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The Lie: Evolution



11-6-08 (revised 1-6-09)

Evolutionists have made much ado over a 1977 mistake made by Dr. Duane Gish (arguably the greatest creationists debater ever) regarding the reaction sequence of the chemicals manufactured by a bombardier beetle.  Instead of providing scientific evidence on how the bombardier beetle could have evolved evolutionists launched an attack on the integrity of Dr. Gish. Professor Ian Plimer (arguably one of the most aggressive advocates of evolutionism) attacked Gish in Plimer's 1994 book "Telling Lies for God".  Plimer is not the only one to harp on this issue, but (due to his stature in the community of true believers in evolutionism) I have provided a rebuttal source below.  The Plimer diatribe is typical of what other evolutionists say regarding the "Gish Goof" and the rebuttal does a good job.  There are other articles explaining Dr. Gish's side (including his own in Creation Scientists answer Their critics1993) and on line at
_explode_if_mixed_without_an_inhibitor .

Also see Evolutionists Need A "Bomb" Shelter.

Karl Priest

Point-by-point Rebuttal of Ian Plimer Book:  Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism   (1994)

P. 70

Gish was incorrect in saying that a mixture of hydroquinone and peroxide is explosive. However, the accusation against Gish of ‘lying’ is outrageous because it is demonstrably wrong. CSF wrote to Plimer in August 1988, pointing out the unfairness of his statements at that time about Gish, and documenting that Gish had corrected his account of the bombardier beetle. Plimer has taken no notice of the documentation supplied and repeats his erroneous charges in this book published six years later.

Dr Robert Kofahl responded to the article by Christopher Weber upon which Plimer (p. 71) bases his accusations, in Creation/Evolution V.12-14, 15, 16; X.2; XVII.3. This is the same year as Weber’s anti-Gish article. Dr Kofahl acknowledged that he was the source of the error over the spontaneous explosiveness of a mixture of hydroquinone and peroxide. Kofahl read the original paper in German, but his translation provided to Gish had not been thorough and the error had arisen. Plimer was sent a copy of Kofahl’s article acknowledging this by Wieland in August 1988, but Plimer does not acknowledge Kofahl’s article, presumably because it would inhibit him from calling Gish a liar.

Plimer makes much of the difference between instabil, which he says is the German word for ‘unstable’ which would have beenused in the original paper, Plimer indicates, and explosiv, German for ‘explosive’. Gish studied German during his undergraduate years (40 years before!) and would have known the difference, says Plimer, and therefore Gish lied about the mistranslation. But with Kofahl admitting that he was the source of the information in his own translation, it is clear that Gish did not attempt to use his undergraduate German to try to read this technical paper.

Plimer implies that Gish knew that the mixture of hydroquinone and peroxide was not explosive and made up the story to make it sound good to uninformed audiences! What good Gish supposedly would hope to achieve by this is not at all clear, considering the numerous other excellent examples of functions in living things impossible to explain by any evolutionary process! Indeed, the bombardier beetle itself, without the error, is still a problem for evolution, as pointed out by Kofahl.

Plimer gives his reader the impression that he himself has made a detailed study of the original German paper (p. 71). He claims that Gish could not have confused the German words for unstable and explosive. However, three native German-speakers plus two German dictionaries we have consulted indicate that there is no such word in written German as instabil, as Plimer claims. Germans sometimes use unstabil but never instabil. Perhaps it was a ‘typo’ and he typed instabil instead of unstabil? No, this does not help Plimer because the original paper by Schildknecht et al used neither unstabil or instabil. Furthermore, the word explosiv was not in the papers either. Various German conjugations of words relating to instability and explosiveness are used in the article, but not unstabil/instabillain , or explosiv. We conclude that Plimer, contrary to appearances, has never read the original papers himself, and on the basis of speculation accuses Gish of lying! P. 71

Plimer’s charge that ‘With such public exposure, one would expect that Gish’s 1977 book would be immediately withdrawn and pulped’, is ridiculous. The error occurred in a very small part of a book on dinosaurs, in a small part of the account of the bombardier beetle, and did not significantly change the thrust of the point that the beetle is an embarrassment to evolution. Will Professor Plimer immediately withdraw and pulp his book Telling Lies for God now we have shown it to be full of errors?

Plimer makes a non sequitur which would mislead most readers. By saying that ‘Gish knew better’ he makes it appear as if Gish believed that the bombardier beetle’s mechanism could not be used to show the impossibility of evolution. To say that Gish was ‘still perfectly content to promote information which he knew was incorrect’ would only be so if Gish had failed to correct in his lectures the details of how the beetle generates the bursts of hot noxious gases.

To say, ‘Gish is clearly aware of the weakness of his bombardier beetle argument’ is incredibly misleading. Gish does not believe, as Plimer implies, that the Weber article ‘demolishes’ the argument. Kofahl’s response to Weber indicated that the argument against evolution remained sound—with the error corrected. Plimer fudges the reality of the complexity of the beetle’s defence mechanism. Herewith follows an actual quote from Gish’s children’s book, 1977 edition.

‘The bombardier beetle mixes up two kinds of chemicals—hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone.

‘Now the marvelous thing about this is, if you or I went into a chemistry laboratory and mixed up those two chemicals we would soon have a mess! Those chemicals react with each other to produce a dark-colored, dirty-looking liquid—a real mess.

‘But not so with the bombardier beetle. He’s a smart chemist. When he mixes up these two chemicals he makes sure that he adds another kind of chemical, called an inhibitor. The inhibitor somehow prevents the other two chemicals from reacting together, and the mixture of these two chemicals remain as clear as water. The bombardier beetle stores this liquid mixture in two storage chambers, ready to be used when needed.

‘When a mean ole beetle-eater (Mr. B.E.) tries to sneak up behind the bombardier beetle (Mr. B.B.), Mr. B.B. squirts the chemical liquid (containing the hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide) into two combustion tubes (firing tubes) that he has in his tail, while aiming at Mr. B.E. Then just as Mr. B.E. opens his mouth and is ready to snap up Mr. B.B., BOOM! He is frizzled by the explosion, which pours hot, irritating, and bad-smelling gases right into his face. Ugh! Even if Mr. B.E. weren’t hurt very badly, he surely wouldn’t want to eat anything like that for dinner!

‘How does Mr. B.B. make the chemical solution explode just at the right time, in spite of the fact that the solution contains an inhibitor which ordinarily keeps the hydrogen peroxide from reacting with the hydroquinone? Dr. Schildknecht found out that when the bombardier beetle squirts the solution into the combustion tubes, there are two chemicals in the combustion tubes which neutralize (knock out) the inhibitor. These two chemicals are enzymes called catalase and peroxidase (enzymes are chemicals that make chemical reactions go millions of times faster). When hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide are mixed together with these two enzymes in the combustion tube, they react violently together and Boom!—they explode.’

The onus is on Plimer to demonstrate that this is incorrect and that Plimer has not omitted important facts from his story—readers can judge for themselves.