Thursday, December 29

Creationist Letter Fisking

Bruce Curtis' letter appeared alongside mine in the local alt-weekly. Bruce is a frequent letter writer in these parts and quite a wingnut. As one can expect he weighs in on the side of intelligent design.
Despite his lazy research, thanks to Jeff Hornaday for his willingness to at least discuss the debate over intelligent design.

Instead of searching the Internet for scholarly publications offering theories to explain the challenge of irreducible complexity - virtually none exist -

In his own search Bruce must have missed this page, which lists over a dozen such articles. Granted, if you restrict yourself to peer-reviewed science journals addressing IC directly, the pickings may be slim, but that also holds for pro-IC articles, so there hasn't been much of a challenge to explain. IC itself is little more that a recasting of Paley's old Watchmaker argument with smaller parts.
he looks up the same tired urban myths, those old transitional species chestnuts that have been revealed as hoaxes or products of nonscientific extrapolation.

You always know you're dealing with an open-minded person when they reject evidence out-of-hand like that. Archaeopteryx, the species Hornaday references in his article, is not a hoax, though some evolution deniers have claimed so. I'd have to say that Bruce is the one pedaling the same tired urban myths. It's absurd to contend that all the transitional fossils in this list are hoaxes or unscientific extrapolation.
For us who grew up in the 1950s on depictions of simple living cells, recent strides in molecular biology have only begun to reveal the vast complexity with which even a simple virus or white cell operates. Lehigh University biology professor Michael Behe, in his book "Darwin's Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge To Evolution," reveals the fantastic odds against even the simplest building blocks inside cells forming spontaneously.

As I've pointed out above, Behe's thesis has been roundly criticized. Despite the fundamental premise that evolution works through incremental changes, some critics insist that the improbability of spontaneous leaps is an insurmountable problem. Such spontaneous leaps are unnecessary.

Now I'll grant that Behe attempts to show that such spontaneous leaps are necessary, but he fails at it. Behe says that a biochemical system is "irreducibly complex" when it requires all of it's parts working together to preform its function, such that removing any part will cause the system to fail. The system therefore, couldn't evolve by incrementally adding parts step by step, since it couldn't function without all of them.

There are many problems with that argument. The main one is that when Behe looks at biochemical systems with their functions and parts today and pronounces them IC, he fails to account for how their functions and parts have themselves changed as they evolved. An efficient IC system could have evolved from a non-IC system that did the job sloppily, for example. A system could have had a different function in the past and was co-opted into a new one. This is not juct an academic objection. There are many examples where variations on the same basic parts preform a variety of different functions in molecular biology.

Put simply, you don't have to believe in God to question the validity of Darwinism, but whenever you do, you get attacked as some kind of theistic thinker,

No. A) There are some evolution deniers that aren't, the late Fred Hoyle for example. B) That said, the vast majority of evolution deniers are. C) In discussing intelligent design, you simply can't deny the theistic nature of the alleged designer. D) Concerning you specifically, Bruce, you have too much written history to suggest that you aren't.
and that itself reveals the tremored paleontological, archaeological, and scientific ground on which macroevolution tries to stand.

This is an epic non-sequiter. Pointing out the obvious theistic underpinnings of ID says nothing at all about evolution.
Why Hornaday didn't do his homework on the fundaments of the ID debate is perplexing.

Hornaday's piece may not have been the best on ID that I've ever read, but when he says, "The operative expression is abracadabra, also known as hocus pocus, and it consists of a supernatural being...," I'd say he got the fundamentals down
When you anger supporters of Darwinism merely by questioning the science behind it, you reveal it to be a creed, a statement of faith and not legitimate science.

No, you simply reveal that we're tired of the long refuted denials that pass as questioning the science behind evolution.
As North County Christian school principal Bob McLaughlin rightly recognizes, open debate is the one thing that distinguishes education from indoctrination.

Open debate is no substitute for getting the facts straight.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Nice post. I spend a lot of time debunking ID creationism too.

I noted you blogrolled me, and I'll return the favor asap. I need to update mine. Thanks for the link-love!