Those Wacky Creationists

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The AP reports:

A one-eyed, noseless kitten that stirred debate last year over whether it was a hoax will be the centerpiece of a new museum intended to promote the theory of creationism.

John Adolfi plans to feature Cy's remains at The Lost World Museum when it opens later this year….He wrote on the museum's Web site that the theory of evolution states that "environmental pressures can lift species from the ape-like creature … to us today. My question is this. Are there really positive mutations?

"All I can see are neutral or negative," said Adolfi, a real estate agent from Granby, N.Y.

Give him credit. At least he's come up with a kooky argument of his own, rather than relying on the tried-and-true fallacies of the past. It's men like Adolfi who keep creationism interesting.

[Via Fortean Times]

Update: I take it back. Turns out this argument has been around for a while. Clearly I need to keep up on my crank literature.

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  1. “All I can see are neutral or negative,” said Adolfi, a real estate agent from Granby, N.Y.

    Yes, the joys of turning science over to untrained laymen who think the Bible is a science textbook (or a history book, or a law book…).

    From talkorigins.org:

    Beneficial mutations are commonly observed. They are common enough to be problems in the cases of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing organisms and pesticide resistance in agricultural pests (e.g., Newcomb et al. 1997; these are not merely selection of pre-existing variation.) They can be repeatedly observed in laboratory populations (Wichman et al. 1999). Other examples include the following:

    * Mutations have given bacteria the ability to degrade nylon (Prijambada et al. 1995).
    * Plant breeders have used mutation breeding to induce mutations and select the beneficial ones (FAO/IAEA 1977).
    * Certain mutations in humans confer resistance to AIDS (Dean et al. 1996; Sullivan et al. 2001) or to heart disease (Long 1994; Weisgraber et al. 1983).
    * A mutation in humans makes bones strong (Boyden et al. 2002).
    * Transposons are common, especially in plants, and help to provide beneficial diversity (Moffat 2000).
    * In vitro mutation and selection can be used to evolve substantially improved function of RNA molecules, such as a ribozyme (Wright and Joyce 1997).

  2. I’m afraid he’s not even very original. This argument is popular enough among creationists that Talk Origins (a wonderful site!) devoted a detailed response to it.

  3. Uhhh…putting asside the fact that his assertion is patently untrue, how does “there are only neutral or negative mutations” prove anything about creationism? Why would The Flying Spaghetti Monster allow any mutations at all? And if he does, why does he only allow neutral or negative ones? What kind of crazy intelligent designer is he?

    BTW, “All I can see” are green, red and white-colored automobiles from my window. Are there really blue ones?

  4. Hey, look, this barrel has a bunch of those little Jesus Fish swimming around in it!

  5. The mechanism of mutation is intrisic to evolution. A true creationist would deny it exists. They would also deny most genetics, plant-grafting, dog breeding, etc.

  6. The punchline: It’s not actually a mutation at all:

    Wow. So many errors in so few words. Holoprosencephaly, the defect in that kitten, is not usually caused by a mutation. It’s a developmental abnormality caused by a failure of anterior midline signaling. I’ve mentioned before that I do some work on making cyclopic fish, and I can induce it routinely with embryonic alcohol exposure. If Mr Adolfi is paying good money for one-eyed oddities, I can provide him with bucketsful.

  7. “Why would The Flying Spaghetti Monster allow any mutations at all?”

    An excellent question; why didn’t You Know Who go directly into final production, instead of flooding the market with all these faulty prototypes?

  8. “An excellent question; why didn’t You Know Who go directly into final production, instead of flooding the market with all these faulty prototypes?”

    For the same reason I planted all those big fake bones: to test your faith.

    Oh, and P? Stop touching yourself.

  9. An excellent question; why didn’t You Know Who go directly into final production, instead of flooding the market with all these faulty prototypes?

    That reminds me of my fundie mother, who once said that the various species of “caveman” were “God’s mistakes.”

    So much for that infallibility the faithful keep talking about.

  10. Well at least the kitty got a good home. To quote Firefly’s Kaylee “Oh, it’s sweet. Poor little thing never even saw the light of day, now
    it’s in show business!”

  11. I’ve been thinking, maybe when the fundies talk about “beneficial mutations” what they really expect the ability to control weather, shoot optic blasts out of our eyes, or sprout adamantium blades from our knuckles.

    Someone has been reading to many issues of X-Men.

  12. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm…cyclopic fish and embryonic alcohol exposure…aaaaarrrrrrrrrrhhhhh

  13. “My question is this. Are there really positive mutations? All I can see are neutral or negative.”

    It just occurred to me how idiotic and intellectually dishonest this statement really is. Think for a minute: how and when is a mutation judged “negative” or “positive”? In hindsight. Always, in hindsight. That’s the whole fucking idea behind evolution: the mutations that become prominent via natural selection are the ones that are “positive”. And the circumstances that surround the survival and propagation of a mutation (such as environment) are always different. A mutation in one sitation might be useless—but that mutation in another situation might be incredibly useful.

    But fools like this guy, they expect the kind of x-men stuff that Akira talks about.

    I’ll just say this: if you “can’t see” beneficial mutations, then you’re blind—quite literally. Because every single part of every single living thing you see around you is the embodiment of a “positive mutation” at some far-off point in history.

  14. Positive mutations are my bread and butter. I’ve been thinking about getting bit by another radioactive spider. Worked the first time!

  15. “Hey, look, this barrel has a bunch of those little Jesus Fish swimming around in it!”

    Too bad you’re anti-gun, joe. Otherwise you could have a lot of easy fun.

  16. My question is this. Are there really positive mutations?

    I think the whole notion of “mutation” is a lot more sublime than arguments of the uses for mutated bacteria ot the value judgements of what contitutes bad or good ones. I think – in some cases, at least – a mutation amounts to no more than an extreme statistical variance.

    To wit…what exactly comprises a “mutation”. In humans anyway, is it as simple as a genetically produced physical anomally? Seeing as how most NBA players fall (or rise, if you will) several standard deviations of the mean in hight, can that be considered a mutation? Is that good or bad?

    How about extremely high I.Q.s. The highest I.Q.s are far outside the range of what’s normal. Are they mutants? Again, good or bad?

    And does that reinforce the position that there are such things as good mutations?

    If, as evolution postulate, species may have evolved over millions of years in slight variations of what’s normal, can slight differences not usually atributed to mutation (size, speed, shading) but simply being at the extreme edges of otherwise normal ranges of variation, help to make it obvious that this guy’s just another loonie?

  17. can slight differences . . . help to make it obvious that this guy’s just another loonie?

    He doesn’t seem to need any help. 🙂

  18. “Oh, and P? Stop touching yourself.”

    It really is God!

  19. A mutation is basically any time that the DNA you get from one of your parents is copied incorrectly. Sometimes it means a change of a single letter in your genetic code. Other times it means that portions of your DNA sequence got switched around, or that an extra copy was made of something and then it got spliced into another segment of your DNA.

    (Many of those “large” mutations can actually be harmless, and there is evidence that it has happened quite a bit. Many of the proteins in your body share common sequences of amino acids. If extra copies of a sequence were never beneficial, you wouldn’t expect different proteins to have many parts in common. Each protein would have to emerge from scratch, rather than building off of something from another protein.)

  20. Apparently Creationists can’t even handle basic astronomical facts, so how can we expect them to grasp evolution?

    Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ angered a few audience members at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, on Wednesday. Bill criticized the literal interpretation of the biblical verse Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” He pointed out that the sun, the ‘greater light,’ is but one of countless stars and that the ‘lesser light’ is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light. A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence. “We believe in a God!” exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children.

  21. I like madpad’s point. Creationists are using a straw man when they say that evolution relies on “mutations.”

    Picture four siblings, none of them identical twins. They are four “normal,” healthy people. But they almost certainly represent four different heights, four different levels of eyesight quality, four different top running speeds, four different metabolic rates, etc.

    In an environment where height is a life and death factor, the tallest sibling has a tiny statistical advantage. The same goes for any quality you want to measure, if the environment puts selection pressure on it.

    Evolution doesn’t need giant mutations in order to work. The garden variety differences between all of us are enough.

  22. Madpad —

    The incredibly vast majority of the variation you’re talking about is not mutation, but interaction of genes.

    This is actually an incredibly important point that few on any side of the evolution/creation/ID “debate” are aware of, or at least mention.

    To put it simply: a gene’s activity, from the smallest scale to the largest (biochemical to ecological), is not solely a result of the gene’s DNA sequence.

    A huge number of factors, again from the smallest to largest scales, interact with the products/activity of a gene and the resultant “effect” of the gene. To take your example of tall basketballers, certain genes in their bodies may contribute to their height particularly well in the presence of other genes and absence of even other genes, which gene assortment only became available via the collection of genes they happened to inherit from their parents that their siblings didn’t get. (Then there’s all the environmental factors…)

    As has already been hinted at by remarks about comicbook characters, real mutations do not give you three eyes, a new limb, or x-ray vision.
    The reason, related to what we’ve already covered above, is simple: there isn’t an “eye” gene or an “arm” gene. More or less all of the structures in your body are the result of absurdly complicated interactions of countless things, genetic activity among them, going on inside your body.

    I suspect scientists and pro-science folks avoid mentioning this because it makes them sound like they don’t actually know what’s going on. Unfortunately, now the ID folks have made this little tidbit their own premise: organismal function is too complicated for us to explain — after all, you scientists haven’t done that yet, have you? oh and you haven’t told us about that, have you? what are you trying to hide? — so God (sorry, I mean a designer) must have made it all work.

  23. Doesn’t this kitten also disprove the ID’ers standard ‘the eye could not have arisen through mutation’ argument? If a single mutation is enough to go from two eyes to one, how can they argue it’s impossible for a single mutation to go from no eyes to one?

  24. Scientists at the University of Illinois have discovered an antifreeze-protein gene in cod that has evolved from non-coding or ‘junk’ DNA. Professor Cheng: “This appears to be a new mechanism for the evolution of a gene from non-coding DNA — conventional thinking assumes that new genes must come from pre-existing ones because the probability of a random stretch of DNA somehow becoming a functional gene is very low if not nil. This cod antifreeze gene might be an exception to this because it consists of a short repetitive sequence that only needs to be duplicated four times to give a fully functioning protein”.

  25. That guy should be ashamed of himself for even presenting that poor creature to the public. This is sentimental, I know, but anything that suffered so much should at least have some dignity in death.

  26. Eric, you honestly expect dignity from a carney?

  27. There is no dignity in death.

  28. To Madpad’s point: Check out an evolutionary biologist named Armand Leroi, whose basic line is, if I remember, that we are all mutants. There is no ‘normal’ and ‘normal’ is just kind of an ex post facto description of the prevailing traits of a species. Which, it seems, does away with a lot of the worries about when mutations happen and how radical they need to be to be called mutations, etc., while also still allowing us to talk of mutations/genetic differences as evolutionarily harmful or beneficial.

  29. Mediageek,

    I don’t expect it, but am sickened by the lack.

  30. There are no fresh, original creationist arguments; they just keep rehashing the old ones, slightly reworded, over and over…

  31. Rhampton:

    I heard the Bill Nye story as well. Yes, yes, I’m sure that this represents a minority of Christian opinion and it should not reflect the views of mainstream believers…

    Nah, I don’t believe that either. This whole damn country is one Sunday sermon away from going back to the fucking Middle Ages and I’m sure the “mainstream” Christards will be cheering it’s arrival along with the fundies.

  32. The punchline: It’s not actually a mutation at all:

    Not necessarily:

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/72513636/ABSTRACT?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    In addition to teratogenic agents, several genes are implicated as the cause of HPE (Holoprosencephaly). At least 12 different loci have been associated with HPE and now several distinct human genes for holoprosencephaly have been identified. These genes include Sonic Hedgehog (SHH), ZIC2, SIX3, and TG-interacting factor (TGIF). Here we present an overview of the presently known genes causing human holoprosencephaly. We discuss their functional role in development of the forebrain and summarize the mutations and polymorphisms that have been identified within them.

    The best argument against Creationism is pretty simple: who or what created “God?”

  33. The best argument against Creationism is pretty simple: who or what created “God?”

    Not so much an argument as an attempted stumper. They simply want to ease themselves from the agony of uncertainty, so buy into the theistic explanation of “first cause”.
    The mind has difficulty grasping infinity.
    “God” is an easy (readily available) answer to all the uncertainty questions.

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