The Discoveroid ‘Fake Science’ Crusade #2

Our first episode of this thrilling new series was Discoveroids: Evolution Is Fake Science, in which we said:

The Discovery Institute, still lacking anything even remotely resembling a scientific theory or evidence contradicting the theory of evolution, has embarked on yet another new propaganda theme: “Fake Science.” It’s ironic that a creationist outfit would accuse anyone else of engaging in such an activity, but that’s part of the fun. … In the immortal words of Bert Lance: “It’s like being called ugly by a frog.”

Today’s episode at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog is Fake Science: Mice Changing Color to Match Terrain Is “Evolution, Crystal Clear, in Every Detail”. Adding to our merriment, it was written by Cornelius Hunter — a Discoveroid “fellow” who teaches at a bible college. He’s famous around here as the author of The Discoveroids’ All-Time Strangest Essay. We’ll give you some excerpts from his latest, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

About 15 years ago researchers discovered genetic differences that probably explain the different fur coloring in desert mice populations in New Mexico and Arizona [links omitted]. Mice populations living on light colored terrain tend to have light colored fur, and those on dark colored terrain tend to have dark colored fur. Blending in with the terrain helps to camouflage the mice, protecting them from predators. And that is, apparently, exactly what the mice did about a thousand years ago when desert lava flows produced the darkened terrain.

Nothing remarkable about that; it’s just another example of protective coloration. Wikipedia’s article on Camouflage says:

Camouflage has been a topic of interest and research in zoology for well over a century. According to Charles Darwin’s 1859 theory of natural selection, features such as camouflage evolved by providing individual animals with a reproductive advantage, enabling them to leave more offspring, on average, than other members of the same species.

Then Cornelius says:

But that is where the science is overtaken by the dogma. … The first problem [bold in the original] in casting the dark colored mice as an example of evolution is that their genetic differences are not known to be the result of random mutations. For evolutionists there simply is no question that the genetic differences that are thought to cause the dark fur color arose from random mutations. Now that may be correct. But it may not be. We simply do not know.

What? Is Cornelius actually claiming that coloration isn’t caused by genetic mutations? Well, not quite. He explains:

This is not merely a technical objection — in spite of evolutionary theory which called for random mutations to be the source of change, in recent decades directed mutations have been found to be at work in an ever increasing number of cases. For many years evolutionists have ignored and even resisted these findings. Too often I have debated evolutionists who, when I point to this evidence, simply deny it.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Cornelius places the burden on evolutionists to show — to his satisfaction — that fur colors are the result of “random mutations,” because he claims that a logical explanation is that they’re caused by “directed mutations” — presumably at the divine command of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! Cornelius elaborates:

This is an example of what philosophers refer to as a “theory-laden observation.” … This can become circular very quickly, and this desert mouse case is a good example of that. Evolutionists assume the genetic differences arose from random mutations, and then claim the evidence as a powerful confirmation of evolution.

That’s the first problem — evolutionists ignore the allegedly logical factor of Oogity Boogity! After that he tells us:

The second [bold by Cornelius] problem in casting the dark-colored mice as an example of evolution is that the dark coloration may be the result of multiple genetic changes. In one case, four mutations are identified, all of which perhaps are required to bring about the coloration change.

It very well could be that only a single mutation is required. But that is not known. And if multiple genetic changes are required, then this quickly transitions from an example of what random mutations can do to an example of what random mutations cannot do.

Huh? What’s the problem? Lots of features, including human hair color, are the result of more than one mutation. Cornelius continues:

If four mutations are required, then we’ve just found yet another hard failure of evolution. But again, the evolutionists give no hint of this interesting question.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Let’s read on:

The third [bold by Cornelius] problem in casting the dark colored mice as an example of evolution is that the coloration is too precise. The dark colored fur appears on the top of the mice, but not their underbelly. This makes sense since the topside is mainly what is exposed to predators. But in the evolution narrative, there is no fitness advantage to such precision. Darkening the entire mouse would, apparently, work just as well.

[*Groan*] Countershading may be unknown to Cornelius, but it’s commonly observed in nature. Wikipedia says: “Countershading is the pattern of animal coloration in which an animal’s pigmentation is darker on the upper side and lighter on the underside of the body. This pattern is found in many species of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and insects, and has occurred since at least the Cretaceous period.”

It’s not over yet. Cornelius has even more to say:

So far, evolutionists are proclaiming a slam-dunk, case-closed example when in fact there are many unknowns. But there is one big known we haven’t yet mentioned. It would be a deceptive equivocation to label fur coloration change via a few mutations as “evolution” when, in fact, this is nothing more than small-scale adaptation.

[*Groan*] Cornelius is playing word games. Mutations (and natural selection) are a mechanism of evolution; they aren’t evolution per se. He elaborates on this nonsensical point in our final excerpt:

This is an old technique evolutionists have exploited ever since Darwin. Demonstrate biological change, any biological change, no matter how trivial, and claim victory.

Okay, that’s enough. Cornelius may be a great bible college teacher, but as a serious critic of evolution, well, what do you think, dear reader?

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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32 responses to “The Discoveroid ‘Fake Science’ Crusade #2

  1. General James”Mad Dog” Mattis US Marines (retired) the Secretary of Defense nominee says ” Powerpoint makes us stupid”. So apparently, does teaching at Biola College..

  2. Cornelius Hunter states that

    This is not merely a technical objection

    Actually, it’s not even a technical objection; it’s mere hand-waving, as ToE is not consistent with the Discoveroids Teleological Complex

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    Did he bait and switch? “directed mutations have been found to be at work” generalization at the beginning, then concluding that “this is nothing more than small-scale adaptation.”

  4. @ Charles Deetz: Yes.

    But I’d go further, and say that the sort of ‘baiting’ he did was…well, masterful!

  5. Corny Cor is a master of techniques like hand-waving and baiting-switching. Ah well, if anyone is interested in this character here’s an amusing take:

    https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/12/hunter-not-youn.html

  6. See Sean B Carrol’s take on this @ HHMI’s biointeractive channel. Since the mention of 4 SNPs in Mc1r (?) gene is explicitly made in the post, it appears Cornelius watched the same video. Interestingly, other gene mutations in populations of pocket mice widely separated in distance produce the same effect of dark fur, per the same video, which he doesn’t comment on. I suggest it’s because he doesn’t want to address the question: Why would the Intelligent Designer chose different gene modifications to produce the same effect on geographically diverse populations of the same species? What, just showing off?

  7. Corny’s claims amounts to “since magic could do that you cannot discount magic”. When you start with brain death like that, it is *very* unlikely that you will ever recover to a rational state.

  8. I’m not sure why the Intelligent Designers didn’t just make the local predators have duller senses. I’m sure Biola’s Mammalian Biology Department can work with the Discovery Institute’s staff Geneticist to begin research and answer all of these questions.

    Got anything for us on this one KevinC? I was hoping you did, but instead you commented on a post about a different subject instead of one about ID and the DI. Oh, well.

  9. @Mark Germano
    “Intelligent Design” is not in the business of explaining why this, rather than anything else. Once it has established that there is a fault in any naturalist explanations (like natural selection), its work is done. It need not, for example, tell us how non-naturalist explanations are not subject to that same fault; or to other faults, like non-existence.

  10. First off, light and dark soils have been around in the American Southwest for a lot longer than Hunter’s “thousand years” or so ago.

    (“Mice populations living on light colored terrain tend to have light colored fur, and those on dark colored terrain tend to have dark colored fur. Blending in with the terrain helps to camouflage the mice, protecting them from predators. And that is, apparently, exactly what the mice did about a thousand years ago when desert lava flows produced the darkened terrain.”)

    There have been dark lava flows in the region for many tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of years. Plenty of time for lots of genetic mutation and natural selection to take place, but the mice probably wouldn’t need any genetic mutations for the different fur colors — there probably was a lot of color variation occurring in the mice all along. Natural selection was all that was needed — the predators made quick lunch of the contrastingly-colored mice.

  11. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    Anytime Corny wants to demonstrate with evidence what mutations were directed when and by what/whom we’ll just go right ahead and add that to our base of knowledge.

    Until then, whatever musing about designers/directors will have to be considered an unnecessary complication that the one who is proposing is unwilling or unable to satisfy not only the burden of proof but explain why this complication is necessary at all. But we all know that isn’t going to happen, so arguments from incredulity and ignorance it is.

    P.S. – Have Corny and Joe/Frankie/Paul the Muslim/FrisbeeKid (totally somebody else using the same shared account) kissed and made up yet? IIRC, a while back Joe stained his shorts because after he had dialed up his obnoxious blowhard-er-y to 11 Corny tossed him into moderation.

  12. You beat me to it, retiredsciguy.

    This was the point Darwin made before anybody knew about genes: traits vary from individual to individual. Humans exploit this fact by selectively breeding those individuals that occupy a desirable part of the spectrum. Successive selections move the parameters of variation farther and farther in the chosen direction. That is, desired mutations do not have to arise during the selection period; they just have to have been stored in the genome at some point in the past. The same principle operates naturally. Darwin’s finches, for example, do not have to come up with new mutations for thicker or thinner bills every time they encounter changes in the kinds of seeds available to eat. It’s just that birds with the least suitable bills for prevailing conditions get culled out.

  13. @RSG: Perhaps lava flows are one of those certain things that are not best explained by an intelligent cause.

    @TomS: Here, an ID theorist does make a positive statement: thousands of years ago, an intelligent designer, confronted with lava flows in what is now the American southwest, directed a mutation to change the fur color of a mouse to camouflage it from predators.

  14. @Mark Germano
    This is a surprise to me! I don’t know what to make of it.

  15. Why was the Designer, blessed be he, so concerned about the mousie? What about the poor starving hawk? Didn’t the Designer, blessed be he, think about adjusting the hawk’s eyes to see “through” the coloring and develop other methods of hunting, or is the Designer, blessed be he, a hawk-a-phobe? And what about the stuff the mouse preyed upon – grains, insects and stuff. Didn’t grains and insects and stuff desire attention to save their skins, assuming they had skins.

    Seems like the Designer, blessed be he, had an overly fondness for mice. How weird is that?

  16. But that is where the science is overtaken by the dogma. … The first problem [bold in the original] in casting the dark colored mice as an example of evolution is that their genetic differences are not known to be the result of random mutations. For evolutionists there simply is no question that the genetic differences that are thought to cause the dark fur color arose from random mutations. Now that may be correct. But it may not be. We simply do not know.

    Groan. Evidently “Cornelius” has no clue about the role natural selection plays in weeding out random mutations which don’t confer a selective advantage while preserving those which do.

    He goes on:

    So far, evolutionists are proclaiming a slam-dunk, case-closed example when in fact there are many unknowns. But there is one big known we haven’t yet mentioned. It would be a deceptive equivocation to label fur coloration change via a few mutations as “evolution” when, in fact, this is nothing more than small-scale adaptation.

    Aaaand we’re back to the micro-macro mambo. Dear God, won’t this atrocity just lie down and die already?

  17. Wait a sec. The Discoveroids are seriously arguing that divinely guided gene mutations are occurring *right now* in animal populations to provide camouflage against prey? Why is the Divine Designer doing this? To prevent extinctions? If so, He’s doing a really crappy job. Or is it just that He likes mice a lot?

  18. This is remarkable: two independent researchers on this thread have separately arrived at corroborating findings, viz.:

    docbill1351

    Seems like the Designer, blessed be he, had an overly fondness for mice.

    Paul D.

    Or is it just that He [the Intelligent Designer] likes mice a lot?

    The dreadful conclusion from this can only be:

    Walt Disney is the Intelligent Designer!

    Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhh!

  19. Why is a mouse trap the paradigmatic example of intelligent design?

  20. TomS poses a deep theological conundrum:

    Why is a mouse trap the paradigmatic example of intelligent design?

    There were no mousetraps in Eden.

    After the egregious disobedience of Adam and Eve that brought sin into the perfect Disney World, those cruel implements of torture and death were cunningly designed by the fell Anti-Walt, who is the great Satanic Deceiver of Mankind.

    Our only hope for salvation from that grim adversary is: Pixie Dust.

    …Lots and lots of Pixie Dust.

  21. You don’t understand! Nothing can be explained by mutations, because mutations are random. But here mutation has had the non-random effect of favouring camouflaged mice. Therefore design.

    I am shocked that none of you seem to be capable of grasping this simple logic.

  22. Ceteris Paribus

    @ Paul Braterman :“Nothing can be explained by mutations, because mutations are random.” and “Therefore design.” and “I am shocked that none of you seem to be capable of grasping this simple logic.”

    Yes! Yes! now I have finally grasped the logic of ID! It’s all right there in the threads of the “mousie” comments started by DocBill1351: “Why was the Designer, blessed be he, so concerned about the mousie?” and amplified in comments by TomsS and Megalonyx

    From: “To a Mouse – A Poem by Robert Burns (Written by Burns after he had turned over the nest of a tiny field mouse with his plough.)”

    “Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
    O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
    Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
    Wi’ bickering brattle!
    I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
    Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

    I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
    Has broken Nature’s social union,
    An’ justifies that ill opinion,
    Which makes thee startle,
    At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
    An’ fellow-mortal!
    ***
    But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
    In proving foresight may be vain:
    The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
    Gang aft agley,
    An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
    For promis’d joy!

    Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
    The present only toucheth thee:
    But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
    On prospects drear!
    An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
    I guess an’ fear!

    Burns Night, in honour of Scotland’s poet Robert Burns, is celebrated on his birthday every year. January 25. mmm! Haggis!

    [Note to SC – if too long or I messed up the text on this, just delete the whole thing]

  23. It probably sounds better in the original Scottish.

  24. docbill1351:
    “Seems like the Designer, blessed be he, had an overly fondness for mice.”

    Paul D.:
    “Or is it just that He [the Intelligent Designer] likes mice a lot?”

    But wait! Why do the creationists see protective coloration as proof of design? It only helps the prey animal, but it hinders the predator. Do they suppose their Grand Old Designer would play favorites like this???

    What it actually is, is proof positive of multiple G.O.D.s! How could we have been so blind for so long?!?!? You see, each prey species must have its own G.O.D., just as each predator must have its own G.O.D. There you have it — each adaptation that we have been ascribing to evolution is actually proof of poly-G.O.D.-ism!

    It has to be this way — it’s the only way Design would work. If there were but one G.O.D., She/He/It (S/H/It for short) would never give a leg up to any one species or any one type of animal, be it prey or predator. That wouldn’t be just — and we all know that the G.O.D. is just.

    Hmm. On second thought, maybe the simpler explanation is evolution driven by natural selection. Never mind.

  25. michaelfugate

    It makes one wonder about the designer, if it cares enough to mutate a gene in a mouse to give it protective coloration, then why doesn’t it give humans protection from pathogens and cancers? The least it could do would be to fix the gulonolactone oxidase gene in humans so we could synthesize vitamin C.

  26. “why doesn’t it give humans protection from pathogens and cancers?”
    Adam ate the apple.

  27. Why does it give humans protection from some pathogens and cancers?

  28. michaelfugate

    And the mouse didn’t?

  29. michaelfugate

    Maybe the DI’s insight on fake science comes from running a fake blog – a real one would allow comments.

  30. And RSG slides under the filter to win the Internet!

    Well done, sir!

  31. Well, thanks, doc. Always happy to contribute to the fun and hilarity. (Guess I’m just a hilarity-lacky and one of the most over-rated commenters in Bloggerwood.)

    I mean, fut the whuck, we gotta have a little fun now and then!