The Evolution of the Face: A Letter to Some Readers in Tennessee

By Carl Zimmer | December 15, 2008 3:10 pm

chimpface600.jpgSomething strange recently happened to me in Tennessee. I wasn’t actually in Tennessee when it happened. The strangeness emanated from there–actually, from one spot in Tennessee–and eventually reached me here up in New England.

It started with a column I wrote in the October issue of Discover, about the evolution of the human face. Sometimes people write letters to the magazine about my pieces. My editors dropped a note to let me know that all at once they got 40 60 letters about my column. All from the outskirts of Memphis. All pretty much identical in style and substance. Some had been written on a computer, but some were written by hand–young hands, judging from their appearance.

Here’s a sample…

“I enjoyed reading your article and was interested in the research done on how the face and its muscles work to make expressions. I however believe that the brain and facial expressions are not a byproduct of years of evolution but instead a fingerprint of intelligent design. You claim in your article, that the muscles of the face are the result of the transition of life from land to water, but where is the fossil record for the jump? None have been found. There is no proof of the evolution of water to land creatures.”

And a second…

“I would like to show you what I think may have happened. First off, there is the law of entropy. This law states that everything is in a state of going deeper into chaos. The brain could not have formed going from a blob of amino acid to a highly complex organ that is capable of generating the power that is does. That is going into a state of unity and order. According to natural laws, this is impossible. Only a creator is capable of doing this.”

And a third

“If the face is an irreducibly complex machine, which it is, it cannot evolve because the original face would be missing parts, which would make the whole machine non-fuctioning. This rules out the possibility of evolution in human faces.”

I don’t know if all these letters came from a single class or club. In any case, the folks at Discover asked me if I’d write something in response. So–to my correspondents from Tennessee:

Thank you all for your letters. I appreciate that you took the time to read my article. While I can’t write to all forty sixty of you individually, I want to respond to the overall gist of your letters.

A number of you stated that there is no evidence that the human face–or even humans, period–evolved. For instance, one writer claimed that there is no fossil record of the transition of life from water to land.


Actually, there is a fossil record, and it’s getting more and more detailed every year. The best source of information at the moment is a new review written by three experts on the subject. They explain how paleontologists have found a number of fossils of fish with some–but not all–of the features found in land vertebrates. They’ve also found a lot of early land vertebrates that still had not yet evolved some of the anatomy found on land vertebrates today. The illustration above, from the review, shows just how many fossils of these early land vertebrates and their relatives have been discovered in rocks between 400 and 300 million years ago.

This is what you’d expect if life evolved.

When scientists compare the traits on all those species, they can judge which species are most closely related to each other, and use that information to draw an evolutionary tree. The land vertebrates alive today, including mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are represented by the brown and green arrows. The closest living fish relatives, according to this research, are lungfish and coelacanths (Dipnoi and Actinistia on the tree). As the tree shows, there are 19 different lineages paleontologists have discovered the branched off between our common ancestor with lungfish 410 million years ago, and the common ancestor of all land vertebrates alive today, which lived some 350 million years ago. Those extinct lineages mark the evolution, step by step, of our legs, arms, wrists, ankles, fingers, and toes. Do they mark every generation through this transition? Of course not–but no paleontologist would ever dream of finding fossils of every individual that ever lived. Instead, they judge how well each new fossil fits into the overall picture.

Scientists can also use other lines of evidence to test their hypothesis for how vertebrates came on land. The tree I’ve reproduced here makes it clear that our closest living aquatic relatives are lungfish and coelacanths–two very rare lineages that make up a half dozen species or so all told. Recently scientists compared a lot of DNA from from several species of fish–including lungfish–and land vertebrates. They got the same result looking at genes that paleontologists get looking at bones: lungfish are our closest relatives.

The support that comes from different studies gives scientists confidence that they can look at fish to track the evolution of our faces. On fossils, they can look at scoops and troughs in bones that mark the places where muscles attached. And they can study muscles in the heads of living fish. A lamprey doesn’t have a dimpled smile, let alone a jaw. But it does have some of the same muscles as we have in our faces. These muscles develop from the same place in the heads of lamprey embryo and a human embryo. More closely related animals share more face muscles with us. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, have just about every muscle in our own face, and they produce the same expressions when they are stimulated. (See the illustration at the top of the post, from this review of face evolution from fish to humans.)

This is, again, the sort of pattern you’d expect from evolution. So there is, in fact, a lot of evidence documenting the evolution of the face from our fish ancestors–and more coming to light each year.

But many of you also make a different sort of claim: that evolution could not have possibly produced the face.

Let me explain why this is not the case.

One person wrote in that the laws of entropy, which drives the universe to chaos. “The brain could not have formed going from a blob of amino acid to a highly complex organ.”

But think about what happens every time a brain develops from nothing in a human embryo. How can this order emerge, if entropy rules? Because the laws of entropy do not prevent order from arising in a particular place. An embryo takes in energy to form its complex body, and it pumps out heat, increasing the entropy in the environment. Entropy is likewise not a problem for evolution, if there is enough energy to increase local order and a place to push the disorder. And our planet, getting energy from the sun and releasing heat back into space, provides just those conditions.

Some of you claimed that the face could not evolve because it is an “irreducibly complex” system. If you take one part away from it, it does not work. But that’s not actually the case. Think about it–chimpanzees and other primates have most of the facial muscles that we do–but not all of them. In other words, they are missing some parts of the human face. But their faces are not “non-functioning” as one letter-writer claimed. They make plenty of faces–although they cannot make as many faces as we can.

You don’t even have to leave our own species to see that our faces are not “irreducibly complex.” Many people are lacking one or more muscles in the face, but their faces work normally. Botox paralyzes some muscles in the face–knocking out several parts of this supposedly irreducibly complex face. It may be hard for people with Botox to frown, but they can still smile and produce other facial expressions. That’s hardly non-functional.

The links in my response take you to several scientific papers. Actually, there are many, many more on the topics I’ve discussed. I’d encourage you to take the plunge and learn more about the face and its evolution. I’d hope you’d find it as fascinating as I do.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Evolution

Comments (104)

  1. Very good of you not to let them get up your nose, and to turn the other cheek instead.

  2. A well thought out and exceptional response. Wonderful.

  3. Lovely response. Yet it must be tiresome having to explain the obvious over and over.

  4. Elizabeth McCullough: “Lovely response. Yet it must be tiresome having to explain the obvious over and over.”

    Quite right. However, next time someone makes a claim about the 2nd law of thermodynamics or irreducible complexity, we can all refer them to this reply.

    Thanks Carl!

  5. They won’t believe you – nice try, though. Ignorance is a virtue with creationists, and they cannot accept any disagreement with their pseudoscience.

    It would be very interesting to discover the common source of the letters. Ten to one it’s a church-school or some sort of home-schooling consortium, if not an overt church group.

  6. However, if they’re kids, they’ll seek out and absorb whatever information they humanly can. It’s the adults in their lives which affect their development, and now, Carl Zimmer is one of them.

  7. Quietman

    Very nice reply. So much so that I will link to it from another site. But Paul is right, it’s almost futile to try to explain reason to someone who is without logic.

  8. Scott Belyea

    A response which deserves the compliment “elegant.”

    It also deserves “non-condescending” and a variety of other complimentary descriptions, but “elegant” was the first that came to mind.

    Thanks …

  9. Greg Peterson

    You are a saint for responding the way you did. I shudder to think what the reaction might have been on some blog sites. A soft answer turneth away wrath…and maybe shutteth up ignorance, too, which isn’t such a bad thing-eth.

  10. Violetta Bloom

    Indeed an excellent, non-condescending roundup to correct those oft-repeated misunderstandings of science, but there’s even more!

    If your letter writers only knew!…creationism/ID proponents have also totally missed their own astonishing biblical muddle in invoking the concept of accidental evolution through “blind” chance. According to the Bible (Pv. 16:33) God controls all chance and there are no accidents. That’s a pretty big oopsie for Bible students! You might enjoy this from the current Google News listings:

    Intelligent Design Rules Out God’s Sovereignty Over Chance

    “What proponents of so-called intelligent design have cynically omitted in their polemic is that according to Biblical tradition, chance has always been considered God’s choice as well.”

  11. The “entropy” argument against Evolution is really hilarious. If those bozos were right, that’d mean that refrigerators couldn’t exist. That’s right, inside of a fridge, temperature decreases, and if you don’t open the door, entropy does, too.

  12. Hmmm, I think this needs to be reposted over at 80beats….

  13. JohnK

    First, I thought Carl did a great job. But I also think the students are doing a good job. They have the courage to challenge a writer for a major periodical on his own turf. By starting a dialog they are, to some degree, putting their beliefs on the line and beginning to question. A good number of biologists are one-time fundamentalists.

    Also, its very hard to change course, from the beliefs of your family, your teachers and your minister. One good argument can’t do it.

    I also liked the citation on the evolution of the muscles of facial expression. I’ve been fascinated by them for many years, and the cited paper filled gaps in my knowledge (I could never get far with Darwin’s book). We normally think of the function of muscles is to act on the world. There are several other purposes: locomotion, gathering information (eye movements, head movement), and communication to name three. An additional remarkable feature is that we only have partial voluntary control over facial expression: facial expression, blushing and crying reveal our emotions, even when we try to hide them. The selective advantage is fascinating and complex.

  14. … but what sounds non-condescending to us, may sound condescending after all to someone without a basic understanding of science.

    The fact that the genetic evidence matches the predictions from bone morphology may not seem meaningful to someone unaware of the possibility (and significance) of alternate outcomes in the genetic research.

    On the claims of entropy and irreducible complexity, this response is as clear and simple as it needs to be, but it can still sound condescending. To the letter writers, ‘the law of entropy’ and ‘irreducibly complex’ are not mathematical concepts to be understood, but rather, they are essentially magical incantations. It would be as though a vampire, when confronted by a cross, began laughing and spouting gibberish about gods and demons you had never heard of. It tells you that the cross does not work as a ward, but it does not tell you why. To understand that, you would have to bring those words back to priest for interpretation.

    What these people needs is not a logical response to their illogical criticism or a more in-depth study of this-or-that area of feigned academic interest. What they need is a basic understanding of science and math. If they are genuinely interested, they will come around.

  15. tom

    I’d like to debate any of you evolutionists. See thread entitled “Stump the Creationist.” :

  16. Keith Hall

    tom says in the link to his thread to the christian discussion forums
    “Alright. So the person above sure seems confident. I’m not so confident. I don’t think ToE can generate anything but piles of worthless books written by atheists who are desperate to spread their worldview to a pool of dumbed-down, over-medicated, under-parented, rebellious children who never grew up.”
    What a arrogant worthless spew of vile ignorant claptrap this cretin has come up with. Ooh all christian children must be so well behaved and incapable of doing any wrong what so ever. It’s these damn atheists dragging up their children filled with drugs – what drugs I’m not too sure but probably something that makes them rebellious no doubt – who can’t make up their own mind, or is it agree with his worthless scientific arguments that make him upset. The fact that his central argument is actually built up from this stupid comment ensure we all know how worthless the rest of his arguments will be.

  17. Tom demonstrates my point well. Notice that the main points Tom makes are already well-refuted in widely available literature, including the above letter. Did Tom notice? Does he care? Clearly Tom did not understand Carl’s response. Did he try?

  18. infidel

    I’ve debated more than my fair share of creationists and IDists over the years, so this post is almost second nature to me. Reading it, however, I realized something that hadn’t occurred to me yet. I think the misunderstandings are more fundamental than we’ve touched on here. Every single time they will say “there is no fossil record for X” or “there is no evidence for evolution” – and the response is almost always “oh, but there is!” Way before even talking about fossil records or natural selection, people just don’t really grok what “evidence” means. In everyday parlance, testimony is considered “evidence” to a court of law. I’ve tried explaining scientific evidence, burden of proof, falsifiability, etc to these people and very few of them ever “get” it.

    It’s almost like they so badly want evolution to NOT be true, that they don’t allow their eyes to see what is plainly before them. So I guess that’s what it really boils down to. For whatever reason (emotional investment?, outright fear?) they don’t want to see, so telling them a million times over that it’s plain as day ultimately accomplishes nothing.

    I reckon they’d say the same thing about us. So it all comes down to the evidence and whether or not you’re willing to accept it.

  19. tom

    so no answers yet… did populations get built up — not to mention genomes — if mutations don’t build bodies? I’m still waiting.

  20. Entropy is likewise not a problem for evolution, if there is enough energy to increase local order and a place to push the disorder. And our planet, getting energy from the sun and releasing heat back into space, provides just those conditions.

    but but but… creationists are just too ignorant to make the right argument since this is only true because there is a directly observed Anthropic constraint on the forces that prevents our expanding universe from running away in that direction. The universe should be far too dilute even for stars to form in any “natural” model that we’ve ever been able to produce:

    So, the second law of thermodynamics prohibits “faces” in any universe that isn’t held magically together by god… ehhhhh… any universe that isn’t held together by an, as yet unidentified law of physics, I mean… lol

    Anyway, creationists can take this along with the “appearance of design” and pretty much rightfully laugh out loud straight in the face of anyone who thinks that unobservable and hypothetical physics speculations of modern science that attempt to explain this away as a random chance occurrence, are more plausible than exactly what it looks like!

    Final theory not withstanding…

    I reckon they’d say the same thing about us. So it all comes down to the evidence and whether or not you’re willing to accept it.

  21. Ian

    Hi. I’m a Christian and grew up with something like intelligent design as the default theory of how we find ourselves in the world we live in. I use the word default intentionally. Some sort of intelligent design was the explanation for life’s origins because it seemed, I think, to fit the worldview that saw belief in God as foundational and informative of all other areas of human thought. However, along with a rather simplified and miraculous view of how life came about on earth I was also raised in a culture of learning, rational thought, and debate; a culture that proudly identified these things as part of a Western Christian tradition. These values have helped me and others around me adjust our views over time. We really do want to understand the world around us and how we fit into it. My point, essentially, is that Carl’s efforts are not in vain, or not always so. Unfortunately, most often when I observe discussions about intelligent design vs. evolution I see many making simplistic and negative caricatures of each other. This is unfortunate and unproductive and I think it would be best if those capable of it refrain from responding to those who would lower the level of debate on this excellent site.

  22. Tom wrote: “I’d like to debate any of you evolutionists.”

    Okay, I’ll start. Let’s discuss the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which in humans and all other mammals goes from the brain into the chest, looping around the aorta in order to get from the brain to the larynx. In the giraffe, this nerve is thus about 15 feet long, whereas the larynx is about 1 foot from the brain. This inept design feature makes the animal more susceptible to injury, and has no purpose other than to demonstrate our evolutionary ancestry as distant descendents of fish.

    Matt Ridley explains the course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve as follows (from his textbook _Evolution_): “The laryngeal nerve is, anatomically, the fourth vagus nerve, one of the cranial nerves. These nerves first evolved in fish-like ancestors. … successive branches of the vagus nerve pass, in fish, behind the successive arterial arches that run through the gills. Each nerve takes a direct route from the brain to the gills. During evolution, the gill arches have been transformed; the sixth gill arch has evolved in mammals into the ductus arteriosus, which is anatomically near to the heart. The recurrent laryngeal nerve still follows the route behind the (now highly modified) gill arch: in a modern mammal, therefore, the nerve passes from the brain, down the neck, round the dorsal aorta, and back up to the larynx.”

    Neil Shubin also briefly discusses this in his book, _Your Inner Fish_, which explains how we were all fish a few hundred million years ago.

    Now, Tom: Your turn. Please provide your alternative explanation. How do creationists explain the convoluted path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, if evolution didn’t do it?

    And you haven’t told us: Are you an Old Earth Creationist? Or are you a Young Earth Creationist – creation in 4004 BC, dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden and on Noah’s Ark and all that? Thanks.

  23. tom

    Hi Paul…thanks for the try, but I’m looking for scientifically-validated mutations. Mutations have been shown to do all kinds of things — but add new physical structures is not one of them. Just because animals change physically does not automatically give the credit to random genetic changes culled by natural selection. Self-organizational mechanisms may be just as capable, not to mention more realistic, at producing functional adaptations than one-in-a-billion “just because” random mutations that just happen to find their way in the right animal at the right time at the right place and in the right circumstance.

  24. Tom wrote: “Hi Paul…thanks for the try, but I’m looking for scientifically-validated mutations.”

    Not a problem. Have you by any chance read Dr. Neil Shubin’s book “Your Inner Fish,“ described at It discusses several billion years’ worth of scientifically-validated mutations.

    Or you can look up Dr. Kevin Padian’s expert witness testimony and slideshow which were part of his sworn Federal Court appearance in the 2005 Dover trial – see . This also provides clearly understandable explanations of scientifically-validated mutations.

    Now – explain the recurrent laryngeal nerve to us, in creationist terms. And remember – being a creationist means more than just providing snarky criticisms of a strawman version of evolution.

    And also please tell us if you’re an OEC or a YEC. Thanks.

  25. Keith Hall

    Tom the troll:
    Your conceits are outstanding, your prejudices dismaying. Oh you think, only us creationists know how to bring up children, we know what is right, evolutionists are a bunch of god denying illiterates whose writings fill up libraries but add nothing to our knowledge. By what right do you have to say that. Name your sources, produce your examples, give us proof.
    You say ToE produce worthless books. In which way are they worthless? Specifically name one, and tell us how it is worthless.
    3.8 billion years of evolution has led us to this, brilliant minds seeking to expand our knowledge of the universe, and you, a worthless arrogant piece of snot I would happily wipe on my shoe and then grind in the earth to join the billions of yet unknown single cell creatures that have inhabited our earth far longer than their multicellular relatives.
    Go play chess with the rest of your ilk, but don’t think you can teach us to play since you have no concept of the rules.

  26. Dear Carl –

    Thank you for your wonderful letter to these students.


  27. Whoa, Keith, “worthless piece of snot”? Walk it back a step or two. I’m pretty loose with my moderation of comments, but you’re getting close to the edge. If this comment threat simply becomes Tom vs the world, I’ll have to close it. After all, Tom has a whole forum for that.

  28. Carl wrote: “If this comment threat simply becomes Tom vs the world, I’ll have to close it. After all, Tom has a whole forum for that.”

    Don’t close it yet, please. I still want to see Tom’s explanation from the creationist side for the recurrent laryngeal nerve.

  29. Keith Hall

    My apologies – all I can say in my defence is that I was blinded by bigotry, which is maybe not much of a defence really. Next time I’ll turn the other cheek, promise.

  30. johnx

    Carl: This is one of your best.

    Given that, while you state the hand of the writer was young, I submit the authors, if more than one, are not. As just one example, few adults really understand entropy or know what an amino acid might be. This is true of many educated adults. The brain that created these letters is possessed of more scientific knowledge than the brain of the average college graduate.

    Well, so much for my stab at forensics. Again, a superb article.

  31. Enjoyed your article and letters response, Carl. Compelled to add my $.02.

    I’m all for teaching “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution as long as it includes Native American, Norse, Greek and Roman “myths” as well as extraterrestrials’ interactions as being the possible origins of life on this planet. That’s fair and balanced, right? Whatever the case, evidence — incomplete, incongruent or otherwise not completely understandable — must be presented (as science) rather than some arbitrary, subjective preference for a belief in a supernatural “explanation” for the complexities and the mysteries of this world. It’s the epitome of arrogance to assert that the limits of our understanding are the bounds of nature’s capacity.

  32. baku

    This is fun reading. I’m glad that both parties are conversing with each other. Because one can only arrive at the truth through observation, and conversation. Having observed these notes, I am happy to say that the more arguments coming from creationists trying to disprove evolutionists only make evolutionists stronger. By repeatedly disproving arguments coming from creationists only affirms evolution did happen. However, once in awhile, if we were presented with an argument in which evolution can not answer or provide proof, we should be thankful of the challenge and pursue it in the name of science. I’m sure there are things , many things science can’t explain yet, but the foundations are there to seek an answer. Creationists’ foundation seems to be god, and with that strong of a foundation, they can never be wrong, at leasts in their eyes. God has no limit, and boundaries, thus he is capable of making and destroying everything. In my honest opinion, there should be no argument, since there are no grounds for it to be argued. Schools should just require that a student take one semester of each and have them pick the third semester in whatever of the two they want. If a man can not live with both arms and can’t choose which one to keep, then cut them both off and have him pick one… but only after we’ve given him the chance to think about which arm he misses the most… the answer will always be both…

  33. xgecko

    Carl: Nice article.

    To everyone else:

    I grew tired of debating creationists when it became obvious that they are not interested in any data that conflicts with their belief system. For more than 7 years I tried to talk some sense into an engineer that is also a creationist (of the YEC variety) and not one thing I pointed him to made any difference. In fact, when I began, he promised me he would respect the evidence (he apparently said this based upon the conviction that I would not be able to show him that the evidence does not support his beliefs) however as I built my argument from evidence he went back on his word (mighty Christian of him, eh?) and decided that we must live in some sort of a Holodeck where we cannot trust the world to be as it appears. He did admit that he never thought I could build such a strong case for evolution out of the evidence (Surprise!) and his reaction was to simply harden his beliefs in the face of all the contradictory evidence.

    I have since learned that this kind of response is completely consistent with how the brains of such people operate. When a person is of a strongly conservative nature their response to data that invalidates strongly held beliefs is to harden their belief and reject the data; I find this to be very consistent with what I observed during my discussion with the creationist. No matter how strong the evidence he would not accept it if it conflicted with his beliefs. The corollary to this is that he would accept pretty much any evidence that he could make it appear supported his beliefs no matter how flimsy or absurd. One of his most amusing claims was that the distribution of fossils is the result of mammals running for the hills whereas the dumb, slow dinosaurs simply stood still while the flood waters engulfed them. The fact that many dinosaurs can run at speeds up to or exceeding 35mph and some mammals can’t even begin to hit 10 mph did not matter to him in the slightest; the explanation fit his beliefs and that was good enough for him.

    I learned that when one debates a creationist there are two fools involved… Eventually I chose to stop being a fool and let him go his way. I found that I felt much better and have much more time on my hands now. I have no idea what he is doing but I can be pretty sure he is still giving 10% of his income to a church that is lying to him about an afterlife he will never see. That is his choice; personally I have better things to do than try to save him from himself.

  34. Dan

    As a Christian, who is an Engineer, I am always dismayed at how quickly these discussions descend into name-calling and ridicule, by people on all sides of the argument.

    I don’t have all of the answers, but here is how my mind works.

    1) I have had too many spiritual experiences to dismiss them as some fanciful creation of my own mind.
    2) I’ve participated in many design projects, and have watched my designs “evolve.” That is, many designs have shared common elements. Those elements point to a common Designer as opposed to an evolving entity.
    3) Science and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. God’s Word and God’s World do not conflict. Often, our *understanding* of each does.
    4) Young Earth Creationism doesn’t “square” with my understanding of God’s personality and with what we observe. I am positively “Old Earth.”
    5) If Evolution explains our existance, I question whether we have actually had enough time for all of our complexity to come into existance purely by chance.
    6) Finally, I *choose* to live as a Christian, according to my understanding of the Bible.

    I’ve also heard it said that, “Those that live like there is no God, better hope that they are right.” I’ve made my choice, not as a some sort of cosmic insurance policy, but because it makes the most sense to me. Prior to my “conversion”, I was immersed in the Sciences. It was throgh my study (as an EMT) of how blood clots that I first entertained the idea of a Creator. Prior to that, I firmly believed in Evolution.

    Ultimately, at the end of my existance here on this Earth, either all Truth will be revealed to me, or it won’t matter. I’m trying to I leave this place a little better than I was. And, I hope that I made a positive contribution while I was here.

  35. jlerch

    I’m puzzled by the lack of any true ID commentary here. (I don’t subscribe to ID (as I understand it) but at least it doesn’t conflict with what is plain to our senses–eyes, hears, taste, touch, smell and the sixth sense cerebral simulation/internal linguistic modeling–the way creationism does.) The only problem with ID is its non-testability; although to be fair at the level that ID is non-testable so is the metaphysics that atheists embrace.

  36. jlerch

    Dan’s post had not been appeared on my screen when I started writing; I daresay his post qualifies as “true ID”.

  37. I don’t want my name calling to be misinterpreted, so I will clarify. I am making an accusation against tom [and most, but not all, of the original letter writers]. Specifically, the accusation I am making is that they are motivated by an ideology and not by genuine curiosity.

    The arguments have been answered thoroughly. Many of us could recommend numerous links and/or books that would respond directly to the points/questions made by tom [et al]. By why bother? I do not trust them to read and understand those sources. If he were genuinely curious, he would already have more thorough responses than any casual poster could write in a few minutes.

    I would issue this challenge to tom: find a forum and a few participants from the other side of the debate, and _pretend_ to take each others’ side! This way, everyone can prove that they have actually read and tried to understand what the other side is saying.

    — or, to play tom’s game: How about webbed fingers? Does that meet your criteria?

  38. xgecko


    I will be a fool again for a moment…

    1.) Study the workings of the human mind and you will see that your comment does not mean a whole lot. Think of it this way: the human brain is an experience machine – it takes in raw data and generates an experience. There is an enormous volume of data that easily explains pretty much any subjective experience a human may appear to have have. My friend used this ignorant response on me many times and followed it up with an absolute refusal to study psychology – he called it shamanism. Very open mind there, eh?

    2.) Study the projects that have been based upon what are now called Genetic Algorithms. There are now a number of products out there that were engineered using variations of the principles behind Natural Selection. The simple fact is that Nature can engineer systems using Natural Selection along with a set of other ‘tools’ that creationists and ID believers see as ID. No such designer is needed but I have yet to meet a holder of this belief that will actually do the research and let the evidence speak to them. ID has been discredited many times now and it still makes no difference to those that believe otherwise. This is why I am no doubt wasting my time right now… more the fool am I!

    3.) I beg to differ. If we were to assume the following then we see a major problem:
    a.) Assume god exists (no hard, objective data to test the assumption is available but we will do so for the sake of argument)
    b.) Assume god created the Universe. (again, no hard objective data exists to support this assumption and as in the case of a above we cannot test this assumption).
    c.) Based upon a and b we can say that science is the method by which we study the work of god.
    d.) Let us therefore test the assumption that the bible – the only known source of any ‘data’ regarding god (for Christians, that is) – is the word of god.
    e.) If a and b are true then the word of god should be completely consistent with the work of god.
    f.) As has been shown many times Nature does not reconcile well with the bible – stories of a global flood, flat earth and so on are in conflict with the Universe god allegedly created. There are moral problems as well. I do not expect you to accept any of this but the facts, like all facts, do not depend upon your accepting them to be true. Reality is under no obligation to respect your personal belief system…
    g.) Science can also be stated as the means by which we determine how things actually are as opposed to how we believe them to be. This invalidates belief that is in conflict with observed Nature. Thus all forms of religion that contain elements in conflict with Nature cannot be assumed to be valid. Thus your statement is false. You like to use the *Understanding* claim to squirm out of this, that is fine, but it does not change anything. It simply allows you to reject anything you do not like about the facts that get in your way. I saw this behavior time and again with my engineer creationist; he would claim that when there is a conflict between Nature and his beliefs that it was simply due to our lack of understanding; he repeatedly made the claim that science ‘would catch up with the bible’. Of course this was invariably false but he never stopped saying it no matter how good the evidence was or how obvious it was that we actually do understand the subject at hand. This is one of the reasons I tired of him; he was stuck in a rut and had no desire to get out of it.

    4.) Good for you. You are at least closer to reality than YECs.

    5.) That would be due to the fact that evolution is not driven purely by chance and the comment you made clearly demonstrates that you are not very familiar with the principles that do in fact make it clear that evolution is what happened. Remember, evolution is both a fact recorded in the history of the Universe and a theory that we use to describe how it happened. Chance is but one of many factors that drive evolution; the properties of the universe (matter and energy), the geologic history of the Earth and many other factors contribute to driving evolution. Most creationists of either kind ignore these and claim that chance is the sole driver and that is why it is so hard to have a meaningful discussion with them. They are simply too ignorant to have a real discussion. In some cases it is a lack of education by circumstance, in other cases it is willful ignorance.

    6.) Wonderful. I am glad for you. I choose to live as an intelligent, thinking, moral and rational person that evaluates situations using my mind and a solid education in morality and ethics. One of the things that really irks me is when high and mighty Christians claim that I cannot possibly have a well developed sense of morality yet their god apparently does not understand that Slavery is never acceptable under any circumstances. In case you disagree please refer to Exodus where a list of what a Hebrew Slave Owner can and cannot do is outlined. If god is as Christians claim he is – a morally superior being – then he cannot support slavery in any way, manner, shape or form. There is only one position such a god can take on slavery – don’t do it. To have such a list in a work that is allegedly the word of god clearly shows that the Christian god is an invention of an ancient culture as this list reflects their value system, not that of a morally superior being.

    I would say that those that live like there is a god better hope they are right; life is precious and any time wasted worshiping a mythical being or financially supporting an organization dedicated to such worship is a waste of time – aside, that is, from the fraction of the finances that actually are distributed as charity (the one good thing about it).

    You should do more research into blood clotting, it is another strawman argument used by those that do not want to accept Reality and prefer to substitute their personal belief system instead.

    In case you do not want to look it up here is a part of the bible that cannot exist if the bible is the word of a morally superior god…

    With that I will end my time as a fool. Enjoy!

    Exodus 21
    1Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.

    2If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

    3If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

    4If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

    5And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

    6Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

    7And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

    8If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

    9And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.

    10If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

    11And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

    12He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

    13And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

    14But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

    15And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

    16And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

    17And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

    18And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:

    19If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

    20And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

    21Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

    22If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

    23And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

    24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

    25Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    26And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.

    27And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.

    28If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.

    29But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

    30If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.

    31Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.

    32If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

    33And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein;

    34The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.

    35And if one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide.

    36Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own.

  39. red green

    funny thing is ;
    the bible says that life started in the ocean
    actally mans arrivalis a latest chapter in the bible god had crcreated a world without man and found it lacking
    in my mind they are two views of the same event
    science has shown how the energy called life took hold on this plant and has developd into more and more sophisticatedforms of life until humans emerged
    the bible shows evedence of spiritual evolution
    in the garden we were discribed as hunter gather ers
    after eden we had an awareness of ourselves
    how long was it before we were ready for laws
    for christians there is even further evedence
    from clan fueds to individual accountability the law has led us
    the bible says we were made of the dust of the earth
    crrect me but i havent found another creation story that hits the main points that scientific research as uncovered as well as the bible

  40. Tat Yuen

    Well, done! Richard Dawkins and other enlightened critical thinkers would give you a pat on the back. How odd it is that creationist try to use the scientific method only on opposing views and not their own. This is somewhat frightening that such dogma can’t pervert and distort the minds of some many in what would be considered an educated class. Keep up the good work.

  41. Yo, Tom! Where’s the creationist response about the recurrent laryngeal nerve? Whatta ya got? Nothing?

  42. tom

    Oran: or, to play tom’s game: How about webbed fingers? Does that meet your criteria?

    No, I wouldn’t think so….as I believe that’s just a case of the skin between the toes not being fully eliminated during development.

  43. tom

    Paul….what are you referring to? Is that a mutation or what? link?

  44. Tom wrote: “Paul….what are you referring to? Is that a mutation or what? link?”

    Look for my messages above, from December 16th, 2008 at 7:13 pm, December 16th, 2008 at 11:59 pm.

    I provided links to two different resources clearly demonstrating scientifically validated mutations, as you requested. Did you look at either link? Both links are from very serious PhD scientists, who both happen to be museum curators. Please provide us your comments on the contents of these two links (one of which was sworn testimony in a Federal Court case which was not appealed).

    And I have asked you several times about the creationist rationale for the recurrent laryngeal nerve – see above for details. Yes, it is the result of hundreds of millions of years of continuing mutations, starting before there were any land animals, before there were any mammals or reptiles.

    And I have asked you politely several times whether you are a YEC or an OEC. Why can’t you answer such an easy question?

    But I really do want to hear about the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Please answer. Thanks.

  45. tom

    Paul: “Now, Tom: Your turn. Please provide your alternative explanation. How do creationists explain the convoluted path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, if evolution didn’t do it?”

    Well since there is no evidence that mutations can build bodies, my explanation would be that bodies must have been created by some other means. I am a YEC and I believe the world was created thousands of years ago, not millions.

    And regarding your “examples” of mutations that add body parts, maybe you missed out on the idea that I wanted to see a “scientifically-validated”…ie, “observed” example of a mutation that adds a new structure or new part to an existing structure. The reality is there are all kinds of mutations observed all over and every day in the scientific world that do all kinds of things and have all kinds of effects to organisims; provide resistance to chemicals and antibiotics, for example…but nowhere have I seen an example of a mutation that adds a body part. It’s the same idea as the concept that mutations don’t add information…I’m just expounding on it, requiring physical, structural evidence of new information. In order for a bacteria-like organism to evolve into humans, new features, new structures, new informaion must have been generated via mutation….this new information must have then been translated into new, novel features and structures. I’ve seen no such evidence that this is possible. I’ve seen mutations take away, defect, destroy and kill. I’ve seen mutations shrink or eliminate what’s already there…I’ve seen mutations duplicate what’s already there — but there are no mutations that add structural novelty, with the exception of maybe a tumor.

    Thanks for the good conversation… can always join me at Carm:

  46. Mel

    I have a question for you: You have declared over and over and over again that you have never seen any evidence for mutations that add information or generate a new body part. Given that the evidence is really quite abundant in the scientific literature, I really want to know this: what is your evidence that you have really looked? It seems more that you are parroting creationist talking points without having done any research of your own. How many journals do you regularly read? There are dozens, if not hundreds, that deal with evolution alone, and these publish thousands of papers presenting new research every year. How many of these papers have you read? Are you aware, for instance, that Drosophila geneticists have found a great many mutations that “add a body part”? Have you checked? I would suggest that you go to an academic library, ask to see the journal stacks, and then spend some time reading. It will take a long time, as there is over a century’s worth of papers documenting and explicating evolution, but it is something you really should do before you writing things like you have above (and after you have finished with biology, you should continue into geology to see if your YEC claims hold up). Now, if you are a typical creationist, you will write back demanding that I give you particular papers to read so as to make it easy on you. No. I will not do your work for you. Your comments show gross misunderstanding and ignorance of a large and vibrant field of science in which a great many people have done a great deal of work, and that work is still being done. It behooves you to do the honorable thing and study their work before you disparage and insult them with sweeping generalizations that are clearly made in ignorance of the actual science. If you have done the work, I would like you to give the readers here a list of the journals you regularly read and have read before you came to the conclusions you have placed here with no evidence to back them up. By journals, I don’t mean “Scientific American” or “Popular Science”, I mean actual, peer-reviewed journals such as “Nature”, “Science”, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)”, “Evolution”, “Evolutionary Applications”, “Current Biology”, “Trends in Ecology and Evolution”, and all the dozens of others. You could also enlighten us as to how many scientific papers you have actually read. A handful? None? Hundreds? Thousands? Before you declare there is no evidence for evolution, please give us evidence that you have actually looked beforehand, as an honest, honorable person should.

  47. Tom wrote (finally!): “I am a YEC and I believe the world was created thousands of years ago, not millions.”

    Thanks for clearing that up. So you believe that the Earth and the Universe and all life on earth were created in 4004 BC by the Miracle of Creation. It is preposterous that you continue to insist on scientifically validated information, when you reject all of science (astronomy, geology, biology, physics, etc., etc.) which dismisses creationism as a miracle – not scientifically validated in any way whatsoever. Do you see a problem with that? Do you understand the word “hypocrisy”?

    Out of curiosity, is your YEC belief system based primarily on information from Answers In Genesis, or from the Institute for Creation Research?

    Tom wrote: “Well since there is no evidence that mutations can build bodies, my explanation would be that bodies must have been created by some other means.”

    How absurd! I have presented you with scientifically validated evidence from actual scientists that mutations can build bodies. Did you even look at either or ? Please let us know.

    Both of these resources are from PhD museum curators. Please tell us what college your doctorate is in and what branch of biology your doctoral thesis was based on.

    Tom wrote: “…there are no mutations that add structural novelty…” So you do not believe that a fish’s fin evolving into a land animal’s foot and then into a human hand is “structural novelty” – as discussed in Dr. Neil Shubin’s book about Tiktaalik? Or have you read “Your Inner Fish”?

    And you still have provided with the creationist explanation for the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Why not?

  48. xgecko

    Tom is a perfect example of a typical YEC. Attacking with absurd claims while never once providing a shred of evidence to support their claims. Now that we know he is a card carrying YEC I have the following question for him…

    If I go around the world and dig holes at what point do I reach the ‘flood horizon’ and how do I know I did so? How do I differentiate between layers deposited during the alleged flood and layers deposited afterwards? How do I account for the very specific organization of fossils? How do I account for the very specific progression of radioisotope concentrations (which YECs refuse to accept represent actual dating progressions)? How do I account for the presence of steadily changing climate and ecosystem imprints found throughout the strata? How do I account for strata that were clearly not deposited by an aquatic process? Think deserts and forests and grasslands among others. There are plenty of strata that were developed over many years in such environments yet the YEC model is forced to claim they are aquatic in origin when any reasonably intelligent and unbiased person can easily see that cannot be true.

    For a perfect example you can travel to the John Day Fossil Beds in Central Oregon where we can observe the steady transition of the climate/ecosystem data beginning about 55 myo to about 6 myo or so. It begins as a wet, semi-tropical environment (think Florida) with the commensurate ecosystem and transitions over that time into an arid semi-desert as we observe it to be today. This transition is punctuated by the occasional volcanic event, some of which were quite large. I have never seen a YEC model that can even begin to explain this and many other well understood aspects of the geologic record. The YEC model has absolutely zero ability to explain what we observe – but of course it is not intended to be real science, it is intended to provide a framework for a belief system that has no actual support in Reality.

    There are so many other similar questions for which I have never seen a satisfactory answer – or any answer at all, for that matter – from a YEC that it is obvious they are devoid of any clue as to how absurd their beliefs really are. They profess great knowledge while displaying utter ignorance, yet they happily attack people that have actually done the research and can produce mounds of evidence backing their positions. How very Christian of them!

    The YEC movement is a movement of people that believe they can declare how Reality must be. I prefer to let Reality speak to me and I have too much respect for it to try to override what it has to say…

  49. Mel wrote: “Now, if you are a typical creationist, you will write back demanding that I give you particular papers to read so as to make it easy on you.”

    That’s why I’ve given Tom a couple of easy links to look at. So far, he hasn’t admitted he’s even looked at them – and as a typical YEC, I don’t expect him to look at them, understand them, or accept them.

    Once you get a creationist to admit they believe in miracles, the conversation vis-a-vis “science” is over, as miracles are religion, not science. Any further requests for scientific material by someone who accepts miracles but not actual science is intellectual dishonesty.

  50. tom

    Paul: “How absurd! I have presented you with scientifically validated evidence from actual scientists that mutations can build bodies. Did you even look at either or ? Please let us know.”

    No, paul….there is no evidence there that any of these creatures — or their structures — were formed via mutations. Once again, I’m looking for observed or induced mutations.

  51. tom

    by the way folks, it’s not that new body parts cannot be generated….it’s just I’ve seen no evidence that mutations can do it. As an example of a new body part that has been created, turn your attention to the following link:

    on page 2 you will read the following:

    “To the surprise of scientists, many environmentally induced changes turn out to be heritable. When exposed to predators, Daphnia water fleas grow defensive spines (right). The effect can last for several generations.”

    No mutations, no selection, nothing to even suggestion darwin’s theory of evolution is true. Instead, what we have is a case of individual response to an environmental cue. In this case, predators have induced a built-in, adaptive biological response from the waterfleas….which, in my book, amounts to magic. What other explanation could there be? Darwinian evolution was a theory constructed to get around magic and other non-scientific/unexplainable events, but that’s exactly what happens in nature. Darwin got everything wrong — darwinists say only populations evolve, but that is a premise that has been thoroughly debunked. Also what has been debunked is the idea that heredity is only written in the genetic code, in the genes. The reality is heredity is not limited to structural changes in dna, but other sources as well. The fact is, as proven by the aforementioned waterfleas, is that states of mind, thoughts, awareness, and emotions can not only be translated into morphological adaptations, but can also be passed down to future generations. Lamarck’s theory of the heredity of acquired characteristics has now been vindicated and validated, which puts darwinian evoltuion out of a job.

    from link:

    “Until recently, the idea that your environment might change your heredity without changing a gene sequence was scientific heresy. Everyday influences—the weights Dad lifts to make himself muscle-bound, the diet regimen Mom follows to lose pounds—don’t produce stronger or slimmer progeny, because those changes don’t affect the germ cells involved in making children. Even after the principles of epigenetics came to light, it was believed that methylation marks and other epigenetic changes to a parent’s DNA were lost during the process of cell division that generates eggs and sperm and that only the gene sequence remained. In effect, it was thought, germ cells wiped the slate clean for the next generation.

    That turns out not to be the case.”


  52. Mel

    “…states of mind, thoughts, awareness, and emotions can not only be translated into morphological adaptations, but can also be passed down to future generations. Lamarck’s theory of the heredity of acquired characteristics has now been vindicated and validated, which puts darwinian evoltuion out of a job.”

    Tom, while I notice that you did not directly answer my queries regarding your reading of the scientific literature, your latest post shows fairly clearly that you have done no reading at all of actual scientific papers (Nor, for that matter, do you apparently read popular scientific writing terribly closely. Epigenetic influences on progeny in no way shape or form eliminate Darwinian natural selection, nor the more than a century of research in evolutionary biology as a whole. This is rather obvious with even cursory consideration of the findings). New traits, functions, and, indeed, body parts, have been shown to have arisen from mutations many, many times. If you were to actually look into a few journals, you would see that there is ample documentation for this, in spite of your claim that there is no evidence. What I would like to know, though, is if you make your claims in such total ignorance, or do you actually believe your own claims? As it stands, your lack of clear evidence or argument for your position is compatible with either.

  53. I wrote (to Tom) “Did you even look at either or ? Please let us know.”

    And Tom replied: “No, paul….there is no evidence there that any of these creatures — or their structures — were formed via mutations. Once again, I’m looking for observed or induced mutations.”

    Tom, there’s lots of evidence. “None are so blind as those who will not see.” I’m not sure which is more blinding – your ignorance or your arrogance.

    And why have you not explained the recurrent laryngeal nerve? Is it because you can’t?

  54. JHB

    Tom: you seem very het up about finding a single mutation which gives rise to a new body part. That’s not how evolution works and, probably through no fault of your own, you’re looking for the wrong thing. Taking a fairly basic view of evolution, all you need are mutations which each slightly add to a single protein (and many such mutations have been observed, as you pointed out) and then LOTS and LOTS of time to allow these mutations to accumulate. There are, as other commenters have mentioned, various short cuts which mean that evolution doesn’t need to rely solely on indels, but, essentially, asking commenters for a single indel which generates a new body part is like asking a driver to identify the single turn of her car tyre which got her from Boston to DC: one won’t, lots will. Does that seem a fair analogy?

  55. tom

    Mel, if a group of spineless waterfleas were documented by science one year, and then in 5 years the same scientists came back to the same location, only to see that the population of waterfleas now had spines, it would have been concluded that the population “evolved” via natural selection.

    In fact, this sort of thing has happened many times in the past: science observes a group of animals one year, then comes back a few years later only to see that they’ve changed, and then science jumps up and down at the ‘evolution’ that they just witnessed. In reality, the ‘evoltuion’ was not evolution at all, but just individual change in response to environmental cues. This stuff happens all over and it’s often heritable. I can no more prove that darwinian evolution doesn’t happen than I can prove fairies don’t exist. But what I can do is show you that the exact opposite of darwinian evolution is true: that individuals organsism have the capacity to learn, have the ability to be aware of their surroundings, and sport the internal mechanisms to do something about it. This reality skews any notion that the fossil record is shows a history of physical “evolution”…and instead proves that the fossil record is actually just a history of changes in minds. I’ve got my proof that individuals can create their own adapataions — where’s yours that they can’t?

  56. tom

    Paul: “And why have you not explained the recurrent laryngeal nerve? Is it because you can’t?”

    my explanation is that it has no scientific explanation. That’s as good as it’s going to get. I see no evidence that accidents can form a partial laryngeal nerve, have you?

  57. tom

    JHB: “Tom: you seem very het up about finding a single mutation which gives rise to a new body part”

    uh…then show me multiple mutations that create a new bodily structure…it doesn’t matter to me…use all you want. The point though is that I’m looking for the “science” here, not an after-the-fact speculation. Heck, I could look at chimps and humans after-the-fact and mindlessly claim that they “obviously” share a common ancestor, but that assertion wouldn’t be science. Neither is it science to compare genomes of different animals and conclude that simply because they’re different that RMNS is responsible. how do you know the differences weren’t caused by HGT or epgienetic changes? You cannot just blindly claim that darwinian evolution is responsible for the generation of selectable bodily structures without evidence that it can do so.

  58. Mel

    I am still waiting on the list of journals you read, as well as a report on the primary papers you have actually read before coming to your conclusions.

    And it seems you still don’t understand that phenotypic plasticity and epigenetic inheritance is not in any way fatal to evolutionary biology in general or to natural selection in specific. What is more, you still do not seem to comprehend that many, many, many studies published in the primary literature (which I am fairly certain now that you are completely ignorant of) have traced new traits, new body parts, and various other changes directly to particular mutations.

    I will also anticipate Paul here and note that you answered his question in the negative, ignored that there are scientific explanations for the recurrent laryngeal nerve, and then, by referred to evolution as simply “accidents” shown great ignorance of even the basics of evolution.

  59. Mel

    “Neither is it science to compare genomes of different animals and conclude that simply because they’re different that RMNS is responsible. how do you know the differences weren’t caused by HGT or epgienetic changes?”

    And so here you show that you are also ignorant of genomics. There are very well-established techniques for identifying horizontally transferred genetic information, for one thing. For another, epigenetics involves modification of gene expression, but does not, by definition, alter the underlying genetic code. Genomics deals with the underlying code itself.

    And you have yet to explain how it is that you can conclude there is not evidence for evolution by natural selection, when there is plenty of evidence. I ask again, are you simply ignorant of the primary literature?

  60. tom

    Mel, the raw material for selection is random/accidental/spontaneously-unplanned/undesigned/unbiased genetic change. Darwinian evoltuion requires a constant supply of accidental genetic changes, for which selection can make use of. Without that, evoltuion stalls.

    And please stop accusing me of not reading papers. Indeed I am not a scientist…I’m just a normal person who likes to talk about the subject of evolution. Then again, I am not the one relying on a theory to prove my case — you are. And it’s for this reason that I am asking science to provide evidence (a paper?) that mutations can do as advertised and generate new information, resulting in new, selectable gross anatomical features. You’ve got all of the books and papes at your disposal that you claim I haven’t read. So feel free to use any of those. I’m willing to listen.

  61. tom

    Mel: “And so here you show that you are also ignorant of genomics. There are very well-established techniques for identifying horizontally transferred genetic information, for one thing. For another, epigenetics involves modification of gene expression, but does not, by definition, alter the underlying genetic code. Genomics deals with the underlying code itself.”

    Indeed. Good points. I think my point was that it is not out of the realm of possibility that organisms can generate their own adaptive genetic changes, including the creation of new genes. Of course, I don’t think organsisms share a common ancestor so it is not up to me to explain scientifically how it is that all organisms came to sport their own particular genomes. I think genomes were, for the most part, created as a part of a whole from the very start. In otherwords, whole creatures were initially created, and these creatures obviously had fully-formed, fully-functional genomes…genomes, of which have changed and have constantly been adjusting to environmental challenges over the years. But these changes are not accidental changes…they are changes brought about by changes in mind or even physial changes like in diet. But the bottom line is that individuals are inherently dynamic, responsive, non-random, non-accidental, directional, purposeful and internally-capable of creating their own fitness in the face of environmental challenges….this fact eliminates any need for selection to do so.
    and goal-directed, ie., productive and systematic, i.e., intelligent

  62. JHB

    Tom: OK, I’ve got a life, so don’t expect me to post too regularly. Also, be aware that what you’ve asked for is not trivial – people’s careers have been spent in showing what you’ve requested.

    That said, let’s start somewhere simple and topical. Have a look at the bottom of this page. You should see a bunch of coloured tubes, of which the third from the left is labelled “EGFP”. The “GFP” bit stands for Green Fluorescent Protein, which fluoresces green, as you can see. GFP is (off the top of my head) a few hundred amino acids long. All the other tubes contain EGFP mutants (a couple of amino acid substitutions, usually). Now, here you have to trust me, ‘cos I couldn’t be bothered to dig out the reference: these tubes really DO contain mutant proteins and they really have been published in decent scientific journals. So much so that the chap at the top of that page – Roger Tsien – won one of this year’s Nobel prizes.

    So, just for starters, would you take this as evidence for the principle “that mutations can do as advertised and generate new information”, in this case, create a red colour where none existed before?

    If so, I’ll continue in a later post…

  63. Tom wrote: “my explanation is that (the recurrent laryngeal nerve) has no scientific explanation. That’s as good as it’s going to get. I see no evidence that accidents can form a partial laryngeal nerve, have you?”

    That’s not the issue, and I think you know that.

    The original pre-cursor of the laryngeal nerve went around a gill arch in our primordial fish ancestor, and over hundreds of millions, as the gil arch morphed into an aorta, the laryngeal stayed looped around it, as our ancestor grew a neck between its chest and head.

    Of course, as a YEC, you think all of this came about since 4004 BC and there simply isn’t time for these changes to happen.

    Tom wrote: “The point though is that I’m looking for the “science” here…”

    No, you’re not. As a YEC, you believe in a thousands-of-years-old Bronze Age creation myth. For you to state that you believe in Young Earth Creationism and then say you are looking for science is absurd, as there is utterly no science involved with your belief system, which violates every precept of astronomy, geology, biology, physics and every other science.

    Let’s see…let’s try another tack: As a YEC, I’m sure you accept the truth of Noah’s Ark. Tell us, how many syphilis spirochetes, tuberculosis bacteria, Ebola virus, gonorrhea bacteria, leprosy bacilli, cholera bacteria, smallpox virii, West Nile virii, typhoid, polio, diphtheria, influenza, malaria, yellow fever, plague, etc., etc., were on board Noah’s Ark? Recall that some of these are specifically human pathogens, some of which multiply rapidly, some of which are quickly fatal… Where were these pathogens carried on Noah’s Ark (which you will recall carried all life on the planet) – and how did Noah’s family survive?

    (Anybody else see the problem here…?)

  64. tom

    JBH…can you at least provide a link? What is this about, genetic engineering? And what was the new body part?

  65. Mel


    So, you admit that you haven’t done much if any reading of the primary literature. This means that you have come to broad, sweeping conclusions regarding evolutionary biology, its claims, and the evidence behind those claims without having done the due diligence of studying the field, its claims, and its evidence first. In other words, you are arguing from a position of ignorance. You later say that I should provide you with papers and books to read, and that the onus is on me to defend evolutionary biology. I think you are mistaken here. First, you came here and declared yourself ready to debate any “evolutionists”, but by your own admission, you haven’t evaluated the evidence of what you are attacking if you haven’t gone through the literature. You are thus asking me to rectify your ignorance because you are too lazy to do so yourself. Further, despite your admitted ignorance, you are still willing to make your broad, sweeping claims with arrogant confidence. The lack of humility that shows is awe-inspiring to say the least. Second, evolutionary theory has been bolstered by more than a century of research, and it continues to be bolstered by work that is published every day. It stands on a solid foundation of millions of pages of reports detailing the hard work of the lifetimes of hundreds of thousands of biologists. You come and then declare that the onus is on we who support and study evolution to play defense? To make a case to you? No. The onus is on you to make a case. You have presented no evidence. You have presented no well-thought out arguments. You have come with insults, arrogance, and shoddy conclusions based on misunderstanding and ignorance. You, for instance, lay out above a conception of neo-Lamarkian evolution that you say nullifies evolution by natural selection, but you don’t explain your evidence, nor what predictions you make from your model, nor how that model might be tested. You simply assert, and again, by your own admission, you do so in ignorance. Do you not see the problem with this? I am a biologist, and I can’t tell you how much time and work even simple experiments to answer small questions in my research takes, or how many uncounted hours I have spent going over research papers, and if I seem more than a little miffed at you for how unbelievably insulting you have been toward my entire field, well, I feel more than a bit justified. Please, for the honor of yourself and your parentage, go and do a little reading before doing this again. You may be a layman, but you should still consider yourself bound by honor and decency to learn about a subject before you make such declarations regarding it.

    And yes, mutations are “accidents” in the sense that they are random, but they are random not in the sense that they can be anything, but only in the sense of their effects being random with regard to the selective forces prevailing upon the organism. Mutations, after all, are chance alterations due to copying errors or DNA damage to pre-existing code. Every now and then the alterations result in increased fitness, and those variants come then to be over-represented in ensuing generations because of their fitness effects. Random variation of the pre-existing code coupled with non-random selection is very powerful as an algorithm to find new and improved function of old designs. This is why there is an entire field of evolutionary engineering currently developing that seeks to apply natural selection to engineering problems.

    As for genomes, your ignorance is appalling. I would suggest reading Sean Carroll’s “The Making of the Fittest” as a starting point, and then going into the primary literature from there. You can eventually do your own perusal of sequenced genomes yourself, as the primary database of genomic information, Genbank, is a public resource run out of the National Center for Bioinformatics ( You will find a lot of information and tools there. Off that site you will also find links to PubMed and other primary literature databases from which you can start finding papers that go over such things a mutations that have led to novel features in various organisms, and myriads of other topics on which you have pontificated without knowledge. So, Tom, go out there and remedy your ignorance. You will perhaps find yourself challenged, and you will perhaps also find that Christianity is not incompatible with science (I have known a good many devout Christians, for instance, who are biologists and have no trouble finding consonance between their faith and their scientific understanding of the world). Perhaps you will find a bit of contrition for the false witness you have born against evolutionary biologists.

  66. tom

    Paul…you are evading your own subject. As I said before, just because a particular animal seems to go through some structural changes does not automatically crown ToE as the winning explanation without the science to back it up. Just because the alternative is unacceptable to you isn’t a good reason just to close your eyes and say “evolution did it.” That’s no better than me saying “God did it.” I mean let’s be real here. And I’ve already shown you a case where an organism seem to generate a new trait out of thin air due to an awareness of a nearby predator. It may very well be that many of the morphological adaptations in the wild are epigenetic, not genetic. And if this is the case then the darwinists are stuck without an explanation for the origin of genomes, as selected bodies would not be tied to selected changes in genes.

    As for the Flood, yes I believe that….why shouldn’t I?

    If you purchase a book called “Atlantis — The Antediluvian World” (copyrighted in 1882) by Ignatius Donnelly, you will read this (after an exhaustive comparison of ancient flood legends) on page 92:

    “No one can read these legends and doubt that the Flood was an historical reality. It is impossible that in two different places in the Old World, remote from each other, religious ceremonies should have been established and perpetuated from age to age in memory of an event which never occurred.

    It is too much to ask us to believe that Biblical history, Chaldean, Iranian, and Greek legends signify nothing, and that even religious pilgrimages and national festivities were based upon a myth.”

    And not only do the legends of the Old World point to the reality of a Flood, but so do the legends of the New World. Donnelly empasizes and corroborates this with the following:

    “It is a very remarkable fact,” says Alfred Maury that we find in America traditions of the Deluge coming infintely nearer to that of the Bible and the Chaldean religion than among any people of the Old World. It is difficult to suppose that the emigration that certainly took place from Asia into North America by the kourile and Aleutian Islands, and still does in our day, should have brought in these Mongol or Siberian populations which were fused with the natives of the New World…The attempts that have been made to trace the origin of Mexican civilization to Asia have not as yet led to any sufficiently conclusive facts…besides, had Buddhism, which we doubt, made its way into America, it could not have introduced a myth not found in its own scriptures. The cause of these similarities between the diluvian traditions of the nations of the New World and that of the Bible remains therefore unexplained.”

    “The cause of these similarities can be easily explained: the legends of the Flood did not pass into America by way of the Aleutian Islands, or through the buddhists of Asia, but were derived from an actual knowledge of Atlantis possessed by the people of America.”

    Taken from Cataclysm! by D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair…0045367&sr=1-1

    “It is widely agreed that, towards the close of Pleistocene times, profound climatic deterioration occurred worldwide. Numerous life-forms previously dominant or very prolific either became extinct or greatly depleted numerically. This change affected the animal and vegetable kingdoms equally, marking in fact a Great Divide in the terrestrial biological record. From a uniformatarian standpoint, this was truly an extraordinary occurrence representing a real catastrophe.

    So widespread is the evidence for these changes, and so apparently indiscriminate the annihilation of diverse animal groups, that the closing stages of the Pleistocene period might justifiably be style an age of wholesale slaughter. In the words of Prof. L C Eiseley: “We are not dealing with a single isolated relict species but with a considerable variety of Pleistocene forms, all of which must be accorded, in the light of cultural evidence, an approximately similar time of extinction.”

    In Europe immense herds of diverse animals utterly vanished off the face of the Earth for no obvious biological reason. ….all the camels, all the horses, all the round sloths, two genera of musk-oxen, peccaries, antelopes, a giant bison with a horn spread of six feet, a giant beaver-like animal, a stag-moose and several kinds of cats, some of which were lion-sized.

    Additions to this list include several types of elephant, all the northern rhinoceroses, giant armadillos, several kinds of bear, numerous members of the canine family, tapirs, a variety of rodents and various flightless birds.

    Coincident with this dreadful slaughter upon the land was the deposition far inland of myriads of contemporary marine shells, and the stranding at great elevations of marine mammals such as whales, porpoises, walruses and seals. Elsewhere, vast forests were flattened and buried under equally vast accumulation of sand or mud or piled up in broken and twisted heaps. At some localities plant remains were packed so densely and in such abundance as to form lignite (soft brown coal akin to peat) beds of great extent, while at others animal and plant remains were mixed together in inexpressible confusion as heterogeneous masses. In Alaska, for example, thick frozen deposits of volcanic ash, silts, sands, boulders, lenticles and ribbons of unmelted ice, and countless relics of late Pleistocene animals and plants lie jumbled together in no discernible order.”

    The author goes on page after page after page of descriptions of plants and animals and insects from all over the world that seem to have exhibited the same fate, ending with this:

    “Further examples, not detailed here, are also known from other parts of the world. The process responsible for these effects clearly operated not only at many widely-sundered localities and at more or less the same point in Earth history, but affected plants, invertebrates, insects and land, sea and air animals equally. In other words, it acted globally and indiscriminately. Allied with the phenomena found in Alaska, a repeating pattern of wholesale destruction, often involving organisms which could never have lived in the vicinity of huge ice-sheets, emerges world-wide. It was a time when appalling carnage and tremendous natural disturbances occurred hand in hand. Put bluntly, it was a time of unbridled turmoil.”

  67. tom

    My Gosh Mel….no need to get offended. Just because I think the larger field of reductionist, blind-to-the-whole, anti-systems biology is a waste of time and money is no reason to feel upset, it’s just my personal opinion that they are not seeing the forest for the trees.

    The reality is that ToE is taught to my kids in school. Darwin’s finches are propped right up as examples of “evolution,” when the truth is they are no such thing. The reality is there isn’t even a genetic change involved with the finch beaks, and thus, no selection and no evolution occurs. Instead, the beaks are tweaked and altered by changes in the bmp4 protein during development. This tweak is a result of the mother bird’s hormones, brought on by her awareness of her surroundings. Same thing happens here, whereby finches somehow “know” they’ve been infested with mites, and as a response alter the birth order of their offspring and promote the rapid development of their males, because males are more sensitive to mites than females are. And once again, this alteration has nothing to do with the passive/mindless/accidental/braindead form of variation that darwinism requires (random mutation) but instead the bird uses awareness (on some level) and an intelligent/mindful biological response to deal with the impending threat:

    “When breeding female finches are exposed to the mites, their bodies make hormonal changes that help out their more susceptible sons. When a female finch lays eggs, she lays only one per day. The hormone shifts in her body change the order in which eggs are laid—girls first, boys last—and make the male chicks grow faster while they’re still in the egg.”

    No evolution. No random mutation. No selection. No science — just unexplainable, non-scientific magic. How could this be explained in any other way? And it’s the same process with the finch beaks that are proclaimed in my kids’ textbook as “evolution” — ha! Who are they trying to fool? There’s no evolution there — just finches sensing their environments, experiencing real emotions, and having those emotional thoughts tranferred and translated to her developing offspring via hormones.

    I beleive all organisms were designed miraculously and intelligently, with a built-in capacity to learn and respond to biological challenges. Selection is not only not required — but isn’t even involved in biological change at all…in fact, selection prevents biological change.

  68. tom

    Paul: “Let’s see…let’s try another tack: As a YEC, I’m sure you accept the truth of Noah’s Ark. Tell us, how many syphilis spirochetes, tuberculosis bacteria, Ebola virus, gonorrhea bacteria, leprosy bacilli, cholera bacteria, smallpox virii, West Nile virii, typhoid, polio, diphtheria, influenza, malaria, yellow fever, plague, etc., etc., were on board Noah’s Ark?”

    None of those were…none of those breathe air through their nostrils. You need to read Genesis again, my friend.

  69. Mel


    You insult my field in ignorance and then prattle on arrogantly about magic. In other words, you have no intention of actually engaging the evidence or reading the original research. You feel you “know”, and thus don’t have to learn. Fine. Thank you. You have verified that you are yet another creationist who argues in bad faith and is unworthy of serious consideration. Just be aware that you are cheating yourself and your children, and bringing dishonor on yourself and them. Very sad, when you could cure your ignorance so easily…

  70. xgecko

    Tom is an excellent example of why I gave up on attempting to have meaningful discussions with YECs. They are so ignorant they have no clue as to how ignorant they truly are. They latch onto a specific thing – in this case the notion of a single or multiple mutations creating a new body part – and refuse to look at the real picture. They act like their view is the only valid view and refuse to be rational when shown that they are simply not understanding how evolution actually works.

    My engineer friend did much the same thing; he invented benchmarks that evolution must meet yet which are entirely unrealistic and were based on an ignorant concept of evolution. I tried and tried to talk sense into him on the basis that being an engineer he must be rational but what I found is that in this context he is anything but rational. Tom is using a bogus standard by which he is evaluating evolution and he refuses to educate himself sufficiently to understand why his question is absurd. At some level this makes sense; he is actually not at all interested in the truth if it conflicts with his belief system.

    I pointed out things like paleosols (ancient soils created over long periods of time by ancient ecosystems) that are utterly incompatible with the notion of a recent global flood as the source of the sedimentary layers and my engineer friend went so far as to admit that this data was a major problem for his belief system. His response was to claim that this must mean we really do not understand geology as well as we think. Never mind that geology, like evolutionary science is very well established and quite mature, if it conflicts with his belief system by definition it must be wrong.

    What I learned is that the arrogance of these kinds of people is exceeded only by their ignorance. Time and again I would exhort my friend to study biology, geology, evolutionary science and so on and he refused to do so using the excuse that he did not have the time. He was very conversant with Thermodynamics and I finally did get him to let go of his absurd notion that the laws of thermodynamics prevent evolution but he would not go beyond that.

    I once pointed out that we know that the decay rate of radioisotopes is constant for all intents and purposes by pointing out that one can simply look up on a clear night and see that the laws of physics were the same millions and billions of years ago on the basis that they are operating before our very eyes. He responded that we really cannot be sure that the light we are seeing is that old. It truly boggles the mind at how contorted their ‘reasoning’ can be.

    I finally gave up after having contacted many of the YEC pseudoscientists he worshiped in order to demonstrate directly that they were not reliable sources of data. I spent about three months working on a debunking of the infamous RATE project which claims to demonstrate that radioisotope dating is not reliable – it is of course a deeply flawed work of what can only be described as pseudoscientific propaganda – and he more or less bought it for a while. A year or so later he decided that he must accept the work as valid so he can support his beliefs. I asked him how something that was untrue last year suddenly became true this year. His response? He saw the principle investigator in a debate with some poor sod and he told me “the (pseudo)scientist held his own and sounded good to me”. I could take it no more so I gave up on him. He proved to me that once a person is infected with the YEC brain parasite they are no longer capable of rational thought in this context.

    What does all this mean? It means you are wasting your time trying to convince Tom that evolution actually is what happened and is a valid theory. He is simply not interested in this information. He needs to believe in his god and will not allow anyone to take it away from him.

    I notice that he never once responded to my simple question about digging a hole; that is very typical of YECs. They create a bogus question and narrowly focus on it as if it actually has meaning. If one falls for their ploy make sure there are not two fools in the discussion… I know this because for 7 years I was one of those fools…

  71. tom

    Mel, I’ve given you my evidence for the miraculous…now you give me evidence for your religious assertion that organisms are no more intelligent than stumps or doorknobs and that it takes selection to pick and choose from a pool of mindless, passive, unresponsive, uninterested, unintelligent organisms who must do nothing but pray to Lady Luck that they happen to be given the “right” set of genes from the “right” spin of the genetic lottery wheel of life.

    The truth of it is that I have already given you plenty of evidence that intelligence must exist within the organism. It is this intelligence that the whole theory of evoltuion was dreamed up to bypass. Selection was crowned the “creator” of fitness because organisms were supposedly too dumb and too passively-inept to do anything about creating their own fitness. But despite irrefutable evidence that organisms have within them amazing complexity and incomprehensible abilities to create fitness, you darwinists continue to believe in your wacky, materialist religious selectionist movement with wide-eyed fanatacism, which not only rivals, but surpasses the religious ideologues you people claim to be so superior to.

  72. Mel


    First, I was not discussing religion with you. I was discussing science. I keep my religious views (which are private) separate from my science. If you have chose to interpret evolutionary biology (which, again, you have admitted yourself be ignorant regarding), in a way that forces it to be religious, then, well, that is your little red wagon and you can push it and pull it as you wish, though I hope you one day realize that you are not addressing science but you strange, almost purposeful misunderstanding of it. From what you have written, you don’t really understand what science is in general, so your ignorance is not limited to evolutionary biology or genomics. That is sad, and is easily rectified by doing some research, visiting a few libraries, and reading a great deal. Frankly, I don’t recognize the field in which I work in your diatribes.
    Second, you gave no evidence of much of anything. You have made arguments of assertion out ignorance and attacked strawman versions of evolution and science. As for miracles, I didn’t see any evidence you gave of them, either. Given that I don’t recall the thread being about miracles, I don’t find this alarming, though I think it rather interesting you think you gave evidence for them.
    Third, I am very much aware of how complex the living world is. I study it after all. Still, no matter how complex it, it is still understandable. Though we are nowhere close to understanding every facet of it, there is much we do understand and know thanks to the tireless efforts and frustrations of generations of scientists who have been toiling at their benches and in the field for a very long time. The testament to their work is in academic libraries in the millions of pages of research papers that you could easily access and find out just how incorrect your views of evolution , life, and science are. You have admitted you have not gone through these papers. Perhaps it is because you know you are wrong, but do not wish to admit it to yourself. Learn a little humility and do some reading.

    Finally, your last sentence is sad, and shows a complete lack of comprehension of what real scientists are like. I have worked side by side in my research with Hindus, Christians of assorted denominations, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, and, yes, a number of atheists and agnostics. None of them could be called religious ideologues, and none of them could be called fanatics (save of some sports teams). It is sad that you have judged them so without knowing them in the least, or even having done them the service of learning of their field before condemning them for their work. You have again borne false witness. How sad.

  73. tom

    Alright, Mel…I’m not going to sit here and play the insult game. Here’s the bottom line: The ideas that organisms share a common ancstor because they have diverged genetically (changes in sequence of DNA) is patently false. I know it, you know it, the researchers know, the media knows it — the only people who don’t know it are my kids and the rest of our youth coming up through the ranks of school. These people are being lied to and fed a bunch of nonsense in the name of “science.” As it is now known, the mechanism of “evolution” has now officially changed, and is no longer what is presented in my kids’ textbooks…turns out humans and opossums share the same set of protein-coding genes:

    Opossum Genome Shows ‘Junk’ DNA Source Of Genetic Innovation

    ScienceDaily (May 10, 2007) — A tiny opossum’s genome has shed light on how evolution creates new creatures from old, showing that change primarily comes by finding new ways of turning existing genes on and off.

    The research, by an international consortium led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, revises our understanding of genetic evolution. Scientists previously thought that evolution slowly changed the genes that create specific proteins. As the proteins changed, so did the creatures that owned them.

    The current research shows that opossum and human protein-coding genes have changed little since their ancestors parted ways, 180 million years ago. It has been the regulation of their genes – when they turn on and off – that has changed dramatically.

    “Evolution is tinkering much more with the controls than it is with the genes themselves,”….

    ….It had been initially thought that most of a creature’s DNA was made up of protein-coding genes and that a relatively small part of the DNA was made up of regulatory portions that tell the rest when to turn on and off.

    As studies of mammalian genomes advanced, however, it became apparent that that view was incorrect. The regulatory part of the genome was two to three times larger than the portion that actually held the instructions for individual proteins.

    “The official textbook picture of how genes work really didn’t appear to be right,” Lander said.”

    regarding opossums again:

    “The research suggests that mammal genomes may have evolved as a result of rearranging non-coding or ‘junk DNA’ sequences outside genes, rather than by variation in functional genes that produce proteins.”


    ———–next: kangaroos — same story; same protein-coding genes as humans:

    “Essentially humans and kangaroos have the same set of 20,000 genes, said Graves, but the differences lie in the sequences of those genes and when in development they are turned on and off.” (sounds familiar)

    “There are a few differences, we have a few more of this, a few less of that, but they are the same genes and a lot of them are in the same order,” said Professor Jenny Graves, …. “In fact there are great chunks of the [human] genome sitting right there in the kangaroo genome,” Graves was quoted as saying by the ABC Science online today.”

    ———Yet here we have the definition of evoltuion:

    “Evolution – changes in population allele frequencies over time. The population is the smallest unit which can evolve”

    so the definition of evolution is “changes in allele frequencies over time” –yet the latest genome mappings show that humans and opossums and kangaroos all sport nearly the exact same set of protein-coding genes and differences lie in when and where the genes are turned on or off.


    “Kangaroos are a marvellous model for studying human development and reproduction because they are born very early and complete much of their development in the pouch – rather than the womb,” said the University of Melbourne’s Marilyn Renfree who is taking over as KanGO director from today.

    “This makes them a powerful tool for studying the genes and hormones involved in mammalian reproduction and development,” she added.

  74. I asked Tom: “Tell us, how many syphilis spirochetes…etc., etc., were on board Noah’s Ark?”

    And Tom replied: “None of those were…none of those breathe air through their nostrils. You need to read Genesis again, my friend.”

    As Genesis has no scientifically validated evidence whatsoever, how can it contribute anything? But let’s try: If none of those human pathogenic organisms were on Noah’s Ark, how did they survive Noah’s Flood? Remember some of these organisms survive only in humans, and the only humans were in the Ark – so where were these pathogenic organism? (And remember, we’re only dealing with scientifically validated evidence here.)

  75. tom

    paul, I’ve given you multiple links contradicting the idea that changes in protein-coding genes is what’s responsible for organismal evolution and you’re worried about bacteria on Noah’s Ark? Maybe the bacteria can float…maybe it rode in the animal crap on the boat…maybe it lived in Noah — maybe it didn’t exist at all at that time — who cares. There is no sense worrying yourself over something that cannot be definitively answered one way or the other.

  76. Mel

    “The ideas that organisms share a common ancstor because they have diverged genetically (changes in sequence of DNA) is patently false. I know it, you know it, the researchers know, the media knows it — the only people who don’t know it are my kids and the rest of our youth coming up through the ranks of school. These people are being lied to and fed a bunch of nonsense in the name of “science.””

    So you have come to this conclusion that everyone is lying despite not having delved even a little into the primary literature, so now you are making claims of a conspiracy by argument of assertion and ignorance. Again, I am troubled that you are so willing to insult so many people without any real understanding of what you are saying.

    As to junk DNA being a source of innovation, yeah, that has taken many by surprise. Science is provisional and theory is refined as new evidence comes to light. That is the nature of science. Do you not understand that? Frankly, as a scientist, I don’t find such findings rattling, but thrilling. New findings add to the wonder of the natural world, and we scientists welcome that. How is it so threatening to you?

    As to whether most evolution takes place by alteration of protein-coding genes or in the regulatory regions of those genes, that is a subject of much debate, and it will be decades before enough research is done to settle the matter. As someone who works in evolutionary biology, I think it will likely come down to “it depends on the lineage and trait”. Genomics has shown so far that Ohno was correct about gene duplication being fountainhead of new variation – that is quite clear. However, regulatory changes are also coming to be found responsible for many evolutionary novelties as well (see the literature – it isn’t hidden at all. Nature often has at least one piece every week on the topic). Again, I think it depends. If this uncertainty threatens you, well, that is too bad. Science is incomplete, and that is simply its nature. Give it another ten thousand years, and much more will be known. I am sorry you can’t accept that.

    It is nice to see, Tom, how well you are conforming to the golden rule. How you are refraining from judgment. How lacking in overweening pride you are. How unwilling you are to bear false witness. Nice.

    I would back off on the conspiracy theories, though. Madness and paranoia lie down that path.

  77. tom

    Mel: “As to whether most evolution takes place by alteration of protein-coding genes or in the regulatory regions of those genes, that is a subject of much debate”

    Well, I don’t see how it could be much of a debate, as it is now coming out that probably all mammals share the same basic sets of protein-coding genes and even the same sets of proteins. What’s to debate? Of course, this is not to say that changes in protein-coding genes don’t happen, but the issue is whether or not these changes distinguish one kind of animal from another. The ToE story has always been that they do, and that natural selection was the lynch pin behind it. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that random mutations have nothing to do with evolution and they certainly have nothing to do with causing differences between different kinds of animals. Sure, the color of a flower may be written DNA, and sure enough if the gene changes, the color of the flower may change, but that is a far cry from the idea that genes are actually the causes of differnce between animals. Heck, Humans and kangaroos each share the same 20,000 genes (more or less), so right there it is only logical to assume that animals cannot be reduced to or explained their genes…and since animals cannot be reduced to or explained by their genes, then animals animals cannot be reduced or explained by RMNS, or darwinian evolution.

    Thus, as I said before, it’s for this reason that science, and specifically biology, is completely and totally in the dark and has been working off of a flawed premise for the past 9 decades — and that flawed premise is that animal populations are passive and unintelligent, yet have evolved into different kinds of animals because of natural selection’s ability to create genetic fitness over time.

    A theory cannot stand if the mechanism used to support it has no legs…and according to my links, it has no legs… (from my link):

    “The research suggests that mammal genomes may have evolved as a result of rearranging non-coding or ‘junk DNA’ sequences outside genes, rather than by variation in functional genes that produce proteins.”

    I rest my case

  78. tom

    more predator-induced, heritable defenses:

    “This study appears to be the first to examine the narrowsense
    heritability of predator-induced defenses. Because
    the heritabilities in this experiment were observed under
    relatively natural conditions, the results likely apply to
    heritabilities in nature (Weigensberg & Roff, 1996).
    Combined with previous studies of broad-sense heritabilities,
    it is becoming clear that predator-induced traits
    can frequently be heritable, although the magnitude of
    heritability can be wide ranging across environments.”

    Also, as I said earlier, what has been misconstrued as “evolution” in the field may actually be nothing more than phenotypic plasticity or heritable epigenetic changes that come as a result of a biological self-(re)organization in response to predators or other challenges. As Lee Spetner put it:

    • “A change in phenotype in the fossil record is recognized as evolution. There is no way to tell from the fossils whether the observed changes in continuous records were caused by variation appearing in the genotype or only in the phenotype” (NBC:196).

    In other words, it is impossible to deduce whether or not apparent transitional features of a fossil are truly the results of changes in the genotype (i.e. random mutations) or are merely the results of specific organisms adapting to their different environments as a result of phenotypic plasticity.

    Also, the phenomenon of phenotypic plasticity is what one would expect to find if an intelligent Creator were responsible for the existence of life on earth.

  79. Mel

    I rest my case

    You made a case? Still waiting for something other than shoddy thinking, purposeful misunderstanding of popular accounts, and arguments by assertion. Go on again about these conspiracies you seem to see in science.

    Tom, you have utterly discredited yourself. Take some time to read actual research papers, learn a bit about science in general, and then read up on the basics of evolutionary biology. Ridley’s “Evolution” is a standard introductory text that would be most beneficial to you. Above all, though, try to learn to not pick fights, to insult large groups of people for poor reasons, and to be civil and considerate enough to learn a little about a subject before attacking it. I had a friend in high school who once said that he preferred to not know much about a topic if he went into a casual debate with someone. After all, he said, if he knew what he was talking about, he would be restricted to actual facts and good arguments, but if he was wholly ignorant, then he could simply make up whatever he wanted and not be restrained by reality. He was largely joking, and never took his arguments seriously. You seem to use his strategy, but with far less self-awareness of what you are doing.

  80. xTal

    Tom and Mel’s debates are very interesting indeed. Human mind are of such design (evolutionarily – of course 😛 ) that it will create justifications to faith already taken. Well, conservative mind mixed with paranoia of being attacked, add a combative temperament. We have these kind of minds all the time, don’t we? Nod to xgecko –

    Actually how Tom’s mind works is another proof of evolution …

    Truth be told, a specimen like Tom is rare, he DID read some articles! (I wonder xgecko’s engineer – well I am an engineer myself — most likely he didn’t even read his bible!).
    He always misspell evoltioun (I think as a way to insult the term as in the case of a certain Iraqi’s shoe ..) but if he keeps doing this I still have hope that his mind will see the light before the end… it is hard to keep hallucinating when you exercise your rational mind even as little as cursory readings.

    Good work Mel, just keep the pulse rate at reasonable level.


  81. JHB


    Sorry I missed the party above. Anyway, you asked:

    JBH…can you at least provide a link?

    Yup. As I mentioned earlier, this is a big pool, but let’s dive in. First, go back to the GFP picture at the bottom of this page. Look at the left hand side (from EBFP to Citrine). These are all mutants of naturally occurring GFP (*). Now, there are plenty of papers about these, but most you have to pay to read. The first free-to-view one which I found was this one. Open it up and scroll down to Supplementary Table 2, which shows amino acid differences between proteins. A quick glance at this table tells us that EBFP differs from EGFP at only two amino acids (out of about 240). Mutate a couple more amino acids and you can make Citrine from EBFP.

    What is this about, genetic engineering?

    Yup. I’m not trying to trick you into thinking that these are natural mutations; they’re not. They were induced in a lab. But that doesn’t affect the point which I’m trying to make at this stage.

    And what was the new body part?

    Haven’t got there yet; I said this’d take time! You asked me to “show [you] multiple mutations that create a new bodily structure”, but bodily parts are built from proteins. So, the first thing we need to agree is that one or two “mutations can do as advertised and generate new information”, in this case, create a new colour. And don’t worry, this isn’t a trick question – those come later!

    The reason I want us to agree on this is that, as I said before, evolution can build big things from lots of little ones, so if we can agree that artificial mutations can create new protein properties, then I can move on to show how natural mutations can create new protein properties which, in turn, can build new body parts.

    Does that sound fair enough? Let me know if so and I’ll carry on…

    * Incidentally, I was incorrect in my previous post – mBanana to mPlum aren’t EGFP variants, they’re variants of another naturally occurring fluorescent protein, called dsRed. Principle’s the same, ‘though – a limited number of mutations can drastically change the properties of a protein.

  82. tom

    x-tal: “Tom and Mel’s debates are very interesting indeed. Human mind are of such design (evolutionarily – of course ) that it will create justifications to faith already taken”

    My gosh…Mel’s only “defense” is his constant accusations that I don’t read the scientific literature. But who’s the one presenting the links? Me. Who’s the one presenting the evidence that animals create their own fitness? Me. Who’s the one highlighting the quotes of scientists? Me. Mel has done absolutely nothing to refute anything I have said or presented. Heck, Dr. Lander even said right in front of his face that the traditional mechanism of evoltuion “doesn’t appear to be right.”

    Don’t make me laugh…Mel is getting his clock cleaned…and his assertion that I havene’t read the literature is not only a laughable copout but has nothing to do with our debate unless he can present some of this precious literature as some sort of defense. If this crap is so great why doesn’t he use it to counter my arguments?

  83. tom

    JBH…I’m not particularly informed about genetic engineering, but if this is something whereby science has merely transferred a gene from one organism to another, that is not a mutation, it is not accidental, there is no differential breeding success, it is not natural, and it is not a change in structure: color and pigment is not a structure. If your “evidence” that mutations can build up populations of bacteria-like creatures and change them into humans over time is the fact that science can artificially and manually transfer a gene from one creature to another to create a new pigment, then I feel sorry for you….but let me tell you a secret…if changing bacteria into humans or any other creature was just a matter of transferring some genes, then science would have done it a long time ago.

    Dougless Futuyma:

    “We have no idea of what we would have to do at a molecular or cellular level to transform Drosophila melanogaster into D. simulans, much less a fly into a flea. In all of biology, the mechanisms of development are the area of greatest ignorance, but they are central to major questions in evolution….Much of the progress in developmental biology bears only a tenuous, hypothetical relation to evolutionary studies. The mechanisms by which some genes exert their morphological effects are known, but chiefly through the study of rather drastic mutations; seldom does a geneticist determine the mechanism by which a gene difference between related species causes their difference in morphology. Similarly, few studies in experimental embryology describe the mechanisms that cause differences between related species. Geneticists and developmental biologists are fully occupied with the enormously difficult problems that are their proper province.”

  84. xgecko


    Your heroic attempts at reasoning with Tom are unfortunately an exercise in futility. As xTal mentioned Tom makes my engineer friend look like the most rational and informed YEC out there (and I too am an engineer which is why I thought I could reason with my friend). Sadly Tom has shown his true colors as an effectively brain-dead parrot that can’t even get what he is parroting right. He denigrates your attempts at urging him to read the literature – what a concept! You actually expect him to educate himself on the topic about which he spews forth some of the most absurdly ridiculous drivel I have ever heard! :o) At least my friend and I were able to have some semblance of a rational discussion; he understood the basic science but his brain had been short-circuited by the religious parasite so he was unable to process certain information related to this topic. Other scientific data posed no problem for him to comprehend; it was a textbook example of how compartmentalized the human mind can be. Ironically this was one of the concepts he could not grasp; he thought that if he is rational at work then he must be rational in church and could not conceive of the idea that a scientist can be simultaneously rational and irrational. There are a number of prominent YEC pseudoscientists that have excellent credentials yet abuse their education to promote religious propaganda dressed up to look like credible science and he could not accept that it was in fact well written propaganda.

    Tom is a lost cause. From reading his poorly constructed drivel he clearly lacks the brainpower and background to participate in this discussion yet happily does so. This is what I consider to be a particularly disgusting form of intellectual dishonesty; he has been told time and again that he is flat out wrong on so many counts it has become ludicrous yet when it is suggested he actually go out into the world and see what it really is all about he refuses to lift a finger and instead sits in his armchair and proclaims how reality must in fact conform to his personal belief system. What he does not realize is that he is playing god, and as I understand it his god does not like that kind of thing very much. His extreme arrogance, pride, ignorance and deceit are just the kinds of things that his god has a major issue with and for good reason. If his god truly exists then Tom has a real problem on his hands; he is not going to like the punishment his god will mete out for his transgressions here and no doubt on other forums. As I said, if you live your life like god exists you better be right, and if you live your life as Tom obviously does then he better hope he is wrong for his god will have much to say to him when the time comes for them to meet.

    On that note I feel quite comfortable either way. While I see no good reason to think an ancient religious text written by profoundly ignorant men attempting to make sense of a universe they knew nothing about has any likelihood of having much chance of being valid, I do not worry about god for it is obvious to me that there is pretty much no chance such a being exists – the Universe has no need of such a being. On the other hand, should such a being actually exist it is obvious that the bible has nothing to do with him and furthermore that by living a morally good life and studying Nature and the Universe carefully I am doing what I need to do to have nothing to fear from any such entity. Tom, on the other hand, may have much to fear given his refusal to respect the work of any such entity. After all, the Universe is irrefutably not the work of man whereas the bible is without question the work of man. Do the math. Tom, you are in some deep trouble if your god actually exists. Lucky for you the chances of that being the case are even lower than the probability that you will ever come to understand the subject you pontificate on so brazenly and ignorantly.

  85. JHB


    “if this is something whereby science has merely transferred a gene from one organism to another, that is not a mutation”

    You’re quite right and that’s not what happening in the example I gave. Tsien (and many others) didn’t introduce a gene from one organism into another – as you rightly say, that’s not mutation. Instead, they took the gene out of one organism (*), stuck it in a tube, changed a couple of amino acids and saw a change in protein behaviour (one color to another).

    “it is not a change in structure: color and pigment is not a structure”

    That’s a fair point, but you’re going to have to give me some help, here. You asked if I could show whether “mutations can do as advertised and generate new information” and I have. No, color isn’t a structure, but it can be information, as any set of traffic lights will show you. Actually, I chose color as an example because proteins are small and color is one of the easiest of their properties to see over the internet.

    However, thinking about it, maybe you’re right that color is a bad example.

    Let me try again…

    Proteins have a number of properties: color is one, but you’ve ruled that out. Other properties include (but aren’t limited to) structure, shape and “stickiness”.

    Incidentally, by “stickiness” I mean that many proteins prefer to stick to specific other proteins, in just the same way that you or I prefer to hang around with our friends, rather than with some guy we meet in the bathhouse.

    So, if you want to go ahead and choose a property, either one which I’ve listed or one which I’ve forgotten, I’ll go ahead and give you a link to a paper in which a single mutation changes that property so as to give, effectively, a new protein. You can obviously be the judge of whether or not the protein is “new” after you’ve read my example.

    Again, and we need to agree on this point before going any further – body parts are made of proteins, just like a house is made of bricks. Change the bricks (from mud to stone, say) and you’ll change the house; change the proteins and you’ll change the body parts.

    Would you agree with that? If so, let me know what protein property you’d like to see changed by a mutation and I’ll see what I can come up with…

    * A jellyfish, in case you’re interested

  86. tom

    more insults from the peanut Gallery. You people keep repeating that my arguments are so stupid and ludicrous…..but of course, I know that these comments are generally used as a last resort because there is no effective defense strategy when i put the words of the scientists right in front of your faces. Speaking of which, here’s a book that all you wacked-out, religiously-selectionist evos need. This guy is a smart guy, a scientist, a professor, and a person who believes Darwinian evoltuion via natural selection is a farce and that the cause of evolution is not natural selection, but whatever the cause of variation is….yes, I do have the book, and yes, you really do need it.

    Product Description
    “Natural selection is commonly interpreted as the fundamental mechanism of evolution. Questions about how selection theory can claim to be the all-sufficient explanation of evolution often go unanswered by today’s neo-Darwinists, perhaps for fear that any criticism of the evolutionary paradigm will encourage creationists and proponents of intelligent design.

    In Biological Emergences, Robert Reid argues that natural selection is not the cause of evolution. He writes that the causes of variations, which he refers to as natural experiments, are independent of natural selection; indeed, he suggests, natural selection may get in the way of evolution. Reid proposes an alternative theory to explain how emergent novelties are generated and under what conditions they can overcome the resistance of natural selection. He suggests that what causes innovative variation causes evolution, and that these phenomena are environmental as well as organismal.

    After an extended critique of selectionism, Reid constructs an emergence theory of evolution, first examining the evidence in three causal arenas of emergent evolution: symbiosis/association, evolutionary physiology/behavior, and developmental evolution. Based on this evidence of causation, he proposes some working hypotheses, examining mechanisms and processes common to all three arenas, and arrives at a theoretical framework that accounts for generative mechanisms and emergent qualities. Without selectionism, Reid argues, evolutionary innovation can more easily be integrated into a general thesis. Finally, Reid proposes a biological synthesis of rapid emergent evolutionary phases and the prolonged, dynamically stable, non-evolutionary phases imposed by natural selection.”

  87. Tom wrote: “paul, I’ve given you multiple links contradicting the idea that changes in protein-coding genes is what’s responsible for organismal evolution and you’re worried about bacteria on Noah’s Ark? Maybe the bacteria can float…maybe it rode in the animal crap on the boat…maybe it lived in Noah — maybe it didn’t exist at all at that time — who cares.”

    I’m just demonstrating your hypocrisy in demanding scientifically validated information while you spout inane suppositions, trying to support your completely unsupportable mythology about Noah’s Ark – which you have done admirably. Thanks.

  88. tom

    JHB: “Again, and we need to agree on this point before going any further – body parts are made of proteins, just like a house is made of bricks. Change the bricks (from mud to stone, say) and you’ll change the house; change the proteins and you’ll change the body parts.”

    Well let me say up front that I am not at all convinced — as many creationists seem to be — that organisms cannot generate new information or new body parts. In fact, I showed where waterfleas did just that; generate a new spine in the face of predators. But what I question is whether a mutation can do it — especially a random/accidental/unplanned/unbiased towards adaptation mutation. Physical accidents, according to my own sense of logic and common sense, could very rarely produce something of value. Maybe very occasonally, but not likely. The idea that random change in the sequnce of dna could produce new information just doesn’t pass the test of common sense to me. Instead, what does pass the common sense test is the idea that the MIND can generate new information. (what else could create and/or interpret new informatin besides a mind?) So it’s in this way, that sure, new proteins and new body parts may be able to be produced, but if they are, I doubt that randomness had anything to do with it. Instead, they must have come from a more intelligent source. I ultimately disagree with darwinism because I am a mind-over-matter guy. In fact, I think mind and matter are essentially the same thing, and that body is actually just an extrapolation of mind. Likewise the brain is an extrapolation of mind, and in fact, the mind formed the brain soon after conception. Likewise, the mind formed the rest of the body soon after conception (remember, all those cells had to somehow know where to go and how to act, despite the fact that they all sport the same (or similar) dna.) So to me, mind is the one true explanation of adaptive responses…the simple healing of a cut or a wound cannot even be explained materialistically…(what signals this response to restore and heal and return the body to normal?)..and I suggest this same mechanism that heals cuts and wounds is the same mechanism that creates new proteins and new adaptive structures and processes when needed. Darwinism cannot be right for this reason; that individuals were created with these mysteriously miraculous abilities to adapt themselves.

    So in short, if you are going to manipulate proteins, and this manipulation results in a new feature or new infomation, it may not necessarily come as a surprise to me. what would be a surprise is if a true and scientifically-validated mutation did it — especially a mutation that could be proven to be random.

    But hey…I’m willing to watch and listen and learn to anything you can present. I can tell you are a reasonable guy and quite intelligent and informed too. I like to learn from people like you.

  89. xgecko


    You said ” You people keep repeating that my arguments are so stupid and ludicrous…..but of course, I know that these comments are generally used as a last resort because there is no effective defense strategy when i put the words of the scientists right in front of your faces.”

    Well, that is not exactly the situation. In fact, it is not even remotely close to the situation. What we are experiencing is the frustration of trying to communicate with someone so out of touch with reality that we have no tools with which to form a meaningful conversation. This is what I am trying to show the others; attempting to reason with someone like you is as pointless as trying to move a mountain with a teaspoon.

    You think you have knowledge of these issues when in fact you appear to know little or nothing of the subject. I would say that you mindlessly parrot back selected snippets of real science but that would be generous.

    Unlike you we have actually gotten up out of our armchairs and gone out into the world and directly or indirectly observed how the Universe actually is. Unlike you we do not impose our belief systems upon the Universe; we choose to let the Universe show us how we should believe it to be. You are seemingly incapable of grasping just how ignorant you really are and you prefer instead to keep attacking our position with nonsensical claims derived from a melange of real science taken out of context and absurd claims of magic and superstition.

    No, you have repeatedly demonstrated that you are among the worst of your ilk; utterly ignorant of the subject you so readily denigrate. Yes, this does offend real researchers that work in the field; no surprise when an ignorant buffoon makes the sort of allegations and innuendos you seem to rattle off so smugly.

    I suggest that this thread will go nowhere due mostly to your unwillingness to accept that Reality does not have any obligation to support your fantasies. This is common amongst YECs; they have this outrageously arrogant belief that Reality has some requirement to conform to your beliefs. I have news for you; it works the other way around. Reality imposes itself on you and you may declare it to be however you want it to be without any effect on it whatsoever. Real scientists understand this very well, YECs and their pet pseudoscientists seem rather oblivious to this simple notion.

    I offer that Mel, Paul, JHB and anyone else will be wasting their time trying to open Tom’s eyes to Reality. He has them firmly squeezed shut and will resist any and all attempts at opening them for he has neither interest nor use for a Reality that conflicts with his fantasies. After all, Reality does not give him what he wants and one thing I have learned is that YECs want their afterlife and warm fuzzy god so badly they will not allow anything to get between them and the objects of their desire. Certainly not something as trivial as Reality…

  90. Mel

    “I offer that Mel, Paul, JHB and anyone else will be wasting their time trying to open Tom’s eyes to Reality. He has them firmly squeezed shut and will resist any and all attempts at opening them for he has neither interest nor use for a Reality that conflicts with his fantasies. After all, Reality does not give him what he wants and one thing I have learned is that YECs want their afterlife and warm fuzzy god so badly they will not allow anything to get between them and the objects of their desire.”

    Sadly, I think you are right that this has been a waste of time. I had thought that maybe Tom was a decent person who was engaging in hyperbole for fun, but it appears that he is in earnest in his believes that his poorly constructed arguments of insult and ignorant assertion are correct. And it is true that one just cannot have a productive discussion with someone so lacking in good faith or decency. I, for one, really hope that Tom was lying about having kid, because I would have to weep for those poor children with such a person as a role model. I know my father taught me to never pick fights, and to show others respect until they show themselves unworthy of it, and he always taught those lessons by example. I fear Toms kids will never get those lessons, at least going on what Tom has shown here. What is more, I think that people like Tom, who so blind themselves to the world and to science, really do a lot to denigrate religion. I have known a great number of religious individuals with subtle, interesting belief systems that give them comfort while still allowing them to see the world as it is. People like Tom just gives many who are hostile to religion reason to look down on those individuals as well, and yet more reason for their hostility. That’s really sad.
    On a final note, I don’t think that Tom is stupid. It often takes a great deal of intelligence to maintain such obliviousness, as well as to keep up a construct of the world that is so impervious to outside persuasion. Of course, the many logical jumps, examples of disordered thinking, and obvious delusions of grandeur indicate that, while smart, Tom might have some psychological problems to deal with.

    So, xgecko, Paul, and JHB, it is has been a pleasure to meet you, and I wish you well. I hope to see you on this site again in the future when we can discuss ideas rather than trying to open the eyes of trolls. As for Tom, I feel very sorry for you, and it saddens to learn again that there are such unpleasant people out there so willing to insult so many out of ignorance. I think you need to revisit the moral precepts of your religion before you continue your engagement of others. I really hope you are a more civil person in real life.


  91. xgecko


    I have to agree that it is probable that Tom is indeed reasonably intelligent. What I have found is that having intelligence or in the case of my friend intelligence combined with a pretty good engineering education simply gives them the ability to concoct ever more complex methods of convincing themselves that their belief system is valid. Essentially it allows them to produce far more complex contortions which they employ to make it appear their beliefs are indeed valid in the face of the facts. They also have a greater ability to filter the data to cherry-pick facts that appear to support their beliefs while generating even more complex and convoluted arguments as to why the rest of the facts can be ignored and brushed under the rugs.

    I also agree that it is scary to think what his poor kids must have to endure. I personally think that what it appears he might be doing to his kids – assuming our suspicions are indeed correct and he tries as hard as he can to substitute his drivel for a real education in science – is nothing short of criminal. Kids have an innocent mind easily corrupted by the lies and deceit employed by YECs and it is a shame to see what it can do to many of them.

    As for your comments about how his views reflect on those of other religious people I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of religious individuals – those that wrap their beliefs around a respect for Reality and those that attempt to impose their beliefs on Reality. I generally find the former to be pleasant individuals that choose to believe in something for a variety of reasons often including a level of comfort or hope whereas the latter kind are… well, there is not much nice I can say here so I think I will just say that I find them distasteful and unpleasant.

    Perhaps we will meet again. I have studied this subject in great detail from the perspective of pretty much every discipline that is involved and while I cannot claim the knowledge level of the true specialists in each discipline I can say I have a relatively deep understanding over a very broad scope. I find it both fascinating and amazing and well worth the effort to understand. After all, we are members of the first culture to actually have a reasonably complete and accurate understanding of how we came to be and it is unfortunate that some of us cannot accept the truth and prefer instead to stick their heads in the sand in an effort to make it all go away.

  92. Xgecko wrote (about Tom): “I also agree that it is scary to think what his poor kids must have to endure. I personally think that what it appears he might be doing to his kids – assuming our suspicions are indeed correct and he tries as hard as he can to substitute his drivel for a real education in science – is nothing short of criminal.”

    The courts have not (yet) found that subjecting innocent children to the lies and deceit of YEC or OEC propaganda is “criminal,” just as it has not (yet) been determined that subjecting children to the lies and deceit and brutality of religion to convert them from the innocence of atheism (all children are born free of any knowledge or fear of God) to the harsh realities of religion is “criminal.” But that’s another topic for another time.

  93. tom

    alright…the conversation has degenerated to constant insults from the likes of the people representing “science.” Yet, I am the only person, with the exception of JBH who has even bothered presenting a link, evidence, quote, or idea. This is my last post here. You know where to find me if you care to converse. tom

  94. xgecko

    I find it quite amusing to note that Tom claims to be the only one that presented a link…

    Way back up in the thread I noticed that Paul presented a few links. Tom, however, in typical YEC fashion, declares Reality to be different than it is. In his fantasy world Paul did not in fact present some links. It is also clear that Tom did not read them.

    Links do not make an argument valid. What makes an argument valid is being able to demonstrate that the argument reflects Reality. YEC arguments do not reflect Reality and no link will change that. YECs, however, will never, ever acknowledge this simple fact.

    This is why debating YECs makes as much sense as banging your head against a wall repeatedly until you pass out.

  95. Kendra

    I am surprised at all of this. Not at the usual clashing between the Creationist viewpoint and those who believe in Evolution, that occurs all over the place, but at the inability of the two sides to communicate in a open manner. This blog is to me very neutral in its presentation, Carl did a wonderful job responding to the letters he received, by presenting the evidence he used to write his article, he does what they ask, shows them what he based his article on. Anything further in analysis is left to those who sent the letters, with no need to respond to Carl because he did not provoke them with a stab at their character or intelligence.

    I would like to think that those of us who read Carl’s column are interested in broadening our minds with all the knowledge available to us. However, it is obvious from this thread which took me most of my morning to read through that we have not risen above the tendency to attack irrelevant issues in order to make our opponent appear less credible or ignorant. I am particularly appalled at the latest comments assertions that “Tom” must be a horrible parent and that he is polluting his children’s minds which are born “pure and atheistic, without a knowledge of god.” Really, are we all so judgmental and sure of the path of science?
    I grew up with no knowledge of religion, instead I had science, my father was a Geologist and loved to show me fossils and rock samples. It is not surprising that I therefore have trouble reconciling religious “truths” today, I must look at anything that proclaims itself absolute with an eye that says “where is the evidence?” However that does not mean that I can say definitively God does not exist, nor that he/she does not have a hand in how evolution occurs. The objective scientific mind requires evidence that can be confirmed by review to prove or disprove anything, and is always open to new evidence.

    What I see here is misunderstanding. Both sides present their ‘evidence’ in the form of specific articles located on the internet. Not all knowledge here is peer reviewed, nor is it necessarily verified, however for the purpose of this I will grant it that assumption. Those in support of evolution are presenting links and offering the scientific literature available in PubMed. As a college student myself, I have used these databases and often find papers that are technically beyond my knowledge, even after 3 1/2 years of biology. To the scientist it may be obvious proof, but the layman may not find it as solid or understand why it is proof. On the flip side, the Creationist is using articles to “disprove” Darwinian evolution which in fact are discussing refinements within evolutionary theory itself, rather than its invalidity. At one point, he refers to Cataclysm! by D.S. Allan, citing its references to what he believes is evidence of the deluge in Pleistocene fossils. The Pleistocene era is cited in the book as from 1.8 mya to about 100,000 years ago, well outside his accepted age of the Earth. It seems he is willing to accept only the part of the work that supports him, disregarding the rest.

    A further note on understanding: the Evolutionists repeatedly profess the request that “Tom” read the literature, I agree, before you tackle a topic and agree to debate anyone on it, you might want to ask your kids, since they’re learning it in school. An understanding of genomes, what they are and what they are composed of is helpful in avoiding the wrong conclusion. For example, the article cited about Opossum and Human DNA similarities: the article tells us that the evolution in the primate genetic code occurred for the most part outside of the protein-coding regions. The 20,000 protein-coding genes we ‘share’ are not the entire content of our genetic code, instead the article is telling us that introns, the ‘non-coding’ regions between classical genes (exons) are in fact not just junk thrown in, instead they are important in regulation. It does not mean that we have the exact same code as opossums.

    Finally, I really would like to understand why the adaptation of an organism in response to a predatory presence being heritable is such contradictory to Evolutionary theory. If anyone can explain that to me? Is epigenetics and methylation being considered evidence of “mind over matter?” ’cause all I got was the impression that Tom believed the only difference between species was the will to change their methylation and therefore expression. Also I get the feeling that he believes hormones are eqiuvalent to conscious action by the birds. If mind really is in control of matter, my conviction should be enough to do just about anything.

  96. Xgecko wrote: “I find it quite amusing to note that Tom claims to be the only one that presented a link… Way back up in the thread I noticed that Paul presented a few links.”

    Thanks for noticing, X. I didn’t expect Tom to look at (or understand) them – as I said in my first comment (above), “Ignorance is a virtue with creationists” – they celebrate their ignorance.

    Philip Johnson, the father of intelligent design creationism (who is getting an award from the famous Bible college Biola University for having “a clear evangelical Christian testimont and having demonstrated “significant service and achievement over an extended period of time, which…is relevant to the mission of the university” – see once said that average laypersons understood more about science than PhD scientists.

    Anyway, I wanted to leave you and other readers with a link to another resource that might help you see where delusional evolution-deniers like Tom are coming from. It’s Dr. Barbara Forrest’s paper, “Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals,” available at


  97. Nice response, it can be difficult to keep a cool head when dealing with
    Darwin-bashers (if counterproductive if you don’t).

    I might add on the 2LoT / entropy business that there are plenty of
    simple examples of order spontaneously arising from disorder.
    Thermodynamics is an exercise an energetics and doesn’t rule out the
    possibility of spontaneous emergence of order in other domains.
    One of the problems with elementary physics texts is that they use
    misleading examples to illustrate the 2LoT. For example, mix blue
    and red balls and they will never sort themselves out again …

    … except if the red balls are twice as big as the blue balls, in which
    case shaking the mix will cause the red balls to segregate to the
    top. Separation methods along the same or comparable lines are
    common in industrial processes, for example refining of ores; and if
    that sounds like too “intelligent” an example, unwanted separation
    of mixtures can be a real problem in materials handling.

    Of course, crystals are obvious examples of order rising from
    disorder, snowflakes being the common illustration. For those
    impressed by dubious probability arguments relative to 2LoT,
    it is worthwhile to point out that from the point of view of
    simple mechanical arrangements, the probability that sodium and
    chlorine atoms could arrange themselves in neat alternation in
    a cube 100 atoms on a side is 2^500,000 = 10^150,515 … when
    such a tiny salt crystal is perfectly ordinary.

    It should also be noted that the 2LoT argument is being
    rephrased these days in information theory terms: “mindless
    processes cannot produce information” or “only an intelligence
    can produce information”. This is sometimes referred to as the
    “law of conservation of information”, though most try to just
    imply it because it can’t be found in the physics books. CHEERS — MRG

  98. Tom

    After years of opposing Intelligent Design, I’ve changed my mind. I think it’s right and porper to teach the alternatives and let students make up their own minds what the truth is.

    In biology class they can learn about evolution and ID. In sex ed class they can learn about abstinence and about sex-is-fun, and about the usefulness of gay sex as a method to avoid pregnancy prior to marriage.

    Of course gravity is a theory; some people understand that things fall because angels lower them.

    Some people feel only those who have undergone years of training should eb allowed to practice medice. Others feel that anyone with their own herbs and needles should practice? Why have arbitrary rules when people can decide for themselves?

  99. Mark

    I very much liked Kendra’s post. Having taught evolution in the classroom for a long time, I have come to realize there is a fundamental (excuse the pun) difference in the way creationists and evolutionists perceive reality. To an evolutionist, reality is established by rational analysis of observable facts. If the facts support evolution, they accept it as reality. If the facts were to support some other competing theory, they would accept that one instead. To a rational person 2+2=4. There is no emotional attachment to this position, it just turns out that 2+2 really DOES equal 4. To a rational person there is only one reality.
    Creationists exist in a very different world. They are religious fundamentalists that have been raised from birth to believe “facts” based on AUTHORITY – not any rational analysis of the observable facts. To a creationist, reality is something you CHOOSE from several different possibilities. The best description I have ever heard of religion is that it is highly organized irrationalism. To a creationist, they have been taught from the cradle that 2+2=5. This MUST be true, since it’s in their holy book, and their family and their friends all “believe” it. They are aware that others believe that 2+2=4 and it is even rumored that some believe 2+2=6. Of course these others have simply made wrong choices because they do not have the “enlightenment” that comes from reading their holy book. They are absolutely confident that they are right and genuinely feel that those who “believe” that 2+2=4 are applying incorrect logic and just don’t “get it”. Any observable facts that contradict what they believe are simply wrong – it’s as simple as that to these people.
    No amount of rational argument will dissuade these people, because rational thought is not how they arrived at their version of reality in the first place.
    Do not take this to mean that I think these people are dumb – far from it. Most are highly intelligent. Even though their reality is not based upon rational thought, they can be very creative in finding ways of rationalizing their world view.
    The sad part in this is that some of the posts in this thread correctly picked up on the fact that even though the letters were written by young people, they were undoubtedly under the guidance of someone much older and “knowledgeable”. It doesn’t matter what evidence you give these young minds – they have already bought into the reality that 2+2=5 and chances that you will ever convince them otherwise are slim to none.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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