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Defending Dissent from Darwinism in Final Rebuttals to Intelligent Design Critics on OpposingViews.com

Late last night I posted my final rebuttals to the NCSE on OpposingViews.com. This makes 12 total rebuttals for the pro-ID side and zero for the anti-ID side (though Americans United did post a sur-rebuttal tellingly titled “You Lost the Case — Get Over It“). Here are my links to my latest rebuttals:

(Note: The OpposingViews.com website has had a nasty habit of losing footnotes, so some footnotes may be missing. I’m told they will be fixing this problem soon.)

In my second rebuttal to the NCSE, I refute a Darwinist YouTube video that the NCSE cites to attack the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism list. I periodically get e-mails from people asking about this video. A closer look easily shows that the video is factually bankrupt and should not be taken seriously. Below I’ve pasted my refutation of this video as…

…an excerpt from “Ask Questions & Think for Yourself: Science Is Not a Voting Contest,” my rebuttal to the NCSE’s second opening statement:

Since the NCSE wishes to deny that there is any credible dissent from neo-Darwinism, they argue that it is “possible to discredit” the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism list by referring people to a YouTube video titled, “Evaluating an antievolution petition,” created by some would-be internet critic.

That’s right, the NCSE cites to a random YouTube video.

I don’t know anything about the person who created that video, but he clearly has major misunderstandings about the list. His false claims and misrepresentations are too numerous to catalogue, not the least of which is the fact that the version of the list he attacks in the video is a long-outdated version that may be up to 7 years out-dated, taken from a time when the list first started and had only about 100 signatories. Today the list has over 750 signatories. For the latest public version of the list, please see:

Just some of the outlandish and false claims about the list in the video include:

  • The critic pulls a bait-and-switch by redefining evolution in a way that is clearly not intended by the list, and then claims that some list-members don’t belong under the definition that the list never intended to use. To be more specific, he defines evolution as “common descent,” and then claims that some list-members don’t “doubt evolution,” so defined and thus “shouldn’t be on the list.” But the list has always been called “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”–using a neo-Darwinian definition of evolution as the claim that “random mutation and natural selection [can] account for the complexity of life” (from the list’s statement). The list is plainly not about skepticism of common descent; it’s about skepticism of the sufficiency of the neo-Darwinian mechanism. The fact that the critic finds list-members who accept common descent but doubt neo-Darwinism should not be surprising. The critic has given no good reason to explain why those list-members should be off the list.
  • The critic touts a bogus survey by claiming the list is discredited because he contacted people on the list who didn’t want to be on it. But this critic only contacted biologists, and of those biologists, only 16 replied. Of those 16, he only gives a couple examples of people who claimed that they didn’t want to be on the list. This means that he had contact with less than 2.2% of the total signers on the list. That makes for a pretty meaningless analysis of the list, as far as survey statistics go.
  • This critic makes a false criticism of the list by claiming that it “dishonestly” misrepresents the credentials of list-members by listing either their current institution or the institution where they earned their Ph.D. There is no dishonesty here: the list clearly states at the top of the first page that list-members can be listed by EITHER current institution OR location of Ph.D., as it reads: “Scientists listed by doctoral degree or current position.” (emphasis in original) It’s obvious which scientists are listed by current institution and which are listed by Ph.D. institution: those listed by “Ph.D.” say, simply, “Ph.D.” For example, the critic attacks one list-member who is listed as “Ph.D. Neuroscience-Case Western Reserve” and the critic incorrectly charges that the list says that he “worked” at Case Western. In fact, the list clearly lists this biologist by his “Ph.D.” Even worse, the critic claims that this scientist only went to Case Western for “undergrad.” Perhaps it is ironic that the video flashed the word “Lie” at this point–because in fact the scientist in question did get his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve (his “undergrad” was completed at Michigan State University). Contrary to the critic’s false claims, there are no misrepresentations about the credentials of list-members in this regard.
  • The critic claims that some people asked to be removed from the list but were not. Again, his criticisms are misplaced because he uses a long out-dated version of the list. For example, he claims Fred Sigworth was not removed from the list, but in fact Sigworth has not been on the list for years. The critic again asserts that there were people who wanted to be removed from the list “7 years ago,” but he never gives any examples to back up his charges and accusations. Had the critic used the current version of the list, he would have found that scientists like Sigworth were removed long ago.
  • The critic claims that biologists such as Ralph Seelke and Michael Behe are not true skeptics of “evolution” and don’t belong on the list. It’s incredible that someone would cite Behe (one of my pro-ID co-participants in this debate) in an attempt to boast about scientific support for neo-Darwinism. Moreover, Ralph Seelke just co-authored a textbook, Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism, that provides many potent criticisms of neo-Darwinism. Such scientists who the critic claims are “pro-evolution” actually have huge doubts about the core claims of neo-Darwinian theory. Due to the fact that the critic claims that leading Darwin-skeptics like Ralph Seelke and Michael Behe don’t qualify as dissenters from Darwinism, it’s clear to me that this guy really has very little clue of what he’s talking about regarding the list and his objections are neither credible nor compelling.
  • This video also makes false scientific claims. For example, the critic claims that molecular-based phylogenetic trees agree with phylogenetic trees based upon the fossil record “seamlessly.” Trisha Gura wrote an entire review article in Nature entitled “Bones, Molecules or Both?” devoted to examining the difficulties encountered by evolutionary scientists when trying to reconcile molecule-based phylogenetic trees with phylogenetic trees based upon bones. In Gura’s words, the commonality of these conflicts has led to great “evolution wars” among evolutionary scientists over whether they should use “bones,” “molecules,” or “both” when constructing phylogenies. As Gura observes, there are “disparities between molecular and morphological trees.”8 Similarly, a review article by Colin Patterson dimly concluded, “As morphologists with high hopes of molecular systematics, we end this survey with our hopes dampened. Congruence between molecular phylogenies is as elusive as it is in morphology and as it is between molecules and morphology.”9 Another science article likewise wrote, “That molecular evidence typically squares with morphological patterns is a view held by many biologists, but interestingly, by relatively few systematists. Most of the latter know that the two lines of evidence may often be incongruent.”10 Finally, Matthew Wills studied whether fossil data has helped improve the congruence of phylogenetic trees and concluded, “Despite increasing methodological sophistication, phylogenies derived from morphology, and those inferred from different molecules, are not always converging on a consensus.”11 In contrast to the claims of the video critic, morphological, fossil, and molecular data data do not fit together “seamlessly” when used to construct phylogenetic trees.
  • The critic also claims that endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) provide unequivocal evidence for common descent, even though biologists are beginning to suspect ERVs have function and are not merely functionless genetic “junk.”12
  • Towards the end of the video, the critic performs a meaningless calculation which allegedly gives the list “every mathematical concession possible” and claims that only 0.00275% of scientists reject “evolution” (which he defines as “common descent”). But the calculation makes no reasonable “mathematical concessions” to the list since his statistic makes the unashamedly false assumptions that (1) all 3,661,320 scientists that he claims exist have been contacted to sign the list and therefore that number can be placed in the denominator to determine the total percentage of scientists who doubt Darwinism, and (2) that even among those scientists who were contacted, that all who doubted neo-Darwinism chose to sign the list. Assumption (1) is false because of course only a fraction of all scientists are probably even aware of this list. Assumption (2) is false because I personally know a significant number of Ph.D. scientists–particularly professional biologists–who doubt neo-Darwinism and would like to sign the list, but are afraid to do so because they fear what might happen to their careers if the sign it. So the statistic at the end of the video is meaningless.

Finally, it should be observed that the video constantly flashes irrelevant graphics referring to young earth creationist groups and personalities that have nothing to do with the narration. At one point the video calls the U.S. the “United States of Jesus.” Some people may find this kind of thing really funny, but the video is clearly not a serious or credible attempt to rebut the list. Given the NCSE’s claim to be religion-friendly and the fact that NCSE’s executive director Eugenie Scott has admitted that “most ID proponents do not embrace a Young Earth, Flood Geology, and sudden creation tenets associated with YEC,”13 it would seem that the NCSE is contradicting itself by promoting this video. Apparently the NCSE is so desperate to deny the existence of scientific dissent from neo-Darwinism that it is resorting to relying upon this non-credible, inaccurate, and factually bankrupt YouTube video.

References Cited:
[8.] Trisha Gura, “Bones, Molecules or Both?,” Nature, Vol. 406:230-233 (July 20, 2000).
[9.] Colin Patterson et al., “Congruence between Molecular and Morphological Phylogenies”, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol 24:179 (1993).
[10.] Masami Hasegawa, Jun Adachi, Michel C. Milinkovitch, “Novel Phylogeny of Whales Supported by Total Molecular Evidence,” Journal of Molecular Evolution, Vol. 44, pgs. S117-S120 (Supplement 1, 1997).
[11.] Matthew A. Wills, “The tree of life and the rock of ages: are we getting better at estimating phylogeny,” Bioessays, Vol. 24:203-207 (2002).
[12.] See Andrew B. Conley, Jittima Piriyapongsa and I. King Jordan, “Retroviral promoters in the human genome,” Bioinformatics, Vol. 24(14):1563–1567 (2008); Daisuke Kigami, Naojiro Minami, Hanae Takayama, and Hiroshi Imai, “MuERV-L Is One of the Earliest Transcribed Genes in Mouse One-Cell Embryos,” Biology of Reproduction, Vol. 68:651-654 (2003).
[13.] Eugenie C. Scott, Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, pg. 128 (Greenwood Press, 2004).


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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