Bryan College dropping Center for Origins Research

Todd Wood has just announced that Bryan College is discontinuing support for the Center for Origins Research (CORE). I am actually kind of sad about this. Wood was almost the sole representative of critical thinking in the creationist movement. He also had the virtually unique trait of understanding what modern evolutionary biology actually said before opening his big mouth about it. I can’t think of a time when he quote-mined Gould’s punctuated equilibrium quotes or blamed Darwin for Hitler or used the other careless, bottom-of-the-barrel tactics ubiquitous with creationists of the ID or AIG varieties. And I can think of many times when he called shenanigans on creationists engaging in those sorts of sins.

Of course, I think “statistical baraminology” is basically junk – the “baraminic distance correlation” they use to look for discontinuity depends entirely on the domain of analysis. If you use it on a group of fossil hominids and humans, it will make evident the biggest split in the character data in that very limited domain. And because cladistic datasets don’t include uniform characters, only characters that change within the clade being analyzed, all of the characters must change somewhere, and typically this would mean that the “basal” and “derived” groups will be anti-correlated.

But if your domain of analysis included characters from many other mammals and reptiles, fossil hominids and humans would appear nearly identical, i.e. highly correlated, because many characters that are identical for fossil and living humans would be included. Cladistic morphology datasets typically have very tight scope (focusing on a family or genus over which comparable characters can be easily scored), but DNA data has no such limitation. I think this is fundamentally why the statistical baraminologists could never find discontinuity in DNA datasets and soon abandoned DNA datasets.

Anyway, I fear that Wood is soon going to face a tough choice: to get a creationism job, he’ll probably have to knuckle under to creationist orthodoxy and stop criticizing the rampant intellectual shenanigans in his movement. To get a real biology job, he’ll probably have to give up creationism, at least young-earth creationism. Honestly, I suspect he’s intellectually closer to the latter option, whether or not he realizes it yet.