Saturday, July 21, 2012

Creationism And Fused Chromosomes

I used to avidly follow the evolution creationism debates on the internet. The beginning of my interest was the flurry of rebuttals to Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box which were put up on Boston Review. It was a great learning experience as biologists picked apart the concept of intelligent design and "irreducible complexity".

That tradition of battling creationists by providing clear explanations of biological phenomena continues with science writer Carl Zimmer explaining how the fusion of chromosomes can explain the difference in the chromosome number between our closest relatives and humans. Gorillas and chimpanzees have 24 pairs of chromosomes while humans have 23 pairs. John Hawks pitches in and gives an insight into the relationship between large genetic changes and the origin of new species.

I am always completely befuddled by the creationist response. I mean who are the creationists really addressing?  Their arguments against evolution are usually poor and not backed by evidence and their alternative explanations for the origin of complexity and diversity like Michael Behe's idea of a pre-formed genome border on the ridiculous. Even they must know that they will never win over biologists and well.. people with the ability to think for themselves..:)

My take is that creationists are not so much trying to convert people to the idea of creationism as much as trying to keep their flock from rejecting God and migrating to the side of rationality. Their enterprise of rejecting evolution and providing counter "explanations" rely on the vast majority of people with faith who already reject evolution only reading creationist literature. You could argue that with the internet it is so easy to find and read arguments put forward by scientists. That is true, but it is also true that people with strong convictions generally seek out conforming opinions and then stick to their own community. I doubt if the vast majority of followers of major creationist websites take the trouble of reading the criticisms of biologists.

I think that suits the creationists. They can misrepresent evolution and the work of scientists all they want knowing that the majority of the faithful will be reading only their side of the story. That is the reason for the conditions they have recently put on debating the fused chromosomes with Carl Zimmer. It has to be on their moderated web site with a word limit with no comments allowed.


  1. I totally agree with you, and very well said. I also think creationists look for any support for their point of view, just so that they will feel better about themselves! ... but then maybe we all do this :)

  2. In the States, at least, there does seem to be a battle for the middle -- those raised religious but who never really questioned it. (And that middle is far too large.) But yes, I think a lot of it is creationist attempts to keep their own beliefs from crumbling.

    I followed this closely when I was actively blogging, as well as following the arguments within the skeptic community as to how to deal with it. But, as important as it is, I find it an exhausting battle.

  3. What people believe in is rarely a matter of logic and reasoning. Whether it is a young woman who believes that the violent drunkard will reform as soon as he marries her, or someone who believes she is the re-incarnation of the rani of Jhansi, belief has nothing to do with logic. Why do creationist go to such absurd lengths? Believers in creationism will believe no matter what.

  4. thanks all for your inputs! I don't follow the creationism debate as closely now.. as CMS put it.. it is exhausting!