While I was at Origins 2011, the good folks over at Uncommon Descent, the main blog for discussion of Intelligent Design (the idea that there is real, scientific evidence for design in the world) posted a piece denouncing my research on the chimp genome. The original post is riddled with errors. For example, William Jennings Bryan did not recommend the form of the Butler Act that was adopted by the Tennessee legislature. Bryan objected to imposing a punishment on those who broke the ban on teaching human evolution. Also, my research would not contradict the Butler Act anyway, since I am not a teacher in a public school and I never contradicted the biblical account of human origins, which is what the Butler Act actually prohibited.
But correcting the UD post is not my objective here. My research speaks for itself. I'm far more interested in the bizarre debate the post spawned in the comments section. You see, the original post described me as an "evolutionary biologist," which, as you might have guessed by now, is a pretty lousy descriptor of me. Certainly one that a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool evolutionary biologist would object to. In response, atheist skeptic Elizabeth Liddle posted a correction that I am instead a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) and baraminologist. Then there was a long debate, which turned out to be about whether she was just being derogatory by accurately describing my position. When the debate finally lurched and staggered to its resolution, Liddle posted this, which I thought was just wonderful (reposted with her permission):
Todd is a YEC. That’s not an insult, it’s a fact. He is also a baraminologist. That’s not an insult either, it’s a fact. So to call him an "evolutionary biologist" would not only be quite wrong, it would be rather demeaning. Todd is doing something rather remarkable – he is taking the scientific evidence for evolution, and for which he agrees evolution is a powerful explanation, and attempting to devise an alternative hypothesis that will account as well, if not better, for the data.Wow, that's one of the most accurate descriptions of my position I've ever read. It's almost as if someone is actually reading what I write and not trying to force me into some pre-conceived, propaganda-based category. Imagine that.
He is doing this because he has faith – faith that the bible is inerrant, and says the earth is young. If the earth is young, evolutionary theory cannot be true. And if the bible is true, common descent cannot be true.
And so, because he trusts God, he trusts that there must be an alternate explanation that has as much explanatory power as evolutionary theory, but which is consistent with what he believes to be the truth, which is that the bible is literally true, and that the first living things were "created kinds" not a simple cell. And he is determined to find that explanation.
He is one of the most honest scientists I have ever come across.
So if Todd says he’s found 99% similarity between chimps and humans, take him seriously. He has no evolutionary axe to grind. He just wants to know what the facts are.
Now he might have got it wrong – I wouldn’t know, I’m not a geneticist. But I suggest that people take his work seriously, even if you are not a YEC and think that common descent is well-supported.
Because if anyone is going to find evidence of design in genetics, it’s going to be Todd
What kind of world are we living in where the supporters of ID attack a creationist, and an atheist skeptic defends him?
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.