Crevo linked to an old discussion board post I had written in which I had briefly critiqued a 'peer reviewed' creationist article on the subject of Baraminology. He rebutted it, and below, I respond to his rebuttal. My replies in red.
The primary article under discussion is "A Quantitative Approach to Baraminology With Examples from the Catarrhine Primates". I don't have access to the article, so I'm going to give the authors the benefit of the doubt. It's possible they don't deserve it, but I've read other things by Cavanaugh, and so giving him the benefit of the doubt seems reasonable to me.
The basic error in the criticism is a category error. Two of them actually. The first and most important one is that, while the author appears to understand the difference between assumptions and conclusions at the beginning of the article, he appears to forget it by the end.
Is this really what I did? Or did I expose the baraminologist/creationist penchant for conflating and confusing the two? We’ll see…
There are multiple kinds of creationist scholarship. Some of it is geared towards proving the creationist position. Other works are scholarship that research _from_ the creationist position. This paper, as far as I can tell, is the latter. It does not say "the results of this paper show that humans and chimps are different baramins", instead it says "we know from scripture that humans and chimps are in different baramins, and we can use that information to help us determine which characters and character analysis techniques are useful in determining baraminic organization". Those are two completely different statements. The paper appears to be making the latter, while the article appears to be criticizing it for making the former.
The baraminologists start with the assumption that Scripture is correct, then use this assumption as a framework for their analyses. However, they later use their analyses to lend support to their assumption. This is clearly demonstrated by me in the criticism.
The author of the article complains that the paper hand-selected the traits that put them in different baramins, but in fact that was the entire point of the paper -- to determine what traits were important baraminologically. If humans and chimps are in different baramins, then it is reasonable to examine the differences between them and use them as guides to determining baraminically important characters.
And so Crevo endorses cherry-picking data to get preconceived conclusions.
Apparently, Crevo accepts that things like where a creature lives is more important than their genetic make-up in determining their ancestral and descendant relationships.
Now, the question is, are creationists alone in arguing from assumptions to conclusions? The answer is no. For example, see the paper Estimate of the Mutation Rate per Nucleotide in Humans. This paper estimates the rate of nucleotide change. However, it does so by comparing chimps to humans. Thus, the counts in that paper are based on the assumption that chimps and humans share a common ancestor.
There is a major difference here, that Crevo is glossing over. The “assumption” of human-chimp ancestry is actually a conclusion based on multiple lines of empirical evidence, while the assumption that humans are special creations separate from all other animals is premised solely on Scripture. Further, the goal of the Nachman and Crowell paper is not to ‘prove’ or support human evolution, rather it is to examine mutation rates. The baraminology paper, on the other hand, presents it’s rigged findings to support their assumptions.
I have seen this paper used to argue that this overcomes Haldane's dillema by showing emperically that the mutation rate is fast enough.
Creationists, including Crevo, utterly misrepresent the impact of 'Haldane's Dilemma'. Their use of it is premised solely on their flawed assumptions. See this.
However, this is a totally inappropriate use of that paper, because the paper is only correct if chimps and humans share a common ancestor, which is the point under discussion. Thus, it is circular reasoning. Note that it isn't the paper that was guilty of circular reasoning -- in fact the paper is an excellent example of scholarship. It is using the paper in a way that confuses assumptions and conclusions that is inappropriate. There is nothing wrong with taking assumptions and using them to press forward. Ultimately we have to. The problem comes when we confuse our assumptions and conclusions, and when science sets a pre-determined set of assumptions for everyone else to follow.
I have no problems with evolutionists using evolutionary assumptions for research. It doesn't make the research bad or useless or inappropriate. However, it is bad if people take the assumptions and confuse them for conclusions.
And that is what this author does.
The authors of the baraminology paper, yes.
Let's look at the concluding statement:
"That is, they have to pick data that give them the results they want – those that conform to Scripture."
Note that this isn't about getting a _desired_ conclusion. The conclusion is what are the baraminically important characters -- that list of characters did not come from scripture. The _assumption_ is scripture. This is one of the hallmarks of baraminology -- that it doesn't attempt to argue for or against the scriptural perspective, but simply uses it as an assumption for ongoing research.
Incorrect. As Crevo has not read the paper – and I have – I know this is incorrect. The authors start with Scripture, they then essentially discard the analytical results that do not conform to their assumptions. They then conclude that their now cherry-picked results DO conform to Scripture, so everything is hunky-dory. Crevo should not be engaging in fellow creationist protection like this unless/until he actually reads the paper.
I can see why others may not like it, specifically those who don't see scripture as authoritative. But the specific criticism being thrown at this particular paper seems to be coming from the confusion between assumption and conclusion.
It has nothing to do with ‘not liking it.’ No, my criticism stems from the fact that they cherry-picked data to get the results they “knew” were correct. I explained how I concluded that fairly explicitly. Briefly, they excluded objective data – data that they had used with great praise in previous papers – because it did not provide support for their assumption, and embraced subjective and largely irrelevant data because – and only because – it gave them what they hoped for. In addition, as I explained in the article, the authors were aware of a paper that was far more rigorous and used far more morphological data then they did, yet did not cite it because, I believe, the results did not conform to their assumptions.
If researchers have to discard and ignore data analyses because they do not support/conform to their assumptions, does not the valid conclusion become that there is a problem with the assumptions?
If this paper had been an attempt to prove that primates were in a different baramin than humans, then the criticism given in the article would be completely valid. However, as it was using it as an assumption, it is not.
It is true that establishing the separate baramin for humans was not a stated goal of the paper, yet it was stated clearly in their conclusions (and in the abstract) that this was a result. An oddity – they start off stating the assumption of the supremacy of the “Scriptural criterion” which indicates non-descent for humans, then later use data analyses to try to ‘confirm’ it.
As a short, non-proving defense of the assumption, let me ask a question -- if God created individual kinds, don't you think His scripture would be the best initial source of information as to what those kinds are?
If the assumption was borne out by other lines of evidence, perhaps.
A separate, and much more minor error in the article deals with his criticism of what determines appropriate traits for analysis:
"Things like percent foliage in diet, monogamy, population group size and density, home range size, etc. It looks to me like these data too were chosen to produce a desired outcome, for what exactly does “monogamy” have to do with descent?"
This misses the fact that creationists are not bound by descent being the only determining factor of the makeup of a baramin. A fairly minor point with little consequence, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.
In reality, the baraminologists accept descent, they just place arbitrary (i.e., premised on Scripture) limits on it.
If the baraminologists are not bound by descent, why on earth are they even trying to determine baraminological relationships? If God can just poof into (and out of) existence anything He wishes, isn’t trying to define these groups and their ancestral-descendant relationships a futile effort?