Monday, August 30, 2004

Cordova Weighs In

ID cheerleader Salvador Cordova has weighed in (scroll down) on my little scrum with Cornelius Hunter. He's on Hunter's side. Oh well.

My reply to Hunter will have to wait until I have a little more time, but Cordova's remarks are sufficiently brain-dead that I'll adress them now.

He begins with:

Thank you Dr. Hunter for Posting. I would hope Dr. Rosenhouse will visit ISCID so that the two of you can dialogue directly.

If he is not representing your position correctly he should withdraw his statement. In terms of scientific dialogue, I recommend he come here and post. That would be a fruitful course of action in the interest of science.

Perhaps you could at least get on his blog and invite him to ISCID. I don't know, it's just a thought. If he shows up, he could clear the air maybe. I'm glad some annonymous poster linked to this thread.

I have no plans on posting at the ISCID, for what I assume are obvious reasons. For the record, I post here at EvolutionBlog, and over at The Panda's Thumb, and that's quite enough web posting to keep track of. When I read things that I feel merit a response I reply in one of those two venues.

As for misrepresenting Hunter's positions, I'll save that for my reply to him. Short version: Hunter's full of it.

My comments section here is open to anyone who cares to post, though I'd appreciate it if people did not post anonymously.

Cordova then quotes me as saying:

Hunter holds a PhD in biophysics from the University of Illinois, making him the only contributor among those I have read so far to actually have some scientific credentials.

and replies that:

Rosenhouse is a math professor not a biologist.

I am indeed a mathematician and not a biologist, but I'm not sure how that relates to the italicized quote above. Perhaps Cordova didn't know this, but I have done a series of posts over the last two months or so about the book Uncommon Dissent. My comments about Hunter's PhD (which I got from the author bio in the back of the book) were simply intended to contrast his credentials with those of Edward Sisson and Robert Koons, to whom I had replied earlier (my replies to Koons are available here, here, and here. My replies to Sisson can be found here, here, and here.) Neither Koons nor Sisson have any scientific credentials, you see.

But Cordova clearly seems to think I stepped in it in comparing Hunter's PhD in biophysics favorably against Koons' philosophy degree and Sisson's law degree. Somewhat redundantly he next quotes me as saying:

Moving right along, the next essay in Uncommon Dissent that I read was “Why Evolution Fails the Test of Science” by Cornelius Hunter. Hunter holds a PhD in biophysics from the University of Illinois, making him the only contributor among those I have read so far to actually have some scientific credentials.

and offers this snarky response:

Rosenhouse obviosly did not yet “read so far” in that he obviously fails to mention the credentials of:

Marcel Shutzenberger
Michael Denton
Michael Behe
Frank Tipler
David Berlinski
Roland Hirsh

Rosenhouse's statement is therefore not very persuasive, opening his criticism with a flimsy position. I think Rosenhouse's criticisms lack any scientific teeth. I would hope he visits here to defend his claims against your work. That is what is troubling, the substance of his criticism is not scientific.

Zing! Sadly, Cordova seems to have overlooked this post, in which I provide an overview of the credentials of all of the contributors to the anthology.

As I've said, the beginning of my essay about Hunter was a simple statement of fact about those portions of the book I had read up to that point. I was not taking a position of any sort. Cordova seems to think I was asserting that none of the contributors to Uncommon Dissent had scientific credentials. It's not clear to me how he got that impression.

The substance of my reply to Hunter addressed questions like the proper interpretation of the fossil record, the nature of the genetic code, and the proper understanding of anatomical homologies. Sounds pretty scientific to me.

Cordova then quotes me as saying:

And the sheer quanitity of these similarities makes it implausible to attribute them to chance alone.

without giving any hint of the context of this remark (I was asking how you explain certain similarities between species in the non-coding portions of the genome except by common descent). But he does uncork this reply:

That's right, therefore common design is a possibility. This is strengthened by the chapter in Michael Denton's book, Evolution a Theory in Crisis, regarding the “Biochemical Echo of Typology”. I invited Rosenhouse to comment on the precision of the sequence divergences in cytochrome-c. It was a topic actually amenable to his background in discrete mathematics. He has not responded. In fact, I'd be willing to debate him publicly at James Madison University if he so chooses and is willing to have the debate recorded.

Reading stuff like this always reminds me of the old Martin Short character Nathan Thurm from Saturday Night Live. Is it me or is it him? It's him, right?

When I talked about similarities in the non-coding portions of the genome, I was talking about things like redundant pseudogenes and retroviral scars, as described here. Mutations in pseudogenes have little to no effect on the organism's phenotype. They can mutate at will without harming the organism in which they reside. Consequently, we can use patterns in these portions of the genome to infer phylogenetic relationships between species. The phylogenies inferred in this way are consistent with those inferred by other means. That supports common descent.

But Cordova wants us to consider the possibility of common design. But keep in mind that we're talking about portions of the genome whose structure is irrelevant to the organism's phenotype. Mutations in pseudogenes generally have no effect on the animal's fitness. So if this is the result of common design we can only conclude that the designer, for unfathomable reasons of his own, decided to construct the non-coding regions of animal genomes in the only way that would be suggestive of common descent. We would conclude that the designer is being deliberately deceptive. Not very nice, to say the least.

Cordova then refers to an invitation he made to me to discuss something about from Michael Denton's book. It's news to me that such an invitation was ever extended. As for his current invitation to debate at JMU, my reply is a polite no thank you.

I'm not sure what Cordova has in mind about the similarities in the cytochrome-c sequence. But, if you're interested, here's a brief description of how the structure of cytochrome-c in different species provides good evidence of common descent.

I know nothing about Mr. Cordova except for what is included in this brief profile over at ISCID. But I have the distinct impression that he's the sort of person Cornelius Hunter would be just as happy not to have on his side.


At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have posted a reply in a new post at:;f=6;t=000540

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Salvador T. Cordova said...

You can see my reply comments to Dr. Rosenhouse at:

and more of my "brain dead" posts at

If you enjoyed reading about the problems of homology like the nematode, maybe I dig up a few more for you.

I respect your place of work Dr. Rosenhouse, so I respect your polite declining of my offer for a recorded debate in person at your own school. I realize it might be an uncomfortable situation. No problem. I'm for fair play.

Dr. Rosenhouse wrote:
"I have the distinct impression that he's the sort of person Cornelius Hunter would be just as happy not to have on his side."

Yeah, I am a bit of an ID scoundrel, aren't I? :-)


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