Like other vocal exponents (Casey Luskin and founding patriarch Phillip Johnson) of Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), Barry Arrington is a lawyer with no significant background in any of the natural sciences. IDC is the most recent incarnation of “scientific creationism” and cannot compete in the scientific marketplace of ideas with evolution or any other scientific theories, because it represents the dogmatic thought pattern of the Middle Ages. Starting with conclusions (Goddidit; I was never a monkey), IDCers ignore vast volumes of evidence from the natural world to cherry pick examples (contrived or quotemined from the literature) that they believe aid them in their quest to confuse the nonscientific public into thinking that evolution is NOT the massively well supported collection of facts and logical inferences that it has become.
Until recently Uncommon Descent has served as the best known IDC group blog open to (registered) public comment. Moderator Barry Arrington has ceased the policy of allowing comment from scientists (with their ugly facts and opposing views) under the pretense of clearing out “irrational” commentary. Based on recent posts however, it would seem that the real reason is to avoid the rightful ridicule they should be getting right now for linking to embarrassingly bad posts written by creationist nonscientists at Christian homeschooling sites.
“Thursdayites” is a recent UD post by jonnyb that points to “Macroevolution, Good Science, and Redeeming Mathematics” by Kate Deddens a featured article on the Christian homeschool site “Classical Conversations.” Why some parents cannot see that you do your children no favors when you blind them to the realities of nature is beyond comprehension. I’m not shelling out $18.99 for a stack of cards with sciencey nonsense on them, so I’ll just have to guess at what the Classical Conversations’ Acts and Facts Bio/Geo cards happen to lie about or misunderstand. But I digress, on to the article at hand (I’ll be mercifully brief, so that both of you reading this can get on to better things).
Deddens’ article is another rehash the old “macroevolution isn’t proven” canard. After a throwaway G.K. Chesterton quote, she selects her target: the Cambrian explosion. As paleontologist Don Prothero noted in Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, the Cambrian explosion is probably the aspect of natural history that creationists understand least and distort most. And no wonder, they haven’t read anything about it since 1986. Deddens calls as her only witness on the Cambrian explosion noted non-paleontologist Richard Dawkins, more specifically his 1986 (not 1996 as reported by Deddens) trade book, The Blind Watchmaker. Not exactly the go-to source for an area of active research in which our knowledge has advanced greatly in 25 years. About the Burgess Shale, Dawkins wrote and Deddens quotes: “It is as though they [fossils] were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists.”
Creationists can take no solace from the Cambrian Explosion today. Increased knowledge of the fossil record shows great support for macroevolution (as if there were any doubt). The surviving Linnean phyla of animals do not appear at once, but across a vast 250 million year long span from the Cryogenian (Porifera) to the late Cambrian (Bryozoa). The Early Cambrian “explosion” phase is an adaptive radiation that grew steadily over 20+ million years. Important papers include Maloof et al. 2010, and Peterson et al. 2008.
From there Deddens descends into the usual bad arguments. Behe’s irreducible complexity is revisited. Truly irreducible complexity only occurs at the quark/lepton level; what Behe meant is interlocking complexity, which is explained by scaffolding, exaptation, recombination of modules, drift, and loss through mutation of redundant parts.
Genetics (which of course is clinching evidence for macroevolution) is the next stop. We are told mutations are destroyers of genetic information (which is of course only true for deletions), and according to Deddens gene duplications and insertions are “not seen to happen.”
The lack of transitional fossils is bemoaned, this time quoting another non-paleontologist, Steve Jones. First, it should be noted (and Gould stated) that the lack of transitional forms in the punctuated equilibria model is only between species, not higher groups. Secondly, gaps between species are a self-fulfilling prophecy, because boundaries between species in the fossil record are erected based on these morphological gaps. If there’s no gap, then morphologic change is assessed as intraspecific variation.
There’s no point in further pummeling a home-schooling mom’s contribution to miseducation, but this is the sort of high quality commentary that the intelligent design “theorists” deem worthy of a link. The religious motivations of the ID creationist movement are never buried very deep.