Don McLeroy leaves creationist comment: evolution can’t explain “biochemical complexity”

UPDATE: See the first comment below: reader SES notes that one can watch the film “The Revisionists” online here (it’s free until February 27), and some PBS stations in America are broadcasting it tonight. The schedule is also at the link.

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If you’ve followed the attempts of American creationists to get evolution of ouf the school classroom, you’ll remember Don McLeroy from Texas. A dentist with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. McLeroy was a member of the Texas State Board of Education  [TSBOE] from 1998-2011, and served as chairman of the Board from 2007-2009. His reappointment as chair was blocked by the Texas State Senate, so you can imagine how dire he was.

McLeroy is infamous because of his strenuous efforts to get evolution out of Texas public schools. Because that state has to approve textbooks, and it’s a huge consumer of them, publishers sometimes tailor nationally-distributed books to Texas standards to avoid publishing multiple editions. That’s why McLeroy’s efforts, which ultimately failed, were so pernicious. They could have given evolution a serious hit throughout America.

But it wasn’t just evolution he fought. As Wikipedia notes:

In 2005, McLeroy conducted a sermon in his church, talking about the Board of Education, saying naturalism is “the enemy” and he said: “Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.” An mp3 of the sermon remains online, as well as McLeroy’s powerpoint and notes. [JAC: they’re all gone]

According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, “Dr. McLeroy believes that Earth’s appearance is a recent geologic event — thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion. ‘I believe a lot of incredible things,’ he said, ‘The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the god that created the universe.'” McLeroy’s statements regarding science have been criticized. McLeroy and other Board members who want to challenge evolution have received criticism from more than fifty scientific organizations over an attempt to weaken the currently-accepted science standards on evolution. In particular, biologist Kenneth R. Millercalled McLeroy’s statements on science “breathtakingly” incorrect.

In March 2008, McLeroy was criticized for racially and culturally insensitive remarks saying: “What good does it do to put a Chinese story in an English book?” he said. “So you really don’t want Chinese books with a bunch of crazy Chinese words in them.” He later apologized.

In 2009, McLeroy spoke at a board meeting using several quotes from scientists in an attempt to discredit evolution. A biology teacher later found the quotes to be incomplete, out of context, and/or incorrectly taken from a creationist website. McLeroy said that while “some of the material was taken from the creationist site […] a lot of the quotes I did get on my own.” McLeroy appeared on the Comedy Central program the Colbert Report in April 2012 wherein he said “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and when I looked at the evidence for evolution, I found it unconvincing so I don’t think he used evolution to do it, that’s my big deal.”

. . . In an interview in October 2009 he explained his approach to public school history textbook evaluation: “. . . .we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”

This is the man who, in his breathtaking ignorance, and driven by a religious and hyper-conservative agenda, almost drove Texas education back into the Dark Ages. Can you imagine a man like this heading up a state school board, one with the responsibility of choosing the books to educate children? Welcome to America. (He was appointed, by the way, by Texas governor Rick Perry.)

Although McLeroy is no longer on the TSBOE, he will not go gentle into that good night. According to the Houston Press, McLeroy, the ant-ihero of a prize-winning new film about the Texas school fracas, “The Revisionaries“, is stepping up his antievolution campaign. It intensified after he read the pro-evolution books that Dawkins and I wrote. As Press reporter Casey Michel wrote yesterday:

“This past Christmas holiday I read both Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne and The Greatest Show on earth by Richard Dawkins,” McLeroy told me. “I read them, studied them, on my Kindle, on my Nook. And the evidence is not compelling. And how many people have read those books in the last month?”

(“Not me,” I informed him, hesitating to share that my time had instead been taken with going through Christopher Hitchens’s anti-religion screeds.)

His research, his church, his work – all of it has only reaffirmed his convictions, has only led him to the same conclusion. God made the Earth in six days, he said. We were made in his image. Velociraptors may have been the original beasts hunting Little Red Riding Hood. We don’t yet have all the answers, but these are things we know.

Was there any doubt that the arguments of Richard and myself would fail to move a man like this? Faith is a padlock of the mind, and few keys can open it.

As part of his rehabilitation campaign, I suspect, McLeroy tried to leave the comment below on my website under a post showing a Non Sequitur cartoon (I guess it had to go someplace).   won’t try to dissect McLeroy’s critique of evolution, as I’m busy preparing for my southern peregrinations, and I think my readers are qualified to do so anyway.  I’ll just say that there is indeed evidence that evolution has created not just morphological complexity, but biochemical complexity (which of course must underlie morphological complexity); that evidence includes the data on gene duplication and divergence, and Rich Lenski’s observations of the appearance of new biochemical pathways in bacteria. But there’s much more; try your hand, if you will. Voilà—the lucubrations of Don McLeroy, D.D.S. He’ll be reading this site, I’m sure, so you can address comments to him as well (be polite, people!):

Evolution’s Achilles Heel (comment by Don McLeroy)

The great mystery of our time is why so many people, especially enlightened intellectuals, believe in evolution. Ultimately, the evidence for evolution—the idea that all life has descended from a common ancestor—is simply not compelling; evolutionists have failed to account for the development of today’s complex cell. Since first life could not have possessed all the amazing biochemistry we find today, evolutionists must demonstrate evidence for how natural selection—evolution’s primary mechanism—created it. All other evidence for evolution, from rocks, microscopes and the imaginations of man depends upon evolution proceeding at this microscopic level. What evidence do they provide?

Jerry Coyne, one of the world’s leading evolutionists, in his highly acclaimed book Why Evolution Is True, 2009, argues that it is impossible to provide every detail of evidence concerning biochemical complexity. He also admits evolutionary development of “complex biochemical… pathways is not easy, since they leave no trace in the fossil record.” Okay. How many details does he provide to demonstrate the evolution of life’s complex chemistry?

Amazingly, considering the foundational nature of cell biology to drive all evolutionary adaptations, the only “detail” Coyne provides in his book is speculation about an imaginary gene. He states that “the common ancestor of sea cucumbers and vertebrates had a gene that was later co-opted in vertebrates…” as fibrinogen. Anyone who has studied high school biology realizes that if this is all the evidence he can provide for the development of the myriad of biochemical pathways like the Krebs’s cycle or protein synthesis or other cell complexities, his evidence is embarrassingly nonexistent. Evidently, it is not only impossible to provide every detail; it is impossible to provide a single detail. And, since all other explanations in his book depend on this fundamental foundation, his arguments collapse.

Similarly, prominent evolutionist Kenneth Miller, textbook author and plaintiffs lead expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design trial, fails to provide compelling evidence for the development of cellular complexity. Texas’s 2009 high school biology standards require explanations; his new textbook presents only two details. First, a single cell organism engulfs an alga and then acquires the photosynthetic ability of the alga. Second, two distinct classes of bacteria share similar enzymes. Like Coyne, he provides no evidence for how these enzymes and foundational processes developed from first life. In conclusion, Miller waves the magic wand of his imagination and confidently declares “that complex cellular structures and pathways were produced by the process of evolution.”

Ironically, even famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins, in his book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, 2009, fails to present evidence—at least for the development of biochemical complexity. The only detail he cites is a double mutation in E. coli that allows it to digest citrate. Like Coyne and Miller, he offers no evidence for how the process developed initially. He describes the cell as “breathtakingly complicated,” and states “the key to understand how such complexity is put together is that it is all done locally, by small entities obeying local rules.” He also states that some of the features of the cell descended from different bacteria, that built up their “chemical wizardries billions of years before.” These statements are not evidence; they are vain imaginations.

The only indisputable fact is: leading evolutionists have no evidence that natural selection created today’s biochemical complexity. Therefore, skepticism is the best response. Evolutionary dogmatism—the insistence that evolution is true—is a serious issue. Science is not threatened by evolutionary skepticism; science is threatened by the quasi-science of the evolutionist.

Have at it!

233 Comments

  1. SES
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    FYI, Public television’s Independent Lens has a program on this:

    “The Revisionaries (#1407) – Once a decade, the Texas State Board of Education rewrites textbook standards for school children. [56 minutes].”

    We plan to watch this tonight; folks can also watch it online at http://www.iptv.org/series.cfm/8117/independent_lens/ep:1407

    • Thomas
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      The Texas creationist nonsense seems to be contageous. Some of our local state Representatives are hoping to “teach the controversy”. //www.coloradoan.com/article/20130130/NEWS01/301300027/Severance-representative-s-bill-would-encourage-evolution-creationism-debate-Colorado-schools?nclick_check=1

      (p.s. I’m new to posting here… I know this is a little off the topic of the main post, but figured it may be of interest. If I’m violating community standards, please tell me.

      • gbjames
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        You seem well within the roolz with this post, unhappy though it is.

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I made popcorn. I have a seat up front to see this fool taken apart with all the evidence.

    • Rob
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      butbutbut, there’s no evidence, he says so right in his comment.

      I’m sure he’s been presented with the evidence many, many times. There’s no way he hasn’t been. What makes you think we’re going to have any effect on him?

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        As JC says, it will probably have no effect on him but others who are open to reason and evidence will see how foolish his statements are.

        • microraptor
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          And if we’re really lucky, those others will include a few people who’d been planning to vote for him but change their minds.

  3. Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    “… he provides no evidence for how these enzymes and foundational processes developed from first life.”

    Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Isn’t it better to say that “life developed from foundational (chemical) processes”? À la Pross, et al.

    /@

    • Bonzodog
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Funnily enough I have literally just ordered that book …..

  4. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    evolution—the idea that all life has descended from a common ancestor…

    Note the very limited definition of evolution given here. But then he attacks a different aspect of evolution, the origin of the biochemical cell.

    Even if the first cell were divinely created, that would do nothing to negate all the evidence for common descent. The is his primary mistake, although he makes many others.

  5. Bonzodog
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Lets take the Kreb’s cycle as an example. There are a fair number of ideas around but the one that seems to me the most plausible as a (ex) biochemist is that it came about as the linking up of two existing pathways – both originating from pyruvate. The first goes to alpha-ketoglutarate taking on-board acetyl co-A. This is oxidative since it generates NADH; the other, reductive path is to succinyl co-A. It shows the inanity of creationists that they don’t realise that linking the two is not only plausible but inevitable given evolutionary pressure a fair few hundred million years ago ….

    • steeve
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:08 am | Permalink

      Yeah but, but, but where did pyruvate come from and how did carbon atoms et al know how to assemble into something so useful for life anyways?

      Huh? Huh? Huh? nanyah nanyah nanyah! Take that!!

  6. James McKaskle
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    That was actually me that left that comment. Being failry early in the morning at the time, I was a bit bleary-eyed and posted it in the wrong spot (and included a typo) so I can understand why you would have mistaken me for a creationist. I thought his quote mining you, of all people on reddit, was too hilarious not to pass on to you. I hope I didn’t cause you too much consternation.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Which may only mean that McLeroy will not be visiting here. But I hope he does.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      The McLeroy Reddit post you linked to is a different McLeroy quote to the McLeroy quote JAC has put here. So I don’t think you’ve been identified as the creationist in question.

  7. Christopher
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I am not a scientist, but may I ask how on earth not yet knowing an exact detail in an immense line of information automatically invalidates everything? Throughout history, we didn’t know many things. How far would civilisation had come if we had said a hundred or so years ago “yeah, we’ll never figure out what electricity is and how it works. God and prayer is the only answer” [insert any example you please]. Plugging in God when coming up against a difficult and complicated conundrum really is a breathtakingly stupid approach. They just never seem to learn.

    And how is this evidence for creationism anyway? Isn’t this simply yet another God of the Gaps hatchet job? Don’t know a detail = God did it. It seems eerily similar to the whole “there are no transitional fossils” line. But then, maybe this dentist probably thinks that, too.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      In every single case in which religion (any religion, not just McLeroy’s, which I’m sure considres to be the only correct and true one) and scientific knowledge have conflicted, science has always (always) been proved to be correct.

      The score stands at: millions to zero

      Why on earth would anyone expect religion to be correct in this case? (Leaving aside the evidence, which fully supports EBNS and in no way supports creationism.)

      • Christopher
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        “They just never seem to learn”

        – “Why on earth would anyone expect religion to be correct in this case”

        Now I think this is a really interesting question. Why, in the apparent defiance of history (and dare I say reality), do they still keep trying and/or expecting an exception?! Although I am sure we could all come up with some reasons fairly easily. I just find this point astonishing.

        • SLC
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          Einstein said it best. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

          • michaelbusch
            Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

            That line is worth thinking about, but it wasn’t Einstein who said it. Snopes and Wikipedia track it back only to 1981, in literature of Narcotics Anonymous (in the context of trying to get users to change their habits).

  8. Bender
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    The idiocy of the argument is amazing. It’s like if McLeroy arrived home, found the door forced and every valuable object in the house gone, and claimed he couldn’t possibly conclude he’s been robbed because he doesn’t know the brand and model of the vehicle the “theoretical” robbers used to carry his stuff.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      I love this analogy.
      Stealing it. (hope you don’t mind)
      Thanks.

  9. JBlilie
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    The man has already proved himself impervious to evidence. Why bother with him?

    For everyone else, the evidence uniformly supports evolution by natural selection. To find out how, please read WEIT. If you can’t afford to buy it, I’m sure your library has a copy.

    Is anything else needed?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Why bother with this (not “him”)? For one thing, to educate the many non-scientist readers here about what the evidence for the evolution of biochemical complexity really is, and also to let McLeroy know that his views are uniformly rejected in the community of rational people. I’m sure he’ll be reading this site. I don’t expect him to change his mind–that won’t happen–but at least we can show him that his arguments don’t fly with smart people. That cannot make him feel good. There was a reason, after all, why he tried to post that comment on this site. He wants to CONVINCE us!

      • JBlilie
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Sir, you have amazing stamina, and I’m glad for it!

        I guess as long as they keep up (online, in print, wherever), we must as well.

        I just get tired of saying the same things over and over. But, as you note, I’m sure there are new readers all the time, so it’s a worthwhile effort to explain things here.

        • gbjames
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          Yes. It wears thin, doesn’t it.

        • Notagod
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

          As long as the christian bullies keep making bullshit we should keep rubbing their noses in it, along with being a task that needs to be done it’s also amusing and great fun.

  10. matthewackerman
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    >Velociraptors may have been the original beasts hunting Little Red Riding Hood.

    Wait, so if I become a creationist I get to believe that Deinonychus* were running around killing people a few thousand years ago?!?!?! This is the greatest oversight in creationist propaganda imaginable! Creationism needs compelling dinosaur stories if they want to compete with what Robert Baker comes up with.

    • SLC
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      It’s Bakker.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Why the * against Deinonychus? Were you going to add a footnote?

      And why the segue from Velociraptor to Deinonychus in the first place?

      /@

      • J.J. Emerson
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Read the “Classification” section:

        http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Deinonychus

        • Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:59 am | Permalink

          Ah. I didn’t know that.

          But I didn’t know that Michael Crichton had written “Little Red Riding Hood”, either.

          In any case, being hunted by raptors must be grimm… 

          /@

          • matthewackerman
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

            Well, the only reason that Velociraptors are popular is because of Michael Crichton. Basically it is no different than blaming Gene Rodenberry for Dilithium. Techniqly Dilithium is perfectly real, but people are always refferencing star trek when they talk about it. Technically Velociraptors are perfectly real, though small and far less terrifying than Deinonychus, but everyone is really referencing Jurasic Park (and thinking of Deinonychus) when they say Velociraptor. Deinonychus were my favorite dinosaur when I was a kid, and I’ve never really forgiven Michael Crichton for spoiling my favorite dinosaur by using the wrong name (Also I remember when Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park, and I knew he used the wrong name in 1990. This should teach you not to believe everything you read on the internet.)

            • matthewackerman
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

              >Voice of SLC

              It’s Gene Roddenberry

            • matthewackerman
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

              *Technically
              *Jurassic

            • Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

              Deinonychus was my favourite dinosaur when I was a teenager. Now it’s Spinosaurus — in part owing to JP3.

              In any case, the villain in “RRH” was definitely Canis!

              /@

              • matthewackerman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

                I don’t know why Casey Michel wrote about Deinonychus being the villain in ladled rut rotting hut (LRRH), but just think about how much more awesome-er LRRH would have been had that been the case! Dinosaurs are the ultimate weapon against creationism. Nothing alienates a young people from creationism more effectively then saying that dinosaurs bones are trickery from the devil. I know creationist are trying to co-opt dinosaurs, but the dinosaurs of creationist are always more dated, lumbering and lizard like. For example, creationist never put feathers on Deinonychus, even though Deinonychus looks sleek and terrifying with a downy coat! As a result, the scientific dinosaurs will always appeal to young people more than the non-scientific dinosaurs.

            • microraptor
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

              From what I’ve heard, when Crichton was writing Jurassic Park in the 80s, there actually was some debate about whether Deinonychus should have been reclassified as a species of Velociraptor. But, honestly, that’s not nearly as grating as how ridiculously powerful he made them- super chimpanzee intelligence, jaws strong enough to bite through steel bars (especially funny considering that in the book the T-rex had an extremely weak bite).

              • matthewackerman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

                All of the books I have seen from era use the name Deinonychus over Velociraptor (for instance, I knew them only as Deinonychus). Paleo-artist Gregory Paul is the only author I am aware of who preferred the name Velociraptor over Deinonychus. It’s not an error, as such, as Gregory Paul list Deinonychus as a synonym, but something of a personal quirk. However, it is not as if there was wide spread professional debate on this usage. A particular person who wrote a particular book preferred a particular name over the general professional usage. This preference never really took off. It is similarly just a quirk of history that Crichton happened to be using a book with an idiosyncratic nomenclature as his main source.

  11. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Why is that ball on my lawn? Maybe I’ll never know for certain, but likely enough the neighbor’s kids threw it over the fence. It’s totally unwarranted and extravagant to propose a whole supernatural framework that defies know mechanisms, such as that hypothetical fairies at the bottom of the garden spirited it there.

    In the mundane sphere of everyday life, everyone is able to see that simple extrapolation of known principles is the most likely explanation for things we don’t know (and in many cases can not ever know for certain). Why does that insight then desert them when it comes to science, where exactly the same principles are involved?

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      And, of course, you can have falsified your initial hypothesis by asking the neighbours’ and their kids.

  12. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The thing we have to get out of the way first, when dealing with Creationists (or anyone with wacky ideas, like 9-11 truthers), is to determine what exactly constitutes a “good explanation”.

    I think that there are certain criteria that all good explanations share, yet god-belief fails at all of them.

    1) Mechanism. A good explanation explains more of the underlying mechanisms than bad explanations. If your faucet is leaking and you call a plumber over to fix it, the plumber will be able to explain the underlying mechanism behind what causes the faucet to leak. There’s no mechanism for positing god, other than “goddidit” or “sin”.

    2) Testability. A good explanation lends itself to being testable. Your plumber will be able to reproduce the leak at command if he actually understands the underlying mechanism. And if the leak happens again and your plumber told you the underlying mechanism, you should be able to test his explanation and fix the leak yourself. God-belief is entirely untestable (well, it is, but it fails every single test).

    3) Simplicity. Good explanations use fewer ad hoc claims — i.e. claims that are not testable and have no mechanism — to support itself. A plumber that does all of the above but then posits that the reason behind the leak is that you haven’t arranged the furniture in your house in a manner that resonates with the frequencies of the Crystals of Andraste is a worse explanation than one that leaves that out.

    4) Precision. Good explanations exclude more possible evidence than bad explanations. Let’s say that you have two friends who collect marbles. One friend collects only black marbles while the other collects every single color marble he can get his hands on. If your plumbing problems started after both friends were over for a few hours, and a black marble was found in your pipes, it’s much more likely that your friend who only collects black marbles caused it than your friend who collects all marble colors; even though it’s known that both friends own black marbles. God-belief does not restrict the type of evidence would be seen as opposed to naturalism so god-belief would be analogous to the friend who collects every marble color imaginable. The more evidence god-belief allows, the less likely it is that it explains this one particular piece of evidence.

    I would like to see Creationists come up with their own criteria for what constitutes a “good explanation” using examples from real life which also supports their Creationism. Usually they fall prey to simplistic thinking like the tornado-in-a-junkyard strawman, claiming that evolution breaks the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the watchmaker fallacy, appeals to ignorance (“no one knows how this happens, therefore goddidit”) or the fallacy of composition (e.g. everything we know of in the universe was made by someone, therefore the universe was made by someone)

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Applause. L

    • Sastra
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Well put. It would also be useful to ask a creationist to describe a hypothetical example of the sort of evidence or argument which WOULD convince him — and be specific. If he or she cannot even imagine what that might look like, then they obviously don’t understand either evolution or their own objection well enough yet.

    • Vaal
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Excellent post.

      I spent a long time debating creationists (on-line) and a common theme was their belittling of “mechanistic explanations.’
      Their positions was that we poor materialist/naturalists were “stuck” with appeal to mechanistic explanations (where you describe how something can/does happen) and we leave ourselves helpless when we don’t have a mechanistic explanation yet for some phenemona. Whereas their explanatory system was far wider, and they could appeal to a God to explain what “materialists have not explained.”

      Simply always being able to have some level of “explanation,” even if it was utterly bereft of detail (God did it…don’t know how) is preferable to the creationist. Demanding detail of how things work become a liability in the spiritual world, because no one can ever answer that question.

      Similarly, the creationists would often point to the ongoing modification of scientific knowledge, and the falsifiable nature of many evolutionary explanations, preferring their supernatural explanation.
      The creationist senses the rigor, skepticism and falsifiability of naturalistic, scientific explanations as a LIABILITY, a demerit point for such explanations, thinking the explanation that can explain anything (supernatural) and that can’t be formally disproved to be superior.

      It’s pretty much just rationality and reason turned upside down.

      Vaal

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      “…the tornado-in-a-junkyard strawman, claiming that evolution breaks the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the watchmaker fallacy, appeals to ignorance (“no one knows how this happens, therefore goddidit”) or the fallacy of composition (e.g. everything we know of in the universe was made by someone, therefore the universe was made by someone)”

      IOW, they usually make what they suppose is a negative case against evolution. They don’t make a positive case for creation.

      I’ve seen all the negative arguments above, but I’m sure I’m not particularly well-versed in creationist arguments; I’d be interested to know if they do try to present positive evidence.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Excellent.

      This sounds a lot like David Deutsch.

      /@

  13. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    [sub]

  14. Veroxitatis
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    “The way I evaluate history is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel.”
    This guy doesn’t even understand the difference between history and propaganda. History as a scientific study goes back at least 200 years to the German school of historiography under von Ranke. There’s not much here to choose between McLeroy and the few remaining Marxist “historians” and atrocity apologisers.
    I doubt that he will be able to see it that way however.

  15. Jimmy Rogers
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Geezus

  16. Kevin
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Hoo boy. Don:

    1. Nobody named “Jesus” was born of a virgin. That’s a myth. A bold-faced lie. Or a bald-faced lie, depending on your preference of idiom.

    2. The rest of the mythology surrounding this “Jesus” character is similarly flawed. The problem with the Jesus character is one of credulity.

    It stretches my credulity past the breaking point to believe that there existed on this Earth someone who could violate the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology at will, yet left absolutely zero tangible evidence of those skills.

    WHERE IS LAZARUS? Dead — if he ever actually existed. No wine, no loaves and fishes, no walkable water, no healed sick, no risen Jesus. None of it.

    And here’s the thing: Just one tiny shred of evidence — the merest whisper of a hint of a shred of tangible evidence would change my mind, Don. Completely. You don’t have it. You have myths. Stories. Fables. Lies.

    3. Science is the study of our natural world. When you deny the scientific evidence in favor of your unproved, unprovable, and laughably naive mythology, you are wrong. Period. Full stop.

    4. Whether or not YOU believe in science, it works. We have cures for dread diseases that we did not have before because of science — and especially because of our understanding of the process of evolution. And on and on. Science is better than your mythology, because it works.

    5. You’re a scared little man who is desperately trying to push back against the universe.

    Simple fact: You’re going to die, Don. Nothing will change that. And when you die, NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS. That’s it. Zip. Nada. Bupkis. No soul, no judgment, no heaven, no hell.

    All this flailing around is a desperate attempt by you to reserve for yourself a better place in an imaginary post-death existence. There can be no other reason for your actions, and for your insistence on believing in fairy stories.

    The rest of us would appreciate it if you sat down and shut up. There’s work to be done, and you’re getting in the way.

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Why was there no one named Jesus born of a virgin? Might have been, but there endeth the lesson.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Because virgin birth is unknown in mammals, and if it ever happened we would expect the offspring to be female.

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

          There are many medically recorded cases of fecundatio ab extra. A number have made it into the law books where a petitioner has sought and been awarded a decree of nullity on the ground of non consummation notwithstanding that he and his spouse have had a child.

          • Bonzodog
            Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            Wonder if there have been any since the advent of accurate DNA testing?

            • Veroxitatis
              Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

              What has that to do with it if the woman is found to be pregnant and intacta, or delivers by Ceaserean.

              • Quidam
                Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

                “if the woman is found to be pregnant and intacta”

                Really? You can think of no way semen could find its way into a females reproductive tract without penetration by a penis sufficient to tear a hymen?

                But it seems that was just a quirk of translation. Almah simply means a young woman of child bearing age who has not become pregnant, not necessarily a virgin

                Amazing what becomes doctrine after a sufficient passage of time.

              • michaelbusch
                Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                Everything. You don’t think “this baby has the same Y-chromosome as this man over there” would be relevant to any claim of human parthenogenesis?

                Also:

                “intacta” is nonsense. The hymen may return to nearly its original condition after intercourse, or be damaged by things other than sex.

                And, as others have noted, it is not necessary to have penis-in-vagina sex in order for fertilization to occur. That holds even in the absence of modern artificial insemination technology. Genital contact can lead to pregnancy as long as ejaculation occurs near the vaginal opening. It is rare for fertilization to occur in such cases, but it does happen.

      • ZMe
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Short answer: Because human virgins don’t bear offspring.

        Long answer: Although the ability to impregnate a human virgin exists now, it was not available 2000 years ago to carpenter’s wives.

      • Kevin
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        And since when does something recorded in legal texts has nothing to do with the biological facts?

        Now, I can see a situation where a woman can get pregnant without the “usual” intercourse. Turkey basters and all that…happens all the time. “Heavy petting” has been known to cause pregnancy — figure it out.

        But you’re being a pedant here.

        Sperm — HUMAN sperm — needs to interact with HUMAN egg before pregnancy occurs. In First Century Palestine, the only way that happens is through intercourse.

        That’s not Don’s claim. Don’s claim is that no human sperm ever came near this person called “Mary”, yet she gave birth to a human-appearing male.

        Didn’t happen. It’s a lie.

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          I wasn’t responding to Don’s ludicrous claims but Kevin’s. It’s entirely possible that Jesus was the result of heavy petting by Joseph (fecundatio ab extra) and was accordingly found to be intact at the time of birth.

          • michaelbusch
            Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

            Stop it with the “intact” nonsense.

      • microraptor
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Because the idea that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus isn’t found in the oldest Gospels- it only showed up after Christianity had begun to spread throughout the Roman Empire, probably to make Jesus seem more like the heroes of Roman mythology who were said to be the sons of Jupiter: Theseus and Hercules, for example. Even early Christians remarked on the similarities.

  17. Mattapult
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Isn’t that the realm of Systems Chemistry…

    Read Addy Pross: What Is Life: How Chemistry Becomes Biology. Recently recommended here.

    Here is a my summary: evolution is seen at the molecular level in “populations” of auto-catalytic molecules. Complete with modification and selection. Over time, the population can add complexity, including the ability to use energy from the environment (aka metabolism) thereby finding a loophole in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    Addy Pross doesn’t reveal THE path we took to get here, but he does a pretty good job describing the principals that shaped that path. He does a great job detailing what we know and don’t know.

  18. Sheila B
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    So, Don, give us your evidence then…

    • gbjames
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      +1

  19. Kevin Meredith
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    As Galileo demonstrated in the 17th Century, facts and reason have no power against an individual (or a global organization) that insists on looking at the world through the superstitious fumblings of ancient Middle Eastern goatherds. Fortunately, as humans continue to progress, these benighted ghouls all eventually take their rightful place on history’s scrapheap, where they serve only as laughable examples of the human brain’s stunning ability to deceive itself.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that benighted ghouls can do a lot of damage before they get to the scrap heap. How do we stop them before it’s too late?

      • Kevin Meredith
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        It’s already too late, every time superstition kills, destroys and wastes. But the only solution that seems to have worked is the patient, non-violent perseverance of those who know better.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Well, not quite. Galileo didn’t have all the facts necessary to invalidate non-heliocentric models. The decisive facts came in only after his death… 

      It was … in 1725 that James Bradley first produced evidence to support annual rotation around the sun with his discovery of stellar aberration. It was more than two hundred years before the measurement of the earths shape produced indirect evidence for diurnal rotation of the earth around its own axis. It would take almost another hundred years before stellar parallax was discovered confirming annular rotation and Foucault produced direct proof of diurnal rotation with his pendulum.

      /@

  20. Mary Ann King
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    You should read “The Urantia Book.” It helps to explain the synergy between science and spirituality. Science is Divine. It also helps to break down the great walls seperating religious philosophies. Giving great importance to their being.

    That said, it also seeks to show the path of evolution; cosmological-biological, etc. It is a heavy read, not the norm. Much of the text, like the Bible, can not be fully verified…however, the sciences within the book are being verified through modern technology. Including our connection to Lemur’s.

    Either keep religion out completely or teach “Comparative Religions.” If you fully understand the religion “of” Jesus…(not about) you fully understand that we are “ALL” God’s children…. “ALL.” Including Moslem, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Atheist and all the rest of the souls on earth.

    Religion is not God. We can not take God out of our country or the world. We can destroy the worship of Him by allowing our ignorance and ego’s to dictate biased venues. The Bible was written by men…inspired…but still by men..and edited and redacted and translated and interpreted by “MAN.” Ego based man…not our loving Father.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      How, Mary Ann King, do you know that you’ve picked the right version of god? Please provide the evidence for this deity you refer to.

    • gillt
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Atheist and all the rest of the souls on earth.

      So what you’re saying is, you don’t have a clue what atheism is.

    • Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:32 am | Permalink

      Hmm… U-rant-ia?

      It makes L. Ron Hubbard sound like a theological genius!

      /@

    • Notagod
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Ahh! Isn’t that the cultist damned thing, Its a baby jebus christian. I want to, hold It and, pet It and hug It… oops. :(

  21. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Surely all arguments which posit that evolution cannot be the whole story – it’s just too improbable – all disappear in a puff of logic if one accepts M-theory. I posted this and more on the comments on Nagel a few days ago. Though evidence is currently lacking, M-theory is still massively more likely than any of the bible’s offerings. Simply put, mathematics is very comfortable with infinities which require far fewer a priori assumptions than anything in our world which we can only experience with our limited senses.

  22. @eightyc
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    lol.

    Surely the word “moron” can be applied to this dude right?

    How else can one define stupid?

    There really ARE stupid people! Being politically correct has nothing to do with it.

    Stupid people need to get laughed at to snap them outta their stupidity.

    lol.

    • @eightyc
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      lol.

      There should be no sugar-coating of making people aware of their stupidity on whatever topic is under discussion.

      Sugar-coating implies it’s OK to be stupid. It’s not! lol.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      No, McLeroy is not a completely stupid person, a cartoon caricature of a ‘moron.’ He’s technically not developmentally challenged. On the contrary, he’s normal, maybe even brighter than average.

      That’s why we are so frustrated by creationists. McLeroy has enough intelligence, imagination, wisdom, and creativity to think himself firmly and confidently into a wrong spot — and he is sure enough of his own abilities to figure out how to stick there. He is just smart enough — and knows just enough — to be dangerous.

      Not dangerous to our understanding of the theory of evolution: dangerous to his understanding, and that of others.

      Laughing is a good idea anyway, because it helps break down the smug facade of implacable certainty which helps to protect error. But the laughter needs to keep on going past the claim that he’s “stupid.” No, he’s not stupid. He’s being stupid. Creationism is stupid.

      And creationism technically IS developmentally challenged.

      • D. Taylor
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Right on, Sastra! He is bright, which makes his position not only laughable but sad, not to mention a greater menace to the young.

      • Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • @eightyc
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        lol.

        No I think we are missing/overlooking something.

        For him to not accept the evidence, it must be that he completely does not understand how the process of natural selection works.

        Or he does not at all understand the concept that underlies creationism; that is, by him positing a creator (that itself must be complex to design complex things), he completely undercuts the complexity that he is trying to explain in the first place.

        I don’t see how anyone can put it more plainly than how Dawkins puts it!

        lol. So McLeroy’s inability to grasp that basic idea/concept HAS to be the definition of stupidity!

        • @eightyc
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          Or more generally, when you point out to people what is it that makes them not believe in the existence of pink unicorns but yet they willingly believe the existence of an invisible guy in the sky.

          Or why is it that they don’t readily believe in ghosts like poltergeists but yet readily believe in a soul or the “holy spirit”.

          Lol that SHOULD be by definition stupidity!

          • steeve
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

            Well DUH……. people don’t believe in pink unicorns because there isn’t a 2000+ year old book in a difficult language that predicts one; nor is there a 2000 year old book also written in a hard-to-translate-into-Oxford-English-language that says: “Hey! see that Old Book stuff was right cuz look — a pink unicorn!!” I think people need a harder question than that if you want them to question their faith. (sarcasm) :)

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:07 am | Permalink

        Agreed Sastra – perhaps a bit of Dunning-Kruger here.

  23. Lee
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Any ideas about how young earth folk confront radiometric dating?

    • gr8hands
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      radiometric dating = satan

      • steeve
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:01 am | Permalink

        Check out “Talk Origins” (a real science site) and get all the info you need to evaluate claims and counter claims of creationists.

    • Mattapult
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      They claim that different methods produce different results, therefore the whole system provides false answers.

      The truth is that some methods are inappropriate for certain circumstances. The test will produce wacky results when used beyond its abilities. So the YEC arguement has a sliver of truth, but their conclusion are overblown.

      It’s like trying to weigh a truck on a bathroom scale, then claim mass doesn’t exist.

    • steve oberski
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      They will also claim that there is no proof that radioactive elements have always decayed at the same rate.

      • michaelbusch
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Which gets immediately contradicted by all of geochemistry and astronomy (radioactive nucleons in supernova a billion years ago decayed the same way as the same atoms do now), but once again we see that for some people reality has ceased to be relevant.

      • BornRight
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        That’s wrong. Radioactive isotopes have been found to decay at the same rate in ancient supernova explosions.

        • michaelbusch
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure who you’re saying is wrong. But you and I are both noting the same thing: the laws of physics have been constant.

          • BornRight
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            I replied to Steve Oberski. If I had replied to you, my post would have been pushed under and inward of your’s (like this reply).

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      There was the RATE project, apparently based on the idea that doing a technique poorly proves that the technique is unreliable.

    • Fatboy
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      Since Dr. Coyne recently clarified that we can link to posts on our own sites so long as they’re relevant to the conversation, I’ll advertise my own. A couple years ago, I read and reviewed the book, Thousands, Not Billions. It was a summary of the RATE project that Reginald Selkirk mentioned. Their main argument, as Steve Oberski alluded to, is that radioactive decay occurred at an accelerated rate in the past, accounting for the evidence we see today. They had several other points which I addressed in a second part of that review. Those were mostly down to bad methodology or ignorance, but accelerated decay was their central one.

      Since my site somehow got blacklisted from this site (I’m not a spammer – I e-mailed Dr. Coyne about it and he couldn’t determine the problem), I can’t link directly to my review of that book. If you want to read it, just google ‘jefflewis thousands not billions’ and you’ll find it.

    • Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      They just confront 14C and ignore the rest.

  24. Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    McLeroy’s argument is typical creationist grandstanding. It ignores all the evidence we do have, instead aiming at an area that we have less information about and have to speculate more, demands details that are effectively impossible to provide, and tries to lump in abiogenesis with evolution. In other words his argument distills down to “You scientists can’t explain this, therefore god.”

    I’ll leave explaining the biochemistry to the biochemists.

    My response to McLeroy would be, that while we might not have the answers yet, we are working on them, and have tons of other evidence that supports our theory. What actual evidence do you have that supports yours? How do you know a god exists? How do you know that if a god exists that it is Yahweh?

    Revisionaries was also on the other night. It makes me wonder why the people who make the final decisions about what goes into textbooks aren’t specialists in those fields. In other words, if McLeroy isn’t a specialist in Science and Social Studies, then why does he have a vote on those subjects?

    McLeroy struck me as a very insecure person, desperately and confidently preaching what he thought was true, in order to hide the fact that he knew he didn’t know what he was talking about, and feared being found out.

    Speaking of which, someone should point out to McLeroy how much food each animal the kids named would need for 1 year, and see how much room was left in that Ark of his. Or find out the maximum number of animals that could be housed in a zoo the size of the Ark.

    • Christopher
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      According to the best seller – Ken Ham’s “A Pocket Guide to Noah’s Ark”, “Noah probably stored the food and water near each animal.” (pg 54). Hmmm…not much on storage, then.

      What about number of animals? His little book says – “It is not difficult to show that there was plenty enough room for 16,000 animals” (pg 53).

      But how did 16,000 species create the diversity and numbers we have now (millions)? My favourite bit: “Two dogs came off Noah’s Ark and began breeding more dogs. Within a relatively short period, there would be an incredible number of dogs of all shapes and sizes” (pg 78). Bam! There we have it then.

      OOoo, hold on though, I think they realised this would sound a little wacky, so they preceded their “theory” with this little nugget, a kind of disclaimer for their bad science: “The Bible is inspired, but our scientific models are not. If we subsequently find the model to be untenable, this would not shake our commitment to the absolute authority of scripture” (pg 77). That’s that then. An actual admission that no matter if you disproved their nonsense 100%, it wouldn’t matter one single bit. It happened according to them.

      Therefore, I’m afraid, it wouldn’t matter if you provided McLeroy a thousand *facts*. Strange really, considering people like him like to jump on science whenever it ‘appears’ to back up their nonsense, then completely ignore it when it doesn’t.

      • Christopher
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Oops, typo. 16,000 animals would be 8000 species. Even more a miraculous job then.

        • hankstar
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          Except it wasn’t just two of every animal. Genesis “reports” that Noah was ordered to take seven of every “clean” animal and two of all the rest. That makes that magic barge all the more crowded.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

            It’s likely that very few were clean by the end of the trip.

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

              :D

            • hankstar
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

              Oh, you.

      • microraptor
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        I like how they never try to explain why the tree sloths hauled ass all the way to South America’s rainforests instead of heading to the much closer African or Asian rainforests.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          I’m still waiting for an explanation of how the dodos got to Mauritius. And the penguins to the Antarctic.

        • ichneumonid
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:21 am | Permalink

          …and how did koalas get all the way to Australia with nary a eucalyptus to feed on along the way?

          Come to think of it how did they collect the koalas, sloths etc from these disparate (at the time unknown)parts of the world in the first place anyway?

          Oh, I see, maybe it was a myth!!

        • steeve
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

          It was the long trip that made them so tired hence the name “sloth”. :)

      • Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        My Noah’s Ark comment was just a couple of things that would make a rational person reconsider the plausibility of the Ark story. Whether McLeroy would recognize that he is being a hypocrite if he continues doing that ‘demo’ for kids is another matter.

        Both darkmatter2525 and nonstampcollector have excellent videos explaining how ridiculous the whole idea is.

    • michaelbusch
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Since you mention the Noah flood myth:

      I read up on the history of the Sumerian flood myths, which the Noah flood myth comes from. Those stories have been told for a _long_ time – probably as long as people have lived in the Fertile Crescent. The earliest well documented versions of the flood myth date to _before_ when the young-Earth creationists claim that the Noahic flood happened. Like the line about glue, it shows how absurd the whole thing is.

  25. Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “Ultimately, the evidence for evolution—the idea that all life has descended from a common ancestor—is simply not compelling; evolutionists have failed to account for the development of today’s complex cell.”

    Therefore the evidence from biogeography, genetics, embryology, comparative morphology, and the fossil record are moot! CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS.

    “Similarly, prominent evolutionist Kenneth Miller, textbook author and plaintiffs lead expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design trial, fails to provide compelling evidence for the development of cellular complexity.”

    I seem to recall that the plaintiffs’ lawyers dumped 12 books and 58 papers on the development of the immune system on the stand during Michael Behe’s testimony. Is the evidence contained therein not compelling? Do we have to explain EVERYTHING before you’ll acknowledge that this evolution thing happened?

    Oh, and speaking of compelling evidence, how does God work?

    “Ironically, even famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins, in his book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, 2009, fails to present evidence—at least for the development of biochemical complexity. The only detail he cites is a double mutation in E. coli that allows it to digest citrate. Like Coyne and Miller, he offers no evidence for how the process developed initially.”

    Well if we have evidence that one tiny step happened naturally, and evolution is a series of tiny steps….

    • Fastlane
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      The trick is this: They throw that word ‘compelling’ in there. And since no amount of evidence can compel them to comprehend something they refuse to, they find it not compelling.

      I don’t know if that deserves a ‘checkmate atheists’ or not….

  26. Graham
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    “Faith is a padlock of the mind, and few keys can open it.”

    Or to put it another way, convictions create convicts.

  27. jamesgart
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    This guy is so lost!

  28. Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    “All other evidence for evolution, from rocks, microscopes . . .”

    I won’t look at my microscope in quite the same way ever again.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      I think you’ll find that they evolved from magnifying glasses.

  29. Sastra
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Since first life could not have possessed all the amazing biochemistry we find today, evolutionists must demonstrate evidence for how natural selection—evolution’s primary mechanism—created it. All other evidence for evolution, from rocks, microscopes and the imaginations of man depends upon evolution proceeding at this microscopic level.

    Okay, here is what I think is basically wrong with McLeroy’s complaint here. Ultimately, his argument isn’t really about the biochemistry of a cell; it isn’t about evolution; it isn’t even about abiogenesis. Those are technical smoke screens; it’s deeper than that.

    When you break down the problem McLeroy is having, it seems to me that he is arguing over vitalism. He is implicitly assuming that there must be some kind of a life force inserted into the microscopic interface between non-living matter and living matter. It’s this absence that he wants us to explain.

    Every example of life is an example of life coming from non-life. No atom is alive; no molecule is alive. But cells are. How could that be? How could non-living unintentional things perform non-living unintentional movements and then — all of a sudden! — there is a living cell, and living organisms which have intentions? Every moment is abiogensis. Every moment is a naturally inexplicable supernatural miracle.

    The creationist thinks this process makes no sense historically because he or she actually thinks it makes no sense at all. It goes against the grain of how our brains intuitively classify the objects in the world. Either living OR not living — the discontinuous mind. If this is true, then anti-creationist arguments then would be wise to include the scientific reasons why we once, but no longer, believe in an invisible and magical life force, an irreducible essence which ‘just is’ life.

    If McLeroy says that he has no problem rejecting vitalism, then I think he’s got a problem explaining his problem.

    • D. Taylor
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      You really nailed it, Sastra! And issues regarding the origin or specialness of life per se have even wider social ramifications than challenges regarding the origin of species.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Yep. He needs to give a definition of what “life” is before we can move on.

      Prions aren’t alive. Replicate just fine according to their own rules.

      Viruses aren’t alive. Ditto. A little too well at times, killing their hosts.

      Heck, there’s an anti-HIV medication called ritonavir that the manufacturers have a devil of a time controlling, because it wants to self-replicate into a non-therapeutic version of itself. Entire factories have had to be abandoned because we can’t control this self-replication activity. Is ritonavir “alive”? No. But it sure acts like it.

      The line between “life” and “not life” is very blurry indeed.

      • Kingasaurus
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Agreed.

        I’m fond of Carl Sagan’s definition of life:

        “A kind of chemistry complicated enough to allow for differential reproduction and evolution.”

        Not perfect, but viruses would then be classified as “alive”. There’s no definition of the word that completely does the job though, because vitalism is false as far as we know, and the dividing line is extremely fuzzy, as you said.

        It’s very complicated chemistry, and that’s all. But that should be enough to make scientists excited for a thousand lifetimes.

        For guys like McLeroy though, it’s never enough.

      • Sheila B
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        So it boils down to a question of semantics. The concept of “life” is a human concept, that McElroy has elevated to a status outside of the physical world. Is this a kind of reverse straw man argument? “I will define life as something other than the result of a set of physical and chemical circumstances, therefore all your supposed evidence amounts to nothing”?

    • josh
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      This is an excellent point, and it’s typical of a very broad problem that you find in all sorts of bad philosophy and argument. We think categorically: we assign things to this group, not that group. Just by thinking that this ‘thing’ is different from that ‘thing’ we are putting them in distinct groups. And this is a great ability, it’s the basis of our reasoning and logic, I would say it’s fundamental to any ‘thinking’ whatsoever.

      But there is no reason the categories of the universe, if there are such things, have to line up with the categories in our heads. We tend to think in terms of apparent categories that are convenient for our everyday experience. We divide things into solid-object/different-solid-object, living/not-living, man/woman, etc. Most of the time these are perfectly useful categories, but they aren’t fundamental. When you look at the borders between them they are fuzzy, and you realize that you are looking at two prominent bumps on a continuous distribution. Because the universe doesn’t actually work based on a distinction between, e.g. man and woman, those are macro descriptions that can only be approximations. The closest we’ve come to actual, fundamental distinctions in the universe are along the lines of ‘one electron is different from two electrons’.

      However, people who don’t realize this tend to reify their heuristics, so that, e.g., ‘life’ becomes a fundamental category to them, or ‘maleness’ or whatever essences in general. They then try to draw conclusions based on these unwarranted premises and end up with the kind of vitalism Sastra is talking about. So, to reiterate, the rule ‘life doesn’t come from non-life’ is quite useful in most cases, but not when confronting the borders, which is exactly what evolution points to.

  30. Uncle Ebeneezer
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    After seeing McLeroy on Colbert I can only pity the ignorant bastard. He’s not open to evidence or argument, and doesn’t even have the capacity to follow the logic needed to evaluate them, if he were. That this man had major influence on school books across the nation, is truly frightening.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.

      — Isaac Asimov, Canadian Atheists Newsletter (1994)

      Nearly twenty years on, this still holds true. 

      /@

  31. gr8hands
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    This article explains how chemicals turned into organic molecules all by themselves in a very short time:

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/feb/did-life-evolve-in-ice

    Imagine what would happen with millions or billions of years.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I love the last quote in that article…”you have to keep an open mind in this business.”

  32. DrBrydon
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    If McLeroy read WEIT, it’s clear that he was looking for an area of current weakness in evidence (dare I say “a gap”?). He is equivocating, though, when he asks how anyone could have begun to accept evolution based on this evidence.

    People began to accept evolution not based on evidence of chemical processes at the cellular level (which could not even have been a question when Darwin wrote), but because evolution best explained observations made at the level of living organisms, and comported with evidence from disciplines like Geology, where evidence of very long-term change was already undercutting biblical chronologies.

    If McLeroy were honestly reviewing the evidence to ask how anyone could come to accept evolution, he would start with Darwin or his contemporaries. The answer is, of course, that people started accepting evolution because it best explained how species came to be, according to the evidence they had, and has continued to do so as new evidence has been accumulated.

    To say that evolution does not explain the chemical basis for life based on the current evidence does not disprove evolution, unless there is another, better explanation for the origin of life that is inconsistent with evolution.

    “God” is not a better explanation, and it hasn’t been for over 150 years. That’s what McLeroy doesn’t understand.

    (How’d I do, Jerry?)

  33. Kingasaurus
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    McLeroy claims he’s done a lot of reading about science, but he’s apparently never heard of Occam’s Razor.

    Here’s a clue, Don:

    You don’t posit an omni-powerful, unverifiable, invisible, disembodied “mind” as evidence for anything. Science has never needed to jump to that explanation to correctly describe anything, and there’s no evidence it will need to in the future.

    You don’t solve natural mysteries by claiming some supernatural mystery (that looks suspiciously identical to something that doesn’t exist) caused it. It’s unwarranted, and science doesn’t work that way.

    Religious explanations always retreat when scientific explanations are proferred that do the heavy lifting and actually explain things. It’s never worked in reverse, despite your wishes to the contrary.

    Occam’s Razor would also point you in the direction that your holy book is full of fairy tales, so it’s no wonder you refrain from utilizing it.

  34. Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    What I find most fascinating about this post is that McLeroy fails to deal with the lines of evidence provided from biogeography, genetics, embryology, homology, imperfect design, and fossils. Based on his opening paragraph, I was fully expecting some type of criticism along the line of “creationism better explains the distribution of flora and fauna than evolution, and here’s how it does that…”

    But no. He chooses to ignore all of that and just focus on an area where all of the details are not yet known. If fact, he presents no argument that natural selection cannot, at least in principle, account for the development of the cell. His argument seems to be that since science cannot fully explain X at this time, then we should always use divine intervention as a placeholder.

    Classic god-of-the-gaps in other words. Do other disciplines, such as medicine, get to use this trick as well, or is it just natural history?

    I am tempted to just grant the illogic of the “God did it” position to explain the cell, so that Mr. McLeroy can deal with all of the evidence for evolution that he ignored from Coyne’s and Dawkins’ books.

    And as always, would Mr. McLeroy please enlighten us as to the details of his alternative model??? Show us how it is consistent with known physics and chemistry. Show us how billions of large animals and plant species could have coexisted at the same time 6,000 years ago. Define what a “kind” is.

    Pretty please?

    • Kingasaurus
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      “Classic god-of-the-gaps in other words. Do other disciplines, such as medicine, get to use this trick as well, or is it just natural history?”

      If medicine (or anything else) conflicted with the Bible, Dangerous Don would use any trick he could get away with. That’s ultimately all that matters to him.

      Having to argue a certain way because you’re convinced Jesus won’t like it if you don’t, is, – to put it kindly – an unreliable method of fact-finding.

      “The Bible just has to be right or my life would fall apart if it wasn’t” is a little, shall we say, unscientific way of approaching the issue?

      “Padlock of the mind,” indeed.

  35. OlliP
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Even producing abiogenesis in a lab today and seeing this proto-life evolve all the way to a cell would not prove that that is the way it happened 3.8 billion years ago. It would be very interesting and (another) plausible mechanism, but not necessarily a reproduction of history.

    But ask yourself this historical question: on what foot did Julius Caesar get out of bed the day he died? Right, left, or both? We will never know. So let’s just say that he never died at all since the evidence for him getting out of bed on that “supposed” day is so poor.

  36. Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    McLeroy’s comment – willful malicious ignorance with a bunch of false witnessing too.

  37. Jeff Johnson
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    My disclaimer is that I know little of chemistry or biology, having mostly focused on physics, math, and computer science during my life.

    However I’ve read a number of books on evolution, including WEIT, and I’ve read two books in particular that seem to me relevant to the question of biochemical complexity. One is “The Emergence of Life on Earth” by Iris Fry, and the other is “Evolving the Mind” by Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith.

    From what I know, it seems like evolution, or life itself even, is not possible until a substantial amount of organic chemical complexity is present. The basic problem is that lengthy polypeptides and nucleotides are too complex to spontaneously self-organize in a primordial chemical bath full of elements and simple compounds, but replication and the transmission of information in chemical form requires such complex organic chemicals. Some kind of bootstrapping process needs to be discovered to explain how simple single celled life began.

    The trouble with looking for evidence here is that there is no opportunity for fossils to be preserved, so we are forced to extrapolate speculatively from what we do know about geology, chemistry, physics, and early single celled prokaryotic life, and to imagine backwards from there to how it might all have started from the initial conditions of a newly formed planet.

    This lack of evidence is not an argument against evolution. It is a fallacy to say that because we don’t know something it can not be true. Such an argument ignores the possibility that we can discover and learn. And what we do know provides a consistent picture that gives confidence that where a lack of knowledge exists, it is highly likely that what remains to be discovered will in some way turn out to be consistent with what we do know, and that it provides a continuity between the incomplete pieces that have been confirmed with substantial evidence.

    It’s very much analogous to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, and when you have completed major sections, you can infer likely possibilities for the missing sections, and the more you complete the better idea you have of what goes in the gaps. McLeroy’s argument is pretending that we know nothing because there is no physical object or artifact he can see with his own eyes to call “evidence”. He ignores all the completed parts of the puzzle and what they suggest is likely to be the case for what is not known.

    The book by by Cairns-Smith includes a brief description of a theory of his that proposes inorganic crystalline structures in river silts as a basis for replication, evolving stable and robust forms of evolving complexity that then serve as a kind of chemical scaffolding enabling complex chains of organic chemicals to form. Eventually these organic polymers are able to replicate without the assistance of the foundational mineral silts, and from there it’s just a matter of time to allow replication and selection to arrive at single celled life.

    This theory doesn’t have a lot of adherents, as I understand it, and many alternative scenarios exist, but at least there is a kind of plausibility to it and it dovetails nicely with what we do know of geology, physics and chemistry. It is I think unusual because it speculates that life may have originated in fresh water. It may be totally wrong, but it is suggestive of what some aspects of an explanation for the rise of biochemical complexity might look like. So McElroy seems to be deliberately ignoring plausible possibilities because the a priori answer he wants to arrive at is that we know nothing of these things. His whole orientation is toward the hope that no answers can be found. His bias is causing him to view the state of available knowledge selectively rather than honestly.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      “His whole orientation is toward the hope that no answers can be found.”

      I think that you nailed it with that observation.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Interesting. Thanks.

      /@

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      The jigsaw analogy is good.

  38. gr8hands
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    How does McLeroy — as an electrical engineer — design circuits, when he cannot tell us exactly what electrons are made up of at the most basic level?

    How can he pretend to understand how a battery works, when he cannot tell us exactly how electricity works?

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      How does McLeroy — as an electrical engineer — design circuits…

      He doesn’t. He’s a dentist.

      • JBlilie
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        And as we have seen from many examples, you can be a successful medical professional and still hold to wacky religious ideas …

      • steeve
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:19 am | Permalink

        referring to his bachelors in electrical engineering as stated in the post.

  39. DKeane
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I guess if he can criticize the fact that there isn’t any fossilized record of the biochemical development of the cell – I guess we can criticize Don for not having any fossilized Jesus/Moses/Abraham remains (or evidence of an Ark/Flight from Egypt and so on)?

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      What do you mean? He has the Bible. Everyone knows you don’t need evidence to back up the claims of an ancient book, the book itself is evidence. Atheists can be so obtuse.

    • gr8hands
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Lack of fossilized jesus remains is proof of the resurrection, they claim.

      • Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        Just like my lack of 10 million dollars is proof you stole it.

        Now gimme back my money!

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 1, 2013 at 2:11 am | Permalink

          LOL!

  40. will
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Why is the Garden of Eden theory of Creation never put under scrutiny by the people who always put evolution under scrutiny?

    • Kingasaurus
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Because they’ve been taught at mommy’s knee that “believe it no matter what” is virtuous, and the more the world laughs at you for believing something in gross contradiction to the facts, the more virtuous you are. Any crack in the facade means the Devil is winning. Can’t allow that.

      You can’t talk reasonably with such a person, no matter how intelligent they otherwise are.

      When Dawkins called these hermetically-sealed belief-systems “Viruses of the Mind”, he wasn’t kidding.

      • hankstar
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:45 am | Permalink

        When you get to the point that McLeroy has clearly reached, your facade has thickened and ingrown to that point that facade is all you have and all you are.

  41. Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    One thing I would like to ask McLeroy – did the creator have to acquire the knowledge to make a tapeworm, or did He infinitely have the knowledge of how to construct one?

  42. gluonspring
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    “Ultimately, the evidence for evolution—the idea that all life has descended from a common ancestor—is simply not compelling”

    Actually, post genome sequencing, this is the most compelling part of the story. When we sequenced the chimpanzee genome it could have turned out a lot of ways. When you align the chimpanzee genome to the human genome, you see the remarkable fact that two chimpanzee chromosomes map very precisely to human chromosome 2. It seems that human chromosome 2 is an end-to-end fusion of two ape-ancestral chromosomes. When you look at the fusion point, you see degraded remnants of an ancestral telomere. When you look at human chromosome 2 there is a centromere and the degraded remnants of a second centromere (chromosomes normally only have one), and at exactly the spot where the centromere from the aligned chimp chromosome would be. This is exceedingly direct evidence for common ancestry.

    Then there are the retroviruses. These viruses insert their genome randomly into the host genome. Occasionally this happens in a germ line cell and gets passed onto offspring. There are tens of thousands of these events in the human genome (hundreds of thousands if you consider an expanded class of retro-elements). If species were created separately, there’d be no reason for the pattern of these insertions to be related between species, no reason for a retro virus inserted into intron 2 of gene A in humans to also be inserted into intron 2 of gene A in chimps. What we do see, however, is precise matching of these events between closely related species, exactly as common ancestry demands. Chimps and humans have more such common events than gorillas and humans, which have more than new world monkeys, and so on. We’re not talking about one or a handful of examples, either, but tens of thousands of random events that clearly trace out common ancestry. No more direct proof of common ancestry can probably be imagined, and it turns out we have it.

    There are lots of other examples too. The evolution of opsin genes is well documented. There is the curious case that primates need vitamin C in their diet, unlike dogs and rats and most animals who can synthesize it, because all primates have inherited a broken gene for one of the enzymes required for vitamin C synthesis. The striking thing is that primates all share fossil (that is broken and not functional) copy of this gene. It just goes on and on with genomics.

    The case for evolution was established beyond a reasonable doubt long ago, and the prosecution had called to rest the case. In the last dozen or so years, however, an actual video tape of the crime has come to light. We now have an actual recording of the crime! The time for even vague doubts about common ancestry, in particular, is completely over.

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      An excellent posting. This is the kind of detail which we really need people like McLeroy to take on board and argue but they never do.

      • gluonspring
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. I wouldn’t have bothered except JC asked us to do it. When you hear all their double-speak and evasions it becomes clear that, as Ben often says, ridicule is a more appropriate response than arguing: You say you don’t believe the evidence for opsin evolution, but you’re totally down with the idea of an invisible wizard as an explanation? I see.

        But, perhaps someone who isn’t aware of the literal mountains of evidence will see a couple of these posts and will be encouraged to seek out the evidence instead of avoid it, and if so I guess that’s worth the bother.

        • Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          “the literal mountains of evidence” — presumably from geology? ;-)

          /@

          • gluonspring
            Posted January 30, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

            Exactly.

    • hr
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your post…it’s exactly what I was reading the comments hoping to find.

      You fleshed out two things with which I had very slight familiarity with..now I have more.

      • Uncle Ebeneezer
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        And did it in a way that was very accessible to us laypeople. Well done.

        • gluonspring
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:26 am | Permalink

          Lots of people do it better. Here’s Ken Miller doing a better job on the chromosome 2 story:

          Youtube: ?v=8FGYzZOZxMw

          Here is a better job on ERV’s:

          Youtube: v=qh7OclPDN_s or Youtube: v=YIBG8MB_nLo

          One note: The video says there are at least seven identical ERVs between humans and chimps. I don’t know where they get that number. There are at least seven, that’s true. There are also at least 10,000. Actually, by one estimate there are only a couple hundred of the hundreds of thousands of ERVs that humans and chimps *don’t* share. I’m guessing the seven number comes from some paper that identified and studied seven examples, probably from pre-whole genome era. Seven would be good evidence too, but really, it’s thousands.

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Now that’s a metaphor!

      /@

    • Tim
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Really nice examples, and very nicely put. If WEIT is ever updated into a 2nd edition, an entire chapter of examples like this would be terrific.

      • gluonspring
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I agree. The genomic evidence for common ancestry is stunning and so direct. Let’s hear it for a 2nd edition!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      Many thanks – I’ve learned a lot today.

  43. JBlilie
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    OK, I finally forced myself to read his drivel.

    It’s God-of-the-Gaps, start to finish: You can’t explain every single step of how the process (evolution by natural selection) executed the changes leading to current forms, therefore God had to have done it. No work or evidence or plausibility required for his favorite default position, that of his flavor of Christianity. (Seriously, he’s simply wrong: The creation myth of the Navajo is the correct one. C’mon Don, wake up to the truth!)

    I really love this part:

    “The only indisputable fact is: leading evolutionists have no evidence that natural selection created today’s biochemical complexity. Therefore, skepticism is the best response. Evolutionary dogmatism—the insistence that evolution is true—is a serious issue. Science is not threatened by evolutionary skepticism; science is threatened by the quasi-science of the evolutionist.”

    Let me fix that for you, Don:

    The only indisputable fact is: leading creationists have no evidence that God created today’s biochemical complexity. Therefore, skepticism is the best response. Religious dogmatism—the insistence that God did it—is a serious issue. Science is not threatened by skepticism; but science literacy is threatened by the quasi-science of the creationist.

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      I really like your fixed version.

      I wonder if it might be even better to say “invisible wizard did it”, because it forces the believer to, ever so briefly, experience the sentence as non-believers do. “God”, after all, is a totally real person to the believers, so it’s sort of the difference between saying there is no evidence Obama built the Washington Monument and saying there is no evidence that Homer Simpson built it.

      • gr8hands
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        That’s an important point.

        “Mysterious ways” should also probably be re-stated as “magic” — because it violates laws of physics, and can’t be seen.

      • BillyJoe
        Posted May 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Instead of “God did it”, I prefer to say “the gods did it”. It makes the Christians think a bit beyond their own circle.

  44. hankstar
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Mr McLeroy: how did only 16,000 animals (Ken Ham’s number) and 8 humans repopulate the Earth (including Australia, America, Antarctica and all the islands in between) to the tune of billions of individuals and countless species (especially beetles) in only 4000 years?

    I don’t care what you think of evolution (because you clearly don’t understand it) – how do you justify your belief in creationism?

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      I always ask them by what means did old Noah locate and get on board some 8000 species of ciliates and upwards of 1,000,000 of nematodes. I suppose you only need the Ur ciliate and the Ur nematode but you would also need the Ur Leewuenhook, wouldn’t you?

    • Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Furthermore, how did 8 people, who presumably were Semetic and spoke only one language (something akin to Hebrew???), give rise to such a variety of cultures and racial differences in such a short time? Shouldn’t this be clear in the oral and/or written histories of the peoples of the world?

      Why no record from, say, the Han Chinese, about this?

      • Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        *Semitic*

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

        Tower of Babel explains it all – try to keep up ;-).

        • Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

          Speaking of which, is this taken by Christian creationists as the actual explanation for the origin of different languages or just a fable?

          Are linguists pressured by creationists to teach the controversy?

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

            :-)

          • Diane G.
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

            Hey, good question! :D

            • gr8hands
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

              Linguists = satan. If red lettered English was good enough for jesus, it should be good enough for you.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                Hey! I’ve got one of his red “A” letters!

            • Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

              Thanks! I’d also like to see the % of Americans that believe in the literalness of the Tower of Babel.

              • gr8hands
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

                It would just depress you.

              • Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

                Nah, I’d just point and laugh.

                But seriously, can they include this in the next survey that asks people if they believe in the literalness of Genesis?

                I’ll bet you that it is something much less than 40%. Does anyone know any info that could settle this?

    • Potsmaster
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

      I think the explanation given at the Creation Museum is that there were these giant floating rafts of dead trees & vegetation left over when the flood waters receded. The kangaroos, for example, all caught the raft that was bound for Australia.

      • hankstar
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Given that, excluding PNG, Australia has over 60 species of macropod (wallaby/kangaroo/potoroo/bilby/bandicoot etc – more than Africa has antelopes!), this is what we’d have: at least 120 individuals floating on an edible raft being carried by extremely favourable currents for the several weeks needed to traverse the Indian Ocean. The raft would have to have been big enough both to carry them all and feed them without shrinking to nothing by the time they arrive in Australia/PNG.

        As they’re grazing animals, each large individual (never mind the kangaroo-rats and hopping mice and anything smaller than a wallaby) would need a few good square metres of grass to eat each day, so, conservatively: one kangaroo x 10 sqm x 30 days on an unpowered water-craft = 300 sqm per individual. Extrapolate that to two individuals each of, say 20 larger ‘roo/wallaby/euro species and you’d need a raft of 12,000 sqm (just under three acres in the old money).

        So, very conservatively, just for the kangaroo family (never mind the koalas, whose dietary needs are starkly different and highly specific) you’d need a floating raft of grass as big as three American football fields to be carried across the Indian Ocean intact with no ‘roos overboard to land safely in Australia (with a quick stopoff at PNG). Presumably, the animals (or Noah, or God) would have constructed the raft to have an underlayer so when they ate it it would maintain structural integrity – I’d presume it was the animals who built it, since they had to cross the Indian Ocean to get to Noah in the first place. In which case, this is contingent on either one very smart individual or advanced communication between individuals. Perhaps there was a Noachian Skippy playing shipwright four millennia ago, tch-tching his orders to a band of loyal Eastern Greys.

        Now, all this can be set aside if there was just two proto-macropods on this grassy raft, who upon landing set about breeding like convergently-evolved rabbits and managed to repopulate Australia & PNG with ‘roos, wallabies, bettongs, antechinus, kawaris, bilbies, potoroos … or perhaps it was a pair of proto-marsupials relaxing on the foredeck and they gave rise, in only four millennia, to all of the above macropods plus platypus, koalas, echidnas (long and short-beaked), wombats, thylacines, possums et al.

        God certainly does move in mysterious ways. And he clearly likes watching animals screw.

      • gluonspring
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        It’s funny that I can’t tell the difference between satire and what they actually claim. This could easily be either, and without going another source, I can’t say which it is.

        I don’t know why Christians bother to try to explain things like that at all. They should just say “God magicked them there”. Why not? They are already committed to magic in the world. For that matter, I don’t understand why they don’t say something similar about the Ark’s size. Sure, a normal boat couldn’t hold all of those creatures, but this is a magic boat. It could work like the tent in Harry Potter, 4 person tent on the outside, but inside it’s the space of a 5 bedroom house. The Ark could be magic like that… 400 feet long on the outside, but due to God’s warping of space on the inside, it could be 30 miles long and 40 wide. Why not? You’ve undone all the rules already when you covered the earth with water to 29,000 feet… If you’re going to make stuff up, might as well go all out.

        • gr8hands
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          Oooh, the parallels to Harry Potter just keep coming.

        • Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          Why not teeny tiny animals as well? Petite sauropods a few inches high that Noah could carry around in his pocket.

          • gluonspring
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

            +1

        • Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          The ark was a TARDIS? That would explain a lot.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      What about terrestrian plants?!

      • JBlilie
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        terrestrial (I knew there was something wrong there!)

  45. Rain
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    The great mystery of our time is why so many people, especially enlightened intellectuals, believe in evolution.

    Help, help, we’re being repressed by enlightened intellectuals.

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Scientists? Pshaw! Aren’t those the guys who said, “Hey, the earth goes around the sun”, “Matter is made up of atoms”, “The electric flux through any closed surface is proportional to the enclosed charge”, among other clunkers? When will we ever learn stop listening to *those* guys instead of the preachers and priests? I mean, it was priests who gave us airplaines, antibiotics, electric power, computers, and pop-tarts, right? So they’ve built up some credibility, unlike those scientists.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Well, they *had* credibility, but they lost it all when they invented pop-tarts.

        To your list I would have added the knowledge about, and synthesis and production of insulin. How many diabetics are still alive because of that? And, how can any diabetic be anti-scientifically religious?

        • gluonspring
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Just the everyday science miracle list would go on for pages and pages and pages. Such ingrates people are, to live like Kings* from the benevolence of science while simultaneously hurling mud at it. Few things gall me more than that.

          *e.g. What pre-Enlightenment King in a hot climate would not have given half his kingdom for a cheap window A/C unit?!

          • gbjames
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

            And the other half for a power plant to make it work.

      • Rain
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        I liked it when they invented Tang. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_(drink) Pop-tarts are also good too.

  46. Diane G.
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I sincerely doubt that McLeroy actually read WEIT & TGSOE. Skimming through looking for anything related to “biochemical complexity” sounds a lot likelier.

  47. Pray Hard
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Made it through the first paragraph only of DM’s rant … just too silly to read. I kept up with Dr. Don through tfn.org. Glad to see he’s out’a here …
    He missed his calling. He should have been a hillbilly Baptist preacher in some little town in Texas.
    You silly scientists, always basing your ideas on evidence and stuff.

    • articulett
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      When I read DM– I thought you meant Denis Markuse… but you meant Don McLeroy. (It amuses me that they have the same initials.)

  48. Ray
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    A man who finds provided evidence not compelling provides no evidence himself. He also has an imaginary friend but says imaginary genes don’t count. sigh

  49. Jim Mauch
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I never have found it troubling that science can not answer all the questions. What I found more troubling is that people told me that I could attain absolute certainty by simply having faith in the thoroughly improbable.

  50. Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Shinashi's Thoughts and commented:
    I’ve been following the posts on this website for awhile. I’m no scientist, nor am I very much against religion as long as it doesn’t get in my way (and even then, it does get in my way a lot, but I’m a forgiving person). I’ve spoken to the incredulous about my non-faith, and argued on basis of logic (rather than, say, science) on the internet, and so on and so forth.
    But nothing burns me more when creationists, and the religious, and the believers, and the apologists demand ‘adequate proof’ for such things like evolution and lack of evidence (or proof that God doesn’t exist). Smugly reassuring me that my knowledge of evolution is merely based on ‘faith’ that it exists because I want to believe it, therefore it’s not really true, and goddidit. Besides the fact that they haven’t read nearly enough on any subject of evolution to make such judgments. They, at least in my experience, never turn such doubts onto themselves. Never. Someone like me has to point it out, whereas they point to their precious, cherry-picked to hell, Bible about how the world was made. When I ask about the discrepancies and the lack of information on this or that- they affirm that those things don’t matter. Or put it on me for science to explain it. What’s troubling is that they do this with utmost confidence and no realization whatsoever on their own irony or hypocrisy or lack of knowledge.. And it’s perfectly okay. But it’s not okay for me to call BS.
    What really saddens me is that some creationist will come across McLeroy’s argument and be like, “See, see! They don’t have all the answers! Thus, everything I believe about the Bible is right! God is real!” All the evidence stacked against them, but when a prominent believer starts spouting half-understood ‘sciency’ words, they cross their legs in victory. Turn the same question on them, and “God works in mysterious ways”
    Finally, a Christopher says this: “Therefore, I’m afraid, it wouldn’t matter if you provided McLeroy a thousand *facts*. Strange really, considering people like him like to jump on science whenever it ‘appears’ to back up their nonsense, then completely ignore it when it doesn’t.”
    I would like to add that they dogpile whenever science doesn’t explain something either. Bleh. Bleh-bleh-bleh!

  51. Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s unbelievable to me how many public figures do not seem to grasp logic.

  52. Rain
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Why is this guy pretending like the only reason he doesn’t like evolution is not because he’s a creationist? It’s the only damn reason. Do these people think we’re idiots or something? Stop insulting our intelligence.

    • Rain
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      It’s the only damn reason.

      Upon further reflection, in the interest of not insulting intelligence, I am behooved to not rule out dog and pony shows too. I’m not saying Don McLeroy himself is a con artist. I’m just saying never rule them out.

  53. Hempenstein
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Dr. McLeroy:
    Bonzodog up @5 has given you something to start with re. biochemical evolution.

    Interesting that you will jump on our host for failing to provide compelling biochemical evidence for evolution when, IIRC, he explicitly excluded molecular evidence in WEIT since it was covered so well elsewhere. Should I surmise that that was the part you actually did read?

    And I won’t immediately succumb to the temptation to label you an intellectual fraud, trading on your degree in dentistry as an imprimatur of expertise in biochemistry, since I have known a few people who had both degrees in dentistry and expertise in biochemistry.

    So here are a few questions whose answers you ought to be conversant with. Send answers to Jerry, who will convey them to me within 24h:
    1) a) What mineral is dentin composed of? b) In cationic form, the alkaline earth metal that forms this mineral is widely bound by a small protein. Name it. c) There are multiple binding sites in this protein. The structure is widely referred to by a two-letter shorthand. What are those two letters? d) what amino acid residues (or types of aa residues) coordinate the cation?

    2) Many proteins contain crosslinks, and many of these can be easily broken in a laboratory setting. What amino acid residue forms such crosslinks?

    3) The most common structural protein in mammals contains a largely repeating sequence in which every third residue is a glycine. a) Another residue is typically found adjacent to the glycine. What is that residue, and what post-translational modification of that residue is frequently found? b) This protein has a special three-dimensional structure. What is it? c) I don’t expect you to know that assembly of this structure requires formation of the sort of crosslinks as queried in 2). However, further non-reducible crosslinks are also found in these proteins . What amino acid residue are these crosslinks formed from?

    4) a) The typical version of the secondary structure alluded to in 3)b) (found in globular proteins including the one in 1)b) was proposed by an eminent biochemist, and this contributed to his Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Who was that? b) what kind of bonding is formation of this structure dependent on?

    5) What sorts of amino acid residues predominate on a) the surface and b) the interior of folded proteins. Why?

    6) What are the special properties of histidine residues relative to other amino acid residues?

    Now, per the recent post asking us to use our real names, I like my alias for historical reasons, but I don’t mind signing this one.

    John Hempel

    • steeve
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      Oh yah? Well starting with Noah, state all the gats and begats until you end up with Adam – then we’ll talk biochemistry!! So there! (sarcasm)

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      You have three hours to complete the paper. Write on one side of your paper only. Show your workings.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        Time is up. No paper was turned in.

        I won’t immediately succumb to the temptation to label you an intellectual fraud, trading on your degree in dentistry as an imprimatur of expertise in biochemistry…

        But now I will. And in a way I find this personally insulting. My grandfather was the first dentist in LacQuiParle County Minnesota. He never pretended to be more than he was, but must have imparted something to his children. His son (my uncle) received his PhD in Chemistry from U Wisconsin in 1929, post-doc’d at the University of Hannover* (anyone there reading this?), and went on to be part of the Manhattan Project. It was only in the last 5 years or so that I found that he too had a publication in J Biol Chem.

        * I have a pic of him there with presumably his mentor and two colleagues, all in white lab coats, from December, 1932. Heady times!

        • gr8hands
          Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          Hempenstein, of what specific relevance are the answers to your questions about the initial development of “biochemical complexity”?

          You see, McLeroy will require a very specific recipe — precise things in precise order — or he will wave it away as not answering his question.

          • Hempenstein
            Posted February 5, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

            Agreed that abiogenic origins are separate from evolution, but understanding that requires some competence in biochemistry to begin with. What I wanted to probe was whether he had ANY competence in biochemistry, starting with some softball questions for someone who deals (dealt?) with teeth.

  54. articulett
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    How can you reason with people who believe that they will be tortured for all eternity unless they have faith in the right fairytale?

    I think the best we can hope for is future generations who move beyond the superstitions of their ancestors.

  55. kelskye
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Nice conflation of evolution with natural selection there. That one cannot provide a step-by-step account of how natural selection would operate doesn’t mean that there’s no evidence that something evolved. Indeed, both Dawkins and Coyne’s book are full of evidences that point to the fact that things have evolved. By focusing on one aspect of what evolutionary theory is about to dismiss all of it is to make a straw man.

    Of course, even without a blow-by-blow account of natural selection, there are still signatures of natural selection to be found in the patterns of life. There are neutral and non-neutral mutations, and the ratio between neutral and non-neutral mutations can be used to see likely candidates for natural selection. Likewise, seeing deviation from the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium is another way of inferring selection.

    And if they are not enough to tout the benefits of natural selection, then there’s always philosophical analysis, and practical applications thereof. Charles Darwin’s 1859 formulation of natural selection took the form of a deductive argument: if there is heritable variation, and if there is differential survival value in heritable variation, and if there is a struggle for existence, then variation that assists will be passed on while injurious variation will not be. Natural Selection is a logical necessity of certain conditions being met – and those conditions are what is seen in life. And in terms of a practical demonstration, engineering and computer science puts evolutionary algorithms into actions; coming up with solutions that were beyond the no-doubt brilliant minds in those disciplines.

    What more does the creationist want?

  56. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Ultimately, the evidence for evolution—the idea that all life has descended from a common ancestor—is simply not compelling;

    Evolution is predicting common ancestors, not “a” common ancestor.

    But as it happens, the observation of a universal common ancestor is known as the best observation in all of science. Douglas Theobald has tested it as more likely than many ancestors, or creationists random assembly of separate species, by a factor ~ 10^2000. [ http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7295/full/nature09014.html ]

    If anything can be said to be compelling, the most resolved observation of all has to be that!

    And of course scientists find biology a compelling, well tested science anyway. Its complexity, its many mechanisms and details, comes together to make its basis the best tested science we have as far as I know.

  57. shazam
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    I am like Don McLeroy in that I also don’t believe in evolution.

    But I understand it.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      “I also don’t believe in evolution”

      One word: Fossils

      Two words more: DNA sequencing*

      (* which shows common descent clearly)

      Explain these without resort to magic or evolution.

      • gbjames
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        I took shazam to emphasize the word “believe”… that it is not a matter of belief but a matter of reasoned conclusion.

        But I could be wrong.

        • Launcher
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          Right – I’m sure JB misread shazam’s post. In fact, I have Dr. Coyne’s recently profered graphic right by my desk. Perhaps its wording will clear things up:

          “I don’t BELIEVE in evolution… I UNDERSTAND why evolution is true.”

          • shazam
            Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:08 am | Permalink

            Thanks for clearing that up for me.

            Belief is for dummies.

  58. Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Ca5(PO4)3(OH) would be discovered in a forensic dental examination of Jebus?

  59. PeteJohn
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    In the documentary, which I hadn’t seen previous to today, possibly the most appalling part is McLeroy bragging about how he has a captive audience he gets to preach to every day. Wow.

  60. Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    biochemical complexity (which of course must underlie morphological complexity)

    I’d quibble about the “must”; though common, this doesn’t appear to be philosophically necessary. But that’s very much a side point.

    As for McLeroy? He never gives a formal definition for “complex” or “complexity”. The omission leaves his entire argument resting on hand-waving bullshit. (There are formal ways of describing those ideas precisely, usually associated with the mathematics of information theory. However, such mathematics makes clear that nigh-arbitrary complexity can arise from quite simple rules — as suggested by the Dawkins quote that McLeroy cavalierly dismisses.)

  61. Elle
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    The element of this post I find most interesting is the wikipedia quote. Why? Well…

    Massimo Pigliucci a few years ago wrote a post on his blog, pointing out how creatiabout to die because scientists disagree about fundamental(?) details of evolutionary theory.
    His asnswer doesn’t pull any punches.

    “I’ll tell you what does constitute a crisis, though: the fact that creationists have been on the retreat ever since the Scopes trial, having to invent increasingly vacuous versions of their attacks on science education in order to keep pestering the Courts of this country with their demands that religious nonsense be taught side by side with solid science. You want serious disagreement? How about several orders of magnitude difference in the estimate of the age of the earth among creationists: some of them still cling to the primitive idea that our planet is only a few thousand years old, their only “evidence” a circular argument from authority — that’s two logical fallacies at once! (The Bible says so; how do you know the Bible is right? Because it’s the word of God; how do you know it’s the word of God? The Bible says so…) Other creationists, particularly many in the ID movement, concede that the science of geology and physics is a bit too well established to throw it out of the window, so they accept the figure of about four billion years for the age of the earth. Now, if any scientific theory were to make statements that varied by six (I repeat: six!) orders of magnitude about a basic aspect of reality, that would really mean that the theory in question is in deep trouble. C’mon, guys, fix your own house first, then start knocking at our door if you must.”

    But McLeroy is pretty clear.

    “In 2005, McLeroy conducted a sermon in his church, talking about the Board of Education, saying naturalism is “the enemy” and he said: “Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.””

    So, assuming the majority of YE/OE/progressive/recent creationists shares his views, there is no hope for them to “fix their own house”, because the only thing that matters is the mission to destroy any scientific explanation which is found guilty of obstructing the acceptance of the Scripture and Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour!

    Anything else has little importance.

    • Elle
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, the second paragraph should read

      “Massimo Pigliucci a few years ago wrote a post on his blog, pointing out how creationists always say evolution is about to die because scientists disagree about fundamental(?) details of evolutionary theory.”

  62. BornRight
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Don McLeroy,

    Your foolish post couldn’t have been timed better. A new research article in Nature Chemical Biology shows how evolution in a test tube produced a novel protein that’s functional despite having a dramatically different structure from naturally-evolved proteins:

    http://www.nature.com/nchembio/journal/v9/n2/full/nchembio.1138.html

    This novel protein has a primordial structure without the usually observed folding patterns, yet it is functional. It could be a snapshot from the distant past when the very first enzymes evolved. This tells us that biomolecules or cells needn’t be as complex as they are today when life first arose. Life can achieve complexity from simple beginnings.

    Indeed, we see cells with varying degrees of complexity today. At the very bottom are viruses, which are at the border of life and non-life. They simply have a nucleic acid enclosed by a membrane. Then we have archaea and bacteria, followed by the most complex eukaryotes. Many organelles in eukaryotic cells, like mitochondria & chloroplasts share a number of features with bacteria, strongly indicating that eukaryotes evolved from endosymbiotic bacteria. There are a number of genes and biochemical pathways that are common between these different cell types. This is why we’re able to produce human insulin in bacteria and use it for treatment!

    Yet, we also see differences. We see an increase in complexity as we go up the evolutionary ladder. For example, the core of proteins such as DNA & RNA polymerases are conserved, but higher organisms have added more complexity. Only evolutionary theory can explain these similarities AND differences. Only it can explain why a more primitive cell has a simpler & more primitive version of a protein or a pathway compared to a more modern cell.

    Genome sequencing efforts have enabled us to construct phylogenetic trees to illustrate these relationships. The trees obtained by genome comparisons agree with the trees obtained by comparative anatomy/morphology and those obtained by proteomics. It’s this overwhelming support that makes evolution our only proper explanation for life on earth. The observed data simply doesn’t fit a creation model at all.

  63. Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Great interview with Scott Thurman, director of THE REVISIONARIES, on the John Smart Show:

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/johnwsmart/2013/02/01/the-john-smart-show

  64. V
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I note that you call Don McLeroy an “ant-ihero” Is that a tiny hero that I can expect to see in Apple stores shortly? I shudder to think of mini Don McLeroys for sale. Maybe that’s why he’s so against science!

  65. Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne: Thank you for posting my comment. You stated very perceptively that “He wants to CONVINCE us.” That is true.

    My difficulty with evolution’s evidence for explaining biochemical complexity is outlined at http://t.co/gfA468O8.

    How much of that chart does evolution need to provide an explanation for? And, as of today, how much does evolution expalin?

    • gr8hands
      Posted February 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      This article explains how chemicals turned into organic molecules all by themselves in a very short time:

      http://discovermagazine.com/2008/feb/did-life-evolve-in-ice

      Imagine what would happen with millions or billions of years.

    • gr8hands
      Posted February 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      How can you — as an electrical engineer — design circuits, when you cannot tell us exactly what electrons are made up of at the most basic level?

      How can you pretend to understand how a battery works, when you cannot tell us exactly how electricity works?

      Wait! Perhaps you can tell us all exactly what electrons are made up of at the most basic level, and exactly how electricity works. You would probably get a Nobel prize.

    • Posted February 6, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      This is just Michael Behe’s argument (“breathtaking inanity” according to Judge Jones in the Dover trial) that certain biological systems are “irreducibly complex”, framed in a marginally different way. It’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding:

      In order to accept Evolution, science doesn’t *have* to come up with specific explanations for every single biochemical pathway, any more than it needs to explain every feature of every organism both living and dead. If you want to refute established scientific theories (evolution, laws of thermodynamics etc.) you need to demonstrate circumstances in which they can not work or where a simpler idea would explain the data better.

      It’s absurd to argue that because you don’t know exactly how the bacterial flagellum could have evolved that there couldn’t possibly be any evolutionary explanation. It compounds that absurdity to substitute an explanation of staggering complexity that hasn’t an iota of support from any empirical observation.

  66. Posted February 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Mr. McLeroy,

    How does God work?

    When God wants to cause some effect on the natural world – changing the mutations of a person’s cancer cells so that the cancer stops spreading, for instance – where does he get the energy do to it? And how does he direct that energy where it needs to go? When God created humans, how did he come up with the body plan? If everything we know of that thinks has either a brain or a computer chip to think with, how does God think without having either? And are God’s thoughts restricted in some way, as our thoughts are restricted by the physiology of our brains? Also, where is God?

    I don’t mean to imply that God or evolution are the only two options here, but you’ve got a long way to go if you’re going to convince us that you’re actually concerned with *explaining* anything.

  67. BillyJoe
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    It seems Don McLeroy responded 4 days after the last comment when it seems everyone else was finished with this post. As a result no significant response to his post has been posted.

    If anyone is still interested, this is how Stephen Novella responded on his blog (afternhe had intviewed him recently on his podcast) to McLeroy’s claim of irreducible complexity of the cell’s metabolic pathways:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/an-interview-with-don-mcleroy-part-iv/

  68. Mario
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    All this gigantic effort to make the gaps in evolution seem larger and more dire than they really are and not one single attempt has been made by any creationist to prove their magic finger in the sky.

  69. Posted June 23, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Nice post. I have more knowledge about it at:

    http://twistwriter.com/what-is-biochemistry-definition


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