“Intellectually devoid” and: Is the panda’s thumb an example of natural selection increasing biodiversity?
Published: 14 November 2009 (GMT+10)
A correspondent has criticized a CMI online article as ‘intellectually devoid’ and as ‘lies’
Someone from the United States submitted a comment on our article Pesticide resistance is not evidence of evolution, but in the space for the correspondent to indicate their name, he typed “Jesus of Nazareth”. The comment read:
I’m sorry, but even coming from the view of creationists this has to be the worst article I have ever read. You obviously have either no understanding of how biology works. Or your religious bias is making you outright lie. Please stop publishing biased articles. You don’t have to prove anything to your buddies who already believe in creationism, and the ones who don’t are not going to be persuaded by something as intellectually devoid as this article.
CMI’s Dr David Catchpoole, the author of the pesticide resistance article, responded:
As I read your first sentence, I was wondering what you meant as to “the worst article I have ever read”. But I see in your third sentence a clue, i.e. “outright lie”. If you would be so kind as to specifically identify an “outright lie” or even to list all the statements in the article that you perceive as being untrue (i.e. falsehoods) and explain why they’re untrue, I would be very pleased to address each and every one. That’s because I don’t want anything I write to lead people astray. The real Jesus of Nazareth warned that each of us will have to account for our words (Matthew 12:36).
Looking forward to hearing from you.
The correspondent replied:
You see I would, but your people would just make another strawman argument to counter it. I’m sorry, lies was the wrong choice of words. You see, I honestly believe that you people really believe the stuff you spout out on a day to day basis, but that doesn’t make it true. As for falsehoods, where to start? First claiming that evolution is untrue is a falsehood in itself. Evolution is a very concrete theory (as is any theory that has managed to survive in our modern scientific community) and frankly the only theory with any scientific evidence. Second, in the article you stated exactly how evolution works (genetic mutations/natural selection in crop-dusting) and then claimed that what you just presented was "evidence" against evolution. You can’t say evolution itself is evidence against evolution, for such arguments would be nothing more than logical fallacies. Now, I have no problem with whatever you want to believe, but when you attempt to make logic of it, be ready for the harsh reality. And how do you know I am not the one you call Jesus? Your book foretells of a second coming, are you not a believer? Many of my teachings have been misinterpreted, I am only here to correct.
Peace, understanding, acceptance,
David responded with:
I repeat my request: show me exactly what statements I’ve made in my article which you perceive to be false, and why.
I’d suggest you cut-and-paste extracts from my article into your reply email, then use yellow highlighter (or some other means of highlighting) to show which bits you think are untrue/falsehoods/lies. I’d also suggest you start small; i.e. restrict your next email to highlighting just two or three specific “lies”/falsehoods, together with as many words of your own you feel are necessary to justify your contention. I don’t believe that you have properly engaged the arguments laid out in the article. For example, the article explains why mutations and natural selection do not explain the origin of the grand diversity of life, such as the change of a microbe into humans, bananas and dragonflies (aka evolution).
The correspondent’s reply was curt:
Can’t start small, whole article wrong, further arguing useless, conversation over.
Although there is nothing of substance in this correspondent’s objections, we publish this exchange here as a good example of the way opponents often carry on. So often their “objections” are just bluff and bluster with no substance. It’s also an example of how to deal with global denunciations (elephant hurling): “Show us exactly what is in error, and we’ll happily correct it accordingly.”
We see it repeatedly: when we press “elephant hurlers” to identify specific “falsehoods”, they go to ground, disengaging from any further debate. It is their accusations that are “intellectually devoid”.
Biodiversity and genetic information
Ann L., of Australia, wrote:
I wanted to write and tell you how much I am enjoying watching the Creation Ministries DVDs … I have been watching them with my children and have lent a couple to non Christian friends who have been asking questions about topics such as “what about dinosaurs”.
They really are great resources.
I am also hoping you may be able to offer some advice regarding a situation I am in at the moment.
Recently I lent a copy of “From a frog to a prince” to a friend of ours who is also my childrens’ maths tutor. She is a high school maths teacher but also teaches biology. An evolutionist through and through.
She watched the video, said that Richard Dawkins was her favourite speaker (surprise, surprise) and sent home a printout of the following article about the Panda’s thumb, with the note on top “Example of Natural selection increasing diversity”:
I don’t pretend to understand the whole article but realise it is written through “evolutionary glasses”. Somehow I think I see that increased diversity and increased genetic information are not the same thing but am not quite sure how to express that.
I guess the evolutionary argument is that the panda has developed this extra thumb through natural selection to enable it to grasp its bamboo shoots. Does the development of this thumb automatically require increased genetic information?
I am half way through watching your presentation of “Dynamic Life—changes in living things” with a view to possibly lending it to her. I also have a copy of “Unlocking the Mystery of life” which I found EXCELLENT.
I would ideally like to be able to address the issue of the Pandas’ thumb specifically … .but how?
Do you have access to any information regarding this specific example?
Of course, I realise this is a spiritual battle as much as anything, and am praying diligently for truth to penetrate my friends “armour”.
I am always interested when I hear scientists say that when they first started to grasp that Darwin’s theory was not the whole story, they got angry.
I can see that this is a foundational area for this lady to rest her whole world view on and that it is threatening to have your foundation shaken. I do not want to argue with her, but I think it is good that she has opened up the opportunity for further exchange by sending the article about the Panda home.
Any advice will be gratefully received,
CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland replies:
Thanks Ann, that’s very kind of you to let us know of how you are using CMI resources such as the DVDs. The more you can encourage other Christians to share these resources, and to get behind Creation Ministries, even subscribe to the family magazine called Creation and encourage others to do so, the more this important information can get out there and spread, and the ministry here can keep on doing what it does. Without Christians getting behind us, we would quickly go out of existence.
Regarding your question about biodiversity — increased diversity does not automatically equate to increased information in a population. I think that may become more apparent in watching that DVD you mention about Dynamic Life. For example, a fairly non-diverse group of dogs (wolves) likely gave rise to all of the different domestic breeds. While there may have been some new information in a downhill sense (many domestic breeds exhibit mutations which would drastically lower fitness in the wild—see Is your dog some kind of degenerate mutant?), creatures can adapt under selection pressure (natural or artificial) to give many varieties, without the need to add any new information. I recall a page in a book by Harvard zoology prof., Richard Lewontin, (I am sure it was his classic The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change (Columbia Biological Series)) in which he made it clear that to that point in time, speciation in Drosophila had not involved any novel genetic information. (I’m sorry but I don’t have that book anymore).
In short, most informed biologists would agree that diversification does not necessarily involve novel genetic information. They of course are committed to the idea that it has involved that in the past, but the diversification we now observe, or even trends in that direction (involving adaptation by selection) involves the culling of information. To see how that can be, take an obviously oversimplified example; dogs with short-hair and long-hair genes that have medium coats, will have offspring in which some have more long-haired genes (and thus less short-haired ones) than others. If the climate in an area shifts to become much colder, selection can eliminate those with less long-haired genes, such that eventually a population of permanently long-haired dogs can arise, because they have lost all their short-haired genes. Now if that population had migrated into that cold region from another area, they would have left behind other medium-furred dogs, so now there are two separate populations — one with medium fur on average, the other exclusively longhaired. Thus, there is more diversity in terms of the average hair length in the two populations than there was before. Such a change can easily lead to new species without any novel information arising.
For a response to Gould’s article on the panda’s thumb, where he alleged “bad design”, see Panda thumbs its nose at the dysteleological arguments of the atheist Stephen Jay Gould. See also our articles on the Natural Selection Q&A and Speciation Q&A pages.
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