Response to Dr. Kofahl
Dr. Robert E. Kofahl's critique does correct a minor error I made, although my main argument still stands. The main point of my article was this: If Dr. Gish is careless where I can check up on him, then how can I trust him where I cannot? In addition, I did try to show that Dr. Gish had failed to prove that a pre-bombardier beetle could not have survived, though this was an afterthought in order to make the article complete.
As the bombardier beetle information trickled from Kofahl to Gish to Thwaites and Awbrey to me, somewhere along the line someone forgot about Schildknecht's 1961 article which was quoted by Kofahl. When I wrote my article, I found no reference to any inhibitor in Schildknecht's 1968 article, but Kofahl is correct that Schildknecht, in 1961, did speculate that some chemical or physical-chemical process prevents the hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone solution from reacting and turning dark. On that issue I stand corrected.
However, even after this point is granted, my case against Dr. Gish still stands. Dr. Gish maintained that the hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone explode unless prevented by an inhibitor long after it was pointed out to him that these chemicals do not spontaneously explode. Even if Schildknecht's speculation is correct, all the inhibitor prevents is slow oxidation. Kofahl was gracious enough to admit an error, and I admit mine; but Gish's failure to admit his error supports the main thesis of my article.
Dr. Kofahl spends more than half of his critique trying to prove there is no way the bombardier beetle could have evolved gradually. All I can say is that Kofahl does not really try very hard to solve the problem. There are several weaknesses in his critique.
The main weakness is that he asks me to explain how the beetle could have evolved the mechanical apparatus after it got through evolving everything else. However, as I already explained in the article, the bombardier beetle is not the only carabid beetle to have this apparatus.
In 1968, Schildknecht said:
Not only among the brachynids [that is, the bombardier beetles] but also among other carabids-like, for example, among Carabus-annex glands
empty in the output canal of the pygidial bladders. What substance is produced here we have not yet investigated. If the function of these glands that was first explained in the case of the bombardier beetle is not found in the other carabids, then it is to be suspected that they produce albumin likewise. To be sure, its purpose still remains unclear.
Since carabids generally have such poison glands, we may justly reject Kofahl's evolutionary scenario and begin ours with a nondescript carabid beetle that already has the physical apparatus, even though the apparatus does nothing more than secrete poisons such as quinone and hydroquinone. The hydroquinone stank, and the quinone (which forms from hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone) burned; so this beetle survived quite well. It had a valve to hold the chemicals in the collection bladder until it was attacked by an enemy, and it had enzymes in the outer chamber to make sure the reaction of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone was complete.
All it would need to become a bombardier beetle now is an inhibitor to make sure the chemicals did not react at all until used in a counterattack. If the chemicals did not react at all until forced into the outer chamber, then the enzymes there would force them to react very rapidly, and the oxygen coming from the reaction would spray quinone out of the beetle's rear end. Later on, the mechanism would become refined as the beetle obtained the ideal proportion of hydroquinone to hydrogen peroxide. (Despite what Kofahl says, there may well be more than one chemical mechanism for producing hydrogen peroxide; Schildknecht suggested one possible mechanism, but scarcely insisted that this is the only one.) Thus, we have seen how a carabid beetle could evolve into a bombardier beetle with little problem.
At this time, I shall not try to explain the "rifle barrels" of the bombardier beetle, since I don't have enough information on the matter. I don't have the anatomical details to determine how the barrels and turrets evolved or what previous organs they evolved from.
The present discussion, however, answers Gish's original argument that a half-formed explosion mechanism would be harmful and that the bombardier beetle's very existence proves evolution is impossible. But, creationists will no doubt object that I have not directly proved my scenario. True enough, but they should consider a few facts before dismissing it out of hand as pure speculation.
The evidence of geology makes sense if the earth is billions of years old, but is puzzling if creationism is true. The evidence of taxonomy makes sense if some sort of descent with modification took place, but is puzzling if creationism is true. If you want to believe in miracles, I can never prove you wrong, any more than I can prove that bad luck gremlins did not produce the incriminating evidence that got Bruno Hauptmann convicted of kidnapping and murdering the Lindberg baby or prove that the earth was not created five minutes ago. However, the most natural interpretation of this evidence is evolution-the theory that living things
change over time, one lineage often branching into several lineages, some lineages changing more rapidly than others. I certainly don't deny that catastrophes have occurred or that the mechanism of evolution is still being debated, but the overall picture of occurrence of evolution seems clear.
So, given this background, isn't it reasonable to start out with the working hypothesis that the shooting mechanism of the bombardier beetle evolved gradually, then find out what evolutionary scenarios would work? Starting with creationism is to start with a refusal to search further. Think about it.
Eisner, Thomas. 1970. "Chemical Defense Against Predation in Arthropods." Chemical Ecology, pp. 157-215.
Kofahl, Robert E. and Segraves, Kelly L. 1975. The Creation Explanation. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, pp. 2-3.
Schildknecht, H. and Holoubek, K. January 7, 1961. "Die Bombardierkafer and ihre Explosionschemie." Angewandle Chemie. 73:1:1-7.
Schildknecht, Hermann, Maschwitz, Eleonore, and Maschwitz, U. 1968. "Die Explosion schemie dier Bombardierkafer (Coleoptera, Carabidae)." Zeitschrift fur Naturforschung. 23:1213-1218.
Weber, Christopher Gregory. Winter 1981. "The Bombardier Beetle Myth Exploded." Creation/Evolution. III:1:1-5.