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Edward Max's Fourth Rebuttal to the Fourth Critique

For Dr. Max's Original Article, click HERE.

For A Paper Distributed at Dr. Max 2/22/01 Debate with Duane Gish, click HERE.

For An Introduction To Answering Dr. Edward Max's Challenge, click HERE.

For Ross Olson's First Critique, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Rebuttal, click HERE.

For Ross Olson's Second Critique, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Second Rebuttal to the Second Critique, click HERE.

For Ross Olson's Third Critique, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Third Rebuttal to the Third Critique, click HERE.

For Olson's Critique Number Four, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Fourth Rebuttal to the Fourth Critique, click HERE.

For Olson's Critique Number Five, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Fifth Rebuttal to the Fifth Critique (and the summary linked below), click HERE.

For a summary of these interactions, click HERE.

From Edward Max
To Ross Olson
April 27, 2002

Dear Ross,
As our correspondence seems to be rehashing some previously covered points I will try to be brief.

1. You wrote:

Antibody gene shuffling and mutation are part of a very intricate system that is very suitable to its purpose and SURE LOOKS DESIGNED! It has no similarity to random mutations or shuffling of the entire genome.

Whether antibody mutation "looks designed" to you, or is complex, or does not seem similar to genomic mutation are all irrelevant to the narrow point made in my essay. The essay refutes the false creationist claim - based on erroneous information theory arguments or statistical calculations - that random mutation is a uniformly deleterious process that can never be the source of improved biological function. The fact that this creationist argument is incorrect doesn't mean that the evolutionist view is correct, and I never claimed that it did.

2. In response to your comments about the creationist thermodynamics argument against evolution, I included in my last rebuttal two substantive and one rhetorical question for you. You focused on the rhetorical question, and wrote a letter to a Dr. Allan Harvey, a professional scientist specializing in thermodynamics, explaining why you think his conception of the thermodynamics argument is incorrect. However, you avoided dealing with the first two substantive questions, which I repeat:

(1) Do you agree that "Localized regions of increased order can occur in spontaneous processes without violating the Second Law"? (2) Do you think that a valid thermodynamics analysis of the biosphere can neglect the sun's energy and the dissipation of solar energy into space?

Anyone who claims that evolution violates the Second Law of thermodynamics - i.e. anyone who claims that evolution has been associated with a net decrease in entropy - assumes the burden of showing that in fact entropy in the biosphere has actually decreased. That entropy calculation cannot be made without assuming specific answers to the two questions above (which I also posed to Dr. Gish at our debate). What are your answers?

3. You wrote:

If, as you state in explaining why human evolution was so rapid, apes can become graduate students over a relatively short time because they don't need much new DNA, why not intelligent dogs? Or at least dogs with opposable thumbs?

I don't think anyone really knows exactly why humans became so much more intelligent than other species, so I can only provide answers that you might reasonably call "just-so" stories. One reason why - after the ~6 million years of evolution from our common ancestor with chimps - we humans are smarter than dogs is probably that the human-chimp common ancestor was already very intelligent as a result of much prior evolution. Even modern apes are more intelligent than dogs. One proposed factor in ape intelligence is that apes frequently sit in an upright position that allows the forelimbs to be used for grasping and manipulating, activities likely to favor selection for an opposable thumb. In contrast, dogs use all four limbs for support and locomotion, and almost never for manipulation, so would have no selective pressure favoring an opposable thumb. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that in the process of domesticating dogs their owners have ever selected for the kind of abstract reasoning that is associated with tool use and leads to graduate students.

You also wrote:

".. the example of dog breeding does not help evolution. They are all dogs and can be hybridized back towards the original stock."

I am not sure what you mean by "help evolution." I brought up the rapid change in shapes of different dog breeds because you seemed to be challenging me to provide an example of rapid phenotypic change brought about by random mutation and selection. Dog breeds provide such an example, and the fact that under some bizarre artificial conditions a hybrid between a Chihuahua and a Great Dane might be produced is totally irrelevant. The mutations that prevent hybrid viability are relatively rare events like chromosomal rearrangements. What the differentiation of dog breed shows is that dramatic phenotypic changes can occur in such short time frames that they are unaccompanied by bulk chromosomal rearrangements that preclude viable hybrids.

4. You quoted my words about Behe and then commented on them:

"Most scientists other than Behe have the humility to recognize that our ignorance is profound and that evolution may be 'smarter' than we are; Behe seems to feel that anything he doesn't know can't really exist." Did you catch that, even with the quotation marks, you have faith in the creative power of evolution that goes beyond the evidence! This sounds more like religion than science.

I believe that many questions that Behe claimed to be unanswerable because he could not find the answers in the scientific literature are in fact answerable. This belief does not go beyond the evidence at all, as examples of published scientific papers addressing scientific questions that Behe said were not in the literature have been described already (e.g. by Ken Miller in Finding Darwin's God). I also believe that science will in the future discover things that we don't know now. You can call that "faith" but it seems to me a reasonable extrapolation of the explosion in knowledge that has come in recent years; I don't see any signs that it is stopping tomorrow. However, I have no "faith" that future science will explain a naturalistic mechanism for the origin of life or for the detailed molecular evolution underlying specific adaptations; these may remain unknown for the foreseeable future. But "unknown" does not mean we must postulate a non-naturalistic Designer.

5. You wrote:

You will not admit the possibility of intelligent design, even as a hypothesis!

I have not said this at all; again you seem to be reading into my words ideas that I never wrote. Intelligent Design is certainly a hypothesis and I accept the possibility that IT MAY EVEN BE TRUE!!!! However, it is simply not a scientific hypothesis until its proponents can supply predictions that test its validity by the scientific method. You might remember the many examples of testable predictions that I outlined in my debate with Dr. Gish, all of which yielded evidence consistent with evolution; these are examples of the sort of predictions that ID proponents need to make and test before their endeavor can be called science.

6. You wrote:

You then dismiss the young earth arguments as resting on flawed data or flawed reasoning. As a parting shot, let me challenge you to back that up. If this is the last interchange, you cannot logically or scientifically make that kind of charge without supporting it.

If you feel that a charge I make demands support, I wonder how you justify your own refusal to support the charge you made that I had "vilified" Dr. Gish, or criticized him unfairly. In fact, my only criticisms of Dr. Gish were for specific examples of his poor scientific scholarship, and you have refused to either discuss how these criticisms were unfair, or admit that they were in fact fair. You are not supporting your own charges.

Regarding the creationist young earth arguments, I should say that these are outside my area of expertise, but I can explain to the best of my understanding why they are wrong. The ocean saltiness claim for a young earth that you referred to attempts to estimate the age of the earth by calculating how long it would take for the oceans to accumulate the salt content now observed if one assumes a constant rate of salt influx from rivers and a constant rate of salt loss (with both rates estimated from current observations). There are major problems with this calculation:

1. There is no reason to assume that either the salt influx or salt loss rates are constant. Indeed the varying sodium content of sediments of different ages attest to varying rates of sodium deposition in different geological periods and places. Spectacular examples are the thick salt deposits due to evaporation of inland seas. River erosion of rocks of variable salt content will necessarily lead to varying salt content of rivers. You can't measure rates with a clock that doesn't tick steadily.
2. Seawater contains many solutes besides sodium, and creationists have gotten wildly varying estimates for the age of the earth by applying the same arguments about seawater content to other solutes. A method that gives wildly discrepant results depending on the selection of solutes cannot be valid.

Furthermore, creationists reject radiometric estimates of the age of rocks even though there is excellent theoretical and experimental evidence that radiometric decay rates are constant. Rocks from a given layer obtained in various parts of the world give consistent ages when assessed with a variety of different isotope decay series if the tests are appropriately performed on suitable rock samples.

You might also want to check these Websites:
They document further examples of creationist arguments based on poor data or poor logic, including arguments based on accumulation of meteor-derived dust on the moon, on helium content in the atmosphere and on the decay of earth's magnetic field. We also previously discussed Gentry's arguments from halos in rocks, in which he favors an explanation contradicted by an immense literature of published geology and physics papers.

Ross, if your interest in the creation-evolution controversy is in the argument from design and in spiritual and psychological reasons for belief, our correspondence should probably end with any answers you care to provide to the above questions. My interests are in the scientific evidence for evolution and in maintaining excellence in science education. I thought from the topics that you originally wrote about that we shared these interests in scientific evidence, but if you avoid addressing my refutations of creationist arguments by saying that you are really more interested in psychology and spiritualism, then there is not much more for us to discuss. I have never argued against spiritual and psychological reasons for accepting the biblical creation account; I have only criticized arguments that claim to be based on scientific evidence.

Best wishes,