Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Berlinski's ignorance captured on film.

Creationists have attacked the concept of homology and the support it gives to evolutionary theory in two ways; they lie about what homology is, and they promolgate false examples and equally false counter-examples. Anatomical homology is not mere "similarity" of superfical appearance, it is deeper strcutural, genetic and development matching.

A recent example by intelligent design creationsts sponsored by the Discovery Institute has been posted on YouTube.

Discovery Institute produced video is based on the fictional account of evolution, "Icons of Evolution" written by the Reverend Dr. Dr. Jon Wells. David Berlinski's comments about homology, like all professional creationists I have ever encountered, are simply wrong, and probably lies. His main example of the marsupial carnivore the "Tasmanian wolf" (Marsupialia, Thylacinidae) are particularly wrong and misleading. He says, "Take the Australian (sic) wolf that except of the reproductive system, features a wide variety of organ systems that are absolutely homological to the North American Timber Wolf. But there is no evidence that these homological structures arose because some wolf at some time in the past - some proto wolf- decided to first migrate to Australia and then to migrate to North America. The evolutionary lines are completely distinct and yet we see a profound degree of homology. We see this throughout the animal kingdom."

Derlinski misleads viewers by implying homologies should not be apparent between marsupial mammals and placental mammals. Of course there should be- they are all mammals. But, he then makes the utterly false assertion that the marsupial "Tasmanian wolf" is more like the placental timber wolf. By any honest analysis, the opposum is more like, and more closely related to this Tasmanian carnivor than any placental mammal. Finally, Berlinski's remarks about a "proto wolf" migrating about the world are absurd and bear no relation to any science. He is presenting a strawman merely to distract. His biggest false hood he saved for the end, "... we see a profound degree of homology." Clearly Berlinski either does not know what a homology is, or he is utterly ignorant about marsupial thylacine, and and placental canid anatomy, or he is a liar.

I recommend this overview of thylacine natural history.
The scientific facts are in direct opposition to Berlinski's wolf comments, but he is in total agreement with the notorious creationist highschool text book, "Of Panda's and People." There (pg 1116-118, see also fig. 5-2, 1993 edition), the spurious similarity of the Tasmanian "wolf" and the North American grey wolf is used to dispute the fact that homology is a powerful piece of supporting evidence for common descent. In figure 5-2 of the 1993 edition of "Pandas" the caption reads,
"The skulls of a dog (A), a North American wolf (B), and a Tasmanian wolf (C). Notice that the skull of the North American wolf is somewhat similar to the dog's, which is said to be related to it, but nearly identical to the Tasmanian wolf, which is allegegly only distantly related to it."

Reading that tripe is submitting to brain pollution. First, let's dispose of the implication that dog and wolf skulls are only "somewhat similar." The truth is that every single bone and tooth of the wolf and domestic dog are identical except for scaling. The truth is that these species (or subspecies) are able to cross-breed although with reduced interfertiality. The domestic dog was introduced to the home range of the Tasmanian "wolf" as much as 20,000 years ago, and there is no evidence what so ever that they ever cross-bred, and there is nothing but scientific evidence that they could not. The fraud of "Of Pandas and People" is further exposed when the authors falsely claim that the Tasmanian "wolf" is "nearly identical" to the North American grey wolf. This is a lie. For a direct photographic comparison between the Tasmainian "wolf" and the North American grey wolf, take a look at this photo series on the Tasmanian "wolf" and the Grey wolf dental anatomy.

You can read another perspective of the gross errors of fact and interpretation regarding homology and evolution found in "Of Pandas and People," and parroted by Berlinski at the National Center for Science Education.

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