It is becoming increasingly apparent that evolutionists do not like being quoted by those who like something they have written but who do not share their evolutionary perspective on origins. The cry "out of context" is regularly heard, although rarely does this mean more than "I did not write these words to support their position!"
A more radical reaction is to formally retract the words that have been quoted. This response appears in the current issue of American Scientist. In a letter to the Editors, former chemistry professor Homer Jacobson identifies two passages in a 1955 paper he wrote for that journal, explains why he no longer agrees with them, and concludes by saying why he is requesting the paragraphs to be retracted:
"Retraction this untimely is not normally undertaken, but in this case I request it because of continued irresponsible contemporary use by creationists who have quoted my not merely out-of-context, but incorrect, statements, to support their dubious viewpoint. I am deeply embarrassed to have been the originator of such misstatements, allowing bad science to have come into the purview of those who use it for anti-science ends."
It is of interest to look at the specific passages he is retracting. The first is:
On page 121: "Directions for the reproduction of plans, for energy and the extraction of parts from the current environment, for the growth sequence, and for the effector mechanisms translating instructions into growth - all had to be simultaneously present at that moment [of life's birth]."
Informed readers will recognise this immediately as a description of an irreducibly complex system. Writing in 1955, Jacobson did not have the terminology to call it IC, although he recognised the problem. He gives the reason for his retraction: "use of the requirement of simultaneity was a conjecture, unsupported by any proof. Separate developments of partial structures might well have occurred in an environment of randomly reacting molecules, eventually to join into one or more self-reproducing structures." Does it need to be said that these words are also conjectural! Saying something "might well have occurred" is hardly a substantial comment. He offers no supporting reasoning and effectively waves a magic wand. This retraction is a recognition that he had described an IC system (which we recognise today cannot form without intelligent agency). Since he does not accept intelligent agency, he must of necessity postulate a natural route for assembly of the system and deny that it is actually IC.
The second retraction also addresses an issue that is receiving much contemporary attention:
On page 125: "From the probability standpoint, the ordering of the present environment into a single amino acid molecule would be utterly improbable in all the time and space available for the origin of terrestrial life."
Jacobson explains that his probability calculation was flawed and adds: "Molecules of increased complexity have been found, however, when necessary components are available, with the aid of ambient energy from natural or experimental systems, e.g. electrical discharges, substantial temperature gradients or contiguous compounds or elements whose chemical reactions produce free energy. All of these could have existed under early Earth conditions, and thus this passage is completely inapplicable."
This response recalls the Miller-Urey experiments (which are currently regarded as peripheral by most OOL researchers). The element of conjecture is apparent here also, as Jacobson can only argue that the right conditions "could have existed under early Earth conditions". The empirical support for this is highly controversial. More generally, it is worth noting that evolutionists are very reluctant to calculate probabilities - because some regard it as very high (but we don't yet know the mechanism) whereas others regard it as very very low (but think it was a lucky chance anyway). Based on what we know, the probabilities are extraordinarily low, as Koonin has demonstrated. For more on this, go here.
Jacobson is perfectly entitled to make a retraction, but the issues are not going to go away. Jacobson may gain some personal satisfaction, but the challenge of IC systems remains and the improbability of chemical evolution appears insuperable. Far better for Jacobson and those who think like him to face up to these challenges and address the data as we know it (rather than indulge in fantasies about "might well have occurred" and what conditions "could have existed").
LETTER TO THE EDITORS
American Scientist, November-December 2007
To the Editors: In January 1955, American Scientist published my article, "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" (Vol. 43, No. 1). I ask you to honor my request to retract two brief passages, as follows: [snip]
Scientist distances himself from creationist claims, New Scientist, 04 November 2007
For another example of someone who does not like being quoted:
Luskin, C. Human-Chimp Evolution Dialogue (Part 1): An Exchange with Jon Cohen, Author of Science's "The Myth of 1%" Article, Evolution News & Views, October 24 2007
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