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A skeptic falsely accuses creationists of lying about human and ape similarities

Published: 21 February 2009(GMT+10)

Image by Tim Newcombe

Bad Maths

A friendly query from Robert F, from Canada, who has been following an online forum, and faced a vicious attack that creationists are lying, in this case about human and ape similarities.

This [Foxes crying foul in the henhouse!] reminded me of a discussion forum I’ve been following (and have participated in at times in the past) It’s called “Creation or Evolution” There are some recent messages on this topic where someone has accused Don Batten of being a liar. I’m pretty sure this person claims to believe in God (in past messages). It makes reference to his (Dr. Batten’s) article “Human Chimp DNA Similarity
As a side note this thread has been active for 3 years (initiated by the Dover trial) and has over 10,000 messages in it and over 200,000 views. No other thread in this folder even comes close to this much activity.

Dear Robert,

Frankly, if this Rubble’s contributions dominate the forum, I don’t know why you bother to participate! (Compare our previous comment on forums)

It seems that Rubble accuses me of lying because he has decreed that anyone who works for a creationist organisation is by definition a liar! Case closed! It would be like me asserting that Richard Dawkins is a liar, merely because he makes a living from promoting materialism / atheism (he does; he’s made millions).

If Rubble did any substantial research before accusing those he disagrees with of lying, he would know that I forfeited a much higher paying job, which I really liked, to be involved full-time with Creation Ministries International. So I am not in it for the money, as he implies. Furthermore, I get no royalties for the books I have written (unlike high-profile atheists who have written books).

Rubble wrote:

The case of Don Batten is centered upon the following facts:

  1. Batten wrote the material at the webpage titled “Human/chimp DNA similarity: Evidence for evolutionary relationship?”
  2. Batten wrote the following: “Because human cells can do many of the things that yeast can do, we share similarities in the DNA sequences that code for the enzymes that do the same jobs in both types of cells.”
  3. Batten clearly implies that similarity of function means similarity of DNA sequences.
  4. Contrary to Batten’s implication, similarity of function does NOT mean similarity of DNA. A classic counterexample to Batten’s implication are the four various wing structures found, respectively, in birds, pterosaurs, bats, and most insects. The function is the same: powered flight. But the structures are different, implying that there are genetic differences that lead to the different structures. Under Batten’s implication, such genetic differences should not exist.

I hope that Rubble’s readers actually read the article and not just his spin on it, because he does exactly what he accuses creationists of doing (elsewhere): quote mining (taking things out of context); and this is an extreme example. The context of similarity in my article was clearly biochemical function:

“Certain biochemical capacities are common to all living things, so there is even a degree of similarity between the DNA of yeast, for example, and that of humans. Because human cells can do many of the things that yeast can do, we share similarities in the DNA sequences that code for the enzymes that do the same jobs in both types of cells. Some of the sequences, for example, those that code for the MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) proteins, are almost identical.”

Rubble’s argument is illogical and completely irrelevant to the article he criticises: the wings of birds, pterosaurs, bats and insects are incredibly different and would not be expected to be coded by similar DNA sequences. For a start, bat wings are covered with a skin membrane to create the flying surface, whereas bird wings have feathers in abundance! And insect wings do not have bones to provide the structure. And there are many other fundamental differences in construction materials and design. No, I made it clear that I was speaking of DNA similarity for similar biochemical functions.

Rubble’s is one of the worst cases of misrepresentation of a creationist’s argument that I have seen. It is really the worst of gutter tactics.

And later in the very same article I even pointed out that very similar DNA sequences can have different functions:

“ Does a high degree of similarity mean that two DNA sequences have the same meaning or function? No, not necessarily. Compare the following sentences:

There are many scientists today who question the evolutionary paradigm and its atheistic philosophical implications.

There are not many scientists today who question the evolutionary paradigm and its atheistic philosophical implications.

These sentences have 97% homology [similarity] and yet have almost opposite meanings! There is a strong analogy here to the way in which large DNA sequences can be turned on or off by relatively small control sequences. The DNA similarity data don’t quite mean what the evolutionary popularizers claim!

Rubble’s is one of the worst cases of misrepresentation of a creationist’s argument that I have seen. It is really the worst of gutter tactics.

Rubble:

I will continue with the reasoning in future posts. At this point, however, I want to ensure that you accept the facts listed above, as central to these cases. Please either acknowledge your acceptance therein, or detail your reasons for dispute. Thank you.

Rubble’s “reasoning” is sadly true to his pseudonym: a mess. The accusation is illogical and without any foundation whatsoever. It seems to me that Rubble was caught out over his accusation of lying and, when asked to prove it, had to scratch around for some justification for his accusation. Finding none, he tried to bluff his way through.

Robert said that he thinks that Rubble has said that he believes in God. But one of the marks of a true Christian (not just believing that God exists, because even Satan believes that) is a penchant for the truth, (cf. (John 8:32, 14:6)!

Sincerely,

Don Batten

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