Over on Twitter, I was startled by the assertion that many scientists convert from evolution to creationism, convinced by the evidence.

What was startling about it was that I’m getting used to mainly hearing from atheists calling me a mangina or such on that medium, so it was a break from the usual. On a lark I took a look at the video.

It’s Jerry Bergman. I’ve debated that loon.

How anyone can be convinced by that babbling incompetent is a mystery — I guess he just tells them what they want to hear.

He has written a “book”, he says, titled Darwin Skeptics: A Select List of Science Academics, Scientists, and Scholars Who are Skeptical of Darwinism. It is what it says it is, a list of people with advanced degrees who are some form of creationist. There are 3000 names on it. I browsed it briefly before sending it off to the Science Inquisition (I lie — there is no science inquisition, and no one really gives a damn what nonsense you believe, as long as it doesn’t poison your teaching or research) and was unimpressed. Most of the people on it are not biologists, and most of those who are are antiquated emeritus professors. You will find cranks in every field of endeavor, and you quickly learn to ignore the noise and drill down to the substance.

He also says something interesting, and I even agreed with Bergman, briefly, which says that you’ll always find something. He quotes an Ernst Mayr article.

First, Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically. It no longer requires God as creator or designer (although one is certainly still free to believe in God even if one accepts evolution). Darwin pointed out that creation, as described in the Bible and the origin accounts of other cultures, was contradicted by almost any aspect of the natural world. Every aspect of the “wonderful design” so admired by the natural theologians could be explained by natural selection. (A closer look also reveals that design is often not so wonderful—see “Evolution and the Origins of Disease,” by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams; Scientific American, November 1998.) Eliminating God from science made room for strictly scientific explanations of all natural phenomena; it gave rise to positivism; it produced a powerful intellectual and spiritual revolution, the effects of which have lasted to this day.

I don’t think that’s at all true — we don’t exclude explanations a priori. I’m reminded of a famous Isaac Asimov quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny…'” We’re always on the lookout for odd result that doesn’t fit our expectations, and when we get one, we’re going to take the whole system apart looking for an explanation. The thing is that “god” is not a particularly useful hypothesis, and it’s always going to be down near the bottom of any list of explanations, and in particular, the lack of any defined characters of this “god” being makes it awfully hard to test.

Remember the “neutrinos travel faster than light” anomaly? That was a good example. Nobody expected that neutrinos will travel faster than light, but they didn’t just reject results that suggested they did — they published them. Then they took everything apart trying to figure out what was going on, and eventually discovered an equipment error. “Faulty synchronization” turned out to be a more productive hypothesis than “God did it,” and so far that latter hypothesis has been a useless dud on every occasion it comes up. It’s not that scientists have a prior commitment to rejecting religious hypotheses, but that the theologians have given us such crappy definitions of their gods’ actions that we can’t evaluate them.

So it’s your fault, Jerry Bergman. Also, Mayr is often annoyingly wrong.

But my favorite part of the video starts at about 20 minutes and 20 seconds in. That’s where Bergman announces that everything, except subatomic particles, is irreducibly complex, and then spends the rest of the video explaining his brilliant idea that carbon is an example of an irreducibly complex molecule. He doesn’t even understand the concept he’s talking about!

Here’s Behe’s definition of the phrase:

An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.

Notice that he’s talking about “evolutionary pathways” and selected vs. unselected steps. Carbon was not produced by an evolutionary pathway, and every step in the process of nucleosynthesis (the reactions in stars that produce heavier atoms from hydrogen and helium) was unselected. Irreducible complexity simply doesn’t apply.

It also destroys the utility of the idea to creationists. They’re out to baffle people with elaborate analyses of molecular machines, remember; it’s just not as bewildering to lay people if you just point at an enzyme and say, Well, it’s got carbon in it, therefore god made it. Oooh, look, nitrogen. Well that does it — it’s just too complex for my mind to grasp.

What you need for the creationist concept of irreducible complexity is something complex, first of all; then it needs to be a collection of interacting parts, like a flagellum or a blood clotting pathway; and finally you need to be able to point to one piece of that complexity and say that you can’t imagine how it got there, and the whole thing falls apart if it’s not there. Carbon doesn’t fit that paradigm.

Where IC fails is in that word “selected”. Selection is important in generating functionality, but most of the features in any pathway will have arisen by chance processes — that is, they were initially unselected — and some of them will be shaped by selection into greater functionality. There will also be attributes that slip through the sieve of natural selection but do have functions. There is such a thing as constructive neutral evolution, and simple pathways tend to become more complex by the action of Muller’s Ratchet. Behe’s hypothesis can only be made in the complete absence of knowledge about how evolution actually works, relying on little more than a folk idea about how evolution operates only by natural selection. (Mayr also seemed to share that vision of evolutionary mechanisms, unfortunately.)

I’ve dealt with this bogus concept of irreducible complexity before, and I kind of expect I’ll have to do it off and on again until the day I drop dead.

At least I’m never going to share a stage with Jerry Bergman again. That guy is total fruit loops.


  1. says

    I just woke up, so I haven’t yet had the proper tea intake to deal with creationist videos. What, exactly, does Lion Jesus from Narnia have to do with any of this nonsense?

  2. blf says

    I haven’t yet had the proper tea intake to deal with creationist videos.

    You want to vomit all over yer keyboard?

  3. says

    C.S. Lewis was an “active creationist who opposed evolution”, and wrote a book called The Great Myth in which he disproved evolution. Here’s his key argument:

    If my own mind is a product of the irrational–if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel–how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution?

    Sound familiar, Alvin Plantinga?

  4. says

    If my own mind is a product of the irrational–if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel–how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution?

    Oh…oh my.

  5. Anton Mates says

    If my own mind is a product of the irrational

    Whereas if your mind is a product of the rational, it’s definitely trustworthy. That’s why humans in the Bible always make the right decision and end up believing the right thing.

    if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel

    Which has nothing much to do with evolutionary theory, but it follows from determinism or behaviorism or Marxism or Satanism or something and they’re all basically equivalent, right?

  6. ZugTheMegasaurus says

    People are still trying the “look how many scientists agree with me” tack? Somebody needs to clue him in on Project Steve.

  7. Felix says

    Don’t mind Mr. Prophecy. We know him on Twitter as a serial liar who deletes his own messages en masse as soon as he stops liking the replies, then pretends he never said those things. In return of course, he accuses everyone else of being dishonest, doesn’t listen to information, doesn’t look at sources people provide him, etc. All check boxes of the worst creationism preachers filled. His regular opponents know to screengrab all threads.
    I guess his motivation is to generate clicks to his own websites (I haven’t looked if there’s income generating for him there) or those of his “masters”. Pretty much the entire Twitter creationism crowd is committed to parroting Hovind and AiG, avoiding education and lying about everything. I can’t even see any sincere efforts to convert people in good faith. I’ll probably stop bothering with creationists, flat-earthers or chemtrailers sometime soon. It’s just become so tiresome, repetitive and predictable.

  8. mnb0 says

    “everything, except subatomic particles, is irreducibly complex.”
    Uh oh. Stupid eviltionionist that I am felt that only elementary particles could be ic …..

  9. edmond says

    So God intelligently designed E. coli and ulcers? Thanks, God! What would we have done without them?

  10. Ichthyic says

    What, exactly, does Lion Jesus from Narnia have to do with any of this nonsense?


  11. says

    I’m glad to read it’s not Victor Bergman making these claims. I’d be very upset if he did, and worry for the future of Moonbase Alpha.

  12. Ichthyic says

    People are still trying the “look how many scientists agree with me” tack? Somebody needs to clue him in on Project Steve.

    creationism is driven by snake oil salesmen and authoritarianism.

    OF COURSE arguments from authority and argumentum ad populum works. Anyone should be entirely shocked if it did not.

  13. carlie says

    Damn, I thought you were writing about Ingrid…

    Me too. Let’s. She’s the first person I can remember ever seeing (on tv) and experiencing the phenomenon of someone being so beautiful and appealing that you just can’t take your eyes off of her. She was radiant.

  14. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    It’s Jerry Bergman. I’ve debated that loon.

    What with the picture of Aslan and all, I misread that as “I’ve debated that lion.” I would watch the hell out of that debate.

  15. ragdish says

    Although Bergman et al. seem to crop up every so often, I don’t see them really defining the evolution-creationism narrative. Indeed, the debate has morphed into evolutionists versus “secular creationists”. A common criticism of PZ that I see is that he and others (eg. Steven Rose, Richard Lewontin, etc.) only accept evolution from the neck down. And I think individuals like Steven Pinker and Dawkins lead this attack. The notion is that “secular creationists” seem to reject that evolution via natural selection played a role in shaping human cognition. Indeed, rejecting evolutionary psychology means you are no different than Jerry Bergman. Hogwash! No honest scientist rejects that evolution shaped the brain. What unfortunately gets horribly lost in translation is that there those who absolutely “know” how cognition evolved by relying on “just so stories”. I argue that it is they who are of Bergman’s ilk.

  16. blf says

    Lion debates…

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, next up in this afternoon’s entertainment is more intellectual exercise, today’s christian–lion debate. The christians have not been doing too well lately, with an aggregate total of 17,234 wins for the lions, 0 for the christians, and one draw. Will we see our first christian win today? Or perhaps another draw? Wasn’t vomiting-up a still-screaming christian fascinating? I understand the lion has now recovered and soon appear again. The christian was made into a set of candles, boxes sets of which are available in the gift shop.

    “But on to today’s debate! In the corner cage is Moartooth, lean, mean, and ready for any argument the christian can make. She’s won all of her debates, usually with a biting comment. A fearsome debater.

    “Tied to the stake in the other corner is the christian. Not sure what his name is, but he tends to go on and on, so we’ll call him Rabid. Now, I don’t think Rabid is rabid, but he’s certainly rabid. Also falls to his knees and waves a model cross around, a strategy which has never deterred Moartooth before.

    “Are we ready? Right! Ok, for today’s fair debate ritual offering, Rabid will now be covered in some of Moartooth’s catnip. And Moartooth will be given a scroll to Rabid’s to read. And whilst the debaters prepare… Eh?… No, Rabid, it is fair: Moartooth doesn’t like your scroll either, see how she chewed it to bits?

    “Are the debaters ready? It seems so, both are squirming, Moartooth is growling, and Rapid is yelling incoherently. This looks like it will be a good debate!


    “And Moartooth charges out, runs up to Rabid, and bites him in half! Fantastic!! Two screams, two and half seconds, one of the longest debates yet!!!

    “While Moartooth finishes her lunch, may I remind you there is an extensive set of christian–lion debate drawings and transcripts for sale in the gift shop.”