I get email — from Peter Heck

Yesterday, I tore into a reeking pile of creationist bogosity by Peter Heck. This morning, he sends me email.

Dr. Myers,

Someone sent me a nasty email that included a link to your blog. I found it a pretty thorough shallacking! Not that I’m opposed to that. If I put arguments out in front of people, I have no problem when they’re hacked up by the experts. I actually sent the column to three biologists I know and trust before it was published. They don’t agree with my views on some of these issues, but I knew they would challenge my science. They all recommended I take out the first paragraph or make it less condescending. But then folks like you might not have read it! But what each of them said in response to the article was that my conclusion was not scientifically flawed: that Britt’s suggestion that swine flu proved the Darwinian model of macro-evolution was incorrect. I’d be interested to know if you disagree. Thanks for your time and for taking an interest in my article,


This is a rather disingenuous reply; he wasn’t just shellacked, he was exposed as a dishonest fraud who knew nothing at all about the subject he was critiquing. I didn’t just criticize a few niggling errors in his article, I ripped it apart from stem to stern and pointed out that he was ignorant and unscholarly…and now he comes back and offers the feeble excuse that he had three biologists look it over? Who were these biologists, and why didn’t they point out that the article was nothing but a crudely hacked together raft of creationist fallacies?

Now he also tries to salvage something by claiming that he was still correctly rebutting “Britt’s suggestion that swine flu proved the Darwinian model of macro-evolution was incorrect”. Go ahead, read Britt’s article (note also that Heck’s article did not include a link to the source); you won’t find him claiming proof of anything, nor will you find him discussing macro- vs. microevolution. He straightforwardly and entirely correctly describes viral evolution as a very real phenomenon with real-world consequences.

Here’s part of Heck’s flogging of a straw man.

In a recent article for Live Science magazine that attempts to prove Darwin by using the swine flu of all things, author Robert Roy Britt sneers, “Anyone who thinks evolution is for the birds should not be afraid of swine flu…if there’s no such thing as evolution, then there’s no such thing as a new strain of swine flu infecting people.” His supposedly witty remarks were meant to mock creationists, castigating their “junk science.”

But the intellectual dishonesty inherent in Britt’s statement is almost as obvious as his failed attempt at humor. Britt is using a common ploy of Darwinists: confuse people into believing that their utterly unsubstantiated speculation of species-to-species macro-evolution is synonymous with the universally accepted scientific fact of adaptation and development within a species (sometimes called micro-evolution).

Britt described an actual fact: viruses evolve. This isn’t just short-term physiological adaptation, but the acquisition of new properties by recombination and mutation that produces novel strains, strains which then succeed or fail (from the virus’s perspective) by how well they thrive and spread in their hosts. He consulted two competent experts, who he named in the article, and linked to other articles that summarized some of the general points he was making.

The only intellectual dishonesty was Heck’s, in claiming that an article about viral evolution was claiming proof of the evolution of frogs, lizards, or whales.

But if he wants to get into the argument about, for instance, whale evolution, I’d be happy to carve him to bits. The whole creationist version of the micro/macro evolution distinction is complete nonsense. Scientists do make the distinction, usually reserving macroevolution for the larger scale accumulation of change over time that produces new species or lineages, but they don’t argue that one is unsupported speculation.

What you have to understand is that the concept of macroevolution came first, although it wasn’t called that; it was just called evolution or transformation theory, among other things (“evolution” was a term that actually became popular relatively late). Darwin himself examined biology largely on a grand scale, looking at biogeography and populations and fossils, and making an argument on the basis of what we would now call macroevolutionary phenomena for changes in form of species over geological time. He wasn’t alone, either; many other authors preceded him in seeing that the evidence supported a history of evolutionary change. What made Darwin particularly persuasive, though, is that he coupled the evidence of changing species to a hypothetical mechanism, natural selection. He didn’t have the tools or the details to work out how heritable change was accomplished, however; that took the discovery of genetics and molecular biology to allow us to see how this ‘microevolution’ actually worked.

When creationists argue that they believe in microevolution, but that macroevolution is dubious, they’ve got it backwards. Large scale historical change was confirmed and thoroughly documented in the 19th century! Darwin was a bridge, who explained how small scale, natural processes could produce the known variation between species, and the triumph of 20th century biology was to confirm and expand upon our understanding of how those changes occurred. Neither macro nor micro evolution are speculative. Neither one is lacking in evidence.

Heck was merely flaunting the tedious ignorance of creationists, which is no longer ever surprising. He was also making a dishonest pretense to knowledge, which is also not surprising, and is one reason to never, ever trust anyone who claims to be a creationist — it’s a synonym for lying, stupid fraud. I don’t even trust his letter. Does anyone really believe that he will regard the series of arguments he made in his article as “hacked up”? I would bet that he’ll be thumping the same old lies again next time he preaches in front of his fellow phonies.

I’d also still like to know who his biology consultants were. I’m sure they’ll remain anonymous and mysterious, lest we discover that they are yet another batch of creationists with a collection of pretend knowledge and made-up “facts”.