Saturday, July 26, 2008


Toxic Waste

Our old friend Babu Ranganathan is back with another of his confused screeds. A self-described "experienced Christian writer," Mr. Ranganathan used to boast of a "B.A. with academic concentrations in Bible and Biology from Bob Jones University" but now claims only a "B.A. degree with concentrations in theology and biology," no doubt realizing that his former description revealed only that he knows next to nothing about biology and probably just as little about the Bible.

This time around, in "How Dawkins Misrepresents Evolution!," Babu at least seems to dimly realize that claims that evolutionary theory depends on "random chance" are a misrepresentation of the science, so he sets about adjusting his misrepresentations but without correcting any of them. His arguments (if simple repetitions of bald assertions already assuming his desired conclusions can be called "arguments") are jumbled and their intellectual honesty are well represented by the fact that he calls Walt Brown, a mechanical engineer who nonetheless proposes that the continental plates went skidding around the globe (downhill!) at high speed during and after the flood, a "scientist."

Be warned that attempting to follow along with Babu or Walt may well cause you, in Tantalus Prime's memorable phrase, to want to "remove all the Brodman areas from your brain in numerical order with a grapefruit spoon just so that you will never again have to comprehend something so wrong." We experienced creationism-handlers have learned to draw back well before that point so I will just present one amusing point I discovered before slamming shut and locking the stupid-proof container on Babu's effluvia.

Babu points out that biological variations do not arise from natural selection (doh!), a process that he explicitly admits occurs, and spends the rest of his time repeating the same petitio principii, in slightly different phraseology, that "macroevolution" cannot happen because macroevolution is more than merely the sum of biological variation. All the usual lame analogies about "new information" being impossible are trotted out but Babu makes the mistake of allowing for the possibility of "beneficial mutations":

But, even if a good mutation does occur for every good mutation there will be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result over time being disastrous for the species.

Babu, after his admission of natural selection, seems blissfully unaware (or duplicitously willing to ignore) that selection answers that objection. Tangled up in his confusion may be some idea that "species" (a concept I doubt he even begins to grok) have to evolve as a unit, instead of being the endpoints of historical populations of individual organisms who have been winnowed of those harmful mutations. Forget any consideration on his part of neutral drift or evo-devo or any other concept more complex than Bob-Jones-level science.

To quote a famous vice-president: "what a waste it is to lose one's mind" ... especially over religion.

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