Comment on A “Christian Agnostic”? by Professor Kent.
No one will ever demonstrate to Sean Pitman’s satisfaction an exception to the 1000-fsaar threshold of the evolution of complexity for several reasons that come to my mind (and I’m sure there are others):
1 – There is no practical way to identify the exact number of “fairly specified amino acid residues” (fsaars) for novel increases in functionality among metazoans (i.e., the problem of uncertainty). Sean can’t tell you, for example, exactly how many amino acid residues were involved for the evolution of the scorpion’s stinger, the evolution of its gland, or the evolution of its various venom components. Sean simply has no clue. But unless God created the deadly stinger to function as it does today, I can’t imagine its evolution requiring any fewer than 1000 amino acids.
2 – The beginning and endpoint for what constitutes Sean’s imagined “1000 fsaar threshold” cannot be precisely stated. How many fsaars would comprise the origin of several novel venom proteins, for example? If three new 400 aa proteins evolve, resulting in a potent venom comprised of a sum of 1200 new aa that function unlike any prior venom enzymes, would this exceed the threshold (i.e., the problem of summation)? If a complex structure that served one function became modified at, say, 12 aa per generation until it began to function very differently 100 generations later, was this a 1200 fsaar change (i.e., the problem of accumulation)? If a protein dependent on three genes, each coding for 400 aa subunits, acquired a new function after gene duplication and tinkering, would this qualify as exceeding the threshold (the problem of gene duplication)?
3 – Because Sean rejects any and all analyses based on phyogenetics, he will not allow any kind of historical reconstruction of traits to infer the evolution of a complex trait (i.e., the problem of constrained inference). The only possibility for demonstrating to Sean a 1000+ fsaar change is for something that might take place within a few centuries–the narrow window of time that detailed natural history observations have been available to give us a benchmark for change. Sean is typical of creationists in demanding a “show me an example of such change.” Of course, the evolutionists will tell you that the accumulation of change can take thousands or millions of years (i.e., generations), but Sean and other creationists demand that it happens within decades or centuries so that it can be “observed.”
4 – Any example of change that introduces higher levels of functionality can be met with one simple objection: God made it that way (i.e., the problem of origin). One might consider clear-cut examples of predation or parasitism, but these are no less problematic. God could have created the scorpion with its stinger, venom gland, and venom, for example, to sting a succulent plant and thereby create a hole in the plant that provides the scorpion a home.
My conclusion: it is not worthwhile to pursue this type of discussion with Sean. One simply cannot reason with these constraints to change. And who gives a monkey’s hairy behind, anyway.
Recent Comments by Professor Kent
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Nic Samojluk: No wonder most creationist writers do not even try to submit their papers to such organizations.
Who wants to waste his/her time trying to enter through a door that is closed to him/her a priori?
You have no idea what you’re writing about, Nic. As it turns out, there are in fact many of us Adventists who “waste” our time publishing articles through doors that open to us a priori. Even Leonard Brand at Loma Linda, a widely recognized creationist, has published in the top geology journals. I mean the top journals in the discipline.
The myth that creationists cannot publish in mainstream science is perpetuated by people who simply do not understand the culture of science–and will remain clueless that they do not understand it even when confronted with their misunderstandings. Such is human nature.
Your questions about conservation genetics are very insightful. I don’t understand how all these life forms were able to greatly increase in genetic diversity while simultaneously winding down and losing genetic information to mutations. Sean seems to insist that both processes happen simultaneously. I had the impression he has insisted all along that the former cannot overcome the latter. But I think you must be right: God had to intervene to alter the course of nature. However, we can probably test this empirically because there must be a signature of evidence available in the DNA. I’ll bet Sean can find the evidence for this.
I’m also glad the predators (just 2 of most such species) in the ark had enough clean animals (14 of each such species) to eat during the deluge and in the months and years after they emerged from the ark that they didn’t wipe out the vast majority of animal species through predation. Maybe they all consumed manna while in the ark and during the first few months or years afterward. Perhaps Sean can find in the literature a gene for a single digestive enzyme that is common to all predatory animals, from the lowest invertebrate to the highest vertebrate. Now that would be amazing.
Wait a minute–I remember once being told that SDA biologists like Art Chadwick believe that some animals survived on floating vegetation outside the ark. Now that would solve some of these very real problems! I wonder whether readers here would allow for this possibility. Multiple arks without walls, roof, and human caretakers.
Ellen White said, “In the days of Noah, men…many times larger than now exist, were buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians [presumably referring to humans] perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history…”
Sean Pitman said, “All human fossils discovered so far are Tertiary or post-Flood fossils. There are no known antediluvian human fossils.”
Ellen White tells us that humans and dinosaurs (presumably referred to in the statement, “a class of very large animals which perished at the flood… mammoth animals”) lived together before the flood. Evolutionary biologists tell us that dinosaurs and humans never lived together. You’re telling us, Sean, that the fossil record supports the conclusion of evolutionists rather than that of Ellen White and the SDA Church. Many of the “very large animals which perished at the flood” are found only in fossil deposits prior to or attributed to the flood, whereas hunans occur in fossil deposits only after the flood (when their numbers were most scarce).
Should the SDA biologists, who are supposed to teach “creation science,” be fired if they teach what you have just conceded?
La Sierra Univeristy Fires Dr. Lee Greer; Signs anti-Creation Bond
For those aghast about the LSU situation and wondering what other SDA institutions have taken out bonds, hold on to your britches. You’ll be stunned when you learn (soon) how many of our other schools, and which ones in particular, have taken out these bonds. You will be amazed to learn just how many other administrators have deliberately secularized their institutions besides Randal Wisbey, presumably because they too hate the SDA Church (as David Read has put it so tactfully).
Be sure to protest equally loudly.
So clearly you believe that science can explain supernatural events. Congratulations on that.