The following is from the Creation/Evolution journal, Issue XVII (Vol. 6, No. 1) pp. 15 +q

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

The following is from the _Creation/Evolution_ journal, Issue XVII (Vol. 6, No. 1) pp. 1-5 ================ "Scientific Creationism and Error" by Robert Schadewald (1986) [deletions] Ironically, creationists make much of scientific errors. The "Nebraska Man" fiasco, where the tooth of an extinct peccary was misidentified as belonging to a primitive human, is ubiquitous in creationist literature and debate presentations. So is the "Piltdown Man" hoax. Indeed, creationist propagandists often present these two scientific errors as characteristic of paleoanthropology. It is significant that these errors were uncovered and corrected from within the scientific community. In contrast, creationists rarely expose their own errors, and they sometimes fail to correct them when others expose them. GISH'S PROTEINS Duane Gish, a protein biochemist with a Ph.D. from Berkeley, is vice-president of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and creationism's most well-known spokesperson. A veteran of perhaps 150 public debates and thousands of lectures and sermons on creationism, Gish is revered among creationists as a great scientist and a tireless fighter for the truth. Among noncreationists, however, Gish has a reputation for making erroneous statements and then pugnaciously refusing to acknowledge them. One example is an unfinished epic which might be called the tale of two proteins. In July 1983, the Public Broadcasting System televised an hour-long program on creationism. One of the scientists interviewed, biochemist Russell Doolittle, discussed the similarities between human proteins and chimpanzee proteins. In many cases, corresponding human and chimpanzee proteins are identical, and, in others, they differ by only a few amino acids. This strongly suggests a common ancestry for humans and apes. Gish was asked to comment. He replied: "If we look at certain proteins, yes, man then -- it can be assumed that man is more closely related to a chimpanzee than other things. But on the other hand, if you look at certain other proteins, you'll find that man is more closely related to a bullforg than he is to a chimapanzee. If you focus your attention on other proteins, you'll find that man is more closely related to a chicken than he is to a chimpanzee." I had never heard of such proteins, so I asked a few biochemists. They hadn't either. I wrote to Gish for supporting documentation. He ignored my first letter. In reply to my second, he referred me to Berkeley geochronologist Garniss Curtis. I wrote to Curtis, who replied immediately. Some years ago, Curtis attended a conference in Austria where he heard that someone had found bullfrog blood proteins very similar to human blood proteins. Curtis offered an explanatory hypothesis: the "frog" which yielded the proteins was, he suggested, an enchanted prince. He then predicted that the research would never be confirmed. He was apparently correct, for nothing has been heard of the proteins since. But Duane Gish once heard Curtis tell his little story. This bullfrog "documentation" (as Gish now calls it) struck me as a joke, even by creationist standards, and Gish simply ignored his alleged chicken proteins. In contrast, Doolittle backed his televised claims with published protein sequence data. I wrote to Gish again suggesting that he should be able to do the same. He didn't reply. Indeed, he has never since replied to any of my letters. John W. Patterson and I attended the 1983 National Creation Conference in Roseville, Minnesota. We had several conversations there with Kevin Wirth, research director of Students for Origins Research (SOR). At some point, we told him the protein story and suggested that Gish might have lied on national television. Wirth was confident that Gish could document his claims. He told us that, if we put our charges in the form of a letter, he would do his best to get it published in _Origins Research_, the SOR tabloid. Gish also attended the conference, and I asked him about the proteins in the presence of several creationists. Gish tried mightily to evade and to obfuscate, but I was firm. Doolittle provided sequence data for human and chimpanzee proteins; Gish could do the same - *if* his alleged chicken and bullfrog proteins really exist. Gish insisted that they exist and promised to send me the sequences. Skeptically, I asked him pointblank: "Will that be before hell freezes over?" He assured me that it would. After two-and-one-half years, I still have neither sequence data nor a report of frost in Hades. Shortly after the conference, Patterson and I submitted a joint letter to _Origins Research_, briefly recounting the protein story and concluding, "We think Gish lied on national television." We sent Gish a copy of the letter in the same mail. During the next few months, Wirth (and probably others at SOR) practically begged Gish to submit a reply for publication. According to Wirth, someone at ICR, perhaps Gish himself, responded by pressuring SOR not to publish our letter. Unlike Gish, however, Kevin Wirth was as good as his word. The letter appeared in the spring 1984 issue of _Origins Research_ -- with no reply from Gish. The 1984 National Bible-Science Conference was held in Cleveland, and again Patterson and I attended. Again, I asked Gish for sequence data for his chicken and bullfrog proteins. This time, Gish told me that any further documentation for his proteins is up to Garniss Curtis and me. I next saw Gish on February, 18, 1985, when he debated philosopher of science Philip Kitcher at the University of Minnesota. Several days earlier, I had heralded Gish's coming (and his mythical proteins) in a guest editorial in the student newspaper, _The Minnesota Daily_. Kitcher alluded to the proteins early in the debate, and, in his final remarks, he demanded that Gish either produce references or admit that they do not exist. Gish, of course, did neither. His closing remarks were punctuated with sporadic cries of "Bullfrog!" from the audience. That evening, Duane Gish addressed about two hundred people assembled in a hall at the student union. During the question period, Stan Weinberg, a founder of the Committees of Correspondence on Evolution, stood up. Scientists sometimes make mistakes, said Weinberg, and, when they do, they own up to them. Had Gish ever made a mistake in his writings and presentations? If so, could his chicken and bullfrog proteins have been a mistake? Gish made a remarkable reply. He has, indeed, made mistakes..... [examples deleted] Regarding the bullfrog proteins, Gish said that he relied on Garniss Curtis for them. Perhaps Curtis was wrong. As for the chicken proteins, Gish made a convoluted and (to a nonbiochemist) confusing argument about chicken lysozyme. It was essentially the same answer he had given me immediately after his debate with Kitcher, when I went onstage and asked him once again for references. It was also the same answer he gave two nights later...... [bombardier beetle stuff deleted] About the chicken lysozyme: three times in three days Gish was challenged to produce references for chicken proteins closer to human proteins than the corresponding chimpanzee proteins. Three times he responded with an argument which essentially reduces to this: if human lysozyme and lactalbumin evolved from the same precursor, as scientists claim, then human lysozyme should be closer to human lactalbumin than to chicken lysozyme, but it is not. Well, although it is true that human lysozyme is *not* closer to human lactalbumin than to chicken lysozyme, this comes as no shock and does not make a case for creationism. Furthermore, it doesn't at all address the issue that we raised. We were talking about Gish's earlier comparison of human, chimp, and chicken proteins, and Gish changed the subject and started comparing human lysozyme to human lactalbulmin! Few of his creationist listeners know what lysozyme is, and perhaps none of them knew that human and chimpanzee lysozyme are identical and that chicken lysozyme differs from both by fifty-one out of the 130 amino acids [1]. To one unfamiliar with biochemistry and, especially, Gish's apologetic method's, it *sounded* like he responded to the question. Whether by design or by some random process, Gish's chicken lysozyme apologetic was admirably suited to deceive listeners. One who was taken in by it was Crockett Grabbe, a physicist with the University of Iowa. As a result, Grabbe wrongly accused Gish of claiming that chicken lysozyme is closer to human lysozyme than is chimpanzee lysozyme. Gish then counterattacked, playing "blame the victim" and pretending it was Grabbe's own fault that he was deceived [2]. But if the chicken lysozyme apologetic fooled a professional scientist, it is unlikely that many of the creationist listeners saw through it. Gish's refusal to acknowledge the nonexistence of his chicken protein is characteristic of ICR. Gish's boss, Henry Morris, gave Gish's handling of the matter his tacit approval by what he said (and didn't say) about it in his _History of Modern Creationism_. Morris refferred to the protein incident and took a swipe at Russell Doolittle (whom he identified as "Richard Doolittle"), but he offered no criticism of Gish's conduct. Instead, he accused PBS of misrepresenting Gish [3]! Meanwhile, Gish had been obfuscating behind the scenes. The only creationist publication to directly address the protein affair has been _Origins Research_, which first covered the matter in its spring 1984 issue. Then, in the fall 1985 issue, editor Dennis Wagner revisited the controversy. However, in his article, he (1) wrongly identified Glyn Isaac as the source of Gish's bullfrog and (2) wrongly stated that Gish had sent me a tape of the lecture in which Isaac supposedly made the satement. Wagner's source, it turns out, is a February 27, 1984, letter Gish wrote to Kevin Wirth, in which Gish apparently confused the late Glyn Isaac (an archaeologist and authority on early stone tools) with Garniss Curtis. He also claimed to have a tape and a transcript of the 'Isaac' (presumably Curtis) lecture, and he claimed that he had reviewed them. In the same paragraph, Gish claimed that he had sent me his 'documentation,' and Wagner quite naturally assumed that that meant at least the tape. But Gish sent me neither, nor has he sent copies of said tape or transcript to others who have requested them. As with his chicken proteins, we have only Gish's word for their existence. For the record, it is no longer important whether Gish's original statements about chicken and bullfrog proteins were deceptions or incredible blunders. It is now going on four years since the PBS broadcast, and Gish has neither retracted his chicken statement nor attempted to justify it. (Obviously, the lysozyme apologetic doesn't count, but it took Gish two-and-one-half years to come up with that!) And if the Curtis story is all he knows about his chimpanzee protein, on what basis did he promise to send me its sequence at the 1983 National Bible-Science Conference? Gish has woven himself into an incredible web of contradictions, and even some creationists now suspect that he has been less than candid. [rest of article deleted] ================================= [1] Awbrey, Frank T., and Thwaites, William M. Winter 1982. "A Closer Look at Some Biochemical Data That 'Support' Creation," _Creation/ Evolution_, issue VII, p. 15. [2] Gish, Duane T. August 14, 1985. "Creationism Misassailed." _Cedar Rapids Gazette_. [3] Morris, Henry M. 1984. _History of Modern Creationism_ (San Diego: Master Book Publishers), p. 316.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank