Creationism, Christians, and Honesty

Or to, say, make a plant more attractive to pollinators, or a bird more attractive to potential mates…


Actually, nature can. For example (to stay in Sanford’s wheelhouse), we see in the wild and in the cultivated field an endless arms race between pathogens and plant. This arms race entails repeated rounds of new beneficial mutations in the pathogen (to give rise to a new effector protein) followed by new beneficial mutations in the plant to yield receptors that specifically recognize these newly-evolved effector proteins. Without fairly rapid (in evolutionary time scales) origination of new receptor specificities, plants would have gone extinct many many millennia ago.

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But perhaps you are missing the point here.

If a population is well adapted, there will be few beneficial mutations. If a population is poorly adapted, there will be more beneficial mutations.

Or look at an analogy. If you are at the top of the mountain, then every step will tend to be a step down. But if you are part way up, then some steps will take you higher.


You’re irresponsibly conflating what Sanford claims to be true with what is true.

Please stop, as you’re obviously just parroting, not bothering to examine any evidence for yourself.


That’s not his GE idea. It’s that the deleterious and neutral mutations far outweigh any beneficials even while survival increases.

I don’t think he’s demanding it; he’s exposing that it isn’t the case, and it must be the case for common ancestry of all living things to be true.

And you have the research that shows that these plants don’t lose other receptors, that are now unused, at the same time?

Yes - how else did the we get the complexity of the genome compared to other animals we shared a common ancestor with?

I’ll try to get a lot farther in the book tonight. I feel silly arguing from a few chapters in a topic I’m new at, so I’m probably getting a few things wrong. But it’s still odd that his main idea is not understood as far as I can tell.

[quote=“thoughtful, post:167, topic:12338”]

Yes, we do. (We = the plant biology community.)


I really was asking for you to link the papers :slight_smile:

I know that’s not his idea, but it’s one of the problems with his idea. That is how he defends it when the real world refuses to conform to his idea.

No, it is simply not correct that it “must” be the case for common ancestry of all known life to be true. I just explained why that isn’t necessary.

By complexity going up more than it has gone down in some lineages, without that necessarily having tracked along with fitness, or genetic information too. So you can get fitness going up some times, while complexity remains the same, and information decreases a bit. And then they can change around so fitness stays the same or goes down a bit, while complexity goes up a lot, and genetic information increases by a small amount. And every other possible mix of these.

By simply having uncorrelated fitness, genetic information, and complexity. More complexity or more information isn’t always better for survival.

We can see simply from the standpoint of logic, by using our ability to reason, that these do not have to match up all the time. Some times, “less is more”. It depends on circumstances. There are circumstances where being less complex is advantageous, it depends.

Just a simple figure I’ve drawn to explain the principle of it:

They are three different measures, fitness, information, and complexity. A bacterium can have many, many more offspring than you can, while you are more complex. And the environment you live in can change so some of your traits that used to be beneficial can become deleterious, and vice versa.


You’re asking for hundreds and hundreds of papers. My recommendation - follow the google path to plant defense receptors, and also plant pathogen effector proteins, and start poking around. I expect that basic wiki pages will be good enough for starters.

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The blog post was mine. I will admit that I’m not a professional geologist and I haven’t visited the rock formation in question (though I would like to sometime). My university degree is in physics and I work as a software developer.

I fully understand @faded_Glory’s frustration here. There does need to be some sort of a bar to meaningful and honest discussion about science — there are far too many Dunning-Kruger types out there who think they know more about science than “secular scientists” despite having studied English Literature, Classical Civilisation or International Relations and not having set foot in a laboratory since they were at school. And there is a limit to how much I can say about claims such as this one, without actually visiting the rock formation in question, taking samples, performing analyses, and applying the necessary expertise.

But that limit is not nothing. There are many of us who are scientifically literate Christians but who aren’t necessarily experts in one particular facet of the debate, but nonetheless have to draw informed conclusions about it, not least so that we can advise our pastors and fellow believers what to make of it all. We have to go with what data is available to us, the general principles of science that we do understand from our education and professional experience, and basic rules of critical thinking in order to form a decision about which experts we can consider credible and which we can not.

Herein lies the problem: @faded_Glory is setting the bar too high. My post was one of a series addressing the question, what should I, as a scientifically literate Christian, make of Answers in Genesis’s “ten best evidences for a young earth”? It is a pretty diverse set of claims, covering everything from sedimentology to soft tissue preservation to astronomy and cosmology, and there can be few if any scientists alive who have conducted field studies of their own in all ten areas.

That’s why I made the analogy that I did with FizzBuzz. Besides filtering out total incompetents, it is a test that can be understood and administered even by people with very limited programming experience. You don’t need to know how to configure a Kubernetes cluster (or even understand what that means) in order to identify a non-FizzBuzzer, and in the same way, you don’t need to go on field trips or conduct advanced laboratory analyses to tell that when someone claims that a rock formation isn’t cracked when cracks are clearly visible in photographs of that rock formation, they’ve failed the geological equivalent of FizzBuzz.


OK. The addition of genetic information you propose would refute GE. Can you show it has been observed?

I looked and the first one I clicked on seems to confirm GE.

Our lab has been interested in identifying novel negative regulators of plant immunity (Gao et al., 2008). Loss-of-function mutations in these negative regulators would yield mutants with enhanced pathogen resistance and dwarfism that is usually associated with strong resistance phenotypes. Very rarely, gain-of-function mutations in positive regulators in the same pathways would yield mutants with similar phenotypes, such as in snc1 (Li et al., 2001).

Thank you for explaining where you are coming from. I certainly do appreciate well-founded attempts at debunking false claims (especially when they are in my own field!). I don’t move in creationist circles, so I won’t claim to understand what the best way is to overcome the inbuilt resistance to accepting proper science if that conflicts with their beliefs. We see this resistance every day here and on other discussion sites. I also see that all the patient explaining and arguing that so many people do seems to have very little effect on entrenched positions.

So what to do? My view is that all we can do on our side is rigorously stick to the real science. Science is our strength and we should use it to the full. We should also make sure that we don’t risk damaging the reputation and integrity of the science. That means that we probably should leave detailed explanations to the actual experts, even though we are chomping at the bit to have a go ourselves. Sometimes it is better to back off a little and let more qualified others do the explaning.

Peaceful Science is a great place because many of the commentors indeed are specialists in their own field, and reading what they have to say is of immense value and importance. Myself, I read many of the threads on actual evolutionary biology but I rarely if ever post a comment there - because I’m not an evolutionary biologist and I am simply not qualified to participate at that level.

Perhaps a good role for a non-expert who wants to be involved would be to hunt for published scientific counter-arguments and present those as a counterweight to dubious claims, rather than try to construct those counter-arguments ourselves. Even then we should be very careful not to make innocent mistakes in presenting that science - if in doubt, leave it out, that kind of thing.

The trouble with the geoscience literature is that there is no equivalent to PubMed. The vast bulk of papers are behind paywalls and won’t be accessible unless you are academically affiliated. What is published on the Internet is just a tiny fraction of the available literature, and what there is can be a real hit-and-miss affair in terms of quality. That leaves even the experts without a lot of ammo when it comes to Internet debates. This can lead to proliferation of false and pseudo-science by the unscrupulous, but until something changes on the literature accessibility side, it is what we’re stuck with unfortunately. I just don’t think that well-meant but essentially less informed pushback from non-experts is a substitute (even though the efforts are appreciated!).


Yes, but I want it to count. I don’t want to use a measure of genetic information you don’t think counts. So if you tell me how to measure it, I can then go and determine whether there are examples of evolution of increased information according to that definition.

See if you can find somewhere where John Sanford defines genetic information in a way it can be measured and quantified.

Good luck.


Not at all, they’re not losing the defense receptors. They are “losing function” in negative regulators (genes that inhibit the function of other genes).

That means there’s a gene A that is shutting off another gene B by blocking activation of the other gene B, and this gene A is inactivated by a “loss of function” mutation in A.

So the gene A (the one that shuts off B) loses the ability to shut off gene B, but this results in activation of B, so now the function of B is turned on, leading to increased pathogen resistance.

The two next words after what you have bolded are crucial to understanding what is happening at the molecular level, and how this leads to a beneficial effect at the phenotypic level. So those really would be beneficial mutations. No, they don’t have to be information-increasing or complexity-increasing mutations at the same time, to really be beneficial mutations.


Damn, there goes another Irony Detector.

What is the complexity of our genome compared to other great apes or mice?

But you refuse to examine any real evidence. Your claim that Sanford is exposing anything is pure hearsay.

You should feel silly, and you’re getting a lot of things wrong, not a few things.

The lack of understanding is yours. We understand his idea and we understand that it is not supported by the evidence (that you ignore).


But it doesn’t. You highlighted some words, ignored others, and refuse to see the context in which the cited study sits.


[quote=“thoughtful, post:159, topic:12338”]
No, he gave other examples of how it produced other successes. See below.

All excellent questions that Valerie should carefully consider and answer, even if she doesn’t do so here.

IOW, not only is Valerie failing to examine the evidence for herself, she is missing the point even when she limits herself to textual analysis.

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His main idea, as I understand it, is that the relative proportion of beneficial, neutral and deleterious mutations arising and undergoing fixation in the gene pool of any population is such that it is impossible for a species to survive beyond a given period of time without going extinct due to the accumulation of deleterious mutations.

Is that at least close to the mark?