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Was Darwin Wrong?
A selection of emails from visitors of the site

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16 May 1999
email
From: Robert T. Pennock
Subject: Re: Tower of Babel

Dear Gert,

I wrote Tower of Babel not as "a theist criticizing other theists," but as a philosopher and historian of science criticizing a confused philosophical attack upon a well-confirmed scientific theory. I did not state and made no attempt in the book to defend my personal theological views, which are irrelevant to what is wrong with creationism in its old or new forms. Because creationists tend to dismiss their critics as being anti-religious, I felt I had to reveal that I am a Quaker, but that should make no difference to the evaluation of the arguments. I may one day write something that articulates my own particular religious view, but that is a much bigger project that I am not prepared to undertake at this time.

Thanks again for your interest in my book.

Regards,
Robert Pennock
 
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24 Apr 1999
email
From:
Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
CC:
Tom Woodward

"Phillip E. Johnson"

"Try to learn what people are discussing nowadays in science. Find out where the difficulties arise and take interest in disagreements. These are the questions which you should take up".
Karl Popper, in Conjectures and Refutations, 5th. ed., 1989, p.129

Consider the Intelligent Design as a scientific inference -- visit these sites: http://www.arn.org and http://www.discovery.org
Subject: Michael Ruse really gave away the store


Dear Gert:
In my previous answer to you I forgot to ask if you have ever considered posting Dr. Michael Ruse's AAAS own speech at that particular web page. By doing so you will let Dr. Ruse mean what he really said without anybody's hermeneutics prejudices or censorship.
Otherwise, please allow me to go straight to the point -- you do not permit 'empirical facts' to go against your Weltschauung. Nowadays, you know, scientific theories are considered to be scientific valid if they have evidences to back them. It seems to me that some crucial theoretical aspects in new-Darwinism do not have the evidence to support it as a scientific theory, and Ruse is right to tell others about this as a metaphysical aspect of the theory.
I do not think your posting it will do any damage to your reputation as an open-minded evolutionist. As I mentioned in my very first e-mail to you -- whenever I need some fresh input on this controversial subject I go to your balanced page. Why? Because many people who visit your page think you are trustworthy.
A correction -- do not address me as a Dr. for I do not hold such academic post. Just Prof. will do fine.

Keep up the good work,

Prof. Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
Science Education Researcher/Brazil
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20 Apr 1999
email
From: Enezio E.
de Almeida Filho
Subject: Michael Ruse gave away the store for sure!

I noticed in your reviewing of Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? that you seemed not to believe in Tom Woodward's remarks about Michael Ruse's speech given at the AAAS 1993 meeting.

Now you can verify what Michael Ruse really said: I have attached a transcript of Ruse's speech for your attention and correction of that web page. Pro bonum publico I think that your inserting it at that particular place will render the truth a great service.

Truly yours,


Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
Science Education Researcher
Brazil
 
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18 Apr 1999
email
From: Jan Schmid
Subject: Your Site: "Was Darwin Wrong?"



Dear Gert:

Thank you for making available your study and comments. Your bias is obvious yet honest. Why didn't you have a section telling your readers about yourself and your background? I'm an ordinary non-science, non-professional very much interested in the philosophical nature of orgins. Taking a community college class in British literature in the Victorian era, I chose a short paper (1500 words) on the evolution-creationism controversy supposedly only from an historical-informational perspective. However, the subject itelf can hardly bring out the unbiased reporter in anyone. From all the information I've found on the net, in recently published books, it seems the controversy is exploding at a monumental rate.

Thank you again.

Sincerely,

Jan Schmid

 
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11 Apr 1999
email
From: Ted Burford
Subject: Nature's Destiny review



Dear Gert Korthof,

Thank you for your review of Michael Denton's second book. I was extremely impressed by his "Evolution in Crisis"; its lucidity, honesty, passionate non-commitment, and avoidance of fudge.

I'm very disappointed. I would have been delighted to read a second book that linked properly to the first and took up his many (to me), powerful arguments against Dawkinesque Darwinism.

A hiatus that worried me is his referring to unity at DNA level (putting aside his earlier demonstrations of cytochrome equidistances in phyla) and then speaking of "apparent morphological differences"; and also forgetting about the necessity for changes in the organism to be always functional - or at any rate not liable to frustrate existing functions. He speaks as if gross changes through DNA alteration could be produced and somehow be assimilated into the life of the creature (or a very different creature) without undue inconvenience. But, frustratingly, he doesn't say this, as far as I can tell.

It's a sad falling away, all in all.

yours, Ted Burford

Limestone Magazine http://www.limested.dircon.co.uk/
 
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7 Apr 1999 00:09:35
email
From: Kim Ollivier
Thankyou for your wonderful web pages

Kim Ollivier
 
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27 Mar 1998 11:12:43
email
From: Laurence Evans
Subject: reciprocal links

Dear Sir:

Perhaps you can put my web page into one of your categories such as "Non-orthodox evolution"

see NATURE'S HOLISM: HOLISM,ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION
( URL updated 21-09-01 )

Laurence Evans.
 
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23 Mar 1999 08:38:08
email
From: daniel
Subject: Theology Online (RMCF)



I am the webmaster for: Rocky Mountain Creation Fellowship


I am posting to you because I want you to know how much I appreciate your website. If you have a spare hour, would you please review my website for any glaring errors. I think that there is a wealth of information available on my site, and since I am a Christian with a Biblical Worldview I certainly have my own biases that may blind me to what you might call glaring errors. Your review could be quite helpful.

You seem to focus on books, and I would very much like to get your comments on the book "Forbidden Archeology", written by Micheal Cremo. This book is a great read (all 950 pages). There is a sample chapter on his site.

One last book to review is, The Face that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution. (see amazon)

Thanks in advance.

Daniel
 
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18 Mar 1999 15:08:12
email
From: Gerald Roche
Subject: autoevolution



Dear Gert,

Just come from your "Was Darwin Wrong?" site which, on the whole, I think is a very good and well balanced assesment of some very interesting and challenging arguements. The only criticism I have to make of your reviews is that I don't think your gave de-Faria's autoevolution theory a fair chance. It seemed that your criticism of it consisted of "What!? No selection!? That can't be", ie a dismissal wholesale without even touching on any aspect of the actual theory of autoevolution. I personally don't support de-Faria's notion of "evolution without selection", but some of his autoevolutionary theory and criticism of neo-Darwinism are really fascinating stuff, and well worthy of review. I was dissapointed to see that such a fair and well argued site could give such a dismissive review to a very interesting and sometimes plausible theory.

Yours Sincerely
Gerald Roche
 
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17 Mar 1999 00:21:38
email
From: Gilbert Lujan
Subject: Great site



You have a great site and I really found your reviews informative. I still think you find it hard to be impartial but you do better than most. I would like to ask when you'll be posting you review on William Dembski's book "The Design Inference"? I went to the Barnes and Noble here but they don't have it and I usually like to browse the book before buying it. I am a physics student at the University of Texas at El Paso and I have become interested in the subject of evolution.

Keep up the good work.

Gilbert
 
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14 Mar 1999 07:13:39
email
From:
Prof. Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
CC:
Walter James ReMine
Subject: The Biotic Message - Walter James ReMine - 1993



Greetings from Brazil!

First of all -- congratulations for your well done and balanced web page. Although I disbelieve in evolution (for theoretical and empirical reasons) whenever I need some fresh 'knowledge' on this controversial metaphysical subject I 'run' to your web page.

Have you ever considered reviewing ReMine's book The Biotic Message? Thus far it has been the most cogent, devastating and debunking critique on evolutionary theories I have ever come across in my life as a Science Education researcher. You reach him at: science@minn.net

May your tribe increase,

Prof. Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
 
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11 Mar 1999 14:55:55
email
From:
Prof. Dr. Edward Steele
Subject: Your review of "Lamarck's Signature"


Dear Gert :

Many thanks for contacting me. You have done a very good objective job in reviewing our book. The best and most comprehensive we have seen thus far from a "general reader" (although it is clear from your deep grasp of the subject matter you are more than just a general reader). For your information we have yet to see anything like this from a professional within the somatic hypermutation or experimental molecular evolution fields.

Every so often we say to ourselves " wouldn't it be nice to have all our published work evaluated on the basis of the evidence". You have really attempted to do this, and largely succeeded - on behalf of the authors of "Lamarck's Signature" please accept our sincere thanks.


continue
 
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2 Mar 1999 17:35:11
email
From:
Derrick L. Hassert
Subject: reviews


Dear Mr. Korthof,

I would like to commend you on your fair, evenhanded, and scientifically accurate reviews of "Lamarck's Signature", "How the Leopard Changed Its Spots", and "At Home in the Universe".
I have read other reviews of these books on the Internet which don't deal with the content of the books but instead attack them because they (may) challenge some part of neo-Darwinism. I've recently read a rather nasty review of Steele et al's book which took issue with the criticism of Dawkins and Dennett (you mark the criticism as fair--I agree; neither Dawkins, Dennett, nor their "fans" seem to take either philosophical or empirical criticism very well). Keep up the good work.

Derrick L. Hassert
 
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15 Feb 1999 21:30:22
email
From: Sid King
Subject: Your website


Hi Gert,

I just visited your web-site for the first time in a long time. I am very impressed. You have been busy reading. I am glad you read Yockey. I believe that the future of Biology will depend upon a better understanding of the information which is contained in the DNA code. I loaned my copy to a friend in Australia and fear it is lost (it was rather expensive). I heard Phillip Johnson once say that Yockey is an agnostic. From his writings, I believe this is true. I believe that he, like you, is only searching for the truth. When he attacks issues like the spontaneous formation of life from the Pre-biotic soup, he does this because the empirical evidence does not support this hypothesis.
I have read A Case against Accident and Self-Organization by Dean L. Overman since we last talked. He is a non- scientist but is a genius ( a member or the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry). There is much philosophy, some math and some interesting observations about Lamarckism in the book.
I also read The Creation Hypothesis by J. P. Moreland. This is a collection of essays on topics which I am sure you are familiar. There is one interesting section on the origin of the human language. The remainder of the topics are issues which have been addressed elsewhere. I will be happy to send a copy of either of the books to you I if you so desire. I think you would enjoy Overman more than Moreland.
Also I am beginning Michael Denton's book Nature's Destiny.
Again I congratulate you on all you hard work. You have created a very impressive site. I think it is one of the best on the Web concerning the Origin's debate.

Best wishes:

Sid
 
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18 Jan 1999
email
Ian Musgrave
Subject: Your review of Not by Chance!


Dear Mr. Korthof

I have just read your review of Lee M Spetners Not by Chance! and found it very interesting and informative, especially as I have recently been debating some people who, I have since discovered, have lifted Spetners argument from "Evolution, Randomness, and Hashkafa" and I have an interest in information theory as applied to biology.
I would like to make some useful comments, but I will start with a minor nit-pick. Quoting your site:
I agree that Dawkins uses a simplified example to illustrate evolution and if Dawkins intended this as a proof that evolution could work, then it must fail.
Dawkins never intended the "weasle" program as a "proof" of evolution, but as a gedanken experiment to show the difference between random variation, and random variation with selection. As that it succeeds quite nicely, one can of course do more realistic simulations (and they have been done), but almost anyone can program the weasle simulation on their home computer (see a collection of Dawkins inspired weasle programs written by myself and others tweaking the basic premise in various ways. Weasle6.bas implements populations, low(ish) mutation rates, variable survival etc. stilll not "realistic", but addressing some of the issues). Other diffenences between Dawkins example and real mutation (which Spetner ignores) is the gene alphabet has only 4 letters, and that the gene "grammar" is much looser than the "grammar" of a written english sentence.
   Now some more important matters. You have effectivly demolished most of Spetners argument with your argument about population sizes. Bacterial populations, where most of the experimental point mutation work was carried out, can be enormous (easily exceeding 1012 in any given "generation", and producing new generations every hour or so), and with rapid duplication rates, many generations can pass in a few days.
As well, Spetner seems only to consider point mutations. These are important, and have been quite extensively studied. However, they are not the only source of "mutation", there are frame shift mutations (including insertions and deletions of various sizes and alternate reading frames), unequal crossing over and splice variants (in genes that contain introns). You have also introduced polyploidy which is important in many organisms (although less important in birds and mammals). By ignoring these, and ignoring the amount of DNA remodelling that goes on in non-dividing organisms, he greatly underestimates the amount of mutation that goes on. He also ignore a lot of experimental work random mutations produce new enzymic activities, ironically, much of this work (on beta-galactosidease) is from Barry Halls group where the "directed" mutations have been reported.
Furthermore, in Barry Halls "adaptive mutation" work, Spetner appears to have overlooked the obvious (which Hall has not). The "adaptive" mutations seem to be plain old random mutations. What appears to be happening is that the metabolic stress these bacteria are under interfers with the proof-reading mechanisms. As DNA is being turned over in the actively transcribed regions (in addition to the copying during division), there is a higher mutation rate in the actively transcribed regions.
  • Andersson DI, et al. "Evidence that gene amplification underlies adaptive mutability of the bacterial lac operon". Science, 1998 Nov 6;282(5391):1133-5.
  • Heidenreich E, et al. "Replication-dependent and selection-induced mutations in respiration-competent and respiration-deficient strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae". Mol Gen Genet. 1998 Nov;260(4):395-400.
   The other thing is that the "cryptic" genes of Spetner are also known as pseudogenes, these are inactivated copies of genes that once originally had a function in the organism, but have been inactivated by one or other mutation. Often these inactive genes are duplicates of currently functioning genes (examples include some of the globin genes, the gene that should synthesize ascorbic acid, but has been incactiveated in primates, and some metabolic genes in E coli), so one should not be too suprised that a back mutation produces a functioning gene.
However, the combination of gene duplication with mutation of some sort is also a powerful mechanism for generating novelties, see for example
  • Nurminsky DI, et al. "Selective sweep of a newly evolved sperm-specific gene in Drosophila". Nature, 1998 Dec 10; 396(6711):572-5.
  • Capy P. "Evolutionary biology: A plastic genome". Nature, 1998 Dec 10; 396(6711):522-3
where a duplication of the dynein/anexin gene pairs, followed by a deletion fusing these genes, resulted in an entirely novel gene. So Spetners mechanism is just good old fashioned "random mutation".
   The bit that is really hard to get to grips with is the part on information. The problem here is that there are many definitions of "information" and care has to be taken with the definitions. For example you could define at least three:
  1. A "common sense" idea of "information", whereby they want to know how organisms acquire "new" genes (in the sense of n+1 genes compared to some ancestor with n genes, for example, how do you get from the number of protein coding genes in a single celled eucaryote to the number of protein coding genes in C. elegans)
  2. Lee Spetners idea of binding specificity as "information"
  3. When theoretical biologists talk about information, they usually mean one of the strict forms of "information" defined by either Shannon and Weaver, or algorithmic complexity. It's trivially easy to show that mutation can increase "information" in this sense, but far more difficult to show it in a way that makes sense to a lay person..
The "commonsense" approach is one I've privately labled the "cookbook" idea of information, in that a cookbook with 10 recipes is seen as having more information that one with 5 recipies. Under this criterion it is again trivially simple to show that "mutation" can creat new "information", if you include gene duplication. The globin genes are prime examples, as are the superfamilies of G-protein linked receptors, Hox genes, serien proteases and so on. The example I quoted above in Nature gives a splendid example whereby a duplication event, followed by a deletion, gave rise to a new, functional gene.
Spetners binding specificity argument is more problematical. I have as yet not tracked down his original papers to see if these general description do the original justice. On the basis of the web site articles (the one above, and a short describtion accompanying the book blurb at amazon.com) articles, it would seem that Spetners information metric has no formal equivalence to S-W or algorithmic definitions of information, and appears to be have subjective elements. Without reading his more complete works, I have no real idea of how he has defined "binding specificity", but from reading the general articles and from your review it would seem he uses a definition that is different from us biochemists.
Spetner gives as an example resistance to streptomycin, where a point mutation prevents the binding of streptomycin, and hence prevents streptomycin scrambling the translation process. His claim is that this is a loss of specificity, and therefore a loss of information (if I am reading the generalist article correctly). However, there is more than one kind of streptomycin resistance, and there is a famous one, where a point mutation makes binding of streptomycin a requirement for translation. This counts as an increase of information in his system, and destroys his argument.
Furthemore, it would seem that his streptomycin example is the exact opposit of the binding specificty measure he sets up, surely an enzyme that doesn't bind streptomycin is more specific under his definition?
You also point out a similar area of ambiguity in regard to his "adaptive mutations" and "information content". This ambiguity over a definition of "information" appears to be a key problem here.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. Many thanks for your review, and the points that you made.

Cheers! Ian
Ian Musgrave, Peta O'Donohue and Jack Francis Musgrave
http://werple.mira.net.au/~reynella/
A collection of Dawkins inspired weasle programs
 
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Copyright © 1997/98/99 G.Korthof . First published: April 5 1999 Last update: 21 Sep 2001