I have decided I owe the Wistar Institute an apology.After checking out the prevenance of the article Norm Weatherby cites, I find it traces back to a symposium hosted by the Wistar Institute. The symposium was recorded and subsequently transcribed, and the transcript published in book form.
This book is then quoted in various creationist, ID-IOT and anti-science web pages. Furthermore, it is selectively quoted. We can easily find citations of how one speaker, Murray Eden, "destroys" evolution, but not of how other speakers "destroy" Eden's paper....continued in full post...
Perhaps some day soon I'll have time to run over to a college library and find a copy of the book, so I can see for myself what the various speakers had to say. Right now, it looks like someone decided to hold a symposium and invite people to present their challenges to evolution.
Some people did. Frankly, those challenges weren't terribly good, and the shortcomings are common to a number of similar attempts at challenging evolution.
Nevertheless, the Wistar Institute as a whole is not responsible for the fact that someone chooses to present garbage at a symposium it hosts. (I would not care to be held responsible for all of the comments posted on my blog!)
So, Norm takes me to task for saying the Wistar Institute lied about evolution. He's right. All the Wistar Institute did was host the meeting. It's not their fault that some of their guests were either liars or incompetent. (Or both!) In fact, I'm going to start referring to the crappy science presented as "falsehoods". The statements cited by Norm Weatherby happen to be false, whether the speaker intended to make false statements or not.
Nor is it the fault of the Wistar Institute that any number of people with agendas choose to quote only the falsehoods that were presented in the symposium, and ignore the presentations where the falsehoods were exposed and corrected. The Wistar Institute is a world class medical research institution, and its job is conducting medical research. It is not the responsibility of the Institute to fact-check all the presentations at all the symposia it hosts.
That being said, I have one correction on my original post. I had written:
...The mutation described happens to be in a critical spot, where the amno acid chain has to fit together in a tight space. If you change that amino acid, you make the chain too bulky to fit together the right way, and you get a deformed blood cell.
As it happens, I had conflated two different hemoglobin mutations. That evening, as soon as I got home, I dug out my copy of Streyer and looked up the passage I recalled.
The mutation that causes the sickle cell trait is one that makes a portion of the outer surface "sticky", causing hemoglobin to clump together. The other mutation causes a different disease. And there are a number of mutations that are known to cause diseases. (And more important, there are a number known to exist in the human gene pool that don't.)
In sum: If the Wistar Institute does, in fact, stand behind Eden's statements about evolution, then they are lending their name and reputation to the support of garbage science. I suspect, however, that they don't support his statements. If asked about them, I suspect at best, they'd have no official opinion, and if they express an opinion about them, it'll be a negative one.
I hate to break it to Mr. Weatherby, but holding an advanced degree, or a professorship, or membership in a leading research institute, or any prize up to and including the Nobel Prize, does not confer Papal infallability on any scientist. Indeed, none of those even confer any sort of enhanced credibility on any scientist who chooses to expound on matters outside his field.
A Google search shows that Murray Eden is an expert in mathematical computing and algorithms. It's quite possible that he could have done the work needed to become expert in evolutionary biology, but judging from the portions of his work I've been able to find online, he has not done so. That means his opinions about the likelihood of evolution carry no more weight than those of my plumber, or the kid who delivers pizza in my neighborhood.