I got an email from a creationist, which I know only because his email signature identified his affiliation with Creationist Ministries International. He asked me for a clarification on my most recent paper, which I provided. Then he thanked me and said that he’d enjoyed several of my papers.
That was it.
I suppose PZ must be to Creationist crank e-mails as Jupiter is to rogue asteroids.
If at liberty to say, the specific question (even to how it’s worded) you were asked could be a clue to what they were trying to get, and whether it might be just honest curiosity on their part versus ulterior motives. Luther Sunderland for example was notorious back in the 1970s for politely trawling for statements from evolutionists (Colin Patterson most awkwardly so) that could then be buffed into their frame. For those unaware of Creation Ministries International, that’s the fissioned branch of Answers in Genesis, with Ken Ham’s American AiG branch separating not amicably over charges of high-handedness and fiscal peculiarities by Ham. CMI & AiG took separate custody of the kids (the various archived Creation magazines and journals, which may be seen in which end up at aig.org verses cmi.org)
Matthew Herron says
Momma raised no fools, RJ. I know there’s a good chance he’s working on a rebuttal of the paper. If so, good for him. His question (how do you define a ‘strain’) is a reasonable one, one that I’ve gotten from biologists (though usually taken for granted by microbiologists). I take it as an honest effort to better understand the paper, but if I’m wrong, I’m not worried. If he were to take some part of my answer out of context, I have the whole thing.
Matthew Herron says
In an important sense, his intentions and his creationist affiliation don’t matter. He asked what by all indications was an honest question; I have a responsibility to answer regardless of who he is. If it’s a trap, it’s a trap I’m obliged to enter.
I suspect that your correspondent may be crafting a rebuttal which will use your definition as a springboard to something using the term “baramin”. Well, let’s see how things play out.
Baraminology is a field creationists should tread only at their peril, since their muddle and inconsistencies on vertebrates is only a symptom of the impossibility of their task: trim the known diversity of fossil and living forms down enough to park on the Ark, while simultaneously not permitting way too much speciation for the comfort of the grassroots that’s still laboring under the impression that speciation doesn’t happen at all, and keeping a standard that allows them to have the human species as its own baramin, uniquely so, while the remaining baramins can slide all over the macroevolutionary scale.
Anything relating to bacteria opens up the theodicy door, on all the ones that end up being a nuisance to other organisms, meaning yet more double standards as to the “good” design versus the “bad” stuff originating on account of the Fall. And as we know, in a science environment with endosymbiosis and LGT under its belt, there’s way too many barn doors open for the creationists to make a comprehensive and credible case here. Not that it isn’t usefully fun watching them try to do it.
It’s good you’re mindful of the pitfalls. Though on the creationist side, as they rarely bother to read the primary sources, most of them won’t know what the original paper had to say. That they’re trawling on “strains” suggests they might (a) be playing on criticisms of common descent (speciation falls apart in bacteria, so we can reject the whole Tree of Life thing; there’s a cottage industry of antievolution advocacy in that department, ID as well as YEC) along with (b) the old refrain, well its just the same stuff, not becoming an ape in the lab, now is it?
Anyway, keep us posted on any developments, Matt.