Cornelius Hunter writes:
Venema’s argument is that harmful mutations shared amongst different species, such as the human and chimpanzee, are powerful and compelling evidence for evolution. These harmful mutations disable a useful gene and, importantly, the mutations are identical.
Are not such harmful, shared, mutations analogous to identical typos in the term papers handed in by different students, or in historical manuscripts? Such typos are tell-tale indicators of a common source, for it is unlikely that the same typo would have occurred independently, by chance, in the same place, in different documents. Instead, the documents share a common source.
Now imagine not one, but several such typos, all identical, in the two manuscripts. Surely the evidence is now overwhelming that the documents are related and share a common source. More.
I don’t know genetics but, as a book editor, I know a bit about manuscripts. There are many reasons why shared errors might not indicate common ancestry, or at least not in any informative way. If one is going to use the analogy, consider the following:
1. Common grammar errors need not originate from one source. All that an inability to use “it’s” vs. “its” correctly tells us is that the authors are writing in English.
2. Spelling variations may or may not identify regional origin. Brits spell differently from Yanks but Canadian book editors are trained to work in both conventions. In other words, the correct answer as to the author’s origin might be “neither,” but how would you know that if someone didn’t tell you?
3. Dialectic word choices (shenanigan, malarkey, and brouhaha come to mind) may not indicate ancestry; they may be the result of teaching, reading, or the deliberate adoption of a style.
4. Some types of expression are constrained. For example, “The police have detained a suspect” might appear in three different news sources without any copying because all the reporters know how they are permitted to put the matter. Even identical errors may not be definitive. That depends on the nature of the error.
Prairie News: The accused was declared non compos mentis, meaning “unfit to stand trial”
Prairie Journal: The accused was declared non campus mentis, meaning “unfit to stand trial”
Prairie Express-Monitor: The accused was declared non campus mentis, meaning “unfit to stand trial”
Was the Prairie Express-Monitor plagiarizing the Prairie Journal? Possibly, but it’s more likely that neither author knows the correct term and both are guessing, picking a familiar word. Alternatively, a spellcheck gone wrong might have produced the same error in both cases.
5. Now, what about plagiarism? That is a very specific form of sharing: Three different students come up with the same clearly expressed 402-word paragraph—and it fits poorly between mounds of quite differently mangled prose before and aft.
That’s definitive for sure. The students were acting purposefully. Their purpose is precisely what explains the matter. In other words, if we are talking about written texts, plagiarism is design.
If plagiarism is an argument for common ancestry, it is an argument for designed common ancestry, where the designer is neither the text itself nor random actions on it, but an intelligent agent.
Only in a world steeped in Darwinism would plagiarism seem like a good analogy for common ancestry without design.
See also: Hunter on “shared error” arguments for common ancestry
An editor’s thoughts on “cdesign proponentsists” The basic problem is one of determining intentions from drafts (thoughts) as opposed to publication (words).
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