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Tailgate: Some Questions for Karl Giberson

OK, if there was any doubt that Karl Giberson’s tailed-baby photo is a Photoshop creation, that doubt is now dispelled. I emailed the creator of the image, photographer Larry Dunstan, to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. Yes, confirmed the helpful and candid Mr. Dunstan, it was created with Photoshop using a photo of a tail-free two-week-old baby. The tail is not genuine. It was generated by a computer, not by, as Giberson thought, a “gene for tails.”

Photo by Larry Dunstan, a “digitally manipulated image”.

The reader who found the source image on the Internet for me, over at Science Photo Library, works in graphic design and 3D modeling. Says reader Ryan, what made him leery was “the lack of shadow from the tail,” and the “framing and composition,” which don’t match what you’d expect from “a photo intended to document a mutation.”

Right. Casey and I had that same gut reaction, but it’s good to have our response confirmed by professionals — again. If you missed it, don’t forget to go back and read pediatric neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s take on purportedly atavistic “tails,” having operated on more than a few.

Why do I keep harping on this? Only because human origins is an ultimate question and using human “tails” as evidence for common descent is a mainstay of Darwin defenders.

Theistic evolutionist Dr. Giberson is noted for having criticized and broken with other Evangelical Christians over issues having to do with, according to his characterization, intellectual and scientific integrity. See his book The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.

Is Giberson right to be up on a high horse that way? I’m not a Christian so I don’t have his personal stake in the question. But Giberson, after complaining that my querying his use of this photo was “ad hominem” — which it obviously isn’t — characterizes me (and Casey Luskin) in a way that clearly is ad hominem.

Because I work for a living — a great privilege, actually, supporting your family by sharing ideas you believe to be true and important — Giberson dismisses our questions about his use of a Photoshopped image to make his point about vestigial human tails.

I doggedly persist in the assumption that Giberson is a man of integrity. So Dr. Giberson, here are my questions.

  • Apart from the debate with Stephen Meyer, which you wrote about at The Daily Beast including a link to the fake photo in the humor publication Cracked, in how many other public presentations have you used that image?
  • Did it never occur to you to wonder if it was genuine?
  • Why did you not use a verified image from a medical journal? Perhaps because those don’t look like “perfectly formed, even functional tails” while the “digitally manipulated” image does look like one?
  • Now, having your error pointed out to you, will you admit it’s an error and affirm that you’ll stop using Mr. Dunstan’s computer-manipulated photo in the future?

I look forward to Karl Giberson’s responses.

I’m on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.