Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Does Dean Esmay Understand Evolution?

Dean Esmay never replied to my post explaining why ID should not be taught in science classrooms, but in checking back at his blog for a response I’m beginning to think that the real problem is that he just doesn’t understand evolution well at all. For instance, notice this post, where he says:


Scientists thing they have found a way that mutation can drive rapid evolutionary change. That flies in the face of most evolutionary theory, which tends to hold that mutation is not the primary way by which creatures evolve. But from studying dogs, they think they may have identified how it might work.

That statement just doesn’t make much sense. Where could he possibly have gotten the idea that evolutionary theory holds that mutation is not the primary way by which creatures evolve? Mutation is the primary source of genetic variation upon which natural selection can act. The article that he links to simply talks about a particular type of mutation, one that occurs in tandem repeat sequences rather than at a single point to change a single nucleotide sequence. The study purportedly shows a link between tandem repeat sequence mutations and fairly rapid change in phenotype appearance. There is nothing the least bit revolutionary in that, certainly nothing that “flies in the face” of evolutionary theory.

Mutation in tandem repeat sequences is well known and has been for decades, as has the fact that those sequences tend to evolve at a higher rate than single point mutations. Finding more detail about how such mutations would influence traits in the phenotype is precisely the sort of research that continues to produce verifiable explanations for those aspects of evolutionary history that are still mysterious, and there is absolutely nothing there that is in conflict with evolutionary theory at all.

Comments

  1. #1 Bill Ware
    December 28, 2004

    Now he has doubts that HIV causes AIDs. I guess there are many things he doesn’t understand. B

  2. #2 Steve Reuland
    December 28, 2004

    It appears that some people in his comments section don’t understand evolution very well either.

  3. #3 ~DS~
    December 28, 2004

    Scientists thing they have found a way that mutation can drive rapid evolutionary change. That flies in the face of most evolutionary theory, which tends to hold that mutation is not the primary way by which creatures evolve. But from studying dogs, they think they may have identified how it might work.

    Yeah … that suggests some deep misunderstanding alright.

  4. #4 raj
    December 29, 2004

    I don’t know who this Dean Esmay is, but if he is referring to human breeding of dogs in relation to Darwin’s theory of evolution, he obviously doesn’t understand Darwin’s theory. Human breeding of dogs (and cattle, and many other animals) to exhibit certain traits is the antithesis of Darwin’s theory. First, human breeding is intended to reduce the extent of “genetic variation” upon which “selection” is to occur. Human breeding is intended to emphasize certain genetic characteristics that humans find desirable. And then the “selection” is made by humans, and is certainly not “natural.” If humans were to be swept away tomorrow, more than a few of these “artificial animals” would be hard-pressed to survive.

    BTW, I for one have become bored discussing these issues with people who obviously have no idea what they are talking about and who obviously have no interest in learning. I need only cite something from my specialty–physics. More than a few anti-evolutionists contend that evolution violates the 2d law of thermodynamics. It is quite obvious that they have no idea what the 2d law of thermodynamics means. Indeed, I recently saw one posting that said that the earth was an isolated system until 4 Oct 1957. Obviously he was referring to when the Soviets shot Sputnik 1 into space. And obviously, he had no idea what he was talking about.

  5. #5 Matthew Phillips
    December 29, 2004

    Indeed, I recently saw one posting that said that the earth was an isolated system until 4 Oct 1957. Obviously he was referring to when the Soviets shot Sputnik 1 into space. And obviously, he had no idea what he was talking about.

    That’s…… hilarious.

  6. #6 Les Lane
    December 31, 2004

    Makes no sense at all? He’s clearly more rational than your average creationist.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    December 31, 2004

    Makes no sense at all? He’s clearly more rational than your average creationist.

    Dean is not a creationist. In fact, he’s an atheist.

  8. #8 Arne Langsetmo
    January 5, 2005

    Dean may be an atheist, but he’s still an idiot WRT the biological sciences. The article cited (as Ed correctly notes) talked about different types of mutation, and talked about how the VTR mutations were apparently of more importance in some aspects of dog morphology. Ed noted that Dean’s comment is gibberish. The VTR mutations hardly “fl[y] in the face of most evolutionary theory”, nor is the idea that VTR variability and polymorphism may occur more frequently (under some circumstances and in some cases) than point mutations in any way fatal to modern evolutionary theory. But Dean doesn’t understand this (nor, apparently, does he understand even the simple fact that such deletions and replications are just as much “mutations” as point substitutions and just as much part of the evolutionary process). Dean’s not a biologist; he just plays one on the InterNet (as well as pretending to be an energy expert, aerospace engineer, etc.). But Dean does not brook criticism well. Expect silence from Dean on this. He thinks if he ignores your criticism, it doesn’t exist.

    Cheers,

  9. #9 Rollin Olson
    January 6, 2005

    I’ve been educating myself about ID and Creationism in the last couple of months. I must say that the more I read about ID, the more bizarre and nonsensical it becomes. Frankly, the Creationists have more definite ideas and claims, that (could) lead to testable hypotheses (e.g. a post-Flood Ice Age that created land bridges to major landmasses, allowing migration of animals from the Ark to the rest of the Earth). They’re all *wrong*, of course, but at least they’re testable. ID is just slippery snake oil and appeals to ignorance. I guess that’s why it survives — it’s harder to defeat than the definite errors of Creationism.