Creationism and Baraminology Research News

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An ongoing list of creationist research projects. This is not a creationism-verse-evolution site, but a site to publicize the research work done by members of the creationist community and the intelligent design community, or research work by the science community at large constructively relating to creation topics. Evolutionary critiques may be included on occasion but only under special consideration, and especially where the research pertains directly to developing a creationist model.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Against the Creationist Metaphysic

I don't normally post creation-vs-evolution debates on these pages, however, I don't mind posting counter-arguments to creation and specifically creationist methodology. Doppleganger posted a link to a great article to think on in the primate baraminology post, and I thought the quality of the argument was significant enough to share with the rest of you:

On the Metaphysic of Christianity

The primary article under discussion is "A Quantitative Approach to Baraminology With Examples from the Catarrhine Primates". I don't have access to the article, so I'm going to give the authors the benefit of the doubt. It's possible they don't deserve it, but I've read other things by Cavanaugh, and so giving him the benefit of the doubt seems reasonable to me.

The basic error in the criticism is a category error. Two of them actually. The first and most important one is that, while the author appears to understand the difference between assumptions and conclusions at the beginning of the article, he appears to forget it by the end.

There are multiple kinds of creationist scholarship. Some of it is geared towards proving the creationist position. Other works are scholarship that research _from_ the creationist position. This paper, as far as I can tell, is the latter. It does not say "the results of this paper show that humans and chimps are different baramins", instead it says "we know from scripture that humans and chimps are in different baramins, and we can use that information to help us determine which characters and character analysis techniques are useful in determining baraminic organization". Those are two completely different statements. The paper appears to be making the latter, while the article appears to be criticizing it for making the former.

The author of the article complains that the paper hand-selected the traits that put them in different baramins, but in fact that was the entire point of the paper -- to determine what traits were important baraminologically. If humans and chimps are in different baramins, then it is reasonable to examine the differences between them and use them as guides to determining baraminically important characters.

Now, the question is, are creationists alone in arguing from assumptions to conclusions? The answer is no. For example, see the paper Estimate of the Mutation Rate per Nucleotide in Humans. This paper estimates the rate of nucleotide change. However, it does so by comparing chimps to humans. Thus, the counts in that paper are based on the assumption that chimps and humans share a common ancestor. I have seen this paper used to argue that this overcomes Haldane's dillema by showing emperically that the mutation rate is fast enough. However, this is a totally inappropriate use of that paper, because the paper is only correct if chimps and humans share a common ancestor, which is the point under discussion. Thus, it is circular reasoning. Note that it isn't the paper that was guilty of circular reasoning -- in fact the paper is an excellent example of scholarship. It is using the paper in a way that confuses assumptions and conclusions that is inappropriate. There is nothing wrong with taking assumptions and using them to press forward. Ultimately we have to. The problem comes when we confuse our assumptions and conclusions, and when science sets a pre-determined set of assumptions for everyone else to follow.

I have no problems with evolutionists using evolutionary assumptions for research. It doesn't make the research bad or useless or inappropriate. However, it is bad if people take the assumptions and confuse them for conclusions.

And that is what this author does.

Let's look at the concluding statement:

"That is, they have to pick data that give them the results they want – those that conform to Scripture."

Note that this isn't about getting a _desired_ conclusion. The conclusion is what are the baraminically important characters -- that list of characters did not come from scripture. The _assumption_ is scripture. This is one of the hallmarks of baraminology -- that it doesn't attempt to argue for or against the scriptural perspective, but simply uses it as an assumption for ongoing research. I can see why others may not like it, specifically those who don't see scripture as authoritative. But the specific criticism being thrown at this particular paper seems to be coming from the confusion between assumption and conclusion.

If this paper had been an attempt to prove that primates were in a different baramin than humans, then the criticism given in the article would be completely valid. However, as it was using it as an assumption, it is not.

As a short, non-proving defense of the assumption, let me ask a question -- if God created individual kinds, don't you think His scripture would be the best initial source of information as to what those kinds are?

A separate, and much more minor error in the article deals with his criticism of what determines appropriate traits for analysis:

"Things like percent foliage in diet, monogamy, population group size and density, home range size, etc. It looks to me like these data too were chosen to produce a desired outcome, for what exactly does “monogamy” have to do with descent?"

This misses the fact that creationists are not bound by descent being the only determining factor of the makeup of a baramin. A fairly minor point with little consequence, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.
My response:

I will also be linking to an analysis of one of the datasets they used and showing how using incorrect assumptions produces weakly supported tree topologies.
A friend is sending me an article by mail, and I will reply at that point. Likewise I will also attempt to retrieve the data set from Cavanaugh.
I received the copy of the article, and will hopefully get around to reading it this weekend.
"Likewise I will also attempt to retrieve the data set from Cavanaugh. "

Good luck.

He wouldn't even respond to my email requests. Wonder what he was hiding?
I left my comments on Doppleganger's blog entry, and they will appear when he approves them, as he actively moderates his blog.

If anyone is curious, I passively moderate mine (i.e. any comment is seen immediately, but can be deleted by me). So far, I have only used my moderation to remove spam.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Doppleganger said: "Good luck.

He wouldn't even respond to my email requests. Wonder what he was hiding?
# posted by Doppelganger : 12:32 PM"

As far as I know, I have never been contacted by this individual. I respond favorably to reasonable people who are interested in serious dialogue and scholarship. Given doppleganer's untruth and generally bellicose tone, why would I want to waste my time on pointless argument? What does he have to hide I might ask in return, when he seems to want to engage in sophistry?

Now if Doppleganger were really interested in collegiality and serious research, we could get somewhere.
What 'untruth', David?

I was referring to a couple of years ago when I emailed botrh you and Robinson and neither of you responded to my emails requesting the data set that your paper says is available fomr the authors.
Are you really responding to a post to you a YEAR AND A HALF later? Honestly? Do you expect him to be monitoring this thread daily to wait for you to respond for the last year and a half? This looks more like posturing than a real post. You are free to comment and criticize on this blog as always, but this is just silliness.
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