Dr. Gary E. Parker, chairman of Natural Science at Christian Heritage College and one of the most respected members of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), often appears as the guest on a radio program produced by the Institute. The program, Science, Scripture, and Salvation, is broadcast weekly from 77 domestic and 3 international radio stations. In four episodes broadcast last year Dr. Parker claimed that an issue of Scientific American devoted to the topic of evolution was "just chockful of evidence for creation." (Transcripts for program Nos. 377 to 380 may be available from ICR, 2617 Madison Ave., San Diego, CA 92116.)
The following quotation from page 1 of transcript No. 380 serves as an interesting example of the quality of that evidence.
Radio: We have with us today Dr. Parker, with the last in a series about evidence of creation from the Scientific American issue of September, 1978, an issue supposedly devoted to evolution.
Parker: Today I'd like to talk a little bit about the origin of man. That Scientific American issue includes a nice article titled "The Evolution of Man" by Sherwood Washburn.
Radio: What does Washburn have to say?
Parker: Well, on the picture facing the title page there's a fantastic chart supposedly showing a relationship among various mammals worked out by immunological distances. That's a test that compares antibodies from different animals to try to figure how they're related.
Radio: What does the chart show?
Parker: If you look at the bold, white markings, it is supposed to show that man is very closely related to the chimpanzees and the primates. But if you read the fine print, you find something quite different. 54 animals are listed, 14 of them closer to man than the chimpanzee is: the gorilla is closer, so is the gibbon, the gelada baboon, the vervet, the proboscis monkey, the howler monkey, goeldi's marmoset, and the common tree shrew!
Radio: Here we go again—the article is about evolution; the evidence points in another direction!
Could that be true? Dr. Goodman had presented the data which the chart is based on in slightly different form during the 1977 meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution. How did several hundred scientists at that symposium miss the apparently obvious relationship pointed out by Dr. Parker? Are evolutionists so blinded by a pro-evolutionary mind-set that they refuse to see a simple, clear falsification of the theory of descent with modification? These are very important questions because, if the answer is yes, evolutionists are guilty of very poor scholarship. This creationist's interpretation of the meaning of the chart in question demands close examination.
The following illustration, patterned after the Scientific American figure helps clarify the issue.
Immunological distance is an arbitrary unit derived from a laboratory technique that measures the cross-reaction between various proteins in different species. Within a species the proteins are identical and so they cross-react completely, so the immunological distance is defined as zero. The evolutionary assumption, based upon descent with modification, is that proteins are less similar in more distantly related species. The more different two proteins are, the larger the measure of immunological distance between them will be.
Referring to our simple illustration, Dr. Parker obviously is reading distances directly from the points where the lines drawn from one species intersects another. Since gorillas, baboons, and gibbons branch off closer to the zero or chimpanzee line (the standard protein) than humans do, he infers that they are more closely related to man than the chimp is.
Dr. Parker could have avoided this erroneous interpretation had he carefully read the caption, the "fine print," accompanying the figure. In the caption it is stated that the immunological distance between humans and Asiatic gibbons is 2 while Parker's own way of reading the figure would give a value of about .3. And had he taken his values from the heavy black line (as is implied by other comments about distance in the caption), he would get a value of about 1.4, still far short of the value mentioned.
So the chart with its caption is ambiguous and the meaning of the fine branches under the heavy black line (such as within the gibbons) are not explained in either the caption or the article. The only scientifically acceptable way to resolve the dilemma is to examine the original data used to construct the chart. In science, as in all scholastic fields, criticism must be based upon the best available facts.
Much of Goodman's original data were published in Systematic Zoology, Vol. 20:19-62 (1971), in an article entitled "Immunodiffusion systematics of the primates. I. The Catarrhini", coauthored by Goodman and G. W. Moore. The data are unambiguously listed in a series of tables. Astonishingly, Dr. Parker must have done the unthinkable and based his entire case on the ambiguous Scientific American figure because the data immediately show that Parker's "fine print" reading was erroneous and required that the comments given in the figure caption be ignored. In Goodman and Moore's table 1, based on rabbit anti-Homo sapiens albumin serum, the immunological distance data for the species Parker lists as being closer to chimpanzees than humans are: chimpanzees 0.00, gorilla 0.00, gelada baboon 4.67, vervet 4.13, proboscis monkey (not listed), howler monkey 7.31, goeldi's marmoset (not listed but the cotton-top marmoset distance is 6.74) and tree shrew 10.57. Distances based upon a number of other proteins are also listed. The unexplained branches now can be seen to show distance measures within that group only. The supposed dilemma, if it ever really existed, disappears. The results vary slightly, as expected in organisms undergoing selection for such a diversity of niches, but overall agreement with taxonomy based on other criteria is excellent and strongly supports descent with modification. The creationist's predicted mosaic pattern is nowhere in evidence.
Astonishingly then, a leading creation scientist not only misread the graph, he also failed to check the original sources of the data. That would be bad enough in a naive student but it is poor and unacceptable practice for a trained scholar.
Furthermore, on page 2 of the transcript No. 380, Dr. Parker says:
Radio: Again, not much of a pattern.
Parker: Not much of an evolutionary pattern—we see more of a mosaic pattern where you find different kinds of chemicals adapted to the needs of that organism, regardless of what it i, s supposed to be related to. When you try to put together all of the evidence you get some interesting results. On the basis of some blood chemistry tests, our nearest relative is the chimpanzee, but on the basis of milk chemistry it's the jackass; on the basis of blood antigen A it's the butterbean, of all things, on the cholesterol level the gartersnake, on foot structure it's the glacial bear, and on fetal hemoglobin the horse, on tear enzyme it's the chicken.
As pointed out in an earlier analysis, these statements are not consistent with the published data.
To make matters worse other statements (cf.. page 3 of transcript No. 378) demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of the meaning of population heterozygosity and of the basic difference between population heterozygosity and polygenic inheritance of traits such as skin color (p. 2 of transcript No. 378). The discrepancy between Dr. Parker's credentials and the unscholarly superficiality and errors evident in these radio transcripts is difficult to understand. It certainly does not lend any credibility to the creationist claim that the scientific literature is "chock full of evidence for creation."