Showing posts from February, 2011

Introducing the Creation Biology Society

Back in 2005, when the Executive Council of the BSG first met to discuss legal incorporation, we wanted to rename the Baraminology Study Group to something more understandable and accessible. Unfortunately, we concocted the new name (BSG: A Creation Biology Study Group) by committee, and last year we finally got tired of explaining it to people ("BSG doesn't stand for anything any more"). So we voted to change the name to the much more sensible Creation Biology Society.

In the future, we would invite you to refer to us as the Creation Biology Society or the CBS. We will also be replacing the Occasional Papers with a new publication, which we hope to announce sometime this summer. In the meantime, everything else pretty much stays the same. Remember that we have a conference coming up in Rapid City, SD, and we're looking for some good abstracts to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Genesis Flood.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood…

Homoplasy in Science

For those with access, there is an interesting review article on phenotypic homoplasy in this week's Science by Wake et al. have a review article on phenotypic homoplasy. I haven't had time to read it all yet, but it looks like a very worthwhile paper. From their definition of homology and homoplasy:
Homology is what is perceived as the same trait in different taxa and is a true representation of inheritance and phylogeny at the organismal level (e.g., it is the perceived phenotype, not the processes responsible for generating it). Homoplasy is the diametric opposite of homology - underlying similarity that does not result from inheritanceThey're talking in the paper about phenotypic homoplasy, but the definitions apply to molecular homoplasy as well. If you take away all the evidence of homoplasy, you have nothing but homology and a perfect nested hierarchy as evidence of evolution. Likewise, if there is no homology, then there's no way to define homoplasy, which i…

Remembering The Genesis Flood

You probably already know that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Whitcomb and Morris's landmark book The Genesis Flood. Today on the Biblical Creation Society website, Paul Garner posted a remarkable article looking at the book, its context, and influence. When I call it a "remarkable" article, I really mean it. His contextualization is deep and thorough, and he raises a lot of really interesting and important points about the growth of creationist thought as well. Definitely worth a read:

"The Genesis Flood" 50 Years On [PDF]

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

Alleged update

Remember that Scopes trial movie I mentioned a while back? The one filmed in Michigan and starring Fred Thompson and Brian Dennehy? Well the Alleged movie now has an Alleged trailer:

Check out more at the Alleged website or on the Alleged facebook page. There's also a host of scenes from the movie at the Alleged YouTube site. According to the comments on Facebook, they're still working out some kind of distribution deal.

I talked to one person who's already seen it, and he said it was good. Since he's not a movie critic (that I know of), I don't know what to make of that. It could be good in the sense of being more accurate than Inherit the Wind, but does that make it good in the sense of being a good movie? I don't know.

I'll keep my eye on the Alleged movie, and in the meantime, interested readers can check out resources on the real history of the Scopes trial on the Bryan College website.

P.S. See what I mean about the Alleged title?

Feedback? Em…

Alu questions

After Friday's abbreviated post on human origins, I got this question in my email:
I had to go out and look up what Alu elements are on Wikipedia and started on Shen's paper but wasn't able to get much comprehension of the paper. Would you be able to make a quick post about why the Alu elements in gene-coding sequences would be a bit of happy news for YECs? (or were you being facetious?)I wasn't being entirely facetious. I'm referring to the longstanding interest of creationists in rudimentary (AKA "vestigial") structures and "junk" DNA. I addressed vestigial organs here and here. In that last post, I made this important point:
A more subtle mistake is the insistence that vestigial organs have no function, that they are true evolutionary leftovers that are just waiting to be eliminated from our bodies. This leads to the equally fallacious response that by demonstrating a function - any function - the vestigial argument is nullified. In response…

This week in human origins

This has been a busy week for interesting articles on human origins. First, PNAS published a very interesting paper on Alu elements, which are primate-specific transposable elements. Seems the human genome has a lot of Alus in actual gene coding sequences. I'm sure that news will make a lot of creationists happy. Shen et al.'s paper is open access, so everybody can read it:

Shen et al. 2011. Widespread establishment and regulatory impact of Alu exons in human genes. PNAS 108:2837-2842.

Then Nature published a review article by Bernard Wood and Terry Harrison on human evolution. It's nothing earth-shatteringly new, but it is consistent with Wood's skepticism about the ability of cladistics to resolve the phylogeny of hominin fossils. Specifically in this paper, they're trying to challenge the classification of Ardipithecus, Sahelanthropus, and Orrorin as hominins, or at the very least suggest that those three taxa may not obviously be hominins. They have a p…

Coconino and Navajo sandstones

I just flipped through the March issue of PSCF (members only) and saw a new paper by Timothy Helble on the deposition of the Coconino sandstone, arguing against a Flood geology interpretation. How fun is that? Paul Garner, John Whitmore, and Ray Strom have been working on this very issue for several years now, and their work only gets mentioned briefly at the very end of Helble's paper. I'm very interested to see what they will make of Helble's paper.

Helble. 2011. Sediment Transport and the Coconino Sandstone: A Reality Check on Flood Geology. PSCF 63(1):25-41.

Then I popped over to Paul Garner's blog and saw a new post on the deposition of the Navajo sandstone. (For those keeping track, the Coconino is Permian and the Navajo is Jurassic.) Paul reviewed a claim by old earth creationist Greg Neyman about creationist claims about the Coconino and Navajo sandstones. Paul concluded,
...if you’re going to accuse creationists of misrepresenting or misunderstanding a sc…

Templeton in Nature

Every now and then some well-meaning person encourages me to try to apply for funding from the Templeton Foundation, on the mistaken belief that "Templeton loves to fund stuff like the Center for Origins Research." ...but not really.

There's a fascinating article on Templeton in the latest Nature, and as far as I can tell it's free to all:
Faith in Science
That should clear up any lingering thoughts of Templeton funding CORE. Not going to happen.

On the other hand, I thought it was amusing to see that having an ideology against another ideology is not considering having "an ideological slant."

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

Creation Geology Society call for abstracts

The 2011 joint conference of the BSG/CGS (BSG and Creation Geology Societies) will
be held at South Canyon Baptist Church, Rapid City, SD, USA, July 28-30, 2011. Technical
sessions will be held July 28 and 29. We are currently soliciting abstracts on any geological,
or related topic, pertaining to creation. Abstract guidelines:

Abstracts should not be longer than 700 words. Examples of published abstracts
can be found in the Conference Proceedings issues of the Occasional Papers of the BSG
(OPBSG). (see Author Guidelines).

Abstracts may include references (which are counted in the 700 word limit), but they
must be formatted according to the guidelines of the Occasional Papers.

Abstracts must include a complete summary of the paper. That includes an
introduction, methods, results, and conclusion where appropriate. Abstracts that do not
include results or conclusions will be immediately returned for revision.

Abstracts should sent to Dr. Timothy Clarey, geology editor, at tlclarey@delta…

What is the meaning of life?

More reader feedback today:
Many YECs reject the notion that plants -- and indeed all non-vertebrate organisms (e.g., insects) -- are alive, usually citing the Bible's use of the term "nephish". ... Despite this, many other YEC (or, more broadly, anti-evolution) sources describe plants and other inverts as possessing "life" or being "alive" ... Thus, there appears to be one camp of YECs who believe plants and inverts to be alive, and another camp who rejects this notion based on the Bible's description of "nephish". As someone concerned about the classification of biodiversity, what are your views about the subject?Good question, and I can see why people can get confused.

Basically, there's two concerns here. First, there's the standard biology that everyone of us learns. Living things include humans, animals, plants, fungi, and all sorts of tiny things that you need a microscope to see. Second, there's the question of what…

Similarity the wrong focus?

I got this amazing question in the mail over the weekend:
Might I suggest that you are going against your own advice in suggesting that we need to tackle the issue of similarity to help out creationist biology? Like the "lower level" theories of evolution, similarity appears to be here for good.....I'd almost hazard to say fact. So what if similarity backs up evolution? We should not be trying to disprove evolution, but we should be building our own models to support creation......focus on that will do more to crack nuts than any attempt to disprove the Theory of Evolution (just my humble opinion).Wow. Talk about using my own words against me! That's great food for thought, so let me see if I can come up with a decent answer:

I've long argued that there are basically five issues that creationists need to tackle: Design, evil, speciation, systematics, and biogeography. For example, when we think about identifying created kinds (systematics), we're basical…

No pie like humble pie

Please read my revised response to Borger.

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

What's new with hominid fossils

After Christmas, one of my students brought me a news item he had clipped about some new fossil discovery that would re-write human evolution. Sure it will, I thought. We've all heard that story before. I figured it was just another press exaggeration, but then I read it more carefully. It claimed that researchers had discovered teeth from Homo sapiens in a cave in Israel and that these teeth dated to about 200,000 to 400,000 years ago. Now if that's true, that would be kind of a game changer. Conventional molecular evolution studies put the origin of Homo sapiens at about 150,000 years ago in Africa, so finding Homo sapiens teeth that were twice that old in Israel would be kind of a big deal.

I have to confess that I was cautiously optimistic, probably because I'd like to see more evidence that Homo originated closer to the Middle East than subsaharan Africa. You know, around where Noah's ark landed. I'm kind of biased that way. Technically, since H. erec…

Borger responds

I've decided that the original post at this address did not fit with what I want for my blog. So I deleted it.

This blog is supposed to be a respite from the vitriol that surrounds internet discussions of creation and evolution. The original post here that critiqued emails sent to me by creationist Peter Borger crossed the line. That was my mistake. I got carried away, but that's no excuse. I will try to be more vigilant in the future.

Be assured, however, that my assessment of Borger's papers remains unchanged. Where he has "adopted" some of my speculative hypotheses about how species change, that's good, but his use of these ideas as anti-evolution arguments is entirely unwarranted.

An illusion of an illusion of common descent

Over at BioLogos, Peter Borger has jumped in and posted a series of comments on Venema's latest critique of RTB. One of the responses to Borger was, "I must admit that I am confused by some of Peter Borger’s comments." Trust me; you're not the only one. Since Monday, I've gotten several emails about Borger's papers, and I think it's about time I commented publicly.

First, I should note that Borger has published a follow-up paper with Royal Truman on the GULO pseudogene, called "Why the shared mutations in the Hominidae exon X GULO pseudogene are not evidence for common descent." You can find the PDF from Journal of Creation right here.

I'm actually not going to comment on that paper. I'm far more interested in the paper Borger published in JC last year, "An illusion of common descent." There's no PDF online, but here's the reference (in case you have a JC subscription):

Borger. 2010. An illusion of common descent.…

Theodoret of Cyrus on Cain's wife

I used to roll my eyes every time creationists made a big deal out of where Cain got his wife. I considered the attention they gave it disproportionate to the actual importance of the issue. I figured only ignoramuses and scoffers ever raised such a trivial challenge. Lately, though, I've noticed Cain's wife being raised by ostensibly good scholars as a real problem for a straightforward interpretation of Genesis. I'm a little flabbergasted that anyone would still cling to such a silly objection, but there it is.

Meanwhile, we've been working hard this semester to add historical Genesis commentaries to the CORE library, and we just received a copy of Theodoret of Cyrus's The Questions on the Octateuch Volume I: On Genesis and Exodus. Theodoret was a fifth century bishop of Cyrus, about 100 miles from Antioch. He's not always concerned with the same textual issues that modern creationists are, but very often he addresses very similar themes. Here's wh…

RTB again

So I was going to lay off RTB for a while and talk about other things more interesting, but this was too shocking to ignore. Dennis Venema finished his series of posts on RTB and me over at BioLogos this morning. In part 3, he takes a look at Rana's pseudogene claims, especially about the GLO pseudogene. Rana relied on young-age creationist Peter Borger's data from a paper in the old PSCID journal [PDF] to make his argument that pseudogene mutations are nonrandom. Venema rather easily shows how Borger's (and therefore Rana's) argument is bogus: Borger wasn't looking at mutations at all. Check out Venema's post for the full details. Borger's error is breathtakingly simplistic.

Question for the day: Why is it so easy to find errors in the arguments of Reasons to Believe?

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

A quiet week

It's been a quiet week around CORE. I finished up a couple editing projects, which will hopefully come to fruition before the year's end. I'm also busy with a couple of new research projects, which I also hope to finish up soon.

I looked over the latest Acts & Facts from ICR (PDF). It celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Genesis Flood. That book certainly had a big impact on my life. I expect some of my readers will not look so fondly on The Genesis Flood, and yes, I know the book is extremely dated. But The Genesis Flood indisputably revived creationism in the latter half of the twentieth century, and here I am. So thanks for that!

I see Jonathan Wells will soon be treating us to another book, this time called The Myth of Junk DNA. It's a good title, but I suspect the content will be mostly another functionalist attempt to deal with a structuralist problem. Or, trying to cram a square peg in a round hole. I miss Richard Owen.