“The quick and the undead” (Quicksand)

A regular, if not hackneyed, feature of adventure and action movies, TV shows, and comic books is quicksand. It is unusually found by some foolhardy or overzealous traveler deep in a jungle, swamp, desert, or other forlorn location. Once the sinking begins, it is irreversible and trying to get out only aggravates the predicament. The unfortunate victim slowly succumbs to death by suffocation. Sometimes a hand or hat remains for dramatic effect once the soon-to-be-deceased goes under.

These portrayals represent a mythological version of quicksand, but the phenomenon is real and in certain instances and situations, can be hazardous.

Geologically speaking, quicksand comprises sand, clay, and saltwater, and it appears and acts as a solid. But when weight is applied, the mixture begins to collapse. It most frequently is present where there is upward-flowing water, often near rivers or beaches where liquid is right under the surface. When disturbed, the mixture transforms from a loose packing of sand on top of water into a more dense liquid. Its high viscosity creates resistance and suction, and the more stress that is applied, the more liquid it becomes. So thrashing about will indeed cause a trapped person to further sink and become more engulfed. But this will only make the situation temporarily worse. On an average-sized person, quicksand will be, at the most, about waist-deep.

The key is to stay calm and eventually float to safety. Experts advice stretching out on your back to increase your surface area and waiting until your legs break free. It is also suggested to move one’s legs around at this point, to stir in water, which will help you float.

While that works for people, quicksand can pose a threat to horses, who upon encountering it, may panic and exhaust themselves while trying to break free. It requires specialized equipment and sedation to rescue them. And it can still be hazardous for humans, especially if one is hiking alone and being unaware of these extraction techniques.

So if starting to go under a la an Indiana Jones flick, get rid of anything you are carrying. Next, distribute your weight by lying backward since staying motionless may increase the material’s viscosity. Trying to extract a leg by pulling it means working against a vacuum left behind. A better tact is to rock back and forth, thereby creating a space for water to move into. This will loosen the material around your limbs. Instead of being sucked all the way in, quicksand victims will float once they get about waist deep. That’s how it works, though it would make for a boring movie scene.

“Face the truth” (Lie detection)

Polygraphs are able to detect physiological changes in someone but they cannot determine if that person is lying. The notion that they can is based on junk science and selective memory, which are among the reasons the results are inadmissible in court.

A more disturbing use of aggressive policing based on bad data is the tiny number of law enforcement agencies that have adopted a Minority Report approach to fighting crime. They take a person’s criminal history and a secretive profiling method, then combine this with constant surveillance and harassment in the form of trumped-up charges like “grass too high,” until the supposed criminal, who is really the victim, moves to another jurisdiction.

Today we will look at a third dubious notion when it comes to crime fighting: That there exists a way to tell if someone is lying through their facial cues. BBC reported that Israeli researchers claim to have discovered a way to use electromyography to measure facial muscles to determine prevarication.

The technique employs electrodes that measure contraction in certain facial muscles of the subject. Researchers ran two trials with subjects, who heard one of two phrases, at which point the subject then told another person which phrase he or she had heard, either telling the truth or lying.

Researchers then took their data and used it to develop an Artificial Intelligence algorithm that clustered facial movements that they deduced correlated with lying. Next, they used that to develop a predictive model to detect lies based on cheek and eyebrow movements. Human receivers managed to do no better than chance, while the algorithm did 7.5 percent better than that. That’s a decent performance but insufficient to show demonstrable superiority, and certainly of no value to law enforcement, as it still results in a more than 40 percent error rate.

The problem with the entire approach is that there are no universal indicators to determine if someone is fibbing. The algorithm can determine facial movements but not necessarily deception. Another issue is that a research subject could act and feel much different than a suspect being grilled for a double murder. The concept of a genuine lie detector is attractive. Imagine being able to hook up O.J. Simpson or Donald Trump to one. Alas, it remains firmly in the realm of science fiction.

“Misplaced trust” (OOPArts)

Out of place artifacts (OOPArts) are seeming anachronisms that can seem intriguing to some, a validation of alternative history to others, and hoaxes or misinterpreted evidence to skeptics. In a delightful recap of some of these, skeptic leader Brian Dunning examined the evidence or lack thereof for what claimants make of them.

We’ll start with the Acámbaro Figures, a collection of tens of thousands of small ceramic figurines that are a mix of dinosaurs, humanoids, sleestaks, and the like. Some of them vaguely resemble the dinosaur set I had as a kid. That set, incidentally, included cavemen, which would have made any Young Earth Creationist proud. As such, the Acámbaro Figures are beloved among YECs, who think the critters lend credence to the notion of humans and terrible lizards co-existing. Attempts to carbon-date the items has proven inconclusive.

However, Dunning wrote that the figures suggest “large-scale production by small artisan communities for the tourist trade,” and are thus not worthy of serious archeological study. Indeed, archaeologist Charles DiPeso saw some of the figures being retrieved from their shallow Earthly grave and deduced they had been recently planted just below the surface in a failed attempt to trick him. Dunning notes that the figurines’ surfaces were conspicuously free of scratches, blemishes, or other aging signs. Any last chance of these being genuine evaporated when thermoluminescence dating showed the figures to have been made around 1940 as opposed to 1940 BCE.

We now move to the Dorchester Port, a discovery made in Massachusetts in the mid-19th Century. The tale has it that workers dynamiting rock came across the remnants of an ornate silver pot embedded within that rock. Since the rock was 500 million years old, the Dorchester Pot is a favorite of the ancient advanced civilization enthusiasts. These folks are at the opposite end of the universe-age spectrum from YECs but are their brethren when it comes to selectively interpreting evidence to bolster their passions.

However, looking at photos of the object, it becomes clear that none of them are the same. They are from different hookah bases common in 19th Century India, are in good shape, and none look like they have been blown in two. The idea of an extremely ancient pot is merely a hoax and not a very thorough or thought-out one, either.

Next we consider the Upshur Bell, found in 1944 by youngster Newton Anderson while shoveling coal in his family’s basement. The bell seemingly appeared from a lump of this coal. Newton kept the object for 63 years and learned it was a Hindu ceremonial featuring the deity Garuda. Anderson sold the bell to a creationist website, where it is touted as the work of a blacksmith named in Genesis, Tubal-cain. Why he would have been making a Hindu god in a time that, per Genesis, was a religion not yet in existence, is unexplained. Moreover, Dunning noted that the bell resembles countless others in the world. To state the obvious, zero evidence supports the Tubal-cain narrative.

We have highlighted two objects fawned over by YECs, so for balance, we will close with a supposedly ancient tale, that of the Dashka Stone. This refers to an enormous slab discovered in Russia in 1999 that is said to be a 120 million-year-old writing tablet. Physicist Alexander Chuvyrov asserts the stone depicts a topographical map of the Ural Mountains, and he believes the pattern of inscriptions covering it are early Chinese characters.

According to Dunning, Chuvyrov considers two thin layers of different type of rock on the surface as proof the ancients manufactured it as a writing tablet. But Dunning consulted with a geologist, who informed him that the face of the Dashka Stone “was probably a bedding plane between two layers of sedimentary rock, along which some movement may have occurred during a period of deformation in which the other cracks perpendicular to the face also formed. These cracks are textbook compression shear fractures, and their three directions indicate at least three deformation events.”

When it comes to OOPArts, the only thing out of place is the trust their adherents have in them.

“Intentional confounding” (Galileo Gambit)

I watch copious amounts of professional football, regularly soaking in five games a week. The NFL is the only interest that has consistently been near the top of my list of passive hobbies from grade school through the upper reaches of middle age. And in those 46 years, I have never seen anyone who can consistently make an absurdly long, logic-defying, into-a-no-visible-window throw like Aaron Rodgers.

As such, it seems fitting that his biggest failing would come off the field. He declined a CDC-recommended vaccine, publicly lied about having received it, and failed to follow league COVID protocols. He then quadrupled down while appearing on Pat McAfee’s podcast.


There, Rodgers declared himself the victim and offered self-congratulation for his critical thinking skills while committing a logical fallacy trifecta of appealing to incredulity, tradition, and consequences. He also made a series of claims that might charitably be called dubious (utter balderdash lacking any scientific or medical grounding would be a more accurate descriptor).

For all this, he received high praise in right-wing circles. He was touted as brave, an adjective that once applied to those who “courageously face danger,” but when used by the likes of Clay Travis, Jason Whitlock, and Candace Owens, means “agrees with me.”

Rodgers was also lauded by some in the Twitterverse for rebelling against authorities, specifically the CDC. While government agents should be held accountable when they shirk their duties or use them for personal gain, it does not follow that all actions taken by every government worker or agency is nefarious. The CDC has a multi-billion dollar budget, which enables the world’s foremost epidemiologists to research and combat disease. To think that someone with no training in scientific disciplines will spend two hours on Google and YouTube and uncover the REAL truth is the height of folly and ego. It also leads frequently to the Galileo Gambit.

This logical fallacy holds that if most people, especially those in authority, dismiss or mock an idea, this means the idea is correct. The thinking goes, “Galileo was mocked, his ideas threatened established thinking, and he was proven right. Therefore, the mocking of my iconoclastic position means I am also correct.”

But having one thing in common does not mean two persons have everything in common, or even one more thing in common.

Galileo was vindicated when further science confirmed his heliocentric theory. But for Rodgers or any other alternative medicine proponent to be likewise vindicated, their favored treatments would need to be consistently shown to be effective in double blind studies. To be kind, that has yet to happen.

The Food Babe, lacking any science for her claims, frequently employs the Gambit and is fond of saying, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” There is nothing here that validates any of her assertions or points, and the same is true for Rodgers and others who endorse natural immunity, invermectin, or hydroxycholoroquine as superior to vaccination.

As a Reddit user retorted, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule yet, then they fight you, then it turns out you were wrong all along.” Being in a class with Galileo requires more than being dismissed. It requires being at the forefront of discovering evidence that proves your hypothesis. There is no automatic connection between being scorned and being right.

On a linguistic note, those employing the Gambit don’t even get the comparison right. It wasn’t the scientific establishment that went after Galileo, it was the anti-scientific establishment Catholic Church.

Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. David Johnson noted there are rare instances of a lone genius being proven correct after challenging the prevailing scientific notion. He cited the example of Einstein upending some Newtonian ideas. “Einstein built a new consensus among the experts by presenting arguments and evidence that was, ultimately, undeniable,” Johnson wrote. “When people resisted his ideas, he never once said, ‘Hey, they laughed at Galileo too.’ He kept trying to convince them with reason and evidence.”

And for every Einstein, Galileo, Wegner, or Wright Brother, there are untold masses who fought against “the system” and lost because they were wrong. As Carl Sagan said, some initially-vilified scientists were laughed at, but so too was Bozo the Clown.

As to Rodgers, his medical regimen is more in line with Bozo than Pasteur, and it forced him to sit out Green Bay’s game with Kansas City. As someone who champions scientific advances and critical thinking, I was sad to see it. As a Chiefs fan, my thoughts were more positive.

“Suicide by crop”’(Organic farming)

Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped nation in the Indian Ocean, and tears are what many of the country’s farmers shed once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa mandated organic farming in the country. After five disastrous months, the experiment was mercifully terminated.

The results had upended Sri Lanka’s crop production and had a calamitous effect on agricultural exports like tea, rubber, and spices. All this for food that is no healthier than traditional fare, marketing claims to the contrary.


Organic farming proponents fall for the appeal to nature fallacy, which holds that something which occurs naturally is preferable to anything synthetic. For example, Dennis Prager foolishly exposed himself to the coronavirus in the mistaken belief that he would be better off doing that than being vaccinated. Besides putting himself – an older man – at risk of death and long-lasting complications, he will suffer through weeks of misery rather than having two unpleasant hours the next day. Even if he pulls through, he will not enjoy the long-term benefits about which he gloats. For antibodies that the vaccine creates are no different than the ones he will acquire through exposure from another carrier.


Organic farming proponents commit a similar error when they consider their favored crop production to be superior since it eschews the use of synthetic chemicals. They are mistaken, and not just because there are dozens of exceptions to the so-called ban. In a second appeal to nature fallacy, organic farming proponents think the natural herbicides are safer than synthetic ones but the origin of a product is unrelated to its danger level. Moreover, organic farming is unsustainable on a large scale because of the calamitous combination of needing more land to yield fewer crops.

Additionally, it requires greater labor since more weeds are likely to grow since there are fewer herbicide options. Consequently, Sri Lanka farmers experienced nearly a quarter-decrease in productivity. Some crops suffered a 50 to 100 percent drop. These numbers are depressingly similar to other locales that have relied heavily on organic farming.

Besides gutting a farmer’s livelihood, there are resultant food shortages and price increases. Additionally, the drag on exports harms the gross national product.


Organic farming shortcomings are aggravated when trying to massively increase the scale. Organic farming accounts for about 1.5 percent of food production worldwide. Trying to ramp up those numbers (especially to 100 percent) will create obstacles, some predictable, some surprising.

Writing for the New England Skeptical Society, Dr. Steven Novella noted it is possible for about five percent of farming to be organic. Trying to go beyond that will encounter organic fertilizer availability. Novella explained that composting and cattle manure are the primary organic fertilizers and both ways recycle nitrogen, though at a compromised rate.

He wrote, “Some plants can fix nitrogen from the air through soil bacteria, and these can be used as crops to put nitrogen into the soil. All this works if the percentage of crops grown without external inputs of nitrogen is kept relatively small.”

But his system falters as one attempts to scale up, and will be an unmitigated failure if trying to go from five percent to 100.

Fortunately for Sri Lankan farmers, the forced experiment is over. Here’s hoping the rest of the world learns from their misfortune.

“Tired and tested” (IQ)

The Hungarian mathematical giant Paul Erdős would meet any reasonable definition of genius. He is so revered in his field that the “Erdős Number” refers to how many degrees of separation one is from having collaborated with the man. A number of 1 is assigned to those privileged enough to have co-authored a paper with him, a person who worked with that co-author would have a number of 2, and so on.


Besides incessant work habits which produced more than 1500 papers, Erdős was also known for his minimalist, transient lifestyle. He had almost no possessions, no significant interest beyond mathematics, and not even a home. Not that he ever wanted for a roof over his head. He traveled extensively to seminars, during which world-class mathematicians competed for the honor of having him stay with them so they could engage in problem-solving pursuits with Erdős.


During one such sojourn, a heavy thunderstorm sent rain shooting through an open window, which caused the somewhat-panicked Erdős to awaken the homeowner and express his alarm and confusion. This, as opposed to shutting the window. A man whose trophy case and walls of accomplishments would be absurdly expansive were he the type to have trophy cases and walls was unable to do what the average soaked dimwit would have done in the situation.


This amusing anecdote highlights one of the problems with Intelligence Quotient tests. They focus on specialties like problem-solving, reasoning, and planning. Erdős would have scored extremely high on such a test, perhaps achieving the most stratospheric number ever. But the test would fail to account for his ability to manage common-sense actions like weather-dependent room adjustments.

Similarly, an IQ test subject may have ingenuity but produce only mediocre grades in established academic classes. Another may struggle with slightly advanced mathematical principles but know how to recognize and exploit business opportunities. The idea that there is a single notion of intelligence, much less a way to adequately test everyone, in untenable.

In the early days of IQ tests, the quotient referenced the subject’s mental age, divided by the actual age. So a 10-year-old who reasoned at what the test considered average for a 15-year-old would score 150.

Later adaptations of the test graded on a curve so that the number represented a placement within the distribution of aggregated scores. So the “quotient” in IQ is no longer literal, although the term is still used.

But the tests fail to adjust for cultural differences and some critics argue that the testing more measures social class than intelligence. There is also the issue of those who don’t “test well,” while having a better ability to analyze and solve problems in real life.

Another drawback is the IQ tests revert perpetually to a normalized measure, with 100 being forever average and 68 percent of testers always scoring between 85 and 115. This keeps the focus on maintaining norms more than it does the stated goal of determining brainpower.


One needn’t be Paul Erdős to know all this doesn’t add up to a meaningful test.

“Points shaken” (Creationism)

In a column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat argues that science supports creationism. However, he never gives scientific support for any intelligent design hypothesis, nor does he explain how a god came to be or which deity is the correct one.

While science has yet to confirm the existence of Yahweh, Vishnu, or Ra, it has explained many phenomena previously attributed to gods, such as extreme weather, healing plants, and eclipses.

Let’s run through Douthat’s five points and examine them.

First, he claims that fine-tuning in the universe proves the existence of God. I am disappointed that he trots out such a hackneyed, many-times-refuted assertion. I enjoy a good intellectual spar and having a New York Times columnist, in a fresh work, resort to something this lame is, well, lame. His thinking is akin to arguing that a puddle holds the precise amount of water that it does is because the water was designed for puddle-filling purposes.

In a more original and thought-provoking point, Douthat posits that the notion of a multiverse strengthens the idea of God since some of those universes – or one of anyway – are suitable for human life.  But University of Chicago biology professor emeritus Jerry Coyne suggests that points away from such a deified notion. Coyne writes, “If God wanted to simply create life, with humans as its apotheosis, why did he go to all the bother of setting up multiverses, many of which don’t allow life?”

Douthat’s third point is that consciousness proves God. He claims physical processes are inadequate to explicate the complexities of consciousness, which run the gamut from comprehending the idea of color to doctoral theses on Greek philosophy.

This is at once the god of the gaps fallacy and special pleading. Further, Coyne notes that naturalism has shaped our understanding of consciousness, specifically, “the parts of the brain that are necessary for the phenomenon to appear in our species, the chemicals that can take it away and bring it back, and so on.” Moreover, science is an ongoing process that admits it doesn’t know everything and continues to search for answers. As Coyne explained, “Consciousness will be explained when we know all the parts required, and how they interact, for a being to become conscious.

Onto point four. Douthat feels that the comprehensibility of the universe itself proves God. However, this is more special pleading since whatever created God would have to  have instilled that comprehensibility in him, then the even more advanced god have done the same before that, ad infinitum.

He next argues that reputed sightings of demons, along with near-death experiences and feelings of overwhelming spirituality vindicate the notion of god. But if this is the case then ALL gods are real, along with ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, and psychic powers. 

What’s more, these experiences can be replicated with drugs, chemical mixtures, and deep meditation. Astronauts in training often report mental and physical reactions similar to near-death experiences. Persons with psychosis or other severe mental issues also report profound, very-real-to-them accounts like this.

Finally, Douthat thinks that because evolution leads us to believe in things that are real and true, a ubiquitous belief in God points to his existence. However, no amount of belief makes something true.

Taken in totality, Douthat’s work breaks little new ground and the few original tidbits fail to satisfy the book’s stated goal of proving God through science.

“Broken bat” (COVID origins)

For several years, political partisans have played armchair historian and asserted that whomever is currently occupying the White House is either the best or worst president of all-time. Which of these two it is depends solely on the person’s political leanings and is not based on policy, accomplishments, ability to build consensus, or to craft compromise.

But genuine historians, as opposed to the armchair variety, will tell us that it can take upwards of 50 years to determine a president’s performance. That much time is required to judge the impact of his policies and decisions. For example, the Marshall Plan is the brightest feather in Truman’s cap, but this would not have been obvious in 1946.

Similarly, the idea that we can ascertain right now the origins of COVID-19 is a mistaken notion based on a misunderstanding of virology. Skeptic and medical writer David Gorski explained that when a virus migrates from animals to humans, it can take years to determine the origin. Epidemiologists are still uncertain which animal Ebola came from and it has been around since the U.S. bicentennial.

To deduce the origin, scientific sleuths must sample wild animals and sequence the viruses they carry to find a close genetic relative, a task Gorski likens to “haystacks within haystacks. So the fact that scientists don’t know where the relatively new coronavirus comes from is not evidence that it came from a laboratory. Still, there are some who excitedly claim it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, either engineered as a bioweapon or having leaked out.

Gorski wrote, “While it is possible to create genetic sequences without, for instance, typical restriction enzyme sites of the sort that were frequently used to insert sequences into genomes…it is more difficult than conspiracy theorists let on. To them these nefarious Chinese scientists were supposedly so clever that they not only did something that’s not at all trivial but did it without leaving behind any telltale signs in the sequence of genetic manipulation.”


Theorists also argue that a natural virus pandemic would gradually mutate and become more infectious but less deadly. Virologist Angela Rasmussen said this is wrong, that those in her field would not necessarily anticipate this. Further, the virus’ low fatality rate, combined with the fact that a significant number of those infected are asymptomatic, would mean there is little selective pressure for mutations that make it less deadly, particularly when it’s still widespread.

Moreover, several studies show the virus likely evolved from previously existing coronaviruses and is continuing to evolve as is spreads.


By contrast, the conspiracy theory assumes abilities beyond the capabilities of even the most advanced research teams. It further assumes that whoever created this would know what effects it would have on humans without having tested it.


Virologists can predict what impact mutations might have, but these are highly-educated guesses and not certainties.

Scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology previously determined that bats in the area carried coronavirus varieties. But that’s a very different thing from proof that the pandemic came from a leaked source as opposed to free bats.

“Wrong number” (Human Design)


Human Design is a form of numerology made up by Alan Krakower, who heard a voice telling him how it works, with the voice apparently encouraging him to charge others for access to the information.


Consumers input their name, precise minute of birth, and time zone born in. In return, they receive a hodgepodge of numbers, symbols, and shapes, along with a nine-item list that allegedly describes the person. The items are vague personality attributes, not testable claims or specific facts. They contain no precise details, such as dates and locations of education or employment, which would give the graph credibility.


Still, some people embrace Human Design and its promise of easy life answers sprinkled with eastern mysticism verbiage. Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted that while those who embrace such notions have an affinity for the Appeal to Antiquity fallacy, it is not absolute. He wrote, “Compare two concepts of the human body: First, the four bodily humors, which nobody believes in today; and second, qi, which is widely believed today.”


The difference, Dunning continued, is that one is physical, the other metaphysical. The latter is more vague, while the former could be searched for physically, not found, and therefore be disproven.


Therefore, physical claims are dismissed and metaphysical claims embraced, especially when they purport to provide a blueprint for success without any accompanying effort.

“Sad Finch” (Michael Behe)

While efforts to foist creationism on public school biology students have failed, such attempts continually arise like The Phoenix, a bird with as much claim to being real as any creationist argument.


While the legal losses have been declarative, adherents have latched onto a solitary, isolated line from a 1987 defeat and have sucked it dry for more than 30 years. The sentence suggested teachings about human origins which fail to incorporate biology may be permissible if the purpose is secular.


There is no such animal, literally or figuratively, but proponents used this single utterance to invent the notion of Intelligent Design. In this concept, any deity or higher being, not necessarily the Biblical one, could have created life. The façade is so transparent that no follower of any religious subset besides U.S. evangelical Christians have ever embraced the idea, and a publication lauding Intelligent Design has as its cover Leonardo DaVinci’s The Creation of Adam.


ID proponents include virtually no biologists, and we could count on one evolved opposable-digit hand how many of them have done molecular biology research. While ID proponents are nowhere to be found in peer-reviewed journals, their banter is a regular feature on Christian media. There, biologists are portrayed as confused, stubborn, disillusioned, frustrated, or immoral, which even if all true, would be ad homimen attacks unrelated to the scientists’ research, findings, or writings.

Proponents embrace the god of the gaps fallacy, gleefully plugging their favored deity into any crevice science has yet to fully explain. But our focus today is on one of those who is among that literal handful of molecular biologists who endorse ID: Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe. He accepts that microevolution through random mutation diversifies organisms into species and genera, and perhaps even families. But he feels something more is needed to explain large-scale evolutionary transitions. Into this gap, which he creates from feelings and not evidence, he wedges the Christian god. He never says that verbatim, but he does allow his evangelical Christian followers to accept this interpretation and promote it.

In a review of Behe’s latest book, Darwin Devolves, John Jay College biology professor Nathan Lents writes that Behe purportedly undertakes to prove that evolutionary processes are insufficient to generate adaptive innovations, yet the author spends precious little time addressing this.

Further, Behe dedicates precious few paragraphs addressing key evolutionary mechanisms that serve to undermine his thesis. Consider horizontal gene transfer, which occurs when genetic material moves from one species to another, usually through a virus. For example, Lents explains, deer ticks evolved defenses against bacteria through genes that came from those bacteria.

While uncommon, such horizontal gene transfer can have profound effects on a species’ eventual lineage. Behe dedicates nary a word to this in Darwin Devolves.

Also unmentioned by Behe is exaptation, which refers to an organism co-opting a structure for a new function. Lents cites the example of mammalian middle ear bones that were adapted from jaw bones in our reptilian ancestors.


Now, when Behe writes that natural selection cannot fully account for the planet’s molecular biodiversity, he is right. But we know that because of scientific discoveries made since Darwin, not because of ancient religious texts or the writings of an iconoclastic microbiology professor who bypasses peer review.


In an attempt to bolster his view that natural selection in insufficient, Behe writes that that Richard Lenski’s e. coli experiment shows that mutation and natural selection serve only to “break or blunt genes.” But Behe misinterprets the experiment and ignores that its controlled environment is deliberately artificial. Lents notes that bacteria in the experiment have access to unlimited food, static temperatures, high oxygen, and are without competitors, pathogens, or threats to their immune system.


Behe also dismisses finch diversification, announcing he is unimpressed with their becoming about 18 species across five genera. He compares finch diversification to the adaptive radiation of animals during the Cambrian explosion more than 500 million years ago. He gloats that finches failed to become a new phylum, class, or even order.


Lents answers that the Cambrian explosion took place over a much longer time and involved simpler animals which produce much faster than finches.


With an online treasure trove of overwhelming evidence available, lay persons who latch onto a favored position in lieu of science are without excuse. But a harsher criticism should be leveled at anyone whose experience and education should be used to correct those lay persons instead of comforting them.