If and only if Cornelius Hunter made sense, then…

| 64 Comments

I consider myself pretty well-educated about creationism, and of course I know it’s all silly, but I pride myself on usually being able to understand what argument the creationists are trying to make, even when they are doing it poorly. But I need help with this one.

Via the Discovery Institute Blog/Misinformation Service, I came across this post from Hunter, which is his Monday post. I also read Hunter’s Sunday post and got confused.

Starting on Sunday, we have: Cornelius Hunter, Sunday, July 25, 2010, speaking about shared errors in pseudogenes:

This claim, that such shared errors indicate, or demonstrate, or reveal common ancestry, is the result of an implicit truth claim which does not, and cannot, come from science. It is the claim that evolution and only evolution can explain such evidences. It is the equivalent of what is known as an IF-AND-ONLY-IF claim.

Science makes IF-THEN statements (if evolution is true, then species with recent common ancestors should have similarities between them). IF-AND-ONLY-IF statements (if and only if evolution is true, then species with recent common ancestors should have similarities between them) cannot be known from science. [italics original]

OK, so here he’s saying, I guess, that science can only make if-then statements, and test hypotheses on that basis. Science cannot formally say that X is the ONLY possible explanation of Y, because, I suppose, there always might be some other explanation out there.

He thinks this is important for evolution because sometimes evolutionists say Y (lanugo, shared errors in pseudogenes, etc.) can “only” be explained by common ancestry. Of course, any fair assessment of these sorts of statements would note that people use such language all the time (“the only explanation for the 20 identical paragraphs in these two students’ term papers is copying from each other or from a common source”), and they don’t mean that they can formally exclude, say, miraculous intervention by Thor or something. All people typically mean by these statements is “this is the only decent explanation of Y that has been put forward to date; if someone else comes up with a better explanation, fine, but until then X is what I’m going with.” But if creationists were fair about such things, they wouldn’t be creationists.

(Parenthetical, Hunter throws in some total bunkum:

Any scientific analysis of the evidence [of pseudogenes] would come up empty handed. Pseudogenes reveal various patterns, some which can be employed to argue for common descent, others which violate common descent (they could be explained, for instance, by common mechanism). Furthermore pseudogenes reveal evidence of mutational hotspots.

Side rant: This is, basically, total crap. Hunter apparently has no idea that, in phylogenetics, it is trivial to test hypotheses like “there is no tree structure in the sequence data” or “these two phylogenies from two different genes agree/disagree with each other”, to quantify the amount of agreement/disagreement, etc. The amount of homoplasy (character states which evolved independently, as might occur occasionally with pseudogenes) can be estimated, and we can tell whether or not we are close or far from a situation in which there is so much homoplasy that no phylogenetic structure is statistically supported. And when this kind of thing is done, the result is typically *massive* statistical support for common ancestry. At least, it would be considered such in any other field of science, but Hunter wants to treat evolution differently from all other parts of science. For evolution, he wants to have the special privilege of pulling out a few characters that disagree with some pattern, and ignore the hundreds/thousands of other characters that support the pattern. Hunter complains and complains about the unscientific nature of evolutionists, but when it comes to doing an actual fair data analysis that actually looks at the statistical support for common ancestry, he’s totally at sea. OK, end of rant.)

(Not quite done. I should add that my first encounter with Hunter was in 2001 or so. Somehow or other we were in an argument about whether or not some genetic sequence data produced a tree structure. He had calculated the pairwise distances between the genes and done a histogram of the distances. The distribution of gene-gene distances had a number of separate humps. He claimed that this falsified tree structure. I pointed out that this pattern was exactly what you would expect from distances produced from a tree. After a lot of arguing, he eventually got it, but then said something irate about how he was sorry but just because he was totally wrong about this (I would say the definition of a surprising successful prediction is one where someone claims their data is good and a good falsification of a hypothesis, but then it turns out that their data has exactly the pattern they claimed it didn’t have), he wasn’t going to “genuflect” to evolution. Sadly I can’t find the email now and the only word I can remember is “genuflect”. Ah well.)

Anyway, so, everyone’s got his argument so far? Evolutionists shouldn’t use “IF-AND-ONLY-IF statements”, they should be real scientists and just use “IF-THEN statements” like other scientists, the good kind of scientists.

(By the way, if Hunter is right, he’s just nuked Stephen Meyer’s argument in Signature in the Cell, which relies almost entirely on the argument that intelligence is the ONLY source of genetic “information”. Oops. Of course, Meyer’s assertion is wrong, but that’s a different story.)

With that, I give you, Cornelius Hunter, Monday, July 26, 2010. He is complaining about an introductory biology textbook by Johnson & Lobos. After saying the authors “rehearse the usual lies”, Hunter really gets going on the fossil record:

Such misrepresentations of science, as damaging as they are, pale in comparison to Johnson’s and Lobos’ next move. The apologists make a pathetic attempt to enlist the fossil record as powerful evidence for evolution, and end up with only the usual religious dogma. They write:

If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected.

Very interesting. And how do evolutionary clowns know so much? From where did Johnson and Lobos learn such ultimate truths? If evolution is not correct then such orderly change is not expected? Tell us more.

What are all the possibilities aside from evolution and why do none of them predict “such orderly change”? Why is it that evolution, and only evolution, predicts such an outcome? This is truly fascinating. If and only if evolution is true would we see such orderly change. Johnson and Lobos are real geniuses–they have knowledge of all possible causes.

You cannot make this stuff up. In two and half pages the text’s chapter on evolution has gone from misleading to absurd. What will come next?

But this is nothing new in evolutionary circles. Only evolutionists can make fools of themselves with a straight face and then repeat the process ad nauseam.

But, did they use the word “only”? No! And they said nothing about “ultimate truths”, and nothing about whatever mysterious alternatives Hunter endlessly claims are out there, but which he shockingly, cravenly, scandalously never bothers to elucidate, as any real scientist would have to. All the authors did was make an if-then statement, like Hunter JUST FREAKING SAID scientists were supposed to do the day before! Instead of congratulating them on saying the right thing, Hunter convicts them of vast, grand metaphysical sins.

So I’m at a loss. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s just mad and letting emotion run his argumentation, under the cover of unsupported blather about metaphysics. Maybe this textbook is being used in his home town or something?

64 Comments

Well in order to choose between two competing hypotheses, you have to actually have two hypotheses. Ideally they will make different predictions and one will ideally have more predictive and explanatory power. If Hunter want s to claim that there is another hypothesis that accounts for the observed pattern better than the theory of evolution then he had better come up with another hypothesis.

With regards to shared errors in pseudogenes, the point is that the observed pattern cannot be explained by shared mechanisms or common design or any type of intelligent design. The pattern is completely consistent with descent with modification and the pattern observed for other data sets. The pattern is not something was predicted by any creationist and cannot readily be accounted for by any creationist model. If a creationist wants to explain why he expected this particular pattern of shared errors in pseudogenes then let him speak now or forever hold his peace.

Of course the above assumes that creationists are willing to read the scientific literature and are familiar with the evidence and qualified to interpret it. We have falsified that hypothesis many times here on PT.

In there early 80s IBM was concerned that their competitors were copying their Winchester drive designs. So, they placed a curved piece of plastic around the outside of the platters that looked real aerodynamic but didn’t do a damn thing. When similar pieces of plastic showed up they took it as proof that the design was not really a design but just blindly copied. I guess IBM should have fired their engineers because their conclusions didn’t come from science either.

Well, at least the creationists are at least attempting to deal with pseudogenes… EPIC FAIL, Cornelius, but some marks for trying…

Rich Blinne said:

…they placed a curved piece of plastic around the outside of the platters that looked real aerodynamic but didn’t do a damn thing.

My guess is you have the story wrong. The “curved piece of plastic” or the functional equivalent is used today to cut turbulence - a smooth layer of air makes it easier to position the head within 1/1,000,000 of an inch.

-Current Hard Drive Engineer

Rich Blinne said:

In there early 80s IBM was concerned that their competitors were copying their Winchester drive designs. So, they placed a curved piece of plastic around the outside of the platters that looked real aerodynamic but didn’t do a damn thing. When similar pieces of plastic showed up they took it as proof that the design was not really a design but just blindly copied. I guess IBM should have fired their engineers because their conclusions didn’t come from science either.

These kinds of games go much further than even this.

Years ago a colleague and I published a paper that the military got wind of and swooped in and classified just as the journal was in press.

It was annoying, but apparently - and unknown to me and my colleague until we found out later – there was already some disinformation planted out there in the journals that the military wanted in place so that crucial surveillance technology could not be understood and compromised.

Life in research gets complicated sometimes.

Hunter may be unaware that he is committing the “contrived dualism” fallacy. Apparently, he thinks that the phrase “evolution is not correct” is the same as “design is correct.”

Accordingly, Hunter interprets the textbook authors as claiming that orderly change is not expected if intelligent design is correct, even though that’s clearly not what the authors intended to convey.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

So I’m at a loss. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s just mad and letting emotion run his argumentation, under the cover of unsupported blather about metaphysics. Maybe this textbook is being used in his home town or something?

When I look at the politics going on today, and when I look at the tactics invented by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove; when I look at the antics going on at Fox Noise and see Andrew Breitbart’s shtick, I think of the ID/creationist shtick.

It has to be the politics of stirring up pure rage in order go drive things to such an absurd limit in the direction these jerks want to take them, that any compromise will leave them far enough in that direction that they win even if they loose.

I really wouldn’t bother with Cornelius. Look what his site is linked to for a start, Uncommon Descent.

If you follow his bio, it leads to Biola University (should be Ebola). Their doctrinal statement says all must be subservient to the bible - http://www.biola.edu/about/doctrinal-statement/ - and then he claims he has no specific position, just that evolution isn’t convincing - Ha!

I go to UD quite often, sometimes just so I can have an excuse to throw things at my computer screen, or sometimes just to have a belly-laugh. Hunter has used this textbook, and its authors to fulminate against evolutionists generally, he’s angry; good. Anger makes unconvincing, ideologically driven, poor argument.

If you scroll down the list of notories writing at this site you will see one effort at science recently written on the 16th of July, ‘Short Peptide…’. The intersting thing is (I didn’t read it, any purported science at this site, isn’t), it received one comment, I didn’t read that either.

I note that the egregious Denyse O’Leary is conspicuous by her absence, and that most comments on any post are from a ‘hardcore’ of nut-jobs. Bornagain, and Kairosfocus spring to mind.

All in all UD is preaching to the converted, hanging on by the finger nails of hacks who wouldn’t know science if it jumped up and said, “Hi Cornelius, I’m science.”

KP said:

Well, at least the creationists are at least attempting to deal with pseudogenes… EPIC FAIL, Cornelius, but some marks for trying…

Surely for being trying.

Some years ago Hunter posted on the ASA list on his specialty of history of science. It was most bizarre and usually wrong.

1. If A then we expect B 2. If not A then we do not expect B This would mean that only A can be held responsible for B. So I do think this is an “if and only if” statement.

If gravity then we expect falling apple. If not gravity then we do not expect falling apple

Eddie Janssen said:

1. If A then we expect B 2. If not A then we do not expect B This would mean that only A can be held responsible for B. So I do think this is an “if and only if” statement.

If gravity then we expect falling apple. If not gravity then we do not expect falling apple

You are correct; but what I took away from Hunter’s rant was not so much his picking at logic as it was his apparent rage that intelligent design was not even thought of as an alternative.

The fact that scientists are so familiar with the scientific concepts and evidence that ID doesn’t even cross their minds drives cdesign proponentsists up the wall in a furious rage.

But Hunter himself has no clue how ID explains anything or can be checked out. He is just angry and maintains a grudge. But that never translates into doing any research; which suggests that he is at least subliminally aware of the futility of his own position.

And that keeps him angry.

A Rice said:

Rich Blinne said:

…they placed a curved piece of plastic around the outside of the platters that looked real aerodynamic but didn’t do a damn thing.

My guess is you have the story wrong. The “curved piece of plastic” or the functional equivalent is used today to cut turbulence - a smooth layer of air makes it easier to position the head within 1/1,000,000 of an inch.

-Current Hard Drive Engineer

It was from the designers themselves when I was interviewing with IBM Rochester in 1982. It was about 1/2 inch away from the platters.

Michael Roberts said:

KP said:

Well, at least the creationists are at least attempting to deal with pseudogenes… EPIC FAIL, Cornelius, but some marks for trying…

Surely for being trying.

Some years ago Hunter posted on the ASA list on his specialty of history of science. It was most bizarre and usually wrong.

Here’s a blast from the past from the ASA list in 2005 between Terry Gray and Cornelius Hunter. Be warned your IQ will go down after you read this:

I’m afraid we’ll be going round and round on this one. The cytochrome c sequence comparison alone is a compelling argument to me. Coupled with general taxonomic arguments (nested hierarchies) and the progression of the fossil record, it’s virtually a slam dunk confirmation. I know you disagree, but what more can I say. I find the textbook arguments convincing–you don’t.

Well for starters you could try explaining *why* you find these arguments convincing in the face of major problems. You did not reply to my explanation why this is not compelling evidence a few days back when we discussed this. Now you assert this claim again, and again with no justification. Here, again, is why this claim is bad science:

###############################################

Here are 3 criteria for judging the quality of evidence:

—-

A. The evidence should not include significant problems for the theory (obviously).

B. The evidence should be the fulfillment of a somewhat narrow prediction of the theory. That is, if the evidence as well as several other outcomes are all accommodated by the theory, then the evidence is not compelling.

C. The evidence severely damages all alternative theories (need to be careful not to misrepresent or ignore the alternative theories, of course).

—-

The nested hierarchy data suggest or reveal:

1. The designs of the species seem to be clustered, and the clusters seem to cluster in larger groups, and so on, in what is called a nested hierarchical pattern.

2. There are a great many exceptions that violate the pattern, at all levels, such that, for example, a paper out of Doolittle’s lab has called for a “relaxation of tree thinking.”

3. There is massive convergence, meaning similar designs show up in distant clusters.

#3 fails on A. #2 fails on A and 1-3 all fail on B. Also, none succeed on C. So as with the fossil evidence, pseudogenes, small-scale adaptation, etc., this is not compelling evidence for evolution.

Nick, why on Earth are you trying to make sense of anything written by Cornelius Hunter? That way lies madness.

Rich

I was involved in those ASA discussions in 2005 . He was giving his perverse views on Darwin when he completely misinterpreted the history. Where he got his ideas from I do not know, but it wasn’t from anything Darwin wrote or his contemporaries.

BTW I could never decide whether he was YEC or not

Well isn’t the problem with ID that its logical statement goes “if anything, then ID”?

I suspect that Hunter’s just jealous that evolution can make something resembling a prediction. It must get tiring cranking out post hoc rationalizations, always clinging to the works of others and trying to figure out how to reinterpret it as supporting ID.

If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected.

“not expected” doesn’t sound very much like “if and only if”. Maybe that’s what Mr. Hunter is so upset about. Nobody ever says what Mr. Hunter says they say, but yet he wants them to say what he wants then to say, and then Jesus doesn’t say anything at all. That would probably make me upset too.

Nick, why on Earth are you trying to make sense of anything written by Cornelius Hunter? That way lies madness.

For awhile I have been developing the view that most people, most of the time, do and say what makes sense in their own heads. This includes creationists – they typically aren’t lying, they’re just BSing about stuff (see the book “On BS” for more) they don’t actually know much about. So what becomes puzzling is obvious self-contradictions in very short periods of time…

The only thing I can figure is that maybe Mr. Hunter was projecting what he wanted them to write instead of actually comprehending what was there, due to his being so angry at evolution. Thus, in his mind, “If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected,” becomes something like, “If and only if the theory of evolution if and only if is not correct, on the other if only if hand, then if only and if such orderly change if and only if is not expected, Jesus can fly like a birdie, and walk on water too.” That’s the only explanation I can figure. I don’t really know.

I’m actually with Cornelius on this one, at least for logical consistency. A if and only if B requires A ==> B and B ==> A. He says science should only make A ==> B statements (if evolution, then orderly change).

The article he complains about says !A ==> !B (if !evolution, then !orderly change). This is logically equivalent to B ==> A (orderly change implies evolution), and is the wrong way around. Combine this with A ==> B (if evolution, then orderly change), and we have (evolution iff orderly change).

Mike Elzinga said:

”…what I took away from Hunter’s rant was not so much his picking at logic as it was his apparent rage that intelligent design was not even thought of as an alternative…”

You know what would be amusing?

Somebody in the know should do an analysis of Hunter’s bugaboos, say, the gross organizational structure of pseudogenes, or the fossil record, etc and then mathematically correlate it the given propensities of various gods. The Sumerian goddess Inanna, for example, was associated with trees, rain, storms, chaos. Compare with Yahweh, who will come up short. Demonstrate by Hunter’s own criteria that the “Designer” was likely to be Sumerian. Or perhaps Zoroastrian…

I wonder what he might then have to say about “apologetic” scientists and their ‘religious dogma’. :D

Well try this:

If evolution, then a nested hierarchy of mistakes in pseudogenes and SINE insertions corresponding to the nested hierarchy of genetic similarity and the time of appearance of groups in the fossil record.

If design, then any pattern at all, depending on who did what, when, their methods and their motives, but no nonfunctional pseudogenes and definitely no shared mistakes in nonfunctional pseudogenes (unless the designer was just trying to give the appearance of common descent for some unspecified reason).

If evolution is not correct then such orderly change is not expected? Tell us more.

Technically, it’s “the theory of evolution is supported by such ‘orderly’ change and would not be as strongly supported by other results”.

But okay, if the theory of evolution is not correct, what is expected? “My god could do anything so anything or everything would be expected”? Any lurking creationist, feel free to answer.

What are all the possibilities aside from evolution and why do none of them predict “such orderly change”?

Cornelius, I thought that you thought that the alternative was instantaneous magical creation of modern species or of “kinds” very closely related to modern species. That’s just a magical explanation that can trivially never be ruled out, under the assumption that a deity might have deliberately “made it look like evolution” by magic, but that is irrelevant to science.

What are “all the other possibilities” aside from evolution and ID/creationism? Any creationist feel free to answer.

First Hunter says this:

This claim, that such shared errors indicate, or demonstrate, or reveal common ancestry, is the result of an implicit truth claim which does not, and cannot, come from science.

Let’s look at someone who makes such a claim:

“More compelling evidence for the shared ancestry of humans and other primates comes from their hemoglobin — not just their working hemoglobin, but a broken hemoglobin gene, too. [10] In one region of our genomes humans have five genes for proteins that act at various stages of development (from embryo through adult) as the second (betalike) chain of hemoglobin. This includes the gene for the beta chain itself, two almost identical copies of a gamma chain (which occurs in fetal hemoglobin), and several others. Chimpanzees have the very same genes in the very same order. In the region between the two gamma genes and a gene that works after birth, human DNA contains a broken gene (called a “pseudogene”) that closely resembles a working gene for a beta chain, but has features in its sequence that preclude it from coding successfully for a protein. “Chimp DNA has a very similar pseudogene at the same position. The beginning of the human pseudogene has two particular changes in two nucleotide letters that seems to deactivate the gene. The chimp pseudogene has the exact same changes. A bit further down in the human pseudogene is a deletion mutation, where one particular letter is missing. For technical reasons, the deletion irrevocably messes up the gene’s coding. The very same letter is missing in the chimp gene. Toward the end of the human pseudogene another letter is missing. The chimp pseudogene is missing it, too. “The same mistakes in the same gene in the same positions of both human and chimp DNA. If a common ancestor first sustained the mutational mistakes and subsequently gave rise to those two modern species, that would very readily account for why both species have them now. It’s hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans. “That strong evidence from the pseudogene points well beyond the ancestry of humans. Despite some remaining puzzles, [11] there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earth are biological relatives.” (p. 71-72)

[10] Chang, L.Y., and Slightom, J.L 1984. Isolation and nucleotide sequence analysis of the beta-type globin pseudogene from human, gorilla and chimpanzee. J. Mol. Biol. 180:767-84.

[11] Bapteste, E., Susko, E., Leigh, J., MacLeod, D., Charlebois, R.L., and Doolittle, W.F. 2005. Do orthologous gene phylogenies really support treethinking? BMC Evol. Biol. 5:33.

Hunter continues:

It is the claim that evolution and only evolution can explain such evidences. It is the equivalent of what is known as an IF-AND-ONLY-IF claim.

So the person I quoted above said only evolution can explain such evidences? Hardly. I quoted Michael Behe in Edge of Evolution. H/T Bilbo on Telic Thoughts. And as Bilbo noted Hunter is strangely silent about the supposedly circular thinking of Behe while saying Sean Carroll was circular on his blog like this:

In his book The Making of the Fittest, Sean Carroll writes “the degree of similarity in DNA is an index of the [evolutionary] relatedness of species.” [98] This can only make sense if we first assume evolution is true. But Carroll’s book is a defense of evolution, intended to demonstrate that the theory is true without first assuming it is true. He seeks to prove evolution is true, but he begins with evolutionary reasoning and interpretations. That is circular reasoning. Unfortunately such circular reasoning is a common motif in the evolution genre.

Nick, here’s a clue to the warped thinking of Hunter. In his thinking the only way you can come to a conclusion that evolution (or even just common descent) is true is because you assume it. It’s literally inconceivable that those whom he opposes do so because of the evidence. Either you have a presuppositional bias for or against God and that drives all your conclusions. Note that Hunter says the following in Darwin’s God p. 161-2:

Descartes’s approach was found to be faulty, but his quest for objective knowledge was taken up by many later thinkers. In the eighteenth century … David Hume used another dubious set of proofs to argue that miracles are impossible. Descartes’s theism contrasts with Hume’s skepticism, but for our purposes the similarity in their approaches is more important. Both Descartes and Hume believed that logical argument could produce ultimate truths, and not surprisingly both found truths that were remarkably similar to their own personal beliefs. Descartes the theist found God, and Hume the skeptic found materialism.

But there’s a problem with his worldview. It doesn’t fit the facts. There are Christians who do not have a presupposition for evolution that still accept it. For Hunter’s apologetic to work we cannot simply be accepting things because of the evidence. This leads him either to ignore the case, hoping it will go away, with Behe or attack TEs such as Ken Miller like he did as follows on the ASA list where Miller removed the phrase that evolution was “random and undirected” from his biology text:

“The phrase wasn’t removed because the phrase is part of evolutionary theory. Indeed, in Miller’s own writings, more recent than the textbook (ie, *Finding Darwin’s God*) he hammers this point home repeatedly. Now, on the hotseat he plays dumb”

Keith Miller noted:

On the issue of guidance or direction in evolution:

There are two senses in which “guided” is used, and the ID advocates confuse and obscure the differences. One sense is that of internal direction from within the natural biological system. This would be like the vitalism of the last century in which organisms were impelled toward a goal by their own efforts, or by some inward force. Internal vitalistic forces have been rejected by modern science. However, and this is critical, modern science does not and indeed cannot reject supernatural or divine guidance of the evolutionary process. Science simply has no way to study or test for such divine action. ID advocates often take statements from the scientific community that refer to guidance in the first sense and imply that they are rejecting divine guidance. I see evolution as an expression of God’s creative action and part of God’s purpose and will. I believe that this is the same view held by Ken Miller.

Keith

Hunter replied:

No this is not Miller’s view, as he makes clear in *Finding Darwin’s God*.

In other words, Cornelius Hunter knows what Ken Miller is thinking better than Ken Miller himself. Speaking as a Christian here people like Hunter should just knock off this mind reading game because he has no idea what motivates people. It’s best to assume the best about others. Nick did this assuming Hunter wasn’t dissembling but sincerely believes what he believes and is trying to understand why. Hunter is not doing this in return. Namely he is not assuming that scientists accept evolution because that’s where the evidence leads in their opinion. Lying about people is a terrible apologetic. If they see you are lying about them why would they accept the Gospel?

“Evolutionary clowns”? Hmmmm.… Aren’t these people always comoplaining that namecaling means you have no argument?

Or is this just projection?

I read it thus:

“not expected” != “not possible”.

If we see X, it supports Y.

If Y is not true, we do not expect to see X.

But we might see X anyway, for some other reason.

The closest I can come to a parsing of Hunter’s “argument” is that he’s trying to special-plead his way out of accepting that the evidence contradicts his dogma. IMNSHO, the entirety of Presuppositionalism is a nothing but a massive case of special pleading. Evidence means whatever we say it means (and the irony of having the fundamentalists crawl epistemologically into bed with the post-modernists amuses me no end).

“More compelling evidence for the shared ancestry of humans and other primates comes from their hemoglobin — not just their working hemoglobin, but a broken hemoglobin gene, too. [10] In one region of our genomes humans have five genes for proteins that act at various stages of development (from embryo through adult) as the second (betalike) chain of hemoglobin. This includes the gene for the beta chain itself, two almost identical copies of a gamma chain (which occurs in fetal hemoglobin), and several others. Chimpanzees have the very same genes in the very same order. In the region between the two gamma genes and a gene that works after birth, human DNA contains a broken gene (called a “pseudogene”) that closely resembles a working gene for a beta chain, but has features in its sequence that preclude it from coding successfully for a protein. “Chimp DNA has a very similar pseudogene at the same position. The beginning of the human pseudogene has two particular changes in two nucleotide letters that seems to deactivate the gene. The chimp pseudogene has the exact same changes. A bit further down in the human pseudogene is a deletion mutation, where one particular letter is missing. For technical reasons, the deletion irrevocably messes up the gene’s coding. The very same letter is missing in the chimp gene. Toward the end of the human pseudogene another letter is missing. The chimp pseudogene is missing it, too. “The same mistakes in the same gene in the same positions of both human and chimp DNA. If a common ancestor first sustained the mutational mistakes and subsequently gave rise to those two modern species, that would very readily account for why both species have them now. It’s hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans. “That strong evidence from the pseudogene points well beyond the ancestry of humans. Despite some remaining puzzles, [11] there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earth are biological relatives.” (p. 71-72)

[10] Chang, L.Y., and Slightom, J.L 1984. Isolation and nucleotide sequence analysis of the beta-type globin pseudogene from human, gorilla and chimpanzee. J. Mol. Biol. 180:767-84.

[11] Bapteste, E., Susko, E., Leigh, J., MacLeod, D., Charlebois, R.L., and Doolittle, W.F. 2005. Do orthologous gene phylogenies really support treethinking? BMC Evol. Biol. 5:33.

There is no mention here of any other hypothesis. The evidence is absolutely consistent with what one would expect from descent with modification. It is also absolutely consistent with the nested genetic hierarchy observed for nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, the nested hierarchy observed for SINE insertions and it is absolutely consistent with the fossil recored.

Now, if any creationist wants to put forward another hypothesis that better explains these observations, please feel free to do so. Of course, you will also have to explain why an intelligent designer put broken genes into human and chimp genomes and why the mistakes were copied and why they were copied only into certain species and why the pattern observed is consistent with all of the other data supporting descent with modification. If and only if you can explain all of this with another hypothesis of more explanatory and predictive power will any real scientist take you seriously. Until then, it’s all just sour grapes and poor logic.

Thanks to Rich for the references.

Nick (Matzke) said: So what becomes puzzling is obvious self-contradictions in very short periods of time…

I think this has a very simple explanation: creationists like Hunter aren’t functioning as scientists, with the primary goal of explaining phenomena. They are functioning as rhetoricians or lawyers with the primary goal of winning arguments.

A lawyer may make completely inconsistent arguments in different cases; that may, in fact, be his/her duty given the conditions of a case. Similarly a debater is only worried about consistency insofar as it helps them win - there is no professional requriement to be consistent between debates or even within a single debate (with the caveat that it is bad strategy to be inconsistent if doing so makes your argument less convincing).

I think folks like Hunter do not think like scientists. They are not looking for a fully consistent picture of the world; they want to win converts. If doing so requires proclaiming “ID is science” one day and proclaiming “neither ID nor evolution is science” the next, that’s what they’ll do.

eric (but not the one from 1am)

386sx said:

Waynef said:

386sx said:

If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected.

“not expected” doesn’t sound very much like “if and only if”. Maybe that’s what Mr. Hunter is so upset about. Nobody ever says what Mr. Hunter says they say, but yet he wants them to say what he wants then to say, and then Jesus doesn’t say anything at all. That would probably make me upset too.

Now if the author would have said, “If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected unless you believe in fairies and magic pixie dust”, would that have satiated Mr. Hunter’s anger?

I doubt it. The whole point of the section from which Mr. Hunter was quoting was a hypothetical blind test of lining up fossils according to their ages and what results were expected if evolution were true or not true. If he had a problem with the test then he should have said so. Instead he took one sentence out of context and called everybody “poopyheads” or something. (I forget what it is he called everybody.) So I highly doubt if there is anything anyone can do about Mr. Hunter’s frustration. (Frustration rooted in the fact that Jesus never says nothin about anything, and is always invisible, I would guess.)

In 1860 Darwin went to visit the ultra-evangelical palaeontologist John Salter in London. Darwin was a bit worried at the reception but Salter had taken a load of Spirifers from the Devonian and Carboniferous and laid them out in chronological order, and they formed a branching tree just like the only picture in the Origin. Darwin was chuffed at support from an unlikely person.

So much for Corny Hunter

386sx said: No the article doesn’t say that. It was speaking in the context of testing the theory of evolution by using the fossil record and what results would be expected with such a test.…

Sigh. The offending quote says “If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected.”

This could be interpreted as “…is *not* expected”, implying that something else would be expected. And then Hunter would have a point. Or it could be interpreted as “… is not *expected*”, implying our prediction no longer applies and we have no idea what to expect.

Out of context, you can argue that this sentence is ambiguous and perhaps poorly worded. In context, it’s perfectly obvious that the second meaning is intended. So I withdraw my original comment; I recommend reading the original chapter.

Out of context… it’s like I’d never read anything by a creationist.

My two cents on this: Cornelius Hunter is just the latest pseudo intellectual peddler of biblical literalism and the like. Given he has some basic philosophical training, however misused, it does took some effort to unpack his nonsense as it is dressed up in serious sounding rhetoric.

That said, reading him getting flamed on his own blog is always good for a bit of schadenfreude.

It is not wise to be creationist and say that “IF-AND-ONLY-IF claims” are impossible.

What is William Dembski’s eliminative filter? Filter’s end result is “IF and only IF” -claim. It claims it block out every other explanations, known or unknown.

So, please, go and tell that to your profet Dembski first. Then come back.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on July 26, 2010 10:32 PM.

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