Confounding the Patriarchs

In late 2013, as a response to an article by Brian Thomas rounding up what he considered the ICR’s greatest hits of the year, I wrote a post consisting of historical quotes altered to support each creationist claim Thomas brought up. For example – pertaining to the usual comet trope – Confucius almost certainly never said:

Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the comet that is flourishing must be replaced often, as the bulbs don’t last like they used to.

Hardly the pinnacle of comedy, I know, but I never claimed to be any good. I mention this old post not to revisit past failures but to bring attention to the underlying point of this bastardisation of Marcus Aurelius:

He who has seen present things has seen all, both everything which has taken place from all eternity and everything which will be for time without end; for all things decay predictably and exponentially (except isotopes).

Anyone who has been reading creationist arguments for very long has probably noticed this for themselves: while YECs vehemently deny that radioactive isotopes decay in a predictable and inalterable fashion that could be used to accurately determine the passage of time, they themselves often contend that other processes decay in the same way. Humphreys’ ideas about planetary magnetic fields might be the example that most commonly appears here, but today Brian Thomas provides us with a new one. He writes, in “Did Adam Really Live 930 Years?“: Continue reading

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Disappearing Genes

Four-leaf clover

We’re not actually talking about four-leaf clovers today.

Gah, some real writers block on this one. Sometimes I get halfway through a post and I know what I want to say, but I can’t wrestle it into my usual style. It tends to happen when the topic is generally fairly boring, yet at the same time intensely interesting to me personally in a way that I can’t show to anyone else. I want to go down all kinds of rabbit holes, but this isn’t terrible conducive to producing a coherent and informative blog post. So I’ve stopped writing and opened a text document, and I’m going to try give you a tour of the more interesting bits.

First: the Brian Thomas article is “Clever Clover: Evidence for Evolution?“; the paper is “Adaptive gains through repeated gene loss: parallel evolution of cyanogenesis polymorphisms in the genus Trifolium (Fabaceae),” (press release, pdf). Some clover plants produce cyanide, some don’t, the pattern isn’t what you might expect – you see both forms in the same species, and the versions that lack cyanide (having it is the default) seem to have evolved independently via the same pattern of gene deletion. You get the idea, I hope. Continue reading

Tomkins’ 70%

Because mammalian eggs are produced early in life, while sperm are created continuously, fathers are responsible for a greater share of new mutations passed down to their offspring than mothers. This slightly complicates genetics-based time-since-last-common-ancestor estimations, leading to recent results to the effect that the human-chimp split happened about twice as far back as previously thought. Adam Benton has more information, if you’re interested.

This new paper has prompted Jeffrey Tomkins, the ICR’s go-to geneticist, to publish “Chimp DNA Mutation Study–Selective Yet Surprising.” Tomkins is known for contesting the typically-cited genetic similarity figures of 94-99% and having calculated using his own method a “conservative” (i.e. maximum) figure of nearer 70%.

Different types of mutations

Continue reading

URCall: Still a Fruit Fly

From the ICR’s URCall series of videos, hosted by Markus Lloyd. (link)

Transcript:

Evolution claims that change occurs from simple creatures to complex creatures – but is that really the case? Since the early 1900’s scientists have been experimenting with fruit flies, to try to produce mutations that result in a major change that evolutionary theory proposes. While over 3000 mutations have been documented, not a single one has resulted in a creature that is anything other than a fruit fly. How long are you willing to wait for science to prove evolution?

We can only start with the beginning: that evolutionary claim isn’t. Continue reading

The Case of the Missing Polyploidy

Osmunda regalis, a royal fern

Osmunda regalis, a royal fern.

For Wednesday 16 April Brian Thomas writes: “Fossil Plant Chromosomes Look Modern.”

An 180 million year-old royal fern fossil has been discovered in Sweden that is so stunningly preserved that it still shows the components of individual cells. The nucleus – and even the nucleolus – can be easily seen, and cells that appear to be in the process of division show their chromosomes. The paper, “Fossilized Nuclei and Chromosomes Reveal 180 Million Years of Genomic Stasis in Royal Ferns,” in Science, is unfortunately closed access, but phys.org has pictures. The preservation is good enough, in fact, that the researchers report that they’re basically the same as in living royal ferns. The “living fossil” creationist argument is probably well familiar to you, so the content of Thomas’ article shouldn’t be all that surprising. Continue reading

Friday Falsehoods #4

Ironically – since it helped provide the reason to start this series – I didn’t watch the Great Debate. I did post more than my fair share of links to commentary elsewhere, but today we’ll limit ourselves to stories not directly related to it. Continue reading

Brian Thomas Misses the Point

Biston betularia f. carbonariaI could use that headline for every article, but “Fossil Skin Pigment Evolved Three Times?” is a particularly strong example. A new paper in Nature – which you can read all about in this blog post by palaeontologist Shaena Montanari – investigated fossil pigment of three different extinct marine reptiles and concluded that the trait known as melanism had independently evolved in each of them. This is to say that a darker colouring, perhaps for the purposes of heat absorption and retention, was selected for and became dominant in each group of animals separately. But Brian Thomas has apparently misread this to mean that the pigment melanin, which is what produces the colour, independently evolved three times and has written a 13-paragraph article based on this misconception. Continue reading

Friday Falsehoods #1

You don’t need me to tell you about the upcoming “Ham on Nye” debate – a name with many curious connotations – nor give you my opinion on whether it is a good idea or not. But any aspiring debater needs to be able to almost reflexively parse creationist claims for their most crucial and obvious errors. At present we’re four articles behind, so this is the perfect time to start this series – in future I will probably pull from other, non ICR sources as well.

The format we’ll start off with is to give you a quote from each article to consider, and then (if I can get it to work) you can go to the next page to see what I made of each. Then, head to the comments below to tell me what you would have said. Continue reading

Editorial Insights from a Blind Cavefish

Mexican Tetra as Blind Cave FishYou’ll be wanting to look at this screenshot. The ICR article that we’re looking at (“Blind Cavefish Shed Light on Creation,” by Brian Thomas) looks like that as I write this, but it will almost certainly have changed before you see it.

It has always been clear that the ICR has some form of editing process – the relative paucity of typos, the long publication delay, and the fact that for them to do otherwise would be unprofessional being the more obvious clues – but I’ve long been interested in learning about it. This article has been misposted in an annotated draft form, and provides clues I never thought I’d see. My sincere thanks, then, to whoever made the mistake, and I hope nobody gets annoyed with you for it. Continue reading

Duon and Duoff

DNA UV mutation

Attentive viewers will note that this illustration – like Tomkins’ stock photo – is left handed.

Welcome to 2014! I hope you have all had time to settle in a little, and are ready to begin the year afresh. As always, in the event of an earthquake take cover under your desks and then exit through the doors at the front and back in an orderly fashion after the shaking ends. If there is a fire, leave immediately and do not panic. If both occur simultaneously, hope.

Our topic is, as always, the Institute for Creation Research: as such 2013 is not yet over for us. Today the subject is December’s infamous ‘duons’, and the Creation Science Update by Jeffrey Tomkins is called “Duons: Parallel Gene Code Defies Evolution.” Continue reading