7/24/2007                                                                                       View Comments

A Lack of Basic Understanding

By Micah Cowan

I have recently subscribed to Answers magazine, produced by Answers In Genesis, famous for their recent opening of the Creation Museum.

I received my first issue a couple months ago. The chief reason I subscribed was that I wanted to keep abreast of anti-evolutionary arguments, and Creationist reactions to recent scientific discoveries as they occurred. The issue I first received was almost entirely dedicated to the stories of the global flood and Noah’s Ark.

I was rather disappointed to discover that there was actually rather little in the magazine for me to actually evaluate, as most of the writing offered no references to back up their claims and assertions; thus, there was nothing for me to reason about—only rhetoric. I have just received the next issue, which I have not yet opened; I’m hoping there will be more interesting arguments in that one, and hopefully some references to back up a few of the claims.

However, I was struck by this very brief snippet of an article (it was, IIRC, less than half of a page in length). I think it illustrates rather well the extreme lack of understanding of basic principles of evolutionary theory or mechanics, or even terminology:

The textbook authors recognize that the resistance is already present in the bacterial population (Fig. 15.5) and then claim that selection for resistant bacteria in a population is direct evidence for evolution. Selecting for something that is already present does not provide support for the information-gaining change required for evolution.

Of course, this text completely ignores the question, how did the variations between resistant and non-resistant bacteria arise in the first place? No biology textbook will claim that the selection itself is how an individual organism becomes stronger: selection only explains why the percentage of resistant bacteria will tend to get stronger. But, evolution does explain how the variation arose that allowed some of the population to become more resistant than the others.

Of course, I have to wonder about a group who struggles with the idea that a colony of bacteria can develop minute changes allowing some of them to become resistant to antibiotics, but clings to the concept that lions and house cats evolved from the same animal “kind” (which was represented by a population of two to seven on Noah’s ark), and dogs and foxes from another, in the last 4,000 years, while, of course, rejecting the idea that evolution could have caused any transition from one “kind” to another.

The article also claims that evolutionary biology textbooks say there is support for the claim “that molecules can change into completely different kinds of creatures.” So much for proof-reading.

It appears I may have been a tad optimistic in expecting to find some shred of reasoned argument in this periodical…

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Spirula said...

It appears I may have been a tad optimistic in expecting to find some shred of reasoned argument in this periodical…

If you consider what their actual "science" consists of, any expectation of reasonable, evidence-based argumentation is overly optimistic.

They don't do actual scientific research to substantiate their claims. And of course, they don't publish any evidence for their claims in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The jumping-off point for their "argumentation" is to try to undermine any scientific evidence which contradicts their interpretation of a bronze-age mythology. That is the extent of their "science".

These people are marginal spectators to the biological/geological sciences, who's only act is to play a "god of the gaps" court jester. If only it were true that the public was educated enough, and curious enough to understand the scientific method and the abundant evidence of the evolution of life, these clowns would have been dismissed from the public stage (in the US), like they have been in so many other countries.

Anyway, here is an interesting experiment that repeatedly demonstrated the mutation of a gene creating heat resistance in bacteria.


twincats said...

You also have to be alert because the AIG crowd loves to quote mine legitimate scientific papers.

In fact, that is mainly what their "research" consists of; reading legitimate scientific papers and articles and searching for points that they can pick out (out of context, most generally) and "refute."

A few bloggers at Scienceblogs are doing the same thing you're doing. There is a lot of entertainment value in a good "fisking" of a creationist's "scientific" argument!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link! It is hysterical, I particularly like that they are using a sort of evolution to describe the vast variety of life on the planet.

Do you suppose they will have a dinosaur kind that will produce birds at some point?


Lance said...

I read that same magazine at my brother-in-law's house last month. It is his only source of information on the subject, and of course he believes it all with out thinking about the lack of evidence.

I too liked the amount of evolution they required in the last 4000 years since Noah to handle the amount of diversity we see today. Its a Thousand times more evolution than any evolutionary biologist would claim.

I also found interesting their lack of any data or evidence to back up their claims.

This seems to be their approach to science:

1. Pick a conclusion that fits their interpretation of the bible.
2. Make a conjecture that tries to reconcile reality with the conclusion.
3. Publish the magazine.
DONE. That is all they need.

Why bother with all that testing the theory stuff? It is just a waste of time for them since the conclusion is already proved true by the bible. All they need is just a shred of plausibility for themselves and their readers to buy it hook line and sinker.

eel_shepherd said...

Micah Cowan wrote:
"...Of course, this text completely ignores the question, how did the variations between resistant and non-resistant bacteria arise in the first place?..."

Three words: nylon-eating bacteria.