Letters to the Editor
Does Dr. Walter Brown deserve any more of our time than he has already absorbed? Alas, he does, because he has achieved some power here in Arizona, enough to influence an Arizona State Board of Education science teaching directive.
A "science essential skills" committee was formed to define: (1) science skills students should acquire in school; (2) the nature of the students' mastery of those skills; and (3) classroom indicators that would show this mastery. Dr. Brown was appointed to this committee by a minion of our famous impeached former Governor Mecham.
I was told that Dr. Brown was a rather low-key member of the committee—not the fire and brimstone type. Nevertheless, mention of organic evolution is conspicuously absent from the science essential skills document. On the other hand, "Piltdown hoax" is there as are the phrases "overly authoritarian" and "so-called scientific statements."
Most indicative of his influence is the following. A student demonstrates that he "understands the patterns by which major scientific ideas change" if he "traces discoveries that have led and continue to lead to the conclusion that life is more complex than was previously believed." When I first read this, I thought it was a back-handed reference to evolution, but I now recognize it as one of Dr. Brown's key principles without its final phrase, "and therefore must have been Designed by a supernatural Creator!" . . .
Treating Dr. Brown's fringe science in the same manner as we are obligated to deal with conventional science, as Lippard and Jeffries have done (Creation/Evolution XXVI), gives him a legitimacy he does not deserve. In fact, Dr. Brown's "Second Response to Lippard" shines with the light of the classic crackpot. But even Velikovsky didn't put together a list of fifty scientists who were ignoring him and thus "ought to be ashamed." Dr. Brown rejects the procedural rules of the science game ("What good would citations do?") and then blows it off entirely by routinely invoking a capital "C" Creator, capital "D" Designer, and an "intelligent, supernatural source" to explain everything.
Yet, it is unfair to dismiss Dr. Brown as a crackpot. His espousal of "creation science" is driven by the same zeal that has for centuries driven missionaries into far corners of the world to convert the heathen. I believe he was put on the science skills committee because he is an evangelist with a Ph.D. . . .
The Walter Brown situation is a classic case of the biblical fundamentalists winning the skirmishes even though they have been unable to win the battles. In the conflict between science and religious zealotry, the zealots prevail because they understand the rules of the game and we seem determined to never learn them! This is a political fight, the rules of logic don't apply here.
Daniel J. Lynch, Ph.D.
The recent exchanges between Walter Brown and Jim Lippard bring less than fond memories of my first encounter with Brown almost a decade ago when Brown's "Scientific Case for Creation" only had 103 categories of evidence (and was distributed anonymously). After learning in the first four categories that spontaneous generation has never been observed, that Mendel's laws of inheritance explained genetic variation and there is a limited amount of genetic variation, that acquired characteristics cannot be inherited, and that natural selection cannot produce new genes—and that somehow Brown held these as evidence that the theory of evolution was invalid—, ;I certainly felt that his scholarship and knowledge of biology could be called into question.
Brown's growing list of categories still represents nothing but a quagmire into which the unwary might wander and be unable to extricate themselves. Judging by Brown's responses to Lippard, his tactics have changed little, and there is no reason to expect that Brown will answer or respond directly to questions any time in the future. He will continue to avoid, evade, obfuscate, and challenge "anti-creationists" (a decade ago we were still biologists) to engage him in an extensive written debate. Brown's efforts to force such a debate led him to write to our university [Illinois State University] and imply that if our president did not insist that this untenured, assistant professor comply with his debate demands that future National Science Foundation funding at our institution might be threatened.
However, the most interesting exchange took place between a professor of social history and Brown in a teacher's workshop on the creation-evolution controversy. After Brown verbally made a similar challenge to the one that appears on page fifty-three of Creation/Evolution XXVI, my colleague asked Brown, "What does a debate, written or verbal, prov, e?" Three times Brown ignored the question and continued speaking. My colleague interrupted and said, "I know why you are not answering my question, and I'll have to answer it for you. A debate proves who is the best debater; it never proves anything in science. So, why do you continue to insist on a debate? Because that is the only forum in which you can hope to win." Brown knew then, knows now, and actually is correct when he says you have "everything to lose and nothing to gain by engaging in . . . debate." Like other creationists, Brown does not operate under the rules of science, because in that forum they have lost. Brown was later offered an opportunity to speak on campus at a philosophy colloquium, but refused since it would not be a debate.
If anything, an exchange with Brown reminds me of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Lippard tries hard to pin Brown down, but if he ever scores a clear hit, he may find it hard to get free.
Joseph E. Armstrong, Ph.D.
It was flattering to be referred to as "unqualified or incompetent" and not honest, all within (the religious magic number) seven lines by Walter Brown (Creation/Evolution XXV:36). Reminds me of the preacher who wrote in the margin of a sermon, "Point weak here—pound fist and shout like hell!"
Correspondence in my possession confirms the time schedule described in my paper. I was originally asked to address a "Faculty/Student Christian Forum," a setting more appropriate for angelic halos than polonium ones. I had one week to research the anti-evolution snippets gleaned for years by Brown. In spite of time limitations, I was told, "You debated him as well as a reputable scientist can."
Editor's note: Contrary to Brown's critique of Parrish in Creation/Evolution XXV, he lists Parrish in issue XXVI among the fifty persons he feels are especially qualified to debate him. Figure that one out!
Walter Brown's rebuttal article was not very convincing (issue XXV). First, while it sounds impressive to present 120 categories of evidence, all you get is a brief outline. Virtually all the categories feature invalid or irrelevant arguments, and over half have factual errors. More than half the references cited are obsolete or nonprofessional works—some out of date by over fifty years. Brown needs to present fully thought out arguments with up-to-date data.
Similarly, giving all theories a fair hearing sounds like a good idea, but science already does this. The idea of fairness does not require that time be wasted continually refuting obsolete or silly theories. Three centuries ago the creation theories of Thomas Burnet, William Whiston, and the like, were good scientific theories, but, by the middle of the nineteenth century, new evidence had rendered them untenable. Today's creation hypotheses do not correct these defects; they simply rehash the already refuted views using current terminology. Evolution theories are unambiguously superior to creation theories in all of Brown's 120 categories. Creationists need to work on original theories—theories with more explanatory power and fewer ad hoc assumptions. . . .
Brown's reply to criticisms of alleged ark sightings is a major disappointment. It is a complete evasion. He not only presents no factual evidence but says it is a waste of time to try to convince someone who doesn't already agree with him: "Giving such information to a skeptic accomplishes nothing." Is this the sort of statement you expect from someone who is honestly seeking the truth with an open mind?
Because Brown steadfastly refuses to supply details of his speed-of-light decay analysis, specific criticism of the work is impossible. However, there are several general criticisms which would cover any analysis Brown may have made.
Any finite data set can be fit to an arbitrarily high precision; therefore, to avoid spurious results, both the choice of model and the estimation technique must be theoretically justified. In this case, neither physical nor statistical theory justifies the use of nonlinear statistical models. Numerically, a quadratic or simple exponential curve is the most complex required to fit the data. Statistically, neither of these is significantly better than a constant.
Nonlinear models are notoriously sensitive to failures of theoretical assumptions. In this case, the problems include a small data set, systematically biased and dependent errors, overweighted early observations, and the like. Even if an unbiased, independent, properly weighted data set could be chosen from the raw data, the small sample would provide an estimator with unknown properties. The asymptotic statistical theory would still not apply. The most that could be concluded is that the results are less significant than the asymptotic test indicates, probably much less given the small amount of data.
Brown also makes a number of false assertions on the topic of intelligent design versus random natural processes. At one point, he claims that information does not arise spontaneously in isolated systems, that natural processes always destroy information, and that only an outside intelligence could increase information in an isolated system. He also claims that these observations provide a basis for showing that macroevolution could not occur and a Big Bang could not have preceded life. Further on he asserts that everything in evolution ultimately derives from chance but that chance alone could never produce valid thought.
Every assertion is wrong. Isolated systems receive no outside input at all—by definition. The action of the second law of thermodynamics tends to disorder isolated systems, which increases their information content (more information is needed to describe a disordered system than an ordered one). Natural processes transform information. Demonstrations based upon false premises are worthless.
Can valid thought be the result of chance? It would be hard to conclude otherwise. Many, if not most, thoughts are not valid, and many, if not most, valid thoughts are not true. Historically, trial and error has been the main source of human learning—both of the facts themselves and of the methods for accumulating facts. In artificial intelligence research, scientists have been forced to the conclusion that a chance element is necessary to mimic the flexibility and power of human thinking.
Thought is by no means pure chance; the chance element is crucial primarily in novel situations when creativity is required. Brown's assertion to the contrary, like most creationist arguments, is an example of the empirical result mentioned above: that many thoughts are not valid.
Brent A. Becker
At least one student per semester asks me whether or not it's true that humans use only a small fraction of their mental abilities. I have always replied that this statement is simply a myth made up by teachers to get them to try harder, because in my twenty years as a neuroscientist I had never seen it claimed in a scholarly journal until Walter Brown put it forward as an argument against evolution (Creation/Evolution XXVI:39). I would be grateful if Dr. Brown, or anyone else, would provide me with references to the "authorities on the mind" who have made such a statement as a scientific claim supported by data.
C. Leon Harris, Ph.D.
A couple of points in Walter Brown's response to Jim Lippard (Creation/Evolution XXV) reveal themselves as flawed when closely examined. Brown elaborated on them apparently because he was miffed that Lippard had dismissed them as being "philosophical rather than scientific."
Brown considered that he was arguing inductively from the complexities of organic systems—that is, "all evidence." Two faults in this line of reasoning are: first, that there must be independent evidence that the systems had been designed, such as a set of plans existing prior to the coming into existence of those systems. A house can be shown to be designed from a set of plans approved by the local building department prior to the construction. That a plan of something can be made after its coming into being is no indication that a plan existed before.
Brown's reasoning, also, is possible only within a culture familiar with designing. All of the hours and pages that have been devoted to the "design" argument witness only to the fact that we live in a culture in which we consciously engage in designing and constructing from designs. There have been and are cultures in which such discussion would make no sense at all. A trend in modern art and painting not long ago explicitly avoided "design" in this sense.
Of all of Brown's 1986 statements, his "all evidence points to a Designer" shows his cultural ethnocentricity.
The "philosophical category" Brown admits to contains a change of meaning of a term in mid-thought. "If life is ultimately the result of random chance," he argues, and leaving out the middle premise that "human thought is part of life," he arrives at the premise for the next step: "then so is thought [a result of random chance]." Here, he moved the meaning of the word life from "low level" organic functioning to "highly organized" human function without the blink of an eye.
His argument continues quite illogically, extending the idea of life originating from a "random chance" occurrence into a "long series of accidents," something no evolutionist would ever consider. Since "your thoughts" are the result of that "long series of accidents," they "would have no validity." The logic of this has no validity. There is no connection at all between the validity of thought and its possible origin by "accident"!
Brown's style of thought is one that does not involve very careful consideration of all of the steps necessary to reach valid conclusions. He has not examined very closely the assumptions underlying his premises, and he leaves out necessary steps between his premises and conclusions, often violating rules of deduction. This is in regard to just two of his points. How do the others stand up?
Kenneth H. Bonnell
Walter T. Brown, Jr., has recently (Creation/Evolution XXVI) criticized an article of mine published several years ago in this journal (XIX).
In my original article, I pointed out that increasingly detailed knowledge of the DNA of humans and other primates had revealed a number of instances of shared pseudogenes—the same nonfunctional genetic "errors" in the DNA of humans and apes—which provide strong evidence that these species shared a common ancestor, consistent with the evolutionary model. This conclusion was explained using an analogy from the world of copyright law: an author claiming that his work has been plagiarized can prove his case if he can show that errors in his work have been duplicated in the alleged copy. Shared errors imply copying rather than independent creation; the genetic errors (pseudogenes) that we share with apes imply that these DNA sequences have been copied from a pseudogene in the DNA of a common ancestor.
I will deal individually with each of Brown's four criticisms.
First, Brown states that I failed to consider a second criterion that must be demonstrated in order to prove copying—namely, that "both sets of errors did not have a common cause, such as an adverse event or some agent." Brown's criterion makes no sense to me; I don't understand what "adverse event" or "agent" he is thinking of. In any case, he does not explain how consideration of his proposed second criterion leads to an alternative explanation for shared pseudogenes or how that explanation supports the creation model over evolution. Therefore, his criticism seems to have little bearing on the fundamental conclusion of my article.
Second, Brown says of me: "He hasn't identified all known pseudogenes, nor shown which organisms do and do not have them. Until he has done so, we cannot compare that data with the macroevolution hypothesis." Scientists rarely have all the data they would like in order to evaluate competing hypotheses; if we were forced to wait until all the data were in before drawing any conclusions, science would advance extremely and unnecessarily slowly. Brown seems unaware of the research program that would be required to identify all the pseudogenes in human DNA. Pseudogenes are quite common. Many genes have more than one pseudogene copy; some have more than a dozen. It will be a long time before all pseudogenes are known, but Brown has not shown why we cannot use the ones currently recognized to draw the conclusions discussed in my article. If the creationists cannot explain away the examples of shared pseudogenes currently known, then it is unlikely that they will do better when more examples are available. In any case, as I pointed out in my article, even a single example of a shared error makes a strong case for a common ancestor.
Third, Brown states that, "Since most evolutionists believe that humans are more closely related to chimpanzees than gorillas, Max will have trouble selling his argument even to evolutionists." Brown seems to believe that my argument depends upon proving that humans are more closely related to gorillas than to chimpanzees. It does not. Moreover, the notion of shared pseudogenes as reflecting derivation from a common ancestor does not have to be sold, as it is accepted among essentially all scientists who have considered pseudogenes. But since the relationship between humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas has raised questions previously (see Letters to the Editor, Creation/Evolution XX), and since there is some new information on this issue, I would like to elaborate on this point.
In my article, I described two types of human pseudogene related to the immunoglobulin epsilon gene. One, the "classical pseudogene," looks like a copy of the functional gene which has suffered a large deletion that removed about one-half of the genetic information. At the time I was writing my article, the evidence suggested that a similar pseudogene existed at the same position in gorilla DNA but not in chimpanzee (Ueda et al., 1985, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 82:3712). As was pointed out in the original report of these findings, as well as in my article and the letter to the editor which followed (Creation/Evolution XXI), this difference between chimpanzee and gorilla could in theory reflect a closer relationship of humans to gorillas than to chimpanzees, although most other evidence suggested a closer relationship to chimpanzees. Alternatively, as I pointed out, the DNA corresponding to this sequence may have been completely deleted in the chimpanzee lineage. Recent evidence from the laboratory of T. Honjo indicates that this is exactly what happened (Ueda et al., 1988, Journal of Molecular Evolution 27:77). Cloning and DNA sequence analysis of this region of chimpanzee DNA reveals a deletion of all four of the major coding blocks of the epsilon gene. What is left includes a portion of the epsilon "isotype switch region" on one side of the deletion and the "epsilon membrane exons" on the other side (although the latter was not demonstrated explicitly by sequence analysis); these are all that remain to mark the position where a complete epsilon sequence once existed. However, the most significant (and surprising) conclusion of the new sequence data is that, because the exact boundaries of the deletions in all three species are different, the deletions probably occurred independently in the three lineages, perhaps as a result of convergent evolution in response to selective pressure to eliminate the epsilon sequence. Thus, the existence of remnant epsilon coding blocks in human and gorilla DNA but not in chimpanzee DNA has no bearing on the question of which two species are most closely related to each other. Furthermore, these epsilon-related sequences do not provide a clear example of a shared pseudogene inherited from a common ancestral pseudogene, since the last common ancestor of the three species may have had an intact functional epsilon copy at this position. However, even without this particular example, other examples support the general argument from shared classical pseudogenes which I described in my article, and indeed since that article several more examples that make the point have been characterized by DNA sequence analysis (for example, Miyamoto et al., 1987, Science 238:369).
The other type of epsilon pseudogene discussed in my article is the "processed pseudogene." This type of pseudogene is believed to arise when an RNA copy of a gene gets "reverse transcribed" into DNA and the resulting DNA fragment gets inserted back into the cell's DNA at some random position. The processed epsilon pseudogenes of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans have now been cloned and sequenced (Ueda et al., 1989, Journal of Molecular Biology 205:85). The data indicate that all four are located at the same position in the DNA. Moreover, if one assumes that greater sequence discrepancy between two species implies an earlier species divergence time, then the sequences of these processed pseudogenes suggest that humans diverged earlier from the orangutan lineage, next from the gorilla lineage, and most recently from the chimpanzees. This is the order of events deduced from much other evolutionary data. These new data are all consistent with the notion that the processed epsilon pseudogene arose in a common ancestor of humans and apes. Other similar examples of shared processed pseudogenes are now in the literature (for example, Lewis and Cowan, 1986, Journal of Molecular Biology 187:623).
Parenthetically, I would like to mention that since my article appeared I have observed that questions about the human-chimpanzee-gorilla relationship and about the different types of pseudogenes have deflected readers' attention from the central concept of the article. I chose to write about the epsilon pseudogenes because I had found them in my own laboratory research; if I had a chance to rewrite the article, I would use instead examples of shared retroposons as a conceptually simpler way of illustrating the point of shared genetic errors (see Bonner et al., 1982, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 79:4709; Mariani-Costantini et al., 1989, Journal of Virology 63:4982). Most people are familiar with the idea that viruses can be "caught," and with increasing awareness of the AIDS retrovirus, many have heard that viral sequences can be inserted into cellular DNA. Therefore, it is a relatively small step to learn that certain retroviruses appear at the same position in our DNA as in the DNA of other primates, and that the conclusion that the retrovirus was inserted in the DNA of a common ancestor is straightforward. This kind of example also sidesteps the creationist rejoinder that some processed pseudogenes could be functional (the rare case in which a processed gene inserted near a regulatory sequence which allows its expression).
And, finally, Brown asks the familiar creationist question: "How then did the immense amount of coded, genetic information arise? In our experience, codes are produced only by intelligence, not natural processes or chance." If Brown limits his acceptance of science to only what is "in our experience" or what "has ever been observed" directly, he would eliminate most areas of modem science including nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, astronomy, genetics, and the like. All of these involve indirect deduction of abstract principles from what is directly observable. Life on earth is thought to have originated billions of years ago and may have increased in complexity over millions of years before it resembled anything we would recognize as alive today. All this occurred under conditions that are presently unknown but almost certainly different from what currently exists on earth. Therefore, it makes little sense to dismiss the evolutionary hypothesis of a natural—that is, nonsupernatural—origin of biological complexity on the grounds that such processes are not something "in our experience." Who could expect to have personal experience of the first millions of years of earth's history?
The genetic information encoded in our DNA may be like a computer program in some respects, but Brown begs the question in arguing that it is sufficiently similar that we must postulate an intelligent creator of genetic information just because computer programs have intelligent creators. Similarly, it is ridiculous to argue that, because modern "codes" such as Morse code and Braille were designed by intelligent creators, the genetic "code" must also have been. Isn't Brown able to grasp that just because two things share some features they don't necessarily share all features?
How did genetic information arise? Clearly, we don't know the details, and we may never know. But we can make reasoned hypotheses about parts of the process based upon observations from current molecular biology, population genetics, paleontology, geology, information theory, and so forth; and some of these hypotheses can be tested by experiments, by computer simulations, or by the collection of independent data. Readers interested in these hypotheses might enjoy Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker or Christopher Wills's The Wisdom of the Genes.
In summary, none of Brown's criticisms weaken in any way the force of the shared pseudogene argument for evolution discussed in my article. In the years since I wrote it, additional examples of shared pseudogenes and retroposons have been described, all of which put the argument on even sounder footing.
Edward E. Max, M.D., Ph.D.
I would like to comment on Walter Brown's article in Creation/Evolution XXV. First, it's interesting that, while "special creationists" usually come from Protestant Christian backgrounds and are obviously trying to win converts, they refuse to discuss religion. The reason is simple: only about 10 percent of their arguments support the book of Genesis. I've tacitly pointed this out to the main group of "special creationists" in the Seattle area and received only hard looks for my trouble. The easiest answer for any mystery of origins is to say that "whatever happened, God did it." Since there are mysteries of origins, those who have decided to believe in a creator of some sort can always find justification for their belief.
Not to ask the creationist just what kind of creation is being touted is to fall into the hands of those who argue that mystery equals creation. We should realize that modem creationism is an ad hoc hypothesis that can scarcely lose in a scientifically and biblically illiterate audience. It basically has nothing to do with the book of Genesis.
Next, I would question Brown's statement that "most scientific dating techniques indicate that the earth, the solar system, and the universe are young." Most creationist "age-dating" methods deal with features or misapplied knowledge of such things as geomagnetic decay. . . .
Brown shows his concern for Setterfield's explanation of how starlight from sources billions of light years distant is already visible here, in a universe which creationists suppose is only a few thousand years old.
Suppose Setterfield were correct—that the speed of light six thousand years ago was millions of times faster than it is now—what would we expect to see?
There are many mechanical events recorded in starlight, including the rotation of stars, explosions, binary star orbits, and so forth. If these were recorded in light traveling at x speed, and those same streams of light are now arriving here at a speed of x/1,000,000, the events would appear to take a million times longer than similar events recorded in light which didn't change its speed—that is, recent events occurring nearby.
We see no such phenomena; therefore, Setterfield's hypothesis is immediately disproven. But let's hammer in a few more nails.
Brown would like to believe that radioactive decay was millions of times greater in the past, in order to explain away the immense ages indicated for early life forms. He forgets that natural radioactivity would be millions of times stronger in that scheme, and nothing could survive.
Those nuclear furnaces we call "stars" would have all exploded.
If the local radiation didn't kill all life on earth, that radiation and heat from the sun (miraculously kept from exploding) surely would be lethal.
Referring to the orbits of celestial bodies and the rotation of stars, we might imagine that they orbited or rotated millions of times faster than they do now, so that their slowed images appear normal (by coincidence, Brown proposes that idea for atoms as they "vibrate." Setterfield uses the same idea to explain the lack of immense "red shift").
In order to get an orbital speed a million times faster, the two objects need to be brought many thousands of times closer together, increasing the effects of solar radiation and heat and driving away the atmosphere. Then you'd have such tidal effects that no structural integrity could be maintained in a planet's crust. . . .
Alternately, you might suggest that present orbits are unchanged from the past but that higher orbital speeds were achieved by having a higher level of gravity. Then you would have to suggest that Adam and Eve were happy to look like pancakes, living at immense atmospheric pressures.
You would also have to find a mechanism to slow the motions of orbiting bodies to keep them from flying away as the force of gravity eased.
Brown is right about apparent superluminal velocities of matter ejected from quasars. Many other seeming paradoxes are found in quasar studies. All of them vanish if we postulate that quasar "clocks" are running at reduced rates. The resulting "red shift" would be indistinguishable from doppler. Halton Arp compiled a large catalog of quasars with tendrils appearing to lead to galaxies which are much closer than the quasars. If the quasars are at the same distance as the galaxies, all the paradoxes vanish. . . .
Brown successfully points out that we don't know what kind of two- to twenty-celled life forms might have existed to bridge the gap between protoctists and more complex metazoans. By their fossilized burrows, we know that increasingly complex worms existed in the pre-Cambrian, but we have no remains of the worms themselves. I'm waiting to see whether or not any creationist will claim that the shortage of pre-Cambrian fossils does anything for the book of Genesis.
Brown makes this same error as he points out that Archaeopteryx came along later than some other birds. Just what kind of creation scenario Brown is espousing I can't guess. It's not Genesis, which has all the birds and sea creatures created on the same day. It's hard to "lose" when one isn't specific about a miracle worker's identity or methods. . . .
Since most consequential reasoning moves to or stems from basic premises, I do not understand why so many scientists want to debate creationists before they get answers to the following questions: what are the creationist theories? What are the postulates, basic premises, of each theory? What are examples of lines of reasoning that illustrate support, explanation, and prediction in each theory? And what are the range of applicability and limitations of each theory?
I have tried several times to get answers to the first two questions from different creationists. They usually reply but do not directly answer my questions.
Ralph W. Lewis, Ph.D.
It is wonderful to be found wrong in something. When an honest person discovers error in his or her thinking, he or she can only be happy that it was discovered and that some cumbersome baggage may then be discarded. Discredited hypotheses in mainstream science are unceremoniously thrown on the trash heap of tried-and-failed ideas. Progress in science comes through discovery and correction of error, and there are great incentives to find mistakes. It could easily be said that the goal of science is the search to root out error more than it is the search for truth. In this way, progress is automatically truth-converging. When there are fakes and frauds, there is every reason and effort to excise them from the scientific body in order to contain the infection.
Contrast this when error is discovered in the closet of committed believers. The reaction is vastly different. For them, it is not just a simple matter of expunging the wrongs. Error is a disaster, a crisis, hence the powerful disincentive to pry. It is a crack in the dike. Fakes and frauds are hidden for fear of casting doubt on the body. Screwball notions from anyone—trained or not—can flash into prominence if there is the least hint that the idea might give support to the party line. Critical evaluation from within is suppressed or simply nonexistent.
Such are the dangers of absolute truth—it must be flawless. Acknowledgement of even the tiniest scratch bodes evil for the whole edifice. The most miniscule mistake is far more than losing face; it could mean the loss of identity. Consequently, every form of protectionism emerges, most notably denial and cognitive dissonance, all the way to complete withdrawal.
We have in issue XXV of Creation/Evolution a classic example in Norman Geisler. The cognitive dissonance flows, even erupts, from the very print on the page. McIver exposed a clear, unequivocal error (I rather believe the error was deliberate, given the litany of other creationist examples of shameless tinkering, but that requires proof), but do we get an equally clear, unequivocal retraction? Of course not. We get, instead, a "probably not authentic." Worse, . . . Geisler prepares us for round two of this circus when he and his cohorts will use McIver's revelation to turn and kick us in the behind. Look carefully: Geisler cites Wendell Bird's Yale Law Review article as the source for the false quotation and then says, astonishingly, "So much for trusting the Ivy League publications!" Wendell Bird's derelict scholarship is not to be questioned. Yale's credibility is suspect. Yale's cancer metastasizes at light speed and immediately consumes Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Harvard so that we can no longer trust any of their communications, either. Alums, pull your card to save yourselves. Say, didn't Stephen Jay Gould have something to do with Harvard? Since we already know Harvard to be a den of humanist snakes, this is only further confirmation that we cannot give any credence to what comes out of there.
The cognitive dissonance and denial continue as Geisler shows us that even though the quote "probably" is not correct, Darrow did, after all, use the word bigotry. Therefore, it is not without good reason that he might have said such a thing or possibly intimated as much. The same irresponsible behavior was evident in the creationist's response to the marvelous work of Glen Kuban et al. at Paluxy River. Creationists are still mucking around in the mire trying to find Fred Flintstone's tracks alongside those of his pets. There has been no clear, unequivocal renunciation of Baugh's slapstick farce in spite of the staring, knock-down evidence that demands it.
It is all well and good to be courteous to those with whom we disagree and to deal with issues rather than personalities, but somewhere there must be a limit to what we must endure. We have witnessed, for example, the "debate" in the pages of Creation/Evolution starring Norman Geisler offering the "argument from design." It was good sport to behold the contortions and gyrations of this man swimming in the barrel as Edwords and company pulled off a few pistol rounds in the water. But I—and I'm sure most readers of Creation/Evolution—have been through the folly of the teleological, ontological, and cosmological arguments in a freshman logic class. The argument from design has so many fatal flaws coiled about it like a venom-fanged viper that only the notoriously ignorant or the terminally obtuse continue with it. (That it is a false argument does not, of course, say anything one way or the other about the existence of a god or gods. It just may not be used to advance one a single step in the direction of acceptance of a supernatural designer.) . . .