6. A Partial Review of "Other Evidence Against Evolution - Book 3"
February 1, 2006
On 8/10/05, you presented me with another one of Vance Ferrell’s science-bashing treatises that claim to disprove evolution. This one, entitled "Other Evidence Against Evolution – Evolution Disproved Series – Book Three" (OEAE-3), is one of a series of mind-addling creationist books from which Ferrell’s "The Evolution Cruncher" (TEC) was condensed. My less-than-complimentary review of TEC, with which you previously sought to enlighten me, can be found here.
It is hard to imagine how the treatment of evolution could be handled in any more inept and amateurish a manner than it was in TEC. Nonetheless, Ferrell outdid himself in OEAE-3 by piling creationist B.S. to even more incredible heights. The rate at which he disseminates B.S. in this book is enough to make a new state-of-the-art manure spreader green with envy. It is not clear to me what you expected to accomplish by calling Ferrell’s OEAE-3 to my attention after I had already thoroughly trashed TEC by the same author. Heaping on more layers of B.S. through which one must wade does not make Ferrell’s case against evolution any more convincing. Instead, it reinforces the fact that all his arguments stink to high heaven.
How anyone could read my critique of TEC and conclude that I would be favorably impressed by more of the same nonsensical drivel is difficult to imagine. I can only conclude that, either you did not thoroughly read my critique of TEC or, if you did, that you did not get the drift of what I was saying. Although I realize that I am most likely wasting my time providing you with a rebuttal to OEAE-3, I do thank you for giving me another opportunity to expose (on my website) the abysmal level of scholarship of those who struggle so futilely to invalidate one of the best-corroborated theories in all of science, the theory of evolution (TOE).
To thoroughly rebut the litany of errors in OEAE-3 would require a document that would dwarf OEAE-3 itself. (OEAE-3 consists of more than 430 mind-numbing pages.) In the interest of keeping this critique to a more manageable scale, I will restrict my comments to some of the more egregious errors that occur only in Chapter 21, the first chapter in this book which consists of chapters 21-40. If nothing else, Ferrell is consistent in his presentation. If anyone with a scientific knowledge of evolution is foolish enough to slog through the other chapters, they will find that his arguments throughout the book are consistently as bad as (if not worse than) those in the first chapter.
What follows is a discussion of some of the material and statements appearing in Chapter 21 of OEAE-3 which runs from pages 731 to 749. One of the most disturbing aspects of putting this review together had to do with my inability to thoroughly address Ferrell’s profusion of misstatements, falsehoods, and canards. Virtually every paragraph contained some misrepresentation of evolutionary theory or some misinterpretation of the evidence that was deserving of critical comment. It was difficult to let many of his false claims slip by. Nonetheless, had I dealt with all of them, I would have far exceeded the bandwidth limitations of my service provider. Chapter 21 of OEAE-3 appears to be an expanded version of Chapter 15 of TEC (which can be found here under a new name). Most of the material at which my comments are directed can be found at that link.
Page – 731
Master of the Misquotes -
Chapter 21 starts, as do most chapters in this book, with outdated and /or out-of-context quotations from various individuals who are "not known by the present writer [Ferrell] to be a creationist." Since creationists are unable to produce any valid scientific evidence that corroborates their own Bronze-Age view of the universe, they spend most of their time misrepresenting the scientific findings that support the TOE. One of their favorite tricks is to misconstrue the statements of pro-evolution spokespersons to create the illusion that mainstream scientists have doubts that the TOE is established on firm scientific grounds. (See the "Quote Mine Project" here for a detailed discussion of this form of creationist subterfuge.) Ferrell is the quintessential quote miner. The OEAE-3 is a veritable encyclopedia of quotation abuse. Any quotations included in his publications should be checked at the aforementioned link to ascertain their authenticity.
Chapter 21 begins with quotations from L.H. Matthews (1971), Francis Hitching (1982), and H. Lipson (1980).
· L.H. Matthews – "The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory – is it then science or faith?"
Taken in the context of his other writings on the subject, it is clear that Matthews considered the fact of evolution to be firmly based on unassailable scientific grounds. What Matthews was questioning was the strength of the evidence that supported natural selection as being the main driving force of evolution. Considering that the statement was made over thirty years ago, before much of the substantiating evidence for natural selection had become available, his opinion is not entirely unjustified. That’s why creationists are so fond of quoting older material. It often reflects outdated opinions that would no longer be expressed in the light of new scientific knowledge. (For a more detailed discussion of creationists’ misuse of the Matthews’ quotation, see here.)
· Francis Hitching – quoted from page 12 of his book, "The Neck of the Giraffe"
Rather than wasting space reproducing the quotation from Hitching, suffice it to say that he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a qualified authority on evolution. Instead, he is a scriptwriter for sensational TV shows who has no scientific credentials that qualify him to speak knowledgeably on the subject. He lied about being a member of the Royal Archaeological Institute, he lied about Stephen Jay Gould helping him write his book, and lied about Richard Dawkins endorsing it. While such duplicity fits perfectly with the overall tenor of the OEAE-3, the fact that creationists must rely on the opinions of such dubious sources as Hitching shows just how desperate they are to pawn someone off as an expert - so long as they can be made to appear to say something critical of the TOE. (For more on the misuse of Hitching quotations by creationist truth benders, see here.)
· H. Lipson – "I think, however, that we must go further than this and admit that the only acceptable explanation is creation. I know that this is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it."
First, it should be kept in mind that Lipson is a physicist, not at biologist. In order to be considered an authority on evolution, one must be intimately familiar with the supporting evidence and have an in depth understanding of the biological processes involved – neither of which can be attributed to most physicists. Statements by physicists about evolution should not be given any more credence than statements by paleontologists about quantum mechanics.
Second, in a clarifying statement, Lipson made it clear that he thinks evolution is well supported by the fossil evidence. (See here.) His original statement appears to have been referring to the origin of life (abiogenesis), a subject not dealt with by the TOE.
What are Ferrell’s Scientific Qualifications? -
Farrell reveals his disconnect with reality by stating, "The problem is that evolution is not occurring now, and the fossil record reveals it has not occurred in the past."
Wrong on both counts. Ferrell’s claims fly in the face of the consensus opinion of virtually the entire scientific establishment. (See here.) That the fossil record provides undeniable evidence in support of the evolution of life forms is acknowledged by every major scientific organization on earth. Just what scientific credentials does Ferrell bring to the table that would persuade anyone to favor his interpretation of the fossil record over that of the consensus opinion of the worldwide scientific community? Absolutely none, so far as I have been able to determine. As previously stated in my review of TEC, "I could not find anything in TEC that gave the slightest indication that Vance Ferrell had any scientific training at all. A search of the Internet produced the same negative results. Unless some evidence is presented to the contrary, one must assume that his scientific expertise is meager at best, and that whatever he has to say on scientific matters must be taken with a very large grain of salt. (I am not aware of a single reputable scientific book that does not include specific information about the scientific credentials and affiliations of the author. Even most junk science books include this information, even if they have to make it up.)"
Apparently, as far as most creationists are concerned, scientific expertise is not a prerequisite for carrying on an informed discussion of evolution/creation issues. So long as the creationist story line is presented in a favorable light, they couldn’t care less about the qualifications of the author or his/her ability to address the subject in a scientifically proficient manner. Reinforcement of their belief in a worldview held by pre-scientific, Bronze-Age, desert nomads is all that seems to matter to the True Believers™.
(For refutation of Ferrell’s erroneous assertion that the fossil record is incompatible with evolution, see "Predictions 1.4 and 1.5" here. See also here for more discussion on the role that the fossil record has played in substantiating the TOE. As to his fallacious claim that evolution is "not occurring now", see here. Search also for "Darwinism Today: Evolution in Action" on the Web for more examples of organisms (finches, sockeye salmon, aphids, bacteria, etc.) that are undergoing evolutionary changes in real time.)
Spoons, Boats, and Cars –
In attempting to analogize biological entities to every day objects, Ferrell makes the observation that such things as spoons, cars, and boats are clearly designed and produced by intelligent beings. Yes, we know these non-biological items are produced and designed by humans because, if we are so inclined, we can actually go to the factories and see them being produced. And, if we are persistent enough, we can presumably even meet with the individuals who design them. We know these items are designed and produced by intelligent beings because we can directly observe them being designed and produced by them. Furthermore, if we bother to study the history of these and other manmade items, we will find that their designs have evolved over time. The first car, after all, was not the equivalent of a modern Lexus and the first time keeping device was not a Rolex.
Despite Ferrell’s best efforts to confuse the issue, the analogy between biological entities and manmade objects is only a superficial one. While it is possible to see the progression of biological designs in the fossil record, it is not possible to actually observe them being fabricated in situ in a factory-like setting. Nor is it possible to directly observe them being designed by some intellectually endowed craftsman sitting at a drafting table. Any claim that such an intelligent "Designer" is involved in biological design is, therefore, highly speculative, at best. (If such a "Designer" were to make itself clearly visible for all to see while it engaged in the design and production process, its involvement in biological manipulations would cease to be a matter of pure speculation. Thus far, if it exists, this "Designer" appears to prefer to remain incognito.)
The biggest drawback to Ferrell’s analogy has to do with the fact that things like spoons, cars, and boats do not reproduce as biological organisms do. Biological reproduction involves the introduction of genetic mutations that can result in heritable changes in design that are manifested in an organism’s offspring. Nonrandom processes such as natural selection can then retain those design changes in the offspring that improve its reproductive fitness. Gradually, over many generations, incremental design changes can add up to significant modifications in an organisms overall biochemical processes and morphology. Biological entities do not need to be produced from scratch in factories because they reproduce by themselves. Furthermore, they do not require a "Designer" (intelligent or otherwise) constantly tinkering around with them to effect changes in their structure and function because mutation/natural selection (and other mechanisms such as genetic drift and sexual selection) constantly works to bring about such changes naturally.
Ferrell correctly notes, "Neither haphazard random activity nor accidents can produce useful organs." But what he fails to acknowledge is that a combination of undirected mutation and nonrandom, cumulative, natural selection can, over time, produce new useful organs that have been sequentially derived and modified from pre-existing structures. Until Ferrell can show that spoons contain elements of inheritance and that they reproduce and give birth to infant spoons, his analogy and the conclusions he draws from it are irrelevant as far as biological evolution is concerned.
(For more on the power of mutation/natural selection to produce beneficial biological changes, see here. See also here for examples of the power of evolution-based genetic algorithms to solve a variety of complex problems that resist solution by other computational means.)
Page – 732
Those Crazy Creationist Cartoons –
Apologists for creationism are fond of poking fun at evolution through the use of cartoons. Perhaps this is an attempt to bring the discussion down to the level of intellectual maturity of their audience. Whatever the reason, Ferrell predictably includes a variety of anti-evolution cartoons in OEAE-3. While these are no doubt real knee slappers in creationist circles, one still wonders why they are used so frequently in a book that is supposed to be taking a serious look at the evolution/creation issue. The only thing really amusing about them, as far as a knowledgeable scientist is concerned, is how idiotic they make the creationists look.
· Page 732 consists of four cartoons. One cartoon shows two perplexed men (creationists no doubt) standing in a watermelon patch. The caption reads: "Watermelons are 97% water and clouds are 99%. Which descended from which?"
As usual, the joke is on the creationists. The following is from footnote 40 from the Gish/ Zindler debate entitled "Is Creationism Science." This debate is available on the Web.
"At 40 degrees Celsius and standard pressure (101.325 kPa), the humidity ratio (by mass) of saturated air is 0.0491. This is, of course, heavily dependent on temperature and pressure. Thus, a stable or building cloud at sea level and 40° C will be <5% water. (Less at lower temperatures, and not applicable at all to a dissipating cloud bearing any variety of liquid or solid water.)
"Half of the atmosphere lies below 6000 meters (18,000 feet), so a cloud at 6000 m (the 50 kPa altitude) and 40° C would be 10% water (same vapor pressure due to the same temperature; half the total pressure; twice the partial pressure ratio). But it isn't likely to be that warm that high. More likely at that altitude would be 4° C and 1% water. [Reference: The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Handbook of Fundamentals, 1981. Chapter 6, Psychrometric Tables. Published by ASHRAE, 1791 Tullie Circle NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30329]
"P.S. Some clouds temporarily contain a small percentage of aluminum. Does this make them close relatives of toasters?"
Here we have a case where Ferrell has incorporated an insipid argument from one of his fellow creationists (without checking into its accuracy) and presented it in the form of a cartoon to supposedly mock evolutionary thinking. But the fact is, clouds are not anything close to being 99% water. And even if they were, why would anyone think something as variable as water content would have anything to do with descendant relationships - especially between animate and inanimate objects? Certainly no evolutionary scientists would make such a far-fetched connection. All this cartoon does is expose the creationists’ puerile sense of humor, their lack of understanding of evolutionary processes, and Ferrell’s failure to authenticate the information he presents in OEAE-3.
· Another cartoon on this page depicts two seemingly perplexed scientists saying that hemoglobin similarities lead them to believe that "crocodiles evolved directly out of chickens, or vice-versa." I challenge Ferrell to demonstrate where any evolutionary scientist has ever said such a ridiculous thing.
The evolutionary phylogenic tree of life contains a related group of animals called the Archosauromorpha (which contains crocodiles, birds, and dinosaurs). Based on their inclusion in this group, certain similarities in hemoglobin structure between chickens and crocodiles would be predicted by evolutionary theory. Nonetheless, no competent evolutionary scientist would ever theorize that crocodiles evolved "directly out of" chickens, or vice-versa. The evidence indicates that they both evolved, through a long series of intermediates, from of a distant common ancestor. Ferrell’s mischaracterization of evolutionary thinking may be funny to a creationist. It is just plain stupid to anyone who understands what the true evolutionary relationships actually are. (See here for more information on this subject.)
· The other two equally insipid cartoons on this page deal with convergence and the structure of the aortic arch. I will address both of these matters later in another context.
Page – 733
Monkey See, Monkey Do -
Ferrell naively asserts, "…there is no evidence in the past or present that one animal and plant type ever changes into another."
Of course there is no evidence that species-altering, morphological changes occur during an organism's lifetime. Such a concept is in direct contradiction to the TOE. The hypothesis that acquired characteristics can be inherited, so-called Lamarckian evolution, was abandoned over one-hundred years ago. There is, however, an abundance of evidence that organisms can change into other forms over multiple generations by passing heritable modifications along to their offspring. The world’s science libraries are chock full of such evidence from fields as diverse as paleontology, molecular genetics, comparative embryology, biogeography, comparative anatomy, and cladistic analysis. An overview of some of this evidence is available at "29+ Evidences for Macroevolution." (See here.) If creationists like Ferrell want to pretend this evidence does not exist, that is their prerogative. But just because they refuse to face the facts does not make them go away.
Unintelligent Design -
Ferrel opines, "Everywhere we turn, no structure is useless, none are purposeless."
Really? What then is the purpose of wisdom teeth which, in many individuals, crowd out other teeth, become impacted, and must be removed surgically. Of what unique utility is the human veriform appendix which, all too often, becomes the site of life threatening infections? Why are some humans born with tails, some whales born with internal "leg" bones, and pythons born with "pelvises"? The fact is, many biological structures give every indication of having been rather poorly designed and/or of being rudimentary, ancestral remnants. This is to be expected if, as evolutionary theory predicts, new structures do not appear instantly from scratch, but must be reshaped and co-opted from pre-existing forms. (Examples of some of these jury-rigged anomalies can be found here.) While such things make sense from an evolutionary standpoint, why would Ferrell’s supposedly intelligent "Designer" settle for such questionable products? (For more on suboptimal designs in nature, see here.)
And while we are on the subject of purpose, what purpose did this "Designer" have in mind when it poofed into existence such things as bubonic plague organisms and parasites that eat out the eyes of their victims? Nature is crawling with organisms more repugnant than the monsters in one’s worst nightmare. (Search Google for the cached version of "Organisms That Look Designed" and see here.) These are the kinds of diabolical creatures that only a sadist would take pleasure in designing and bringing into existence. If an intelligent "Designer" were responsible for the existence of these loathsome beasts, it would also appear to have a rather morbid sense of humor.
Ferrell’s Ludicrous List of Arguments that Supposedly Disprove Evolution –
Under the heading, "Here are some examples of similarities which disprove evolution," Ferrell lists the following topics that he contends "disprove" evolution. Although much of his so-called disproof of evolution consists of little more than frivolous, faith-based assertions, here he actually makes some specific claims that can be examined in more detail to determine if he has actually built a solid case against evolution. It turns out, all he has done is disprove his ability to present a cogent scientific argument.
· Lysozyme. Ferrell claims that, based on the study of this enzyme and another protein called lactalbumin, a scientist (Richard Dickerson) decided that people are the direct descendants of chickens.
This is a perfect example how creationists misread the scientific literature and twist what scientists actually say into a straw man argument. Contrary to Ferrell’s claim, Dickerson most certainly did not insinuate that humans are descendants of chickens. The results of his studies would support the ridiculous notion that humans might have descended from chickens only if the rates of evolution of human lysozyme and lactalbumin and chicken lactalbumin had all been the same. However, the evidence shows that when a protein is being strongly selected for, as in the case of human lactalbumin, the rate of evolutionary change is accelerated. That being the case, no knowledgeable evolutionary scientists would ever interpret these data to infer that humans descended from chickens. In the same report from which creationists apparently concocted their human/chicken fairytale, Dickerson explains the situation as follows:
"The fallacy, of course, is in the assumption of unchanging rates of accumulation of tolerable mutations. For one particular protein, performing much the same task in a wide spectrum of species, this may be a valid working hypothesis. But when circumstances arise in the environment such that a duplicated gene is being altered, the better to perform a NEW function, selection pressure is unusually severe and changes in sequence will be unusually rapid." (_The Structure and Action of Proteins_, Richard Dickerson and Irving Geis, 1969, page 78)
As usual, the creationists conveniently neglected to read the part that explained away their imaginary human/chicken connection. Or if they did read it, they conveniently forgot to tell their readers about it. In either case, it is inexcusable to claim that Dickerson ever proposed such a preposterous evolutionary relationship. (In cases like this, it is difficult to tell if Ferrell knows better and is flat out lying, or if he is ignorant of the facts and is simply parroting falsehoods pilfered from his fellow creationists. In either case, his conclusions are not to be trusted.)
As is consistent with evolutionary theory, human and chimpanzee lysozyme are identical and chicken lysozyme differs from both by 51 out of 130 amino acids. How this fits in with the creationist scheme of things is not readily apparent. (For more on this topic see here.)
· Eye of the Octopus. Ferrell states, "The octopus has an eye which is very similar to the one that humans have." He then asks, "Are we then descended from the octopus?"
To claim that octopus and human eyes are "very similar" ignores the significant differences between them. In the human eye, the nerves and blood vessels associated with the retina are located on the incoming light side of that structure. In order for light to strike the light sensing cells buried in the retina, the light must first pass through (and be somewhat diffused by) the nerves and blood vessels that lie on the retina’s surface. And in order for the nerves on the retina’s surface to reach the optic nerve, they must pass through a hole in the retina to reach the opposite side. This hole produces a blind spot in the human visual field.
In the case of the octopus, the nerves and blood vessels are on the side of the retina opposite the incoming light thus avoiding interference with the focused light rays and obviating the need for penetration of the nerves and formation of the associated blind spot. It could be argued that, strictly from an intelligent design standpoint, the human arrangement puts the photosensitive cells on the wrong side of the retina and that the octopus was furnished with a better model. Significant differences also exist in the embryonic development and focusing mechanisms of the eyes of these two species. Ferrell’s rhetorical question about human and octopus descendant relationships is specious for a number of reasons. Certainly a comparison of the eyes of the two species would not lead anyone who bothered to examine the facts to propose such a far-fetched connection. (See here and here for more on this subject.)
· Specific Gravity of Blood. Without giving any references so that his information can be crosschecked (a smart move on his part), Ferrell claims that certain studies involving the specific gravity of blood indicated that "…snakes and frogs are more closely related to people, than people are to apes and monkeys."
Anyone who was serious about providing the results of scientific studies to support their arguments would give references to authenticate their claims. The fact that Ferrell fails to do so, reveals just how flaky his information actually is. Most likely he has simply copied this material from some other equally flaky creationist propaganda piece. Be that as it may, it is highly unlikely that any competent scientist today would select blood specific gravity as an index for establishing evolutionary relationships. The specific gravity of blood would be about as useful in establishing descendent relationships of different species as the specific gravity of radiator antifreeze would be in categorizing makes of cars. It is likely that, if such data has actually been gathered to investigate descendant relationships, it was done decades ago before many of the newer avenues of research have become available.
Be that as it may, the specific gravity of blood is variable and dependent (even within the same species) on such things as age, diet, sex, health, and body posture. Venous blood density is higher when a person is standing that when he is sitting. (Specific gravity is the density of a material divided by the density of water.) Therefore, in order for Ferrell’s argument regarding specific gravity of blood to have any relevance, a person would have to be considered a different species when they are standing than when they are sitting. Furthermore, since blood density varies between genders, men would have to be considered different species than women for his argument to carry any weight. Even more to the point, there is nothing in evolutionary theory that would predict blood specific gravity would necessarily be related to ancestral relationships at all. (See here for more details.)
· Rat Diseases. Ferrell says, "The plague (Pasteurella pestis) …only attacks people and Norway rats. Does this prove that we are descended from rats?"
Wrong again. The fact is, the plague organism (better known as Yersinia pestis) infects a variety of species including humans, cats, rats, ground squirrels, rock squirrels, prairie dogs, dogs, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, goats, sheep, camels, monkeys, and rabbits. Although some of these species are more resistant to the effects of the plague than others, they are all susceptible hosts. (See the "Plague Backgrounder" on the Internet for more information.) Certainly these susceptibilities do nothing to prove we are descended from rats. All it proves is that Ferrell, as usual, hasn’t done his homework.
· Calcium/phosphorus Ratios – Again, without providing a reference, Ferrell reports that "one scientist" who tested descendant relationships used calcium/phosphorus ratios in bones as an indicator. According to Ferrell, this unnamed scientist "discovered we are directly related to turtles and elephants." Why any scientist would use these ratios (which are again variable and dependant on such things as diet, age, health status, type of bone, etc.) to establish evolutionary relationships is not readily apparent. The fact that the results are at odds with what is known about such relationships is easily explicable in terms of the variability of the index being used. And, as with blood specific gravity, there is no good reason an evolutionary scientist would think these ratios would necessarily be reflective of ancestral relationships. Since we don’t know the identity of this mysterious scientist and don’t have access to his published report, it is not possible to determine why he used these ratios, how well the work was conducted, and how out of date it might be.
· Brain Weights – Ferrell states that "the weight of the brain in proportion to the body is greater in the dwarf monkey (the cottontop and golden marmoset) of South America, than in you and me." (That may be true for him and his creationist cronies, but it is not true for the rest of us.) Not surprisingly, he again gets his facts wrong. In fact, the capuchin monkey has the largest brain-to-body size ratio of any of the nonhuman primates (See here.), and that ratio is less than that of humans.
But then we know Ferrell is not concerned about the accuracy of what he writes. His sole purpose in discussing this matter was to enable him to poke fun at yet another unnamed scientist, who (Ferrell says) "suggested that this made us their [the marmosets] ancestors!" Even if the marmoset actually had a bigger brain/body weight ratio than humans, this would be no reason to suggest such a thing. No competent evolutionary scientists would seriously suggest such a relationship because, as discussed here, "brain weight in vertebrates does not in general appear to increase linearly with body weight, so that heavy vertebrates have proportionally smaller brains than light vertebrates, and many small mammals have, in terms of these simple ratios, relatively larger brains than that of humans. . ." Of course, without knowing who this anonymous scientist is, it is not possible to determine if he/she actually made such a suggestion in the first place.
· Cytochrome C. – Here Ferrell repeats a variation of the familiar creationist argument that molecular data (cytochrome C structural similarities in this case) do not precisely correlate with phylogenic relationships established by other means. The truth is, modern evolutionary scientists do not expect there to be a precise correlation between the two. As stated here, "…such results [lack of precise correlations] are expected if heredity is a stochastic process, as it is. Because genetics is stochastic, the theory of common descent does not predict that phylogenetic trees made with single genes will perfectly match other phylogenetic trees—they must be similar, but not necessarily identical." The fact that creationists keep harping on this non-argument simply reveals their lack of understanding of the processes involved.
What then do the cytochrome C data actually show? As is consistent with the relatively recent evolution of humans and chimpanzees from a common ape-like ancestor, the cytochrome C amino acid sequence in humans and chimpanzees is identical. Furthermore, the percent difference in the sequences increases going from humans to rabbits, humans to bullfrogs, and humans to sunflowers. And the differences in the sequences between humans and two plants (sunflowers and corn) are greater than they are between humans and any animals. These data are in complete agreement with what is predicted by the theory of evolution. How they can be rationalized in terms of the creationist model, is not clear. (See here for more on the subject.)
Page – 734
Converging on the Ridiculous –
Convergent evolution has to do with the development of similar solutions to common environmental challenges in organisms that are not directly related to one another. For example, convergent evolution explains the development of similar swimming configurations in distantly related species such as ichthyosaurs, penguins, and sharks. It also explains the development of such things as flight structures in pterodactyls, birds, and bats. (See here for more details.)
Ferrell’s treatment of this subject (and most other evolution related subjects for that matter) is so bizarre that a portion of it bears repeating. In giving his rendition of whale evolution, he says:
"Evolutionists theorize that the whale descended from a land animal who decided to crawl into the water and make itself flippers. That land animal, in turn, is supposed to have come from a water animal who thought it best to crawl out of the water and manufacture its own legs and feet. That water animal originated from a bacteria on land who was born in an ancient rainstorm, grew up a little bit, and then crawled in the water and became a fish."
His depiction of evolution here is so ridiculous, it is difficult to decide whether to laugh or cry. Does he really think that evolutionary scientists claim organisms can grow appendages during their lifetimes by simply deciding to do so? Does he think the TOE teaches that organisms can willfully and instantly "manufacture" various body parts anytime they choose? Can he really be so misinformed as to think that shape-shifting (willful or otherwise) is what evolution is all about? Doesn’t he understand that macro-scale evolution is a gradual process in which relatively small genetic changes accumulate over long periods of time to bring about significant structural and biochemical changes in populations of organisms? Surely he must know that these changes do not occur during an individual organism’s lifetime, but that they arise in the offspring of populations of organisms in a sequential manner, generation after generation.
I suspect that he does know better, but that he is presenting this neo-Lamarckian caricature of evolution for at least a couple of reasons. First, he wants to erect a straw man, so he can easily knock it down. Second, he is targeting a predominantly scientifically naive audience that will eagerly buy into his fairy-tale version without giving it a second thought. Most creationists do not want to be bothered with the inconvenience of learning how evolution actually works. If they can be conned into thinking that it consists of silly scenarios like the one above, all the easier for them to reject it. That, I suspect, is what Ferrell is counting on. (Frank, judging from some of your own correspondence regarding whale evolution (See here and "9/4/05; Another letter from Mr. Thieme" here.), you have swallowed Ferrell’s bait hook, line, and sinker.) Whatever the reason, he uses this "willful manufacture of body parts" line of rhetoric extensively throughout his book. (For the real story on whale evolution, see here. )
In his discussion of the origin of wings, Ferrell tells another fairy tale. This time it goes like this: "Evolutionists also explain that the wing was independently invented by animals four times, as, over the centuries, they invented their various body parts. One day an insect decided to grow wings and fly about." Again, there’s that ridiculous reference to animals growing body parts during their lifetimes by simply thinking about it.
After totally misrepresenting what mainstream scientists actually have to say about the origin of wings, Ferrell concludes his discussion of convergence thusly: "Similarities in such different creatures, that could not have descended from one another, continue to be a nagging puzzle to the evolutionists." Really? Apparently he has been too busy concocting kindergarten versions of evolution to look at the recent scientific literature on the subject. While all the answers are not in hand and this area of research remains active, convergence is anything but a "nagging puzzle." (For information on the evolution of insect wings, see here. For information on the evolution of flight in birds, bats, and pterodactyls, see here.)
Convergence is readily explicable in evolutionary terms, is predicted by evolutionary theory, and is supported by an abundance of evidence. The only reason Ferrell argues that it didn’t happen is because his religious presuppositions will not permit him to believe that it could have happened. The mainstream science position is based on evidence; that of the creationists is based solely on faith. It’s regrettable that Ferrell's faith is so weak that he must resort to telling tall tales to preserve it. (See here for more discussion on the creationists' refusal to face the facts.)
This discussion of convergence, however, does bring up a "nagging puzzle" for the creationists. According to the creationist model, pterodactyls, ichthyosaurs, birds, bats, penguins, and sharks were all created during the same week, lived together on the earth, and died in massive numbers during the purported Flood. If that is true, then why are the fossil remains of pterodactyls and ichthyosaurs never found buried in the same geologic strata as the other species in that list? And why are the pterodactyls and ichthyosaurs always found buried in strata that are lower than that of the other species? If some supernatural "Designer" personally gave these species special characteristics that allowed them to thrive in their environments, why, at the very least, aren’t the respective swimming and flying species buried together? Now there is a real "nagging puzzle" for the creationists to solve.
Diverging From the Truth –
Divergent evolution is a process in which two or more similar species become more and more dissimilar over time. (See here.) A special type of divergent evolution involves something called adaptive radiation. In this case a species diverges into a variety of new forms when it is introduced into a new habitat that contains multiple environmental niches. (See here for an example of the Hawaiian Silversword alliance.)
In his discussion on divergent evolution, Ferrell diverges off on a tangent about how amazing eyes are and how they could not (in his myopic view of things) have been produced by evolution. In talking about shrimp eyes, he marvels, "And a shrimp is supposed to have figured that [how to produce an eye] out" No, a shrimp did not have to figure that out anymore than an acorn needs to figure out how to grow into an oak tree. Unthinking natural evolutionary mechanisms were responsible for development of the shrimp’s eye, just as they are for all other eyes. (For an explanation how evolution can produce a variety of eyes, see here.)
Page - 735
Muddling Mimicry –
Mimicry occurs when an organism develops characteristics common to another organism because it gains a survival advantage. (Some examples of this phenomenon are given here.) In keeping with his absurd misrepresentation of evolution as a process in which organisms produce body changes by simply desiring them and thinking about them, Ferrell comments on butterfly mimicry as follows: "If you and I do not have the brains to redesign our bodies, how can we expect a butterfly to do it!" Since brainpower has absolutely nothing to do with it, his wonderment (feigned or otherwise) is totally meaningless in this context.
Mimicry, like other evolutionary processes, derives from small, incremental modifications that, though at first giving an organism only a marginal survival advantage, can eventually result in rather profound changes that substantially increase that advantage. Spontaneous genetic changes that at first can cause organisms to look just a little more like a poisonous one, a little more camoflauged, or a little more threatening, can improve those organisms’ survival, even if only marginally. Through the process of natural selection, these better-adapted individuals gain reproductive advantage and out compete those that do not possess these new traits. These modified organisms, which have now increased their proportion (and the frequency of their genes) in the population, can experience another round of genetic change and natural selection that can further enhance their competitiveness and dominance in the population. Eventually, after repeating this cycle over and over again, substantial changes can manifest themselves resulting in the examples of mimicry discussed in the aforementioned link. The power of this process lies in the cumulative aspect of selection which, although working with rather small incremental differences from one generation to the next, can sequentially build upon pre-existing traits to produce marked phenotypic alterations over many generations.
To further highlight Ferrell’s ignorance (purposeful?) of evolution, he states, "Evolutionary theory is mired in real problems, for it teaches that everything made itself by purest chance." Here he is wrong on three counts. First, the theory is not mired in real problems. Serious problems for evolution exist only in the dream world of the creationists.
Second, everything did not "make" itself. Living things evolved from ancestral forms through natural processes such as mutation/natural selection. In the natural world, living things do not "make" mutational events happen or exert purposeful control over them. Mutations are undirected modifications of the genetic material that are caused spontaneously by things such as DNA copying errors, radiation and chemical exposure, and viral infections. Organisms do not consciously "make" themselves because they have no direct influence over the basic processes involved. They are, as it were, "made" by the forces of nature.
Third, Ferrell’s claim that evolution involves "purest chance" reveals more ignorance on his part. While the mutational aspect of evolution is random, natural selection is anything but random. Natural selection is, in fact, the exact opposite of randomness. Throwing a deck of cards on the table face down and blindly picking one is an example of a random process. Laying the cards out on the table face up and selecting one that can be used to improve a poker hand is an example of nonrandom selection. As in the latter case, natural selection sorts through genetic traits and preferentially picks those that improve reproductive fitness.
Is there any evidence that a process like mutation/natural selection actually can produce positive results? As briefly mentioned above, some of the most compelling evidence comes from computer problem solving studies that utilize so-called genetic algorithms. These algorithms, which mimic the evolutionary processes of mutation and natural selection, are now used to solve a variety of problems that were hitherto virtually impossible to deal with. (For examples of the utility of this technique (aptly named evolutionary computation) see here. Several computer models exist which also use similar techniques to simulate various aspects of natural evolution. See here for one such example. And for more discussion on the overall nonrandom character of the evolutionary process, see here. ) Natural selection is not something evolutionary scientists simply dreamed up out of thin air. It is a process that can be show to operate in laboratory and field studies and in computer simulations.
More Bogus Claims Regarding Protein Similarities –
In this section, Ferrell again relies on misleading data concerning blood protein structures in an attempt to paint evolution in a bad light. In the case of hemoglobin structural comparisons among different species, he states, "No definite pattern was found that could explain which creatures were descended from – or even related to –which." Is that so? Looks like he got his facts wrong yet again. The following comments are from Dr. Russell Doolitle regarding his research along these same lines:
Doolittle: "Ever since the time of Darwin the chimpanzee has been regarded as man's nearest living relative. Naturally it was then of interest to biochemists to see what chimpanzee proteins would look like. Now the first protein to be looked at in a chimpanzee, and compared with a human, was the hemoglobin molecule – hemoglobin one of the blood proteins -- and in fact, there were no differences found in the chimpanzee molecule when 141 amino acids were looked at in the hemoglobin alpha chain. In contrast, if you looked at a rhesus monkey, there were four differences; or if you looked at a rabbit, you found the differences got up into the 20s. If you got up to a chicken you'd find 59 differences; and if you looked at a fish you'd find there were more than a hundred differences. Now this is exactly what you expect from the point of view of evolution." (See here for the source of this quotation.)
This looks like pretty convincing evidence for evolution to me. I’m not sure, though, how it fits in with the creationist scheme of things. Perhaps Ferrell will write a new book and explain it all to us. Incidentally, one cannot help noticing the structurally identical blood proteins in humans and chimpanzees that keep cropping up in these types of studies. Perhaps Ferrell will also explain why, if humans and chimpanzee have not evolved relatively recently from a common ancestor, his "Designer" chose to give them, not just similar, but identical protein components such as the ones discussed above.
The rest of this section consists of the typical creationist quote mining. I will not waste my time critiquing all of them; however, the first one, by creationists Henry Morris and Gary Parker, does help illustrate how clueless creationists are about evolutionary relationships. In this quotation, the authors note that, when comparing hemoglobin structures, "…crocodiles have much more in common with chickens (17.5%) than with vipers (5.6%), their fellow reptiles." Obviously, they present these data because they think it poses a serious problem for evolution. In keeping their fuzzy thinking on the subject, they think that the TOE predicts that there should be a greater similarity in hemoglobin structure between the two reptiles than between the chicken and one of the reptiles. Again the joke is on the creationists. The degree of similarity does not depend on the taxonomic groups in which the animals belong. Rather it depends on which animals have most recent common ancestor. As stated here, "Crocodiles have a more recent common ancestor with a chicken (or any bird for that matter) than it does with a viper (or any snake). The more recent the common ancestor, the less time a protein has to accumulate changes." In other words, the data are in total agreement with the ancestral history of the animals involved and with what evolutionary theory predicts about protein structural similarities. The fact that Morris and Parker were apparently unaware of these basic facts reveals just unqualified they were to comment on the subject.
Page 736 –
More Creationist Follies -
On this page, there is full-page cartoon that presents a grossly distorted picture of ancestral relationships between species. For example, it falsely depicts such things as pigeons and carp descending from the horse. Supposedly, these farcical relationships are supported by cytochrome C structural studies. Ferrell does not give any indication what studies were used to establish these purported relationships. If it is like most of the other creationist blunders, it is not the fault of the studies themselves, but the inability of the creationists to properly interpret the results that is responsible for their "hilarious" treatment of the facts.
Pages 737 through 739 -
Arguing in Circles -
On this page, Ferrell launches into a desperate attack on the evolutionary concept of homology. He starts by giving a reasonable definition of the concept and then asserts that it is circular reasoning to explain it in terms of common descent. An abundance of evidence demonstrates unequivocally that his assertion is wrong. (See here.)
Homology can be defined as a "… similarity between species that exists despite several plausible alternative traits that would function equally well." (See here.) An important aspect of homology contained in this definition is the fact that, although similar features may exist between organisms, there are many dissimilar features that could potentially function just as well. In other words, the features are not similar because they have to be to function properly. They are similar because they share a common origin. For example, the forelimbs of whales and humans are not composed of the same basic assemblage of bones because they have to be to work correctly. They share this similarity because they share the same tetrapod ancestor that also had this arrangement.
A definition that better accounts for the current state of knowledge regarding this subject is "…an anatomical, developmental, behavioral, or genetic feature shared between two different organisms because they inherited it from a common ancestor." (See here.)
Homology does not just refer to anatomical similarities such as similar bone arrangements in bat wings and the human hand. It also encompasses developmental similarities (e.g., pharangeal pouches giving rise to gills in fish and ear bones in humans), behavioral similarities (e.g., similar nesting practices in crocodiles, birds, and some dinosaurs), and genetic similarities (e.g., common genetic codes in all life forms). When all these various lines of evidence are considered together, the direct relationship of common descent to the development of homologous features becomes readily apparent. (Except, of course, to those who refuse to consider the evidence objectively.) Other examples of homologous features are given in the two preceding links.
Evolutionary scientists test for homology by looking at patterns of such things as anatomy, function, development, biochemistry, and genetics to determine if organisms are related through a line of genealogical inheritance. These tests are commonly made by a method called "cladistics" which examines multiple shared derived traits. (See here.) The patterns of traits that are typically found across various groups in cladistic analyses further substantiate the case for common descent.
Evolution by common descent predicts that organisms will naturally fall into what are know as nested hierarchies.
"Evolution predicts that living things will be related to one another in what scientists refer to as nested hierarchies—rather like nested boxes. Groups of related organisms share suites of similar characteristics and the number of shared traits increases with relatedness. This is indeed what we observe in the living world and in the fossil record…" (See here.)
The nested hierarchy generated from morphological features is consistent with the same nested hierarchy that is obtained from molecular data. Common descent is appropriately modeled by a statistical method that involves so-called branching Markov processes. Those processes generate the same kinds of nested hierarchies that are observed in both morphology and molecules. Therefore, the same kinds of groupings arrived at by statistical methods used to model common descent are the same kinds of groupings as those actually observed in nature. (See here for more details.)
Ferrell claims that explaining homology in terms of common descent is circular argumentation. His claim is bogus. Science libraries are full of undisputable evidence that proves it is bogus. In fact, it is Ferrell who is guilty of faulty reasoning. The fundamental argument that serves as the basis for his entire series of books goes something like this: 1. The creation story is in the Bible. 2. Everything the Bible says is literally true. 3. Therefore, the creation story is true.
Until Ferrell can substantiate his second claim, that everything the Bible says is literally true, his argument amounts to nothing but a baseless assertion. Sure Ferrell tries to twist, maim, and mangle the evidence to make it appear to support his worldview. But, in the final analysis, it is not evidence, but his faith in an inerrant Bible that lies at the heart of his anti-evolution crusade. Ferrell pretends to be presenting a scientific argument against evolution in his books. In reality, he is engaged in nothing but faith-based apologetics.
Pondering the Pentadactyl Limb -
All tetrapods (four-limbed animals) share the same basic pentadactyl (five-digit) limb structure which, in simplified terms, can be said to consist of an upper arm/leg bone, two lower arm/leg bones, a wrist/ankle bone, and a hand/foot bone. No matter how radically elongated, compressed, or rearranged the bones of this basic structure may have become in the various tetrapods, the same underlying skeletal framework is present in all of them. This, of course, makes sense if, as the evidence shows, all modern tetrapods have descended from a common ancestor that happened to have this prototypical arrangement. (See here.) Rather than creating optimal, unique, arm and leg configurations from scratch that are specifically adapted for each tetrapod species (as Ferrell’s "Designer" would be expected to do), the process of evolution can only work with and modify the basic pattern that it is presented with. And that is exactly what we see in nature.
Faced with this powerful evidence for evolution from a common ancestor, creationists like Ferrell are left with nothing but the equivocation that "…there is no better way to design a simpler limb…" Really? How about an extra upper leg bone to help support the weight of an elephant? How about only one lower "arm" bone in a bat to make it lighter? How about extra "hand bones" in whale flippers to give them more propulsive force? And, in the context of whole-body engineering, what about an eye in the back or our heads so we can see what’s going on behind us? Certainly a better design of the human back would have been greatly appreciated. Strange, isn’t it, that Ferrell’s omnipotent "Designer" appears to be limited in every instance by the very same design constraints that apply to the evolutionary process? You would think such a "Designer" would have more leeway and creativity than that.
There are other aspects of homology that support the evolutionary explanation. For example, although the wings of adult birds are made up of only three "hand" bones, the structure in the bird embryo that eventually develops into the wing consists of five distinct "hand" bones. Why would Ferrell’s "Designer" give the bird embryo five separate bones only to have two of them fuse into the others in the adult? Why not just give them three properly sized bones to start with? If all tetrapods descended from an ancestral form that had five digits, then this change in the number of bones going from the embryo to the adult makes sense. If a "Designer" was responsible for this unnecessary complication, the rationale is not readily apparent. Not to mention the recurrent laryngeal nerve in the giraffe. Due to evolutionary constraints, this nerve loops through the aorta traveling more than 15 feet, down the neck and back up, to go the relatively short distance from the brain to the larynx. If Ferrell’s "Designer" had anything to do with these jury-rigged features, it looks like it needs to take a refresher course in engineering 101. (For more on poorly designed aspects of various life forms, see here.)
The gist of the creationist argument regarding homology boils down to the following: The "Designer" is perfect. The "Designer" has created all living things from scratch. Therefore, the homologous structures we see in nature are the very best that can be created. This notion of perfection in the design of all organisms is reflected in many of Ferrell’s comments. For example, he opines, "…all these differences exquisitely fit its peculiar needs," "…there is no better way to design a simpler limb," and "Everything is different, but perfectly so."
Presumably this notion of "perfection" applies to the five-digit hand/foot that is the standard arrangement for most tetrapods. However, I know from experience that more can sometimes be better. I once had a cat (Sasquatch) that had seven toes on his front feet. He could climb trees and run through the snow better than any cat I have ever seen. (In fact, polydactyl cats, which are thought to have come to the United States in Colonial times, were at one time selectively bred by sailors because they were thought to bring good luck.) Many dinosaurs, which ruled the world for millions of years, had various numbers of digits ranging from three to eight. (Were these examples of the "Designer’s" failed experiments? Can Ferrell’s "Designer" actually fail at something?) I once worked with a man who was born with a thumb and six fingers. The tendency to have extra digits ran in his family. Unfortunately, the value of having the extra digit is rarely realized because they are almost always surgically removed at birth for cosmetic reasons. Pandas have an extra "false thumb" that has evolved from the radial sesamoid bone. This extra digit improves their ability to forage on bamboo. The bottom line is that there is nothing magic or perfect about five digits or any of the other designs in nature.
While evolution is constrained to making modifications to a basic pre-existing plan, mutations do sometimes occur which can bring about rather profound changes to that plan as evidenced above. Most tetrapods do not have five digits because some know-it-all, "Designer" has decided, in some metaphysical sense, that five represents the best design possible. They have five digits because their common ancestor had five digits, and any genetic alteration that changes that arrangement (without having detrimental effects) is relatively rare.
Pages 739 through 740 –
Fallen Arches –
In this section, Ferrell further exhibits his penchant for misconstruing the evidence to fit his own misconceptions. Here, he presents a diagram that he claims depicts the "five basic types of mammalian aortic arches." He claims unequivocally that these five arrangements represent distinctive configurations that are peculiar to certain groups of species. And he further claims that the species that fall into these groups do not fit the standard pattern of evolutionary descent. Of course, as in the case of so much of the junk science he crams into his books, he doesn’t bother to give any references to show where he got this information; so it is impossible to check its authenticity.
Ironically, Ferrell asks, "Does all that make sense?" And in one his few rational responses, he correctly answers, "No it does not." For once, he was right. This argument of his, like virtually all his others, does not make any sense. If one searches the Internet for something along the lines of "types of mammalian aortic arches," one will find nothing at any mainstream scientific website that indicates that there are only "five basic types" of aortic arch arrangements in mammals. These "five basic types" appear to have been cherry-picked by some crafty creationist to doctor the evidence. Furthermore, if one actually looks at the variation that occurs in human aortic arches, it becomes obvious that these structures do not fit into neat categories that can be specifically assigned to individual species. The normal variations in this parameter in humans alone are far more diverse than those depicted in Ferrell’s diagram. (See here for a discussion of these variations. For diagrams of some of the diverse configurations, go about one-third of the way down the page to "Aortic Arch" and click on 26, 87A, and 87B to see the images.) Anyone who pretends that the human or any other mammalian aortic arch structure is definitive enough that it can be precisely pigeon-holed into one of the types depicted by Ferrell is being less than honest.
Notice also the vintage of the references Ferrell uses in this section to bolster his argument – 1932, 1923, and 1948. Now there’s cutting-edge science for you!
Page 741 –
Erecting a Nonexistent Gene Barrier –
In this section, Ferrell claims that, because there is no consistent correlation between homologous genes and homologous structures, evolution by common descent cannot have occurred. He says that this is "a great mystery which evolutionists cannot fathom" and supports his argument with quotations from Gavin De Beer whose work was published in back in 1971. Despite the fact Ferrell has apparently not been keeping up on the latest research, a considerable amount of progress in the field of molecular genetics has been made in the intervening years that has direct implications for the issues raised by De Beer. In fact, many correlations between homologous genes and homologous structures have now been discovered. Furthermore, some of the problematic relationships discussed in that early work can now be accounted for by mutations that affect the location where signaling proteins are expressed. Furthermore, some of the conclusions reached by De Beer in that 1971 paper were simply wrong. They were not wrong because he was an incompetent scientist. They were wrong because he did not have the benefit of pertinent information that has been generated since his work was published. That is the way science works. Unlike the rigid dogmatism that is characteristic of the creationist mindset, science marches forward in the light of new evidence. (For more clarification on this topic and the creationists’ mishandling of statements by De Beer, see here and here. )
On this page, Ferrell also includes some "supporting" quotations from an earlier anti-evolution screed by Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Suffice it to say that Denton’s first book has not faired well under close scientific scrutiny. (See here.) Much to the consternation of the creationists, Denton’s new book, Nature’s Destiny, reveals that he has now evolved into an evolutionary scientist. Apparently those critical reviews of his first book prompted him to delve more deeply into the subject. Indeed, it is reassuring to see that at least one creationist is open-minded enough to accept reality when they are presented with the facts. One of Denton’s statements from Nature’s Destiny reads as follows:
"It is important to emphasize at the outset that the argument presented here is entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption of modern science - that the cosmos is a seamless unity which can be comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason and in which all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes. This is an assumption which is entirely opposed to that of the so-called "special creationist school". According to special creationism, living organisms are not natural forms, whose origin and design were built into the laws of nature from the beginning, but rather contingent forms analogous in essence to human artifacts, the result of a series of supernatural acts, involving the suspension of natural law. Contrary to the creationist position, the whole argument presented here is critically dependent on the presumption of the unbroken continuity of the organic world - that is, on the reality of organic evolution and on the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms in the profoundest sense of the word, no less natural than salt crystals, atoms, waterfalls, or galaxies." (pages xvii-xviii).
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Somehow I doubt Ferrell will be including statements from Denton’s newer works in any of his future propaganda pieces. (For a comprehensive review of Nature’s Destiny , see here. )
Page 742 –
This page contains two more inane cartoons – one dealing with chromosome numbers and one dealing with the "pentadactyl limb." They are so silly they defy comment.
Page 743 –
More Purported Similarities that Disprove Evolution –
What Ferrell presents here is primarily a rehash of the discredited arguments he has made previously. He does add a couple more new zingers, however.
· Pig and human hearts are very similar.
Well, they should be similar. After all, humans and pigs are both terrestrial mammals that can be of roughly the same size (depending on the variety of the pig). Despite their similarities, there are also significant differences in heart structure between the species. (See here for some of these differences.) One of the most significant differences has to do with the immunological status of the two species. Immunological rejection of pig hearts by human recipients is still a serious impediment to using pigs as heart donors. Adverse immunological consequences can be minimized by using a more closely related species such as the chimpanzee as a donor. Nonetheless, because humans and chimpanzees are so closely related on the evolutionary scale, the risk of transmission of diseases common to both species precludes the use of the chimpanzee for this purpose.
· The pronator quadratus muscles are very similar in man and the Japanese salamander.
How this disproves evolution is not at all evident. This muscle pulls the lateral side of the radius toward the ulna. Why would anyone be surprised that a muscle that performs the same function in various species exhibits significant similarities?
· Acetylcholine and histamine are very similar in man and plants.
In addition to man and other animals, acetylcholine has been found in bacteria, algae, protozoa, and primitive plants. This widespread distribution indicates that it appeared very early in evolutionary history. Acetylcholine has been shown to regulate many basic cell functions. In animals, this agent has also been co-opted to serve as a neurotransmitter. Histamine, another animal neurotransmitter, is also found in a variety of species, e.g., nettle spines and insect venom. The fact that both man, plants, and many other organisms produce and use acetylcholine and histamine serves to strengthen the case for common ancestral descent, not disprove it.
· Hemoglobin structure in man and root nodules is very similar.
Protoglobins that are thought to be the precursors of hemoglobin have been found in the most primitive forms of life, the single-celled archaea. Like acetylcholine and histamine, hemoglobin, in one form or another, has been around for a very long time in many types or organisms. Because of their evolutionary relationships, similarities in hemoglobin structure between man and other organisms are not unexpected. In fact, to see how those similarities actually sort out, see More Bogus Claims Regarding Protein Similarities above. How anyone could interpret that evidence as being anything other than supportive of evolution is not readily apparent.
· ABO and blood factors are dissimilar in human mothers and children.
This does not disprove evolution. It proves that Ferrell doesn’t have a clue. Of course blood type and factors can differ in mothers and their children. The outcomes are readily explicable in terms of rather simple genetics that pertain to the sorting out of blood type alleles obtained from both parents during conception. (See here.) Only someone of the creationist mindset could delude himself/herself into thinking that blood-grouping genetics disproves evolution. Incidentally, an Rh- mother who has an Rh+ baby risks developing antibodies that can attack the fetus and kill it. Looks like Ferrell’s "Designer" fell a little short of perfection on that one, doesn’t it?
More Misinformation about Molecular Similarities and Blood Protein Comparisons -
In one of his more blatant misrepresentations of the facts, Ferrell states, "Some of the most devastating new scientific information falsifying evolutionary theory comes from this field [molecular biology]." He couldn’t have been more mistaken. The truth is, recent discoveries in the fields of molecular biology and molecular genetics have provided some of the most compelling evidence in favor of evolutionary theory. (For example, see parts 3 and 4 here.)
As mentioned above, cladistics, which compares shared derived characteristics of living things, is currently the most common method used for classifying organisms. In keeping with his reputation for totally botching the facts, Ferrell describes cladists as "…taxonomists who maintain that the true species are totally unrelated to each other and did not descend from one another; in other words, they have given up on evolution. Their studies into plant and animal species provide no indication of evolutionary relationships of descent."
Where Ferrell gets his hair-brained definitions is a mystery. Apparently he just pulls them out of the distal end of his alimentary canal to suit his fancy. The truth is, cladists have most certainly not "given up on evolution." In fact, cladistic analysis specifically assumes evolutionary ancestral descent as one of its basic precepts. The three basic assumptions involved in cladistic analysis are as follows:
1. Organisms in a particular group are related by descent from a common ancestor.
2. There is a bifurcating pattern of cladogenesis.
3. Change in characteristics occurs in lineages over time.
Contrary to Ferrell’s imaginary definition, cladistic analyses are specifically designed to establish evolutionary relationships, and that is what they do. If Ferrell can’t even get something as basic as this definition of cladistics correct, why should anyone pay the slightest bit of attention to what he has to say about the subject? (For more information on the subject of cladistics, see here. )
To back up his make-believe evidence against evolution, Ferrell again relies on quotations from Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by former creationist, Michael Denton. He goes into considerable detail discussing cytochrome C data which, according to Denton’s interpretation in the book, seriously undermine the case for evolution. As it turns out, it was Denton’s interpretation of the data that has been seriously undermined. To put it bluntly, at the time Denton wrote the quoted passages, he didn’t know what he was talking about. As discussed above, now that he has seen the error of his ways, he has become a convert to the side of evolution. (For details on Denton’s original confusion over the cytochrome C data, see here.)
Page 744 -
Sappy Serum Comparisons -
Finally Ferrell mentions a blood serum comparison that has some actual relevance to evolutionary relationships. In this type of test, serum that contains antibodies that have been specifically developed to react with proteins in human serum is reacted with serum from other species. The anti-human antibodies then react with complimentary proteins in the serum of the other species to cause a precipitate to form. The more closely related the serum proteins are to human serum proteins (i.e., the more closely the species are related by descent from common ancestors), the more precipitation takes place. The results of these types of tests are relevant to ancestral relationships because the protein makeup of the serum is relatively constant and is controlled by the genetics of the species under study.
Here Ferrell is forced to acknowledge that immunological tests involving serum reactivities do indeed give results that are in agreement with evolutionary expectations. Of course even here he manages to muck up the results by completely misrepresenting them. According to Ferrell, these types of studies show that reactivities decrease in the following order: man>apes>sheep>deer>horses>kangaroos. (Since Ferrell did not provide a reference for the determination of this sequence, I cannot verify that it is correct. However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is.) Now with that information in hand, Ferrell concludes, "According to this evolutionary "proof," man descended from apes, which descended from sheep, which descended from deer, which descended from horses, which descended from kangaroos, which descended from nothing."
The truth is, no evolutionary scientist in his/her right mind would ever come to such a dim-witted conclusion from that data. What these data indicate (if they are accurate) is that humans shared a common ancestor with the ape more recently than they did with the sheep, that they shared a common ancestor with the sheep more recently than they did with the deer, etc. No evolutionary scientist would interpret this as meaning that apes descended from sheep or that horses descended from kangaroos. Only someone like Ferrell, who completely misunderstands (or pretends to) the evolutionary process, could arrive at such a nonsensical interpretation.
(For an example of the use of this technique to establish evolutionary relationships, see here.) Note that, in this study, the chimpanzee gave identical results to that of the human. Frank, do you see a pattern emerging here?
Pages 744 through 746 -
Playing the Numbers Game –
On these pages, Ferrell wastes ink trying to make the argument that chromosome numbers do not agree with evolutionary expectations. As usual, it is he who has the wrong expectations. As anyone who is familiar with the subject knows, an organism’s shape, size, and degree of complexity are not directly related to chromosome number or length or position of the genes. (See here.) They would also know that there are many ways that chromosomes can split, join, and duplicate to increase their numbers without adversely affecting the viability of the organism. (See here.) Furthermore, many chromosomes appear to contain various amounts "junk" DNA, portions of which appear to serve no useful function. (See here.) Thus it is not unexpected that the absolute quantity of genetic material in a cell does not correlate directly with biological complexity.
Of course no knowledgeable evolutionary scientist labors under the misconception that biological complexity is directly related to chromosome number, i.e., that more "advanced" organisms would necessarily have higher chromosome numbers. The fact that Ferrell seems to think that the theory of evolution predicts such a thing is further confirmation that he, like Denton when he was in his creationist mode, does not know what he is talking about.
Quote-mined Conclusions -
As might be expected, Ferrell ends this chapter with some misleading quotations from a 1981 talk by Colin Patterson who was a paleontologist with the British Museum. (See here for an in depth discussion of the misuse of Patterson’s statements by the creationists.) Keep in mind also that these quotes are now 25 years out of date. A lot of new evidence in support of evolution has been uncovered in that time, whether creationists want to admit it, or not.
Page 747 -
Supplementary Nonsense -
On this page, Ferrell indulges in another round of quote-mining. In addition to repeating the out-dated statements from De Beer, he adds comments (which are over fifty years old) from Heribert Nilsson who seems to have been a bit of a nutcase. (See here.)
He also includes a self-serving summary, by creationist Luther Sunderland, of a talk given in 1981 by Colin Patterson. For the facts about this summary which was prepared using a copy of the talk that was captured on a hidden tape recorder, see here.
Last but not least, he includes some anti-evolution babble (including more tomfoolery about cytochrome C) from creationist Walter Brown. For some examples of Brown's appalling level of scholarship, see here, here, and here.
Page 748 -
Pop Quiz Time -
Here Ferrell poses eight questions and exercises based on the baloney he has fed his readers in Chapter 21. Good little girls and boys will no doubt be expected to regurgitate it on command. One example of his work assignments is as follows: "The aortic arch is a dramatic evidence against evolution and in favor of Creation. Discuss this topic in a half-page report." Why require a half page when it can be easily dealt with in one terse sentence, i.e., "You made the whole thing up."
The most disturbing aspect of Ferrell's quiz is that it implies some people are using his book to "educate" their children about evolution. No wonder our students are continuing to fall further and further behind those of other nations in the sciences. It is one thing for an adult to voluntarily read his claptrap. It is quite another thing to force it onto the impressionable minds of young children. One wonders how many of his young readers have been discouraged from pursuing a career in the sciences by his abominable treatment of the subject.
Page 749 -
The "Creation Scientist" Hall of Fame -
On this page Ferrell includes a section called "Biographies of Creation Scientists." According to him, there are 14 pages in his three-volume set that are devoted to these "creation scientists." In OEAE-3 he lists several such scientists, the vast majority of whom were long dead before Darwin published the Origin of Species. Of course most of these early scientists were creationists. Before Darwin published his TOE, creationism was the only game in town. It is reasonable to assume that, had many of them been presented with evidence that supports the TOE, they would have become advocates for the theory as well, just as the overwhelming majority of scientists are today. (See here.)
At any rate, on this page Ferrell attempts to portray Isaac Newton as the same brand of creationist that he is. If Ferrell thinks he can parade Newton around as a card-carrying young-earth creationist, he is sadly mistaken. The following quotes are from a letter that Newton wrote to Thomas Burnet during the winter of 1680-81 (the full text is in "The correspondence of Isaac Newton", Vol. 11, 1676-1678, edited by H.W. Turnbull, Cambridge University Press, 1960):
"As to Moses I do not think his description of ye creation either philosophical or feigned, but that he described realities in a language artificially adapted to ye sense of ye vulgar…his business being not to correct the vulgar notions in matters philosophical but to adapt a description of ye creation as handsomely as he could to ye sense an capacity of ye vulgar. So when he tells of two great lights and the stars made ye fourth day, I do not think their creation from the beginning to end was done ye fourth day nor in any one day of ye creation… …But in ye third day for Moses to describe ye creation of seas when there was no such thing done neither in reality not appearance…"
In other words, Newton did not think that Moses was writing factual history, but that he was simply communicating in a language that could be understood by the uneducated rabble of the day. While Newton was a Christian, he was most certainly not a biblical inerrantist. He wrote a manuscript entitled "A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture" in which he vigorously attacked the concept of the Trinity. Fearing retaliation from the religious authorities, he gave a copy to John Locke to have it published in France.
Newton once confidently predicted, on the basis of complex calculations involving various biblical passages, that the so-called "second coming" would occur in the late 19th century. He was a Unitarian who had a passion for alchemy (believing at one point he had created gold) and astrology. Obviously, even great intellects like Newton are not immune from having some goofy ideas. While Newton is rightly respected for his work in optics, mechanics, and math, these achievements lend no additional credence to his work or belief in alchemy, mysticism, and theology.
Newton was instrumental in refining the scientific method. He presented his four rules for conducting scientific investigations in his masterpiece, "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica". The rules were: (1) we are to admit no more causes of natural things such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances, (2) the same natural effects must be assigned to the same causes, (3) qualities of bodies are esteemed to be universal, (4) propositions deduced from observation of phenomena should be viewed as accurate until other phenomena contradict them. Newton would have considered Ferrell's brand of creationism to be a joke and his mistreatment of the current evidence in favor of evolution to be a travesty.
My Conclusion -
Rather than waste my time composing a completely new summary of Ferrell’s failed attempts to discredit evolutionary theory in OEAE-3, I will simply append part of my conclusion from my previous evaluation of TEC. Since Chapter 21 of OEAE-3 is basically the same as Chapter 15 of TEC, my pervious comments apply equally to both.
"The best thing that can be said about Ferrell is that he is consistent. Unfortunately, that is also the worst that can be said about him. He consistently uses out-of-date, out-of-context, and misleading citations. He consistently misconstrues and misrepresents scientific statements and opinions. He consistently relies on junk science to cloud the issue. He consistently dredges up worn-out arguments that have been repeatedly debunked by the scientific community. He consistently ignores (and fails to acknowledge) any information that contradicts his worldview. He consistently demonstrates his ignorance of evolutionary principles. He consistently uses discredited and unreliable information (some of which has even been rejected by other prominent creationist groups as well). He consistently plays to the religious credulity of his readers. And he consistently takes advantage of the general scientific illiteracy of his readers to con them into swallowing his line of baloney."
I have spent a considerable amount of my time reviewing both of Ferrell’s books that you have personally hand-delivered to me. Apparently you were of the opinion that I would be favorably impressed by his treatment of the subject. Truth be told, the only thing I found impressive about his treatment of the subject is that he can get anyone with half a brain to believe the malarkey that fills his pages. It should be obvious to anyone with a room temperature I.Q. who bothers to check the facts that Ferrell is either an incredibly incompetent investigator or an unabashed liar (or perhaps a little of both). The only thing "scientific" about his anti-evolution screeds is the fact he managed to number the pages in chronological order. Whether he is truly as ignorant of evolution (and science in general) as his writings indicate, or whether he knows better and is attempting to hoodwink scientifically illiterate laypersons with typical creationist twaddle, is not certain. What is certain is that his books are no more relevant to biological evolution than Jetsons’ cartoons are to modern rocket science.
In his introduction to this book, Ferrell makes the following request of his readers, "…we would deeply appreciate learning of typographical or other inaccuracies. Careful attention will be given to each suggestion, so that suitable corrections may be made in forthcoming printings of these books." He's got to be kidding. If he removes all the inaccuracies that appear in OEAE-3 from his forthcoming books, they will contain nothing but blank pages.
Now it is your turn, Frank. If you truly think that you can make a strong case for the creationist scheme of things, then I invite you to take my Challenge to Young-Earth Creationists. (See here.) If Ferrell’s books are as reliable and informative as you seem to think they are, then my challenge should be a piece of cake for you. Unlike Ferrell’s works of science fiction, my challenge does not contain any fake and /or undocumented data, groundless assertions, oft-refuted canards, sophomoric cartoons, or bastardized interpretations of the evidence. All the observations discussed therein are backed up by published accounts in the mainstream scientific literature.
Until you address the issues raised in my challenge, I respectfully request that you refrain from delivering any more of your brain-addling creationist propaganda to my residence. I am quite aware that many people are willing (even eager) to commit intellectual suicide to accommodate their fundamentalist religious beliefs. I do not need any more examples from you to confirm that a distressingly large segment of the population in this country is scientifically illiterate and prefers comfortable dogma to thought-provoking truths. It is a trend, I fear, that does not bode well for the future vitality of our nation in this increasingly more scientifically oriented day and age.
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