Bringing the Real World to Genesis: Why Evolution is an Idea that Won’t Die—IV [A Review]

 

By Sean Pitman
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Mr. Jan M. Long, J.D. has taught management at Loma Linda University and at Riverside Community College. Currently he is a legal analyst for the District Attorney of Riverside County, California. He also dabbles in the creation/evolution debate, having been converted to neo-Darwinism from traditional Adventism.  Recently, Mr. Long published a series of articles on the topic for Spectrum Magazine in defense of the Darwinian perspective of origins in contrast to the church’s position.  In his latest article, he listed off several arguments that, to him, seem to be most convincing regarding the Darwinian notion of the common decent of all living things from a common ancestor.  Considering that Mr. Long references my own website in his article (DetectingDesign.com), I decided to take the time and respond to some the arguments presented.

One the most interesting arguments that Mr. Long presented (at least in my opinion since I’ve discussed this particular argument on my website for quite some time now) is the argument of “shared mistakes” between humans and apes and other living things.  Of course, no God would deliberately create shared mistakes.  So, these mistakes are among the strongest evidences of common descent via mindless non-directed evolutionary mechanisms.  As an illustration of one of these shared mistakes Mr. Long ironically chose to highlight the eta-globin pseudogene (HBBP1), a genetic sequence located in the beta-globin gene cluster that is responsible for producing the hemoglobin in our red blood cells that transports oxygen.  Mr. Long argued that the eta-globin pseudogene is a clear example of  a non-functional genetic sequence (often referred to as an example of “junk DNA”).   Here is what he wrote (my response follows):

 

1. One mutation is found in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein within red blood cells. One of the molecules of human hemoglobin is beta-globin, and is composed of six genes; five are functional, and one right in the middle is broken. It is referred to as a pseudogene. This broken gene contains a series of errors that make it nonfunctional. This error is one that every human carries, and interestingly gorillas and chimpanzees also carry six beta-globin genes, and they are arranged in exactly the same way —five working copies surrounding a pseudogene. (Link)

What is interesting about this argument is that the eta-globin pseudogene, in particular, has long been known to be mutating at one-fifth the expected neutral mutation rate (Link). Given that more and more “pseudogenes” and non-coding regions of DNA previously thought to be “junk DNA” are now being found to be functional to one degree or another, such a reduced mutation rate makes it very hard to definitively argue that the eta-globin sequence is a clear example of “shared mistakes” that have been passed on over the past 85 million years. It is also rather hard to imagine why or how a truly non-functional sequences would be maintained in the genome for such a long period of time without having been eliminated by random mutations (especially considering the cost required to maintain truly non-functional DNA).

And, ironically, just this year (January of 2013), a paper was published by Moleirinho, A., et al., demonstrating that the eta-globin pseudogene is in fact functional, playing a regulatory role and assisting in “gene switching” between fetal and adult forms of hemoglobin.  Consider a portion of their argument as follows:

Several decades ago, a hypothesis was formulated holding an important regulatory role of HBD and HBBP1 in the Hb fetal-to-adult switch that matches quite well the assumption of strong negative selective forces acting on these sequences (Ottolenghi et al. 1979; Bank et al. 1980; Chang and Slightom 1984; Goodman et al. 1984). Over the past years, the β-globin cluster has been regarded as a complex genetic system and a paradigm of gene expression regulation. More recently, a boost of studies on the β-globin cluster have contributed to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the regulation of each gene in the cluster (Harju et al. 2002; Chakalova et al. 2005; Noordermeer and de Laat 2008; Sankaran et al. 2010). Remarkably, chromosome conformation (3C and 5C) analyses for the β-globin locus disclosed strong interactions between the LCR and the region encompassing both HBD and HBBP1 (Dostie et al. 2006; Sanyal et al. 2012). Furthermore, distinct spatial interactions of the LCR in fetal and adult stages were uncovered by another study based only in 3C assay in which HBD sequence was proposed to be enrolled in the maintenance of a transcriptionally competent structure at the adult stage (Beauchemin and Trudel 2009). These recent findings suggest that HBD and HBBP1 might be involved in chromatin looping in the human β-globin cluster, a crucial mechanism for temporal coordination of gene expression (Holwerda and De Laat 2012). Importantly, one SNP (rs10128556) in HBBP1 has been also identified as a modulator of HbF levels reinforcing the idea that this genomic region is indeed involved in the Hb fetal-to-adult switch (Galarneau et al. 2010).

Moleirinho, A., et al. 2013. Evolutionary Constraints in the β-Globin Cluster: The Signature of Purifying Selection at the δ-Globin (HBD) Locus and its Role in Developmental Gene Regulation. Genome Biology and Evolution. 5 (3):559–571.

http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/3/559.full

 

So, I guess we just have to chalk up another one for the creationists don’t we?  Yet another “pseudogene” bites the dust and isn’t so “pseudo” any more…

 

In any case, here are a few other interesting arguments from Long’s article:

In DNA terms, Chimpanzees are the closest of the mammals to humans. The latest assessments have concluded their DNA is 98.8% matched to human DNA.

This is only true of protein-coding genes. This does not take into account the degree of differences that exist in functional non-coding genetic elements – like those that code for miRNAs (where ~8% of genetic sequences are unique to either humans or apes). Note also that when one is talking about protein-coding gene similarities, humans are 50% the same as bananas…

2. Most mammals have a gene that codes for an enzyme called gulonolactone oxidase, or GLO. This enzyme manufactures vitamin C, allowing mammals with this functional gene to not need any dietary intake of vitamin C. Humans, of course, need vitamin C in order to maintain good health, and interestingly human’s have a remnant of the GLO gene that is broken. It has accumulated so many changes in its base sequence as to become nonfunctional. Assuming the viability of the evolutionary model, this very strongly suggests that every human has descended from a common ancestor that also had this broken gene. Yes, some primates—the ones we are most closely related to in terms of DNA patterns such as chimps and gorillas—also have a broken GLO gene. Other more distantly related primates do have a functioning GLO gene. As noted by Kenneth Miller, in the field of forensics, “this notion of unique, matching errors is widely used to determine when one document has been copied from another.” In the case of the GLO gene, the document we can analogize to would be the DNA code.

Now, it is interesting that among the many various substitution mutations in the “GLO” pseudogene that many, though not all, would be shared, to include a single deletion mutation that is shared by all primates (when compared to the rat of course). If not for common descent why would the sequences of human, chimpanzee, gorilla and orangutan reveal a single nucleotide deletion at position 97 in the coding region of Exon X? What are the odds that out of 165 base pairs the same one would be mutated in all these primates by random chance? Pretty slim – right? Is this not then overwhelming evidence of common evolutionary ancestry?

This would indeed seem to be the case at first approximation. However, in 2003, the same Japanese group published the complete sequence of the guinea pig GLO pseudogene, which is thought to have evolved independently, and compared it to that of humans [Inai et al, 2003]. Surprisingly, they reported many shared mutations (deletions and substitutions) present in both humans and guinea pigs. Remember now that humans and guinea pigs are thought to have diverged at the time of the common ancestor with rodents. Therefore, a mutational difference between a guinea pig and a rat should not be shared by humans with better than random odds. But, this was not what was observed. Many mutational differences were shared by humans, including the one at position 97. According to Inai et al, this indicated some form of non-random bias that was independent of common descent or evolutionary ancestry. The probability of the same substitutions in both humans and guinea pigs occurring at the observed number of positions was calculated, by Inai et al, to be 1.84x1e-12, consistent with mutational hotspots.

Some have noted that although the shared mutations may be the result of hotspots, there are many more mutational differences between humans and rats/guinea pigs as compared to apes. Therefore, regardless of hotspots, humans and apes are clearly more closely related than are humans and rats/guinea pigs.

The problem with this argument is that the rate at which mutations occur is related to the average generation time. Those creatures that have a shorter generation time have a correspondingly higher mutation rate over the same absolute period of time – like 100 years. Therefore, it is only to be expected that those creatures with relatively long generation times, like humans and apes, would have fewer mutational differences relative to each other over the same period of time relative to those creatures with much shorter generation times – like rats and guinea pigs.

What is interesting about many of these mutational losses is that they often share the same mutational changes. It is at least reasonably plausible then that the GULO mutation could also be the result of similar genetic instability that is shared by similar creatures (such as humans and the great apes).

This same sort of thing is seen to a fairly significant degree in the GULO region. Many of the same regional mutations are shared between humans and guinea pigs.

Why would both humans and guinea pigs share major deletions of exons I, V and VI as well as four stop codons if these mutations were truly random? In addition to this, a mutant group of Danish pigs have also been found to show a loss of GULO functionality. And, guess what, the key mutation in these pigs was a loss of a sizable portion of exon VIII. This loss also matches the loss of primate exon VIII. In addition, there is a frame shift in intron 8 which results in a loss of correct coding for exons 9-12. This also reflects a very similar loss in this region in primates (see Link). That’s quite a few key similarities that were clearly not the result of common ancestry for the GULO region. This seems to be very good evidence that many if not all of the mutations of the GULO region are indeed the result of similar genetic instabilities that are prone to similar mutations – especially in similar animals.

As an aside, many other genetic mutations that result in functional losses are known to commonly affect the same genetic loci in the same or similar manner outside of common descent. For example, achondroplasia is a spontaneous mutation in humans in about 85% of the cases. In humans achondroplasia is due to mutations in the FGFR2 gene. A remarkable observation on the FGFR2 gene is that the major part of the mutations are introduced at the same two spots (755 C->G and 755-757 CGC->TCT) independent of common descent. The short legs of the Dachshund are also due to the same mutation(s). The same allelic mutation has occurred in sheep as well.

 

3. Humans have 46 chromosomes—23 inherited from each parent. Apes, however, have 48, raising the significant question as to how humans and apes could possibly be related (particularly closely related) when humans are missing a couple of chromosomes. Well, this is where it gets interesting, because chromosomes have distinctive structural features with telomeres at the tips, and with a centromere at the center of the chromosome (see the graphic below). Quite unexpectedly humans have a fused chromosome #2. It has fused telomeres and two centromeres right where they would be expected to be if a fusion had occurred. Furthermore, genes on these two chromosomes are arranged in a pattern that is almost an exact match for corresponding genes on the two corresponding chimpanzee chromosomes. The match is so close that scientists have changed chimpanzee genes #12 & 13 to 2a and 2b so as to correspond to the human chromosome #2. This, of course, suggests an explanation for the “missing” human chromosome.

Despite the commonality of this argument in favor of common descent, I’m at a loss to understand what this particular argument is so convincing to so many people? Why is a chromosomal fusion event declared to be so “unexpected”? Consider that chromosomal fusions happen to be fairly common – even within the same species. In fact, there are humans alive today who have chromosomal fusions – and surprise surprise, they’re still human! – morphologically and functionally indistinguishable from other modern humans. Another example can be found with horses. Hybrids of the wild horse have 33 pairs while the domesticated horse has 32 chromosomal pairs. Also, domestic dogs and wolves of the genus canis have 78 chromosomes while foxes have a varied number from 38-78 chromosomes. Yet another example is the house mouse Mus Musculis, which has 40 chromosomes, while a population of mice form the Italian Alps was found to have only 22 chromosomes.

So, the different chromosomal numbers between humans and apes doesn’t necessarily indicate common ancestry. It is not evidence for when the event took place, nor is it evidence for the ancestry prior to that event. It could just as easily mean that similar creatures with independent ancestries originally had the same chromosome number and general banding patterns – a number that was later altered by fusion mutations in the human population during a population bottleneck. Given another dramatic population bottleneck in the future, such a transmissible fusion could easily happen again – in either apes or humans . . . or any other creature for that matter. That’s what’s clearly predictable here. Even those who believe in intelligent design (ID) understand that not all genetic features require the input of intelligence. The simple fusion of two chromosomes, without any significant functional gain or loss, is easy to explain via random mindless processes and is actually fairly common. No big deal. Not very surprising or shocking – not even from an ID perspective. In fact, evolutionists would make exactly the same argument for the common ancestry of humans and apes without the fusion of chromosome 2. This fusion event really adds nothing to the argument. It simply presents no additional explanatory or predictive power to the argument for common descent beyond the simple observation that similarities suggest a common origin of some kind…

While it is quite reasonable that strong similarities, such as exist between humans and apes, do in fact indicate a common origin, that common origin is not necessarily based on common descent via slow genetic modifications selected by mindless nature over time from some shared common ancestor. Given the highly functionally complex differences between the two species which are being discovered more and more in recent years (especially in non-coding regions of the genome) it seems far more likely that the common origin of these differences, as well as the similarities, was based in deliberate highly intelligent design. The only event(s) that clearly do not require the input of high-level outside intelligence are events like random chromosomal fusions or other forms of random mutations which are very unlikely to produce any functional benefit beyond very low levels of functional complexity.

 

Well, what should we make of findings such as these? Are they all mere coincidences, or do they lead to the conclusion of common descent? The good news for traditional Adventist thinking is that none of these observations result in conclusions that are definitive on questions of common descent—just tantalizing data that seems to point that direction as determined by subject matter experts. For many this will be enough to casually dismiss this discussion and its implications. But this is not the end of the story, for we can be sure that there are many chapters yet to come. Yet, the data we have just discussed should cause us to pause before offering up knee-jerk responses of ridicule.

Shared similarities are admittedly rather easily explained via common descent. The real problems for the modern theory of evolution come when one tries to explain the functional differences between different gene pools beyond very low levels of functional complexity. Where things become completely untenable, to even a “ridiculous level”, for neo-Darwinists, is in trying to explain how qualitatively novel genetic systems could have evolved via the mindless mechanism of random mutations and natural selection beyond very low levels of functional complexity (i.e., beyond the level of systems that require at least 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues to produce a given type of function). That’s the real problem for the ToE that these “shared mistakes” arguments simply don’t trump – not even close.

 

Those who have a defining narrative that would deny or ignore the data just discussed can easily find creationists who will be dismissive of the substantive points just made [thanks for your reference to my website here, but I hardly think my counterarguments are “dismissive” of the arguments presented for common descent]. So the problem for all truth-seeking laypersons is in whom to place trust for a study of very complex issues—the actual subject matter experts or the opinions of those who aren’t. The answer should be obvious.

Is this really a matter of trust or blind faith in this or that”expert”? Or, should the truth-seeking laypersons seek to learn and search out a personal understanding of the issues in play regarding such an important topic? Why put one’s faith blindly in the opinions of others who are clearly just as open and prone to bias and error as any of the rest of us?

 

Another point to consider—most credible experts will openly discuss both strengths and weaknesses of the findings they put forward. Those “experts” who misrepresent the known scientific reality by only presenting one-sided arguments as is done on many radio talk shows, where cherry picked data is presented and problematic data is avoided, are by their very approach untrustworthy. Those who openly discuss vulnerabilities are, by this measure, more credible. In the spirit of this latter point, I have provided readers in footnote form, a website sponsored by an Adventist who dismisses the findings we have just discussed. But should you review that material, please consider the general lack of any discussion of vulnerabilities of the arguments being made.

I’ve presented both sides of the topic in play in my own discussion of these issues on my website – along with references for readers to consider both sides. In contrast, you’ve only presented one side in print, with an off-handed reference to my website as a counter. However, you yourself did not present or discuss very many if any potential problems with the theories you’ve presented. Why not? How does this affect credibility?

 

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com

www.detectingdesign.com/pseudo…

http://lib.bioinfo.pl/paper:65…

 

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46 thoughts on “Bringing the Real World to Genesis: Why Evolution is an Idea that Won’t Die—IV [A Review]

  1. Excellent refutation, Sean. In a somewhat different but related discussion of such matters, I would appreciate your views on the probability of only levorotatory (left-handed) stereo enantiomers of almost all of the amino acids found in living systems developing purely by chance. I’ve never heard of any neo-Darwinist taking on this one as far as origins goes. Have you? And of course, how can DNA develop independently of proteins or proteins develop independently of DNA? Don’t they both have to be in existence concurrently? Not to mention, what is the probability of correctly functioning proteins, which are generally many hundreds or thousands of amino acid building blocks long, if only a single amino acid is out of place? All biologists, ID or Darwinists (neo- or otherwise), also need to be honest staticticians!




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    • @Rhonda Dinwiddie:

      I would appreciate your views on the probability of only levorotatory (left-handed) stereo enantiomers of almost all of the amino acids found in living systems developing purely by chance. I’ve never heard of any neo-Darwinist taking on this one as far as origins goes. Have you?

      I have come across a few feeble attempts to explain this most interesting observation. However, if you’re going to ignore the overwhelming statistical problems of the informational complexity required to put together very complex machines from scratch, using only mindless naturalistic mechanisms, these other statistical problems aren’t going to phase you much.

      As an aside, Stephen Meyer covers many of these issues in his book, “Signature in the Cell.”

      And of course, how can DNA develop independently of proteins or proteins develop independently of DNA? Don’t they both have to be in existence concurrently?

      Yes, its the classic “chicken or the egg?” paradox. I discuss this particular problem in more detail here:

      http://www.detectingdesign.com/abiogenesis.html

      Not to mention, what is the probability of correctly functioning proteins, which are generally many hundreds or thousands of amino acid building blocks long, if only a single amino acid is out of place? All biologists, ID or Darwinists (neo- or otherwise), also need to be honest staticticians!

      Protein-based systems generally aren’t this rigid. They allow from some flexiblity of sequence changes without a significant or complete loss of original function. However, there is a minimum degree of specificity that is required for all protein-based systems to achieve a particular type of function. The odds that qualitatively novel beneficial protein-based systems will be discovered in the vastness of sequence space via random mutations are very very unlikely this side of a practical eternity of time once one starts to consider systems that have a minimum requirement of more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  2. While it is sad that Jan Long has rejected Adventism in favor of neo-Darwinism, it is particularly unfortunate that he has taught at La Sierra University. What has happened at La Sierra? Six or seven decades ago, La Sierra pre-med students could not be admitted to Loma Linda School of Medicine if they even questioned the inspiration of Ellen White. Now, it seems as if the prevailing sentiment is toward complete rejection of the Biblical account of Creation. How tragic. Does this disqualify La Sierra Univ. as a Christian institution?

    I applaud Sean Pitman’s review of the science (or lack thereof) on the issue of common ancestry between primates and humans. One would certainly expect a greater genetic concordance between primates and humans.

    Has anyone ever attempted procreation between humans and primates? Yes, but it has always failed. Thus, there is no science to confirm procreation between these species, and thus, no science to even hint at possible common ancestry, in spite of DNA similarities. Why not just accept science and the Biblical creation account?




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  3. Unfortunately, the lack of the ability to procreate between species, subspecies or varieties is no proof at all that they did not have a biological common ancestor. Artificial selection (by humans) of specific traits or characteristics in animals or plants can create offspring separated by many generations that are so very different from their ancestry and from one another that they can become genetically isolated and incapable of again interbreeding and producing hybrid offspring that are viable. Truth can afford to be fair.




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  4. Sean Pitman: And, ironically, just this year (January of 2013), a paper was published by Moleirinho, A., et al., demonstrating that the eta-globin pseudogene is in fact functional, playing a regulatory role and assisting in “gene switching” between fetal and adult forms of hemoglobin. Consider a portion of their argument as follows…So, I guess we just have to chalk up another one for the creationists don’t we? Yet another “pseudogene” bites the dust and isn’t so “pseudo” any more…

    Wow, Sean, you are either remarkably intelligent or extraordinarily lucky…or something else altogether. It seems that every single paper that comes out with conclusions that support atheistic origins is flawed. Every single one. You can sniff out the flaws without a problem. Yet EVERY SINGLE PAPER that supports your version of creationism just happens to be, remarkably, error-free. And this is true even if the latter author(s) subscribe to atheistic origins instead of your point of view!!! In fact, in the past few years you have cited many dozens of articles written by atheists who had no idea you would use their material to help win people to Jesus (if only they knew!). Amazing!!!

    Now is this mere coincidence, or is something else going on? Maybe a little inspiration? Or maybe a lot of confirmation bias?




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    • I must have missed it. Does this mean you agree or disagree with the conclusions of the authors that the eta-globin pseudogene is actually functional? – contrary to the popular beliefs of many like Mr. Jan Long?

      This isn’t just-so story telling where someone imagines what must have happened millions of years ago. This is empirical demonstration being done in real time – big difference. It makes it much much harder to invoke your mantra of “confirmation bias”.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • Professor Kent, it appears that you have no objective response to Dr. Pitman’s presentation of research that counteracts Long’s position. No review of the paper Pitman present, no discussion of why it truly reflects the existing regulatory pathways of hemoglobin synthesis. Only some ad hominem arguments again. Such approaches do not gain respect among graduate science students such as myself, especially those who are so open-minded that they would adopt either creation or evolutionary philosophy if they could see that one was much more likely to be the natural history of the universe.

      Please keep your comments to addressing the relative merits or demerits of your counterpart’s position. I don’t claim that Pitman is inspired (I doubt he would either), but he is cogently referencing data that needs either to be confirmed or refuted. If you have evidence-based refutations, make them available.




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      • @A servant:

        Unfortunately science cannot be done on twitter of blogs. It is much more complex than that. That Sean illustrates his conclusions by reference should not unduly impress. Dig a little deeper.

        If indeed you are a student you will have easy access to the peer reviewed literature where these questions have been considered. You should start with a review on the area. I suggest

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23209182

        Follow up the references and see what the primary data shows. Not surprisingly a pseudogene subverted for function in primates is not required for functional Hb production. Arguments about the function designed into the pseudogene are red herrings

        Good luck.




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        • Unfortunately science cannot be done on twitter of blogs. It is much more complex than that. That Sean illustrates his conclusions by reference should not unduly impress. Dig a little deeper.

          Science isn’t nearly as complex or mysterious as you make it out to be. It is a very simple logical argument – that’s all. Even children can understand how science works.

          If indeed you are a student you will have easy access to the peer reviewed literature where these questions have been considered. You should start with a review on the area. I suggest

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23209182

          Follow up the references and see what the primary data shows. Not surprisingly a pseudogene subverted for function in primates is not required for functional Hb production. Arguments about the function designed into the pseudogene are red herrings.

          Again, more just-so stories without any demonstration and completely at odds with the statical problems for the evolutionary mechanism. Also, this does not discount the fact that the eta-globin pseudogene is beneficially functional – even vital. That is why it is so highly conserved. Just because hemoglobin systems might be able to be functional to some degree without such pseudogenes means nothing when it comes to explaining their current functionality and likely origin.

          Real science is dependent upon testing the story. If your story is untestable or goes against known statistical limitations for your mechanism, then your story isn’t science. It’s a just-so fairytale story. That’s it.

          Sean Pitman
          http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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        • @Sean Pitman:

          1] Clearly you have not read the review or looked at the primary literature beyond the paper you have selected to support you conclusion.

          2] I know you think the peer reviewed literature is a waste of time but I guess when you already know the answer that is true.

          3] Hypothesis testing as the method of science is simple as you suggest and could perhaps be expressed in a tweet but that is not science. The useful accumulation of knowledge needs communication and retention of that knowledge otherwise it is simply wise anecdote.




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        • Hypothesis testing as the method of science is simple as you suggest and could perhaps be expressed in a tweet but that is not science. The useful accumulation of knowledge needs communication and retention of that knowledge otherwise it is simply wise anecdote.

          Science can be done on an individual basis – without communicating it at all. Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t simply writing down “wise anecdotes” in his notebook. He was doing real science for his own enjoyment and his own learning. The same would be true for any individual who used scientific methodologies to learn about the world in which he/she lived – regardless of who else paid any attention or agreed or disagreed. You can actually “think for yourself” using scientific methodologies. You need not be dependent upon the opinions of others if they disagree with your own scientific investigations of this or that hypothesis.

          Sean Pitman
          http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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        • 1] Clearly you have not read the review or looked at the primary literature beyond the paper you have selected to support you conclusion.

          Clearly I have “looked at” the primary literature quite extensively. I read it all the time. I’ve even read through numerous articles that you’ve referenced in this forum – and you know it. You just can’t understand why I don’t come to the same conclusions is all. It isn’t that I don’t know what scientists are saying or the basis for arguments being presented. I do know, quite well.

          2] I know you think the peer reviewed literature is a waste of time but I guess when you already know the answer that is true.

          I’ve never said that peer reviewed literature is a waste of time. What I said is that not everything is peer reviewed literature is correct or even scientific. Big difference. And, I don’t “already know the answer is true”. My position is perfectly open to the possibility of falsification. It’s you fideists and neo-Darwinists who are not open to even the possibility of being wrong.




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  5. Many of the papers you have criticized are “real time” studies. If the authors disagree with your view, they are simply wrong. If they agree with your view, they are always right.

    I’m relieved to learn that you are independent of confirmation bias.




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  6. Someone brought to my attention the other day a recent book written by a Seventh-day Adventist I had not heard of before. The book is Evolution Impossible, by Dr. John Ashton. This book has far more customer reviews (23, generally very positive) at Amazon than other books on origins issues authored by SDAs, including:

    – Faith, Reason, and Earth History, by Leonard Brand (0 reviews)
    – Understanding Creation: Answers to Questions on Faith and Science, by James Gibson and Humberto Rasi (0 reviews)
    – God, Sky and Land: Genesis 1 as the Ancient Hebrews Heard It, by Brian Bull (2 reviews, very positive)
    – Dinosaurs – An Adventist View, by David Read (7 reviews, generally very positive)
    – Turtles All the Way Down, by Sean Pitman (3 reviews)
    – Origins, by James Gibson (5 reviews, generally very positive)

    So who is this John Ashton dude? I gather he is now regarded as THE authority on origins in the Church, yet I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning his name at this website.




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    • @Professor Kent:

      He works as a food scientist for Sanatorium in Australia and is like Walter Vieth from a research background in diet and nutrition. He has zero scientific publications in any area related to evolution, genetics or origin but does not see that an an impediment to projecting himself as an expert on origins.

      You will have no doubt seen his earlier book “In six days”.

      http://www.amazon.com/Six-Days-John-F-Ashton/dp/0890513414

      If reviews mean anything there are 70; not surprising either scores of 1 or 5 with little in between. Of the 50 scientists there are 2 that would qualify as having good outputs scientifically but none are talking in their area of expertise so it really is a laypersons opinions from people who have varying levels of expertise. As you might expect almost none derive their literal creationism from an understanding of the data but are first Christians and subsequently feel compelled to justify that position in a post hoc selective reading of the literature. Precisely what Sean does really.




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  7. I, for one, would like to know what kind of bias is displayed by mean-spirited sarcasm. Can one who resorts to it be free from it? Truth can afford to be fair AND kind at the same time.




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  8. Thanks, Pauluc, for the details. I totally agree with your assessment: “none derive their literal creationism from an understanding of the data but are first Christians and subsequently feel compelled to justify that position in a post hoc selective reading of the literature”. And would add that very few, including Sean himself, have access to anything more than a tiny portion of the original literature. Unless they have university status, the journals can’t be accessed.




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    • This is a ridiculous claim. Many have become Christians because of the evidence favoring Christianity – because they felt compelled by the weight of empirical evidence before they ever stepping inside a church.




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    • @Professor Kent: That is not true of genomics where almost all of the NIH funded data and the published literature is available freely. Certainly all of the ENCODE papers are freely available as are the complete genomic sequences through the NIH and other repositories. PLOS and BMC journals are public as are many open access journals. Many of the more traditional journal such as JCI, JI JV, JEM and PNAS now have public access after 1 year. The claim that the literature is locked up and inaccessible is becoming less tenable with time.




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  9. pauluc: That is not true of genomics where almost all of the NIH funded data and the published literature is available freely.

    Yes, NIH has done us right by insisting that what they fund must be open access, though the 1-year embargo is a nuisance. But genomics is different than many other areas of science, where the majority of articles and journals (even Nature and Science) remain accessible only with a subsciption or individual purchase of roughly $30 per article (which I’ve never paid). University access remains indispensible for those trying to keep abreast of most topics. And let’s face it, in spite of his lack of access Sean thinks he has expertise on most topics in science.




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  10. Howdy all

    Well that is good ole debate you got going here.

    I was just wonderin’ , if God created or designed all the original critters to be perfect why would He ever design adaptability through mutation into DNA? Was He hedgin’ his bet? Doesn’t make sense to this ole cowpoke.

    Seems to me that since we see mutation and critters adaptin’ to their environment now, that would have been the case from the start, unless someone can prove that to the contrary. Now Dr Pitman seems to be a right smart feller, perhaps he could present us with any facts or scientific theory that supports that contrary notion.




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  11. Sean Pitman: I do have university access…

    Congratulations! But I seriously doubt you actually spend much time physically going to a library and looking up original papers. If you have digital access, which is the only efficient approach to stay abreast of issues today, I presume it either cost you a mighty sum (highly unlikely) or some good Christian soul “loaned” you their own university access, the ethics of which I won’t raise. If the latter, perhaps hereafter you’ll provide links to original reports and not the internet stories you’ve relied on in the past.

    I hope the library has a substantial sampling of journals. Most academic institutions have limited subscriptions and online access. Some of us, however, are blessed with much.




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  12. A servant: Professor Kent, it appears that you have no objective response to Dr. Pitman’s presentation of research that counteracts Long’s position. No review of the paper Pitman present, no discussion of why it truly reflects the existing regulatory pathways of hemoglobin synthesis.

    You’re right. I don’t. I have no formal training in the discipline, and won’t pretend I have the expertise of someone who does.

    All I noted was the strange coincidence that the very small percentage of scientific papers that conform to Sean Pitman’s views are reliable and lack flaws, in sharp contrast to the hundreds of thousands of papers that reject his views and are hopelessly flawed. His track record for assessing science must be unmatched.

    You say this is an ad hominen attack. If you know of any papers that reject Sean’s views, yet offer scientifically correct conclusions, then please share. Conversely, if you know of scientific papers that he finds correct but are scientifically flawed, then please share. I will gladly retract my assertion–my simple and humble observation–if you can show me wrong.




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  13. @George
    “Seems to me that since we see mutation and critters adaptin’ to their environment now, that would have been the case from the start, unless someone can prove that to the contrary.”

    No mutation necessary. The human body when in a cold climate inserts unsaturated fat molecules into the cell walls making them continue to be flexible in the cold climes.

    When that human moves to a tropical climate the body gets to work, rips out all the unsaturated fat molecules and puts saturated fat into their place. A process which takes around two years. This explains why it is that it takes around two years for a person to acclimatise to a new climate.

    Of course the reverse happens as well. The body obviously has had this adaptability built into it from the very beginning. Don’t need any mutations for this kind of thing to occur. And just in case you’re wondering I found this information in my biochemistry 101 text book.




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  14. George Evans:
    @Professor Kent: Ten years ago when I was active at talk.origins I used the Loma Linda University and the University of California Riverside libraries.

    I have visited the UCR library many times, but haven’t done so in the last decade or more because of the outstanding digtal access I now have. I’m told that Loma Linda’s access, both hard copy and digital, pales in comparison to UCR and what I have access to.

    In times past, Sean clearly lacked access to recent material, as he nearly always quoted internet-based stories–which leaves much to be desired. And this highlights and handful of ENORMOUS problems Christians have in trying to base their beliefs on evidence:

    1 – They lack access to original material.

    2 – They lack formal training to understand and interpret it.

    3 – The material out there is immense and an honest soul can claim to have good understanding of only a minute fraction of it.

    Consequently, for the vast majority of Christians who strive to base their beliefs on science rather than the fideism of scripture, they can only rely on what people they choose to believe are experts have to say on it. In other words, they’re basing their beliefs on human wisdom rather than scripture. Hurrah for apologetics!




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    • I sometimes quote internet articles because they are generally accessible by a general audience (often I reference both generally accessible articles of interest as well as the primary article). In any case, I do have access to most of the original papers I reference. Beyond this, one can in fact get a very very good idea as to the science, or lack thereof, beyond certain fundamental claims of Darwinism. One need not have read every single paper on the topic to understand the very clear limits of the Darwinian mechanism of RM/NS. How is that? Because, the published papers in literature on the topic are highly redundant, saying the very same thing over and over again. Very quickly one is able to pick up on a pattern that established the potential and limits of RM/NS quite nicely.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • @Professor Kent: I agree with your assessment: “And this highlights and handful of ENORMOUS problems Christians have in trying to base their beliefs on evidence:

      “1 – They lack access to original material.”

      This has always been true for the rank and file.

      “2 – They lack formal training to understand and interpret it.”

      In the past, scientists would present interesting things to their local churches, and schools, much like the old lyceum idea. But now our scientist have let us down.

      3 – The material out there is immense and an honest soul can claim to have good understanding of only a minute fraction of it.”

      We scientists need to repent of evolution and begin to digest the material so we can educate the people in the wonders of nature–God’s second book.




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    • @Professor Kent:
      Prof Kent you still do not appear to appreciate what Sean is trying to do here. You see him as simply attacking LSU’s atheistic scientists but you completely miss the point of what a Christian perspective on science and evidence is. He has been crystal clear all along that scientific evidence is not restricted to the self serving world view that is perpetuated in the peer reviewed literature but he is basing his empirical evidence that forms the basis for Christian belief on the scientific approach of hypothesis testing. This people anywhere can use and communicate if they wish whether that is on blogs twitter, books, videos or if you want the scientific literature. The value of the communication is not based on where it is but on the content. Anything that comes from a true understanding of God can build us up and is from God.
      What he is doing is truly a great thing for Adventism, at least as far as I can see. He is in effect democratizing science by taking the kernel of science the true science that EG White talks about and is discarding the ossified thinking of scientists like Pauluc and yourself who seem to think that legitimate science is only what scientists do and which by an arbitrary definition assumes there is no God. Such science is very self referential and justified by a circular argument that says we assume there is no God and that we do not need him as an explanation. You then explain something without God and then say see there is no God as the cause. You are simply proving what you have already assumed. Smoke and mirrors. Experts and sophistry.
      You seem to think that somehow Sean cannot use the original “scientific” literature because that would mean he has to accept everything in the “scientific” literature or even the premise of that literature. That is simply illogical. You don’t accept everything in your literature why hold him to a different standard. It is just that he has a different standard for judging that literature than you do.




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  15. I have been visiting this forum for more than a year. I came here to see if, indeed, we actually do have (or did have) an SDA institution that, as an institution, is not upholding the true SDA message.

    To be clear, the SDA belief is deeply in the world minority with respect to our belief in a literal 7-day creation week some 6 millenia ago. I can go a great many places on the internet to debate which way of origin (out of more than two) is accurate and true.

    What seems to dominate this forum is a debate about origins. This debate overwhelms the topic of answering the question, “Just what is La Sierra teaching?” It seems that question has been answered and thus my question is answered.

    But I have looked closely at some other SDA institutions, such as SAU (Collegedale). As best I can see, SAU is incredibly faithful to the literal Creation account as SDAs have always taught it. I believe that Andrews is faithful as well.

    My faith in the SDA message is strong, as is my confidence in our SDA organization. To be sure, we have been attacked by Satan and his agents. But did we expect any different?

    The signs are abundant and clear. We can see within and without our movement the incredible signs of the nearness of the miraculous coming of Jesus. He will take a harvest of redeemed from this earth. There will be NO ONE left alive here for 1000 years after that event, save the rebellious angels.

    Look up, brothers and sisters. Pray without ceasing. Be ready. HE IS COMING SOON!




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  16. I am a little late to the conversation, but thought I should clear up a misconception articulated by the author of this article. This is intended to be my only statement.

    In this article the above author states the following with respect to a series I wrote for:Spectrum “…He also dabbles in the creation/evolution debate, having been converted to neo-Darwinism from traditional Adventism. Recently, Mr. Long published a series of articles on the topic for Spectrum Magazine in defense of the Darwinian perspective of origins in contrast to the church’s position.”

    The author will be hard pressed to find anything I have written that would allow a fair-minded person to conclude that I have “converted to neo-Darwinism from traditional Adventism,” or that defends Darwinism per se. For those who may not have been reading the Spectrum series let me offer up three categories of individuals that will provide some perspective on this series. It is as follows:

    1. There is a sizeable category of Adventists for whom data matters not one whit. We can see, hear, taste, feel, or smell something, but if it does not agree 100% with preconceived conclusions, then the senses are not to be trusted. For this group there is no amount of data that will ever modify the thinking, and on those occasions where data is problematic a good rationalization will take care of it—always.

    2. The second category of individuals fall under the classification of “scientism,” where it is assumed that science alone can render the truth about reality. I doubt there are many Adventists that fall into this group, though I am sure there may be some.

    3. The final category of individuals does not hitch its wagon to any dogma, but is primarily concerned with the search for truth—wherever that leads. As such, it is interested in both God’s book of revelation and his book of nature. Both are respected because it is assumes that there is but one reality and that therefore neither book is in conflict with the other.

    It is this third category that I personally identify with and is part of the operating presupposition of this series. I am not a neo-Darwinist as the author alleges, but I certainly don’t summarily dismiss the data that points to a reality that is quite different from the one that the Church’s pioneers understood. Does science have a lot more to learn? Most definitely! Do Adventists have a lot to learn? Yes, unless we have join the flat-earth society! I would encourage readers to actually read from a wide range of scientific disciplines—learn from the real in-the-trenches-experts rather than from me, or charlatan “arm-chair experts.” Develop some perspective on the issues; develop some maturity of understanding about the data; the methods employed and how and why science has reached the conclusions it has.




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    • My bad. I’d simply assumed that someone who has long argued for the idea that life has existed and evolved on the planet, in a stepwise manner of small gradations over billions of years via random mutations and natural selection, must be a believer in the fundamental concepts of neo-Darwinism…

      Now, you may want to throw a bit of theism into the mix here and there, but where have you ever pointed to any feature of life on this planet and said, “Now there’s the Signature of God!” Rather, it seems to me like you have consistently challenged the Seventh-day Adventist position on a literal seven-day creation week within which God created all life on this planet within recent history. You have also consistently challenged the notion that the Biblical story of a Noachian Flood was anything more than a local regional flood. You have even compared belief in such concepts as a literal creation week or a truly worldwide Noachian Flood to belonging to the Flat Earth Society.

      I find it rather difficult, then, to see the difference between your arguments and those that would be forwarded by any ardent neo-Darwinist… and I think most others familiar with your position would agree with me (to include those who frequent the Spectrum blog).

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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