On November 16 I wrote about Nicky Vaught, a student at North Carolina State University who published an article in the student newspaper The Technician that looked to be pure creationism: “How to argue against evolutionists.” It was so laden with dreadful creationist tropes that I suspected it might be a joke, but in the end thought the weight of evidence suggested it was genuine.
Well, an editor at the paper has finally admitted it was indeed a joke, saying “*Note: This column was intended to be satirical.” And Nicky himself came over to our site to assure us his letter was indeed satire. He said that, despite his Christian past, he was indeed taking the mickey out of creationism, and I’m told that Nicky is now a member of NC State’s Secular Student Alliance. Here’s part of his comment:
Yes. I am Nicky Vaught. I no longer identify as Christian. This article was a joke–or more like me just having fun. Admittedly, upon rereading, it was next to humorless. I thought my exaggerated diction would offer a good enough tell that this was, in fact, satirical. The video comes from years ago when I was Christian only in name–note the content of the meditation having nearly nothing to do with Christianity.
Well, satire is effective only insofar as one can recognize that it is satire, so perhaps Nicky, if he’s serious about going after creationism, will do a better job next time.
In the meantime, someone named David Roemer has written a genuine creationist letter at The Technician. Roemer has commented several times as a theist on this site (one example is here), so this letter is no surprise:
Biological evolution includes adaptation and common descent. The adaptation of species to the environment is an observation. Common descent is the theory that microscopic organisms evolved into whales in period of about 100 million decades. I use decades rather than years because it take 20 years for a single fertilized human egg to produce all of the cells in the human body. People who contradict creationists by insisting evolution is a fact tend to think it is a fact that free will is an illusion. One theory answers the question: Where do fossils come from? The other theory answers the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body?
Fact or theory, evolution gives rise to the question of what caused it. Biologists invented the theory of natural selection acting upon innovations. The old paradigm for innovations was random mutations. According to James Shapiro of the University of Chicago, the new paradigm is “natural genetic engineering.” Be that as it may, not enough is understood about the innovations natural selection acts upon to understand how mammals evolved so rapidly from bacteria. Evolutionary biologists always speak of “adaptive evolution.” An old model for evolution was a tornado hitting a junkyard and producing a Boeing 747 in flight. The new model is a computer generating an English sonnet by the random selection of letters.
The only theory that even attempts to explain evolution is the theory of intelligent design (ID). Advocates of ID compare this theory with natural selection to make ID look more rational than it is. ID is an irrational theory because there is no evidence for it. Atheists go along with this scam because they don’t want to admit that ID is a better theory than natural selection, in some sense.
Evolution is connected to religion, and religion causes conflict between people. Conflict produces anxiety, and inhibition is a defense mechanism for anxiety. When it comes to evolution, people are inhibited from thinking rationally and intelligently and behaving properly.
Another biologist from the University of Chicago, Jerry Coyne, is so obsessed with his hatred of creationism and the theory of intelligent design, that he saw fit to lambast Nicky Vaught on his widely read blog, “Why Evolution Is True.” Jerry Coyne will never admit publicly that natural selection explains only adaptation.
I’m not sure why the editors published this given all the good respnoses to Vaught’s letter, but this letter is an ignorant mess. First, it was more than a billion years between the first microscopic organisms and whales. Stromatolites (cyanobacteria) are about 3.6 billion years old, while whales didn’t appear until about 45 million years ago. The 20-year generation time is completely irrelevant.
Why Roemer throws in free will is mysterious, unless he’s got an animus against this site (which he probably does). But I don’t see any evidence that there’s a correlation between accepting evolution and rejecting free will.
James Shapiro’s theories of “natural genetic engineering” make no sense, and can’t explain adaptation, the appearance of design (see here for some of my critiques of Shapiro’s views). Shapiro is a renegade biologist, much beloved of creationists and antievolutionist philosophers, but his views have gained no traction in mainstream evolutionary biology.
I love this part of Roemer’s rant:
Evolutionary biologists always speak of “adaptive evolution.” An old model for evolution was a tornado hitting a junkyard and producing a Boeing 747 in flight. The new model is a computer generating an English sonnet by the random selection of letters.
That bespeaks a total misunderstanding of natural selection, and was, in fact, refuted by Dawkins’s famous “methinks it is like a weasel” analogy from The Blind Watchmaker. Natural selection involves not just a random production of “mutant” letters, but a process of nonrandom selection among them.
Dawkins’s original analogy used selection among mutations that brought a string of gibberish closer to a target sequence, but there need be no fixed target—just a mutant sequence that confers the ability to leave more offspring than the previous sequence. Given random mutation and the nonrandom selection among new mutations that confer higher “fitness” on an organism, adaptation follows. That is the “new model” to which evolutionists adhere, and it isn’t “rocket surgery” (see next post). If Roemer doesn’t understand natural selection, what credibility does he have to criticize it?
The paragraph on intelligent design (ID) is completely incoherent and you can puzzle it out for yourself. The penultimate paragraph, about religion, evolution, and anxiety, is also incoherent—it’s not clear exactly who is affected by evolution to the extent that they don’t think rationally or behave properly. Given that Roemer is a theist, I suspect he’s talking about those immoral and irrational people who accept evolution.
Finally, why does reasonable criticism of a supposedly creationist letter betoken obsession and irrational hatred? That’s just one more creationist canard, casting evolutionists and atheists as angry, student, and obsessive. In fact Mr. Roemer’s letter is far more “strident,” and far more ignorant, than mine. He needs to bone up on his evolutionary biology.
As far as “Jerry Coyne never admitting that natural selection explains only adaptation,” those words are so garbled that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to admit. I will “admit” that natural selection is the only viable theory that explains the appearance of design: “adaptations.” But it also explains things that are maladaptive, like occasional pleiotropic byproducts of an adaptation that don’t override its net positive effect. At any rate, if Roemer could learn to write better, I could answer him better.