Tuesday, January 11, 2011

RTB and the chimp genome Part 8

For those readers who have suffered through this entire series, I apologize for going on so long. I initially intended to write one response to the Rana/Venema exchange (Venema's first and second critiques, and parts one, two, three, four, and five of Rana's response). After studying Rana's responses, though, I kept finding more and more things that troubled me, and this turned into the blog series THAT WOULDN'T DIE (parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven). Now I'm just going to be done with this, but not because I've exhaustively documented all of Rana's mistakes and misunderstandings. I'm just getting discouraged with the sheer number of errors that riddle Rana's writing, and I believe there are better ways to spend my limited time. So I'm just going to offer some parting thoughts directly to the leadership of Reasons to Believe.

First, you have not adequately responded to Venema's principle critique: Why was the description of the chimp/human whole genome comparison in Creation as Science changed in More Than a Theory? Why did you say in More Than a Theory that the whole genome comparison had not been done? Was I correct that you think the published comparison was something short of a whole genome comparison?

Second, Venema and I have documented a sad but consistent and ongoing pattern of erroneous summaries of published works on the part of RTB (Rana and Ross, but mostly Rana). There's really no way to deny these mistakes have been made or to explain them away, so what are you going to do about them? I recommend apologizing for the mistakes, correcting them if you can, and instituting some kind of serious fact-checking filter on everything you publish. (If you have a fact-checker already, get a new one.)

Third, Rana claimed that "We do invite serious critique of our model (both theological and scientific). We believe that critical evaluation of our ideas will only improve our case for biblical creation." Fine. Venema did that in his critique. You ignored a number of important points he raised and instead mischaracterized his critique as a personal attack, which it was not. I've also offered a serious critique in the fourth post of this series, where I tested Rana's hypothesis that the unaligned portions of the chimp genome are too different to align. Will you ignore that as well? If so, please stop saying that you "invite serious critique" of the RTB model. That's clearly not true.

Fourth, do you recognize the difference between sequence similarity measured by percent identity and sequence similarity measured by the amount of DNA that can be aligned? Rana's use of the phrase "genetic commonality" suggests that you do, but his confusing that term with "genetic similarity" suggests that you don't. They are different concepts and should not be directly compared. If you persist in conflating the two different measurements now after having the differences explained, you will seriously erode your credibility.

That's really all I want to say. I know Rana is continuing his series responding to Venema's pseudogene post, but my interest in continuing my series is precisely zero. Pseudogenes are a different issue than primate comparative genomics, and Rana's botched attempt to describe the argument for common ancestry from pseudogenes does not give me hope that there will be anything other than more of the same errors and misunderstandings from Rana in future posts.

To be honest, I do not believe that RTB will pay any attention whatsoever to this series of posts. Given Rana's insulting response to Venema's critique, I expect that they'll treat this as yet another "ad hominem attack." I've mostly written this series for third parties that might be confused about the Venema/Rana exchange. As far as I'm concerned, RTB's credibility is completely shot (read my analysis of their handling of the Neandertal genome for more evidence of errors and exaggerations on the part of Ross, Rana, and Samples: parts one, two, three). I would recommend that no one accept any of RTB's arguments without fact-checking their claims first. I do not know whether these problems are due to lazy scholarship, ignorance, intentional deception, or ideological blinders. What I do know is that you cannot trust Reasons to Believe.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.