Miller Splats Luskin

As a companion piece to the last post, I recommend the sledgehammer vs. the fly exchange between Ken Miller and Casey Luskin. Miller is a biologist at Brown University, and is the author of Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory, two of the most important popular-level evolution books of recent memory. Luskin is the Discovery Institute’s lead blog hack. He has a law degree. Luskin tried to argue biology (blood clotting, to be exact) with Miller. Miller ate him.

Luskin served up three posts: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Miller has replied to Part One here, and to Part Two here. Part three is on the way.

Here’s a representative sample:

Incidentally, Luskin suggests that the lack of Factor XII in dolphins is the result of a “functional constraint” associated with the design of vertebrates living in water. That, he presumes, is why dolphins and jawed fish both lack Factor XII. In his view, “Darwinists” (like me) may believe that “dolphins are supposedly descended from land-dwelling vertebrates,” but that issue “will require further research to sort out.” Really, Casey? As I pointed out in my testimony at the Dover trial, the key reason why evolution is science is that it is testable. If dolphins and other cetaceans are indeed descended from land-dwelling mammals, their ancestors should have had the genes for Factor XII in their genomes. During the transition to water, those genes should have been deleted or inactivated, perhaps as an adaptation to deep sea diving, and today their traces might still be present in the cetacean genome, if only we care to look.

Would you like to take a look and place a bet on the results of that “further research,” Casey? As much as I’d like to win a few bucks from my friends at the Discovery Institute, it wouldn’t be sporting, since such research was actually done more than a decade ago [Semba et al, 1998]. Whales possess a Factor XII pseudogene, an inactivated version of the very same gene carried by land-dwelling mammals. That pseudogene is a direct mark of their common ancestry with other mammals, and disproves any suggestion that constraints on cetacean “design” required the absence of Factor XII. Rather, ordinary genetic processes knocked out the gene, and today the pseudogene remains merely as evidence of their evolutionary ancestry.

Delicious!

Go read the whole thing. There are few things in life more satisfying than watching a creationist blowhard get his comeuppance.

Comments

  1. #1 John Farrell
    January 4, 2009

    Outstanding. Good luck in D.C!

  2. #2 Mike
    January 4, 2009

    Miller does indeed splat Luskin but why doesn’t he just go away?

  3. #4 Ron Brown
    January 4, 2009

    Jason,

    I wonder how much of an impact this will really have on Luskin or any of them, though. I mean, ID Creationism is just one big story of them ignoring irrefutable counterarguments. They make an argument on Monday, hear a counterargument they cannot rationally and honestly refute, and just walk on to their next presentation on Tuesday, where they’ll make the exact same point. Yes, the Net makes it possible for more people to see Monday’s rebuttal, but what proportion of Luskin et al.’s unbelievably-motivated-to-believe audience is gonna read a single word of Millers?

    And even for those who do, the grand majority will give it too little credit because they won’t fully understand it or be certain of the truth value of it (and that’s not meant necessarily as an insult; we can’t all be experts on everything) and so, like many people, they will side with their current beliefs. And if they have an opportunity later on, they might ask an IDist who knows more about the relevant bio, and they will probably be more than ready to accept the BS they are told.

    While it’s definitely a good thing that Miller refuted him, and if any net effect is to be had by it, it’d most likely be in the favour of reason. But still, this entire movement has been one big exercise of ignoring rebuttals.

  4. #5 Ron Brown
    January 4, 2009

    You can give a creationist a logically tight argument. But they’ll still manufacture a hole to squeeze out of it. Their way out of the rebuttal will of course be rooted in amazing ignorance, stupidity and/or deceit, but they’ll do it. And most of the followers will cheer them on for it.

    But again, yes, every rebuttal counts. I just wouldn’t be so glorified in the idea of him getting his comeuppance. He doesn’t play by the rules of rational discourse.

  5. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 4, 2009

    Ron Brown –

    Ken Miller addressed this point in a comment to his post:

    As you will see in the third part, which Carl will post tomorrow, my intended audience is not the cast of true-believers who are regular fans of Casey Luskin. The folks I want to reach – the people I think we all need to reach – are the open-minded ones who simply wonder if there is anything to this ID stuff. These are the vast majority of Americans, and their opinions ultimately make the difference. I want to expose, for the record, the reasons why Luskinís revisionist analysis of the Dover trial is incorrect, and to make sure that his distortions donít lay the groundwork for a new assault on science education.

  6. #7 Raymond Minton
    January 4, 2009

    Luskin’s a typical creationist, not letting inconvenient things like facts get in the way of his argument.

  7. #8 Paul Murray
    January 5, 2009

    And that’s why creationists love live debates – it’s not possible for a listener to fact-check, so a debater can say any damn fool thing they like. And if their argments are knocked down, they’ll collect their “love offering” anyway, and go on to the next town showing exactly the same powerpoint presentation all over again.

  8. #9 Ron Brown
    January 5, 2009

    Jason,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I suppose with the constant moves for introducing ID or “strengths and weaknesses” to this or that school board, it’s important to not allow such BS to go unchallenged.

    One of the biggest shames in all of this is how much time and effort is being wasted on this BS. It’s simply stunning how much the religious right holds society back, wasting our time on ID, gay rights, abortion and stem cell research. Such a horrible waste. But I guess it’s a mere drop in the bucket compared to all the time, effort, talent, curiosity and ingenuity that has been wasted in the name of religion in general.

  9. #10 ted
    January 13, 2009

    Read it and spread the news:
    MAJERUS, M. E. N. Industrial Melanism in the Peppered Moth, Biston betularia: An Excellent Teaching Example of Darwinian Evolution in Action. Evolution: Education and Outreach. Jan. 2009. http://www.springerlink.com/content/h7n4r6h026q1u6hk/fulltext.htm

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