Monday, September 29, 2014

#1165: Lee Spetner

By virtue of being a physicist, one would think that creationist Lee Spetner would have some aptitude for aligning his beliefs on science to the evidence. No such luck. Spetner spent years in Israel attempting to search for evidence which “contradicted evolution” and favored his religious views. His conclusion was, remarkable, the one he had from the beginning: there was 365 originally created species of “beasts” and 365 birds, as detailed in his book Not by Chance, Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution, which even by its title reveals a profound lack of understanding of evolution. In the book he also says that mutations do not create new information, which is needed to drive evolution, and that mutations are not beneficial as they lead to a loss of information. He also rejects archaeopteryx as a fraud – indeed, Spetner and Fred Hoyle were the creationist critics that really set the stage for later creationist dismissals of the fossil. Of course, Spetner and Hoyle based their objections on complete misunderstandings of an unfamiliarity with the data and relevant processes, tactfully concluding that the real scientists were not only mistaken, but frauds. The incidence, described here, should really have undermined all aspirations of credibility Spetner might once have entertained, but the creationists apparently never noticed.

In short, Spetner’s book is a collection of creationist PRATTs. Do you think Spetner deals with the scientific responses to those PRATTs? Nope. Not a chance – the point was, familiarly, never to do science, but to win the public, and actually dealing with thorny scientific issues would presumably be too much. The purpose of the book is to replace the modern synthesis with a mixture of divine creation and a non-random evolution theory which he believes explains microevolution. His book has been endorsed by creationists and intelligent design advocates who presents it as a the work of a non-creationist presenting evidence against central tenets of evolution, even though Spetner is, in fact, an outspoken, ardent creationist (as discussed here). Indeed, when the 2013 Ball State kerfuffle – erupted due to creationist Eric Hedin wanting to disguise fundamentalist evangelicism as a biology course at Ball State University, Spetner’s work was on the reading list – despite Spetner’s obvious lack of understanding of even the basic tenets of biology or, for that matter, probability theory; there is a wonderful takedown of Spetner’s attempt to use mathematical modeling to undermine evolution here.

He is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

Diagnosis: Nothing more than your standard fundamentalist denialist creationist, really, though Spetner has somehow, occasionally, managed to pass as something else to those who don’t already understand what he is talking about. Disgraceful, really.

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