LANGUAGE ANALOGY Ryder’s Fatal Errors (by John Mackay)

Dan, why are you still playing around with languages to prove evolution? We agree languages do change over time and they do descend from a parent language. The bible describes exactly that. One common created language for all people which was first changed at Babel. But you abuse the analogy when you claim changing languages are a picture for the biological world where ‘one thing descended from another’. Are you kidding? Your language analogy has nothing to do with how simple chemicals formed the first cell, how naturalistic processes produced a genetic language from no language and then continued without intelligent input to generate increasing information. Language analogies also have nothing to do with whether fossils show how one type of organism evolved into a totally different organism. Could we stick to the debate question about fossil/genetic evidence and stop equivocating. You compare languages (invented by intelligent designers) to the genetic code which you describe as being much more complicated than languages. So let’s think that one through. Languages come from intelligence but a far more complicated genetic program happened by itself. Care to backtrack on that? Shouldn’t you conclude that since languages have come from intelligence therefore a much more complicated and efficient genetic code came from a much more competent and superior intelligence? That’s logical. You mention chimps and humans have 98% similar DNA. You¹re out of date. Recent studies now show quite a difference between chimp and humans on chromosome 22. I quote: ‘The results reported this week showed that “83% of the genes have changed between the human and the chimpanzee only 17% are identical so that means that the impression that comes from the 1.2% [sequence] difference is [misleading]. In the case of protein structures, it has a big effect,” Sakaki said.’ Furthermore, chimp and human Y chromosomes differ by more than 30% in a recent study. And you accused me of not researching things!

You make the statement that biologists have even better evidence for common descent among organisms. But the only common descent through time that could be demonstrated must come from fossils which do go all the way back to the original and separate kinds – but no further. Biologists have no evidence for a common ancestor of all life, no matter how insistently they point out gene similarities. Explanations are not evidence. We actually have evidence that kinds reproduce their same kinds in the present and all through observed history which is thoroughly supported by the fossil record. Besides as I stated during the debate ­ genetic mechanisms for replication prevent organisms from evolving.

My punch line? Museums are estimated to contain 100 billion invertebrate fossils plus another 500,000 fossilized fish. Evolutionists claim invertebrates gave rise to fishes. Surely 100 billion fossil invertebrates might contain one example showing how an ancestor evolved a backbone and ultimately became a fish. But there is ***absolutely no evidence*** for this supposed transition! Given the plethora of fossils and the inadequacies of the fossil record to support evolution…evolution has become the god of the gaps. The huge number of fossils is more than a lack of evidence for invertebrates evolving to fish. It’s damning evidence against evolution, and wonderful evidence that Genesis is accurate about how life was created to function ­ it really does produce after its kind! As you might say: case closed!


It is impossible to escape damning fossil evidence with the claim that evolution predicts there will be creatures that remain stable – such as the comb jellies I asked you about, without asking ( and more honestly answering) how many such groups behave that way? If it is only one or two or even the 100 groups you state you found on then you might be able to ignore them and argue from the rest to show evidence of creatures having been fossilised in the process of evolving. But we have already quoted the problem with fossils as stated in your own Uni text book and you didn’t listen so here’s the important bit again; “….fossil species usually appear suddenly in a layer of rocks, and may persist essentially unchanged for the whole time they exist on earth, finally disappearing from the record of the rocks as suddenly as they appeared.”(1). Stop showing your ignorance Dan and start giving us evidence of real and observed evolution.

I first encountered this problem when I was an evolutionist during one year of my paleontology studies where we used Prof Carters text Structure and Habitat in Vertebrate Evolution. Full of wonderful diagrams on how life evolved – but the end of every chapter asked a far more important question – do you actually see this in the rocks? And in every case the answer then and now is NO! What you see is not just the comb jellies – not just the hundreds of specimens of scallops or oysters or stromatolites etc I have personally collected, but you see it in every group. As Carter taught us; “We do not have any available fossil group which can categorically be claimed to be the ancestor of any other group. We do not have in the fossil record any specific point of divergence of one life form for another, and generally each of the major life groups has retained its fundamental structural and physiological characteristics throughout its life history and has been conservative in habitat.“(2). That was when I began to doubt evolution Dan and 40 years of follow up fossil collecting confirms Carter is right.

Even Prof Gould who invented the punctuated equilibrium evolution theory to try to overcome this very real observation restated it in 1977 as; ‘All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt.’(3) Likewise cofounder of Punctuated Evolution Niles Eldridge rephrased it again in 1995: “No wonder palaeontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seemed to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history.”(4)

Wake up Dan the fossils are not only no use to evolution – they are the death of it, and all living things deny your atheistic evolution as well. You can even go and experiment with bacteria and get them to go through millions of generations and thousand of mutations to try to simulate evolution, but it’s been done and the end we have seen them stay bacteria. How long they have been doing this for was emphasised in the fossil Filamentous Bacteria I showed during the debate from the supposedly 3 1/4 billion year old West Australian rocks.(5) So if you want an absolute statement – bacteria have been bacteria for as long as we can prove they have been on planet earth. They provably produce their own kind in all present day observed processes, as well as showing every genetic ability to resist evolving at every opportunity. At the wish of being repetitive, they behave in accordance with the formulae Genesis states God created by; After their own Kind! Give up Dan. You’ve lost. God is and He did Create!

See our Article “A World Full of Living Fossils”. Download PDF here
1.Campbell Mitchell and Reese, Biology Concepts and Connections, Benjamin Cummings 1994, p286.
2. G. S. Carter, Professor. Fellow of Corpus Christi College. Cambridge, England. Structure and Habit in Vertebrate Evolution. University of Washington Press.
3. Stephen Jay Gould ‘ The return of hopeful monsters’. Natural History, vol.LXXXVI(6), June-July 1977, p.24.
4. Niles Eldridge (1995) Reinventing Darwin, Wiley & Sons, p95.
5. Filamentous microfossils in a 3,235-million-year-old volcanogenic massive sulphide deposit. Birger Rasmussen, Nature 405, 676-679, 8 June 2000

The language analogy (by Dan Ryder)

In this post, I will expand upon the language analogy I was able to present only briefly during the debate. The main message is this: the very same reasoning applies to both languages and the biological world to provide conclusive evidence for one thing being descended from another. If that reasoning is correct for languages (as everyone including the creationists admit), then it is correct for the biological world as well. By the same token, if a young-earth creationist decides to tilt at windmills and say that this reasoning is incorrect in order to deny the obvious fact of common descent in the biological world, then they are also forced to accept absurd claims about language, e.g. that French is not descended from Latin.

OK, here goes. During the Roman Empire, the territory covering Italy, France, and Spain all spoke Latin. There were local variations, but all these Latin speakers could understand one another. They had to, as there were extensive trade connections among them, requiring successful communication.

When the western Empire fell, however, these trade connections gradually disappeared. Communication was no longer important, and without this pressure to remain the same, the local variations increased in number and size. (Imagine if North Americans, Brits, and Aussies stopped communicating for a few hundred years!) Eventually, they diverged so much that the separate populations could no longer understand one another on the rare occasions they came into contact. They were not speaking Latin anymore; they were speaking its descendent languages: Italian, French, and Spanish. (This is the equivalent of descendent species in biology, which have become isolated and no longer “communicate” – or interbreed – with one another.)

Even if we knew none of this history, we could easily see that Italian, French, and Spanish have a common ancestor just by looking at their vocabulary, grammar, and sound. For example, “cat” is “gato”, “chat”, and “gato”; “tree” is “alberro”, “arbre” and “árbol”; and “tower” is “torre”, “tour”, and “torre”. The similarities are not coincidence: they indicate common ancestry. By contrast, the Swahili words for “cat”, “tree”, and “tower” are “paka”, “mti”, and “mnara”. This difference indicates that Swahili is much more distantly related, if it is related at all. Of course you have to look at the languages as a whole to be sure, and linguists have done just that – reconstructing the evolution of languages often without knowing the slightest thing about the people who spoke them.

In biological organisms, the things that change gradually are of course the genetic codes. These are even richer sources of information than languages – the human genome, for instance, is 3 billion letters long, about three times the length of the Encyclopedia Britannica. When we see that the chimp genome and the human genome are 98% similar, we (of course!) conclude that this isn’t a coincidence: they had a common ancestor. This is exactly the same reasoning as in the language case.

Linguists and biologists have both used this simple reasoning to build massive trees (or webs) of descent for most languages and for most organisms (in varying detail). They’ve been able to trace the geographic travels of both. They’ve been able to reconstruct both extinct languages and extinct genomes. They’ve been able to estimate the dates of these extinct languages and extinct organisms, based on rates of change measured today. They’ve been able to trace instances of “borrowing” terms (like the Swahili for “plow” is “plau”), and the biological equivalent (see Mackay’s “Family Trees” post & comments). In the biological case, this has all received ample confirmation in the fossil evidence. (In the language case, of course, the “fossil” evidence is ancient writing.)

Linguists know that common descent is a proven fact for languages. Biologists have even better evidence for common descent among organisms. Case closed – even we base our conclusions only on modern similarities and differences.

I’ve only lightly touched on this rich analogy, and I haven’t given any specific biological examples beyond the Meredith et al. paper I mentioned in my comment on Mackay’s “Family Trees” post. So I will gradually follow up on this and more in the comments, in the coming week and a half.

A challenge for John Mackay (by Dan Ryder)

Mr Mackay: In the debate, you responded to the argument described in my “debate summary” (below) by saying that science is not done by majority opinion, as though my argument was just: believe what the expert biologists say. That was not my argument. I was asking for an explanation for why, if you’re right that the biological evidence points towards separate origins, virtually all the experts (i.e. the biologists) disagree with you. Are they deluded? Or just stupid?

As I showed, the standard young-earth creationist response, which is to say the biologists are deluded by dogmatic atheism, is incorrect. (40% of biologists believe in God: data here.) For some inexplicable reason, you are still clinging to this myth in your posts so far (the last paragraph of “Family Trees”, and the last paragraph of your debate summary). You can’t do that.

My challenge to you is this: what is your new explanation for why biologists are supposedly misinterpreting the evidence so catastrophically? Are all those biologists simply stupid?

Mackay’s quote mining (by Dan Ryder)

John Mackay displays his lack of knowledge with the strings of quotations he presents below from evolutionary biologists. This is a popular practice in the young-earth creationist literature: quote some evolutionary biologist out of context so they sound like they’re disagreeing with evolution when they aren’t.

In his debate summary, he quotes Gould: “…our ability to classify both living and fossil species distinctly and using the same criteria, ‘fit splendidly with creationist tenets,’” as though Gould is saying that the variety of living and fossil creatures supports creationism. That’s not what he’s saying, as Gould himself complained in no uncertain terms, many years ago here. (Do you not check your sources at all, Mr. Mackay? This quote-mine was exposed back in 1984!) The quotation comes from p. 205 of The Panda’s Thumb, where the complete quote is: “This notion of species as ‘natural kinds’ fit splendidly with creationist tenets of a pre-Darwinian age.” First, he makes no mention of fossils at all – that’s just added in! Second, he is talking about what people used to think pre-Darwin. Third, he goes on to explain how evolutionary theory gives a much better account of what we find: a mix of stability and change throughout the fossil record.

What we don’t see are unchanging natural kinds, as they used to think – for example, there are hundreds of identified dinosaur species that we obviously don’t see today, and that are found only within a restricted range of strata in the fossil record: wikipedia’s list. Instead we see birds today, whose dinosaur ancestry (or at least cousinhood) is indicated by many different facts, including: skeletal similarity (vertebra, feet), similar lungs,and a collagen structure that is closest to modern birds. (For a basic summary of some of this information and more, see here.)

The next case of quote mining: Mackay quotes evolutionary biologist Thomas Kemp on the “sudden” appearance of “new taxa” in the fossil record, and a biology textbook to the same effect. “Sudden”, here, means on the order of hundreds of thousands of years, which already contradicts Mackay’s view that the earth is merely 10,000 years old. Second, the “new taxa” are often very similar indeed to related taxa: e.g. barosaurus and diplodocus (or other diplodocoids). If these are new “kinds”, using the meaningless creationist term, then a chihuahua is definitely a different kind from a great dane, and it’s game over for Mackay. (He has to maintain that all dogs are the same “kind”, or else he would have to admit that new kinds can come from old ones.)

In the quotations, Kemp and the textbook are discussing an issue within evolutionary biology concerning how rapid evolutionary change can be: when environmental change is rapid, evolutionary change can be too; when the environment is stable, so (typically) are species. If evolutionary change is caused by environmental selection, this is exactly what we would expect. These folks, who are staunch advocates of evolution, would be shocked to learn Mackay is misusing them as fake support for young-earth creationism.

Next case: In his new post (“Family Trees”), Mackay quote-mines an article from New Scientist in 2009 discussing the transfer of genetic material by methods other than reproduction. For instance, it has long been known that one bacterium can transfer short segments of DNA to another bacterium by connecting through a tube – a process known as “conjugation.” This is like the process whereby a language can borrow a term from another, rather than from its parent language(s): for example, we got “pajama” from Hindi-Urdu, not from the parent languages of Anglo-Saxon or medieval French. What this means is that, in bacteria and other single-celled creatures, common descent has a network or web shape rather than a tree shape. (This is also true, though to a much lesser extent, for multicellular creatures like us.)

When Mackay quotes these scientists as questioning the “tree of life”, they are merely suggesting that common descent takes the form of a web rather than a tree. They are not questioning common descent; rather they are displaying the incredible knowledge that we are acquiring about the details of common descent (just as we are about the common descent of languages using exactly the same methods). For example, Mackay quotes Eric Bapteste saying “We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality” [rather than a web, I might add!], but conveniently leaves out Bapteste’s later comment: “The tree of life was useful. It helped us to understand that evolution was real.

I’ll have more to say about the language analogy in the post after my next one.

Family Trees (by John Mackay)


During the debate Ryder made much of family trees providing substantive genetic evidence for evolution, whilst at the same time he quietly conceded fossils are not much help to his case. Darwin’s original tree diagrams were constructed to show present day species ascending in branch form from others until far down the tree, you reached a common but unknown ancestor. Modern trees are more likely to resemble many separate trees ultimately merging into two trunks then finally and much more definitively showing one organism – the common ancestor of all life.

But in Darwin’s Bi Centennial year 2009, the front page of New Scientist January 24th read DARWIN WAS WRONG referring to the key article on family trees. It included such insights as;

“For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life”
Eric Bapteste,
Evolutionary biologist
Pierre & Marie Curie University,
New Scientist, 24 Jan 09, pp34-39.

And; “The tree of life is not something that exists in nature, it’s a way that humans classify nature.”
W. Ford Doolittle
Dalhousie University,
Halifax, Nova Scotia
New Scientist, 24 Jan 09, pp34-39.

Since the authors are old earth evolutionists their points are simple to follow. First: such trees are not the result of the evidence but simply the consequence of how researchers arrange the evidence based on current presuppositions – and today that means evolution, so as one author stated:

“We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality.”
Eric Bapteste,
Evolutionary biologist
Pierre & Marie Curie University,
New Scientist, 24 Jan 09, pp34-39.

If we add to that a beautiful fossil quote from a Biology text used at Ryders own University;

“Many evolutionary biologists since Darwin’s time have been struck by the failure of the fossil record to conform to the gradualist model. Few sequences have ever been found that represent gradual transitions of species. Instead, fossil species usually appear suddenly in a layer of rocks, and may persist essentially unchanged for the whole time they exist on earth, finally disappearing from the record of the rocks as suddenly as they appeared.”
Campbell Mitchell and Reese, Biology Concepts and Connections, Benjamin Cummings 1994, p286.
Then it shouldn’t surprise us that one author in the January 09 New Scientist stated;“The tree of life is being politely buried, we all know that.” And went on to further say

“ What’s less accepted is that our whole fundamental view of biology needs to change.”
Michael Rose,
Evolutionary biologist
University of California, Irvine
New Scientist, 24 Jan 09, pp34-39.

And with that statement I profoundly agree. That fundamental view of Biology is presently naturalistic evolutionism.

We should note that evolutionists and creationists both believe in family trees and descent with modification. But evolutionists believe family trees go back to an uncreated common ancestor of all life whereas we creationists argue real and separate family trees go back to separately created ancestors for each kind. The evidence from the fossil record clearly supports our view because fossil organisms for each kind always appear suddenly and fully formed with no hint of ancestors (see quote from Biology Concepts and Connections) The authors have used this fact to illustrate problems in the differing evolutionist family trees of Darwinism vs Punctuated Evolution. When we add data from the longest biological experiment ever done by man – farming over thousands of years, it is an observed and repeatedly tested fact that dogs only produce dogs, cats cats etc. i.e. they are only ever observed to produce after their kind. Experimentally, this damning evidence effectively nullifies all theories of evolution.

Since Ryder quietly conceded during the debate fossils are not much help to his case, plus we now know his favoured family trees are fatally flawed by his evolutionist atheist preconceptions, again we ask; “Can you provide any evidence for evolution, that does not presuppose evolution has already happened? OTHERWISE – We must all conclude this is a world where all creatures are observed to only reproduce their own KIND as Genesis states they were created to do!”

John Mackay’s debate summary

INTRODUCTION. Make testable predictions resulting from good creation, followed by degenerate change to creatures made separately to reproduce own kind ; i.e.

1. Life, ECOSYSTEMS will show I.D. properties not derived from parts they are made of.
2. Fossil/ Bio evidence – will show creatures have been recognisably separate groups from beginning.
3. Earths age will prove irrelevant to since evidence of a Creation is independent of its age.
4 . But since degeneration is time dependant the longer life exists the more degeneration will occur .
5. Original ID will be overlaid by degenerate change to genomes, climate .. producing struggle, survival of fittest, natural selection, devolution …

DEFENCE 2 KEY points:

1.Show fossil and living creatures have provably produced own kind (not species).
…our ability to classify both living and fossil species distinctly and using the same criteria, “fit splendidly with creationist tenets.”
Stephen Jay Gould (Professor of Geology and Paleontology, Harvard University), ‘A quahog is a quahog’,
Natural History, vol.88 (7), 1979, pp. 18-26.

“In virtually all cases a new taxon appears for the first time in the fossil record with most definitive features already present, and practically no known stem-group forms.”
T. S. Kemp, Fossils and Evolution Oxford University Press 1999 , p246,

2. Show such genetic stability maintained by possessing DNA designed to prevent evolution and produce ‘after its Kind.’
DNA 60 plus repair mechanisms do maintain stability and when any fail, result is not evolution but at best lesser stability; at worst degeneration.

CONCLUSION Plenty of opinions and theories on fossils and genetics disagree with Biblical Creation. The facts don’t!

Real problem is redefinition: Scientific theories are ….. explanations about aspects of nature without reference to God.” The Science Teacher, Nov 2003, p34. So any answer acceptable to science provided it is Agnostic or Atheistic. Creation ruled out by anti intellectual fiat declaration.

Dr. Dan Ryder’s debate summary

The issue I focused on is common descent: according to evolutionary biology, all life is related in a huge family tree, ultimately leading back, over billions of years, to a common ancestor. According to young earth creationism (accepted by Mr. Mackay), each kind of creature had separate origins at the hands of a creator less than ten thousand years ago.

So there are two accounts on the table. Over 99% of biologists believe that the evidence, as collected in billions of pages of biological journals, overwhelmingly demonstrates the fact of common descent. (My opening argument from earlier in this blog summarizes just one example of the sort of thing that has convinced the biologists.) Young earth creationists deny that the evidence points this way. One of the two must be deluded about where the evidence actually points – who is it? Both sides claim that the other side is deluded because of an adherence to some unquestioned dogma. I set out to test both proposals.

Young earth creationists’ proposal: Biologists are deluded by their adherence to atheism. But this can’t be right, because 40% of biologists believe in God.
Biologists’ proposal: Young earth creationists are deluded by their adherence to a literal or inerrantist interpretation of Genesis. This holds up, because all of the small number of biologists who accept young earth creationism are conservative Christians (or conservative religionists of some other variety). Also, there are no biologists who accept some non-religious version of separate origins.

So I concluded that it is the young earth creationists who are being misled by dogma: the dogma that Genesis is inerrant or literally true. Therefore the biologists, who are not being misled as the creationists claim they are, must be right that the evidence points massively towards common descent.

I then considered the following response a young earth creationist might make: Even if the biological evidence points massively towards common descent, this is outweighed by the evidence to be found in Genesis. That evidence is simply more powerful than all the biological evidence; the Bible is inerrant.

I rejected this move on two grounds: 1) It is dogmatic; no piece of evidence can be assumed to have such power; and 2) There are independent reasons to reject Biblical inerrancy or literal truth. My main example was the Biblical claim that homosexuality is an abomination, and gays & lesbians deserve death. (This is a claim that Mr. Mackay accepts on the basis of his stated view that the Bible is inerrant.) This claim is obviously false, and so demonstrates that the Bible is not inerrant.

Therefore I concluded that biologists are right to insist that the evidence points massively towards common descent. This does not strictly entail that common descent is true; but it certainly demonstrates that it would be irrational to believe otherwise. Young earth creationists should admit this.

In passing, I pointed out that Christians can – and most do – accept both evolution and the Bible. All that need be rejected is a literal interpretation of a few chapters in Genesis. That tiny concession does absolutely nothing to undermine the value of Christianity.

Addendum: There has been some controversy over my use of the homosexuality example; some people are under the misapprehension that I raised this point only to discredit Mr. Mackay, and that it was not relevant to the issue. While I agree that it amply discredits Mr. Mackay, I used it simply because it was essential to my argument as an independent reason to reject Biblical inerrancy. I also mentioned some other examples, but I focused on this one because I knew for certain that Mr. Mackay accepted it. Another good example is “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” [Exodus 21:20-21 NAB]. But I do not know what Mr. Mackay thinks of that particular outrageous claim.

Biographies for John Mackay and Dr. Dan Ryder


John Mackay is the Australian Director of Creation Research. He has informally debated Richard Dawkins on Youtube, and the NCSE’s [National Center for Science Education] Eugenie Scott on radio.

John has formally debated the Centre for Inquiry’s Christopher DiCarlo, John Polkinghorne (the UK’s leading theistic evolutionist), among others.

John has presented his research at geological conferences and lectured extensively in universities, schools and churches throughout North America, Europe, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia and Asia. He is a published author and has appeared widely on radio and television.

A favourite quote submitted by John:

“The truth shall set you free.” –inscribed in the Sandstone mantle above the old entrance to the Science Department at Queensland University, and quoted from Jesus Christ.


Dr. Dan Ryder is UBCO Assistant Professor of Philosophy, where he has taught since 2004. Dr. Ryder has a background in both philosophy and biology, with a BSc in Cellular, Molecular, and Microbial Biology, an MA in Philosophy and Neuroscience (both from the University of Calgary), and a PhD in Philosophy (from the University of North Carolina). His current research focuses on theoretical neuroscience and its implications for longstanding questions in the philosophy of mind. As an active member of the Centre for Inquiry, he is also interested in the promotion of good thinking practices in the general public.

A favourite quote submitted by Dan:

“What is the aim of philosophy? To be clear-headed rather than confused; lucid rather than obscure; rational rather than otherwise; and to be neither more, nor less, sure of things than is justifiable by argument or evidence.” –Geoffrey Warnock

Rules for the Online Debate

I would like to apologise for not making this clear earlier. The online debate will be between Dr Dan Ryder and John Mackay only. The format will be as follows:
1.) The main points of the debate will be posted on the blog
2.) Both debaters will be able to discuss their positions by posting comments on the main points

The debate is being done this way to prevent people from posting spam or irrelevant comments. This blog is intended as a continuation of the debate between Dr. Dan Ryder and John Mackay. If you would like to discuss anything with the debaters, e-mailing them directly would probably be the best idea.