Eamon Knight finds an irritating debate (you can listen to the podcast) between a real evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne, and a theologian and a philosopher, and … Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute. The first three are all pro-evolution (although I found the theologian to be annoyingly apologetic for religion, naturally enough; Denis Lamoureux is a weird and obnoxious kind of Christian who seems to use science as a tool to proselytize) and Nelson fulfills the stereotype: he opens the debate with a quotemine and gross misrepresentation. He claims that W. Ford Doolittle rejects common descent. He claims that this notion that “all living things share a common ancestor” is being challenged; unfortunately and misleadingly, he puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Doolittle would say that “all living things share a common ancestor”. Doolittle argues that there was a large pool of organisms down near the root of the tree of life that liberally swapped genes among one another, so that you can’t trace life back to a single common ancestor — you can trace it back to a large population where species distinctions were greatly blurred.
Misrepresentation of legitimate scientists it’s about all Nelson brings to the debate. It’s an excellent example of why it’s a waste of time to treat these kooks as fair and equal and trustworthy.
For another example, Nelson claims that one justification for pushing ID is that our past understanding of biology was flawed (not that he says anything that ID contributes to our current understanding). He claims that when he was in school he was taught that “cells are just bags of enzymes”, and that ID has revealed all these amazing, unexplainable “molecular machines.” Nelson is about my age or younger; when I was taught cell biology back in those same dark ages, I certainly was not taught any such nonsense. Compartments and transport, for instance, were major parts of the curriculum.
It’s not just that these creationists don’t understand biology — it’s that they actively lie about biology. Don’t trust them.