I get (creationist) email

June 3, 2022 • 8:30 am

I don’t trash many comments at the outset unless they’re either obtuse, uncivil, overly religious, or creationist. This one falls in the last class.  Actually, there were two attempted comments from someone with the handle “See Noevo; both were aimed at the thread after the post, “The intellectual vacuity of mathematical arguments against evolution.”  See was responding to an exchange with another commenter about Michael Behe.

See Noevo’s Comment #1: not posted.

My prediction is that one day evolution will be shown to ALL to be perhaps the greatest embarrassment and shame in the histories of science and of rational thought.

But I have to ask about
“An alternative approach is to flip all 100 coins, leave the ones that landed heads as they are, and then toss again only those that landed tails.”
I thought evolution was constant. Why is Mother Natural Selection keeping the heads as heads for, well, forever?

To explain: the metaphor was one way Jason Rosenhouse explained how a random process can be winnowed by a nonrandom process to produce the appearance of “design”. The randomness (mutational variation) was represented by the tossed coins, while the nonrandom process involves keeping the heads and re-tossing the tails.  Eventually you get to all heads, which is the analogy to an adapted organism.

My best interpretation of this comment is that “See Noevo” is pointing out out that evolution is always occurring, so the heads won’t be kept forever. Some of the coins will get turned over when evolution occurs over the long term. Ergo a seeming contradiction; ergo God Did It.

But DUH! We’re talking about the short-term build up of the appearance of design, not the fact that any one gene sequence will remain the same until the end of time. Nobody believes that.

At any rate, this evolution critic apparently doesn’t know what he/she/they are talking about, and I didn’t allow that ambiguous and obstreperous comment to appear.

But I did allow this comment to appear, and even answered it.

Here’s “See Noevo”‘s comment #2, posted:

In reply to whyevolutionistrue.

To whyevolutionistrue:

Do all first-time commenters have their post put into “awaiting moderation”?
How long should they expect to be in this state?

My response:

In your case, forever.

But he did get his say above. However, that’s the last thing he will post.  (I’ll assume “See Noevo” is a male.)

34 thoughts on “I get (creationist) email

  1. A large misconception by those who don’t understand evolution is that the characteristics that are advantageous are not the ones that necessarily stay, it’s the ones that are not advantageous (or even harmful) tends to die out. Quite often it is a means of elimination.

    If some random mutation occurs, the test of fitness (advantageous, neutral, harmful) starts anew.

    1. If it takes more than one mutation to arrive at a gene that is an improvement, and if the intermediate mutations are, at best, neutral, then the argument, as I understand it, is that there is no selective pressure that keeps the first mutation(s) in place until the final one arrives, and if any of the intermediate mutations is deleterious, then there is negative pressure to keep that mutation in place. Is there a reason to assume that random mutations are likely to be at least neutral, and that they likely will remain in place long enough to combine in a propitious way with later mutations? I have read the literature and I haven’t seen an answer to this question.

      1. You are wrong Sean Wood. There are plenty of examples of single-gene mutations that are adaptations, especially if you include mutations in regulatory genes, transposons, and the like. The sickle-cell mutation rose in frequency because of a single nucleotide substitution.

        You do not need to keep the first mutation in place to explain two-mutation substitutions that together are adaptive. I explained how this happened, and you apparently didn’t read it. You have n’t read much of the literature: read the critique of Behe’s second book by its critics to see how this happens. Or read Mike Lynch. You apparently haven’t read the literature and so don’t comment on this site again until you can say something based on facts instead of pulling argument out of your fundament.

        I’m tired of ridiculous sentences like your first one. One minute of googling could have refuted that, but you didn’t “read the literature.” If you make one more dumb statement like that, I’ll boot your tuchas off the site.

      2. Your assumption is correct. But since there can be so many possibilities, most variations and most species die out and only a few get to keep going.

  2. I have to assume this person was being deliberately obtuse, because to think that they really didn’t get the point of the coin analogy would be insulting their intelligence in what feels to me to be a more grievous way than the critique of their intellectual honesty that is otherwise implied.

    1. Now be honest – don’t you WANT to make a 100 coin flipping apparatus – or go use one already assembled?

      I do!

  3. “See Noevo” was a regular troller at the Patheos atheist and nonreligious pages. He was routinely either refuted or ignored.

    1. He’s been banned at Patheos several times (including several of the religious blogs!), and certainly is banned at OnlySky. He never presents anything approaching a logical argument, and seems to thrive on being annoying.

  4. “My prediction is that one day evolution will be shown to ALL to be perhaps the greatest embarrassment and shame in the histories of science and of rational thought.”

    This makes much more sense if “prediction” were swapped for “prophecy.”

    Notwithstanding, I suppose phlogiston, luminiferous aether, bloodletting, etc. COULD be taken personally, and might have been – but really its just that they did not work as well as newer insights developed.

    That is, I suppose some might trawl the writings of Michelson, Morley, and so on, to derive glee in their personal grievances if they exist – I simply delight in the problem solving of that story.

  5. Science geek here, but no credentials on paper. The evolutionary process responds to pressure. add certain pressures to the coin flip analogy and I’m sure you can get the desired results such as 100% heads.

  6. Would that our would-be commenter would change his/her handle to “Speak Noevo,” given that it is a topic about which he/she plainly knows bupkis.

    1. AH! You got it!

      I was trying reverse order of letters, and left off at a weird Latin interpretation …

      Well done!

  7. I wonder about the word random. Don’t we really mean chaotic? I don’t get the sense chemistry does random. If there is a mutation, do we mean it is unexpected and difficult to predict? There is a huge amount of “order” buried in chaos, whether we talk about the weather or Mandelbrot sets.

  8. It isn’t strictly wrong to bring up the point that some heads would ‘mutate’ back to tails. But the error was to in essence claim that this would create an equilibrium where the coin population could not accumulate more heads than tails. There are some simple adjustments that one could make to clarify the issue, and those would also make the analogy more like how natural selection really works. In the end, the point is that the coin toss analogy works!

    There used to be this interesting web site called BoxCar2D where you could evolve a car by a natural selection algorithm. It assembled some random parts to build 10 “cars”, which would be given one or more wheels, and the contraptions were made to compete over hilly terrain. Most weren’t able to get far at all at first. The most fit vehicles survived to the next generation, and these were ‘multiplied’ and randomly built on to. The new generation of vehicles were then competed against each other. You just came back in maybe an hour or two and the resulting vehicles were all surprisingly good but also fairly different from one another. Unfortunately, the site seems defunct now since it relied on Adobe Flash Player.

    1. Genetic algorithms are an entire category in computer science, and there are also playful and illustrative examples. Here is a series by one Carykh. Take a look here: here.

      A subtle, but important takeaway from this is that Carykh is in the role of a supposed intelligent designer and the creatures that arise and die are we (and all other life), which shows just how incompatible evolution is with a loving God. Someone is just creature 2375389986411311521 in generation n on earth, and oops “that one was born with birth defect, too bad, but hey look at that one 2375389986411311522, she’ll do a bit better”. This is bleak if you come from an infantile, religious, teleological view.

    2. There used to be this interesting web site called BoxCar2D where you could evolve a car by a natural selection algorithm. It assembled some random parts to build 10 “cars”, which would be given one or more wheels, and the contraptions were made to compete over hilly terrain.

      Dawkins took several trips down this genetic algorithm route in the 70s ( I suspect he was hanging out with Douglas Adams, a technophile with his own interests in this vein ; Adams and Dawkins definitely knew each other in the time range). Whether his code (1970s BASIC-a-like, probably) is available online anywhere … I dunno.

  9. I’m somewhat amazed at the creationist refusal to recognize an analogy. Did anyone say the heads would be kept for forever, or that such an outcome was necessary? I doubt it.

    This same thing happens all the time with the “DNA is like a computer program” analogy. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to explain to a creationist that DNA being LIKE a computer program means, fundamentally, that it is NOT ACTUALLY a computer program—it’s only analogous.

    And even then, the analogy only works at an introductory level—but creationists still ask, “who programmed DNA?”.

    1. I comment I had read many years ago still rings true, which is that for die-hard creationists its like there is an information scrambler in their heads. You can spend all the time and energy that you want explaining how evolution works. You can show them all this incontrovertible evidence for natural selection and for the common ancestry of species. But all you say must go thru their brain scrambler, and what they hear is “yada yada random yada yada”. And “Blah blah design blah”.

      1. You can spend all the time and energy that you want explaining how evolution works…

        Right. I think it is also important to focus on why people argue. It may not be that they want to find out what is true or what actually happened. Sometimes it is a question of defending a culture, but they may not be willing to admit that. They hide their motives. Exploring ideas is not all about cold reasoning; it involves courage to give up traditions, things to which one is emotionally attached. That is not easy.

        Of course, the kind of people that you describe may exist; but there are also some who reject the evidence because the consequence of accepting it is too damaging to their cultural tradition — it’s got nothing to do with what is true. Presenting evidence for evolution in particular, or even other scientific theories in general, to such people is missing the point.

        I don’t know any religious people who reject evolution. However, I know religious people who claim their religion is consistent with modern science and some who claim that their religious texts contain the statements of modern science. Having spoken to them at great length, it seems to me that they don’t actually believe that; instead, they would like it to be true, but are reluctant to deal with the problem analytically. It is a belief that gives them comfort and security, not one they want to seriously discuss or assail.

    2. Could one communicate how to bake bread if the words go into an “information scrambler”? I’m not sure, so forgive me if I pick this as the place to think it out :

      First the flour, and salt is combined.
      Add water, oil, and yeast, and the resulting dough is worked into a ball. The dough rises by fermentation, gets re-worked, then cooked in the oven.

      … in trying to come up with a creationism bread recipe, through the “information scrambler”, I got stuck, because a human makes the bread. There is no _natural_ process that produces a loaf of bread. The ingredients would simply stay on a shelf, were it not for the baker.

      Is _that_ the collapse in creationism? The _natural_ character of the mechanism of evolution?

      Because I think creationists are fine with how computers, engines, mathematics, programs, or bread baking – things made by humans – work.

      Living things though – biology – and the concealed processes of Nature, such as that learned in physics, and which all require Science to discover – this seems where creationism gets all tangled up in itself. There is no obvious human who made it – this precipitates some psychological crisis, I guess…

    3. The genome or its DNA is *not* “LIKE a computer program”. That is a misunderstanding of the triplet code that takes a sequence from transcript into an amino acid chain (protein). That is analogous to what early programmers called “a tape reader”.

      And the genome is not “like a blueprint” of construction that specifies where the proteins go and what they do. At most it specifies the amino acid order (and not even how they fold to achieve function).

      The genome is analogous to cook book: “take an egg and a sperm, mix and incubate” is one recipe. But it only works because the proteins (and other genome products) work in a certain environment of functional cell machineries, functional sexual adults, a warm and comfy bed, et cetera. The biological part of the environment evolved over 4 billion years, and so did the geological environment. There are little of static recipes in that cook book.

      The genome didn’t become a cook book filled with [then static] recipes at the snap of a finger. But from eons where selection scavenged ever changing information of what worked from the ever changing environment.

      [But of course a creationist will read “PROGRAM; TAPE, BLUEPRINT, SNAP OF A FINGER” instead of what I wrote.]

      1. “[But of course a creationist will read “PROGRAM; TAPE, BLUEPRINT, SNAP OF A FINGER” instead of what I wrote.]”

        In the way anyone recalls the lyrics of a pop song that can be understood and liked but ignore the lyrics which don’t make sense, or are actually weird, and just sort of sound good in the whole mix.

        … I was also going to generally note, as one commenter made a prophecy : it seems to me the creationist is convinced that someone (definitely an individual) made an embarrassing error – didn’t carry a one, typo, sample contamination, etc. that all evolutionary science is simply repeating or correcting for, in a grand conspiracy of sorts.

        So a “debate” or “challenge”, but at a pedantic, low level.

  10. I’m always a bit amazed when creationists send mail to WEIT and I’m thankful they are deleted before arrival. Why do they do that? Aren’t they sick of being refuted everywhere except their church already? Do they think people at WEIT are possible converts?

    I write various articles for very secular publications, I wouldn’t even THINK of submitting them to, say, Catholic Monthly etc. Like creationism itself, it makes no sense!

    Thanks to PCC (E) for sparing us their blather.

    1. When I am shopping for a car and I want to find everything that’s wrong with a particular model I go and ask the competition. So, a person who is presented with an argument against neo-Darwinism goes to a neo-Darwinist website to discover the best available refutation of that argument.

      1. You should do the research on the car. Do you REALLY think the competition in the car market will be honest about their own competors’cars? I hope not.

        I’d say do your own research first and then come here, which may save me a considerable amount of emotional labor.

      2. This statement – with shopping, competition, -ism, -ist, website, etc. makes no sense whatsoever.

        ” … I want to find everything that’s wrong with a particular model …”

        Please explain, precisely, how the above in quotes connects to anything here on this webpage/post.

      3. Scientists did that over a century ago and evolution was the only car that worked. Today we learn about that history as we proceed into the subject of how and why evolution works and why the alternatives doesn’t, but it takes a few minutes of a class. Don’t you understand science and education – at all!?

    2. Why do they do that? Aren’t they sick of being refuted everywhere except their church already?

      Posters sensitive to constant rejection and defeat get selected out, so we’re left with the insensitive ones. Also, some evangelisers believe that being “fools for Christ’s sake” is virtuous; and even “take pleasure … in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake”. Theomasochism?

      Do they think people at WEIT are possible converts?

      I expect that some do; you gotta be in it to win it, and they don’t understand the difference between “possible” and “even remotely plausible”. But mainly, they have faith (or other cognitive impairments).

  11. On the general topic of fixation and its persistence, university classes have simple computer models of the most common near neutral drift of alleles. They show how mutations appear at some rate and proceed by inheritance in a population. Most often to random extinction but sometimes to random fixation (when all organisms have it).

    The fixation rate happens to be the nice result of equal to the mutation rate for realistic (finite) populations [ https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/neutral-theory-the-null-hypothesis-of-molecular-839/ ].

    So you can’t have mutation without seeing fixation, and that is independent of selection. And (in principle) a fixated allele “has found it’s forever home”, can persist indefinitely.

    1. On 2nd read I think this implies assuming a fixed genome size:

      I thought evolution was constant. Why is Mother Natural Selection keeping the heads as heads for, well, forever?

      In that case the fixated alleles would be changed at the mutation rate frequency divided by the genome size, it seems to me. If the genome size is bacterial having a specific trait (allele) go extinct would still be slow compared to the evolution rate of new traits.

      In diploids we have recessives and there the overwrite process is even more insignificant. Genomes are huge and recessives persist in the face of selection.

      1. The overwrite process lead to “saturation” in clock dating, eventually every sequence site will have changed more than once and be impossible to detect [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_clock ]. In most parts of genes the saturation rate is slow compared to geological time of many millions of years (and hence clock dating is useful).

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