E-Mail Correspondence

John's Final Word

As promised, we will give John the final word.


Sorry it's taken so long, but here is finally my response to your last
letter.  It was a while before I was able to get to it, but once I got into
it, it was hard to put down.  There really is a lot of ground being covered.
I divided it up into 3 sections, of which the second is the longest,
and I will send them as separate messages to follow.  I realize the size
of the file is getting excessive, but I felt it was important to retain
the original context in cases where it was being refered to.


P.S. - I also read with interest your last "Action & Reaction", but a
response (if any) will have to wait a bit more.  One thing at a time.

> Motives
> Most of the first part of your letter still deals with the presumed
> motives of creationists.

Because that is the subject I said I was interested in.  One cannot
make sense of the modern creationist movement without understanding their
motives.  Besides, I'm not _presuming_ anything.  Here is the text at the
bottom of the ICR's "Impact" series for example:

   "We believe God has raised up ICR to spearhead Biblical Christianity's
    defense against the godless dogma of evolutionary humanism.  Only by
    showing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution, while exalting Christ
    and the Bible, will Christians be successful in 'the pulling down of
    strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that
    exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into
    captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ' (II Corinthians10:4,5)"

In what way is it unreasonable to suppose that they are motivated by a
religious crusade?  What is your interpretation of the phrase, "bringing
into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ?"

> We tried to show how unproductive this is by
> illustrating how one could make similar questionable speculations about
> the motives of evolutionists.  Clearly we failed to make our point.

You had no point.  Your response consisted of the playground retort of
"Am not, that's what you are."  You did not address any of my questions,
or give any example of a scientific organisation with a religious agenda.

> As a result, you made some rather specific accusations about my motives
> and beliefs.

This is what you said:

   "[W]e could say the real reason they adhere to evolution is their
    desire to disprove the existence of a creator and the consequent
    necessity of obedience to that creator.  The object of evolutionists
    is to destroy Christianity and break free from its moral shackles."

Are you in fact saying that, or are you now retracting it?  The above quote
clearly says that the goal of evolution is a desire to avoid obedience to
a creator, to destroy Christianity, and to break free of its morals.
Is that or is it not what you claim to be the motivation of scientists?

> You have made all this up in your own mind.  We haven't called anyone
> immoral, or accused people of sinning.  We never said anything about
> relative sinfulness of practitioners of various branches of science.

Okay, fair enough.  Do you or do you not consider the attitude you describe
above to be immoral?  What exactly do you mean by "break free from its moral

> But just because it is logically consistent doesn't mean it is
> necessarily true.  Some people don't think logically.  They think
> emotionally.  One can't know for sure why people do, think, or say the
> things they do, think or say.

If you are now saying that you do not know how scientists think, then on
what basis can you claim they are religiously motiviated, or that their
conclusions are based on anything other than science?  Wasn't that the
"point" you claimed to have been making?  Are you now backing down from
that accusation? I have clearly shown you evidence of the openly evangelical
nature of at least one leading creationist organisation.  You have failed
to provide any evidence at all of any scientific organisation whose goal
is "to rid the world of Christianity."  I was under the impression that
one of your main premises was that scientists accept evolution for non-
scientific reasons.  Is that the case?  If so, what are those reasons,
and what evidence do you have to support your claim?  If not, do you have
any explanation at all for the empirical observation that the overwhelming
majority of trained professional scientists do in fact accept evolution?

> Christianity and Science
> > If creationists insist that the "method of questioning" (science) is
> > so wrong, why do they want so desperately to be a part of it?
> Where did you ever get the idea that Christian creationists think
> questioning why and how things work (in other words, science) is wrong?

Because they say so.  The method of science presupposes natural processes
(as opposed to the direct intervention of a supernatural deity) and the
attempt to explain the world in this way is considered to be the religion
of "naturalism" which they perceive as evil.  They state that divine
revelation is the only reliable way to gain knowledge, and that no possible
observation can be allowed to conflict with the bible.  According to
Henry Morris, "We are completely limited to what God has seen fit to tell us."
In their eyes, to study something for oneself is to mistrust God.

> Christian creationists have traditionally been very interested in science.
> I'm sure you've heard of some of them.  Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton,
> Johann Kepler, Robert Boyle, Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael
> Faraday, Lord Kelvin, and Blaise Pascal, to name a few.

Certainly.  These men did not believe in quantum mechanics or relativity
either.  Perhaps your argument would carry more weight if you included
someone from the 20th century.

> Why did these
> Christian men take such an interest in science?  You are asking us to
> speculate on motives again, which we feel is unwise.  But lest you think
> we are ducking the question, we will point out that the commonly cited
> answer is that people who believe that the natural world was created by
> God tend to believe that one can learn about God by studying nature, which
> is sometimes called "God's second book."

This is a perfectly valid position, and one that is held by many Christian
men and women working in science today.  Not all Christians are necessarily
creationists.  There is no reason why someone cannot do science (including
evolutionary biology) and still believe in God.

> Politics and the Classroom
> > Science does not claim that the supernatural doesn't exist,
> > only that it doesn't belong in science class.
> We aren't sure everyone would agree with the first part of your
> statement.  People make claims--disciplines don't.

That's precisely why the first part of my statement says that "science
does _not_ claim..."  The fact that science deals with the natural
and not the supernatural simply follows from the definition of the word.
Inasmuch as you label a class as being "science," that is what is meant.

> Most of our friends who are atheists who do scientific work, would
> claim that the supernatural doesn't exist.

Of course, because that is what atheists believe.  Not all scientists are

> We marvel at your presumed legal expertise in your response to our
> reason for not using the courts or political system to fight against the
> theory of evolution.

You are giving me too much credit.  I'm not going very far out on a limb
by quoting from the transcript of a decision that has already taken place.
Any future trial would have to address the precedent that was set.

> Evolutionary Biology
> >  The origin
> > of the universe has nothing to do with evolutionary biology.  Furthermore,
> > the universe did not emerge from matter, but rather matter (as we know it)
> > condensed out of the (highly ordered) early universe.
> First of all, the term "evolutionary biology" presupposes the that the
> present species are the result of evolution, which must be accepted on
> faith.

Your original statement which I was addressing, "emergence by naturalistic
processes of the universe," was presented specifically as part of the
definition of evolution (from the Arkansas law).  Real biologists do not
consider this to be relevant.  I don't care if you think this is accepted
on faith, you are still misrepresenting what the theory of evolution claims.

> Second, the statement that "matter (as we know it) condensed out of the
> (highly ordered) early universe" is a religious belief, not a
> scientifically proven fact.  Some people think it happened that way.

Yes, they do.  Once again, your original statement that the universe
emerged "from disordered matter" was presented as part of a definition
of evolution, but it does not accurately describe what scientists think.
I don't care if you think it is a religious belief, you were still
misrepresenting what that belief actually is.

> Natural Selection
> > It is well known that mutation and natural
> > selection are not the only mechanisms of evolution.
> In general, many of your statements would be much more accurate if you
> would replace "it is well known" with "it is widely believed."

No, there is a difference between "knowing" and "believing".  There is a good
essay on this at "riceinfo.rice.edu/armadillo/Sciacademy/riggins/believe.htm".

If you prefer, though, I will add the disclaimer that it is well known among
educated people who are even remotely scientifically literate.

> So, let's not debate whether or not most people agree with your statement.

Agreed.  That would be an irrelevant tangent.

> If you mean that it is well known that other mechanisms of evolution
> are known to have created entirely new body plans, then we would have to
> disagree.  We know of no mechanisms by which radically different forms of
> life have been observed to arise.  Please educate us.

Now that's a more positive attitude!  As it turns out, there are such
mechanisms.  One is gene duplication, by which an organism which has two
copies of a gene can undergo different mutations in each copy and end up with
two different genes which are more specialized than the one they originated
from.  There is a family of genes called "homeobox" genes which control
development by producing a concentration gradient of certain proteins.
This is how cells can tell which end of the critter they are at, and having
two different ends is the simplest "body plan" there is.  The current
versions of these genes also control the growth of limbs, body segments,
eyes, and even different parts of the brain.  The same system is used by
animals as different as insects and mammals, which all inherited different
variations of the same genes from an ancestor that had no limbs at all.
Even biologists weren't really expecting this until they took a close look
at the various genes.  Nature can be truly fascinating if you'll just give
it a chance.

> The Definitions of "Kinds" and "Species"
> > Furthermore, there is no scientific definition of "kinds".
> There is no scientific definition of "life" either, but we presume it
> really exists despite the lack of a scientific definition.

Once again, the word "kinds" comes from what was claimed to be a definition of
evolution in the Arkansas law, and yet it uses a term that is not recognized
by biologists.  This is another example of how that so-called definition
misrepresents what scientists actually claim.

> A biology teacher once said, in my presence, that several kinds of
> trees were similar because there were in the same genus.  I said to her,
> "Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that these trees are all in the same
> genus because they are similar?"  She agreed, but I don't think she
> understood the point.  The scientific classification system merely
> classifies things by similarity.

Yes, this was done by Carl von Linne.

> That does not imply that they evolved from a common ancestor.

No it doesn't.  That's why it wasn't until a century later that Darwin
was able to show that this was the case.

> One can classify things any way one wants.

Not if one wants to come up with something useful.  Do you really think
that von Linne was a total idiot, that he just named things at random?
There are statistical methods which can be used to take large numbers of
distinguishing anatomical features (not just mode of locomotion) and sort
them into nested subsets.  This does not depend on them actually being

> Suppose scientists had
> decided that it is more useful to divide animals into "flying animals",
> "walking animals", and "swimming animals" than to use backbones and
> methods of reproduction, etc.,  to classify animals.  It is obvious that a
> bat, a honey bee, and a hawk are all flying animals.  A mouse is a walking
> animal.  If this alternate classification scheme had been chosen, then a
> bat would be more closely related to a honey bee and a hawk (because they
> are all flying animals which supposedly all evolved from a common flying
> ancestor) than a bat is related to a mouse (which supposedly evolved from
> a walking ancestor).

Is this a joke?  Do you actually think that this is how evolution works,
or are you just setting up a strawman argument?  Do you really think that
evolutionary relationships are based solely on arbitrary names?  Common
descent does _not_ automatically follow from just any classification.
Proposed relationships can be _tested_ using genetic information.  Fossils
of ancestral species can be (and often are) found.  Sometimes the original
classification turns out to be wrong in the light of new data.

> The assumptions you make regarding evolution influences how you
> classify things.  How you classify things influences your notion of
> evolution.  There is a circular connection that it is important to
> recognize.

That is nonsense.  Classifications based on cladistics, fossils, and genetics
can all be done independently.  The fact that they give almost identical
results is a testable prediction of the theory of evolution.  To insinuate
that this is circular reasoning is yet again to seriously misrepresent
how science is done.

> Uniformitarianism
> > "Uniformitarianism" is not a process, it is simply the principle that the
> > earth was shaped by forces (volcanos, earthquakes, glaciers, floods, etc.)
> > that can be observed and studied today (as opposed to the supernatural
> > one-time event claimed in the creationist version.)
> "Uniformitarianism" is a belief that the Earth was shaped by constant,
> gradual forces (sedimentation, slow continental drift, etc.) that can be
> studied today.  "Catastrophism" is the belief that the Earth was shaped by
> sporadic forces (volcanic eruptions, floods, etc.) that can be studied
> today.  Catastrophism is no more, or less, scientific than
> uniformitarianism.

That is not what I said.  "Uniformitarianism" does not mean that all
geological events are necessarily slow.  It means that (1) the underlying
processes are the same as occur today and (2) the present appearence of the
earth's surface is the cumulative result of a large number of events over
a long period of time.  No geologist would deny that volcanos and floods
(or meteor impacts) have happened in the past.  Some geologists now even
propose that unusual or spectacular events may have played a more important
role than previously thought.

To compare that to creationism is (yet again) to seriously misrepresent
both geology and creationism.  Followers of Henry Morris claim that all
features of the earth were formed by a single event, a flood unlike any
which has ever been observed at any time.  Most "flood models", such as
"hydroplate theory", "vapor canapy", etc. have not only never been observed
but are impossible under current conditions.  They would require that the
basic laws of physics have changed significantly within recorded history.
That is not just a question of being "sporadic", that is something that by
definition _cannot_ be studied today.  To imply otherwise, to say that the
difference is simply a matter of detail, is (to be charitable) disingenuous.

> Age of the Earth
> > The formation and age
> > of the earth have nothing to do with biology.
> You are correct, unless you are talking about evolutionary
> biology.  The age of the Earth has nothing to do with how long it takes a
> robin's egg to hatch.  The age of the Earth has a lot to do with how long
> it took the robin to evolve.

No it doesn't.  The process of evolution of any particular species is the
same now as it was in the past.  Robins have been around for only a tiny
fraction of the total age of the earth.
> Scientific Journals
> > Unfortunately creationists refuse to publish their claims in
> > scientific journals which are the accepted forum for scientific debate.
> > They prefer to spout vague generalities in front of audiences which are
> > unlikely to provide an appropriate response.
> Irresponsible statements like that are what cause people like
> Chris to get upset.  Creationists don't refuse to
> publish their work in scientific journals.  Scientific journals refuse to
> publish what creationists submit to them because of
> academic prejudice and oppression.

Name one.  Show me a manuscript that was rejected (or give the reference if
it was published elsewhere.)  Show me the letter form the editor explaining
the decision.  If you don't have such documents, name someone who does.

> [...]
> The only reason I mention this is that I know from personal experience
> that publication in academic journals merely means that the author is a
> member of the Good Old Boys Club.  If you have the right degree from the
> right university, and you haven't pissed anybody off, you can get
> published in the academic press.  If you aren't a member of the Club,
> forget it.  Creationists aren't members of the Club.  They never will be.
> That's why you won't ever see their work published "in the literature."
Well, since I have published articles in academic journals and served on
peer-review committees, I suppose you would consider me to be a member of
this "Good Old Boys Club."  (Although for some reason I don't seem to have
received my secret decoder ring yet.)  It is very unfortunate that as an
outsider you have developed such a negative impression of my profession.
Maybe it is partly our fault for not doing a better job of explaining
to the general public how science really works.

Nonetheless, if your own personal experience, whatever that may be, does
not include religious persecution, I would like to know on what basis you
maintain that accusation.  Do you have evidence of any scientific articles
being rejected because of the author's religious beliefs?

> Facts of Science
>Thanks for finally answering our question.

You're welcome.  Now that I've taken the time to answer your questions
about science, I hope you will do the same regarding my questions about

> Order From Disorder
> > "What natural law creates order from disorder?  [...]  There are
> >    no such natural laws."
> >
> > Unless you are claiming that evolution violates
> > the 2nd law of thermodynamics (which would also be false), there are
> > numerous natural laws, such as gravity and electromagnetism, which produce
> > order all the time.  There are toys on sale in airports which make use of
> > this.
> You really lost us here.  What toys in airports create order from
> disorder?

Plastic souvenirs.  You shake them up and they form pretty patterns after
you let them sit.  I think it was at O'Hare where I saw the best collection.
I'm sure you can find them elsewhere as well.

> Electromagnetism is not a natural process.

What?!  Do you really believe that every flash of lightning is a deliberate
miraculous act of God?  Before going too much further, maybe it would be
a good idea if you just gave me an example of something (if anything) you
_do_ think is a natural process.

> It is the result of
> someone consciously winding a coil of wire and forcing an electric current
> through it to take advantage of a natural law.

You are thinking of a solenoid.  The natural law it takes advantage of
is that of electromagnetism.

> It is the conscious application of a natural
> force that makes it unnatural.

This is, to say the least, a rather creative definition of "unnatural".
Would you say an anthill is natural or unnatural?  Do ants have enough
consciousness to defy natural law?  How about dogs burying bones?

> Theromodynamics is a difficult subject.  It weeds out a lot of
> engineering students because it is difficult to understand.

I am (painfully) aware that thermodynamics is hard to teach and I am sorry
that you found it difficult, but I am disappointed that you would use that
as an excuse.  If you are not able to back up your arguments you would be
better off not making them in the first place rather than trying to bluff
your way through.  What you are left with amounts to nothing more than
handwaving and innuendo.  You literally quote poetry in place of doing
the math.

In a macroscopic system, order is usually defined as long-range correlation
or broken symmetry, and entropy is more-or-less the logarithm of the density
of states.  These definitions do not always agree with what we intuitively
think of as "order" or "complexity".  In those cases our intuition is wrong.
Physical laws apply to well-defined mathematical quantities, not human
aesthetic values.  In a system which is in thermal contact with its
surroundings, order can spontaneously increase in perfect accord with
all known laws of physics, including the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and
this happens all the time.  Life is one such example.  No aspect of life
has ever been observed to violate any law of thermodynamics.  I suggest
that you either clarify your original statement in order to specify exactly
what point it is you are trying to make, or retract it.

> Origin of Life
> > "How many spark-in-the-soup experiments have to fail before evolutionists
> >    will admit that organic chemicals can't form living cells?  If Louis
> >    Pasteur's experiments didn't falsify life from nonlife, then nothing
> > will."
> >
> > The fact remains that living cells do consist entirely of ordinary
> > chemicals.
> > Pasteur disproved the spontaneous generation of existing species, but did
> > not address the origin of life itself.  To say he did is like claiming
> > that Newton disproved black holes.  Woehler on the other hand did prove that
> > there is no difference between chemicals from living and non-living sources.
> Everything is made of chemicals.  Carbon atoms in a lump of coal are no
> different from carbon atoms in a monkey.  There aren't "living chemicals"
> and "dead chemicals."  That's the point that you seem to be missing.

Not at all, that's the point I've been trying to make.  I'm glad that you
now understand it.  It is creationists who seem to like to use the
expression "dead chemicals."

> Life is more than just chemicals.

This, on the other hand, is a statement of your religious belief which
has absolutely no supporting evidence whatsoever.  What is it exactly you
wish to claim has no basis in chemistry?

> Of course it is true that the chemicals in a living frog are no
> different from the chemicals in a frog that died a millisecond ago.  We
> want to know, "What is the scientific method for making those chemicals in
> the dead frog cause the dead frog to come to life again?"

That whole discussion is irrelevant.  No one is claiming to be able to
reanimate dead tissue (maybe you have seen a few too many horror movies.)
Frogs are very complex non-equilibrium systems which are very difficult
to restart once they stop.  We already know this.  It does not tell us much
of anything about how life began, other than that the first "living" system
probably wasn't a frog.

> Mutation and Natural Selection
> >   "Certainly mutation and natural selection bring about limited variation
> >    in existing kinds; but there is no evidence that mutation and natural
> >    selection have ever brought about a new kind from simple earlier kinds."
> >
> > Whether or not you accept the conclusion, there is ample genetic evidence
> > that existing "kinds" are related by genetic mutations.  To say that no
> > evidence exists is an outright lie.
> What do _you_ mean by "kinds."  You said there was no scientific
> definition.

That's why I put it in quotes; you were the one who introduced the term.
In any case, it doesn't matter.  Take your pick of any level of classification.

> If you mean that there is genetic evidence that two kinds
> (that is, varieties) of finches are related by genetic mutations, that may
> be true.  (It may be also true that they are related by genetic
> combinations, instead of genetic mutations.)  If you are saying that there
> is ample genetic evidence that crocodiles and sparrows are related by
> genetic mutations, that is an outright lie.

Crocodiles and sparrows turned out to be an interesting example.  There
are not very many crocodile genes available, and even fewer sparrow genes.
In order to have more data, I decided to substitute another bird for the
sparrow, namely chicken.  Also, in order to judge the degree of relatedness
I also decided to add a mammal (cow) and an amphibian (frog) which should be
more distantly related.  I found 3 different genes for which data is
available for each of these species, namely transthyretin (hormone binding),
somatropin (growth factor), and hemoglobin (oxygen transport).  For the
transthyretin, I couldn't find frog so I used skink instead, and for the
hemoglobin sparrow was available so it could be compared directly to chicken.

To recap the evolutionary hypothesis, if birds and crocodiles are descended
from a more recent common ancestor than the other groups, their genes should
be the most similar of any of the pairs of animals.  Furthermore, since
they both would have passed through the same genetic bottleneck their
differences to the other groups should be roughly the same.  Here is the data
for the percentage similarity of the sequences:

Transthyretin:         chicken vs crocodile - 90
                  chicken, crocodile vs cow - 72, 68
                chicken, crocodile vs skink - 79, 81
                               cow vs skink - 65

Somatotropin:          chicken vs crocodile - 90
                  chicken, crocodile vs cow - 77, 77
                 chicken, crocodile vs frog - 66, 65
                                cow vs frog - 61

Hemoglobin:              chicken vs sparrow - 93
              chicken, sparrow vs crocodile - 64, 64
                  chicken, crocodile vs cow - 63, 53
                 chicken, crocodile vs frog - 46, 43
                                cow vs frog - 53

The data fits the hypothesis in every case.  The homology is weaker in the
last one, where even chicken and sparrow are a little different, but in
the other cases the pattern is very clear.  Furthermore, since the differences
are small (90% identical in the first two examples) it is reasonable to
suppose that they are due to random mutations.  These are three completely
different proteins, but each has exactly the same function in each species.
There is therefore no operational reason for them to be different.  If the
observed differences are simply due to random mutations, there is also no
reason for each protein to show the same nested pattern of differences.
And yet they do.  This is evidence that the differences are indeed inherited
and that birds and crocodiles are in fact genetically related.

Since you have insinuated that I may have been lying, I think at this point
it would be appropriate for you to provide either (a) a counter-example
or (b) an apology.

> Comparison of DNA from various "related" critters sometimes produces
> very surprising results.  Perhaps it is time to bump that subject up
> closer to the top of our stack of essays in progress.

Absolutely.  Let's see what you've got.  Pick some other critters and show
me your data.

> Origin of Information
> >   "There is no natural explanation of how new genetic information required
> >    to produce complex kinds from simple earlier kinds comes from natural
> >    mutation and natural selection."
> >
> > Mutation and natural selection, regardless of whether or not it's correct,
> > _is_ a natural explanation.  There is ample evidence showing how new genes
> > are created, even within our own genome.
> We agree that mutation and natural selection is an incorrect, but
> natural, explanation.

If you agree that it is a natural explanation, why did you say in your
essay, "There is no natural explanation..."?  If for some reason you think
that this explanation is incorrect, it might be useful for you to provide
some demonstration of why that might be the case rather than to simply
assert that such an explanation doesn't exist.

> Can you give one example of evidence that shows how
> any one of our own genes was created?

The only example I could find lying around is not specifically a human
gene, but something that is actually shared by all living organisms.
Protein synthesis is carried out by a complex system of other proteins
each of which carries out a different function.  There is evidence
however that each of these proteins is descended from a single RNA-binding
domain.  The initiation factor IF-1 is descended from this precursor.
Gene duplication, where two copies were stuck together and then evolved
separately, gave rise to the modern IF-3.  A further duplication then gave
rise to the related factors RF-1, RF-2, and EF-Tu.  One of these sequences,
EF-Tu, evolved a GTP binding site which was then passed on in a further
duplication to produce the related factors (now 8 times as big as IF-1)
IF-2 and EF-G.  Another copy of the same precursor also evolved separately
and gave rise to EF-Ts, which in turn was also duplicated leading to RF-3.
There is evidence therefore from direct sequence and structural comparisons
that current RNA-binding proteins did not all independently evolve this
ability, but rather that they are all related to one another.  Modern
organisms, including bacteria, have inherited all of the above genes.  You
are still free to disagree with the conclusion, but to say that no evidence
exists would be ludicrous.

> >   "In these experiments the 'gene jockey' plays the role of an intelligent
> >    designer using a 'supernatural' process."
> >
> > In what way does gene-splicing make use of supernatural processes that
> > are different from the usual chemical properties of DNA molecules?
> > Do Scully and Mulder know about this?
> We could not find the article by Mulder, but we did find the Scully
> article in the Science data base.

The reference was to a popular American TV program called "The X-Files" in
which our intrepid heroes, agents Scully and Mulder, go off each week
to investigate some sort of "paranormal" phenomena such as ghosts, vampires,
UFOs, psychics, etc.  It came to mind because your description of a
gene-jockey with supernatural powers is more reminiscent of a Hollywood
fantasy than the real world.

> Our point is that, in order to create new genes in the laboratory, it
> is necessary to use some "unnatural" (that is, supernatural) process to
> cut and splice genes.

This is absolute gibberish.  What is "supernatural" about doing an experiment?
In what way exactly do you think the DNA molecules can tell the difference?

> The genes would not cut and splice themselves
> together without the artificial (unnatural, supernatural) assistance of
> the scientist.

This is how science works.  Rather than just sitting around waiting for
things to happen, people design experiments in order to test their
hypotheses.  Since these phenomena are very rare (or equivalently take
a long time to occur naturally) what else would you have us do?  Are you
trying to deny that human-controlled experiments can be used to learn about
natural phenomena?

> Other Evolutionary Processes
> > It is already well-known that there are other processes besides mutation
> > and natural selection.  [...]
> This is the second time in this letter that you have said there are
> other unspecified, well-known processes that play a part in the evolution
> of entirely new kinds of critters.  Would you please enlighten us as to
> what they are?

You should have read further down in my letter where you would have found
listed in my description of the theory of evolution the mechanisms below.
(You even claim at that point to agree with them!)

   "(1) a) There is diversity within species (interbreeding populations).
        b) This is continually fueled by mutation, crossover, drift, gene
           duplication, horizontal transfer, etc.
    (4) a) [Natural selection] along with environmental changes, reproductive
           isolation, founder effect, etc., is the basic mechanism by which
           the gene pool of a population changes over time."

> Genetics and Information Theory
> >   "Modern understanding of genetics and information theory shows that new
> >    kinds can't arise from existing kinds."
> >
> > This is just out-and-out false.  Would you care to share some of this
> > "modern understanding" with those of us who work in the field?
> My everyday (well, four days a week, if you want to get picky)
> experience on my job involves signal processing and analysis.

Good for you.  My everyday (I wish it was just four days a week) job involves
analyzing protein sequences and structures using statistical mechanics.

> Sometimes
> noise corrupts the data.  Whenever that happens, information is lost.  If
> there is enough redundant information (parity bits, for example) some or
> all of the information may be recovered.

Good point.  Did you ever notice that we have more than one copy of each gene?

> But random bit changes never increase the information is a signal.
> In genetics it is well known that information is contained in the
> sequences of four kinds of base pairs in a DNA molecule.  From a
> theoretical standpoint, there is no difference between a message encoded
> using base pairs and binary bits.  Random changes do not produce new
> information.

No, random changes only provide the raw material (diversity) upon which
natural selection can act.  It is natural selection which adds information
by means of a feedback loop with the environment.  You are making two basic
logical errors in your analogy.  Firstly, you are assuming a particular
message.  Evolution does not operate with any particular goal.  A change
in the message does not necessarily make it any less functional.  More
importantly though, you are assuming a linear transmission.  If every
organism had only a single offspring this would be a problem, and we would
all go extinct pretty quickly.  That is not the case, however.  There is
actually a very large number of offspring (sent messages) of which only
a small fraction go on to reproduce themselves (relay the message).  The
fact that the successful relays are _selected_ by the environment is how
"information" can be (and is) added.  Most species do go extinct.  The ones
we see are precisely those which have successfully passed through the filter
of natural selection.  The changes they have accumulated are therefore
_not_ all random.

> We are doing some original research
> examining the information content in known gene sequences using the same
> techniques as electrical engineers routinely use in digital signal
> processing.  It isn't ready to publish yet.

Apparently not.  Maybe you should hold off on declaring yourself to
represent the "modern understanding" until it is.

> Apes and Man
> >   "There are no natural laws that turn apes into men.  [...]  Is
> > 'Emergence
> >    of man from a common ancestor with apes' correctly explained by natural
> >    law? No.  How can it be, since there are no such natural laws?"
> >
> > Men _are_ apes according to natural law.  Mutation and natural selection
> > provide the natural explanation.
> Calling a man an ape does not make him one.

No, it is mainly his anatomy and physiology that make him one.  This was
observed before the direct genetic relationship was established.

> Mutation and natural selection provide an incorrect, unverified,
> natural explanation.

This is an assertion for which you have provided no evidence.  On exactly
what basis do you feel that natural law (which you again claimed doesn't
even exist) is somehow insufficient?

> We asked if there was a correct natural explanation.

You were given the explanation which is consistent with the available
evidence and which is accepted by the professional scientists who study
the subject.  Did you have in mind another (creationist) definition
of "correct"?  This goes back to my earlier point that scientists and
creationists have different concepts of reality.  "Correct" to a scientist
means "in accord with the data" and not "in accord with scripture."

> >   "Is 'Emergence of man from a common ancestor with apes' confirmed by
> > tests
> >    in the empirical world?  Absolutely not."
> >
> > In fact, the DNA of humans and chimps has been sequenced and compared.
> > Chimps are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas.
> DNA sequencing sometimes produces some really strange relationships.

Name one.

> We presume that you were referring to the study that claims to show a
> 97% similarity between human and chimp DNA.

Not specifically.  That kind of hybridization experiment is a crude measure
of the overall similarity, but one can also look at the detailed sequences
of particular genes.  This is much easier since humans and chimps have so
many common genes to choose from.  For the hemoglobin example used above,
the results are:

Hemoglobin:                  human vs chimp - 100
                    human, chimp vs gorilla - 99, 99
                               human vs cow - 84
                              human vs frog - 51

The only trick is to find examples where human, chimp, and gorilla aren't
all completely identical.  A much more thorough analysis can be found at

> In other words, they say
> there is 3% difference.  In other words, human and chimp DNA sequences
> differ by only about 90 million base pairs.  And it apparently seems
> reasonable to you that 90 million arbitrary changes to chimp DNA just
> happened to create a human?

Why not?  That's less than the variation within some species, but it
seems to be enough to account for the anatomical differences between
humans and chimps.  The most significant differences are developmental
and behavioral.  Of course the changes aren't arbitrary, they are the
result of many thousands of generations of natural selection.

> >   "Is 'Emergence of man from a common ancestor with apes' falsifiable?  What
> >    experiment could anyone do that would prove, to the satisfaction of an
> >    evolutionist, that men and apes did not evolve from a common ancestor.
> >    If you know of one, we would love for you to tell us what it is."
> >
> > Genetic evidence that humans and apes did not share the same genetic
> > code would do it.  It would be pretty tough to show that humans and apes
> > (and pigs) are not all vertebrates, but lots of things could in principle
> > show that humans had closer relatives than chimps (bonobos, actually).
> Does differing in 90 million locations qualify for being different
> genetic codes?  How different does it have to be?

The term "genetic code" does not refer to the genome of any particular
species; it is the translation mechanism between DNA/RNA and proteins.
DNA sequences consist of a series of nucleotide bases which are divided
into groups of 3, called "codons".  Since there are 4 different nucleotide
bases, there are 64 possible codons.  Each codon is associated with one of
20 naturally-occuring amino acids (or a stop signal).  The identification
of a particular amino acid with one or more particular codons is the "code"
that allows DNA to be translated into specific proteins.  This code is
identical in humans and chimps (and all other animals), which means that
a chimp gene, if it was inserted into and expressed in a human cell would
produce exactly the same protein as it would in a chimp cell.  This is
why similarity in DNA sequences also implies similarity in protein sequences.
If humans had a different genetic code, such that the same DNA sequence
would express a completely different protein in a human cell vs. a chimp
cell, that would have been powerful evidence that humans and chimps are not
directly related, and that humans could not have inherited chimp DNA in
a continuous fashion.  The presence of different nucleotide bases and/or
different amino acids would have been even more convincing.  You asked for
evidence that would satisfy an evolutionist (or at least it would have
in the 1950's before the code was discovered).  Now you have it.  You're

> > This fixation on apes comes from creationists.  Humans and slime mold also
> > have a common ancestor, but I guess it was sufficiently long ago that
> > creationists have forgotten about it.
> Creationists certainly have not forgotten that evolutionists claim there
> are numerous missing links between slim mold and humanity; but thank you
> for pointing that out again.  What are the links between slim mold and
> vertebrate fishes?

Both are eukaryotes, with the intermediates being primitive differentiated
multi-cellular organisms, early animals, and Pikaia which was an early

> What are the links between fishes and mammals?

Amphibians and reptiles, specifically therapsids.

> What are the links between mammals and apes?

Apes _are_ mammals.  In you mean apes and _other_ mammals, Cantius was an
early primate, and Aegyptopithecus an early ape.

Of course, one can figure out how two species are related without
necessarily identifying every single one of their ancestors.  That's
the beauty of molecular biology.

> Age of the Earth
> >   "The young-earth interpretations of geological evidence tend to be as
> > good,
> >    or better, than the old-earth interpretations, so one really can't say
> > that
> >    the old-earth explanations have been confirmed by laboratory tests."
> >
> > This is just plain nonsense.  Measuring the isotopic composition of rocks
> > is a laboratory test, for starters.  So is counting growth rings.
> We've written several articles about isotopic
> ratios of rocks before.  We probably will again.  You simply can't
> tell how old a rock is by measuring the ratio of minerals in it, even if
> they are radioactive, because you don't know how much of the mother and
> daughter material was there to begin with.

Modern techniques do not require knowledge of initial concentrations.  This
is a common creationist falsehood that you appear to have swallowed whole.
I hope that before you write another article on this topic you will do
a little research first.

> Growth rings go back only thousands of years, not millions of years, so
> they can't be used to prove the earth to be billions of years old.

Growth rings in trees are at least sufficient to conclusively prove that
there was no global flood within recorded history.  Sediment deposits
on the other hand have annual layers which do extend for millions of years.

> >   "Evolutionists are always accepting new dates for the formation of the
> >    earth [...]"
> >
> > Such as?  Other than increased precision, when was the last
> > time the accepted value changed substantially?
> In 1913, it was 500 million years old.  In the
> 1960's I was taught in high school that the world is 2 billion years old.

The currently accepted value of 4.5 Gy was published in 1953 and has remained
virtually unchanged for 46 years, essentially the time span over which the
technology of mass spectrometry has been available.  There are very good
reasons why any value suggested in 1913 would be wrong, given that nuclear
isotopes had not yet been discovered.  Do you have a problem with that?

> >   "There is abundant evidence for a young age of the earth."
> >
> > Let me guess, salt concentrations in the ocean?  Decaying magnetic field?
> > Exponential population growth?  Moon dust?  Niagara Falls?  Just name one.

> Good guesses.  You missed helium concentration in the atmosphere,
> formation of river deltas, decay of natural plutonium, deceleration of the
> earth by tidal friction, various mineral concentrations in the ocean.

I thought that by giving that list I was making fun of creationists by
deliberately naming the most obviously stupid and ridiculous arguments
I know of.  I was hoping to force you to distance yourself from the worst
of them and provide an alternative that you would be willing to defend,
and yet you seem to have let these go by without even flinching.  Your
response inevitably raises the question of "Hanlon's Law:"  Are you
really so unfamiliar with the content of these claims, or do you simply not
care?  How silly does a creationist claim need to be before you would be
embarrassed to refer to it?

Let me go through them one by one:

Salt concentrations in the ocean.  The basic argument is that the oceans
started out as fresh water and have continuously been filling up with
salt ever since.  This completely ignores the fact that salt is also removed
from the ocean by evaporation, sedimentation, and subduction.  Why do
you think people find salt in sedimentary rock?  It also ignores
the fact that the salinity of the ocean is in equilibrium and is not
currently observed to change.  If anything, the time it would take for the
ocean to reach its current salinity would be its _minimum_ age, not its
maximum.  But even if we accept this hypothesis, what do we get?  The
values range from 100 years for aluminum to 260 million years for sodium.
So which one is the age of the earth?

Decaying magnetic field.  Creationists claim that the magnetic field of
the earth is decaying exponentially, and that it therefore would have been
unrealistically strong in the recent past.  This ignores the fact that
the overall field strength is not actually changing significantly; it is
only the dipole component which is currently decreasing.  The quadrupole
component on the other hand is increasing.  To imagine a quadrupole field,
think of having "north" at both poles and "south" all along the equator.
It is known from the magnetization of different rock layers that the dipole
moment has reversed itself many times over the history of the earth.  Since
the energy is transfered to the quadrupole field, it doesn't so much "flip"
or "disappear" as turn itself inside out.  There is therefore no reason at
all to assume that the dipole "decay" is continuous, let alone exponential.
Mathematically, exponential decay is the result of random, uncorrelated
events.  There is no reason why this should describe the earth's
magnetic field.

Exponential population growth.  This is my personal choice as the all-time
stupidest creationist argument.  The idea is that if the human population
has been growing at a constant exponential rate, we can use the current
population to work back how long people have been around.  First off, there
is no reason at all to assume that population growth has been constant over
any long period of time.  This has never been observed in humans or any other
species.  Growth has been roughly exponential in this century due to the
drastic change in mortality following the discovery of antibiotics, but
for most of human history it has been relatively stable due to the usual
factors of disease, famine, and war.  The same people who refuse to believe
that radioactive decay rates are constant now want to claim that human
reproduction is?  How old would the earth be if we made the same assumption
for rabbits, or even better, cockroaches?  But let's do the calculation
anyway.  If we take the population as 4 billion in 1975 and 6 billion in
2000 (nice round numbers), we get a rate of 1.6% per year.  This gives
1375 years.  Oops, let's try again.  If we assume 8 people at the time of the
Flood, 4500 years ago, that gives a rate of 0.5% per year.  Has this rate ever
actually been observed?  What would it give for other key events in the
Bible?  According to the exponential model, the total population of the earth
at the time of Exodus was roughly 1000 people.  Does this make any sense
at all?

Moon dust.  The idea here is that if the moon is several billion years
old it should be covered in 50 feet of dust.  When Neil Armstrong stepped
onto a solid surface, this was a blow to evolution.  This urban legend
is based on the earliest estimates of the influx of space dust which were
already known to be wildly in error by the early 60's.  Nobody was actually
surprised by anything.  In any case this is irrelevant.  We can now measure
the amount of dust in space very accurately using satellites, and the
true value is perfectly consistent with the amount accumulated on the moon
over 4 billion years.

Niagara Falls.  Since the waterfall is eroding away the edge of the cliff
(and therefore moving upstream) we should be able to estimate the maximum
amount of time it could have been around (even if it started at Lake Ontario)
which comes to a few thousand years.  So what?  We already know that the
waterfall can't be any older than the most recent ice age, during which the
whole area was covered by an enormous glacier.  Why would anybody even think
that this would be relevant to the age of the earth?

Helium concentration in the atmosphere.  This argument supposes that
helium (which is given off by the earth as a product of radioactive decay)
is accumulating in the atmosphere.  This ignores the fact that helium
is lighter than air (that's why people put it in balloons) and floats to
the top of the atmosphere where it evaporates away and disappears into
space.  The amount carried off by the solar wind is roughly the same as
the rate of production and the amount in the atmosphere is more-or-less
in equilibrium.  This has nothing to do with the age of anything.

Formation of river deltas.  Which rivers exactly do you think have maintained
the same course over the entire history of the planet?  (No mean feat if you
also believe in a global flood.)  This argument might go back to Mark Twain,
who wrote that at the rate the Mississippi river delta was filling up, at
some point the river was going to turn around and start flowing backwards.
The only difference is that I think Mark Twain was trying to be funny.

Decay of natural plutonium.  What about plutonium?  I'm not sure what you
mean by this one.  Do _you_ know what you mean by this one?  For starters,
the only naturally occuring plutonium on earth is the minute quantity
found in uranium ore which is continually produced by neutron bombardment.
It decays much more rapidly than the uranium itself and does not accumulate.
If you are thinking of Gentry's so-called halos, that was polonium.

Deceleration of the earth by tidal friction.  Yes, the earth is spinning
more slowly now because of the moon.  The day is currently getting longer
by about 0.0015 sec every century.  This rate is known to vary in time, but
if we extrapolate back the day would have been 0.15 sec shorter 10,000 years
ago.  One billion years ago it was less than 20 hours.  When the earth first
formed it may have only been a few hours.  So what?  In what way could
this possibly indicate a young earth?

Various mineral concentrations in the ocean.  This is where I came in.
How many times would you need to repeat this claim before it became any
less ridiculous?

> >   "Those few tests it does pass, it passes more by our generosity than by
> >    its own merit.  If we felt more argumentative, we could probably prove
> >    in a court of law that they don't really pass those tests either."
> >
> > And which court would that be?
> It is hard telling, since U.S. courts are notoriously unpredictable.

You are right about U.S. courts, however this still seems like a rather
bold claim to make in an essay which was referring to a court decision in
which this argument was soundly rejected.  If you have a better strategy which
has escaped men like Wendell Bird, then maybe you could provide a hint as
to what that might be.  To be fair though, until such a trial actually takes
place, I will concede that your statement as it stands, unlike the others
refered to in this section, is not demonstrably false.

> What Should Be Taught
> > (1) a) There is diversity within species (interbreeding populations).
> >     b) This is continually fueled by mutation, crossover, drift, gene
> >        duplication, horizontal transfer, etc.
> > (2) More individuals are born than are able to reproduce.
> > (3) a) Reproductive success is not random, but depends on individual traits.
> >     b) These traits are (at least partially) inherited.
> > (4) a) This, along with environmental changes, reproductive isolation,
> >        founder effect, etc., is the basic mechanism by which the gene
> >        pool of a population changes over time.
> >     b) There is no known limit to this process.
> > (5) a) All current species do in fact share a single common ancestor.
> >     b) This is shown by the genetic relatedness of all living species,
> >        as well as their geographical distribution and the fossil evidence
> >        of now-extinct ancestors.
> We agree completely with everything up through 4a.  Then it starts to
> fall apart.
> Breeders have determined that there is a limit to how much variation
> there is in any particular gene pool.  [...]

You are making two basic logical errors in this argument.  Firstly, you
are assuming a single gene pool.  The question is not how much variation
there can be within a species, but rather how different two species can
be from one another.  More importantly though, you are assuming a particular
outcome, in this case milk production.  Obviously there may be limits to
some particular ability, but that is irrelevant to the question.  It might
seem like a good argument at first glance, but that is not the way evolution
works.  There is no pre-set goal to attain.  If survival really depended
on that ability, then only those individuals capable of it survive.  If none
are, the species goes extinct.  That's it, end of story.  In real life lots
of species do go extinct.  Evolution is about the ones that survive.

The real question is what happens to two separated populations.  Each
gene pool will change independently over time, and all of their traits
can diverge.  In some cases the result will reflect differences in their
environments, and in some cases it will just be random drift.  There are
many ways the two groups can differ: morphology, development, behaviour,
etc.  At each point in time, each group is a perfectly viable population
that has no way of "knowing" what happened to the other.  (The idea that
a transitional species needs to be some sort of partly-formed chimera
is yet another ridiculous creationist caricature.) Given the large number
of "directions" each can evolve, there is very little chance they
will ever move closer together, except perhaps for a handful of particular
characteristics.  What is there then to stop them from diverging?  They
have no "memory" of where they started.  How could they ever tell if they
had gone "too far"?  Besides the trivial case of physical laws (no animal
can run faster than the speed of light) there is no genetic mechanism which
could stop two such populations from evolving indefinitely (or until they
go extinct.) What is there, for example, to stop two (reproductively)
isolated populations of simple metazoa from eventually developing into
insects and vertebrates?

In any case, my original statement 4b was asserting a negative--that no
limit is known.  All you have to do to disprove it is provide such a limit.
What is the mechanism that prevents "microevolution" from crossing the limit
of a "baramin"?  Since "baramins" are by definition populations which have
no ancestral relationship whatsoever, all you need to do is provide the
operational test of "baraminhood".  What is the distinguishing feature that
allows one to be sure that two species _aren't_ related?  I don't know of any.
What have the "baraminologists" come up with?

> Statement 5a is a consequence of statement 4b.  Stated mathematically, 4b
> is a necessary condition for 5a.  Since 4b is false, 5a must be false, too.

Your premise is false.  Statement 5a is neither a consequence of 4b nor
does it depend on 4b.  If 4b is true, 5a could still be false.  That fact
that there is no limit on the diversity of a given lineage does not imply
that several different lineages could not simultaneously exist.  5a could
also be true even if 4b were false.  If a limit exists, 5a simply means that
our current lineage (the DNA/RNA/protein kind) has remained within that
limit or has not yet reached it.  Stated mathematically, your argument is

> Statement 5b seems to be unfounded generalization.

No, 5a is the generalization.  5b is some of the evidence upon which that
generalization is based.

> What is "the
> genetic relatedness of all living species"?  Does the fact that they are
> all carbon-based life forms necessarily imply that they have a common
> ancestor?  We don't think so.

Neither would I.  However the relatedness of life on earth goes considerably
deeper than that.  All life, in addition to carbon, uses the same genetic
material and reproductive mechanism based on DNA/RNA molecules and proteins.
Furthermore, all living species have (almost) the same genetic code which
specifies the details of transcription and essentially gives them
interchangeable genes.  Furthermore, there are identifiable similarities
in the particular sequences of a number of genes which are found in all
living species.  Furthermore, all living species make use of common
metabolic reaction pathways and enzymatic mechanisms.  It is the fact that
these observed similarities are things which are _known_ to be inherited
that leads to the conclusion of relatedness.

> What does geographical distribution have to do with evolution?  Just
> because all the kangaroos are in Australia doesn't prove they evolved
> there.

It does however show that isolated populations evolve differently on a
large scale (mammals vs marsupials) and that the distributions of current
species are limited by the migration of their predecessors, strongly
supporting an ancestral relationship.  The difference between the flora and
fauna of eastern and western Indonesia is very profound, and extends far
beyond just kangaroos.

> In fact, it would be strong evidence for evolution if kangaroos
> suddenly appeared in Nebraska.  That could be proof that prairie dogs can
> evolve into kangaroos.

That is ridiculous.  Evolution predicts exactly the opposite, that
kangaroos do not suddenly appear and that they evolved from other
marsupials.  Why would you even make such a statement?  Do you really have
no idea how evolution works?  Are you deliberately trying to misrepresent
what scientists think?  Was this simply supposed to be a joke?

> The fossil record shows abrupt appearance of all kinds of critters.

It also shows many transitional forms (like whales with legs) which are
very different from anything alive today, and it shows that modern species
mostly appear relatively recently.  This means that life in general has
changed very significantly.

> In some cases, (sharks, bats, frogs, etc.) the fossil record shows hardly any
> change at all over supposedly many millions of years.  If those rocks
> really were that old it would show that critters don't change.  (In other
> words, they don't evolve.)

In some cases they don't (at least not in a way visible in the fossils.)
If their environment is relatively stable, there is no reason they should
have to.

> Educational Standards
> > > We believe, for the most part, that evolutionists are neither malicious
> > > nor stupid.  We believe instead that they have been poorly educated.
> >
> > By what standard?  Do you not consider a Ph.D. in biology to be the
> > accepted standard of education in this field?  What do you suggest in
> > its place, other than a test of religious faith?  Who is actually doing
> > original research in biology these days?
> The medical doctors who bled George Washington to death to cure his
> laryngitis met the accepted standard of education in their day.

Maybe so.  (And they were creationists besides.)  On the other hand,
evolutionary biologists meet the accepted standard of education in our
day.  That by itself obviously does not mean they are correct, but that
wasn't my question.  You claimed that they "have been poorly educated."
I'm asking you what you would suggest in its place, besides a test of
religious faith.

> This comes back to our belief that the major scientific breakthroughs
> in the next few years will come from creation scientists because they are
> willing to approach the evidence unhindered by evolutionary bias.
> Creationist geologists will come up with better explanations of how the
> rocks were formed because they aren't trying to force the data into an
> explanation that involves millions of years.  Creation biologists won't
> waste their time trying to figure out how simple kinds evolved into other
> kinds, and concentrate on variations in species.

How much do you want to bet?  Can you name any significant "creationist"
research that is even taking place, let alone going anywhere?

> If scientists really thought they knew all the
> answers, they wouldn't do any research at all.

Maybe that's the reason.  Creationists _do_ think they already know all
the answers.  Their only goal is not to find anything out, but instead
to try to convince other people that they are right.

> > If you really believe that, why don't you simply present a stand-alone
> > creationist interpretation of the data?  Why bother attacking evolution
> > at all?  If there is a scientific creationist interpretation that can
> > stand on its own merits (rather than on the bible), that doesn't depend
> > on what evolutionists may or may not think, and makes useful testable
> > predictions about future discoveries, please accept my invitation to share
> > it with the rest of the world.
> Excellent question.  We hope we have an excellent answer.
> There are many organizations that do present stand-alone creationist
> interpretations.  (We started to list them,  but decided not to because we
> didn't want offend any of them by inadvertently leaving them off the list,
> or listing them last.)  They do an excellent job of showing how the data
> fits with a creationist model.  It is unnecessary to duplicate their
> efforts.

Nicely dodged!  I'm not asking you to duplicate their efforts, just to name
one, any one.  If the list is as long as you claim, this should be easy.
All I'm looking for is evidence that such a thing exists.  Do you have any?

> How Life Began
> > > But evolutionists believe, by faith (not experimental proof), that
> > > chemicals came together by an unknown natural process and formed a dead
> > > cell.  Then that dead cell came to life by an unknown natural process.
> >
> > No, scientists generally believe that the first cell was the product
> > of a system of self-catalyzing chemical reactions which developed the
> > geometrical pattern of a liposome enclosing a molecular template.  The idea
> > of some randomly-formed dead cell (Frankencell) suddenly getting the
> > spark of life is a laughable creationist caricature.
> We hoped it would be laughable.

Well which is it then?  If you now admit that this was a joke, why did you
say above (with apparently a straight face) that evolutionists did in fact
believe it.  Are you trying to ridicule scientists by deliberately
misrepresenting what they say?

> > > Then this dead cell evolved into every living thing on this planet through
> > > the natural processes of mutation and natural selection over a long period
> > > of time
> >
> > Every living thing on this planet has a common ancestor, a species of
> > prokaryote (living at the time, I would imagine) which was itself the
> > product of a long process of evolution.
> Your imagination is faith, whether you realize it or not.  You have to
> accept this by faith because there is no experimental proof.

Here you claimed that scientists believe that a "dead cell evolved."
Presumably you are aware that the theory of evolution only claims that
living populations evolve.  This would appear to be another cheap shot aimed
at ridiculing scientists by misrepresenting their beliefs.  That was also
what prompted my remark in parentheses.  To take that remark out of context
and refer to the rest of the statement as my "imagination" shows a great
deal of chutzpah, to say the least.

> > > One must accept these articles of faith in spite of the overwhelming
> > > scientific evidence [...] that birds don't hatch from lizard eggs because
> > > creatures always reproduce 'after their kind'.
> >
> > No sane person would claim that they did.  That makes as much sense as
> > claiming that Julius Caesar woke up one morning speaking modern Italian.
> > Populations evolve, not individuals.
> You say that no sane person would claim that it happened in a single
> generation.  We would like to agree, but we don't want to start
> name-calling.

Too late.  In your original statement, you suggest that the fact that
"birds don't hatch from lizard eggs" is somehow evidence against evolution.
You seem to be clearly implying that scientists do in fact believe that
to happen.  The alternative is that you were simply attacking a strawman
caricature of evolution that you knew to be false.  Either way, the damage
is done.

> Linguists can, however, trace the evolution of Latin
> into Italian (and French, and other languages, too).  So the analogy
> fails.

No it doesn't.  It just means that this is an example of "micro-linguistics"
which is sufficiently well-documented to convince even a creationist.  Where
do you draw the line with "macro-linguistics" (e.g. Latin vs. Sanskrit)
assuming that you believe that all "kinds" of language were specially
created at the Tower of Babel?  I apologize if you actually do accept
evolutionary linguistics, but just out of curiosity, why?

> We would not characterize the description of evolution you provided as
> "dishonest."  But we would feel comfortable in describing the last portion
> of it as "factually deficient."

On the other hand, I am quite comfortable in charaterizing your description
of evolution as "dishonest."  You have convinced me beyond any reasonable
doubt that you are capable of looking things up and that you are neither
uneducated enough nor stupid enough to really think that creationism has
any scientific merit.  You might believe that that will change, you might
even desperately hope that that will change, but at some level you must
be aware that you are misrepresenting the current state of affairs.  Your
false statements and caricatures of evolution itself are too frequent
and too exaggerated to have resulted from simple ignorance.  I'm sorry,
but I call 'em the way I see 'em.  It saddens me that you have chosen to
use your talents as a writer in order to deceive people, even if you may
believe it's for a good cause.

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