Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ray Comfort's continuing sex problems

What is it about religion and sex? Catholic priests bugger choir boys, Ted Haggard got thrown out of his church for buying the services of a male prostitute and methamphetamine and now Ray comfort is having his own sex problem; he just doesn't get it. He can't grasp how sex evolved. As demonstrated in his most recent post, Keep it Simple. Ray again exposes his tiny intellect to the whole world by asking this question:

There are an estimated 1.4 million species on the earth. Each species has both male and female (not counting worms and a few others). Let’s believe that each species did evolve. Let's then zero in on the giraffe. After the big bang, there was a pre-giraffe animal. Millions (perhaps billions) of years pass until today, and now we have a male and female giraffe. Evolutionists believe that the two didn’t evolve separately. Such a thought is "bizarre."

I know that you think I am intellectually slow, so please be patient with me and explain to me in very simple terms where you believe the female giraffe came from, and then explain how and why the other 1.4 million species ended up with both male and female.

I once considered this kind of remark comedy gold, but it's not so funny any more. It's just sad. It has been explained repeatedly to Ray, but yet he cannot comprehend. No matter how well the people who comment on Ray's blog explain this to him he never seems to get even the basic facts right, like what the term "common descent" means. And then there is this inherently biblical sexism implied by Ray asking "where do you believe the female giraffe came from" and not the male.

There are also a lot of missing steps in Ray's timeline, it goes from the big bang, to a pre-giraffe and then millions or billions of years pass and then you get male and female giraffes. Some steps not included there would be the first simplest cells evolving, then complex cells and then sexual reproduction followed by every plant and animal on Earth being evolving descendants of those first sexually reproducing organisms. We're all family. We're all related. Giraffes, men and potato plants. The organisms that didn't use sex like we do got stuck at the single celled and/or worm level of evolution. They evolved too, but along a far different trajectory, and today they are germs, fungi, microscopic worms and virii.

One comment on Ray's blog noted that what Ray was saying was like saying: "Linguists would like us to believe that English and Spanish and French are all descendants of Latin, but that's absurd. Who did the first English-speaking person have to talk to? Isn't it convenient that he found an English-speaking mate so that they could have English-speaking children?" But then Ray probably believes in the Tower of Babel theory of language differentiation too.

Why is it so hard for some people to grasp the concept of "common descent"? Perhaps if every animal could breed with every other animal this wouldn't be a hard question, even for Ray. For example, according to Carl Sagan's "The Dragons of Eden" the ancient Romans didn't quite have a handle on this speciation thing:

In earlier times it was widely held that offspring could be produced by crosses between extremely different organisms. The Minotaur whom Theseus slew was said to be the result of a mating between a bull and a woman. And the Roman historian Pliny suggested that the ostrich, then newly discovered, was the result of a cross between a giraffe and a gnat. (It would, I suppose, have to be a female giraffe and a male gnat.) In practice there must be many such crosses which have not been attempted because of a certain understandable lack of motivation.

If a male gnat really could fly up into a female giraffe's uterus and spawn something like an ostrich it would be easier to see that we could all be related through common descent, but no matter how many dead gnats one might find in female giraffe parts this has never happened. Gnats and giraffes just don't breed together.

So, maybe a better way to approach this problem Ray has with sex is to point out how it is that speciation occurs, because that is why it is that gnats can't impregnate giraffes. And like many evolutionary changes, speciation happens gradually. As I pointed out some time ago in my post, "Dealing with the abysmal ignorance," Ray and many other creationists have a comic book concept of evolution, via X-Men and Spiderman. They don't grasp speciation as a gradual process and they don't understand what transitional forms are. They are under the impression that either adult animals can mutate drastically or they buy into some weird version of the "Hopeful Monster" concept.

Ray's concept of evolution, if he even has one, seems to be that some instantaneous-speciation event must occur and not small gradual changes. He seems to think there must be more rapid evolutionary change than what biologists think of as rapid, which is tens of thousands of years from a geological perspective. Perhaps some comic book style mutation where such a monster would have a hard time finding a mate. But evolution doesn't quite happen that way. First, what makes a monster different than a critter with only a slight mutation? The monster cannot be so grossly different that it cannot breed with anything else alive. If that were the case it would be an evolutionary dead end. Any change or mutation still requires a sexual animal to breed.

Consider dogs, are Chihuahuas and Great Danes really members of the same species? In theory, they are members of the same species and they should all be able to breed together (but I want to see what a cross between a Chihuahua and a Great Dane looks like before I'm one hundred percent sure of that). There you have a gross difference in size as well as fur length and other factors. If paleontologists came across the bones of specimens that different they probably would think they had two different species. So, in theory one could get major structural differences to occur as rapidly as they did in dogs without some series of intermediate species that can't breed together.

To a species of Chihuahuas a Great Dane might appear to be a hopeful monster. However, the creation of the Chihuahuas and Great Danes from some original wolf or fox stock wasn't caused by some sudden mutant genes producing monstrosities. Human beings produced those changes through many generations of dog breeding. That doesn't mean, however, that a small genetic change couldn't, if expressed in early embryonic processes, produce a large effect embodying considerable parts of the organism and yielding profound differences among adults of the same species. It is however, unlikely and evolution favors small mutations which are much more likely to be beneficial than large ones and are then built upon to produce an accumulation of small changes resulting in drastically different and well adapted forms.

We could tell Ray all about giraffe evolution. The giraffes branched off from the deer just after Eumeryx. The first giraffids were Climacoceras (very earliest Miocene) and then Canthumeryx (also very early Miocene), then Paleomeryx (early Miocene), then Palaeotragus (early Miocene) a short-necked giraffid complete with short skin-covered horns. From here the giraffe lineage goes through Samotherium (late Miocene), another short-necked giraffe, and then split into Okapia (one species is still alive, the okapi, essentially a living Miocene short-necked giraffe), and Giraffa (Pliocene), the modern long-necked giraffe.

There is fossil evidence for such evolution of the giraffe, but the creationists don't buy it. They still claim that there are not enough transitional fossils to prove that.

One of Ray's partners in ignorance, Kirk Cameron, once claimed that a horse cannot produce a non-horse. In at least one respect, as I noted before, that is a false statement. A horse can produce a non-horse if it mates with a donkey. Mules and hinnies are the offspring of horses and donkies. Hinnies are the offspring of a male Horse (stallion) and a female donkey (jenny). The hinny and mule are usually, but not always sterile. And that is how speciation gradually happens.

Horses and donkeys are closely related but they are different species. Their close relationship allows them to mate and produce the hybrid mule or hinny, but since they are not quite the same species the hybrid mule or hinny is most often sterile. Sometimes, though rare, a female hinny can still mate with a horse or donkey and produce offspring. That is an example of how species slowly separate. It is evolution in action and it is very gradual. There is no suddenly you can't mate aspect to it. Instead you get phenomena like ring species and parapatric speciation.

Alas, like the sex life of bananas these concepts will never register in Ray's brain.


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