• Casey Luskin’s Top Ten Misunderstandings of Biology

    Over at the so-called “Evolution News” site, Casey Luskin presents his Top Ten Problems with Chemical and Biological Evolution (h/t to Dr. Larry Moran). Or, as I prefer to call them, The top ten things Casey doesn’t understand. Links to his original complaints are below. I have to say though, that while he does make a few references, he doesn’t seem to actually have any references to literature that explores the actual topic.

    Casey’s list and my responses are below.

    1. No Viable Mechanism to Generate a Primordial Soup.
    2. Unguided Chemical Processes Cannot Explain the Origin of the Genetic Code.
    3. Step-by-Step Random Mutations Cannot Generate the Genetic Information Needed for Irreducible Complexity.
    4. Natural Selection Struggles to Fix Advantageous Traits in Populations.
    5. Abrupt Appearance of Species in the Fossil Record Does Not Support Darwinian Evolution.
    6. Molecular Biology Has Failed to Yield a Grand “Tree of Life”.
    7. Convergent Evolution Challenges Darwinism and Destroys the Logic Behind Common Ancestry.
    8. Differences Between Vertebrate Embryos Contradict the Predictions of Common Ancestry.
    9. Neo-Darwinism Struggles to Explain the Biogeographical Distribution of Many Specie.
    10. Neo-Darwinism’s Long History of Inaccurate Predictions about Junk Organs and Junk DNA.

    Number 1: No Viable Mechanism to Generate a Primordial Soup

    I’m not even sure what his complain is here. The primordial soup is a fairly well understood concept and the chemical reactions to get biological compounds from non-living sources are well understood. Now, some scientists don’t like the “primordial soup” concept and I can see that. I guess it depends on how you define the “soup”.

    Let’s see…

    Springsteen, G. & Joyce, G. F. Selective derivatization and sequestration of ribose from a prebiotic mix. J. Am. Chem. Soc.126, 9578–83 (2004).

    Powner, M. W., Gerland, B. & Sutherland, J. D. Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions. Nature 459, 239–42 (2009).

    Ruiz-Mirazo, K., Briones, C. & Escosura, A. Prebiotic systems chemistry: new perspectives for the origins of life. Chemical reviews 114, 285–366 (2014).

    Saladino, R., Botta, G., Pino, S., Costanzo, G. & Mauro, E. Genetics first or metabolism first? The formamide clue. Chem Soc Rev 41, 5526–5565 (2012).

    Keller, M., Turchyn, A. & Ralser, M. Non‐enzymatic glycolysis and pentose phosphate pathway‐like reactions in a plausible Archean ocean. Molecular Systems Biology 10, (2014).

    That’s just a few I found with a simple search in my personal library. Every few years there’s an origins of life conference. The last one was a few years ago and had over 200 papers presented.

    Maybe the primordial soup idea isn’t very good, but that doesn’t mean that life was created by god… I mean, a designer.

    Number 2  Unguided Chemical Processes Cannot Explain the Origin of the Genetic Code.

    Once again, a simple search in google scholar would show Casey that he’s wrong. Of course, he’s got a cushy job, making more money than I’ll ever make and he doesn’t have to say things that he can support with evidence. So, I’m guessing there’s not much incentive to actually do research (as we saw with Meyer).

    Koonin, E. & Novozhilov, A. Origin and evolution of the genetic code: The universal enigma. IUBMB Life 61, 99–111 (2009).

    The three main concepts on the origin and evolution of the code are the stereochemical theory, according to which codon assignments are dictated by physicochemical affinity between amino acids and the cognate codons (anticodons); the coevolution theory, which posits that the code structure coevolved with amino acid biosynthesis pathways; and the error minimization theory under which selection to minimize the adverse effect of point mutations and translation errors was the principal factor of the code’s evolution. These theories are not mutually exclusive and are also compatible with the frozen accident hypothesis, that is, the notion that the standard code might have no special properties but was fixed simply because all extant life forms share a common ancestor, with subsequent changes to the code, mostly, precluded by the deleterious effect of codon reassignment.

    Wait, I thought unguided processes couldn’t explain it, but there’s THREE hypotheses for it and a fourth if you count plain ole contingency.

    Now, let’s be clear, the likelihood that we will ever be able to say, “This is exactly how it happened nearly 4 billion years ago.” is very small. Especially with hypotheses that are not mutually exclusive.

    However, and again, that doesn’t meant that a designer did it.

    Number 3  Step-by-Step Random Mutations Cannot Generate the Genetic Information Needed for Irreducible Complexity.

    Bullshit. It can and has. I have posted about that extensively here on this blog.

    For example, the origin of a variety of LEAFY alleles.

    The evolution of associated proteins. That’s right, two proteins that evolved to function together.

    New abilities in digital organisms.

    Color-blindness and gene duplication.

    More gene duplication.

    Number 4  Natural Selection Struggles to Fix Advantageous Traits in Populations

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of basic biology. This is almost trivial to show. Let’s say that there’s a population of, I don’t know, bacteria. And that population is running along pretty smoothly. But, over, about 20,000 generations, that population has gained some mutations. All of a sudden, almost overnight, a subpopulation has a totally new, never before used source of energy. That population, almost overnight, literally takes over and pushes another population out.

    I wonder where such a thing might have occurred in real life

    It’s not a struggle, it’s easy for even a partially advantageous trait to appear with a large frequency in a population… like we see with sickle cell anemia.

    Number 5  Abrupt Appearance of Species in the Fossil Record Does Not Support Darwinian Evolution

    The abrupt appearance of fossils in the fossil record is a trait of the time and the processes of fossilization. What Casey seems to be saying here is that, if you don’t have the bones of every single one of your dead ancestors, then you can’t prove that you exist. Or something like that. I honestly expect better from someone with a master’s degree in Earth Science.

    I’ve talked about how Casey’s buddy Meyer misrepresents the fossil record anyway here, and here, and here.

    This isn’t exactly new stuff either. The limits of fossilization have been well understood for well over a century. But I guess, it’s easy to ignore the relevant research in order to keep a cushy job.

    Number 6  Molecular Biology Has Failed to Yield a Grand “Tree of Life”

    I don’t think that there is a single tree of life that can explain every living thing that has ever existed on our planet either. It doesn’t mean that a designer did it.

    Here’s the thing. When we’re talking about organisms, on the early Earth, that behave similarly to bacteria today, then it’s almost impossible to derive a single tree-of-life. When one bacteria can consume another bacteria, then take it’s genes, then the idea of one population being the descendant of another population kinds of goes out the window.

    However, once we get to multicellular critters, I think we’re in much better shape that Luskin thinks we are.

    Number 7  Convergent Evolution Challenges Darwinism and Destroys the Logic Behind Common Ancestry

    Convergent evolution is one of the best examples of evolution. Organisms with a very, very distant relationship look similar when they are in the same environment. This is makes perfect sense with evolution in that the things that work get passed on to the next generation.

    But we have to be very careful here. While an ichthyosaur and a dolphin look similar at a very high level (pointy on one end, fat in the middle, and flat at the other end), the details are massively different.

    I wonder if Casey has the same misunderstanding of convergent evolution as Meyer does?

    Number 8  Differences Between Vertebrate Embryos Contradict the Predictions of Common Ancestry

    Huh? The differences between vertebrate embryos are expected due to evolution. In fact, it’s the entire reason behind Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body which everyone should read. This is some of the best evidence for evolution there is.

    Number 9  Neo-Darwinism Struggles to Explain the Biogeographical Distribution of Many Specie

    I don’t know why it’s the job of a theory about the diversity of life to explain the various travels of life. But apparently Casey, hasn’t been reading my blog. The Monkey’s Voyage does a much better job explaining this than Casey’s ideas do.

    Number 10  Neo-Darwinism’s Long History of Inaccurate Predictions about Junk Organs and Junk DNA

    Hmmm… science changes when new information comes in. So?


    What’s really sad is that there is nothing new in this list that hasn’t been debunked for decades. My own writings on these subjects may be about recent research, but these ideas have been a part of evolutionary from almost the beginning. All of the issues have been worked out and dealt with long ago. We know the fossil record isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it’s useless.

    Now, let me turn the tables Casey… if you dare (and we both know you don’t). Why don’t write a detailed explanation, with evidence, for how ID answers these questions better than science does.

    Please tell us Casey, how the animals from Noah’s Ark got all over the world and from all over the world to the ark. Why don’t you tell us how ID predicts what we should expect from convergent evolution. Or how life came to be in the first place.

    I won’t hold my breath.

    Category: CreationismEvolutionOrigins of LifeScienceSkepticism


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat