Nice letter from a Creationist

Despite the wackaloon letters PZ gets, Im being serious! It really is nice!

I encourage everyone to leave questions in the comments or send me emails if they want to know more about a topic, and I am just as happy to oblige a evilutionist as a Creationist. Especially when theyre nice about it!

So I got a Q from a nice fellow a couple days ago:

Hello there. I noticed your article in regards to the HIV variant that resulted in a new protein-protein binding site as a counterexample of one of Behe’s claims (that we have not observed such a thing in HIV). I just finished reading EOE and although I am on the “other side” (I believe in God, ID, etc) I’m still always interested in what your side has to say. You don’t have to answer this, but did you write that article because you are firmly opposed to Behe’s views, or simply because you felt insulted that the research you have been putting in to something as sensitive and important as HIV was not being recognized to some degree? Just curious…

Also, did you get a chance to read EOE or did you just familiarize yourself with the HIV stuff?

Goodluck in your doctorate,
Nice Fellow


Hi Nice!

First, to be perfectly clear, there is no reason why you should think you are on ‘the other side’ for believing in God. Certainly we could have some fun philosophical disagreements, but my evolutionary biology professors in college were a Quaker and a Lutheran. If they can come to terms with their faith and their science, I really dont have much patience with YE/OE/ID Creationists bellowing about the limits of their own deity. That is a personal problem, not an overlying theistic (or Christian) problem.

While both theistic evolutionists and ID Creationists say their deity initiated and guided evolution, ID Creationists take it a step further and proclaim they have ‘proof’ of exactly when and where their deity intervened. This ‘proof’ is composed entirely of misrepresentations of other peoples research (called ‘pubjacking’ and ‘quote-mining’) and arrogant claims beyond the scope of the Creationist in question. Case in point, Michael Behe. Michael Behe is not even passingly familiar with HIV-1 research, as evident by his humorous exclusion of the evolutionary history and trajectory of the HIV-1 protein, Vpu, which did precisely what Behe demanded in ‘Edge’. And despite Behes unfamiliarity with the topic, he was still arrogant enough to feel qualified to make proclamations of what HIV-1 can and cannot achieve through evolution.

I just wrote that essay to correct his errors.

He did not respond well.


And just because you currently consider yourself a supporter of Intelligent Design, I would like to highlight two more recent posts on the evolution of Vpu:

In the past year, Michael Behe has contributed nothing to the scientific community.

In the past year, the HIV-1 research that Michael Behe denounced as ‘pathetic’ and ‘unimpressive’ lead to the discovery of an entirely new component of our innate immune system.

Which horse are you going to bet on?


As to your other two questions:
1– I read ‘Edge’. Though I spent more time rolling my eyes and dry heaving than ‘reading’.

2– I dont care what Michael Behe does on Sunday mornings. All that mattered to me was that he was wrong. Incredibly, incredibly wrong.

Thanks for the email!


  1. #1 Yoo
    June 29, 2008

    The only odd part of the letter is the part about “your side” and “our side”. I hope he’s on our side of their “side” in that he’s believes in theistic evolution, where organisms evolved in a way indistinguishable from natural evolution but somehow guided by the hand of God, and I hope he’s not the “I believe this because it’s in an old book, and any other evidence to the contrary is a delusion” sort of creationist.

    I can respect the former kind of “creationist” (I’d give them odd looks, but I wouldn’t belittle them 😛 ), but the latter kind of creationists don’t deserve any respect. And if the lines were drawn between reasonable and honest people and delusional or dishonest people, the former sort would be on our side.

    It’s a bit hard to tell with some intelligent design proponents, though, since no one, not even their advocates, quite outlines what the theory of intelligent design actually is.

  2. #2 Ranson
    June 29, 2008

    This is what I like to see. People like you and PZ get roundly criticized for treating wackaloons like wackaloons, but this is a strong demonstration that reasonable discussion and education is possible when both sides come at it reasonably and in a friendly matter. That’s how real education happens. And that, ultimately, is how we’ll win.

  3. #3 J-Dog
    June 29, 2008

    Nice post Abbie. Your first paraghraph succinctly outlined what I think is the correct stance to take when dealing with Creos with real questions.

    Unfortunately, there are still a lot of Dembski’s and O’Leary’s Stein’s and Behe’s out there trying to Jindal things up.

  4. #4 clinteas
    June 29, 2008

    Dragonslayer,I like it when we show “the other side” that we are not shying away from a reasonable discussion with people that are actually trying to listen and make sense of the world around them,since we like harmony and reason and friendly open discourse.
    There are those that can engage is such discourse,like your email writer above,and there are the Behes that can not.

    A line from Khe Sanh by Cold Chisel :
    “and their legs were often open,but their minds were always closed,and their hearts were held in fast suburban chains”

  5. #5 Crudely Wrott
    June 29, 2008

    This is a fine example of what my father used to try to impress upon me. He insisted on my being honest and a “gentleman.” By gentleman he simply meant that you give to another the same degree of respect that you would like to receive. Experience has shown the value of this advice.

    Some degree of honesty and mutual respect is required whenever trying to pursue an argument and reach an agreement/compromise that is satisfying all round.

    So I regard both the questioner and the respondent with good will, seeing that they are mindful of the usefulness of making a good first impression. Many more such examples would benefit all. Thanks for your example, Abbie.

  6. #6 Yoder
    June 29, 2008

    It’s always nice to see a reminder that the debate with Creationism doesn’t have to be a shouting match – thanks for posting this! Bonus points for the scrupulous differentiation between belief in God and rejection of scientific fact.

  7. #7 Torbj�rn Larsson, OM
    June 29, 2008

    The only odd part of the letter is the part about “your side” and “our side”.

    Yes, and annoying that such a misunderstanding is, it shows where the demarcation between science and cherry-picking of facts or outright lying crackpottery goes. Sorry, if that doesn’t look nice, but being honest is all ways of nice. Mostly.

    On the other hand some of the comment projects that the writer is actually aware that there is something ongoing in society called science, even if he/she doesn’t know what it is. I’m always a sucker for those who can admit to their cognitive dissonance, because if it snaps they will likely be both more rational and happier afterwards.

    I can respect the former kind of “creationist” (I’d give them odd looks, but I wouldn’t belittle them 😛 ), but the latter kind of creationists don’t deserve any respect.

    To be honest again, I can’t respect those who will accept facts and mechanisms but not theories, and more over cherry pick gaps (in place of facts) to stuff their gods in. It feels like they live in the 18th century or so, which would roughly compare to their level of intellectual awareness.

    But I have to tolerate their claims that their imaginary friends will obey observed facts and mechanisms. I wouldn’t say it is satisfying, I rather saw that they were fully behind the science. At least their form of perverting it is open, revisable and not much of a detraction from science.

    Unfortunately, from the point of freedom of religion such a differing view is minor damage that we have to live with. It is the same open society which allows me to point out the irrationality in trying to combine irrational and rational world views. 😉

  8. #8 Reed
    June 29, 2008

    Might be worth linking the questioner to Ian Musgrave’s series of seven letters to Behe regarding the HIV issue (wherein Behe gets roundly trounced again, and with much weaseling, grudgingly admits he made an error but tries to spin it as a minor detail.)

    They can be found here

  9. #9 ERV
    June 29, 2008

    @ Yoder– I think a lot of Average Joe IDers get suckered into thinking they *have* to be an IDer if theyre also a theist.

    Journalists frame ID as ‘The belief life is so complex, God had to have had a hand in it’, which sounds reasonable to Average Joes, when ID is really ‘Life is so complex, God had to have had a hand in it… AND WE HAVE PROOF!!! (we dont really have any proof)’

    @ Reed– LOL! I forgot about that! Behe admitting ‘Ian’ was right. Not me, the female pre-grad student who wrote the essay, LOL!!!

  10. #10 Brian G.
    June 30, 2008

    I wouldn’t want an email from a creationist unless it were prefaced with “I’m sorry for promoting false information, fostering intellectual dishonesty, and encouraging aggressive ignorance as a virtue.” Which is exactly why I never get creationist email.

  11. #11 Brian
    June 30, 2008

    “In the past year, Michael Behe has contributed nothing to the scientific community.”

    Actually, this could’ve read “In the past *decade*.” Though I suppose narrowing the scope to the question of HIV-1 makes sense.

    Oddly enough Behe’s output of publications plummeted right about when he became an Idist…


  12. #12 John S
    July 1, 2008

    Best. Comic. Ever.

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