The Enchanted Prince Croaks

by David C. Wise
Written February 1990
Originally posted in the Science & Religion Library on CompuServe

    Many Gish stories have come out of the Institute for Creation Research
(ICR).  This is but one of them.

    This particular story started in July 1982 and finally came to a head in
February 1985.  It is woven out of numerous threads, some of which were
threaded through the pages of _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_ in 1984 and 1985.
I will present these threads in as close to chronological order as I can.

    Not only does this story explain the origin of the popular cat-call of
"Bullfrog!", but it also demonstrates once more Milne's statement that
"Creationism is more fun than science!"

    As biochemical research accumulates libraries of data describing protein
structures and amino-acid sequences from different organisms, researchers are
repeatedly amazed at how similar the proteins of related organisms are and
how the proteins become more dissimilar as the organisms compared are more
distantly related.  Even Michael Denton, who expressed opposition to the idea
of macro-evolution in his book, _Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis_, expressed
amazement at how good the numbers are.

    In a recent article in _Discover_ magazine, Dr. Russell Doolittle tells
how his early research in protein comparisons had sparked his interest in
evolution.  In a 1982 PBS program ("Creation vs Evolution:  Battle in the 
Classroom", KPBS-TV, aired 7 July 1982), he told this story:

    Doolittle:  "Ever since the time of Darwin the chimpanzee has been
        regarded as man's nearest living relative.  Naturally it was then
        of interest to biochemists to see what chimpanzee proteins would
        look like.  Now the first protein to be looked at in a chimpanzee,
        and compared with a human, was the hemoglobin molecule -- hemoglobin
        one of the blood proteins -- and in fact, there were no differences
        found in the chimpanzee molecule when 141 amino acids were looked at
        in the hemoglobin alpha chain.  In contrast, if you looked at a
        rhesus monkey, there were four differences; or if you looked at a
        rabbit, you found the differences got up into the 20s.  If you got
        up to a chicken you'd find 59 differences; and if you looked at a
        fish you'd find there were more than a hundred differences.  Now
        this is exactly what you expect from the point of view of evolution."

    Narrator:  "Three more proteins were analyzed."

    Doolittle:  "Once again, no differences compared -- chimpanzee
        compared with human.  It was astonishing.  In fact a rumor began
        to sweep around biochemists, that maybe all the differences
        between chimpanzee and human were really going to turn out to be
        cultural.  Well, in fact, one more protein was quickly looked at
        -- this was a large one -- 259 amino acids -- and a difference
        was found.  Whew!"

    "Creation scientists" try to counter this body of biochemical evidence by
claiming that certain protein comparisons actually show humans to be more
closely related to vastly different organisms (e.g. bullfrogs, chickens,
rattlesnakes) than to chimpanzees.  A classic example comes from early writings
of former biologist Gary Parker, formerly of the ICR: Creation: The Facts of 
Life, Creation-Life Publishers, 1980; also Homology, Embryology, and 
Vestigial Organs: Common Ancestor or Common Plan?, Institute for Creation 
Research).  In them, he names a number of molecules that purportedly show humans 
to be more closely related to quite different organisms than to apes.

Frank T. Awbrey and William M. Thwaites listed Parker's molecules in their 
article, "A Closer Look at Some Biochemical Data that 'Support' Creation"
(_Creation/Evolution_ Issue VII, 1982, pp 14-17):

                Molecule       Nearest Relative to Humans
                --------       --------------------------
              Fetal Hemoglobin         Horse
              Tear Enzymes             Chicken
              Albumin                  Bullfrog
              Blood Antigen A          Butterbean
              Cholesterol Level        Gartersnake
              Milk Chemistry           Donkey
[NOTE: The current edition of Parker's Creation: The Facts of Life is
a revised edition published in 1994.  In that revised edition, this claim for all 
the molecules listed above has been removed, except for the chicken tear enzyme,
lysozyme.  That claim is described in more detail later in this article.]

    Then Drs. Awbrey and Thwaites examined the literature and Parker's references
and found (quoting freely) that for:

    Fetal Hemoglobin --
        Hemoglobin has four globin molecules, each arranged around
        a central iron atom and a porphyrin ring.  Human fetal
        hemoglobin has two alpha globins and two gamma globins,
        each with 146 amino acids.  Horses don't have gamma globins.
        Chimpanzees do, and it is identical to that of humans.
        So creationists conclude that a molecule that doesn't exist
        is more similar to a human molecule than is an identical
        chimpanzee molecule.
    Tear Enzymes --
        The enzyme referred to here is lysozyme, which is found in
        human milk, tears, leukocytes, etc.  Variants exist in
        tissues of other species, for example, in chicken egg
        whites.  Chicken lysozyme differs from human lysozyme by
        51 out of 130 amino acids.  Chimpanzee lysozyme is identical
        to human lysozyme.  Either creationists have ignored the
        literature or they apparently believe that 51 is less than zero.
    Albumin --
        Human and chimpanzee albumin differ by six out of 580 amino
        acids.  Human and bullfrog albumins differ so much that they
        don't cross-react in immunological tests.
    Blood Antigen A --
        This is one of the molecules that determine blood types.
        They are called glycoproteins because they have sugars
        attached to a protein.  Butterbeans contain a sugar
        configuration that is similar enough to the glycoprotein
        sugar that it can react with antibodies directed against
        the A blood type if the butterbean sugar is at a high
        concentration.  Chimpanzees have blood antigens that are
        identical or nearly identical to those of humans.  Having
        no blood, butterbeans obviously have no blood antigens.
    Cholesterol Level --
        Cholesterol is a simple lipid (a wax) and its structure
        doesn't vary among species.  Furthermore, its concentration
        can vary several hundredfold in an individual human
        depending upon diet and genetic background.  Therefore, it
        is a useless molecule for determining genetic similarity.
        This datum isn't just wrong, it's nonexistent.
    Milk Chemistry --
        No direct comparison of human and chimpanzee milk chemistry
        could be found.  However, it was found that human milk
        proteins (whey and casein) are much more like macaque milk
        than donkey milk.  Human and chimpanzee milk lysozymes are
        identical.  Even this limited comparison disproves the
        creationist claim that the donkey is our nearest relative
        based on milk chemistry.

    The Bullfrog Affair itself starts with the KPBS production, "Creation vs
Evolution:  Battle in the Classroom", which aired 7 July 1982.  After Dr.
Doolittle related his story of the chimpanzee blood proteins (see above), Dr.
Duane Gish responded:

     "If we look at certain proteins, yes man then, it can be assumed
     that man is more closely related to a chimpanzee than other things.
     But, on the other hand, if you look at certain proteins, you will
     find that man is more closely related to a bullfrog than he is to a
     chimpanzee.  If you focus your attention on other proteins, you'll
     find that man is more closely related to a chicken than he is to a

    This was immediately followed by Dr. Doolittle's response, "Oh bullfrog!
I've heard that gibberish before, I have to tell you."  This was the first
recorded use of "Bullfrog" that I am aware of.  Then Doolittle indicated a
book full of amino acid sequences from thousands of proteins taken from
many hundreds of species and offered Gish all his worldly belongings, a '63
VW and half a house, if Gish could find just one protein in chickens or
bullfrogs that is more closely related to human proteins than chimpanzee

    Robert Schadewald, then Minnesota Committee of Correspondence liaison and
presently editor of _NCSE Reports_ (formerly _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_)
watched that show.  Since Gish's claim sounded like nonsense, he checked it out
with a few biochemists, who had never heard of such proteins.  So Schadewald
started a three-year-long quest for Gish's source.

    Doolittle responded to Schadewald's letter with extensive documentation for
his statements about human and chimpanzee proteins.  Requests for Gish to do
likewise were met with evasion, obfuscation, and silence.
    Gish ignored Schadewald's first letter and answered the second letter with
a reference for his claim:  a JOKE he had overheard!  At a conference in
Austria, Berkeley geochronologist Garniss Curtis told of having heard an
unconfirmed report of someone finding bullfrog blood proteins very similar to
human blood proteins.  Curtis predicted that those findings would never be
confirmed (he was right) since the bullfrog sample had been taken from a rare
enchanted prince (see text of Curtis' letter at the end of this file).  Since a
joke based on a secondhand report of unconfirmed research seemed rather weak,
Schadewald wrote back asking for something more substantial.  Gish did not

    At the 1983 National Creation Conference, Schadewald confronted Gish in
person and asked for his references.  Gish insisted that the bullfrog and
chicken proteins were real and promised to send documentation.  He never
delivered on that promise.

    In the Spring/Summer 1984 issue of _Origins Research_, a publication of the
creationist organization, Students for Origins Research, Robert Schadewald and
John Patterson wrote a joint letter relating the incident and suggesting that
Gish had lied on national TV and that other creationists are well aware of
Gish's many transgressions but are unwilling to expose him, engaging instead in
a cover-up.  They had sent Gish a copy of that letter six months prior so that
he could prepare a response that would be published with the letter; he never
    Instead, the letter was followed by a response from Dr. Jerry Bergman in
which he denied that creationists engage in cover-ups and claimed that
evolutionists are just as guilty and even more so of the transgressions that
creationists are accused of.  Schadewald and Patterson described Bergman's
response as "a rambling, dissembling piece of obfuscation from the inevitable
Jerry Bergman, whose 'reply' to us resolutely ignored our major point."

    Shortly afterwards, at the 1984 National Bible-Science Conference,
Schadewald again confronted Gish.  This time Gish responded by saying that
because of that _Origins Research_ letter he was not responsible to provide any
documentation (Schadewald had used "ungentlemanly language in print," i.e. the
words "lie" and "charlatan").  When asked who is responsible for documenting
those proteins, Gish said that it was up to Schadewald and Curtis (i.e. "You
want to know the sources for my claims?  YOU go look it up!").

    Within the week, Schadewald and Patterson sent a letter to Gish's boss,
Dr. Henry Morris, President of the ICR.  In it, they brought Morris up-to-date
on the affair, quoted Gish's statement on national television concerning the
chicken and bullfrog proteins, told of Gish's repeated failure to produce his
repeatedly promised documentation for them, and finally related his reversal
and subsequent refusal to produce that documentation or to accept any
responsibility for producing it.  They concluded the letter:

    "We have long been conscious of the numerous substantial differences
     between creationism and science, but this is new to us.  Scientists (and
     science writers) take full responsibility for their public statements.
     Gish apparently rejects this responsibility.  Was he speaking for himself
     in this matter, or is this doctrine of nonresponsibility an official ICR
     policy?  If so, we suggest that ICR speakers should level with the public
     and preface their presentations with the following disclaimer:  'I am not
     responsible for the truth or accuracy of any statements I make.'"

    As of press time, there had been no reply to this letter.

    In the meantime, other creationist watchers were getting into the act.
Two of them reported their experiences in _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_
(Vol.4 No.5, Sept/Oct 1984, pp 14-17).

    Frank Arduini encountered a similar protein claim by Walter T. Brown Jr of
the Chicago area; his Center for Scientific Creation used to be ICR Midwest
Center.  Arduini had had many dealings with Brown, whose response to Arduini's
many requests for documentation was that he didn't need to supply evidence
supporting his claims, rather it was responsibility of the evolutionists to
disprove them.
    One of Brown's claims that Arduini was especially interested in was that
the rattlesnake's closest biochemical relative is humans.  However, Brown
demanded $70 from Arduini to provide that documentation.

    Robert Kenney of Chicago fared somewhat better.  In February 1984, he and
his wife visited the ICR in El Cajon, Calif.  When he asked Gish directly for
documentation supporting his claims concerning fetal horse hemoglobin, Gish
became noticeably disturbed (that Kenney had Awbrey & Thwaites' article in
front of him throughout the conversation probably did not help Gish's
disposition much).  Finally, Gish said that he had no documentation, but rather
that Kenney should see Gary Parker.  Kenney's attempts to catch Parker during
his scheduled offices hours on two separate days failed.  Before Kenney left,
Dr. Cummings promised to get the documentation for him.  After nine months,
it still had not arrived.
    Then in the Summer of 1984, Kenney wrote to Walter Brown about the fetal
horse hemoglobin.  Brown responded with a telephone call.  Kenney tried to get
Brown to confirm or deny the ICR's claims, or at least to pressure the ICR to
produce some kind of documentation.  Brown refused, but instead offered another
claim:  rattlesnake proteins.
    Brown claimed that on the basis of data from a 1978 study by Margaret
Dayhoff, comparisons of cytochrome c show that the rattlesnake is more closely
related to humans that to any other organism.  When Kenney asked Brown to
provide the name of the scientific journal and the page number in which Dayhoff
had reached this conclusion, Brown stated that he couldn't.  Dayhoff had never
reached such a conclusion, but rather Brown's son had used Dayhoff's data to
reach that conclusion for a science fair project.  It was Brown's son who had
concluded that rattlesnakes are more closely related to humans by cytochrome c
than to any other organism.
    For fifteen dollars, Brown sent Kenney photocopies of his son's project
(apparently, Brown's price depends on who you are).  Kenney wrote:

    "In the project I quickly found that the rattlesnake and humans differed
     by only fourteen amino acids.  Humans and rhesus monkeys differed by
     one amino acid.  Later, Brown called me again and then explained that
     of the forty-seven organisms in the study, the one closest to the
     RATTLESNAKE was the human, not that the one closest to the human was
     the rattlesnake.  You see, among the forty-seven there were no other
     snakes."   (CEN Vol.4 No.5 Sep/Oct 84, pg 16)

    Most of the other organisms in the study were as distantly related to the
rattlesnake as were humans; it is coincidence that human cytochrome c was just
barely less different than the others.  Obviously, this is just semantic
sleight-of-hand which can serve no other purpose than to mislead and it is so
blatant that Brown had to know what he was doing.
    Later after a debate, Kenney found Brown telling a small group about
rattlesnakes being more closely related to humans than to any other organism.
When Kenney started explaining to the group how misleading that was, Brown
quickly changed the subject.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Minnesota Committee of Correspondence
(Schadewald's CC) learned in late 1984, that a local student group, Christians
at the U, had scheduled Gish to speak at the University of Minnesota.  Since
they had expressed hope of finding someone with credentials in science to
debate Gish, the Minn CC met to consider the matter.

    Now the question of whether or not to debate creationists generates some
debate in itself.  Critics point out that these debates are a creationist
invention that are run on the creationists' terms.  Rather than an examination
of the facts, these debates are really publicity stunts to advance
creationism's political goals of winning support and gaining legitimacy in the
eyes of the public.  An opponent would be very hard pressed to counter all the
distortions that the creationist would present.  Finally, the time and energy
needed to prepare for a debate would detract for more important scientific
    However, proponents of debating, like David Milne, point out that most of
the reasons for not debating are moot since debates have already taken place;
to stop debating now would imply that the creationists have won.  Also, not
having an opponent to debate would not stop the creationist from speaking
unopposed; besides, he could make much of the fact that everybody refused to
debate him.  Creationism will not go away by itself and winning debates has
proven effective in slowing it down in many communities.  Besides, the public
is entitled to feedback from the scientific community and actually learns
something from the debates (Milne noted at his first debate that the audience
was more attentive for three hours than any 50-minute college class he had
taught).  And with all the evidence supporting evolution, the scientist should
have no excuse for losing the debate.

    Finally it was decided that while it would be good to avoid a debate, it
would be better to put their own candidate up against Gish rather than let the
creationists find an uninformed opponent for Gish to chew up.  They chose
science philosopher Phillip Kitcher, author of _Abusing Science:  The Case
Against Creationism_.  Kitcher immediately started preparing for the debate.

    The Minn CC also decided that the event needed proper publicity, so
Schadewald wrote a guest editorial for the U of M student newspaper.  Entitled
"The Gospel of Creation:  The Book of Misinformation," it appeared four days
before the debate and was devoted primarily to Gish's claims of bullfrog and
chicken proteins.  Schadewald closed his editorial saying:  "In the interests
of truth in packaging, however, it is incumbent upon whoever introduces him to
remind listeners that Gish is not necessarily responsible for the truth or
accuracy of what he says."  The editorial was accompanied by a cartoon of a
creature with a chimpanzee head, chicken body and wings, and bullfrog legs and
feet wearing Gishian eyeglasses.  It focused attention on Gish's credibility
and set the stage for the debate.

    On 18 Feb 1985, Gish came to the University of Minnesota to debate Philip
Kitcher at noon and then that evening to speak to the local Creation-Science
Association, Christians at the U, and the University Evangelical Coalition.

    Gish is formidable against an ill-prepared or inarticulate debate opponent;
Kitcher was neither.  Needless to say, Gish did not fare well at the debate.
    Gish spoke first, ostensibly for the affirmative, yet as usual he offered
no creation model.  Instead, his "affirmative" presentation consisted of his
usual negative statements against evolution.
    On the other hand, Kitcher spoke both for evolution and against
creationism.  He countered Gish's denial of the existence of transitional forms
by presenting those transitional forms, contrasted Flood Geology with
conventional geology and demonstrated the former's inadequacies and
absurdities, and talked about Gish's bullfrog and chicken proteins.  Of course,
Gish refused to defend Flood Geology (as he always does), launched into his
usual description of the reptile-mammal transition requiring the jaw to unhinge
and then much later hinge itself again so that the mammal-like reptiles
couldn't "chew and hear at the same time" (which Kitcher countered by citing
the many Jurassic mammals with "reptilian" jaws and the transitional forms with
double jaw joints; this was obviously lost on Gish, but not on the audience),
and ignored the references to his protein claims.
    Then at the end of the debate, things started to come to a head.  From
Schadewald's report of the debate:

        "In his final remarks, Kitcher demanded that Gish either produce
    references for the chicken and bullfrog proteins or admit that they do
    not exist.  Gish ignored the challenge, which apparently disappointed
    many in the audience who had read my editorial, for Gish's final remarks
    were punctuated with sporadic cries of 'Bullfrog!'"

NOTE:  This then is the popular source of "Bullfrog!"  Coupled with Dr.
       Doolittle's use of the exclamation on national TV in 1982, I think
       this answers yet another question of ultimate origins.

    That evening, Gish spoke to a much friendlier audience, except for the ten
skeptics known to Schadewald.  In the question period, Stan Weinberg noted that
scientists sometimes make mistakes and when they do, they own up to it. He
asked if Gish ever made any mistakes and, if so, then could the chicken and
bullfrog proteins be such a mistake.

    Gish almost took the out offered to him, but not quite.  He replied that he
had made mistakes before and told of how another creationist (Kofahl) had
mistranslated an article and so had misled him to claim that the chemicals used
for defense by the bombardier beetle (AKA "Bomby") explode spontaneously when
mixed together.  He claimed to have corrected that mistake immediately (more on
this below).  As for the proteins, all he knew about the bullfrog proteins he
got from Garniss Curtis, so if Curtis was wrong then he had misled Gish. Writes
Schadewald:  "It was magnanimous of him to imply that if he is wrong about
something (be it beetles or bullfrogs) it is someone else's fault."

    However, Gish insisted that the chicken-protein claim was correct and went
into a convoluted apologetic about lysozyme and another protein that nobody
could follow (but boy was the audience impressed by it!).  Afterwards, Gish
promised emphatically to send Schadewald written details about this claim, in
front of creationist witnesses, no less.  Despite three written reminders, Gish
has never honored that promise.

    The only ICR claim about lysozyme that Schadewald was familiar with had
been Gary Parker's claim that chicken lysozyme is more similar to human
lysozyme than is chimpanzee lysozyme.  However, Awbrey and Thwaites have shown
that this is not true, since human and chimpanzee lysozyme are identical and
chicken lysozyme differs from both by 51 out of 130 amino acids.  Their
conclusion was that either Parker was totally ignorant of the facts or he
thought that 51 is less than zero.

    I personally suspect that Gish may have been repeating Parker's claim about
alpha-lactalbumin, a protein involved in the production of lactose in mammals
which apparently had evolved from lysozyme:

        "By comparing lysozyme and lactalbumin, Dickerson was hoping to
    'pin down with great precision' where human beings branched off the
    mammal line.  The results are surprising.  In this test, it turned out
    that humans are more closely related to the CHICKEN than to any living
    mammal tested!"  (_What is Creation Science?_, Morris & Parker, Revised,
    1987, pg 58)

    Here is what Dickerson had actually written:

        "A simple-minded application of the 'clocks' ideas of Chapter 3 [i.e.
    assuming constant rates of change for proteins to estimate when they had
    diverged] to these lysozymes and alpha-lactalbumin leads to an apparent
    contradiction.  If alpha-lactalbumin evolved from a mammalian lysozyme
    during the course of the development of mammals, then it and human
    lysozyme should be more similar than either is to hen lysozyme.
    Conversely, the assumption that rates of change have been constant in
    all three proteins since divergence leads to the conclusion that the
    alpha-lactalbumins separated from the lysozymes long before the first
    appearance of terrestrial vertebrates.  Where is the fallacy?
        "The fallacy, of course, is in the assumption of unchanging rates
    of accumulation of tolerable mutations.  For one particular protein,
    performing much the same task in a wide spectrum of species, this may be
    a valid working hypothesis.  But when circumstances arise in the
    environment such that a duplicated gene is being altered, the better to
    perform a NEW function, selection pressure is unusually severe and changes
    in sequence will be unusually rapid."  (_The Structure and Action of
    Proteins_, Richard Dickerson and Irving Geis, 1969, page 78)

    So in comparing human alpha-lactalbumin and human lysozyme with chicken
lysozyme, we can use Parker's reasoning to show that humans are more closely
related to chickens than they are to humans!  It's absurd little touches like
this that makes creationism more fun than science!
    Dickerson clearly indicates that this was a simple-minded application of an
idea that was meant to apply only for a protein whose function remained
constant.  The assumption that the rates at which all three proteins changed
would remain constant is unwarranted and inconsistent with the ideas of
evolution.  Ironically, "creation scientists" traditionally attack any
assumption of a constant rate, except of course for their own assumptions.

    And then there's Bomby.  The bombardier beetle's defense mechanism involves
shooting a hot mixture of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone at its predators.
The ICR claimed that those two chemicals exploded spontaneously when mixed
together and so until Bomby could slowly and gradualistically evolve an enzyme
to neutralize the explosion, its ancestors would have all blown themselves up;
therefore Bomby could not have evolved.
    In 1978, Awbrey and Thwaites conducted a public experiment in which they
demonstrated that the two chemicals do not explode.  Gish, who had witnessed
the experiment, publicly admitted that he was wrong.  Nothing wrong with that,
but then for the next few years, Gish continued to use this false claim with
full knowledge of its falsehood and after having acknowledged that it was
false.  There's a good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon word for that and we all know
what it is.  Schadewald concludes:

        "Thus, I heartily agree with Gish that his treatment of the bombardier
    beetle speaks eloquently about his intellectual honesty.  And his citation
    of the incident in this context nicely illustrates his legendary audacity."


    In the July/August 1986 issue of _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_
(Vol.6 No.4, page 21), Bill Meikle declared that issue to be the first annual
BULLFROG issue.  He wrote:

    "BULLFROG stands for Barbarians Uttering Loathsome Lying Falsehoods
     Reminiscent of Gish.  This Back To College effort honors BaTraChians &
     all creatures needing a massive update in their knowledge of nature.
     The BULLFROG will grace many pages, which will contain articles
     exploring the consequences of BULLFROGging around the creationist
     scene.  Reports on the Improvement Movement for science texts & teaching
     will also adorn the BULLFROG issue.  If there is a groundswell of
     interest, C/E N will sell BULLFROG badges, stationery & bumper stickers.
     If not, they won't."

    Actually, I only saw the bullfrog on that one page (labelled "(MORE)
ENTERTAINMENT") and I do not recall any further BULLFROG issues.

    As for what claims Gish continues to make about protein comparisons, we
must listen for them wherever he speaks.

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First uploaded on 1997 July 02.
Updated on 2011 August 02.