Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Rose by any other name.... {Or, creationist Walter ReMine and his antics, part 1}

... Would still be a rose.




Walter J. ReMine is an electrical engineer and creationist.
This is one of what will likely be many installments on ReMine's claims, and will cover but one small aspect of the claims that ReMine likes to make.
He wrote a book, The Biotic Message, in which he argues, among other things, that a population genetics model proposed by J.B.S. Haldane in 1957 'disproves' evolution of humans from an apelike ancestor.
Strictly applying Haldane's model to human evolution over the course of 10 million years, ReMine claims that the "allowed" number of beneficial mutations that can become fixed (present at a frequency of 100%) , 1,667, is simply too few.

"Briefly. Haldane's Dilemma establishes a limit of 1,667 beneficial substitutions (where a substitution is almost always one nucleotide) over the past ten million years of the lineage leading to humans. The origin of all the uniquely human adaptations would have to be explained within that limit.
That is a serious problem. "


How does he know that 1667 beneficial are too few? Well, he just does.
Further, he accuses evolutionary biologists of trying to hide this "problem" from the public:

"Yet despite it being interesting, important, and easy to communicate, they did not inform the public. No, there was no conspiracy. But it was a staggering bit of negligence. Haldane's Dilemma is not just the problem itself, but also the evolutionists' negligence for not communicating it to the public. "


Of note here is this disclaimer: "No, there was no conspiracy."
This is of interest because he makes it quite clear in his book and in his many internet forays that he really thinks that there was a conspiracy. He doesn't call it a conspiracy, of course, and if you point out that what he is describing IS a conspiracy, he gets very indignant and as he has become known for, characterizes such clear inferences as "misrepresentation." But the way he describes it, it can really only be a conspiracy. Look at the above quoted section alone - he claims that 'Haldane's dilemma' is important, interesting, etc., yet THEY [evolutionists] DID NOT INFORM THE PUBLIC. Never mind the fact that there seems to be no reason TO inform the public about such things, and mind even less the fact that the issue was in fact discussed quite freely in the literature for some time and can be found in one form or another in many if not all population genetics textbooks. But THEY knew about it, and held it from the public. By definition, a conspiracy is evident when 2 or more people take part in an action that is illegal or harmful. THEY implies 2 or more people, and THEY did not inform, i.e., 'harmed', the public. Seems pretty clear to me.

Anyway, this particular post will deal with an offhand statement I wrote in this article, "Further, in his terrible book, he implies that it would take more than 500,000 such changes if evolution were true.* "
I asterisked this because ReMine claims that what I wrote is a misrepresentation of him (surprise, surprise). In a subsection of the above linked webpage titled 500,000 substitutions?, ReMine writes:

"My book had the ambitious goal of teaching this cutting-edge subject to the ordinary person. I therefore began my discussion with an uncomplicated scenario for tutorial purposes...
The figure "500,000" derives solely from the example itself (10 million years / 20 year effective generation time), and my goal of dovetailing this tutorial example easily into Haldane's example. Yet evolutionists misappropriate this figure. "



He finishes the '500,000 mutations' section with the following (which, if you have encountered ReMine before or read his book' contains some really funny stuff ):

"However, some of my evolutionary opponents seized that figure of "500,000 substitutions" as though it has some special role in my argument. It has none. It's purpose is solely tutorial, to teach, and to get the ordinary person thinking in population genetic terms — a subject most people hadn't thought about. The example simply reveals the mechanisms behind Haldane's Dilemma as understandable to the ordinary person. That also gets readers wondering why they hadn't seen such an obviously important topic before. ............

Throughout my book I avoid causing you to rely on my opinion, rather I cite leading evolutionists to support what I am saying. Or, I assemble the facts from evolutionists, and let you make up your own mind. This "de-emphasis of me," is key to making the book so compelling. This approach applies also to Haldane's Dilemma, where, for simplicity and authenticity, I advanced only one figure — Haldane's! It is essentially Haldane's figure.
The limit of 1,667 substitutions comes (in all its deepest respects) from Haldane. I merely framed it so the ordinary person can understand, and so evolutionists would have the most difficulty finagling around.
If you see anyone mis-representing the "500,000 substitutions" figure, then correct them on it, and send them here."



Now, let's think about that for a second. ReMine is claiming that his 500,000 mutatons figure is for 'tutorial purposes' only, and that evolutionists misrepresent him frequently. When I was first made aware of ReMine's site and read this section, I wondered why, in the first place, did he not present the actual section from his book which is the supposed source of evolutionist misrepresentation?
I will do for the reader what ReMine decided not to do - I will present his own words and let the reader decide if they think he was only presenting the 500,000 figure as a 'tutorial' for his readers:

"That's not a difficult calculation [deriving the 500,000 figure], yet it immediately reveals a problem. Is 500,000 beneficial nucleotides enough to explain the origin of humanity from some chimp-like ancestor? [..brief discussion on Haldane's model and ReMine's derivation of the 1667 number....] Is that enough to explain the origin of upright posture, speech, language, and appreciation of music, to name just a few of our uniquely human capacities? Is 1,667 beneficial nucleotides enough to make a sapien out of a simian?"

Now. let us juxtapose and interleave ReMine's 'disclaimer' about his 500,000 mutations figure with his 'explanation' for his claim of 'misrepresentation':

However, some of my evolutionary opponents seized that figure of "500,000 substitutions" as though it has some special role in my argument. It has none.
Is 500,000 beneficial nucleotides enough to explain the origin of humanity from some chimp-like ancestor?"
It's purpose is solely tutorial, to teach, and to get the ordinary person thinking in population genetic terms — a subject most people hadn't thought about. The example simply reveals the mechanisms behind Haldane's Dilemma as understandable to the ordinary person. That also gets readers wondering why they hadn't seen such an obviously important topic before. ............
Is that enough to explain the origin of upright posture, speech, language, and appreciation of music, to name just a few of our uniquely human capacities? Is 1,667 beneficial nucleotides enough to make a sapien out of a simian?"

If, as ReMine claims, his 'tutorial' was solely for instructional purposes for his readers, why on earth then would he write that THAT number is a "problem"? Why would he rhetorically ask if that number is enough when he claims his whole discussion is really about what he calls the Haldane number (1,667)?
It seems to me that ReMine takes his "fans" for granted. He apparently thinks that his readers cannot think for themselves - perhaps he even hopes that this is the case. For how else can one explain the facts:
1. ReMine does not quote his own work that is the apparent source of confusion, resulting in his critic's supposed misrepresentation of him
2. he claims that he only presented the 500,000 mutations figure as part of a "tutorial" for his, what he apparently assumes to be ignorant, readers
3. he claims that evolutionists are misrepresenting him when they claim that the 500,000 figure has a "special role" in his argument
4. reading what he actually wrote in his book, it is clear that he used the 500,000 mutations figure as a "set up" for his Haldane number


What do I mean by 'set up'? Consider the passage again:

"That's not a difficult calculation [deriving the 500,000 figure], yet it immediately reveals a problem. Is 500,000 beneficial nucleotides enough to explain the origin of humanity from some chimp-like ancestor?...
"Is that enough to explain the origin of upright posture, speech, language, and appreciation of music, to name just a few of our uniquely human capacities? Is 1,667 beneficial nucleotides enough to make a sapien out of a simian?"

First, he implies (via rhetorical question) that even 500,00 fixed, beneficial mutations cannot account for human evolution, then he delivers the death blow - he indicates that the "actual" number, 1,667, cannot, therefore, account for it at all.

I do not believe that any rational person can believe ReMine's "explanation." I think it obvious from the context of his actual writing that he implied that 500,00 fixed beneficial mutations cannot account for human evolution, and because according to his application of Haldane's model the number is substantially less, evolution is in big trouble.

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to see Mr.ReMine in action, try this, if you have a high tolerance for arrogance and sycophantery...

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