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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

The Evolution of Improved Fitness

Responses to critiques by Ross Olson, M.D.

by Edward E. Max, M.D., Ph.D.
Copyright © 2001
[Last Update: December 31, 2001]

Dr. Ross Olson, a creationist pediatrician, attended my debate with Dr. Duane Gish on February 22, 2001, and initiated an Email correspondence with me. After reading my Talk.Origins essay on the Evolution of Improved Fitness, Olson posted a critique at a creationist Website he maintains. Olson's critique includes criticisms of points I made at the debate and other points I made in private correspondence with him. The present page begins with my rebuttal to his first critique, and continues with a rebuttal to his second and third critiques.

Dear Ross,

I have read your critique of my Web page. In general, I found your critique a rather breezy essay, written for a non-technical audience and filled with a lot of personal opinions and rhetorical devices that I will not bother to respond to. I have found 18 specific statements that I take issue with, and I have quoted them below followed by my comments. In many cases you have misread or misinterpreted what I said in my essay (or presented at my recent debate with Dr. Gish), or you ask a question that I have already answered.

1. "[Dr. Max] has chided Dr. Gish for his initial unfamiliarity with the phenomenon [of somatic mutation of antibody genes]"

Not true. I chided Gish not for his initial unfamiliarity, but (1) for implicitly claiming expertise about antibody genes that he did not have (bluffing a naïve audience into thinking he knew what he was talking about, claiming that I was wrong when he was totally ignorant of the evidence I described) and (2) for failing to look into the evidence of somatic mutation after the first debate and therefore making exactly the same false claims at a subsequent debate. Do you think these behaviors are appropriate and reflect good standards of scholarship?

2. "Dr. Max finds corroborating evidence for evolution in a computer model. . ."

Not true. I never claimed that the computer model was "corroborating evidence." What I said was:

"The importance of Dawkins's simulation is that it highlights the error of all the creationist arguments against the statistical improbability of evolution, by showing that the creationists' choice of a single-step versus cumulative multi-step model creates a falsely low estimate of the potential for deriving a particular sequence via random mutation and selection. Although both the single-step model and the cumulative multi-step model involve random sequences and selection, the predicted consequences of the two models are very different. The creationists ignore this difference and intentionally discuss only the model that gives the result they like, even though this model corresponds least well to the theory of evolution."

If you think that the computer model does not highlight the difference between the creationist single-step model and the cumulative multi-step model, please explain why.

3. "Dr. Max likens the scholarship and methods of anyone in the Creationist camp to those of flat earth advocates or snake oil salesmen . . "

I said that "failure of [creationist] proponents to present their arguments in the peer-reviewed scientific literature reveals the status of their scholarship to be on par with that of dowsers, UFO enthusiasts and believers in a "Flat Earth."" If you know of a creationist paper in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, please let me know. However, if I am correct and there is no such publication, then with respect to publication in the professional literature, the creationists have exactly the same score as dowsers and flat-earthers, i.e. zero.

I also said "at the debates I point out numerous examples of poor scholarship by creationists that completely explain why their efforts don't meet the standards of excellence for scientific publication." I enumerated several examples of Dr. Gish's poor scholarship at the debate and in my essay; and I list a few of them below [see the last point of the present document]. These examples, in my view, do indeed resemble the methods of flat earthers and snake oil salesmen. You have not defended a single one of these, and neither did Dr. Gish. Do you feel that any one of the examples I cited represents good scholarship?

4. "Yet, if helpful mutations can conceivably occur and spread through a population, we ought to have seen at least some indication of that in the ongoing experiments with fruit flies whose generation time is about two weeks. And with bacteria, who can sometimes multiply at a rate of once every 20 minutes, we ought to expect more dramatic progress than just antibiotic resistance."

There is a large literature on the response of fruitflies and bacteria to environmental stress through selection of mutations favorable for the new environment. If you need help finding these papers, let me know.

The theory of evolution explains changes occurring over millions of years, or in rare cases, a few tens of thousand years. According to this theory, one would not expect "dramatic" changes in the few years of a typical laboratory experiment. If you think that evolution predicts that we should expect "more dramatic" changes than have been observed in short term laboratory experiments, please explain why, and what specific changes you would expect.

5.. "[Dr. Max is] "begging the question" with respect to the evolutionary explanation for divergence of hemoglobin genes:"

I was not "begging the question." I was providing an illustrative example to clarify the concept of duplication and divergence of genes that I was describing. At the end of the paragraph I made my point:

"If an information theory analysis claims that random mutation cannot lead to an increase in information but the analysis ignores gene duplication and differentiation through independent mutations, such an analysis is irrelevant as a model for gene evolution, regardless of its mathematical sophistication."

If you disagree with this point, please explain.

6. "Dr. Max feels he does not have to deal with the origin of the first living creature"

Evolution is a theory explaining how modern creatures might have arisen from primitive one-celled organisms. The validity of the theory does not depend on how those primitive organisms arose in the first place. Just because I try to defend evolution against creationist attacks doesn't mean I am obligated to answer creationist arguments on other subjects. I hope you can see that abiogenesis and evolution are distinct questions.

7. "[Dr. Max] thinks it is obvious that DNA varies, causing proteins to vary until they are able to do something significant for the cell. Then they become desirable"

These words reflect a gross misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and don't correspond to anything I ever wrote or said. Cells don't generally make useless proteins; rather, random mutations alter the structure and function of pre-existing functional proteins, allowing for new functions.

8. "[If] you start to make random changes, deletions, alterations and substitutions in the computer code . . . the most likely results are either no change, loss of a function"

The most frequent results of gene mutations are similar what you describe about computer code (i.e. "either no change [or] loss of function"), as I stated in my essay: "Most cells undergoing hypermutation end up producing antibody with unaltered or reduced affinity for the antigen; the latter cells would no longer be activated by antigen. However, rare mutations lead to antibodies of higher affinity for antigen." Similarly, most mutations in germline DNA are neutral or detrimental, but a small fraction allow useful adaptations. If you have a disagreement with these words, please explain. Creationists tend to repeat obsessively the idea that most random changes are neutral or detrimental as if this somehow relieved them of the need to admit that rare random mutations are beneficial and that these beneficial mutations could explain evolutionary adaptations.

Incidentally, there is a large literature on the use of evolutionary algorithms to "evolve" improved computer programs by multiple cycles of random alterations in parameters followed by random selection.

9. "Dr. Gish's knee jerk reaction was correct, we would not survive if our ability to fight infection were only based on random changes"

Unfortunately, Dr. Gish did not say what you state; you have altered his claim to make him look better. In his own words: "He [Gish] stated flatly that a sick person would die long before random chance mutations could ever produce the necessary antibodies to fight off an infection, and that the body has a mechanism for synthesizing antibodies precisely designed to protect it." Dr. Gish thus (1) suggested that no other immune mechanisms are available to protect infected individuals early in an infection before mutation leads to high affinity antibodies, and (2) denied that somatic mutation of antibodies occur. Both of these "knee jerk reaction[s]" are incorrect.

10. "The mechanism Dr. Max so prizes as his evolutionary coup de grâce, is actually an incredibly complex system that is much more an evidence for sophisticated design . . .Yes, there are variations that are being selected, for gradually improved function, and these come about by mutations of the DNA responsible for those protein sequences. But the crucial difference is that this is done by a very sophisticated system"

I am not sure what you mean by "crucial difference"; difference between what and what?

I agree with you that the antibody gene system is complex, but this is irrelevant to the point of my essay: that multiple rounds of random mutation and selection can lead to improved fitness. Do you agree with that point? Your argument about complexity is just a reiteration of the creationist view that a complex functioning structure can originate only through design by an intelligent agent. That is precisely what evolution disputes, so you are begging the question.

11. "cells making less effective antibody seem to hang around"

This is a minor point, but you are incorrect. As I stated in the essay: "With lower amounts of antigen present, the cells expressing low affinity antibody on their surface become prgressively less able to bind and be stimulated by antigen; in the environment of the germinal center, these poorly stimulated B cells are programmed to die by a specific process known as "apoptosis." (Choe et al, J Immunol 157:1006, 1996)"

12. "For Dr. Max to say that [the antibody somatic mutation argument] proves evolution . . ."

Again you have mis-stated what I wrote. I specifically said that the antibody mutation argument does not prove evolution. I wrote: "Thus the molecular immunogenetics evidence of antibody evolution that I have described makes it clear that, contrary to the creationists' claims, the combination of random mutation and selection CAN be a potent creative biological engine for the generation of progressive functional improvements. This evidence alone does not prove that life evolved as Darwin suggested, but it highlights the emptiness of another invalid, though superficially appealing, creationist objection to evolution: the false idea that random mutation is a uniformly deleterious process that could never be the source of improved biological function. If you believe that random mutation can never be the source of improved function, then please explain how your view is consistent with the antibody mutation results.

13. "Are [evolutionists] insisting that Creationists, particularly Biblical Creationists, must accept their religion?"

I can't speak for other evolutionists, some of whom hold positions that I disagree with. For myself, I have never suggested that Biblical Creationists must accept evolution (which, of course, is not a religion). I was quite explicit about this in the debate, but you seem to have had trouble hearing me. What I said at the debate was: "I would respect anyone's faith that the origin of species occurred exactly as described in the Bible; no one is obligated to believe in their heart only what has been verified by science. However, anyone who feels this way should recognize that a belief based on Faith has no place in the science classroom." Do you disagree with these words? If so, please explain.

14. "This is the challenge: Dr. Max, in the absence of any real mechanism (and lacking even a hypothetical mechanism) for abiogenesis, how can you ignore that area as a possible intellectual point for creationists?"

As I stated above, just because I oppose creationis beliefs about evolution, this does not obligate me to argue against all creationist beliefs, e.g. about the origin of life.

15. "Would not the logical conclusion from the evidence be that intrinsic factors cannot explain the presence of life in the natural universe and therefore consideration must be given to the action of some factor outside the natural universe (therefore "supernatural")?"

When science has been unable to provide a naturalistic explanation for phenomena in the past, many people have assumed that the explanation must be supernatural. Thus lightning, sickness and earthquakes (to mention only a few phenomena) were believed to have supernatural origins, until naturalistic explanations were found. You seem to be arguing that we should postulate the supernatural to explain any gaps in our understanding.

Many folks find this "God of the gaps" notion to be blasphemous; it implies a shrinking of God's realm over the last few hundred years as science explained more and more natural phenomena, and further shrinkage would occur as our knowledge increases.

I find "God of the gaps" to be bad science. For me, unexplained phenomena are just that: unexplained. I have no problem with religious believers giving consideration to the supernatural as an explanation for unexplained phenomena or for species origins, but unless they evaluate their hypothesis using the scientific method, what they are doing is not science. That doesn't make it bad or wrong, as I have repeated many times, just not science.

16. "And if so, does that not mean that Creationists, despite frequent vilification by academia and the media, are actually doing good science when they report data that supports this hypothesis?"

Contrary to what many creationists believe (apparenly yourself included), what determines whether someone is "doing good science" is not what conclusion that they support, but how well they achieve high standards in data collection, interpretation and scholarship. It is on these grounds that creationists fail. At the debate and in my essay, I gave numerous examples of such failures of Dr. Gish, none of which you have defended; so perhaps your standards are higher than Dr. Gish's, which would be only to your credit. But I have not heard any clear scientific argument against evolution from you.

17. "[W]ould you admit the hypothesis that the supernatural factor could be described as intelligent and powerful and could not be ruled out as a factor in more than just the origin of life?"

As I stated many times at the debate and in our private correspondence, I agree that the supernatural cannot be ruled out as a factor in the origin of life, any more than it can be ruled out as a factor in evolution or in lightning, disease and earthquakes. My words at the debate were: "There is no place in the science classroom for the idea that the scientific evidence for evolution disproves God; any science teacher who claims that science disproves God should certainly be rebuked, since atheistic conclusions are not part of the professional science literature any more than creationism is. So yes, Creationists are right in opposing anti-religious teaching in science classrooms."

18. "Please write a paper explaining how, as an evolutionist you can ignore the origin of life, admit that God might have done it, and still describe Creationists -- whose most powerful argument is that there is design in life that requires a Designer -- as comparable to flat earthers and snake oil salesmen?"

I do not ignore the origin of life, but regard it as an area which, so far, has not been illuminated by scientific evidence. I don't know why you seem to think that because I oppose creationists' views on evolution, I must also argue against their views on other topics, including the origin of life.

The creationist claim that "there is a design in life that requires a Designer" is exactly what evolutionists dispute. If creationists' most powerful argument is one that begs the question like this, then creationists would be pretty similar to a flat earther who claimed that his best argument is that the earth is flat. At the debate I showed several examples of how the scientific method (hypothesis, prediction, data collection, and interpretation) has led to evidence consistent with evolution and contrary to young earth creationism. These examples illustrate the method of science. You have not argued against any of these specific examples. I also showed several examples of how creationists misled audiences with bad data, bad interpretations or simple bluffing. These examples, as pointed out above, do indeed resemble the methods of flat earthers and snake oil salesmen.

I do not claim that creationism is incompatible with good science, but only that all the examples of creationist arguments that I have seen (and I have seen many) have been badly flawed, and not up to the standards of science that should determine what is taught in our schools. And again I note that you have not defended any of the examples of poor scholarship I cited at the debate, so perhaps you agree with me that these examples represent shoddy scientific scholarship. I have listed below several examples of Dr. Gish's scholarship reflected in his claims from earlier debates. Let me suggest that before you bring up any new creationist arguments, you go on record with your opinion about each of these examples.

Human protein sequences supposedly more similar to bullfrog than to chimpanzee (no such data exist)

Sequence comparisons of cytochrome c between species show percent amino acid identities for yeast-human comparison is similar to yeast-fish and yeast-horse, allegedly in contradiction to evolutionary predictions (a misinterpretation of good data)

Evolution allegedly violates 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (pseudoscientific argument that Dr. Gish uses at debates but has never elaborated for a scientific audience even when challenged to do so)

Somatic mutation of antibody genes does not occur (false). We would die of all infections if it did (false). Implicit claim that Gish knows enough about the science of antibody genes to make an intellligent criticism of my argument (false; though maybe after hearing this argument for so many years he has educated himself a bit)

Basilosaurus, proposed as an intermediate in the evolution of terrestrial mammals to whales, could not be intermediate because it not a mammal but a reptile. (false)

Dr. Gish's arguments at our most recent debate were substantially identical to the ones he made at earlier debates, but he had one new one. He stated that the Organ of Corti, which analyzes sound vibration in the inner ears of mammals, has no counterpart in lower vertebrates like reptiles, in contrast to what evolution would predict. I stated at the debate that I believed this was false, that lower vertebrates had a similar, presumably homologous organ for hearing but that it was not coiled as in humans. When I went home and checked the literature, I found that I was correct and that Gish, as usual, was wrong. Although the term "Organ of Corti" does seem to be reserved in the literature for mammals, reptiles have a very similar organ. If Dr. Gish looked at a scanning electron microscope picture of the basilar papilla of the Gekkota (a kind of lizard), with its three rows of outer hair cells and its one row of inner hair cells (Miller, J Anat 138: 301, 1984; Figure #18), I doubt he would be able to distinguish it from a mammalian Organ of Corti. After the debate I wrote a courteous letter to Dr. Gish requesting the references that would support his claim at the debate. I have received no reply. I conclude that Dr. Gish's claim about the mammalian Organ of Corti having no putative homolog in lower vertebrates is another example of shoddy creationist scholarship.


So, Ross, that is my response to several points in your critique. I would be interested in hearing any rejoinders.

If you would like to add this response on your Website, you have my permission as long as you include the entire response.

Best wishes,


Dr. Olson's critique of the above is posted at his site. My second rebuttal follows below.

Dear Ross,

We seem to be "talking past each other," and I think one reason is that you misunderstand my position and my aims, so you don't see how individual arguments I put forward fit into my overall position on "creation science." I tried to make this clear at the debate, but was evidently unsuccessful. Here is my overall position; I will break this down into points you may want to address individually.

1. Creationism is only one of many minority views whose proponents would like to have their views represented in the public school classroom, including folks who believe that the earth is flat, or that the pyramids in Egypt were designed by ancient astronauts. We can't teach all of the minority views discussed in crackpot books and have any time left over for mainstream science, so how do we decide what to include and what to omit? In my view, publication in the peer-reviewed professional scientific journals should be a requirement for any view to be represented in the science classroom. Such publication certifies a minimal standard: that a manuscript was satisfactory to referees and editors who were not chosen by the author. This minimal standard has not been met by creation science. The modern professional peer-reviewed scientific literature contains much evidence presented in support of evolution but no papers that explicitly support a creationist model. (See my comments below on Gentry below.) Therefore, public science education should include evolution but not creationism.

2. Creationists cry foul, claiming that their views have been rejected from professional journals for inappropriate reasons, namely the refusal of the "elite" scientific establishment to consider anything that challenges the "dogma" of evolution (as in your comments about Gentry). Therefore, while creationists may agree that other minority views should be excluded from the classroom for want of representation in the peer-reviewed professional literature, they engage in special pleading for their own cause. They claim that their ideas have been rejected for inappropriate reasons rather than poor scholarship. It follows, they claim, that absence of creationism from the professional literature should not disqualify creationism from the public science classroom.

3. My position is that rejection of creationism from the professional literature is due to the failure of "creation scientists" to meet the minimum standards of scholarship for publication in a peer-reviewed professional science journal. Considering this failure, their special pleading has no merit.

The thrust of my antibody "Fitness" essay and all of our correspondence has been to argue point (3) above. I am thus not trying to "prove" evolution, or even to outline evidence that supports it; the latter aim has been well achieved by publications in the professional science literature. Therefore you may well be right when you say, "you have not really done much at all for the cause of evolution." All I am attempting is the very narrow goal of showing that specific "creation science" arguments are erroneous and reflect poor scholarship, and that these weaknesses fully explain why these arguments are rejected by mainstream professional scientists. Therefore, creation "science" does not merit any exception from the principle that claims not represented in the professional peer-reviewed scientific literature should not be taught in public school science classrooms.

You mention my criticisms of Dr. Gish's arguments and then say "I wonder if you are harping on this to avoid dealing with the real issue." Later you refer to my examples of erroneous creationist arguments and say, "I am not going to deal with them at this point. Even if creationists were all mistaken on those points and are still mistaken and refuse to admit that they are mistaken, you still need to answer the fundamental issues I have brought up." And you refer to "vast literature supporting a young earth and solar system." You seem to feel that perhaps it is true that my "nitpicking" might have detected a few invalid creationist arguments, but there is no point in discussing these since there are many other valid ones so that the creationist case is still strong. What I wonder is whether it ever might occur to you that systematic detailed examination of EVERY creationist argument in that "vast literature" that you refer to would show that each one - from moon dust to solute concentration of the ocean - is just as invalid as the Gish arguments I discussed.

I am willing to defend what I wrote in my "Fitness" essay and what I said at the debate regarding poor scholarship in specific creationist arguments; but I haven't the time for a broad defense of evolutionary theory, and certainly will not try to defend claims of other evolutionists that I do not think are well supported by scientific evidence. If you want to argue that I have made errors in my attempts to debunk specific creationist claims, it seems to me that you must accept the burden of examining those creationist claims I discussed, rather than sidestepping those claims, bringing up other creationist claims, and asking me to defend other arguments (e.g. on the origin of life) that I have never made.

You take issue with my comparison of creationists with flat earthers and snake oil charlatans. But there is one resemblance that seems unarguable to me: their claims are not supported in the professional literature. Another significant difference between scientists on the one hand and creationists and charlatans on the other is how they deal with claims they made that have been proven wrong. You cited Piltdown man and Nebraska man as examples showing that mainstream science sometimes makes errors, as if the errors of creationists were no worse. But an examination of the way these errors were dealt with by mainstream science, as opposed to the way creationist errors are dealt with in the creationist community, shows that the way creationists deal with their errors makes them look like flat-earthers and snake oil charlatans more than like scientists. In mainstream science, once an error is pointed out in the published literature, the scientific community learns of the error from reading the literature, so this erroneous idea could never again be used to support a future argument without being immediately rejected. Indeed, I challenge you to find any modern professional scientific publication drawing conclusions based on the original erroneous interpretations of Nebraska man or Piltdown or Haeckel. In contrast, all the errors of Gish that I cited were used repeatedly after they were refuted. The reason creationists are able to recycle refuted errors is that - unlike scientists writing for their fellow professionals - creationists address lay audiences who do not know that the erroneous arguments have previously been refuted. Most creationists learn about the creationist arguments from other creationists. They almost never go back to the original professional (non-creationist) scientific literature to check whether the arguments are based on good data and good logic; rather, they are happy to accept any argument that appears to contradict evolution, regardless of the merits of the argument. And the few creationists who do discover that a creationist argument is false almost never attempt to challenge or criticize one of their own. This allows false arguments persist and be recycled over and over, just like the false claims of snake oil charlatans that are re-used in every new town.

And, sad to say, you seem willing to continue the creationist trash recycling tradition in that you have avoided dealing head-on with Dr. Gish's errors. In my previous rebuttal I wrote: "Let me suggest that before you bring up any new creationist arguments, you go on record with your opinion about each of these examples." If you wanted to advance the cause of truth like a true scientist you could have taken my suggestion and examined my arguments about each of Gish's errors. You could have used the podium of your Website to criticize the sloppy scholarship of Dr. Gish and to call for better standards among creationists and for the repudiation of these false arguments. Instead, you said "I am not necessarily defending all that Dr. Gish has said and done" and refused to state clearly whether you agree that the examples I listed do in fact reflect poor scholarship that would not meet the standards of publication in the professional science literature. If you should reconsider and decide to undertake an evaluation of the examples in my list, then perhaps after coming to agreement on some of those arguments we could take up other creationist claims (one at a time, please) that I believe are equally erroneous, like the ones you mentioned about the dust on the moon and solute concentrations of oceans.

(As I noted before in our correspondence, Archeoraptor was never published in the peer-reviewed professional literature except to expose the fraud [Rowe et al, Nature 410:539, 2001]. Therefore archaeoraptor is not an example of an error in the professional science literature as you imply, but rather an example of how "nitpicking" scrutiny can weed out erroneous claims and prevent their contaminating the professional literature. I agree that Haeckel's drawings are misrepresentations that should not be perpetuated in elementary biology textbooks, but these drawings have not been accepted as a foundation for arguments in the modern professional literature any more than Piltdown has.)

Here are some comments on specific points you made.

1. On style: I prefer brief, direct and unambiguous. I'm sorry if it comes across as arrogant. I find the arguments sufficiently interesting that they do not need to be decorated by tangential flourishes. I did not mean to imply that what you wrote was "worthless," only that you wrote more than I could respond to. Furthermore, what you call "nitpicking" I see as attention to detail and avoidance of error. The devil is in the details. And those arguments of yours that I said couldn't understand - I wasn't trying to be perverse or contrary; sorry, but I really didn't understand them.

2. What I learned from Dr. Gish: nothing, other than debating style. If you think he offered any valid scientific evidence against evolution that I should learn from, or any valid arguments defending against my criticisms of his scholarship, please identify specifics. Occasionally from creationists I learn something indirectly - by tracking down their arguments and learning the detailed science of why they were wrong. For example, by researching Dr. Gish's claim about the absence of homologs of the Organ of Corti in non-mammalian vertebrates, I learned something about the reptilian cochlea, which looks perfectly homologous to the mammalian Organ of Corti. In rare cases I have actually learned some valid science from a creationist (but never from Dr. Gish, to the best of my recollection).

3. In some of your comments you seem to be "begging the question" without realizing it. You write:

"evidence for design ought to point to a designer"

What we have in living organisms is evidence for astoundingly complex mechanisms that perform complex adaptive functions, which resemble in some respects mechanisms designed by intelligent humans. But evolutionists believe that this resemblance is misleading; they hypothesize that astoundingly complex mechanisms that perform complex adaptive functions can arise by evolutionary mechanisms from simpler organisms without intelligent design. Therefore, unless you exclude the evolutionary hypothesis a priori by begging the question, there is no "evidence for design" in the sense of evidence that compels belief in origin through intelligent agency as opposed to origin by evolutionary mechanisms.

4. On Gentry. I previously wrote: "If you know of a creationist paper in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, please let me know." You replied:

I guess you didn't really read my responses to you word for word. Because, in the introduction to the online debate, still posted of the TCCSA Website, I mentioned Robert Gentry, whose work on polonium halos was in the mainstream journals . . . But, of course, you did not even look it up. I guess that makes you a poor scholar! Do you want to turn in your credentials or even fall on your sword right now?

I did read your responses in detail, but as I indicated previously, I didn't have time to comment on every point. Since you mention Gentry again, I will comment. I read several papers by Gentry in the professional literature years ago when I first became interested in the creation/evolution debate. Although I have not been able to get access to all of his papers, I have never found a peer-reviewed professional publication of his that explicitly argues the creationist position against evolution. I am listing the ones I have read (Science 160:1228, 1968; Science 169:670, 1970; Nature 244:282, 1973; Nature 252:564, 1974; Science 184:62, 1974). Of these, only in the last one does Gentry refer to any kind of challenge to current scientific beliefs, where at the end of his paper he says: "The question is, can . . . [isolated polonium halos] be explained by presently accepted cosmological and geological concepts relating to the origin and development of Earth?" This sentence falls far short of explicitly arguing a creationist position. Since you suggest I am a "poor scholar" for not being aware that Gentry has published a peer-reviewed professional paper arguing for creation, I would appreciate it if you would demonstrate your own scholarship by sending me the citation you are referring to. I am aware that Gentry has written non-peer-reviewed material that argues a creationist position more explicitly (perhaps the book you mentioned is an example), but I am not interested in non-peer-reviewed material, as of course I know there are a lot of creationist publications in that category. If you supply the citation, I will review it, and will be happy to have my error on this point corrected.

As to the validity of Gentry's claims, I cannot give them meaningful evaluation since I have no expertise in his field. I do note that other scientists with appropriate expertise and credentials have published peer-reviewed professional papers interpreting Gentry's halos in ways that do not challenge conventional science (e.g. Von Wimmersperg and Sellschop, Phys Rev Lett 38:886, 1977; Moazed et al., Science 180:1274, 1973; Odom and Rink, Science 246:107, 1989). Other criticisms of Gentry's views are found at

My take on Gentry is that his observations can be explained by several interpretations that don't contradict modern science or evolution. If a typical objective scientist learned that his original interpretation was contradicted by considerable published science (essentially all of geology in Gentry's case), and if he knew that the same observations could be interpreted in alternative ways that were consistent with accepted science, this knowledge would persuade him to abandon his original interpretation. Gentry instead wants cling to his interpretation and to abandon conventional geology. For Gentry's theory to be correct, the vast geological literature including radiometric dating would have to be reinterpreted, and Gentry has not provided any such reinterpretation in the peer-reviewed literature that I have seen. His non-peer-reviewed writings clearly reflect a religiously motivated bias; and though this doesn't mean he is wrong, it certainly raises a question in my mind about whether his judgment is being clouded by motivation that should not be part of scientific reasoning. It seems to me that Gentry is arguing for a model in which a Creator created the earth recently, complete with myriad details of conventional geology which He designed to give earth the false appearance of age, but that Gentry outsmarted Him by detecting a clue to earth's recent age that He failed to conceal. I find Gentry's view scientifically unconvincing (as well as theologically repugnant) and conclude that Gentry has not contributed anything that should affect instruction in public school science.

5. You claim "I have exposed fuzziness in your thinking." For someone accusing a person of fuzzy thinking, you yourself seem surprisingly prone to misreading what I have said and then arguing against your own misinterpretation rather than against what I have written. This is particularly true for your comments about Gish's response to my antibody mutation argument and for your comments about my statements regarding the supernatural.

5.a First, here are some ideas about mutation that you attribute to me but that I never wrote or said:

You see hyper-mutation in a small, precisely controlled and limited portion of the DNA and jump to the conclusion that everything is mutation.

If random mutation of everything were our only means of defense [as you imply] , we would indeed die.

Therefore, it is deceptive to say that mutations are the only source of immunity or even the main mechanism.

I have never concluded that "everything is mutation." I have never said that somatic mutation was our "only means of defense" or"the only source of immunity or even the main mechanism." In fact, I have pointed out that there are many other mechanisms that contribute to defense against infection. You have somehow ignored or misunderstood what I said at the debate and what I wrote in our exchanges, and you attribute to me ideas that are incorrect.

Furthermore, consider the "knee jerk" reaction that you attribute to Dr. Gish and that you claim is "right": that "[if] our ability to fight infection were only based on random change [ then] we would not survive" This is a syllogism of the form

If A then B

B is false

Therefore A is false.

I agree that A is false, but it is not false for the reason that Dr. Gish was trying to mislead his audience into accepting, i.e. the idea that somatic mutation does not occur as I had described. Instead, A is false because the other immune mechanisms that I outlined in my essay protect us before somatic mutation kicks in, protective mechanisms that Dr. Gish was ignorant of. Somatic mutation does occur and allows high affinity antibodies to evolve exactly as I described. If you disagree, please state your reasons; if you agree please say so. Your implication that it was acceptable professional scholarship for Dr. Gish to bluff his audience into accepting a "knee jerk" reaction that was false, intentionally misleading and founded on Dr. Gish's ignorance of the scientific literature, when he represented himself as an expert, is amazing to me. If you can't admit that Dr. Gish's behavior in this case reflected poor scholarship and integrity, then there is no point in continuing our exchange, since you are obviously willing to accept standards of scientific scholarship far below the norm for the profession.

Now the significance of the antibody mutation model for evolution is another issue. I don't know how to be clearer other than to repeat the very narrow point that I was trying to make in the essay: Creationists have claimed on various theoretical grounds that random mutation and selection can never lead to improved fitness; all I argue is that this creationist claim is mistaken and that the antibody mutation story provides an illustrative counterexample to that claim. In this model, following an environmental challenge (exposure to antigen) a gene which has not previously functioned to defend against this challenge turns out to have modest ability to help deal with the challenge (i.e. to encode an unmutated antibody that would bind antigen with low affinity); then successive rounds of random mutation followed by selection for the most adaptive mutations lead to a population with significantly improved adaptive function, without any intelligent design or pre-selected "target sequence." Whether the system requires complex mechanisms that you interpret as "designed" is totally irrelevant to the point that the improvement in antibody affinity derives from random mutation and selection. According to the creationist theorists, improved "fitness" cannot derive from random mutations and selection regardless of the complexity of the selection mechanism. This example proves that their theory is wrong, and that is all I was trying to show in my essay.

I must also remark that in order to discredit the idea of random mutation and selection you have made rather strange comments that seem to reflect either a significant misunderstanding about the role of mutation in the evolution model or rather imprecise writing. You say:

mutations often end the whole experiment by destroying the system

You seem to be forgetting that mutations occur in a minority of the population. A mutation may lead to the death of an individual, but the "system," i.e. the rest of the population, survives, allowing other individuals to experience different mutations, including some rare ones that may be beneficial. Similarly you state:

Dead organisms do not evolve. I cannot imagine why you are unable to see that, except for your knee-jerk reaction of rejecting anything stated by creationists.

Of course dead organisms do not evolve. What makes you think I don't "see that"? But the entire population doesn't die if one organism suffers a lethal mutation. Rather the population evolves as selection operates to enhance the survival of individuals with mutations producing traits that are advantageous in the environment.

In another part of your critique you again misunderstand my argument. You ask:

How do you know that myoglobin is a mutation (excuse me - "duplication and differentiation") of hemoglobin?

I don't know that myoglobin and hemoglobin arose through duplication and differentiation, and I don't argue that this is necessarily what happened. I bring up these proteins only to illustrate a plausible example of a protein family that might be explained by the evolutionist hypothesis of duplication and differentiation. My point is that this hypothesis - whether correct or incorrect - has been ignored by many creationist "information theory" experts. They claim that random mutations cannot be source of new information and but then they ignore the hypothetical possibility of gene duplication followed by random mutation followed by selection. What they ignore is exactly what evolutionists are postulating, so their analysis is irrelevant for evaluating the evolution model.

5.b. The other major area in which you seem unable to grasp my position despite multiple rephrasings and restatements concerns my views on the supernatural and on creationism as a religious belief. You say:

you continue to oppose creation

I said repeatedly at the debate that I respect the belief in creation and do not at all oppose it at all as a religious belief. I even held up a Bible and recommended it as a valuable resource for the faithful. Do you disagree with my position that the Bible is the best source for studying creation? What I continue to oppose is not the religious idea of creation, but bad science; and bad science is what I hear from creation "scientists," as in the examples that you avoid discussing.

What you do seem to say, however, is that no supernatural causes may be postulated. How can you say that?

I do not say that; I say the opposite!

And, I need to remind you, it is impossible to say scientifically that once you have discovered the causes of earthquakes, that you can assert with assurance that a particular earthquake was natural and there was absolutely no supernatural element involved in its extent or timing.

Since . . . you have no scientific data for a mechanism [for the origin of life], do you think it is proper to rule out -- a priori -- a cause outside the scope of science?

I find it truly amazing that you can ask this after all I said at the debate, in our correspondence and in my formal response to your rebuttal. Once more, here is my view: I DON'T RULE OUT A CAUSE OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF SCIENCE, AND I DON'T THINK IT'S PROPER TO DO SO!!!! I don't rule out participation of supernatural causes in the origin of life, in evolution, in lightning, in earthquakes or in sickness. How can I make it clearer?

I agree that a public school science course might reasonably discuss any valid scientific reasons for concluding a supernatural cause (if there should be any in the professional literature), but a cause that is truly "outside the scope of science" (i.e. not supported by any scientific reasons in the literature) should be outside the scope of science curricula. If you disagree, I wish you would explain why.

6. You wrote:

If a person were dead for three days, were confirmed to be dead, even beginning to decompose, and then came alive, would it be reasonable to wait for a natural explanation?

And you ask:

If it really were something supernatural, how would you be able to tell?

This, I think, is the most interesting question you have asked in all our correspondence, and I have given it some thought. It seems to me that two classes of supernatural manifestations can be imagined. There could be supernatural manifestations that don't violate our understanding of naturalistic science (for example, nudging mutations in a particular direction, causing lightning or an earthquake to strike at a particular place), a kind of hidden influence over apparent chaos. For such examples that do not violate our understanding of naturalistic science, there can be no scientific evidence for or against supernatural intervention. That's why I don't rule out the supernatural in such case, though I don't know how anyone could deduce supernatural intervention in the same examples without reference to a faith-based framework.

Then as a second class, there could be supernatural intervention that does violate our understanding - a miracle? For me to accept such an example as a product of the supernatural, it would have to be well-documented, and alternative interpretations would have to be fairly considered but ruled out. As examples of alternate interpretations I would consider:

1. lies by those who report the event (if I did not witness it myself)

2. embellishment of a true naturalistic event (especially if the story of the apparent miracle was handed down through many intermediaries and if no original contemporary documentation survives)

3. magic tricks, i.e. conjuring intentionally designed to be deceiving. The "miracles" witnessed by the faithful at the Oracle of Delphi apparently fell into that category, as do the "miraculous recoveries" faked by unscrupulous faith healers in our day. (I have witnessed many magic tricks that I cannot explain so I know I can be fooled by well-executed deception.)

4. hallucinations, misinterpretations or various forms of self-delusion regarding naturalistic phenomena that were not engineered to deceive

5. examples of naturalistic phenomena whose explanation is known, but not known to me

6. examples of naturalistic phenomena whose explanation is not known by anyone, implying that our understanding of science needs to be expanded, but not necessarily that the phenomena need to be attributed to the supernatural

7. a true supernatural event

I think you would agree that it may be difficult to distinguish between some of these possibilities, depending on the specific circumstances of the example. I am curious how YOU would be able to detect the supernatural; what kind of assurances of veracity do you feel would be required for you to abandon everyday assumptions of naturalism and to invoke the supernatural? There are many apparently unexplainable phenomena that get reported, and I am wondering: which of these claims you accept, and on what grounds? For example

Efficacy of homeopathic medicines in "infinite" dilutions

UFOs including sexual encounters and abductions by space aliens

therapeutic touch (i.e. healing accomplished by physical touching of a patient's skin)

facilitated communication of autistic patients

alternative medicine modalities such as

Qi Gong, reflexology, iridology (iris examination to diagnose disease), chiropractic subluxation theory of disease, Ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture, magnetic treatment for pain

dowsing rods to locate underground oil or water

extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, spoon-bending by mental force

With respect to the example you suggested, a dead person returning to life after removal of some organs, David Hume's criterion seems reasonable to me: is it more likely that the eyewitness was deceived/untruthful, or that the dead man returned to life?

I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates, then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion. [Hume, Enquiries]

Do you have some better criteria?

Perhaps in addition to the two possible interpretations that Hume was weighing, he should have considered "advanced technologies" as a third possible interpretation of some baffling phenomena. Have you seen the TV slow about the "Six Million Dollar Man," or the movies "WestWorld" or the recent "Artificial Intelligence"? These all concern sci/fi technologies for creating artificial body parts that are beyond current science but not inconceivable for the future. Such technologies might have to be considered as an alternative to a supernatural resurrection example, and other technologies might explain other phenomena if one is open to the possible existence of more advanced technologies than our own. Advanced technologies are indistinguishable from magic, as Arthur C. Clarke pointed out. Explorers landing by plane in isolated regions with primitive peoples were considered to be supernatural beings by the natives. I dare say that David Hume might be persuaded of the supernatural if he met Robert Tools, who is walking around quite alive after his heart was removed, with no explanation that Hume could imagine based on the technologies of his time. The inclusion of advanced technology as a possible cause of baffling phenomena may have been less obvious to Hume than to us, given the slower advances in technology in his day.


Let me close by re-emphasizing that I cannot take the time for a freewheeling debate about evolution. I will defend the points that I made at the debate and in my "Fitness" essay if you have criticisms that I have not already addressed. But I insist that first, you take a stand on each of the items that I claim reflect poor creationist scholarship. On my part I have made it clear where and why I part with evolutionists who try to use science to argue against religion, and I ask you to follow suit. If you are determined to spare fellow creationists from criticism even in no-brainer situations like the examples of poor scholarship of Dr. Gish that I pointed out (and which he has not defended), then I see no point in our continued discussion.

Best wishes,


Dr. Olson's critique of the above is posted at his site. My third rebuttal follows below.

Dear Ross,

Over the past few months I have been thinking about your last response, but I was too loaded with deadlines to sit down and write to you before. Now with one big project out of the way, I still have some deadlines ahead, but am taking the time to put together some comments. First let me say that I am glad you have recuperated from your accident, and hope that you will stay well.

Again I will be unable to comment on everything you said, but I wanted to start by addressing several points under your heading:


1. Dawkins computer evolution model: the intermediate sequences would have had to be meaningful sentences that were useful on their own

That is correct; the intermediate sequences are assumed in the Dawkins model to have some function. You seem to think that this assumption invalidates the model somehow. It doesn't, in my view. No model captures all the features of the process it attempts to illuminate. Whether the model has value depends on a judgment about whether the differences between the model and the real world process are so great that they invalidate the particular points the model was designed to convey. Dawkin's narrow point was to distinguish between the creationist straw man concept of single-step selection versus the cumulative multi-step model; and in my judgment this distinction is validly conveyed by the weasel model. I have discussed weaknesses of the Dawkins model already in the Box in my Fitness essay, and don't see that your concerns go beyond my discussion there.

2. Ice crystallization on the surface of a metal sphere

there is a crucial difference between the structure seen in ice, which is regular and repetitive (like ABCABCABC), and the structure in life which is full of information

Gish's argument that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is invalid because he ignores the following principle, which I stated at least four times in our debate: "Localized regions of increased order can occur in spontaneous processes without violating the Second Law." Dr. Gish claims that increased order due to life in the biosphere violates the Second Law, but he has failed to demonstrate an overall decrease in entropy associated with the development of life. He addresses only a localized decrease in entropy of the biosphere and ignores other changes outside the biosphere that would have to be considered in any accounting of total entropy changes. Therefore, he has not demonstrated any violation of the Second Law, since localized entropy increases are not a violation. If you disagree with the principle I quoted above, please explain why. The model of ice on the copper ball that I discussed at the debate was merely an illustrative example meant to help the audience comprehend the principle about localized increased order not violating the Second law. The differences you focus on in your criticism (information vs. ABCABCABC) are irrelevant to the validity of the quoted principle, and are also irrelevant to my point that Gish's argument is invalid because he has not made a full entropy accounting of any defined system. Therefore, I still consider my complaints against Gish's argument to be valid. Incidentally, have you read the article I recommended on this point by Allan Harvey, an expert in thermodynamics (who is also an evangelical Christian) at the URL below?

If you still think Dr. Gish's argument is correct, perhaps you could comment individually on the following:

(1) Do you agree that "Localized regions of increased order can occur in spontaneous processes without violating the Second Law"?

(2) Do you think that a valid thermodynamics analysis of the biosphere can neglect the sun's energy and the dissipation of solar energy into space?

(3) Do you really think that either you or Dr. Gish knows more about thermodynamics than a professional like Dr. Allan Harvey?


3. Generation time of fruit flies and bacteria: we should have seen more dramatic changes in fruit flies and bacteria . . . .

how about the 20 minute generation time of a bacterium? In that case, 50 years of observation is equivalent to about 25 million years of an organism with a 20 year generation time. And, I think, we have been observing bacteria for more like 100 years.

This is an extension of your previous argument:

A lot is supposed to happen in 25 to 50 million years. Humans are supposed to have differentiated from Australopithecus-like creatures over only a couple of million years! In the Cambrian explosion, all sorts of multi-cellular organisms in a plethora of sizes and shapes appeared "suddenly." Why have we not seen these little micro-organisms going macro? Or "postal?" Or unionizing? Or showing specialization of some sort?

Think about it! Even if you want to quibble about the numbers, where are the incipient organs? Where are the first, second and 43rd of those multi-step stages that are leading to something wonderful for their kind? Or do we just happen to always examine only organisms that prefer "stasis?" Isn't that like the invisible and totally undetectable "pink elephant" usually associated with irrational religious beliefs?

According to the evolutionary perspective, the rough time line for early life based on the fossil record and on dating as accepted in the geological literature is:

4.5 BYA Earth formed

3.5 BYA First prokaryotic cell

1.5 BYA First eukaryotic cell

0.7 BYA Multicellular organisms

Given these dates in the evolution model, the laboratory experiments on "evolution in a test tube" would not be expected to duplicate bacteria "going macro," since the lab experiments involve tiny fractions of the millions of years required for the kinds of changes you describe. Part of the reason that it may have taken so long to go from the first bacteria to the first eukaryotic cell is that, if modern organisms are any guide to the genome sizes of these "firsts," a large expansion in DNA and gene content would have been required. (Several free-living bacteria have 1.5 million bp of DNA, and only about 1500-1700 genes, while the simplest eukaryote yet sequenced, a yeast, has roughly 12 million bp and 6000 genes.) This expansion would take considerable time, even in rapidly proliferating species of bacteria. In contrast, the evolution from Australopithecus to human occurred without any significant increase in DNA or gene content (if modern apes are any guide) and could have occurred much more rapidly. You ask why lab experiments don't produce "incipient organs," but I can't think of any totally new organs that evolved in land mammals even in the millions of years since the mammalian radiation. We have seen changes in size, and structural changes to accomplish changes in function (forelimbs adapted for flying for instance, or foregut swelling to become ruminant rumen, or hindgut outpouching to become skunk's spray gland), but these are not totally new organs, and may in any case have taken tens of millions of years to evolve. So I can't see why you think evolution predicts that we should see new "incipient organs" in short-term laboratory evolution experiments. If you want to consider examples of rapid changes through random mutation and selection, one example is the diversification of dog breeds over the past 10,000 years, leading to great differences in body size and shape. This "experiment" of evolution has led to very rapid phenotypic changes with minimal genomic change.

4. Michael Behe's concept of irreducible complexity

Behe has shown how [step-by-step evolution] is impossible because an irreducibly complex structure must be complete to be functional and cannot be produced by small steps and gradual approximations.

Behe's concept of irreducible complexity ignores the possibility that a component that is now critical for the function of a modern biomolecular structure may have evolved from a non-essential component in an earlier version of the structure, a version that had a different function than the modern homolog. The example given by H. Allen Orr in his review of Behe's book is appropriate to illustrate the concept: a lung is now critical for us but appears to have evolved from a swim bladder. The swim bladder was not critical for survival of the fish in which it arose, since it merely assisted in "ballast control," while the critical function of oxygenation was performed by the gills. Clearly we cannot access the molecular precursors of the clotting system or bacterial flagellum because these structures evolved millions of years ago and proteins don't leave "fossil" evidence. Thus we can't document how the protein components that are currently critical for a flagellum may have evolved as beneficial but not essential components of a precursor structure that had a function different from active motility; but there is no reason to conclude that such precursors did not exist. In his book Behe neglects this idea, repeating over and over again how the CURRENT system requires each component to get any function, while ignoring the possibility that individual components may have been dispensable in more primitive homologs with different function. Because Behe ignores this central point, his argument is unconvincing to evolutionary scientists.

Of course, some Behe followers have gone further and claimed that it is impossible even to conceive of precursors that lack a given component of an IC structure. This puts evolutionists in a strategic bind. If they propose a speculative scenario as a possible explanation for how such structures may have evolved, such scenarios are pounced on by creationists as "just-so stories." Yet if they decline to propose a speculative scenario, creationists claim that this proves there are no conceivable evolutionary paths to modern "IC" molecular systems. Evolutionists accept the fact that we cannot access scientific evidence of molecular structures hundreds of millions of years old, but this does not lead them to conclude that these structures did not exist. It is a historical fact that as recently as 40 years ago, no one had conceived of the recombinational mechanisms that generate antibody diversity, but these mechanisms are now well known. Perhaps 40 years ago some Behe-like scientists could have claimed that each antibody amino acid sequence had to be intelligently designed for a particular antigen because it was impossible to conceive of a satisfactory naturalistic explanation; but those scientists would have been wrong. Similarly, the fact that we may not at present be able to conceive of the evolutionary path that led to a modern "IC" molecular structure is no reason to conclude that this structure did not evolve. Most scientists other than Behe have the humility to recognize that our ignorance is profound and that evolution may be "smarter" than we are; Behe seems to feel that anything he doesn't know can't really exist.

In other words, you need to show how a bacterial flagellum can be built by small changes in successive generations, each of which would survive because it is of selective advantage to that individual.

To contradict the notion that a naturalistic evolutionary path to the flagellum cannot be conceived, I would like to describe such a path, even though it cannot be any more than a speculation, so it is vulnerable to the "just-so" criticism. We start with an initial bacterial species with no flagellum and living in moving water. It can extract some nutrients from the mud it contacts, but only if it sticks around long enough to carry out certain biochemical reactions. Some bacteria evolve a surface protein that attaches to molecules on a solid support like rock or sand grains in the mud and prevents the cell from being swept away by currents; and this strain of bacteria prospers and multiplies. The next development is that after using up all the nutrients within reach, the bacteria run into a metabolic dead end, until some cells evolve hair-like projections fastened to the cell wall that allow them stick to their sand grains but to forage nutrients over a wider area without being swept away by the water currents. (These are similar in structure and function to modern bacterial pili.) The next step is that these hair-like projections get longer (allowing a wider area for foraging nutrients) until some bacteria die when water currents spin them around and twist off their hair-like projections. Then some bacteria evolve a mechanism that allows the projections to rotate with respect to the surface of the bacteria so that the hair-like projections don't get twisted when the current spins the cells. When these molecular swivels become efficient, bacteria whose growth is prevented by limiting energy supplies evolve a mechanism for converting the mechanical energy of rotational motion at the base of the hair projections into ATP; they do this by borrowing components of the F1 ATPase already evolved to convert rotation into ATP. When this mechanism for converting rotational energy into ATP has evolved, some bacteria that have become detached from their sand grains evolve a mechanism for running the conversion mechanism backwards, i.e. so that ATP is used to generate rotation of the hair projection to provide motility. Voila, a primitive flagellum, evolved by multiple sequential steps, in which each individual component is dispensable when added because the earlier versions of the complex provide a function different that of the modern homolog, motility. Obviously I don't claim that this is necessarily the true evolutionary path that led to the bacterial flagella since we have no way to access that path, but I offer this scenario to show the worthlessness of the idea that no such path is conceivable. (Also, there is some evidence for sequence similarity between archaeal bacterial protein components of flagella and pili [Bayley & Jarrell J Mol Evol 46:370, 1998]).


Thus for each of your four "items not brought up," the fact that I didn't previously address them does not mean that I had conceded that my earlier position was invalid.

You have said that I have "vilified" Dr. Gish and used ad hominem arguments against him, and that you reject my invitation to "bash Gish"; and you say "a man of science would simply deal with the concepts without having to constantly snap back to character assassination and well poisoning." I find these accusations totally ridiculous, as it is YOU who have steadfastly refused to "deal with the concepts" that I brought up (except for the thermodynamics issue). I have never vilified Dr. Gish or suggested that everything he says is false, but have only pointed out errors in specific arguments he has made, and you have refused to discuss them. I have agreed to discuss other creationist arguments after we deal with your claim that I was unfair in my criticisms of Dr. Gish. I can only conclude that you agree that Gish's arguments are erroneous (i.e. to consider them would be to "bash" Gish); but that you will never be willing to admit that a creationist argument is flawed, even if you know that to be the case. Our whole discussion started as a result of your criticisms of the points I made at the debate against Dr. Gish's arguments. What's the point of continuing our discussion if you refuse to consider whether points I have made are valid?

In addition to pointing out erroneous arguments of Dr. Gish, I have also challenged his scientific integrity for implicitly claiming expertise in an area he had no knowledge of, and for repeating erroneous claims without bothering to check the scientific literature after his errors had been pointed out. You persist in fantasizing scenarios that you think would somehow excuse these behaviors. I'm not that interested in discussing Dr. Gish's integrity, and would just as soon drop that issue. But if we're not going to discuss the validity of creationist arguments &endash; which I thought represented the main reason you contacted me after the debate - let's just drop the whole correspondence.

Before closing, I will make a few brief comments on some of your other points.

you are agreeing with the MAIN POINT of creationist challenge to a naturalistic origin of all things

I give no credit to creationists for trumpeting our ignorance about the origin of life. They have made no contribution.

evidence against a naturalistic origin of ANYTHING is automatically evidence for its creation,

Ignorance about the naturalistic mechanisms that may have given rise to life is not the same thing as "evidence against" a naturalistic origin.

faith in the establishment that is unjustified by a fair reading of the history of science or scholarship

I have no "faith" that the science in professional journals is always correct. But I believe that is the best source we have for scientific information and that it should serve as the basis for what is taught in science classrooms.

One conclusive proof of design trumps all the plausible scenarios of natural origin and one conclusive case for a young earth overturns all the old age arguments.

There is no conclusive proof of design or of a young earth. Science rarely advances on the basis of conclusive proofs anyway. A preponderance of evidence is all we should ever expect, and that is what we find supporting evolution in the scientific literature.

Although I do not expect you to necessarily review and critique all these articles which are obviously outside of your main areas of interest and expertise, I hope that you do notice that these are scholarly writings, most of which are published in peer reviewed journals within the creationist community.

I will continue to look at the creationist journals, and again express my thanks for the subscriptions. So far I have been impressed with a level of scholarship above that of Dr. Gish, but still below that expected in the mainstream science literature.

evidence for design does not have point to a designer because you have a hypothesis

If we had evidence of design, it would point to a designer. What we have, however, is evidence for complex adaptations. These could be the result of intelligent design, but could alternatively result from evolution.

What I honestly need to know is whether you think it theoretically possible that "good science" could be done from a creationist perspective or whether the two are mutually exclusive.

I believe "good science" rests on the scientific method of using observable evidence to choose from competing hypotheses using unbiased deductions. To the extent that creationist science depends on the bible rather than on observable evidence, it is not, in my view, good science. But I think it is theoretically possible that creationists could uncover evidence that would seriously challenge evolution and be "good science." So far, however, nothing that I have seen from creation "scientists" falls into this category. The arguments from Dr. Gish and the ones you mentioned about a young earth are typical: they rest on flawed data or on flawed reasoning.

I have enjoyed our correspondence, and wish you the best.



This rebuttal was sent to Dr. Olson, and will be updated, pending any further critiques from him.

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