Pharyngula

Forever disappointed

I always have unwarrantedly high expectations of creationists. I know that there are some flamingly ignorant nutjobs out there, all your Hams and Hovindses and Luskins, but lurking in my mind is always this suspicion that somewhere there has to be one or two biologically competent ideologues on their side of the fence. And I am always disappointed.

For example, there’s this one fellow, Douglas Axe, who has a legitimate and well-earned doctoral degree in chemical engineering, and several published papers in real science journals (not the fake journals creationists create). The Discovery Institute tapped him to head their Biologic Institute, their attempt to create an organization that would do genuine biological research (it hasn’t, so far). And I thought, hey, maybe this guy at last is a worthy opponent.

But let’s be honest here. I have no illusions that I’m a super-mega-genius, or that I have high standing as a researcher in my field. I’m a grunt in the army of biology, not an officer. So I can imagine someone smarter than me in opposition; I certainly know many on my side who are far more accomplished and intelligent than I am. So you can imagine my disappointment at looking over Axe’s ideas and seeing that he, too, is an incompetent twit.

I was really shocked when he revealed that he didn’t understand coalescence theory at all. It may be a bit esoteric for the lay public, but if you’re a critic of genomics and population genetics, you must at least comprehend the basics. And he doesn’t.

And now he lets me down again. The Biologic Institute is putting out some fresh horror of pseudoscience, a book called Science and Human Origins, in which they presumably bring all their scientific guns to bear in order to question human evolution. And what do they do? They question the evidence of a fusion of chromosome two, something I’ve hammered on Luskin before. And they bumble it up completely.

This stuff isn’t that hard. I’ve explained the basics of synteny, or conserved linkage blocks; fragments of chromosomes are constantly getting shuffled about, inverted, duplicated, and deleted, and we can compare chromosome structure between two species and see exactly how they’ve been juggled. These movements leave traces, and are mechanically well understood; we can see the evidence right therein the sequences.

So Carl Zimmer engaged the Biologic Institute ideologues on their facebook page. They denied that a fusion had occured, and claimed that the evidence was actually against such an event. So Zimmer hit them right where they’re weakest: he asked them to cite that evidence. And what did they do? You know it, it’s familiar. They went dumb and stopped answering. They couldn’t answer the basic question. And this is why I’m vaguely disappointed. Even their self-proclaimed science stars can’t explain something a small-town teaching professor in the Midwest can see laid out plainly in the data.

One benefit, though, is that Carl Zimmer summarized the whole affair in a must-read post. He explains step by step with simple cartoons every event that occurred in the chromosomal fusion, and what the molecular evidence for the phenomenon is. And he shows up the creationists for frauds who won’t address a simple question of sources.

For added hilarity, David Klinghoffer of Evolution News & Views, the DI’s dishonest propaganda organ, has challenged Carl to debate the issue. I don’t know what there is to debate; Gauger, Axe, and Luskin claim there is evidence against a chromosome fusion in human history, Carl asked what it was, and they refused to give it.

So he flatly turned them down, as was sensible to do. Debating creationists is a waste of time. Now that refusal is getting trolled by creationists, accusing him of being ‘afraid’ to debate…and I still don’t know what he’s supposed to argue about. Did the Discovery Institute refuse to cite any evidence supporting their claim? Yes. We’re done.

And my quest for an honest, scientifically competent creationist continues, fruitlessly.

Comments

  1. #1 Carl Zimmer
    http://carlzimmer.com
    July 20, 2012

    Thanks for this post. I must say, this whole experience has made me like Facebook again.

  2. #2 Frank Williams
    Ky USA
    July 20, 2012

    Surely there are some biology or paleontology PhD’s at rabidly conservative schools (such as Liberty U) who have a good & accurate understanding of evolution – but who simply reject it, like Kurt Wise does, without disagreeing with any of the evidence supporting it.

  3. #3 Craig Wolffe
    July 21, 2012

    Yes people do reject evolution. Even people, GASP, with “education”.

    Why? Becuase evolution is a fairy tale fro grown ups and charles darwin was a horny wrinkled old fart with a bad attitude and a score to settle with God, so he invented evolution as a means of escape from reality.

    FYI< he was also a life support system for a hairy face.

  4. #4 Eveysolara
    July 21, 2012

    Those humble words in the first few paragraphs in your screed isn’t like you pz.

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