I started reading Greenfield’s section on transplant. It starts with a 30 page chapter on transplant immunology.

It’s taking me about five minutes to read each page.

This is going to take a long time.

(There are the occasional hilarious comments, such as “Presumably, these multiple V region families arose by an evolutionary process of gene duplication followed by mutation of individual family members. . . the combinatorial possibilities are extremely large, showing why the immune system is able to generate antibodies for virtually all known antigenic determinants.” So they write this long chapter to explain how little they understand these cellular processes, but how miraculously well they turn out – the human immune system works against virtually every virus and bacteria – and conclude that it’s all a matter of random chance. No possibility that an intelligent Designer arranged everything that way on purpose.)

I’m still only two pages in.

Hopefully this will go faster when I get to the clinically relevant sections. . . fifty pages away.


Dr. Schwab’s Surgeonsblog is one of my favorite blogs ever. He has tremendous stories, and tells them very well, and I am inspired by his example as a caring and competent surgeon.

Lately, though, he’s taken to posting political and religious rants (his word) on the weekends. Creationists are a common target. I’ve got to respond to his latest post, but so many ideas came to mind I thought it would be better to write on my own blog.

Dr. Schwab’s post opens with an 8min clip of an ABC news segment on two creationist men who give tours of a Denver science museum to Christian homeschoolers, giving the creationist point of view in contradiction to the evolutionary teachings of the museum.

First, two things about the video: the two men, while I applaud their beliefs and their activism, are not the best possible spokesmen for young-earth creationism. When asked how long the period was between Adam’s creation and Noah’s flood, they stumble, and end up guessing that there were six or seven generations. In other instances, I agree that their responses are simplistic. If they know of the scientific evidence for creation, they’re not adept at mentioning it when called on. In their defense, this could be due to the young age of the children; most of them look to be in early elementary school. A disquisition on carbon-dating would be over their heads. I would bet that if you filmed an elementary school tour led by an evolutionist, there wouldn’t be much more sophisticated discussion than there was here. However, the ABC producers slanted the segment nastily. When the two creationist spokesmen guessed that there were six or seven generations of 800-yr olds between Adam and the flood, they multiplied 800 x 7 and got 5000+ years, making the creationists look ridiculous. Actually, the egg should be on ABC’s face. You don’t multiply generations like that. Each generation ought to start 20-40 years after the previous one. Better informed young earth theorists add up the genealogies in the Bible to make 1500 years between Adam and the Flood. There are other ways, as well, in which the producers went out of their way to pick soundbites that would make the creationists look bad. You might also notice that their claims, and those of the evolutionary scientist at the museum, are equally without evidence – in this video. Those watching this news segment were being asked to choose between creation and evolution based simply on the mockery of the museum’s scientist and of the producers.

(For further information on all kinds of questions regarding creation science, check out Answers in Genesis (specifically the answers page) and the Institute for Creation Research, which give much better evidence-based and Bible-based reasoning than the tour leaders in that video were able to do.)

 Now, to Dr. Schwab’s comments. He says,

My reaction to the above video goes beyond anger: it makes me sick. These kids are deliberately being deceived. Brainwashed. And, yes, abused.

My question to Dr. Schwab is, who doesn’t brainwash their kids, by his definition? Children sent to public schools and taught to believe that the entire universe sprang into existence on its own (where, after all, did the material for the Big Bang come from?), and that random atoms then coalesced into organic molecules, which then arranged themselves into the infinite complexity of data coding which is DNA, and that information was somehow progressively added into the system, making more and more complex organisms, until their own intelligence randomly developed – are they not being “brainwashed” as well? They’re told that these are the facts, this is how life is, this is what they should believe, and the alternatives are mocked and laughed at, if they’re even mentioned at all. All parents want to teach their children the same things that they believe. That’s not abuse, that’s good parenting. If you, as an adult, believe that you know what is true, you want to protect your children and save them from the painful errors that you yourself may have made. I’m sure Dr. Schwab would not be thrilled to let a creationist lecture to his children. Neither would creationists want evolutionists teaching their young impressionable children – although most of us do encourage the study of the theory of evolution for older children, say highschoolers.

But this is the part that really annoys me:

They are being led to extremism which differs not from the kind that creates believers in paradise filled with virgins. And we know where that leads.

I respect Dr. Schwab’s right to believe whatever he wants about the origin of life and the universe, and to make his arguments for what children should be taught. But to accuse Christian creationists of being morally on a par with Islamic suicide bombers is – I think slander is the right word, although more loaded than I’d like for a polite discussion. There is nothing, nothing, nothing in orthodox Christian teaching which would in any way condone the killing of other innocent people simply to make a point. You cannot show a single instance in recent history of Christians, acting on teaching which has anything near polite acceptance in the Christian community, killing other people. (The rare instances of killing abortionists don’t count: the number of Christians who would approve of this is vanishingly small, too small to count in a percentage.) Islam, on the other hand, teaches repeatedly and clearly, throughout the Koran and the hadiths, and among the vast majority of imams, that it is not only right, but necessary, to kill unbelievers. Creationism, which teaches children that they were made in the image of God (and therefore they should respect and value their own bodies and the lives of others) comes nowhere near this kind of violence.

Dr. Schwab continues:

These are the people putting religious tests to our potential leaders, proclaiming their holiness above mine . . . banning books and destroying public education. Rioting over cartoons. These are the people claiming our country needs more religion, even as their religion-above-all attitude is subverting the very foundations of our democracy and aiming us toward societal failure by substituting indoctrination for education.

What can I say? I learn from the Bible to proclaim, not my holiness, but my sinfulness – and God’s holiness and mercy. My homeschooling family, and those like us, are not destroying public education, but trying to rescue our children from an educational system which has already failed disastrously (school shootings on a regular basis, drugs available in schools, high school graduates who can’t read or do simple math, high schoolers who can’t compete with most other developed countries in math and science, schools which spend more time teaching young children how to have sex than telling them basic facts about American history). When our religion is mortally insulted (as in the demeaning and gross “art” exhibits in New York a few years ago, which were far more insulting to Jesus than those cartoons were to Islam), we didn’t riot. We wrote polite letters to the editor.

I don’t want to make this sound like boasting, but in the homeschooling creationist community nationwide that my family is part of, there are many young people becoming doctors and nurses; we are acing the SAT and ACT, and are competitive applicants to the best universities in the country. My friends from college, creationists like me, went on to become biochemical researchers.

Dr. Schwab, your indignation would be better spent on the disaster that is the public school system, and the teachers’ unions who refuse to allow any changes, and the truly dangerous religious extremists (Muslims) rather than on a group which is simply trying to raise their children in peace to be good and productive citizens.

In response to commenter JS (back on homeschooledmedstudent): I think it’s slightly suspicious that you go to such lengths to complain about the title of the defense that Discovery Institute published of Leonard, but then don’t examine the content of that defense at all. DiSilvestro and Needham explain at length how the committee came to be composed as it was, and the lack of clear procedural standards, which it would be the university’s responsibility to promulgate.

Also, it’s an exaggeration to compare the relative expertise of the committee members to an ob/gyn holding a cardiac surgery exam. The members of the committee were scientists, and were involved in education. It seems to me their fields were close enough to Leonard’s area of study that they could be expected to understand the logic and evidence he needed to present in his dissertation. Finally, let me put the link to Discovery Institute’s response to The Panda’s Thumb, wherein they address all of the charges.

You state, “Contrary to popular belief (at least among creationists), being a creationist does not disqualify someone from acquiring a PhD in science or education.” Let me offer some evidence for our sense of ostracism:

– From the original NYT article: “Dr. Scott, a former professor of physical anthropology at the University of Colorado, said in an interview that graduate admissions committees were entitled to consider the difficulties that would arise from admitting a doctoral candidate with views ‘so at variance with what we consider standard science.’ She said such students ‘would require so much remedial instruction it would not be worth my time.’ . . . Dr. Dini, of Texas Tech, agreed. Scientists ‘ought to make certain the people they are conferring advanced degrees on understand the philosophy of science and are indeed philosophers of science,’ he said.” To me that sounds as though they’re saying creationists are not capable of being real scientists, and if they were admitted to a graduate degree program would require “remedial education” to cure them of their unacceptable beliefs.

– In March 2006 Dr. Francis Beckwith was nearly denied tenure at Baylor University. As that link explains, his academic credentials are so outstanding that his support for discussion of intelligent design is the most likely reason for the controversy. (Further discussion at World Magazine.) – Also check out this transcript from a 2005 NPR segment on intelligent design, in which they interview several IDers/creationists who feel they have been discriminated against by the establishment. Most notable is Dr. Richard Sternberg, who experienced hostile retaliation from the Smithsonian Institute after allowing the publication of an article favorable to intelligent design in a peer-reviewed biology publication. In the NPR transcript, note where the journalist doing the piece explains that she tried to contact numerous intelligent design supporters, who mostly refused to speak to her, saying it would be as much as their career was worth to be so publicly identified prior to receiving their tenure.

To take up your third section second here: You say, “Patently ridiculous nonsense such as global floods is junk science.” Well, that kind of begs the question. We are trying to discuss whether a global flood is a better explanation of the fossil record than Darwin’s theory. It would explain how you have trees and giant animals (whales, dinosaurs) crossing multiple layers of sediment, which according to evolutionary geology ought to have been laid down over millions of years. It would explain the frequent occurrence of more “advanced” animals in the same strata as their much earlier “ancestors.” It would explain how fossils of sea creatures have been found on the tops of high mountains, as in the Himalayans. And of course, it would explain the observation that fossils were formed with great rapidity during disasters like the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption, but all carcasses which have been left lying around or in bogs of mud have been observed to rot to bits, rather than fossilizing. Which kind of messes up the whole evolutionary scenario. If I leave a dead bird in my yard, it doesn’t become a fossil. But if there’s a dead bird lying on the bank as a river undergoes a tremendous flood, it might fossilize.

It is precisely the refusal of evolutionists to even allow the discussion of other reasonable explanations which leads IDers and creationists to level charges of witch-hunting and modern inquisitions.

And now, global warming. You say, “The models are very, very good.” Uh-huh. Models made by the same people who in the ’70s were warning of catastrophic global cooling? Models for a planet which is at least thousands (if not, as you say, millions or billions) of years old, based on only a few decades of measurements?

I’m not prepared to tackle global warming in depth; this is one of those issues on which I know I read some good articles and books (can I plug Michael Crichton’s State of Fear again?) back when I had more time, and I’ve seen nothing to change my opinion since then. I’ll just throw out some recent links: Editorial handling of the subject by a senior climatologist, who remembers the scares of the ’70s. And, an article from CO2 Science arguing that events in the upper atmosphere and space could be responsible for any climate change that is being observed (which is in itself a questionable assumption, since, among other inconvenient facts, some arctic ice floes are increasing in size (multiple scientific journals referenced here), while the heavily publicized ones are cracking; see here for the growth of antarctic ice caps).

Ookay, that should be enough controversy for one day.

I came across a fascinating blog, Heal the Land, because the author was commenting on a post discussing some TV commentator named Tucker Carlson saying that Barack Obama’s church isn’t really Christian, because it’s all about black empowerment, and urges its members to become “soldiers for black freedom.” The author of Heal the Land seems to be a black Christian who is committed to studying the Bible – in its entirety, including the passages about slavery and genocide. My mind is spinning from his posts about routine miracles of healing, and gifts of the Spirit; but I like a lot of his commentary on other issues.

For instance, he linked to this article in the New York Times about creationists studying secular science (article is from Feb. 12, will probably only be publicly available for a few days). The story centers around Dr. Marcus Ross, a young-earth creationist who nevertheless earned his PhD from the University of Rhode Island with a dissertation on mosasaurs, marine reptiles who supposedly became extinct during the Cretaceous era, 65 million years ago. A large part of the article goes on to quote disgusted guardians of the evolutionary orthodoxy, who think that Christians/creationists/intelligent design theorists ought not to be permitted to receive degrees from their institutions, since they then go on to use those degrees as credentials in their writings against evolution. Of course, this is part of the larger trend in science to abandon the old tradition of free inquiry guided by evidence, no matter how contrary to old, accepted models, as we can see in the current witch-hunt against those who dare to deny the media-anointed truth of global warming.

I am more interested in the dilemma of Dr. Ross, whom the article describes as believing that “the methods and theories of paleontology are one ‘paradigm’ for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, ‘that I am separating the different paradigms.’ ” And later, “[T]hough his dissertation repeatedly described events as occurring tens of millions of years ago, Dr. Ross added, ‘I did not imply or deny any endorsement of the dates.’ ”

That’s taking plundering the Egyptians a bit far, to write and defend a dissertation based on evolutionary theory, and completely consistent with it, all the while believing something completely different. How much subterfuge is called for, given the intolerant discrimination advocated by the evolutionists quoted in the article?

Reference is made to another student, Bryan Leonard, who was trying to earn a PhD in education from OSU, with a dissertation on “the pedagogical usefulness of teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution.” His defense of the dissertation was cancelled when controversy arose about who would listen to him. Meanwhile, other faculty members had protested to the university administration “arguing that Mr. Leonard’s project violated the university’s research standards in that the students involved were being subjected to something harmful (the idea that there were scientific alternatives to the theory of evolution) without receiving any benefit.”

Which leaves me speechless. The idea that there are alternatives to evolution is harmful? I mean, I can grasp that you may think the alternatives are false. But it’s harmful to high-school students to present alternative points of view? No wonder American students are graduating with a woeful lack of critical thinking skills, and trailing the world in science and math. It would be too cliche to mention the unorthodox beliefs of Copernicus, Galileo, Boyle, Einstein, and other trailblazers of science. It’s too bad they weren’t protected from harmful alternatives, too.

So does such bigotry on the part of the educational and scientific establishment necessitate or condone what I cannot help regarding as intellectual dishonesty on the part of creationists like Dr. Ross? Because I know of others who have succeeded in earning PhDs with dissertations which either side-stepped the issue, or indeed confronted it head-on, and were successfully defended. How far do the boundaries stretch?

(And just to throw more fuel on the fire, let me link to Healtheland’s two posts on “Why I Hate Black History Month” part 1 and part 2. A much more cogent statement of objections than I could make.)

Some of us are having a lively discussion in the comments section of the “creation in general” post, so much so that we’ve overflowed the limit. So let’s continue that discussion up here, please. I would hate for anything to hinder a free exchange of ideas. 🙂

(Still nothing interesting happening at the hospital. Rotavirus seems to be dead for the season, nobody got asthma in the last week, and no more poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis. All that happened was the intern gave me a lecture on hyperbilirubinemia, which I promptly forgot in the half hour before rounds, and thus managed to look like a complete idiot when the attending picked that patient to question me on. Another example of, pimping feeling so much worse because I really ought to know. So this evening I typed up a long explanation of the case, with every possible cause, to turn in, just to demonstrate that I can read the textbook! Bother.)

UPDATE: Folks can say all they want, but the bottom line is, evolution is anti-Christianity. The two, properly understood, are mutually exclusive. For evidence, check out this “testimony” from “Brother Danny” at the Debunking Christianity blog, explaining how his study of evolutionary tenets led him to reject Christianity. (second-to-last paragraph, particularly)

Much obliged to Orac for the flood of visitors over the last day. I’ve been busy working on peds, and going to church as much possible in the evenings, so this is my first chance to read all the comments. Thanks to those who made polite and logical arguments. I’ll do my best to respond. To some of you others, get a life. 🙂

First, two disclaimers: I apologize for using the words “species” and “kind” interchangeably. I should have known better. They are not the same thing. Several commenters correctly pointed this out. A finch is not a species, it is a kind; and one created kind can over time degenerate into separate species, eg dogs. Also, I am not a biologist; I have neither the interest nor the time to spend on detailed study of either evolutionary theory, or even better documented things like the anatomy and physiology of various species. I am mostly interested in human biology, and that only to the extent that it gets sick and I can help fix it. Many of you have spent far more time on this, and I cannot possibly equal your wealth of knowledge and examples.

Which leads to my next point: You are all quite correct that my reasons for believing in creation are not what you might call “scientific”. I believe that God created the world, because he said he did. He said this in a book, in which he also explained that the book is perfect, truthful, and without error. I don’t have any outside support for that statement; there was no one watching God do all this, who then told me about it. However, perhaps you will agree that if in fact there is an all-powerful, completely righteous God who created the universe, and then condescended to tell us about it, it would be unbelievably insulting to him to produce a lesser witness to uphold the truthfulness of God’s statement. In other words, God is the final authority, and I do not apologize for taking his word for it. As for my literal interpretation of the Bible, I have the testimony of the Holy Spirit to my spirit of the truth, and I have the testimony of church tradition for two thousand years, which overwhelmingly tends towards what is now called a literal or fundamentalistic understanding of Scripture.

This is not to say there is no evidence for creation. It is before your eyes, in the meticulous engineering of every created organism, from the giraffe’s long neck, to symbiotic orchids and wasps, to the amazing mechanisms of Venus flytraps; from the hilarious idea of the platypus, to the delicate spectrum of visible light, displayed for us in the covenant rainbow; from the miracle of birds’ wings, to the craftsmanship of the tiniest flowers. This is what God says to you, through Paul, in Romans 1:

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who withhold the truth through unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it to them. For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse, because when they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations. . . and changed the glory of the incorruptible God to an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

No other evidence is needed than what God has plentifully provided in the natural revelation of the universe, and the specific revelation of the Bible.

But, to turn to “hard” science: these are the major themes I saw in the responses:

Tu and others ask, can’t micro-evolution add up over time to macro-evolution? No, there is indeed a barrier: Entropy. There is no other area in this world in which order naturally increases over time. Information does not spontaneously generate new information. To use a very old analogy, a junkyard of metal parts will not over time turn itself into a jet, or even a little car, not even with the added energy and assistance of a tornado through the junkyard. A pile of bricks and metal and concrete will not turn into a building. A typewriter, left to itself, or with the help of a monkey, will not spontaneously produce meaningful words. And as Chris says, I don’t think it is unscientific to ask for evidence before I believe this, since it is being presented as science, by people who claim to approve of the scientific method. The original explosion of scientific progress came with the recognition that facts ought to be replicatable; if the balls fell for Galileo, they ought to fall for everyone else who tries it. If macro-evolution happens, I would like to see it. I haven’t. All I’ve seen is a bunch of fossils, which can very easily be explained by an alternative theory.

Tu gives the example of a brown-haired dog mating with a brown-eyed dog. This does not create new information; it is simply a rearrangement or bringing together of the information for brown hair and brown eyes that already existed. Truly new information would be if these two dogs mated, and got a purple-haired dog, or a dog with feathers, neither of which are characteristics of the original mates. You cite translocations of genes possibly producing twice as much functional protein. Great; but does it happen that way in real life? The majority of the mutations we know of are where these “new proteins” turn out to work much worse than the original. Change one amino acid in hemoglobin, and you get sickle cell disease. Change a different one, and you get Hemoglobin C, which is not healthy either. Rearrange a few amino acids on the CFTR channel, and you get cystic fibrosis. And on and on; twice as many of one functional protein could produce an overload of the endproduct, resulting in toxicity – unless you have a simultaneous mutation in the next enzyme in the chain, in order to handle the doubled load; and so on.

So, it is not just the general unlikelihood of a useful mutation occurring, but the overwhelming-to-impossible chance that all the other changes that need to be made will mutate/evolve at the same time. Take the bombardier beetle, which has separate compartments for two chemicals in its abdomen. When threatened, it releases these two chemicals into the air, creating a small explosion in the face of its pursuer. For this to happen by chance, you would have to have the enzymes that made each of the two chemicals evolve, as well as the compartments to separate them, as well as the sphincter to release them in unison, as well as the neurological pathways to tell the beetle what to do. Anything short of this amazing series of events would leave the beetle defenseless, thus to be eaten before the species could evolve the rest of the way, or blowing itself up, which would be even more useless. Or to go back to hemoglobin: that molecule works amazingly well to transport oxygen under the conditions of human physiology. But what good would its sigmoid curve have been, if the creature it evolved in had a different blood pH, or didn’t have myoglobin functional, or all the other delicate pieces needed for oxygen exchange to occur? In short, irreducible complexity.

Next: several people have insisted that evolution is not “progress,” but simply change in an unplanned direction. I must say, if you don’t think that humans are an improvement on chimpanzees, salamanders, slugs, and hydrae, I am very sorry for you. If you don’t think that Shakespeare’s plays, and Jane Austen’s novels, and Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, are an improvement on frogs croaking and cows mooing, there isn’t much more we can say to each other.

Several people have also protested against the origin-of-life being lumped in with the development-of-species (or should we say kinds?). You can put it that way if you want, but it seems rather pointless. What’s the good of demonstrating that once Somebody put the molecules in place, and maybe even the first amoeba, everything else happened by itself? You’re still left with an omniscient, omnipotent Power, who could very well be quite angry with your habits of cursing, or stealing, or lying, or committing adultery, or hating others (which Jesus said is as bad as murder). He could quite well be telling the truth when he says that there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. The whole attraction of evolution is the idea that life (the universe, and everything) came about completely on its own, and there is no supernatural being to whom we owe our existence, and thus our obedience. After all, where did those first molecules and atoms come from? I do question the Big Bang: where did the matter that was involved in the Big Bang come from? It seems to make more sense to believe in the self-sufficient existence of God, who is outside of scientifice categories, than of matter, which all our subsequent experience tells us cannot be created or destroyed.

I am very puzzled by the suggestion that a belief in young-earth creationism (so no, no billions of years for all these accumulated mutations to occur) is inconsistent with reasonable medical practice. A randomised, double-blinded, controlled trial is a very nice piece of testing hypotheses and producing results that later investigators should be able to reproduce. (Wouldn’t y’all approve of some skepticism towards pharmeceutical-run studies, though?) As Chris suggested, when someone can show me a randomised, double-blinded, controlled trial resulting in the evolution of new characteristics through completely chance means, I will be impressed. I think that evolutionists are sadly and seriously mistaken on a number of scientific subjects; but I don’t doubt the discoveries they are making about the structure of genes, or the genetic causes of diseases, or even the possibility of gene-therapy. Let’s give each other a little credit.

An exciting discussion. Semi-courteous arguments are always welcome.

A comment on my post about the “missing link” fossil raises a question that I thought deserved a whole separate response: How can one be involved in medicine, and be a creationist? Don’t mutating viruses and drug-resistant bacteria show that evolution occurs?

Great question. I’m so glad you asked. 🙂 There are two different kinds of evolution, which most people think of lumped together. There is macro-evolution, and then there is micro-evolution. Micro-evolution is the fact that all DNA is always mutating, and that changes do occur within species. Darwin’s famous finches are an example of this: In one setting, one type of beak was most advantageous, and thus most common; under other circumstances, a different kind of beak promoted survival better, and was more common. BUT: This was variation within a species, or kind. The birds were still finches. They didn’t change into chipmunks, or hawks, or even sparrows. And, the original information was still there: they could move back to the first kind of beak when the environment on the island shifted.

This is the kind of evolution that we see in viruses and bacteria. Absolutely, mutations occur in bacterial DNA which make them resistant to antibiotics and give them a survival advantage. Gradually the bacteria without that mutation die out, and the ones with it become more numerous. When penicillin was first discovered, all the gram positive cocci were susceptible to it. Now, 40% of Strep pneumo are resistant. Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus may become the next major public health hazard, as it spreads out of hospitals into the general community. HIV, even since it was first discovered, has mutated to become resistant to the most popular anti-viral medicines.

BUT: Has anyone ever documented a plateful of Strep pneumo mutating into E coli? Or even into Strep pyogenes? I didn’t think so. They mutate, and they exchange information. But they remain separate species, with their own unique characteristics. Staph aureus remains unique in possession of the coagulase enzyme; E coli remains identifiable by its lactose metabolism. They are all separate species and geni; and they definitely are not progressing into amoebae or protozoans.

Macro-evolution, then, is the belief that one kind of life can change into another kind; that by an almost unimaginable series and accumulation of mutations, some random process could turn an amoeba into a plant, and then into a primitive fish, then into an amphibian, and so eventually into “the miraculous race that we are” (to quote G.K. Chesterton’s poem). Macro-evolution is the idea that a species of fish mutated, and turned into a land-walking amphibian. It’s the idea that an ape mutated, and became an intelligent, (occasionally) rational, artistic, human. To me, this sounds like some of the wilder science fiction plots.

So: I believe that God created the world in six 24-hour days, out of nothing. He made every animal kind himself. Part of the natural order that he set up included the ability for DNA to mutate. BUT: When DNA mutates, it generally loses information. The mutation that makes Strep pneumo resistant to penicillins is the loss of a protein (called, in the usual utilitarian manner, penicillin-binding-protein). Dogs are another good example of this. Many of the different breeds we have today resulted from breeding for specific characteristics. Some of these are so extreme that they can’t even breed with each other any more (eg, Great Danes and chihuahuas). But the breeding didn’t add any information; it took it away. The chihuahua lost the ability to grow large; the labradors lost the ability to grow curly hair; and so on. These species and subspecies did not add anything; they lost it.

Thus, it is quite reasonable to believe in the fact of micro-evolution, since it can be seen on a regular basis in the world around us. It can be measured in the lab, and witnessed, and reproduced. This does not in any way necessitate a belief in the theory of macro-evolution, that life originated from non-life, or even that God made the bacteria and then let everything get along from there. Macro-evolution is definitely a theory, since it has not been witnessed or verified by any scientific standard (meaning the standards that applied before scientists got carried away with trying to make a philosophical explanation for the origin of the universe).

(And Tu: I was amused by your saying I don’t sound like a “typical anti-evolutionary theorist.” I got all these ideas here from a very typical creationist teaching organization, Answers in Genesis, and one perhaps innovative creationist biology professor, who liked to shock his students, but is nevertheless very orthodox by our standards.)

Open for discussion. . .

I admit I’m a little late on this news too, but the evolutionists are all tickled pink over the discovery of another “transitional form,” the “fishopod” Tiktaalik (an Inuit name meaning “large freshwater fish;” nice to see that the natives can call a fish a fish). Here’s an evolutionary take, and here’s a creationist refutation (scroll down a bit). And finally a drawing from evolutionist science blogger Pharyngula, whose page I really need to start frequenting more, just for the excitement.

Basic story: Paleontologists in Northern Canada discovered several well-preserved skeletons of these creatures, whose unique features include: 1) lack of water-beating structures over gills, leading to the idea that they could breath air; 2) fins with “wrist-like arrangement,” suggesting “vaguely foot-like support.” (Such precision and definiteness!)

(I was forced to blog about this by encountering an editorial in the state capital paper (right above an editorial arguing that the US should “take full part” in the new UN Council on Human Rights, along with Sudan, of course; and some people write letters to this paper complaining that it’s too conservative) – anyhow, an editorial telling creationists that they should be silenced by this new discovery, and accusing them of blindly calling Archaeopteryx a hoax in spite of evidence to the contrary. I don’t know what creationist literature they’ve been reading lately – too little, obviously. Everything I’ve read argues that just because a bird has a few claws on the tips of its wings does not make it a reptile, just a different species of bird.)

A quote from the original scientific paper (published in Nature) about these fossils:

Although the body scales, fin rays, lower jaw and palate are comparable to those in more primitive sarcopterygians, the new species also has a shortened skull roof, a modified ear region, a mobile neck, a functional wrist joint, and other features that presage tetrapod conditions.

So this supposed step forward in evolution actually has “primitive” features, as well as very advanced features. Sounds like some creature got his chronology mixed up. You’d think it would be the advanced sarcopterygians (lobe-finned fish) who evolved next. [tetrapod meaning four-legged, ie land vertebrates]

Next: just because you wish its fins could work as feet doesn’t mean that’s how they were used; maybe they were just an efficient means of swimming. To quote from the creationist critique linked above,

It must be remembered, for instance, that Coelacanth was long considered a transitional form because of its bony fins, but when discovered alive, the fish did not use them for walking or raising itself up in any way.

The very concept of evolution implies a spectrum of progress, of movement in a certain direction. The discovery of a static point (a fossil fish) does not give any proof of movement. Please notice this quote from the news article, based on interviews with the discoverers:

For all its tetrapod-like features, Tiktaalik is still clearly a fish. For example, its limbs lack the fingers and toes that mark true tetrapods.

Just like Archaeopteryx is a bird – a unique bird, but still a bird – Tiktallik is a fish; unique, but still a fish.

Bottom line: God created a wide variety of animals, many of whom share various characteristics, and even DNA, with each other. That doesn’t prove that these animals evolved from each other. In the end, evolution is a theory about the origin of life. It’s based on speculation centering around the bones of dead creatures (when it’s not based in pure imagination). Scientists who were not present for the events in question, who do not have written records of the events, and who cannot reproduce the events or point to modern-day continuations of them, cannot claim to be making truly scientific inquiries. They are making religious theories, wish-fulfillment of their desire to evade responsibility to the Creator God. I’m glad the atheists are having a nice Easter: the gospel of Judas, and this funny fish. Too bad it won’t do them any good in the long run.