Anti-Evolution Nonsense in the State News

This letter irritates me, not only because it recycles tired old creationist canards but because it appears in the Michigan State newspaper. The fact that it's written by someone studying chemical engineering, implying at least a modicum of understanding of science, is even worse. It's just one silly and unsubstantiated claim after another.

But people need to understand there is a slowly increasing amount of evidence in support of intelligent design, and it won't be going away anytime soon.

I don't think this is even hypothetically possible, because any and all evidence could be made consistent with intelligent design. The advocates of ID themselves tell us that when they say that it's consistent with everything from young earth creationism to the modern theory of evolution as common descent. Can anyone name any evidence that could possibly be inconsistent with ID as long as ID is stated vaguely enough?

One theory says a certain fossil is a transitional species, while another theory says it's an extinct platypus-like creature.

Uh, what is he referring to here? He doesn't say.

In 1922, scientists claimed they found the remains of a missing link between humans and apes that has become known as the Nebraska Man. But all they had really found was a tooth -- that was later discovered to belong to a pig.

You have to love how this old canard has grown over the years. This is a classic lie straight out of the creationist jokebook - but remember, IDers are not creationists! It is false to claim that scientists claimed they found a "missing link between humans and apes". In fact, Osborn only tentatively claimed that the tooth belonged to an anthropoid ape. Researchers returned to the same site to either confirm or disconfirm that tentative conclusion and they found that it was instead a weathered tooth from a now-extinct peccary (an animal related to pigs), and the tentative conclusion was immediately retracted in the science journals. This is how science should operate, it's hardly a mark against science. But notice that he has to go back over 80 years and completely distort the facts in order to find a single example to support his argument. That would cause any rational person to rethink his position.

But here's my favorite part:

For those interested in learning about some of the scientific evidence and arguments for intelligent design, check out these right-wing propaganda sites at linkwww.uncommondescent.com, linkwww.ideacenter.org or linkwww.iscid.org. I also recommend the book "The Case For A Creator" by Lee Strobel.

Case for a Creator? But ID has nothing to do with creationism! Apparently, this student, like so many everyday folks mindlessly repeating ID propaganda, didn't get that memo.

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Nebraska Man as restored in the Illustrated London News.As I made my way around the lab table during my last human osteology practical, examining the yellowed and cracked teeth in the hopes that I'd be able to tell an upper molar from a lower one, I came across a particularly strange tooth. I had…

Ed, crap just like this was appearing in the Stale News 25 years ago when I went to State (Wazoo Records still there?). In fact, letters much like this one have appeared regularly in EVERY college and local newspaper I have read regularly, and that includes UCLA, Oklahoma State, TCNJ, and Bucks Co. PA. It just raises the old Sisyphean problem: the opposition consists of the religious, and they will NEVER go away.

I also like how he directs you to "these right-wing propaganda sites", (emphasis mine) including www.uncommondescent.com.

A truer description would be hard to find.

One theory says a certain fossil is a transitional species, while another theory says it's an extinct platypus-like creature.

Without more information about this it's impossible to say for sure, but couldn't a given fossil be both a "transitional species" and an "extinct platypus-like creature"? They're not mutually exclusive descriptions. After all, even "platypus-like creatures" needed "transitional species", some of which, of course, would be extinct now.

One theory says a certain fossil is a transitional species, while another theory says it's an extinct platypus-like creature.

I think he's referring to
this
. PZ's post includes a cladogram, indicating that despite a superficial resemblance to platypus, this Jurassic critter was something else. Yes, it's extinct (that's an observation, not a theory) and yes, it was somewhat platypus-like in certain aspects (an inference based on certain similarities).

couldn't a given fossil be both a "transitional species" and an "extinct platypus-like creature"?

Of course! In fact, the standard response to "No transitional fossils have ever been found" should be "Actually, you have it backwards. No non-transitional fossils have ever been found."

I guess fossils of species still alive could be counted as non-transitional, as could the earliest prokaryotic bacteria, but we need to be more vigorous in pointing out that otherwise every fossil is transitional.

By Johnny Vector (not verified) on 26 Jun 2006 #permalink

Johnny Vector,

>but we need to be more vigorous in pointing out that otherwise every fossil is transitional.

Is that really the case? Don't some species dead end without undergoing speciazation first? Would a dodo fossil be transitional or just a dead-end?

By Martin Grant (not verified) on 26 Jun 2006 #permalink

Can anyone name any evidence that could possibly be inconsistent with ID as long as ID is stated vaguely enough?

How about the innumerable points of bad design in the bodies of humans and other species? Can you find even one Mechanical Engineering instructor who would not flunk a student who proposed, for example, running air intake through the fuel line?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 28 Jun 2006 #permalink

"running air intake through the fuel line?"

Could be worse. Running a waste disposal line through a recreational area.

By John Cercone (not verified) on 28 Jun 2006 #permalink