James J. Lippard Jun1593 11:30AM Gish and the bullfrog One of the most serious criticisms

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

James J. Lippard Jun-15-93 11:30AM Gish and the bullfrog Organization: University of Arizona From: lippard@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu (James J. Lippard) Message-ID: <15JUN199312304834@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu> Newsgroups: talk.origins One of the most serious criticisms of Duane Gish's honesty and integrity was raised by Robert Schadewald in "Scientific Creationism and Error," _Creation/Evolution_ vol. 6, no. 1 (issue 17), 1986, pp. 1-9. In this article, Schadewald discusses Gish's claim that when you examine some proteins, human beings are closer to bullfrogs than to chimpanzees, and when you examine other proteins, human beings are closer to chickens than to chimpanzees. Gish replies to this criticism in _Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics_, pp. 96-101. I put before you the section of Schadewald's article (pp. 2-5) which discusses these claims, followed by Gish's reply. Judge for yourself whether or not Gish has adequately defended himself. (Keep in mind also that Gish does NOT cite Schadewald's article.) SCHADEWALD'S ACCOUNT: Gish's Proteins Duane Gish, a protein biochemist with a Ph.D. from Berkeley, is vice-president of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and creationism's most well-known spokesperson. A veteran of perhaps 150 public debates and thousands of lectures and sermons on creationism, Gish is revered among creationists as a great scientist and a tireless fighter for the truth. Among noncreationists, however, Gish has a reputation for making erroneous statements and then pugnaciously refusing to acknowledge them. One example is an unfinished epic which might be called the tale of two proteins. In July 1983, the Public Broadcasting System televised an hour-long program on creationism. One of the scientists interviewed, biochemist Russell Doolittle, discussed the similarities between human proteins and chimpanzee proteins. In many cases, corresponding human and chimpanzee proteins are identical, and, in others, they differ by only a few amino acids. This strongly suggests a common ancestry for humans and apes. Gish was asked to comment. He replied: If we look at certain proteins, yes, man then--it can be assumed that man is more closely related to a chimpanzee than other things. But on the other hand, if you look at other certain proteins, you'll find that man is more closely related to a bullfrog than he is to a chimpanzee. If you focus your attention on other proteins, you'll find that man is more closely related to a chicken than he is to a chimpanzee. I had never heard of such proteins, so I asked a few biochemists. They hadn't either. I wrote to Gish for supporting documentation. He ignored my first letter. In reply to my second, he referred me to Berkeley geochronologist Garniss Curtis. I wrote to Curtis, who replied immediately. Some years ago, Curtis attended a conference in Austria where he heard that someone had found bullfrog blood proteins very similar to human blood proteins. Curtis offered an explanatory hypothesis: the "frog" which yielded the proteins was, he suggested, an enchanted prince. He then predicted that the research would never be confirmed. He was apparently correct, for nothing has been heard of the proteins since. But Duane Gish once heard Curtis tell his little story. This bullfrog "documentation" (as Gish now calls it) struck me as a joke, even by creationist standards, and Gish simply ignored his alleged chicken proteins. In contrast, Doolittle backed his televised claims with published protein sequence data. I wrote to Gish again suggesting that he should be able to do the same. He didn't reply. Indeed, he has never since replied to any of my letters. John W. Patterson and I attended the 1983 National Creation Conference in Roseville, Minnesota. We had several conversations there with Kevin Wirth, research director of Students for Origins Research (SOR). At some point, we told him the protein story and suggested that Gish might have lied on national television. Wirth was confident that Gish could document his claims. He told us that, if we put our charges in the form of a letter, he would do his best to get it published in _Origins Research_, the SOR tabloid. Gish also attended the conference, and I asked him about the proteins in the presence of several creationists. Gish tried mightily to evade and to obfuscate, but I was firm. Doolittle provided sequence data for human and chimpanzee proteins; Gish could do the same--_if_ his alleged chicken and bullfrog proteins really exist. Gish insisted that they exist and promised to send me the sequences. Skeptical, I asked him pointblank: "Will that be before hell freezes over?" He assured me that it would. After two-and-one-half years, I still have neither sequence data nor a report of frost in Hades. Shortly after the conference, Patterson and I submitted a joint letter to _Origins Research_, briefly recounting the protein story and concluding, "We think Gish lied on national television." We sent Gish a copy of the letter in the same mail. During the next few months, Wirth (and probably others at SOR) practically begged Gish to submit a reply for publication. According to Wirth, someone at ICR, perhaps Gish himself, responded by pressuring SOR not to publish our letter. Unlike Gish, however, Kevin Wirth was as good as his word. The letter appeared in the spring 1984 issue of _Origins Research_--with no reply from Gish. The 1984 National Bible-Science Conference was held in Cleveland, and again Patterson and I attended. Again, I asked Gish for sequence data for his chicken and bullfrog proteins. This time, Gish told me that any further documentation for his proteins is up to Garniss Curtis and me. I next saw Gish on February 18, 1985, when he debated philosopher of science Philip Kitcher at the University of Minnesota. Several days earlier, I had heralded Gish's coming (and his mythical proteins) in a guest editorial in the student newspaper, _The Minnesota Daily_. Kitcher alluded to the proteins early in the debate, and, in his final remarks, he demanded that Gish either produce references or admit that they do not exist. Gish, of course, did neither. His closing remarks were punctuated with sporadic cries of "Bullfrog!" from the audience. That evening, Duane Gish addressed about two hundred people assembled in a hall at the student union. During the question period, Stan Weinberg, a founder of the Committees of Correspondence on Evolution, stood up. Scientists sometimes make mistakes, said Weinberg, and, when they do, they own up to them. Had Gish ever made a mistake in his writings and presentations? If so, could his chicken and bullfrog proteins have been a mistake? Gish made a remarkable reply. He has, indeed, made mistakes, he said. For instance, an erroneous translation by another creationist (Robert Kofahl) once led him to believe that hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, two chemicals used by the bombardier beetle, spontaneously explode when mixed. This error led him to claim in a book and in his presentations that the beetle had to evolve a chemical inhibitor to keep from blowing itself up. When he learned that hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone do not explode when mixed, he said, he corrected the error in his book. Regarding the bullfrog proteins, Gish said that he relied on Garniss Curtis for them. Perhaps Curtis was wrong. As for the chicken proteins, Gish made a convoluted and (to a nonbiochemist) confusing argument about chicken lysozyme. It was essentially the same answer he had given me immediately after his debate with Kitcher, when I went onstage and asked him once again for references. It was also the same answer he gave two nights later in Ames, Iowa, in response to a challenge by John W. Patterson. I will discuss its substance, relevance, and potential for deception after dealing with the bombardier beetle. Gish neglected to mention certain details of the bombardier beetle business. Early in 1978, Bill Thwaites and Frank Awbrey of San Diego State University mixed hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone in front of their "two model" creation-evolution class with a nonexplosive result (Weber, 1981). Gish may have corrected his book, but he continued to use demonstrably false arguments about the bombardier beetle in debate presentations. I personally heard him do so on January 17, 1980, in a debate with John W. Patterson at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. About the chicken lysozyme: three times in three days Gish was challenged to produce references for chicken proteins closer to human proteins than the corresponding chimpanzee proteins. Three times he responded with an argument which essentially reduces to this: if human lysozyme and lactalbumin evolved from the same precursor, as scientists claim, then human lysozyme should be closer to human lactalbumin than to chicken lysozyme, but it is not. Well, although it is true that human lysozyme is _not_ closer to human latalbumin than to chicken lysozyme, this comes as no shock and does not make a case for creationism. Furthermore, it doesn't at all address the issue that we raised. We were talking about Gish's earlier comparison of human, chimp, and chicken proteins, and Gish changed the subject and started comparing human lysozyme to human lactalbumin! Few of his creationist listeners know what lysozyme is, and perhaps none of them knew that human and chimpanzee lysozyme are identical and that chicken lysozyme differs from both by fifty-one out of 130 amino acids (Awbrey and Thwaites, 1982). To one unfamiliar with biochemistry and, especially, Gish's apologetic methods, it _sounded_ like he responded to the question. Whether by design or by some random process, Gish's chicken lysozyme apologetic was admirably suited to deceive listeners. One who was taken in by it was Crockett Grabbe, a physicist with the University of Iowa. As a result, Grabbe wrongly accused Gish of claiming that chicken lysozyme is closer to human lysozyme than is chimpanzee lysozyme. Gish then counterattacked, playing "blame the victim" and pretending it was Grabbe's own fault that he was deceivd (Gish, 1985). But if the chicken lysozyme apologetic fooled a professional scientist, it is unlikely that many of the creationist listeners saw through it. Gish's refusal to acknowledge the nonexistence of his chicken protein is characteristic of ICR. Gish's boss, Henry Morris, gave Gish's handling of the matter his tacit approval by what he said (and didn't say) about it in his _History of Modern Creationism_. Morris referred to the protein incident and took a swipe at Russell Doolittle (whom he identified as "Richard Doolittle"), but he offered no criticism of Gish's conduct. Instead, he accused PBS of misrepresenting Gish (Morris, 1984)! Meanwhile, Gish had been obfuscating behind the scenes. The only creationist publication to directly address the protein affair has been _Origins Research_, which first covered the matter in its spring 1984 issue. Then, in the fall 1985 issue, editor Dennis Wagner revisited the controversy. However, in his article, he (1) wrongly identified Glyn Isaac as the source of Gish's bullfrog and (2) wrongly stated that Gish had sent me a tape of the lecture in which Isaac supposedly made the statement. Wagner's source, it turns out, is a February 27, 1984 letter Gish wrote to Kevin Wirth, in which Gish apparently confused the late Glyn Isaac (an archaeologist and authority on early stone tools) with Garniss Curtis. He also claimed to have a tape and a transcript of the "Isaac" (presumably Curtiss) lecture, and he claimed that he had reviewed them. In the same paragraph, Gish claimed that he had sent me his "documentation," and Wagner quite naturally assumed that that meant at least the tape. But Gish sent me neither, nor has he sent copies of said tape or transcript to others who have requested them. As with his chicken proteins, we have only Gish's word for their existence. For the record, it is no longer important whether Gish's original statements about chicken and bullfrog proteins were deceptions or incredible blunders. It is now going on four years since the PBS broadcast, and Gish has neither retracted his chicken statement nor attempted to justify it. (Obviously, the lysozyme apologetic doesn't count, but it took Gish two-and-one-half years to come up with that!) And if the Curtis story is all he knows about his [bullfrog -jjl] protein, on what basis did he promise to send me its sequence at the 1983 National Bible-Science Conference? Gish has woven himself into an incredible web of contradictions, and even some creationists now suspect that he has been less than candid. References Awbrey, Frank T., and Thwaites, William M. Winter 1982. "A Closer Look at Some Biochemical Data That 'Support' Creation," _Creation/Evolution_, issue VII, p. 15. Gish, Duane T. August 14, 1985. "Creationism Misassailed." _Cedar Rapids Gazette_. Morris, Henry M. 1984. _History of Modern Creationism_ (San Diego: Master Book Publishers), p. 316. Schadewald, Robert J. February 14, 1985. "The Gospel of Creation: The Book of Misinformation." _Minnesota Daily_, volume 86, number 112, p. 7. Weber, Christopher Gregory. Winter 1981. "The Bombardier Beetle Myth Exploded." _Creation/Evolution_, issue III. GISH'S ACCOUNT On March 4-6, 1977, I attended a symposium on human origins at the University of California, Davis. The symposium was jointly conducted by the Foundation for Research into the Origins of Man, and the University Extension, University of California, Davis. The faculty included Richard Leakey (son of Louis and Mary Leakey) who has gained much fame in the past decade and a half as a fossil hunter in Africa; Donald Johanson, the discoverer of "Lucy"; Alan Walker, now of Johns Hopkins University, who has worked with Richard Leakey; David Pilbeam, then of Yale University; Garniss Curtis, of the University of California, Berkeley; Owen Lovejoy, of Kent State University; and Glynn Isaac, of the University of California, Berkeley. Curtis is a radiochronologist who has dated a number of samples for anthropologists. He presented a lecture at the symposium on the technique of radiometric dating. He and other radiochronologists, using radiometric dating, had obtained dates for certain events that are quite divergent from the dates suggested for those events by those who employ the "protein clock" hypothesis developed by A.C. Wilson, Vincent Sarich, and others at the University of California, Berkeley. Before development of the "protein clock" hypothesis, it had been suggested, for example, that the divergence of man and the apes from their common ancestor had occurred sometime between 20 and 30 million years ago. Wilson and Sarich, however, on the basis of their "protein clock," have suggested that this divergence had occurred no more than four or five million years ago. This divergence of opinion, between the radiochronologists and the "protein clock" people, naturally had created tension between those holding strong views on each side. Curtis therefore wished to put down the "protein clock" hypothesis and the dates that might be obtained using this technique. He mentioned that, according to comparisons based on the structures of certain serum albumins, humans were nearly as similar to bullfrogs as they were to apes. Using the "protein clock" idea, then, one could assume that man had split off from the amphibians about the same time he had split off from the apes--clearly a ludicrous suggestion, according to evolutionists. Dr. Gary Parker, then a member of the Institute for Creation Research staff, had suggested another unacceptable conclusion based on comparison of the structures of proteins. I had heard him describe this situation in a lecture. Subsequently, he published the account. After describing the problems evolutionists have with the hemoglobins, Parker says: The same seems to be true for a fascinating protein called lysozyme. ... By comparing lysozyme and lactalbumin, Dickerson was hoping to "pin down with great precision," where human beings branched off the mammal line. The results are surprising. In this test, it turned out that humans are more closely related to the _chicken_ than to any living mammal tested! Every evolutionist knows that can't be true, but how can he get around the objective evidence? In his concluding diagram, Dickerson slips in a wiggly line for rapid evolution, and that brings the whole thing back in line again with his evolutionary assumptions. But notice that his protein data, the facts that he observed, did not help him at all with his evolutionary idea.(29) On the basis of what I had heard from Garniss Curtis and Gary Parker, on two occasions I stated that, following the reasoning of evolutionists based on the similarity of certain protein molecules, one would assume that man is as closely related to bullfrogs and chickens as he is to apes. One occasion was during a debate with John W. Patterson on a radio station in Ames, Iowa, adn the other was during the videotaping of a program for Public Broadcasting Television. Evolutionists have vigorously contested that statement and have challenged me to provide documentation. Robert Schadewald, a free-lance writer and a virulent anti-creationist, wrote to Garniss Curtis to check out my story after I had informed him concerning the source of my information on serum albumins. Curtis, in his reply, reported that he had indeed told the story the way I had revealed it. Now Curtis claimed, however, that he had told this story with tongue in cheek, more or less as a joke.(30) It was perfectly clear to me at the time Curtis gave his talk that there was a joke involved, all right, but it was equally clear that Curtis intended for the joke to be on the "protein clock" people, and not in the nature of the data he presented. Thus, if the data were faulty on which I had based my remarks about the serum albumins of man, apes, and bullfrogs, the responsibility for the faulty data (if indeed it is faulty) is due to false information provided in a public address by an evolutionist. The documentation for the claim concerning the relationship of the lysozymes of humans, mammals, and chickens is available in the scientific literature. Dickerson and Geis, in their book, _The Structure and Action of Proteins_, provide this documentation.(31) According to Dickerson and Geis, and other evolutionists, lactalbumin, a protein found in milk, and lysozyme, an enzyme found in most plant and animal cells and which catalyzes the digestion of bacterial cell walls, are descended from a common ancestral protein. It is believed that the genes for lysozyme and lactalbumin resulted from a gene duplication about the time of the divergence of the amphibians and reptiles. If one compares the differences in amino acid sequences of mammalian lactalbumins (including humans) and human and chicken lysozymes, the results pose a surprising puzzle for evolutionists. It is found that human lysozyme is more similar to chicken lysozyme than it is to lactalbumin. As Dickerson and Geis point out, on the basis of the usual evolutionary assumption that amino acid differences can be used to date times of divergence, one would arrive at the conclusion shown in Figure 1. LYSOZYME alpha-lact. Human Chicken | | | | | / | | / \ | / \ | / \ | <- 57 -> / \ <- 82 -> | / \ | / \ |-------/ \ | \----------| ^---------------- 79 --------------^ Observed differences Figure 1 Thus, if one approaches these results in all innocence, using the commonly accepted assumptions of evolutionists concerning the meaning of amino acid sequence differences in proteins, humans are more closely related to chickens than they are to the mammals, including the apes. Of course, to evolutionists, this conclusion is completely unacceptable, even ludicrous. What makes this conclusion outrageously ridiculous is the fact that, based on these data, humans would be more closely related to chickens than they are to themselves! What this really demonstrates is that amino acid sequence similarities or differences do not reveal the degree of relatedness in an evolutionary sense. Evolutionists attempt to explain away the contradictions these data pose for evolutionary theory by making the ad hoc assumption that for some unknown reason, amino acid substitutions occurred much more rapidly in the various mammalian lactalbumins than in the mammalian lysozymes. In this case, then, the "protein clock" notion is deceptive, because the clock is running at different rates in these two different cases. In any case, evolutionists should spend more time straightening up their own house, instead of hurling accusations against creation scientists. References 29. H.M. Morris and Gary Parker, _What Is Creation Science?_ Master Books Pub., San Diego, 1982, pp. 24, 25. 30. Personal Communication to D.T. Gish from Robert Schadewald. 31. R.E. Dickerson and I. Geis, _The Structure and Action of Proteins_, W.A. Benjamin, Inc., Menlo Park, California, 1969, pp. 77, 78. Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank