition of information, which is inappropriate for biological systems (since 'more information' in that model can easily kill a creature). Also, regarding the claim CB102, it does not address the issue. The putative gene duplication of the RNAase gene (response #2) has been addressed in the creationist literature:

http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/abstracts/Abstracts46-1.htm

Though there are good reasons for creationists to accept that the gene duplication and subsequent changes were real (they were inferred, not directly observed), the changes do not build any new pathway. Quite the contrary, gene duplication allowed an altered form of a digestive enzyme to develop by removing it from the pathway the original gene was in. Other putative gene duplications investigated by creationists have the same problem:

http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j24_2/j24_2_3-5.pdf

They may help creatures adapt to their environments so they can accomplish the Creator's purpose of an inhabited planet, but they are not part of changing one creature into a completely different kind, nor do they explain the origin of complex biochemical pathways.

There are an enormous number of complex pathways in a fruit fly. How were they built? Why are they so well interconnected? Evolutionists have no viable answers to these questions.

Jeff. These last 2 posts were mine. I forgot to input my name/email address before hitting the "post" button.

I'm only addressing your first comment for now (10:53 pm), since I don't have time to address your second one.

I linked to a paper by Rita Ponce and Daniel L. Hartle that had to do with the Sdic gene cluster. You linked to an article on a paper by Molly K. Burke, Joseph P. Dunham and others about "selection for accelerated development." I fail to see how your link addresses the paper I linked to originally. The only superficial resemblance is that both articles deal with fruit flies.

The Burke, Dunham, et al paper was focused on a narrow subject, and it did show that there was resistance to change for that particular trait. I'm not sure I would have predicted that, but I don't see it as a major surprise, either. Organisms are not infinitely malleable. There are certain changes to organisms that are extremely unlikely, because the genes involved are so critical to the basic functioning of the organism. Apparently, the genes involved in the development time of fruit flies are of that type, so attempts to breed flies that develop faster won't have much luck. It would be like trying to breed a chicken with extra wings to satisfy all of us hot wing lovers. It's just very, very, very unlikely to ever happen.

There have been other fruit fly experiments, focused on evolution of other traits or other aspects of evolution.

I'm not sure why the author of the article you quoted would draw such sweeping conclusions from a study so narrowly focused. And it's not as if the study lasted long enough for any huge changes, anyway. It was 600 generations. To put that in perspective for humans, assuming an average of 25 years per generation, 600 generations of humans would only cover 15,000 years. On an evolutionary timescale, that's pretty short. It's been 6 million years since chimps diverged from us, and look how similar we both still are to each other. Would you really expect evolution to produce new, complex organs in that amount of time?

Plus, it's not as if fruit flies are the only animals used to study evolution. What about fox domestication (near the end of that entry). They've gotten developmental, behavioral, and morphological differences in a few decades.

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