Pharyngula

Dead Cat Museum builds silly arguments

Logic and knowledge are a couple of things creationists are lacking. I’m surprised at the fate of the corpse of that poor cyclopic kitten:

A one-eyed, noseless kitten that stirred debate last year over whether it was a hoax will be the centerpiece of a new museum intended to promote the theory of creationism.

John Adolfi plans to feature Cy’s remains at The Lost World Museum when it opens later this year. The Phoenix, N.Y., museum will feature such oddities as giant plants and eggs, deformed animal remains and unique archaeological finds, he said.

Adolfi believes in creationism—a literal reading of the Bible’s story of creation.

He wrote on the museum’s website that the theory of evolution states that “environmental pressures can lift species from the ape-like creature … to us today. My question is this. Are there really positive mutations?

“All I can see are neutral or negative,” said Adolfi, a real estate agent from Granby, N.Y.

Wow. So many errors in so few words. Holoprosencephaly, the defect in that kitten, is not usually caused by a mutation. It’s a developmental abnormality caused by a failure of anterior midline signaling. I’ve mentioned before that I do some work on making cyclopic fish, and I can induce it routinely with embryonic alcohol exposure. If Mr Adolfi is paying good money for one-eyed oddities, I can provide him with bucketsful.

It’s not a mutation, so Cy says nothing about the frequency of negative mutations. Even if it were a consequence of a mutation, an example of a deleterious mutation does not mean there are no beneficial mutations.

There is an interesting coincidence here, though. I looked up the Lost World Museum, which is going to be housing the dead cat (there is something quite appropriate about that. “Centerpiece of Creation Science Museum: Dead Cat.”), and learned that it’s a branch of Bibleland Studios. Bibleland Studios is the publisher of…the amazing Jim Pinkoski! Poking around on their site, it looks like one reason they like the cyclopic cat is they believe it backs up the argument from asymmetry, that animals had to have evolved from one-eyed to two-eyed forms, and that the one-eyed form is not viable.

Maybe it does make a little sense, as long as you understand they’re basing their science on a comic book and the misunderstandings of a real estate agent.

(via God is for Suckers)

Comments

  1. #1 wÒÓ†
    April 10, 2006

    Some mutations are clearly beneficial.

    For example, PYGMIES + DWARFS are particularly good at fitting into tight spaces, which makes it more difficult for them to be eaten by some predators.

  2. #2 Grumpy
    April 10, 2006

    … I can induce it routinely with embryonic alcohol exposure.

    In some states, that’s considered a crime: contributing to the delinquency of a zygote.

  3. #3 Nomen Nescio
    April 10, 2006

    you clearly can’t swing a dead cat in this country without hitting a creationist nincompoop.

    (…thank you, thank you, i’ll be here all week…)

  4. #4 Brian
    April 10, 2006

    I love the idea of you just mass-producing one-eyed fish to sell to the Creationists.

    Don’t sell them by the bucket though. That would drive the price down. Sell them individually.

    Maybe you could also sell them your new hit single, a cover of the classic “Ain’t No Woman Like The One-Eyed Gott”

  5. #5 Kristine
    April 10, 2006

    “All I can see are neutral or negative [mutations].” Wha-huh? So is this real estate agent saying that his God, who presumably created everything, didn’t create the mutant kitty? So where did it come from, then?

    It’s like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: the more they try to prove the existence of God, the less He behaves like their God. What’s the point?

  6. #6 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    April 10, 2006

    I’ve mentioned before that I do some work on making cyclopic fish, and I can induce it routinely with embryonic alcohol exposure.

    O brave new world that has such fishes in it!

    Even though this isn’t a mutation, I am still waiting for the creationist exlanation of, well, any kind of mutation. God getting drunk? God betting with Satan again (as in Job)? What?

  7. #7 flame821
    April 10, 2006

    I find it telling that the majority of the displays, (deformed critters in jars) are the EXACT same sort of things you would see at the local carnival for $2.

    Although I will admit to using it as an impromptu science lesson for my eldest and yes, I am the sort of shoobee who will fork out the $ just to see what they have this time around. Although the living calves with the extra limbs are the ones the youngsters like the best.

  8. #8 QrazyQat
    April 10, 2006

    “All I can see are neutral or negative,” said Adolfi, a real estate agent from Granby, N.Y.

    That’s because you never look past your little circle of friends and family, Mr. Adolfi.

    NEWSBREAK: This just in. Creationists, reeling in the polls after what one has described as “my weekus horribilus”, hopes new museum exhibit will give their numbers a bounce.

  9. #9 Undergrad
    April 10, 2006

    We are constantly using techniques of directed enzyme evolution in my lab; enzymes can be evolved through mutagenesis to generate giant increases in biomolecule efficiencies, added substrate specificities, and even stability without certain cofactors that were previously needed. And all through simple DNA mutations.

    Yup, no beneficial mutations….

  10. #10 Rocky
    April 10, 2006

    “you clearly can’t swing a dead cat in this country without hitting a creationist nincompoop.”
    I almost fell out of my chair laughing with that pithy quip!
    So we have all the fossil collections in the many museums of the world on the side of science, verses a one eyed cat in a “Ye Old Curiosity Shop” as unequivocal proof of Creationism?

  11. #11 rrt
    April 10, 2006

    Even though this isn’t a mutation, I am still waiting for the creationist exlanation of, well, any kind of mutation. God getting drunk? God betting with Satan again (as in Job)? What?

    Rick: My understanding (as I discussed earlier, explained to me by some of the faithful) is that all such things are explained as being a consequence of the Fall. That because Eve broke a rule, the entire world (and universe, as far as I know) is thoroughly corrupted and flawed, and therefore Bad Things Happen. Thus, mutations happen, or only bad mutations happen, whichever.

    Mutations actually mesh quite nicely with that worldview since they are a “degrading” or “corruption” of the “intended” order of things, in this case, a perfect, disease-free, ideal human genome.

  12. #12 Bill Frist
    April 10, 2006

    I’ve mentioned before that I do some work on making cyclopic fish, and I can induce it routinely with embryonic alcohol exposure.

    Can you do it with kittens? If so, I’m interested in purchasing 20 healthy specimens.

    Please do not use my Senate email for reply purposes.

    bfrist21@earthlink.net

  13. #13 wswilso
    April 10, 2006

    …being a consequence of the Fall. That because Eve broke a rule, the entire world (and universe, as far as I know) is thoroughly corrupted and flawed,….

    Yes, An all powerful, all knowing God created Eve knowing what she would do. But for some reason, the fundies don’t hold God responsible for the consequences. Could Eve change what god knew? Could she do other than what God created her to do?

    I’ve always found it entertaining to watch a fundie thrash when admitting step by step to doctrines which preclude free will and then having this quandry pointed out to him or her. Doublethink is apparently uncomfortable, even with lots of practice.

  14. #14 PZ Myers
    April 10, 2006

    An all powerful, all knowing God created Eve knowing what she would do.

    Immediately after squawking “The Fall! The Fall!”, they parrot “Free Will! Free Will!”

  15. #15 wswilso
    April 10, 2006

    PZ,

    I once told a right winger friend of mine (a Limbaugh fan) that he acquired his opinions the same way a parakeet learns to talk.

  16. #16 ranson
    April 10, 2006

    I’ve got a friend that works for Ripley’s Believe it or Not. He was bummed that the cat went to the creationist museum. It beat out Ripley because the owner liked the idea of the Christian purpose it would be put to.

  17. #17 chemparrot
    April 10, 2006

    One of my colleagues has also studied this signalling pathway (and it even has a fun name – Sonic hedgehog signalling). Interesting stuff. There are even chemicals present in plants (one of them is even called cyclopamine) that induce holoprosencephaly in sheep – but the ewe has to consume the compound within a certain window of fetal ddevelopment, or it doesn’t affect forebrain development at all, apparently, though this pathway also has other developmental functions. The molecular/cellular techniques used for eludidating this pathway (alas, I am a simple analytical chemist) are pretty ingenious.

  18. #18 David
    April 10, 2006

    “the one-eyed form is not viable.”

    Someone should tell that to the hundreds of thousands of copepods I am culturing for my fish tank.

  19. #19 chemparrot
    April 10, 2006

    Still, I must groan at the fact that some people who claim to know something about science (and isn’t that what the creationists are claiming?) aren’t aware of the difference between a mutation and a teratogen. They really have no idea what FAS is, or DES daughters? Might as well be living in the 17th Century! (I made a funny!)

  20. #20 Tony Smith
    April 10, 2006

    So where did it come from, then?

    It’s like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: the more they try to prove the existence of God, the less He behaves like their God.

    Kristine got so close to answering her own question.

    Obviously the cat belonged to Erwin Schrödinger!

  21. #21 NelC
    April 10, 2006

    Who’d’ve thunk it? A hundred-and-second use for a dead cat.

  22. #22 Jason Malloy
    April 10, 2006

    Bibleland Studios is the publisher of…the amazing Jim Pinkoski!

    Life imitates quip?

  23. #23 george cauldron
    April 10, 2006

    I’ve got a friend that works for Ripley’s Believe it or Not. He was bummed that the cat went to the creationist museum.

    Indeed, we all KNOW that one-eyed cats are supposed to be the property of traveling circuses.

  24. #24 Tree, bad biologist
    April 10, 2006

    One eyed fish? How are they different from one eyed snakes?

  25. #25 thwaite
    April 10, 2006

    wswilso:

    I’m glad you specified parakeets. Parrots do much better than parakeets or dittoheads, though the training is also tedious. See Alex the parrot display his cognitive classification and ‘complex communication’ skills at alexfoundation.org. But it took trainer/scientist Irene Pepperberg a few decades that first time (though now she’s got younger birds and more experience with their specialized ‘modal/rival’ training technique).

    Scientific American frontiers has profiled Alex & Irene in a charming and impressive interview:

    http://tinyurl.com/o5a8d
    ( links directly to pbs video in real-media format, ~13 minutes )

  26. #26 thwaite
    April 10, 2006

    (er, make that ‘MODEL/rival’. Modals are only for inept user interfaces…)

  27. #27 Kagehi
    April 10, 2006

    In the words of the insane priest in the Cartoon Network cartoon, “Moral Oral”, right after commenting that, “Everyone once in a while wants to break the ten commandments. Some more than others.” (this is said off handedly as the local kids are throwing eggs at his window), paraphrasing, “God isn’t *good* he is simply always right. Just look at floods, plagues, disease, etc.” lol

    Wasn’t going to watch that show for a while. I thought it was a “serious” pro-Christian one. But when one episode has the kids recieving a sermon on charity, only to give his money from a job to a crack seller, who then gives him a bag of it and a pipe. The father, blythely ignorant of what is going on, simply tells him, “Make sure you use what the man gave you and don’t waste it.” Last night was dear Oral finding that Halloween was boring when you have God on your side, since nothing can hurt you, so he decides to break all ten of the commandments, so God will be agree at him and he can repent later. The priests message was basically that God is out to get you, so you should be afraid all the time.

    Damn funny show.

  28. #28 Kagehi
    April 10, 2006

    “will be ‘angry’ at him”

    Oh heck, you know what I meant. Just on of those world substantiation heirs. ;)

  29. #29 Bruce
    April 11, 2006

    I know when I want answers about science, I always go directly to real estate agents or property managers. It certainly would be more convenient if there were public institutions created where those who understood science (sciencers?) could all work together, sharing their knowledge with others. Perhaps sometime before the Rapture…

  30. #30 ivy privy
    April 11, 2006

    I know when I want answers about science, I always go directly to real estate agents or property managers.

    Really? When I want answers about biology, I look for a rocket scientist.

  31. #31 trogdor
    April 11, 2006

    feel free to argue with this guy who bought this dead cat at skeptic friends network (www.skepticfriends.org)

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