The Institute for Creation Research is a treasure trove of sloppy pseudoscience. I mentioned one “research” article that they put out that was nothing but a flurry of bible verses wrapped around an argument from incredulity; now a reader has pointed me to another article that tries very hard to ape the form of a real scientific paper, and fails horribly.
It’s titled “COMPLEX LIFE CYCLES IN HETEROPHYID TREMATODES: STRUCTURAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DESIGN IN THE ASCOCOTYLE COMPLEX OF SPECIES”, by Mark Armitage. Oooh. Sounds so sciencey. And then you read further, and you see that it almost follows the correct form.
It has the difficult title. It has a list of keywords. It has an abstract. There’s an introduction: it contains a brief summary of the complex life history of these trematode parasites, which are small invertebrates that live in the internal organs of fish, and it promises something.
In this paper, specific, complex life cycles and morphological structures of Ascocotyle leighi, A. pachycystis and A. diminuta, collected from fish hearts in Mississippi, Texas and California are evaluated in the light of the creation/evolution paradigms.
Then the paper has a materials and methods section, just like the big boys — the author extracted parasites from fish and used light and scanning electron microscopy to look at them. Finally, there’s a discussion and conclusion.
Notice anything missing? Right, no results. That’s a metaphor for the whole creationist movement right there. There are some photos imbedded in the methods section, but it’s like a random set of random photos of random parasites this guy found in his fish; there’s nothing systematic about it, and the photos aren’t even very good — the SEMs are way too contrasty.
Since he has no data, he has nothing to evaluate, and his discussion is a rehash of review papers he has read that highlight the complexity of the trematode life cycle (and it’s true, it is complex with a series of hosts), and that every once in a while raise a pointed question, such as, “What allows this cercaria to resist digestion within the fish stomach…?”, which I would have thought would be reasonable kinds of questions for a grad student to actually, you know, study. If this had been my grad student, anyway, I would have told him to knock off the pointless microphotography and focus on one of these questions and try to answer something.
But no. He’s not interested in answering questions, since to the creationist mind the existence of questions calls science into doubt, so it’s sufficient to throw out a flurry of unsolved problems … never mind that a primary research paper should have the task of addressing some problem. Even worse, a big chunk of the discussion is a paean to Michael Behe, who “shows the utter foolishness of expecting that a gradualistic, Darwinian mechanism could have produced such elegant systems, by chance, using the trial and error method”. Behe has shown no such thing. “Irreducibility” is not a barrier to addition of steps to a pathway, and Armitage has done no experiments to test “irreducibility” in his work — the concept is a non sequitur, and it’s introduction is irrelevant to this paper.
The work boils down to a summary of complex life cycles in some trematodes, taken from other people’s work, and a few tourist’s snapshots of trematodes that contribute nothing to the literature. It perpetuates the fundamental error of a common creationist argument against evolution: that something is complex could not have evolved. This is utterly false. Evolution is an undirected process that accumulates variation which is pared into shape by selection; it is eminently capable of generating more noise than signal and creating organisms that are absurdly complex. Complexity not only fails to be a strike against evolution, it’s an expected outcome of evolution.
This paper is completely unpublishable by any legitimate science journal. I doubt that it could get past an editor, who typically screen out the obvious crackpottery, and no reviewer would be fooled by it; it’s experiment-free and even its few observations are incoherent and pointless. Its conclusion reveals that the author doesn’t even understand the theory he claims to be criticizing. This is, apparently, why the creationists at ICR and Answers in Genesis are establishing their own venues for “research” publications: their standards are so appallingly low and the work they do is so pathetic that they need these fake journals to get their work published.