New Anti-Evolution Argument.

I wanted to talk about a new ID/creationist argument I heard the other day, but it’s useful to give you a rundown on the history of the idea first, so bear with me. 

Creationists/ID proponents (same thing if you didn’t know, just with another PR strategy) started out claiming that all mutations are harmful and cause birth defects, and that mutations are very rare.  This, if it were true, would make evolution impossible.  However it has never been true and was just made up out of thin air.  After a decade or two of making this claim incessantly and it being pointed out over and over again that they were lying even their audience started questioning it, so they changed tack – they then said “sure most mutations are harmless, but no useful ones ever occur”.  To which the other side responded by giving many examples of useful mutations observed to occur. 

Here the arguments split into several forms, all based on simply making stuff up. Some insisted that those mutations are beneficial, but contain no new “information”, using analogies like languages and saying that adding new genetic “information” is like adding new “letters” to a language.  Not new words, but new letters, suggesting a new type of base pair had to be added to count (for no apparent reason).  Others claimed that mutations only ever remove information and break down a genome, claiming that the genome of every species was breaking down as a result of the “fall” (how scientific) and some even claimed that god ingeniously designed DNA so that it would break in ways that would produce beneficial results, and that that is where all useful mutations come from.  This confusing mess was pointed out to be untrue and misleading and it was shown that gene duplication mutations and other things add genetic material to the genome which is then modified by subsequent mutations and can produce new traits and useful, modifications of old ones.  Examples of new DNA and new “information” by any definition were provided.

Now though they are apparently pointing to examples of beneficial mutations and citing the biological cost, claiming that the only valid form of new “information” is a mutations which produces a novel trait which has no biological downside whatsoever.  This is like arguing that a fast race car isn’t more advanced than a crappy clunker because it uses more fuel and requires more maintenance.

Everything in nature has a cost and a benefit.  Eyes are among the most useful traits in nature and in species of fish that have migrated to a point in the ocean so deep there is no visible light, they are starting to lose their eyes.  This is because there is a biological cost to having eyes – they require more food to be eaten and calories burned to grow and maintain, they are more susceptible to injury and infection than other tissues etc.  So even the most exquisitely useful traits have a downside.  Natural selection does not favor a mutation because it has no downside or is perfect, it favors it because the upside outweighs the downside.  Flight is I’m sure unbelievably useful (as evidenced by the success of birds, bats and winged insects which are among the most prolific in nature), but surely this must take a great biological toll, stress the organs, burn calories like crazy, create tremendous wear and tear on the joints etc.   But nature produced wings because their usefulness outweighs their detriment.

So according to this new creationist argument, if they saw an eye or a wing evolve from scratch, it would not be an example of any new information arising in the genome.

Me thinks creationists are playing with a stacked deck.

Now creationist websites attack their critics by claiming that they never said any of the previous things and viciously accusing them of lying and misrepresenting their views, and since I heard this new argument two creationists have accused me of lying about the creationist position, before and after saying several times the words they accuse me of putting in their mouths.  One of them criticized a video I linked to about positive mutations, claiming it distorted the creationist position by… responding to a creationist video explicitly making these claims.


About agnophilo

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11 Responses to New Anti-Evolution Argument.

  1. Part of the problem is that creationism is a much looser organization than evolutionary biology. Yes, there are schisms in evo (group selection vs individual vs gene; birds evolving tree-down or ground-up, etc) but this in no way compares to the split between old earth creationists and young earth, or even Ken Ham and Kent Hovind. It’s very much like many denominations. So you counter a Hovind argument and they say “well nobody takes HIM seriously” just like you would if you made an argument against the Catholic Church and they were a protestant.

  2. TheSutraDude says:

    sounds like a case of throw things at the wall and hope something sticks for a decade. sounds like shifting the goalposts every time they are proven wrong and claiming the goalposts were not shifted even though we can go to the videotape. on another note, the human brain is so complex and developed it was said two decades ago a computer that covered the face of the Earth would not be able to perform all functions the the human brain does. this might have changed with the advances in computer technology. still, there is a downside. it takes 25 years for the human brain to mature into a fully adult brain. 

  3. agnophilo says:

    @GodlessLiberal – In many cases I can see it being like that, but creationist websites say and deny that they say the same thing at the same time, and the creationist I was debating with did the same.  It’s just accusing someone of strawmanning your position to score points, regardless of the facts.  I called into an evangelical show at the suggestion of someone on xanga awhile back and the host had a new book out teaching people how to defend their views.  The title was “tactics”.  More and more evangelism is becoming highly skilled, highly dishonest punditry.  At least when it comes to people who debate with non-believers, scientists etc for a living.@TheSutraDude – True dat.  And the human brain is better at creativity than a computer but doesn’t hold a candle to it’s ability to perform calculations and accurately store and recall information.

  4. Zissu25 says:

    @TheSutraDude – I was going to say the same… throwing all sorts of random shit at the wall just to see what sticks, for a while…

  5. agnophilo says:

    @Zissu25 – Yup.  Especially the shit part.

  6. I have a feeling you are/were an anthropology major. Correct me if I’m way off.

  7. daavidd says:

    They fail to read W.D. Hamilton.

  8. agnophilo says:

    @deadsunflowers – Nope, way off : P@daavidd – They fail to read anything they think will cast doubt on their preconceptions.  They don’t even google unless it’s evangelical websites.

  9. @agnophilo – Ah, well. At least I tried.

  10. Grungefan says:

    @agnophilo – I know that I have in the past claimed that all mutations are deleterious.  I was unaware until recenelty when talking to another friend who is a Creationist that deleterious does not mean what I thought it did.  I saw the word “delete” in deleterious and thought it was referring to deletion of information.  However, it actually means detrimental.  In truth though, it doesn’t matter whether or not a mutation is beneficial or detrimental, but rather whether it is additive or subtractive.  A mutation can be both beneficial and subtractive at the same time.  Two examples are:1) hospital germs that gain antibiotic resistance as a result of loosing the genetic information to form transport proteins.  Although, the germs loose the important function of producing certain transport proteins and are resultantly, less efficient at transporting nutrients across their membranes, they gain the useful effect of being immune to antibiotics since they can’t transport them across their membrane either.  2)  Wingless beetles on windy islands.  There are certain beetles on windy islands that have lost the genetic information via mutations to make wings.  One would think this a deleterious mutation, but it has actually served the beetles well, because they are able to cling to surfaces of rocks or trees better without getting swept up by the wings from the wind into the ocean.  Both examples are beneficial mutations, but both are subtractive.  The point of the picture is that in order for molecules to man evolution to occur, the changes necessarily have to be in an uphill direction.  However, this never occurs.  Mutations always decrease the amount of information existent.  I have explained this to you before, but maybe you didn’t get it because I minced words and wrote deleterious, when I should have written subtractive.  Nevertheless, mutations are indeed occuring in the wrong direction for molecules to man evolution to be true. 

Speak yer mind.

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