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The Lie: Evolution


Y. E. S. Says "No!"

by Karl Priest

Once I wrote an article which was printed by the Young Entomological Society (Lansing, MI).

After my initial query the editor emailed, "We had our first editors meeting last week, and I asked our group if they would be willing to publish articles that wouldn't necessarily reflect their own understanding of evolution or what they were learning in school. They answered with a unanimous yes, provided the material was well written of course. I have invited five local high school and freshman college students to assist me as editors for the YES Quarterly Journal and we look forward to an exciting year spiked with lively discussions and interviews with prominent entomologists. Please send a short bio along with your article(s)."

Two days later I received tan email that contained: "We received your delightful article on the bombardier beetle. Did you have a title for it and a mailing address for your science group?"

The article was published and what follows is the saga of evolutionists' reactions to something that threatened their Darwinian dogma. See if you are as bugged about it as me.

From the inside cover: Y. E. S. Quarterly is "A Journal of International Amateur Entomology"

Y.E.S. QUARTERLY is an international journal of amateur entomology and is intended for older youth (ages 13 and up) and adult amateur entomologists. It contains a wide variety of articles of interest to amateur entomologists: ideas for outdoor projects, field notes, observations of insect habits and behavior, rearing and collecting techniques, information on identifying insects, insects and computers, care of insect and spider collections, book and resource reviews, and much, much more. This informal science journal is published four times a year. Almost all of the articles and illustrations are submitted by members.

Y. E. S. Quarterly 16/1 Jan/Mar 1999 (pg. 20)

Bombardier Beetle: Chemical Defense of Creationism

Karl C. Priest
Kanawha Creation Science Group
P.O. Box 9090 South Charleston, WV 25309

A small reddish beetle has earned its common name of "Bombardier". It was
created with the ability to fire a chemical solution that can scare, or injure, anything the Bombardier considers as threatening. A human can even get a slight, but painful, skin bum if fired upon by this little beetle.

The Bombardier's defense consists of a complicated well designed system for
storing, combining, and firing its chemical mixture. (Some shaving cream dispensers use a similar method of producing hot lather.) Two glands near the end of the Bombardier's abdomen store separated amounts of hydrogen peroxide (an antiseptic) and hydroquinoes (used for photographic developer). A sphincter muscle squeezes the fluid from the glands into a type of firing chamber where other chemicals are mixed, at just the right instant, causing pressure to build up. The result is bad news for anything messing with the Bombardier.

The Bombardier can aim this hot (100 degree) substance with excellent accuracy and can repeat fire dozens of times. Each shot sounds like a small pop-gun and also produces a puff of smoke with a vile smell. Other nearby beetles will join in the firing.

Let's use a "Just So" story of evolution to explain how the Bombardier Beetle could have developed this amazing ability. Dr. Gary Parker tells of a beetle, minding his own business, that is zapped by a magical cosmic ray and suddenly has a volume of hydrogen peroxide. What good was this for the beetle's survival? The beetle would just fizz to death. What if the magical cosmic ray caused a volume of hydroquinoes instead? Well, if the beetle had a camera it might come in handy. Or, imagine two rays hitting the beetle and supplying it with all the chemicals. BOOM! The beetle blows itself up.

No reasonable person believes hot shaving lather dispensers happened by themselves with time and chance. Bombardier Beetles didn't happen by accident either. They are a wonderful example of a Creator with a plan and a purpose.

Y. E. S. Quarterly 16(3) Jul/Sept 1999 (pgs. 70-77)

Dear Y. E. S.:

The main reason for this e-mail is that after thinking about it for some time I was disappointed to see Karl Pnest's article in the recent Quarterly (Bombardier Beetle: Chemical Defense of Creationism. Karl C. Priest in Y. E. S. Quarterly 16(1) Jan/Mar 1999.).

The entire thrust of the article was only to promote creationism and not to provide any biological or natural history information to our readers. Because of this lack of information, I did not think the article was appropriate for Y.E.S. publication. l'm sure there are creationist journals that would have been happy to receive the article and feel that Mr. Priest should have been steered in that direction (perhaps he was, and just didn't agree). The "opinions of authors expressed" statement doesn't really cover this situation, but maybe something like 'We accept articles that are clearly of a biological nature" would.

Now I'm curious - have you received other similar letters from readers? Thanks.

Fred Sherberger
Fembank Science Center
Atlanta GA

Dear editors:

I happened to see the article by Karl C. Priest in the Jan/Mar/99 issue entitled
"Bombardier Beetle: Chemical Defense of Creation ism." I couldn't let this piece pass without comment because I think it would be a disservice to young people to have them think that "creation science" has any relationship at all to the practice of the scientific method in biology or any true scientific discipline. I am a freelance science writer/illustrator with a master's degree in biology from the University of Michigan.

Gary Raham
Wellington, Colorado

Dear Y. E. S.:

I was very disturbed to read the Bombardier Beetle: Chemical Defense of
Creationism in the YES Quarterly 16(1). As the science coordinator for our school district, I have been a YES member for 10 years and frequently share your materials with teachers and students. I am incredulous that this article appears in an organization devoted to science. It will not take many more similar articles for me to cancel my membership.

David Fillman
Galena Park, TX

We had no intention to offend or to disturb our readers, but merely to stimulate discussion on a topic that continues to ellcit strong emotion. The Kansas state legislature recently passed a bill requirng public schools to "de-emphasize evolution". We can only imagine how this disturbs and offends Kansas public school science teachers.

At the beginning of this year five local junior high and high school students were invited to volunteer to assist in editing the Y.E.S. Quarterly Journal. This group was asked if they would be wffling to publish articles that wouldn't necessarily reflect thefr own views. They answered with a unanimous yes. Mr Karl Priest is a math teacher with 27 years expedence in public education in grades K Through 9, He is a longtime insect enthusiast and Y. E.. S. member. We greatly appreciate the eleganily written articles on evolution sent to the Quarterly Journal in response to Mr. Priest's expression of his beliefs.

The following aare comments from a few of our young assistant editors.

First, we recognize that creationism is not related to science. However it is a
theory to explain the origin of life that has not been disproved. It was not our intention to promote creationism or to undermine science. We published this article to present a different view.-- Vanessa Sippel, Mountain Pointe High School, Phoenix, AZ

Well, school started a few days ago. One of my electives is Spanish. The ffrst day we had to take a test, one of the questions was, "how do you think the Spanish language came to be?" My answer was "people evolved it" After class that day my Spanish teacher said something to me about students not talking about reilgion, Goo, and evolution. So, I just wanted to point out how teachers are worried about students even using the word evolve.-- Bryan Bigelow, Supai Middle School, Scottsdale, AZ

Bombardier beetle: Chemical defense
of Evolution- a response to Priest
K. W. Will
Dept. of Entomology, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Ian G. Will
Irumansburg, NY 14886

K .C. Priest presented a note for Y.E.S readers regarding the origin of the
chemical defensive system in bombardier beetles (Priest,1999:20-21). Priest called on a mythical tale of a "Creator with a plan and a purpose," though he never actually stated what that plan or purpose might be, nor does he clearly state what the evidence is for a creator. His poorly stated argument implies that the complexity of the system is enough to warrant the need for a "Creator." Neither the notion that bombardier beetles are a good example of special creation nor the conclusion that complexity requires a creator are original ideas of Mr. Priest. Both have been presented by many people, usually in much more elaborate forms. We will show below that the bombardier is a wonderful example best explained by evolution in relation to all the facts not as a singular case requiring a special origin.

First we must define the terms evolution and creation as we use them here. By
evolution we simply mean change overtime. Specifically change in a lineage or family tree, generally over a relatively long period of time. Creation is the instantaneous generation of a form from nothing or the raw materials at hand. Priest's notion that evolution is equal to being "zapped by a magical cosmic ray" resulting in a sudden transformation is comical and inaccurate. We doubt that Priest has ever read any primary works on the subject of evolution. People that study life have developed ideas about how evolution might work, and have shown very convincingly that change over time is possible by many processes. Chance mutation of genetic material by cosmic rays is not considered a major force in shaping new forms.

Bombardiers (species of the genus Brachinus) are members of the family of beetles known as ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae). All together this family of beetles has about 40,000 species. All of these beetles, not just bombardiers, have a pair of defensive glands in their abdomens. One of us (KWW) has studied these glands in nearly every tribe (large groups of species below the family level) of ground beetles.

The forms of glands are quite various, from very simple bag-like structures to more complex forms with different kids of lobes and chambers. By looking at all the evidence you can see that the best explanation for the bombardiers' glands is not a series of special creations, but rather a single explanation for all the glands in all ground beetles. An evolutionary interpretation would be that all ground beetles have glands because the ancestor of ground beetles had them. Creation requires at least 40,000 explanations, one for each species. Many possible intermediate forms are represented in the living ground beetles we see today. Therefore, the structures of the bombardier are just one more step in the evolution of chemical defense and really not that unique at all.

Even the chemicals of the bombardier are not unique. All of the compounds found in bombardiers, and many other chemicals as well, are found in other ground beetle groups. More than 350 species have been sampled for defensive chemicals. Some have no hydroquinones, some have a little mixed with other chemicals, still others contain mostly hydroquinones or other very similar compounds as the major component. Again, all of these represent possible intermediate forms that could have proceeded the explosive reaction in bombardiers. In several groups of ground beetles the chemicals are mixed and ejected hot, quite similar to bombardiers, but they aren't bombardiers. These beetles don't spray the chemical mixture like a true bombardier, they let out a small pop and let the chemicals fizzle on their elytra (hard wing covers). How would the creationist explain this? Did the creator not like these beetles as well as the bombardier so they only got part of the special equipment? Once more we can see this represents a form that is intermediate to the bombardier. These intermediate forms of chemical defense are present and function in species we see around us and are like the forms that led to the bombardier.

Priest would have us believe that shaving cream dispensers are somehow
analogous to beetles. No reasonable reader would propose that cans of shaving cream can reproduce their own kind. On the other hand, beetles are living, reproducing and evolving forms of life. Shaving cream is undeniably an example of a Creator with a plan and purpose; bombardiers are the result of evolution. This is exactly the kind of example that long ago caused critical thinking people to abandon the notion of special creation of every species.

The Bombardier Beetle Revisited
Gary Raham
Post Office Box 399
Wellington, GO 80549-0399

The January/February issue of Y. E. S. Quarterly carried an article by Karl C.
Priest proposing that the complex chemical arsenal of the Bombardier Beetle could not have occurred through natural1 evolutionary changes and therefore must have been specifically planned and created. Mr. Priest represents the Kanawha Creation Science Group of South Charleston1 WV. Mr. Priest is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I hope readers of this journal will not be confused by the use of the word science in the name of the organization he speaks for. Scientific studies ask questions of nature through reproducible experiments. Scientists are often surprised when experiments don't verify their first assumptions, but they're not unhappy. Surprises that reveal a new truth about nature are exciting. "Creation science", on the other hand, attempts to find examples to support one thesis: that living things are special, supernatural creations. Contrary evidence is unacceptable.

The Bombardier Beetle's complex defensive system certainly is amazing. Frankly, I don't know if anyone has done studies on how this system may have evolved. I do know that complexity, by itself, is not a sufficient argument to throw up your hands and say that "no reasonable person" could imagine such a thing to happen (given enough time and selective advantage). Asking nature how complex systems evolve is not beyond the scientific method. In fact, a study in 1994, by Dan Nilsson and Suzanne Pelger (Proceedings of the Royal Society B256 (1994): 690), has provided insight into how another complex structure, the vertebrate eye, may have evolved.

Nilsson and Pelger set up a computer program to see what mutation and selection could do to a simple eyespot over time. An eyespot, like those seen in the one-celled beastie, Euglena, consists of light-sensitive cells sandwiched between a clear, protective layer and a darkly pigmented background. They allowed the eyespot to deform at random with incremental size changes of 1%. They selected for increased image quality as determined by the rules of elementary optics. They made some conservative assumptions about heritability and the intensity of selection based on field studies.

The results surprised even the researchers. The flat eyespot turned into a cup shape that gradually deepened. The transparent layer thickened to fill the cup and its outer surface became curved. Eventually a part of this layer condensed into a spherical area that served as a lens. The series of intermediate eyes all have parallels among animals today. The final product contained all of the essential structures of the complex vertebrate eye: lens, cornea, and retina. The process took the equivalent of 400,000 generations which translates to roughly a half million years for reproduction rates in typical, small animals.

Perhaps someone can devise a similar program to see what happens when you
select for chemical defensive systems. The fact that complexity can evolve over time makes it no less beautiful or awe-inspiring than if it were miraculously created in one act. Let true science answer those questionsis capable of answering. Let religion give us the moral compass to use that information wisely. May we all find the wisdom to see the difference.

I sent the following which (to my knowledge) was not published.

November 17, 1999

Y. E. S. Quarterly
6907 W. Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906

Dear Editor,

I want to thank the young people who dared to print my heretical article which took a light hearted shot at evolutionism. Their open-minds clearly reveal why disciples of Darwinism rigorously resist allowing students to have a chance to consider any facts that challenge the Darwinian doctrine. I encourage these young scholars to do some independent research before they make a final decision on which bias they believe.

Now, I will reply to the adults who so “eloquently” (as the Y. E. S. editor put it) debunked my position. I assure the gentleman who is a science coordinator/censor that I will not use either of the dreaded “C” words in this letter. A friend of mine, David Bump, has e-mailed a response that easily counters the lengthy article by Dr. K. W. Wells. If Y. E. S. does not print David’s article readers may contact me for a copy.

I can dispose, with one word, any argument that favors chance development of life. That word is “mathematics”. The mathematical probability of the necessary amino acids assembling into the correct order for an enzyme are so astronomical that only the most credulous individual would believe it can happen by accident. Sir Fred Hoyle, a strong supporter of evolutionary dogma, described the possibility as being as reasonable as a jumbo jet being assembled from a tornado going through a junkyard! Hoyle, certainly on an academic plane close to that of Dr. Wells, has come to the conclusion that “...the general scientific world has been bamboozled (his word) into believing that evolution has been proved. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Evolution is a mathematical impossibility. I will continue using insects to bug those who force evolutionism upon the youth of our nation.

Yours truly,

Karl C. Priest

The following was written by a friend, but (to my knowledge) was never published.

Dear editors of Y.E.S. Quarterly:

As an e-mail friend of Karl Priest, the recent controversy over his article on the Bombardier Beetle concerns me. However, I am more concerned with the tone and errors contained in the negative responses for their significance in relation to science, logic, and open inquiry.

Contrary to the letter by Fred Sherberger, Mr. Priest's article contained much biological information. Apparently, all it takes is for someone to disagree with the absolutely naturalistic interpretation of that data for people like Sherberger to dismiss everything else and call for censorship of such articles, and even, as David Fillman did, to threaten to cancel subscriptions to magazines that step out of the line of orthodoxy. Neither of these gentlemen presented any sound counter arguments, but made dogmatic and authoritarian pronouncements worded in a way analogous to those of priests defending a belief they do not feel is capable of bearing sustained scrutiny.

K. W. Will, on the other hand, does provide a thorough presentation of the evolutionary viewpoint. To have a specialist in entomology comment in this instance is rather like calling in a tank to help win a game of tag, and Will understandably seems to be over-arguing points related to the fact that the article was brief and aimed at a young audience.

However, even Will is unable to actually demonstrate that Bombardier Beetles evolved from others, that there is a specific genetic and physiological series of steps whereby they could have evolved in such a manner, or that the hypothesis that they were designed is untenable. In fact, whereas Will doubts that Priest ever read "any primary works on the subject of evolution" it is clear that Will is ignorant of modern ideas of creation and design inference. He states that the 40,000 species of ground beetles would require 40,000 special acts of creation, whereas modern scientists working within the creationary paradigm allow for speciation -- but the process of speciation cannot account for the origin of entirely new organs and systems. It is not simply that some things seem vaguely too complex to have developed gradually, but that some phenomena require a minimum level of complex interactions which natural variations in less complex phenomena could not possibly produce.

What Will does present is a series of "intermediate forms" -- but merely assumes that Bombardiers evolved through forms "like" these, whereas one could equally well assume, for example, that all these forms are merely degenerate offshoots of the line of Bombardiers -- just the reverse of the evolutionary presumption.

While Will rightly points out that, unlike shaving cream dispensers, beetles are alive, this does not justify begging the question and flatly stating that they "are the result of evolution." Indeed, one could continue the analogy and point out that, like the "intermediate" beetles, there are various types of fluid-dispensing bottles, each of them undeniably the product of intelligent design. While no experiments have produced something like these beetles through natural variation and selection, it has been demonstrated that something similar can be produced by design -- although humans have yet to build something with all the capabilities of a beetle. Certainly there have been variations in the lineages of organisms, but the extent and nature of these variations should be open to discussion.

More disturbing is the letter by Gary Raham, who does at least point out that "Scientific studies ask questions of nature through reproducible experiments." Unfortunately, he then abandons this position, for not even one experiment has bred a Bombardier beetle even from other beetles with lesser powers of defense. He cites as an example of the scientific method a case in which two researchers ran a computer simulation supposedly showing the development of the eye.

Since when is a computer simulation equal to an actual experiment? In this case, the simulation began with a working eyespot, but even an eyespot is a complex molecular system. Then, without regard for the actual processes of genetics, natural selection, and physical construction of the eye, the researchers built into the system parameters guaranteed to produce an evolutionary result. Let's see this result reproduced by breeding real euglenas into creatures with advanced eyes, even with intelligent bio-engineering techniques, and then we'll have something approaching solid scientific data to discuss.

Beyond this cavalier re-defining of scientific method, even more disturbing is the flat statements by several writers to the effect that" creation" and "science" shouldn't even be used in the same sentence. One can examine scientific data and perform reproducible experiments with a creationary outlook just as well as with an evolutionary one. But these statements apparently are not motivated by an objective interest in seeking the truth whatever it might be, but by a prejudice toward ruling out any consideration of God and the possibility that the
world was created.

The anti-creationists are just as concerned about maintaining and promoting their views about God (or the non-existence thereof) as the creationists -- they're just not willing to open the floor to discussion, and generally not as open about it. But Raham, for example, couldn't resist closing with this little sermon: "The fact that complexity can evolve over time makes it no less beautiful or awe-inspiring than if it were miraculously created in one act. Let true science answer those questionsis capable of answering. Let religion give us the moral compass to use that information wisely. May we all find the wisdom to see the difference."

This sounds very wise, until one considers that what is actually being said here is that our "moral compass" has nothing to do with observable reality. I wonder if Raham actually feels religion is capable of providing sound guidance, or is he merely throwing a sop to appease societal feelings? At any rate, it's clear that this isn't merely a matter of science, but philosophical and religious motivations on the part of those who claim there is no room for considering creation as a
factor in scientific studies.

David Bump