Creationism: This time it's personal

I happened to encounter an article on the creationist web site Evolution News & Science Today (4 years old, but whatever) that cites me. That’s the personal part. What annoys me most is that my research is being used to cast doubt on phylogenetics and on common descent itself. But of course I’m not the only source being misused here. The author is Gunter Bechly, who should, one imagines, know better. But apparently he does not. Here:

The subject is biogeography and its support or lack thereof for common descent. In large part, it’s a criticism of the “rafting” hypothesis to explain the geographic distributions of various taxa, but there are other examples, such as the one involving me. Here’s the big quote:

The attempt here is less about biogeography than about the uselessness of phylogenetics. In the process it dishonestly emphasizes differences among studies, all involving disagreements without strong support from the data, and in fact agreement among analyses is much greater than claimed, and increasingly certain as data increase. Shall I also point out that Harshman et al. (2008) did not in fact present two very different trees, but two trees identical except for a slightly different resolution of one very short branch?

So, given that phylogenetics is useless and biogeography contradicts common descent, or so we are told, what is the alternative? As usual, not much is said. Here it is, such as it is:

What is “a polyphyletic view”? That isn’t entirely clear. Given that Bechly is a saltationist, he may be claiming that vaguely similar ancestral populations in different areas were quickly transformed in convergent ways, morphologically and genetically, to produce similar but unrelated descendants. Perhaps, for example, the most famous case, Old World vs. New World monkeys, results from the independent transformation of unrelated species, say an early simian in the Old World and some marsupial (?) in the New, into monkey-like animals. I say “perhaps” because Bechly offers nothing more than that one sentence in explanation.

Bechly does have one point: rafting is an unsatisfying explanation for long-distance separation of related taxa. One wonders if there is a better one, though Bechly seems uninterested in what it might be. And nothing excuses his wholesale distortion of the science of phylogeny.


Well, as we already know from his own statements, Bechly dislikes you:

This forum is dominated mainly by the very same group of hardcore anti-ID activists (such as Joe Felsenstein, John Harshman, Arthur Hunt, Puck Mendelssohn, and “Rumraket”) who are notorious for their vitriolic attacks against intelligent design proponents at other Darwinist forums like Panda’s Thumb .

This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen legitimate science cited with malice aforethought: disparaging and/or misusing legitimate scholarship by people with known anti-IDC views. Wells did something like that in his weird “whales can’t have evolved” argument which the DI made into a video some time back. There was a paper by Durrett and Schmidt rebutting one of Behe’s contentions, which Wells then mischaracterized to make it sound as though it showed that evolution is too slow to account for whales arising from their land-based ancestors. Rebut the DI, and you’ll find yourself being cited by 'em.

In the Wells case, just as in your experience with Bechly, I really think that it is very important to recognize that these efforts on the part of IDCers are just raw dishonesty. There really is no possibility that they are this dim.


This topic was automatically closed 7 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.