Feedback archiveFeedback 2001

One rule for evolutionists, and another for creationists!

From Mark Taylor, Dartmouth, NS, Canada, who gave permission for his full name to be used. He took issue with one of our responses, A pair of dogs/wolves on Noah’s Ark couldn’t have produced all dog varieties today?, but hypocritically condoned exactly the same (but worse) tactics from our opponents as he objects to by us. This response does not actually qualify for publication because of the use of ad hominem abuse (see the Feedback rules). However, considering the shortage of publishable negative feedback, we have decided to publish this one, unfortunately it is more representative of the negatives we receive. His letter is printed (indented dark red text) with point-by-point responses by Dr Don Batten, interspersed as per normal email fashion. Mr Taylor’s quotes of Dr Batten’s previous reply are in green and double indented.

In reference to Don Batten’s reply to Richard Meiss on A pair of dogs/wolves on Noah’s Ark couldn’t have produced all dog varieties today? You took the liberty to dissect his letter. Let me do the same with yours.

canis familiaris [sic — I presume that a professional biologist knows that the generic name should be capitalized and this is just a typo]’

This is an attempt to discredit the qualification of Richard as an authority in contrast to that of yourself, a clear attempt at an argument from authority that you later decry.

Hmm. I was merely reflecting the same back to show how two can play the same game.

‘Ken Ham was saying that the variety of dogs, wolves, etc., could possibly have come from one pair-that there may have been only one pair on the Ark.’
That is the very point the writer was making. Although you argue that Ken Ham was only suggesting it as a possibility, that still implies it would be a valid proposition, a position that Richard argues is wrong. Your attempt at deflecting that criticism by pointing out it was merely a suggestion is absurd.

In context, I was pointing out what a short piece it was and how other more in depth articles explained it more fully. And I went on to justify the suggestion anyway. Also, you are misusing the terminology of logic. It is incorrect to refer to a ‘valid’ proposition — a proposition is either true or false; validity refers to the relationship between propositions. A valid argument is one where it’s impossible for the facts to be as the premises say and not as the conclusion says. Validity says nothing about whether the propositions in the argument are true or false. See Loving God With All Your Mind: Logic and Creation.

‘I am a professional biologist also, so this argument from authority doesn’t impress me in the least, and nor should it impress anyone else.’
This statement is exceedingly shallow since you take pains to identify comments by the original writer that shows lack of authoritative knowledge. It is clear by these comments that you intend to discredit the writer and bolster your own professional reputation, thus enhancing your own replies as coming from a position of authority. In fact, the credentials of the both of you are immaterial to the fact of the argument provided.

Again, I was reacting to a very supercilious attitude and the argument from authority being used. The point was that an argument from authority proves nothing. It was a slightly subtle form of the reductio ad absurdum argument, which was apparently a bit too subtle for you. I fail to see how this argument is an attempt to ‘bolster my own professional reputation’. Arguments from authority bolster nothing except ignorance and arrogance. You are perfectly correct that credentials prove nothing, and yet you resort to the same sort of argument below (about how many journals I read, etc., which again has nothing to do with the validity of the argument). [See again Logic and Creation for explanations of reductio ad absurdum and argument from authority] It seems that there is one rule for creationists and another for evolutionists.

‘The sort of variety created by mutations (for example, hairless, pushed in face, stumpy legs, etc.) is due to loss of information, not the addition of new genetic information.’
This is the sort of unsubstantiated (and blatantly false) claim that is rife within Creation Science literature.

A nice unsubstantiated counter-claim, even considering what you say below!

You attempt to explain the variations of the various breeds of dogs by citing examples of traits that appear to be subsets of existing wolf traits (a longer face becomes shorter, hair disappearing, and shorter legs) and leaves out any traits that are clearly not present in wolf populations. Show me a curly haired "poodle" wolf, and I will accept your argument.

It is this deliberate decision to exclude competing evidence in favor only of examples that fit your theory that I find so disgusting. Your obvious attempts to misguide your readers, relying on the assumption that few of them would ever expend the energy to verify your claims, is no less reprehensible then the propaganda issued by dictators to their citizens around the world. You obviously have a low opinion of your flock, which may be sadly accurate.

There has been no deliberate exclusion of anything. The examples given were just some of the more obvious variations that people see. Neither you, nor anyone else, have demonstrated that any breed feature in dogs, including the poodle’s hair, is due to an information-adding mutation. Has anyone identified the gene responsible for this trait, and sequenced it, showing that the trait is due to an increased specificity in the protein coded for by the gene? No, they have not, so your assertion is just that. In fact, the inability of the poodle to shed its hair is a rather obvious case of a loss of a trait, which has to involve a loss of genetic information. And its curly hair may merely be a consequence of the inability to shed its hair (moult).

Your characterization of our efforts as like propaganda by a dictator is rather ironic. We are a small organization of concerned citizens, funded by private donations, who are arguing our case in the cut and thrust of the public forum. And who are we opposed by? A huge group of government-funded institutions that even resort to the law courts to stop our point of view being heard! These institutions will truck no alternatives to their view. Children are only allowed to hear the atheists’ creation myth — and all funded by the government. For a recent example, see Limiting exposure? about the Science standards for Pennsylvania (USA) schools. So, who is most appropriately likened to dictators forcing their propaganda on the population? Us? Or the evolutionary establishment? It’s funny that there’s no-one as illiberal as a ‘liberal’ in power!

BTW, we do not have a ‘flock’. We are not a church, or even a membership organisation.

‘… no one has yet found a mutation that adds new complex coded heritable information to any organism.’
This is another example of arguing from inside the limited knowledge of your own private and misinformed universe. In fact there are lots of examples of mutations adding new complex coded heritable information. What journals do you subscribe to? Let me show you one.

Now who’s arguing from authority (again)? ‘These creationists are such fools to disagree with me!’ I guarantee that I read far more evolutionary journals, books, etc., than I read creationist ones, and I once read only the evolutionary ones. And if you had given me the minimal courtesy of checking my biography via the hyperlink in the article, you would have seen that I’ve probably published more papers in secular journals than in creationist ones. I would suggest that you cannot say that you read more creationist journals, books, etc., than you read evolutionary ones! In fact, do you read any creationist journals or books? No, your very arguments show that you are rather ignorant of the creationist arguments, and indeed even of some evolutionists who admit that neo-Darwinist dogma does not explain the origin of of the vast amounts of genetic information now being deciphered in living organisms.

Five species of moths (Hedylepta spp.) found exclusively on a few Hawaiian Islands have the genetically inherited trait to seek out and feed exclusively on bananas (the parent moth does not hang around to teach the young, so it has to be genetically inherited). However, bananas were only introduced to Hawaii by the Polynesians about 1000 years ago. It is clear that this is a new complex code (seeking out and detecting something as specific as a banana is no mean feat) mutated from the genes of (morphologically similar) ancestor moths native to the islands that feed exclusively on palms, fauna native to that area.

Again a nice piece of pure assertion. And 1960, wow, that was before I even went to highschool! They did a really nice analysis of the DNA sequence and showed that the trait was in fact due to new DNA coding, did they? No, of course not, the double helix structure of DNA was only demonstrated in 1953. The coding system had not even been unravelled when this work was done. This is all bluff and bluster on your part. Yes, it might have been inherited but that does not demonstrate that is was new, or more specific, DNA code. Unless the biochemical basis of this trait were elucidated, on the weight of evidence from traits that have been studied at a biochemical level (e.g. hundreds of cases of antibiotic resistance and energy substrate adaptation in microbes), I would suggest that a reasonable scenario might be like this:

Assuming that the moths find their preferred host by ‘smell’, that a mutation resulted in a broadening of the range of odours that the moths found attractive. This broadening (loss of specificity in the olfactory sensors), resulted in the moths with the mutation now finding bananas attractive. Such a loss of specificity in odour sensing would be a loss of information, which could manifest itself as a different specificity in terms of host preference.

Now this is nothing but a possible scenario, but it is more likely than a brand new gene arising by some natural process (have you read Lee Spetner’s Not by Chance, as I cited in my response to Dr Meiss? It might be good for your education in what creationists actually argue. He has also responded to critics and explained genetic information more technically in terms of specificity — see Part 1 and Part 2. And, BTW, Spetner isn’t even a ‘fundamentalist Christian’!).

However, there is at least one other possibility, just discovered in yeast, that this adaptation involved a designed mechanism for adaptation that is heritable but does not involve genetic mutation. This involves prion formation in certain environments where the prion affects how genes are read to aid in the adaptation to the environment (Nature 407:457; 477, September 2000). Of course the authors of this work give it an evolutionary slant, but this adaptation has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution — it is another means of adaptation within-a-kind (reading the same information in different ways).

You can read about those moths in, among others: E. C. Zimmerman, 1960, “Possible evidence of rapid evolution in Hawaiian moths”, Evolution 14:137–138. Hmm, 1960. What have you been doing in your field for the past 40 years? Besides lying of course.

That’s called a source reference, by the way. You should try it sometime.

If you looked just a little beyond the feedback piece you are reacting to, you would find many source references given in articles on our web site. Try looking sometime! Have you ever read our (layman’s) Creation magazine — even this is carefully reviewed by Ph.D. scientists among others, and source references abound. Or have you even read one of the articles reproduced on the web site? No, it’s rather obvious. And then we have TJ (now Journal of Creation), a peer-reviewed journal — have you ever read one of those, or read any of the articles reproduced on our web site? Somehow, I didn’t think so!

‘Now, there are probably some 30,000 genes in a wolf/dog . for each gene there are 10 possible pairs of four types of allele . this amounts to a potential number of different genotypes in the descendants of 1030,000 (this is 1 followed by 30,000 zeros).’

Let’s assume you are right about the 30,000 genes, and the math that leads you to the large number of possible outcomes.

You make the implication that all of these possible variations explain adequately the numerous breeds of dogs we have today. This despite the fact that some dogs have traits not seen in wolves. Nor that most of those traits have nothing to do with breed variations.

Such as? Curly hair in poodles? You have not demonstrated that this is not just a variation due to loss of genetic information (specified complexity).

They code for the presence or absence of ears and how they look. For the existence of a heart and how it functions. For the presence of exactly four legs instead of two or six or any other number. For the presence of eyeballs as opposed to eyestalks. They code for the existence of paws instead of flippers or any other form. And they code for the exact shape and size of its sexual reproductive organs that allows canines to interbreed.

I submit that the almost all of those genes are used up in defining the very ability of the animal to exist (from blood vessels to kidneys to bones to brains), and have nothing to do with breed variations. But then you are only a “biologist”, so why should you know that.

By your estimation of 1030,000 “dog” variations, presumably dogs could be bred to look like giraffes or whales (since they all have the same basic parts, just shaped and used differently). Including the inability to interbreed should those mutations result in sexual organs that just don’t fit anymore. But then you would be accepting a new species, and (horrors), macroevolution.

Again, you haven’t read much creationist literature have you? If you read some other articles on our web site (see Qamp;A: Speciation), you would find that we don’t have any trouble with new species arising by natural processes, but this is not necessarily ‘macroevolution’, since it can happen without the addition of new genetic information. And it is an interesting idea to suggest that modifications in sexual organs could be a mechanism for speciation. There is a major problem with this — a mutation(s) generating a male unable to mate with his siblings and cousins would be a sure route to extinction unless, just by chance, a female was born with exactly the complementary mutation for sexual anatomy to fit the male, and they also happened to find each other, and they found each other attractive enough to successfully mate, and they successfully raised offspring who could then mate only with each other. But siblings mating would cause inbreeding depression of fitness, yet they still managed to compete effectively with the more heterozygous, vigorous members of the parent ‘species’ so that the new species proliferated. A bit of a tall story to be repeated over and over again, isn’t it?

Time to go back to University and actually earn that Ph.D. of yours.

Your arrogance is breath-taking. Unearned Ph.D.s are largely a North American phenomenon ;) — see also Creationist qualifications. It’s time you learnt to actually carefully consider opponents’ arguments before ‘shooting from the hip’. In your criticism above you neatly omit that I went on to point out how many genetically different dogs would be possible based on only 1% heterozygosity — we pointed out that many genes would not code for breed characteristics (phenotype).

‘Actually there are plenty of competent scientists, including professional biologists, who accept the Bible’s authority, including the accounts of Creation, the Fall and the Flood .’

Of course there are, and you are one of them. But then, you’ve shown us that you aren’t much of a biologist after all, so why should we put any credence in your list of other self proclaimed scientists that went to a University and pretended to know what they were doing.

Besides, your return to an argument of authority is showing through again.

Again it was a response to another argument from authority by Meiss. And we gave some URLs so that the reader can read the arguments, not just have a ‘fools parade’, as if that proved anything. In fact, considering the history of the scientific enterprise, I would be nervous if I agreed with the majority all the time! And Jesus said, ‘For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it’ (Matthew 7:13–14).

Mark Taylor
Dartmouth, NS

Don Batten, Ph.D.
Research scientist, author and editorial consultant
CMI (Australia)

Published: 2 February 2006