Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ken Ham and Natural Selection

Answers in Genesis has made peace with natural selection, or so they say. Yahoo news has run an AP story by Dylan Lovan in which Ken Ham, founder of AIG states that creationists have always accepted natural selection:
A new exhibit at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum argues that natural selection — Darwin's explanation for how species develop new traits over time — can coexist with the creationist assertion that all living things were created by God just a few thousand years ago.

"We wanted to show people that creationists believe in natural selection," said Ken Ham, founder of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis and frequent Darwin critic.

But there's a catch:
Ham said he agrees that natural selection can give an organism an advantage in its environment, but creationists do not believe that the process can lead to new species, such as fish evolving into amphibians.

Visitors to the exhibit are greeted by a large sign that reads: "Natural Selection is not Evolution."

This will be news to palaeontologists who, in the last couple of years have discovered dinosaurs with feathers that did not fly, frogamanders and fishapods (or fishibians, if you like). Saying that natural selection doesn't lead to new species is a somewhat circuitous way of saying that there are no transitional fossils. I think that, by stating the argument in the positive rather than the negative, he is hoping to catch some people napping and also to appeal to a larger group of people who aren't sure what they think about natural selection. He can also give the presentation a thicker veneer of "science." That it is nonsense might get lost in the translation.

5 comments:

  1. From the AIG podcast I listened to, all canine or I guess canine-like kinds of animals are descendants from some sort of uber-wolf on the ark. Since mutation and selection can't increase information, selection can only operate on an increasing rate of lost information. Which means that the orignal dog daddy was carting around all potential canine like body types in its genome. If that includes marsupial wolves, foxes and hyaenas that represents some heavy duty "selecting" in the last 4000 years.

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  2. This is really nothing new for AIG. I come from a long creationist background, and I remember hearing them (Ken Ham in particular) say this as far back as 1994. And I doubt it was a new position back then.

    The argument at the time was that natural selection happens, but it always decreases variation in populations, so it can't lead to new structures or organisms. The quotation above seems to imply that AIG may be giving a little bit on the no new structures argument. But I wouldn't be surprised if that's just a misunderstanding on the AP's part.

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  3. I have no idea where AIG gets this idea. If natural selection were the only force operating in evolution, then maybe there would be some credence to it, but natural selection acts on three other forces, mutation, gene flow and genetic drift. Mutations increase genetic variability by pumping new variation into every single generation. Selection then acts on some of that variation either positively or negatively. Many variations remain neutral until either the environment changes in a beneficial or disadvantageous way or they are incorporated into the genome through exaptation. For the AIG to harp on natural selection to the exclusion of all of the other neat things that happen in evolution just reinforces their myopic view of science and inability to understand how these things work.

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  4. Scripto, this is the problem. Young earth creationists are over a barrel. If they posit some "uberwolf" in the ark, then they have to accept runaway evolution since the ark came to rest. If not, then they have to explain how a bazillion species of animals were present on the ark. That doesn't even count the ones that are extinct. Huge dinosaurs roamed the earth, filled the air and swam in the seas, became extinct in a few years and people "forgot about them?" Now that is a fantastic tale!

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