Back to the Quote Mines

Well, at least William Dembski has used an accurate title this time. Back to the Quote Mines is his latest installment of his professional disintegration.
He has basically stopped pretending that he has not maligned real scholars and scientists, and has adopted the position of a petulant 10 year-old, “Nah nah nay nah nah- ya can’t catch me.” This is explicit when he stated,

“The quote by Peter Ward that served as my point of departure elicited the usual reaction from evolutionists, for whom justifying evolution means supplying enough words and irrelevant details to cover their ignorance. My post took a few minutes to write up. Evolutionists wrote detailed responses many times its length on places like the Pandasthumb to justify that the problem with the Cambrian explosion was not really a problem. Look: if it wasn’t a problem, we wouldn’t be discussing it.”

We weren’t discussing the Cambrian, Dr. Dembski, we were exposing your dishonest use of scientific writers. I am having a hard time understanding why Dembski would be dropping his pretense of being a “serious scholar” this way. Maybe there is some residual honesty left after all?

What I find amusing is that the paper Dave and I originally wrote took quite a bit of work. And hardly anyone noticed. Nearly a year later, and Dembski has given it more attention than ever, and embarrassed himself in the bargain.

If Dembski wanted to pretend that he has studied Cambrian geochronology, I can hardly imagine that he could have missed Grotzinger, J. P., S. A. Bowring, B. Z. Saylor, & A. J. Kaufman. 1995. Biostratigraphic and geochronologic constraints on early animal evolution.–Science 270:598-604.

There Grotzinger et al analyzed the Namibian Precambrian and Cambrian fossils they discovered, concluding that there was an extended period (nearly 60 million years) where the earlier Vendian and Ediacaran (now they are merged together in the Edicaran) extended well into the Early Cambrian.

Or, Dembski might try some other references used (incompetently) by Steven Meyer. Such as, Aris-Brosou and Yang (2003). This is a paper on the statistical analysis of some genetic data which then uses “molecular clocks” to estimate the evolutionary rate of the early Cambrian radiation compared to the geological data. Their abstract is:

Quote: Multicellular animals, or Metazoa, appear in the fossil records between 575 and 509 million years ago (MYA). At odds with paleontological evidence, molecular estimates of basal metazoan divergences have been consistently older than 700 MYA. However, those date estimates were based on the molecular clock hypothesis, which is almost always violated. To relax this hypothesis, we have implemented a Bayesian approach to describe the change of evolutionary rate over time. Analysis of 22 genes from the nuclear and the mitochondrial genomes under the molecular clock assumption produced old date estimates, similar to those from previous studies. However, by allowing rates to vary in time and by taking small species-sampling fractions into account, we obtained much younger estimates, broadly consistent with the fossil records. In particular, the date of protostome–deuterostome divergence was on average 582 ± 112 MYA. These results were found to be robust to specification of the model of rate change. The clock assumption thus had a dramatic effect on date estimation. However, our results appeared sensitive to the prior model of cladogenesis, although the oldest estimates (791 ± 246 MYA) were obtained under a suboptimal model. Bayes posterior estimates of evolutionary rates indicated at least one major burst of molecular evolution at the end of the Precambrian when protostomes and deuterostomes diverged. We stress the importance of assumptions about rates on date estimation and suggest that the large discrepancies between the molecular and fossil dates of metazoan divergences might partly be due to biases in molecular date estimation. ( Aris-Brosou, S., & Z. Yang. 2003. Bayesian models of episodic evolution support a late Precambrian explosive diversification of the Metazoa.–Molecular Biology and Evolution 20:1947-1954.)

After all these were also referenced in Steve Meyer’s paper.

He could have just copied the list from Meyer’s paper directly.

Meyer, “The ‘Cambrian explosion’ refers to the geologically sudden appearance of many new animal body plans about 530 million years ago. At this time, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five phyla of forty total (Meyer et al. 2003), made their first appearance on earth within a narrow five- to ten-million-year window of geologic time (Bowring et al. 1993, 1998a:1, 1998b:40; Kerr 1993; Monastersky 1993; Aris-Brosou & Yang 2003). Many new subphyla, between 32 and 48 of 56 total (Meyer et al. 2003), and classes of animals also arose at this time with representatives of these new higher taxa manifesting significant morphological innovations. The Cambrian explosion thus marked a major episode of morphogenesis in which many new and disparate organismal forms arose in a geologically brief period of time. Stephen C. Meyer, 2004 “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE BIOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF WASHINGTON 117(2):213-239.

Of course, Steve Meyer’s paper is pathetic, and was demolished here in PT’s articles Meyer’s Hopeless Monster, and “Meyer: Recycling arguments”.

But why should that bother Dembski? He has descended to the status of an internet troll, and as we all know- “Don’t Feed The Trolls.”