An Open Letter To Grant

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Note from George:  I have been having a conversation with a creationist named Grant over at Tim Cooley’s blog. I am starting to understand Tim’s habit of just responding “Wow.” every time a creationist posts a dumb-ass response to one of his posts.  It is so much easier to show them that you acknowledge their comment but know it to be worthless.  I’m sure Tim is getting tired of me beating Grant up on his blog, so I’ll lay out my case here as well.

For the full context of my letter read the comment section of “Evolution is Wrong, because…” over at Tim Cooley’s Atheism.

Dear Grant,

Even Pasteur thinks you are an idiot......

I know you don’t want to admit that you were wrong to improperly attribute a quote to George Wald when it was clearly creationist propaganda.  I know you would like to forget that you were absolutely wrong about beneficial human genetic mutations.  I understand that you would like to avoid discussing why your probability calculations are fatally flawed or how you are entirely ignorant of the basics of evolutionary theory.

Just hear me out.

You do not need to cling to poor information when you have ample proof that it is wrong.  The information available to you could all be wrong and you still might get the right conclusion from it. Good conclusions are aided by good evidence, but they are not dependent on it.  It really does help make your case though.  What does not help make your case is when you are clearly shown that your “facts” are wrong and you stick to them to the point of being made to look silly.

The quote you attributed to Wald is not in the text of either article it claims to be cited from.  I have shown that there are no groupings of 5 consecutive words in common between your quote and the text of the article.  You have been given multiple opportunities to show otherwise and you continue to “duck and weave”.  Your quote contains 100 words and I’m only asking you to find 5 words in common, just 5%.  If you can do this then I will drop the whole issue.

I think that I am being benevolent, given that there are so many other things wrong with the quote.  It appears to be fabricated 25 years after the article was written with no attention paid to the glaring problem of two divergent dates used.  1860 was mentioned by Wald in the article as the date that Pasteur did his spontaneous generation experiments; 94 years before the article was written.  Your fabricated quote says 120 years and clearly points to this quote being made around 1980.  You are claiming that Wald gave the exact year of the experiment and then overshot the time elapsed by 26 years in the same article.  You are doing this while not even pointing to where in his text he says it was 120 years.  This makes you look particularly stupid.

(Edit: I found citeings of the same quote with the date changed to 100 years.  Perhaps Grant could start changing that too.)

The quote itself conflates spontaneous generation and abiogenesis, which has been explained on numerous occasions to be incorrect.  I let that error stand because it is clearly a conflation made by Wald in the original text, based on information and terminology available to a scientist more than 55 years ago.  Spontaneous generation is not abiogenesis.  Pasteur’s experiment did nothing to disprove abiogenesis, although that may not have been apparent to a biologist almost 60 years ago.  There are many assumptions that were made more than half a century ago that have not stood the test of time.  The great thing about science is it is self correcting, new discoveries and evidence discard old theories or take them from conjecture to fact.  That of course is a weakness to creationists, but it is what makes science increasingly more relevant to informed people than your ancient holy book.

You have decided to pick one sentence from the link I provided you and disregard everything that is said after it because that one sentence removed of it’s context appears to vindicate you.  As a homework project, perhaps you would like to address the other sentences in that link to show that you have reading comprehension.

When you brought up genetic mutations you claimed that sickle cell anemia was the only mildly positive genetic mutation in humans.  When I offered you three other genetic mutations that had a far more positive effect in humans you ignored me.  I have references for each of those studies.  I want you to respond as to why they are not positive genetic mutations or admit that you were misinformed on that subject.  It makes you look bad to make a claim that is proven wrong and refuse to address it.  Here are the references for my three examples; lactose tolerance, atherosclerosis resistance, and HIV immunity:

1.Durham, William H. 1992. Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

2. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 1998 Apr;18(4):562-567. “PAI-1 plasma levels in a general population without clinical evidence of atherosclerosis: relation to environmental and genetic determinants,” by Margaglione M, Cappucci G, d’Addedda M, Colaizzo D, Giuliani N, Vecchione G, Mascolo G, Grandone E, Di Minno G; Unita’ di Trombosi e Aterosclerosi, IRCCS Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), Italy.

3. American Journal of Human Genetics, 1998 Jun;62(6):1507-15. by JC Stephens et al.

On the subject of probability,  I explained to you how attributing the creation of known proteins to chance was wrong.  Evolution works by building upon existing forms.  Just like in my Yatzee analogy, even if you required 1,000,000 dice to be 6′s to call a yatzee, with a near infinite amount of rolls at your disposal you will eventually get there.  Even if you started with not one 6 in your first roll.  Abiogenesis, let’s imagine it as 50 sixes in one roll, will eventually happen, and evolution allows you to build upon that over and over again.  Your probability calculations are for a known protein, and this need not be the case.  Science doesn’t even accept that as the case.  Yet you attribute it as part of scientific dogma, then smack it down.  That is what we call a “strawman”.

DNA has a book of Haikus coming out this spring....

Your original tact was to take a poor metaphor and insist that it is proof of evolution.  I hope I was able to convey to you that no scientist believes that DNA is a real “language” or “code” in the sense that you or I use those terms.  Just as your definition of “theory” is very different from what science defines as a “theory”, words have different meanings and connotations in different circumstances.  You don’t get to choose your definition,  the definition is contextual.  You are quite right to stand in awe of the complexity and seeming impossibility of life.  It is wondrous.  Yet science continues to shed new light on the intricacies and specifics of how life came to be as we know it.  There are many questions that still need to be answered, but know that those answers are out there; with no need to resort to the supernatural.

Grant, you might yet be right about evolution.  Unfortunately for you it would require disproving thousands of separate lines of evidence for the theory.  There is the remotest of chances, perhaps even worse than the chances of spontaneous generation, that science has been horribly misled in physics, geology, dendrochronology, biology, genetics, and just about every other area of science that touches upon evolution.  Yet clinging to arguments that are known to be false does nothing to help your case.   You can still admit that you were misinformed; the quote was misattributed, that you were unaware of the latest information in genetics, that you misunderstood the probability and hypothesis of abiogenesis.  You can admit all those things and I won’t say you are wrong just because of bad information.  I might tell you that your apprehentions to evolution are unfounded; that if your belief in creationism is based on the shortcomings of evolution, then you need to get better information.

There is no shame in admitting when you are wrong.  It does not make you perpetually wrong either.  Continuing to lie when you know you have been caught just makes you look idiotic, and as fun as it has been to continue to do just that, I want you to know that you have a second option.  Just admit that you had some of your facts wrong, admit that the information was wrong but that it doesn’t completely disprove your argument.  Then go out and try to find the right information to back up your hypothesis.  You may be surprised what you learn…..

George.

P.S. – Just to show you what quote-mining is, here is a quote from this open letter.  It is not even in the spirit of the text, it is taking rhetoric out of context and taking it to mean something it was not intended to:

Grant,

Just hear me out.  You might yet be right about evolution. You are quite right to stand in awe of the complexity and seeming impossibility of life.  It is wondrous.  Good conclusions are aided by good evidence, and science has been horribly misled in physics, geology, dendrochronology, biology, genetics, and just about every other area of science that touches upon evolution.

-George W., Atheist blogger, Misplaced Grace, “An Open Letter To Grant”, September 17th, 2010.

See what I mean?

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7 Responses to “An Open Letter To Grant”

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Hard core, man. You tell him.

I’m always wary of people who love to use ellipses when they quote stuff, myself. Exactly how much stuff is getting left out? Unless you can get to the original and read it for yourself, it’s information that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I provide a fun example of that here:

http://1minionsopinion.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/nephilim-stargates-the-end-is-truly-nigh-aye/

The leader of our skeptics group just got back from Australia and dragged home a copy of Creation with him, a “popular” ID magazine they’ve got down under. One of our other members is currently working on her doctoral thesis and had nothing good to say about their methods of quoting sources. It’s certainly not a serious magazine like Science or Nature would be. It’s completely laughable.

If you ever feel like wasting an hour of your life you can watch me slowly back him into a corner by reading the whole exchange over at Tim’s site. I love his site, it’s a bag of laughs. Grant really thought he was “winning” the whole time. I just have to believe that creationists at some point know they have been lied to by “creation science” and ID. Yet they continue to argue long after they should have admitted that they were mistaken.
In order to be a creationist you have to believe that there is a conspiracy of epic proportions that has been carried out with nary a clue since “Origin” was published 150 years ago.
You should PDF that magazine and email me a copy. I love reading that stuff. It gets you prepared for the next Grant.

George w
Go here http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/iidb.htm The atheists riddle. And argue with Perry Marshall. Good Luck LoL
Go thru the blog listing. Similar thing to the other blog. Have a look at the proposition he puts forward. See what you think. More science and less abuse. Enjoy and open your mind – just a fraction! Grant

By the way what would you think if Dawkins decided to become religious? Out of the question? Try looking up Anthony Flew. Bigger than Dawkins is today – in his time – and a hero to Dawkins at one point. Flew was the foremost atheist during the 50′s – 80′s. He changed his mind based on evidence. (DNA – complexity etc) It is fair to say that anything is only as good as it’s foundation. Darwin thought the cell was simple – just protoplasm – this is what evolution was based on. That life could easily emerge from non living materials. Do we not know better today? Flew followed the evidence. Whether he liked where it was heading or not. We all have our views. But there is objective truth. 2 + 2 = 4 here , Zimbabwe , Mars , USA , Uk. Something cannot come from nothing is an objective truth. Life must come from life – the LAW of biogensis. Yet to be found wrong. Every effect has a cause is another. The cause is always greater than the effect – another. So take the creation of the universe – the cause must have been greater than the effect.

What would I think if Richard Dawkins became religious? Probably the same thing you would think if Ray Comfort,
or William Dembski,
or Billy Graham,
or the pope became an atheist.
I would think that he is entitled to his opinion, but his opinion is not mine. I am not an atheist because Dawkins says so. I am an atheist because it is the null hypothesis, and in the face of absolutely no evidence to prove otherwise, I am very safe in making that conclusion.
I am very aware of Mr. Flew. I am well versed on the facts surrounding his “conversion”. If I were a theist, I would not be overly proud or boastful about it either.
You are more than welcome to be a theist, you just do not have the right to lie about science in an effort to bolster your faith.
If you want to argue about abiogenesis, I will happily oblige you. Just know that it has nothing to do with evolution, which most assuredly did and is happening. Evolution does not need abiogenesis. They aren’t even related.
However, bring it on Grant, I will happily continue to make you look silly. Make your case….

I read your Perry Marshall link Grant, and it says nothing I don’t already know. That a Computer Engineer would be able to take something he knows a hell of a lot about (ie. man made information systems) and wantonly apply it to something he knows very little about (ie. biological information systems) is not a new or novel phenomena. For Mr. Marshall to walk into an atheist message board and pwn them on information theory does not surprise me either. I am relatively certain that none of the people in that forum are Geneticists or Evolutionary Biologists and also are woefully ignorant of human made information systems.
I am woefully ignorant of human designed information systems.
You are woefully ignorant of human designed information systems.
Mr. Marshall is woefully ignorant of biological information systems.
Does this mean that he knows less than I? Certainly not. Will I likely get pwned by him in a debate on information theory? Almost certainly. Does this make his point ultimately true? Not really. I know many people who believe evolution happened that would get pwned by Ray Comfort and his “where did the mate for this newly evolved species come from?” argument. Or his “crocoduck” argument. Both of which are ridiculous and wrong.
Debating a point with someone who knows significantly less about a subject than you is easy. If Mr. Marshall has a knockdown argument for ID then why does he not present it to those in the field who could be swayed?
I have a feeling that at the end of the day your pleading will boil down to a “global scientific conspiracy” where scientists all conspire to keep evolution alive. Do I think that his argument has merit? Not particularly. Am I the person who should be dissecting his argument? No.
But George, you say, that smacks as unfair! If you can’t explain information theory, then you are admitting that your belief in evolutionary theory is nothing more than faith!
Well, no, not really.
See Grant, if Perry Marshall had stopped at just obfuscating information theory, I might have to admit that I have no easy answers to his charges. However, I can logically conclude that Mr. Marshall is woefully ignorant about biology and biological information theory. So although I don’t have a knockdown argument for his information systems ramblings, I can prove that he knows very little about biology. I can then conclude, using the same inductive reasoning that Mr. Marshall so loves and admires, that his argument suffers from a lack of proper context.
So how is Perry so ignorant?
1. He claims that a Giraffe evolved from an Antelope and that Darwinian evolution depends on this- Unless you are a biological Special Olympian, you can’t possibly hold to this argument. If you can prove that evolution postulates that an antelope evolved into a giraffe, then I will abandon evolution altogether. Someone who believes this has no knowledge of evolutionary biology.
2.He conflates random mutation to noise. He claims that random mutation cannot offer new information. This is an outright lie. It has been scientifically proven in numerous examples. As a bonus point, would he be comfortable explaining what causes the variations on which Natural Selection, which he fully endorses, happens to act upon. Front loading? Where is your evidence?
3. He uses as his examples of why random mutation cannot provide useful information two studies, Dobzhansky (1955) and Goldschmidt (1933). If I wanted to create an example to back up my case, I may wish to use something more recent than 1955. Or, if you would prefer Grant, I wish to prove to you that there is no vaccine for Polio. LOL

So I can state the following:
1. Perry Marshall knows a hell of a lot about Computer Information Theory
2. Perry Marshall knows very little about evolution or modern genetics
3. When he tries to apply his area of expertise to an area he is ignorant of, there is a high likelihood that he makes mistakes
4. Until his findings are properly vetted by experts, it is safe to assume that they are likely mistaken

By all means Grant, continue….


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