Behe has provided a useful survey of mutations that cause adaptation in short-term lab experiments on microbes (note that at least one of these—Rich Lenski’s study— extends over several decades). But his conclusions may be misleading when you extend them to bacterial or viral evolution in nature, and are certainly misleading if you extend them to eukaryotes (organisms with complex cells), for several reasons:
Go to Professor Coyne’s site for the whole review.
It’s all fair enough and no one is really up in arms about Behe’s paper itself. But isn’t it interesting how quickly the
creationist intelligent design crowd started distorting the facts?
Over at the intelligent-design site Uncommon Descent, the ever befuddled Denyse O’Leary has already glommed onto the review I wrote yesterday of Michael Behe’s new paper. And, exactly as I predicted, she distorts Behe’s conclusions:
So, not only must the long, slow process of Darwinian evolution create every exotic form of life in the blink of a geological eye, but it must do so by losing or modifying what a life form already has.
In other words, she’s extended Behe’s conclusions, based on viral and bacterial evolution in the lab, to evolution of “every exotic form of life” on the planet. This is exactly what one cannot do with Behe’s conclusions.
It really isn’t a surprise that this happened; Creationists are always distorting scientific papers – and specifically so they can prop up their religious beliefs. I’m just impressed with the utter accuracy of Professor Coyne’s prediction.
This distortion is hardly news, of course—I’m completely confident that Behe not only expected it, but approves of it—but I feel compelled to highlight it once again. Luskin’s three distortions, which correspond to the three caveats attached to Behe’s results:
1. Luskin doesn’t mention that Behe’s analysis concentrated only on short-term laboratory studies of adaptation in bacteria and viruses.
2. Luskin also doesn’t mention that these experiments deliberately excluded an important way that bacteria and viruses gain new genetic elements in nature: through horizontal uptake of DNA from other organisms. This kind of uptake was prohibited by the design of the experiments.
3. Luskin implies that Behe’s conclusions extend to all species, including eukaryotes, even though we know that members of this group (and even some bacteria) can gain new genetic elements and information via gene duplication and divergence. And we know that this has happened repeatedly and pervasively in the course of evolution.
About an hour ago I finished up my last assignment for this semester, and man, it’s always a relief when that special moment arrives. But after reading this
creationist intelligent design proponent garbage, I’m already getting antsy to go back and continue with my legitimate education.
Filed under: Creationism | Tagged: and “the first rule of adaptive evolution, Casey Luskin, Creationism, Denyse O'Leary, Experimental evolution, intelligent design, Jerry Coyne, loss-of-function mutations, Michael Behe, The Quarterly Review of Biology |