Creationist Sal Cordova, or at least someone claiming to be him (cheered on by someone at least claiming to be John A. Davidson), is finally back to regular blogging over at Young Cosmos. Which means free bad ideas for bloggers like myself that might otherwise be hurting for material.
To wet appetite, here’s a couple of knee-slappers from a post attacking the credibility of a minister who supports teaching evolution as science:
Bill Murray was the son of notorious atheist Madalyn Murry O’Hair. He was raised in an Atheist home, was involved in the supreme court case that repealed the pledge of allegiance, but over time, he rejected his mother’s athiesm and became a baptist minister. (emphasis added)
Repealed the pledge of allegiance? I’m pretty sure that never, uh, actually happened.
Sal is probably thinking of state sponsored Bible readings in public schools. O’Hair, an atheist and popular boogeywoman, was indeed involved in the Supreme Court case that led to the ban on such recitations (though her relatively minor role in these cases was vastly overblown both by the religious right and by herself). She’s more commonly blamed for the ban on teacher-led school prayer, despite the fact that she wasn’t even a party in that successful lawsuit.
I realize Darwinism cannot possibly be true in it’s most major claims. The Darwinists can’t make their math work. Kimura showed Darwinism is not the driving force in molecular evolution, and it’s apparent if molecular evolution is not governed by Darwinism, we should not expect much else in biology to be.
Sal has no idea what he’s talking about here either. What he’s referencing here is the neutral theory, which my readers will remember was recently the basis for an equally confused science article about worm hoo-hahs. Does the neutral theory reject Darwinian evolution?
“The theory does not deny the role of natural selection in determining the course of adaptive evolution” (Kimura, 1986)
In other words, no. In fact, Kimura’s neutral theory is actually a critical principle by which genetic evidence for common descent via mutation is evidentially established. It’s also part of the basis for the concept of “junk DNA” which Sal and pals have spent a considerable amount of time misrepresenting and then bemoaning as false, making it quite amusing that he’s now unwittingly insisting that its core premise is true just so he can insist scientists can’t make their math work.
Meanwhile, Sal’s also been thinking some more about why his loving God created AIDS and stomach cancer. Seeing as he has already proved the existence of God via Quantum Mechanics, Sal insists that the scientific matter of God’s existence is a done deal, leaving only the philosophy left to debate.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to work out any better for him than the science stuff:
I pointed out that it is reasonable to argue that a Perfect God could not in principle make anything as perfect as Himself, thus if God creates, He will of necessity create beings less perfect than Him, and via mathematical induction, any degree of imperfection is thus permissible, and thus Darwin’s “bad design” argument can’t be used to argue against the existence of a Perfect Creator. Again, Darwin exemplifies his persistent lack of anything but shallow thinking, something I would expect given Darwin’s professed inability to even do high school algebra even after much effort.
This paragraph is really fascinating: Sal seems to be so obsessed with Charles Darwin (who he never passes up a chance to insult or demean, even out of context) that he seems to be imagining himself having an actual debate with him, right down to Sal putting straw man counter-arguments in the mouth of a man who died more than a century ago, and then insisting that he’s an idiot because he doesn’t appreciate Sal’s reasoning.
In any case, the upshot of Sal’s argument is that the world is precisely as miserable and seemingly pointless as one would expect if God existed. In other words: life could be anything from near constant bliss to being born onto a lifelong torture rack, and Sal would be able to argue that, jeepers: it’s all according to the grand plan, and isn’t it amazing that it’s exactly the way it is? I can’t tell if this is a serious argument, or simply a clever parody of the sheer vacuity of fine-tuning arguments.
But in philosophy, sophistry of this sort is generally considered to be a giant waste of everyone’s time. Explanations which are compatible with everything and anything are indicative of nothing.
Still, the fact that Sal’s philosophy is so boring doesn’t mean that his theology can’t be simply fascinating:
If they [“Darwinists”] want to believe their miserable lives are the offspring of maggots evolved through Darwinian fairy processes, they can go right on ahead and believe that. If they want to practice homosexuality and bestiality, I’m not going to get in their way or try to talk them out of it. God puts it in their heart to behave that way in order to punish them. (emphasis added)
Get that? Sal’s God encouraged people who don’t believe something Sal does to do something Sal and his God really don’t like so that Sal’s God can torture them all the more. John Edwards (the firey 18th century Calvinist minister, not the shiny-faced Democratic Senator) would be proud. Monstrous stuff.
However, in this same article, Sal also mentions something of interest about the whole Baylor scuffle: implying that he was expecting to be a part of Richard Mark’s “I hosted an ID website on an official university server, nyah nyah” project:
I begin to think this is a community of bullies that robbed me of a $40,000 opportunity at Baylor (under the tutelage of distinguished professor of Engineering, Robert Marks) and robbed scientists like Caroline Crocker of their ability to continue doing science.
$40,000 dollars (presumably as some sort of research fellow or assistant) lost because of the evil Darwnian hordes. Does this mean that Sal will be one of the shadowed evolution critics in Expelled!, supposedly too fearful to reveal his identity for fear of professional censure? If so, does he realize that a young-earth creationist blog with his name on it already kind of let the cat out of the bag?
Dr. Crocker by, the way, is now Sal’s “new boss” in her new position as executive director at the ID outfit The IDEA Center. Crocker, if you don’t recall, was the one suspended for teaching a biology class in which she claimed, among other things:
- that evolution predicts and fails to demonstrate “a dog turn[ing] into a cat in a laboratory.” (A standard creationist confusion of what evolution predicts.)
- that Stanley Miller and Harold Urey’s experiment was “irrelevant” (highly misleading: while that particular experiment may not have gotten the exact conditions of the early earth correct, it wasn’t meant to: it was considered significant because it demonstrated how easily organic compounds can form in nature, and subsequent experiments more closely approximating the early earth have returned similar results).
- that Bernard Kettlewell’s experiments on moths had been falsified because he “glued his moths to the trees.” (they weren’t falsified, and the standard prepared photo she points to in textbooks has nothing to do with the validity of his data. Besides, didn’t she just get through claiming she accepted microevolution?).
Crocker is one of Expelled!’s star case studies, but even a cursory glance over this list suffices to show what the movie is sure to leave out of its presentation: that she was suspended from teaching biology for incompetence and teaching factually false information to students.
Seems like the perfect overlord for Sal, though.
Update: Sal seems to disagree with my characterization of his ignorance on neutral theory, but he’s got very little to show for it:
On what theoretical basis did Kimura make that claim? Did he back the claim up with the same mathematics he did for neutral theory? No. It was an obligatory salute to that pea-brain named Charles Darwin who couldn’t do high school algebra, much less the differential equations which Kimura used to exorcise Darwinism from molecular evolution. If Darwin could have done the math, Darwin might not have put forward his theory (that is presuming Darwin would have had the integrity, which is doubtful).
Ah yes: Kimura wasn’t speaking from knowledge about his own work: he’s merely playing his role in the grand conspiracy. How exactly does neutral theory “exorcise Darwinism from molecular evolution?” Sal can tell you it did, but he can’t tell you how it did, because it didn’t and doesn’t.
His shtick here is to try and confuse the question of whether evolution happens or is the main mechanism for adaptation with the question of whether natural selection accounts for absolutely every feature we see in biology (which even that supposedly big dummy Darwin, by the way, didn’t think it did, even in the case of outward modification: from Origin: “I am convinced that [it] has been the main, but not exclusive means of modification.”)
Kimura’s work did help to correct a profound error that was common in genetics in his day: the idea that the genome was finely tuned in every respect: that nothing, including every single base pair, could escape the harsh pressures of selection. Today we know much more about the genome, how it works, how it mutates and corrects error, and the actual picture is far far more complicated. The result is, however, a loss for creationism: while this complexity makes things harder to understand, it also increases the number of evidential links and dependencies that confirm the place of evolution in both biological history and as the primary mechanism for functional changes to organisms.
Now, Sal claims to “understand the relevant literature” here, by which he seems to mean that he’s cobbled together a scrapbook of quotes and articles on various subjects, all carefully selected and edited in his head because he believes they “destroy Darwin!” But like many ID propentists (sic), Sal gadflies on the edges of scientific work without really understanding much of it: his scrapbook is neither a representative nor comprehensive look into the fields in question, and he doesn’t understand half of what’s in it in any case.
To hear Sal tell it, Darwinists are desperately trying to deny neutral theory, fearing for their very profession, and have browbeaten Kimura into submission. If you took Sal’s word for it, and then opened up an actual molecular genetics journal, you’d be completely lost. That’s because, back in reality, neutral theory is fairly well accepted insight into the way genomes develop over time that has enhanced, not threatened, our understanding of evolution. The “math” works out just fine. No one is concerned in the least that change to biological structures can happen without external selective pressures playing a role. Neutralists and selectionists have waged a fierce war over the details and relative percentages of various genomic effects, but neither side thinks their position casts any doubt on evolution, nor is seeking to “save” it. In fact, both sides would agree that Kimura vastly enhanced the explanatory strength of evolution via molecular genetics, just like real embryology is far more damningly indicative of evolution than Ernst Haekel’s long long-ago discredited biogenetic law.
So if Sal doesn’t understand what neutral theory is, then it’s no surprise that he doesn’t understand the debate over junk DNA either:
Finally, junk-DNA is not junk, so neutral theory is wrong about that count, but it’s not wrong about the fact evolution must have proceeded principally through non-Darwinian means. I don’t have to buy into neutral theory in order to use its devastating critique of Darwinism.
Actually, Sal, you sort of do. Either neutral theory is correct about the vast majority of changes to the genome being neutral, and things like molecular dating work (and show common descent, as well as an old earth), or it doesn’t, making your claims about it baseless from the start. It’s all the same “math.”
The subject of junk DNA is another realm where the actual scientific debates bear little resemblance to the creationist caricature that Sal is referencing. But I’m sure he’ll produce something stunningly ignorant on that subject soon enough, so we’ll save comment on that until we have a larger sample.
I’d have chastised Sal a little more gently on his own blog, but of course, critics aren’t welcome in an echo chamber: comments there are by invitation only, rather than taking all comers as we do here. He doesn’t seem to have figured out how to disable trackbacks though.