Reading through Good Math, Bad Math, I saw a classic example of creationist foolishness: a fellow who insists that math will vindicate the Bible by proving that π = 3. It reminded me of this old post where a creationist had the thread jumping in her need to prove that the story of Jacob and Laban actually demonstrated a valid form of biblical genetics. So here it is; the original comments are also amusing.
It’s not just the US that is infested with creationists; take a look at Canadian Christianity. Like their southern brethren, they seem to be greatly concerned about homosexuals and evolution; I’m always astounded at how much conservative Christian identity is tied to the denial of civil rights and opposition to science. There are several juicy tidbits of benighted ignorance there, but I’m going to focus on one incredible claim made in an interview with a Kirk Durston, who is apparently a director of some Campus Chrusade for Christ ministry…which, apparently, means he is now a fully qualified creationist biologist. In the interview, he’s asked this leading question:
As you know, evolutionists tend to use ‘evolution’ as a blanket term, without making the crucial distinction between ‘micro-evolution’ (physical changes within a single species) and ‘macro-evolution’ (transformation from one species into another). Because micro-evolution is scientifically provable, they can say that evolutionary theory is legitimate science—and by using the general term ‘evolution,’ they imply that macro-evolution is also legitimate science. Do you think there is sufficient awareness of the fact that there is no concrete evidence for macro-evolution? Are evolutionists simply afraid to admit this to the public—and perhaps to themselves?
Creationists do love the terms “microevolution” and “macroevolution”—they pretend to acknowledge that one is good science, so their claim that the other is false looks a little more impartial. Of course macroevolution is legitimate science, backed up by evidence: the fossil record is one big catalog of macroevolutionary events, while the molecular evidence for common descent unambiguously ties together disparate lineages. Read Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) (subtitled “Macroevolution and the transformation of life“) for some lucidly presented examples.
Durston, of course, obligingly buys into the interviewer’s phony claim, but goes a little further and says something astounding.
It is very important to make a distinction between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Micro-evolution has been known for thousands of years, with the first documented case occurring in Genesis, when Jacob [manipulated] his father-in-law’s sheep and goat herd so he could get more striped and spotted livestock. Any examples of evolution we observe today fall into this category.
I quite agree that the breeding of domesticated animals is an excellent example of the transformation of populations with evolutionary consequences. Darwin himself wrote extensively about domesticated animals in his books, and considered them good supporting evidence for his ideas. But have you ever read the story of Jacob and his microevolutionary research program in genetic manipulation? It’s amusing. Here it is:
“What should I pay you?” Laban asked. Jacob answered: “You do not have to pay me anything outright. I will again pasture and tend your flock, if you do this one thing for me:
go through your whole flock today and remove from it every dark animal among the sheep and every spotted or speckled one among the goats. Only such animals shall be my wages.
In the future, whenever you check on these wages of mine, let my honesty testify against me: any animal in my possession that is not a speckled or spotted goat, or a dark sheep, got there by theft!”
“Very well,” agreed Laban. “Let it be as you say.”
That same day Laban removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats, all those with some white on them, as well as the fully dark-colored sheep; these he left. . . in charge of his sons.
Then he put a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to pasture the rest of Laban’s flock.
Jacob, however, got some fresh shoots of poplar, almond and plane trees, and he made white stripes in them by peeling off the bark down to the white core of the shoots.
The rods that he had thus peeled he then set upright in the watering troughs, so that they would be in front of the animals that drank from the troughs. When the animals were in heat as they came to drink,
the goats mated by the rods, and so they brought forth streaked, speckled and spotted kids.
The sheep, on the other hand, Jacob kept apart, and he set these animals to face the streaked or fully dark-colored animals of Laban. Thus he produced special flocks of his own, which he did not put with Laban’s flock.
Moreover, whenever the hardier animals were in heat, Jacob would set the rods in the troughs in full view of these animals, so that they mated by the rods;
but with the weaker animals he would not put the rods there. So the feeble animals would go to Laban, but the sturdy ones to Jacob.
Thus the man grew increasingly prosperous, and he came to own not only large flocks but also male and female servants and camels and asses.
This is the biblical science creationists want to put in our schools. How do you breed striped livestock? You let them look at striped sticks while they are mating, and then their offspring will be striped. Under this logic, we’ll have to assume that white ceilings are a racist plot to breed more Caucasian children. And yet this creationist, in all seriousness, suggests this ridiculous story as an instance of Biblical microevolution and genetics.
I won’t even get into the ethical lesson here, which seems to be that it is OK for Jacob to cheat his father-in-law, and that his reward is to own servants.