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Dawkins blunder

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  • annika4se
    Skeptics choke on Frog Was Dawkins caught on the hop? First published in Prayer News (both Australia and UK) November 1998 Our new video From a Frog to a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2006
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      Skeptics choke on Frog
      Was Dawkins caught on the hop?

      First published in
      Prayer News (both Australia and UK)
      November 1998

      Our new video From a Frog to a Prince (right) is having a beneficial
      effect. It illustrates the amazing design in living things, and the
      encyclopedic information stored in the DNA, required as a blueprint
      for all the designs. It also shows that mutations and natural
      selection merely remove information, not add information, as
      particles-to-people evolution requires.

      One of its highlights is the stumping of the ardently atheistic
      evolutionist Richard Dawkins1 by the simple question: `Professor
      Dawkins, can you give an example of a genetic mutation or an
      evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information
      in the genome?'

      If anyone should know any true scientific (i.e. observable and
      testable) evidence that mutations and natural selection can add
      information, Dawkins should. However, the video shows that Dawkins
      was unable to provide any experimental evidence, and gave
      an `answer' completely unrelated to the question.

      Dawkins is a hero of the Australian Skeptics, who helped bring him
      to Australia (showing their anti-Christian bias contrary to their
      professed religious neutrality—see How Religiously Neutral are the
      Anti-Creationist Organisations?). It was obviously too much for the
      Skeptics that their hero was stumped. In their magazine The Skeptic,
      the editor, Barry Williams, published a vitriolic article accusing
      the video of deception, as well as smearing creationists in general.2

      These tactics should surprise no-one familiar with the Australian
      Skeptics. To us, allegations from the Australian Skeptics have a big
      question mark over their credibility. After all, their leading light
      Ian Plimer in his book Telling Lies … bragged about blatantly
      deceiving creationists, and that book has the full support of the
      rest of the Australian Skeptics (see The Ian Plimer Files).

      Since the Australian Skeptics clearly think the end (combatting
      creationism) justifies the means (lies, deception and slander), how
      can anyone be sure that anything else they write is not deception
      for the good of the `cause'?

      Of course, biblical creationists are committed to belief in God's
      written Word, the Bible, which forbids bearing false witness;
      atheistic skeptics like Plimer, Dawkins and Williams have no such
      inhibitions. We are not saying that all atheists lie, but that they
      certainly have no absolute moral basis for refraining from lies.

      Finally, despite all the bluff and bluster by Dawkins and Williams,
      they still have not answered the question!

      The producer of the video, Gillian Brown of Keziah Video
      Productions, has submitted the following response to The Skeptic
      (slightly edited for our Prayer News), which thoroughly refutes
      their charges.

      Gillian Brown's letter to The Skeptic
      You have written an article in The Skeptic, which claims
      to `demonstrate the depths to which the creationist movement will
      stoop in order to try to discredit its critics', in which you
      denigrate my character and work, and that without having spoken to
      me at all.

      Your article recounts Prof. Dawkins' recollection of an interview,
      which is included in the video From a Frog to a Prince, which I
      produced, in which Dawkins is seen to pause for 11 seconds, and
      evade a simple question. As you yourself say: `It beggars belief
      that someone of Richard Dawkins' stature in the field would have
      been stumped by such a simple question or would have evaded it.' So,
      you conclude that Dawkins was `set up', with `malicious intent',
      in `a piece of crude propaganda', `deliberately manipulated'
      with `deceitful intent'.

      First, if you are going to publish a libellous attack against
      someone, it is responsible journalism to inquire into both sides of
      the story. And in this case, before making accusations about the
      circumstances of an interview, it would have also been wise to have
      viewed the unedited tape. That way you could have presented a
      serious investigation of the matter, and avoided making ill-informed
      and false assertions.

      You state: `perhaps it could be argued that Prof. Dawkins' memories
      of the events might have deteriorated with the passage of time since
      the interview …' In fact, whether from memory lapse or for other
      reasons, the recollection of Dr Dawkins is riddled with inaccuracies
      and some downright untruths. Following is an accurate account of the
      interview, which may be confirmed by viewing the unedited video

      Dr Dawkins makes a number of incorrect statements [marked with RD –
      Editor] as cited by Mr Williams to which my replies are interspersed
      and marked with GB.

      RD: `On September 16, 1997, Keziah Video Productions, in the persons
      of Gillian Brown and Geoffrey Smith, came to my house …'

      GB: I was accompanied by a former geologist, Philip Hohnen, not
      Geoffrey Smith.

      RD: `… I was challenged to produce an example of an evolutionary
      process which increases the information content of the genome. It is
      a question that nobody except a creationist would ask …'

      GB: That question actually came at the end of the interview. At the
      beginning, Philip Hohnen asked several general questions on the
      origin of new information. These questions are recorded on tape and
      may be viewed, either on tape or transcripted, by anyone interested
      in the exact nature of the questions. Dawkins objected to the
      questions and stopped the recording. He claimed that questions on
      the origin of new information were invalid, and that nobody ever
      asked him such questions. I responded that the question of
      information was perfectly valid, and very important to the evolution-
      creation debate.

      RD: `The tape having stopped, I explained to them my suspicions, and
      asked them to leave my house.'

      GB: At no time did Dr Dawkins ask us to leave his house. A second
      camera (newly purchased, which we were testing) was inadvertently
      not switched off until later, so it recorded most of the ensuing
      conversation. This remains on record to clarify supposed `lapses of

      RD: `As it happens, my forthcoming book, Unweaving the Rainbow, has
      an entire chapter ("The Genetic Book of the Dead") devoted to a much
      more interesting version of the idea that natural selection gathers
      up information from the environment, and builds it into the genome.
      At the time of the interview, the book was almost finished (it is to
      be published in November, 1998). That chapter would have been in the
      forefront of my mind, and it is therefore especially ludicrous to
      suggest that I would have evaded the question by talking about fish
      and amphibians.'

      GB: After he asked for the camera to be switched off, Dawkins asked
      that his answers to the first few questions would not be used (and
      they have not been used). He then agreed to make a statement, but
      refused to take more questions from Philip.

      We resumed recording, then after he finished his statement I asked
      for a concrete example in which an evolutionary process can be seen
      to have increased information on the genome. The long pause seen on
      the video immediately followed my question, he then asked me to
      switch off the camera so he could think, which I did.

      After some thought he permitted the camera to be switched on again
      and his final answer was recorded, the answer which appears in the
      video, which, as can be seen, does not answer the question. Because
      my question was off-camera and off-mike (though clearly audible on
      the tape), it could not be used in the finished production. That is
      why the presenter was recorded later, repeating my question as I had
      asked it.

      Your concern is that the pause was fabricated. No, the pause
      followed by an irrelevant answer was in response to that exact
      question, a question which Dr Dawkins could not answer and would
      have preferred not to even discuss. `Ludicrous' perhaps, but the
      question was indeed evaded. If you would care to view the unedited
      tape you will be able to confirm my account.

      RD: `If I'd wanted to turn the question into more congenial
      channels, all I had to do was talk about `The Genetic Book of the
      Dead'. It is a chapter I am particularly pleased with. I'd have
      welcomed the opportunity to expound it. Why on earth, when faced
      with such an opportunity, would I have kept totally silent? Unless,
      once again, I was actually thinking about something quite different
      while struggling to keep my temper?'

      GB: Whatever he may have been thinking about I don't know, but it is
      clear that he did not answer the question.

      [From here, Gillian responds to Barry Williams' article in The
      Skeptic2 (his comments are marked by BW) – Ed.]

      BW: `If it had been left at that, it might merely have been evidence
      of professional incompetence on the part of the producer and editor
      of the tape …'

      GB: Before making charges of `incompetence', the original tape
      should be viewed … The question, asked by myself (not Geoffrey
      Smith) was off camera, and that's why the question was re-recorded
      by the narrator, the pause and the answer which follows is exactly
      the response from Prof. Dawkins.

      The actual pause was in fact shortened from 19 seconds to 11
      seconds, and Dawkins' request to switch off the camera so that he
      could think was also cut out. So, there was no malicious intent
      whatsoever, what is seen is Dawkins' exact response, with a
      shortened pause, and the (merciful not malicious) removal of his
      request for time to think.

      BW: `Certainly this is by no means the first occasion on which the
      creation "science" movement has sought to misrepresent the words of
      eminent scientists to bolster their own inept grasp of scientific
      matters, and to mislead their own unfortunate followers.'

      GB: This accusation is beneath contempt now that your willingness to
      make accusations without doing your homework has surfaced. Another
      skeptic of creation, Glenn Morton, made similar charges on the
      internet. He asked Richard Dawkins about it and Dawkins denied
      recollection of the interview. Finally, after listening to an audio
      tape of the interview, Dr Morton posted the following apology:

      `… I had originally questioned whether there was some doctoring
      going on in the tape because of certain technical details that were
      amiss. The shadows on the narrator were not the shadows from the
      room in which Dawkins sat. And the room appeared to be different. I
      wrote Dawkins and asked him about this. He denied having any
      recollection of this event. I suspected a video hatchet job. After
      Gillian established contact with me in June, I found that my
      suspicions were correct that the narrator was not in the same room
      as Dawkins. Gillian admitted that she had the narrator re-dub the
      question but contended that she had asked exactly that question and
      that Dawkins was shown exactly as he performed at the filming [a
      practice that Williams stated was acceptable – Ed.]. Gillian sent a
      copy of the original audio tape of the interview with Dawkins to a
      friend of mine. He sent the tape to me.

      `I will state categorically that the audio tape of the interview
      100% supports Gillian Brown's contention that Dawkins couldn't
      answer the question.'

      For scientific refutations of Dawkins' works, see:
      G.H. Duggan, Review of The Blind Watchmaker, Apologia, 6(1):121–122,
      R.G. Bohlin, Up the River Without a Paddle—Review of River Out of
      Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, TJ 10(3):322–327, 1996.
      J.D. Sarfati, Review of Climbing Mt Improbable, TJ 12(1):29–34,
      W. Gitt, Weasel words, Creation 20(4):20–21, September–November
      1998. Refutes Dawkins' computer `proof' of information arising by
      mutation and selection. Dr Gitt shows that the information was pre-
      programmed, something Dawkins admitted but glossed over.

      Royal Truman, The problem of information for the theory of
      evolution: Has Dawkins really solved it? (technical). Refutes
      Dawkins' belated subsequent attempt to answer the question he
      couldn't in the interview.

      Return to text.
      B. Williams, Creationist Deception Exposed, The Skeptic 18(3):7–10.
      This article has also been widely circulated on the internet. Return
      to text.
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