Meditation on a review of a book by Stephen Meyer

Book cover
Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe, by Stephen Meyer.

Darrel Falk, a past president of BioLogos, recently reviewed Stephen Meyer’s latest book, Return of the God Hypothesis, here. Professor Falk is sympathetic with Dr. Meyer and indeed avers that their “perspective[s] on the role of God in creation” are not “much different.” The review is nevertheless negative and led to an interesting exchange on a Google Group devoted in part to The Panda’s Thumb. I should stress that as far as I know none of us on PT has read the book, but by now we have probably all read the review. At any rate, the exchange is reprinted, with permission, below the fold:

Flagellum research on the front burner again

SEM image of flagellated Chlamydomonas sp. (10000×), a single-celled green alga. Credit: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College. Public domain.

We have not discussed the bacterial flagellum on PT in a good long time – one of the last instances was Nick Matzke’s 2007 article, The Edge of Creationism, a clever pun on Michael Behe’s book title, The Edge of Evolution. In that article, Dr. Matzke thoroughly debunks Dr. Behe’s contention that the flagellum could not have evolved, hence was designed.

Dr. Matzke, I am pleased to note, is at it again. He is a part of an international team led by Matthew Baker to, in their words, discover “How life got moving: reconstructing and re-evolving the bacterial flagellar motor, piece-by-piece.” Their intention, according to a press release from the University of New South Wales, is “to estimate what an ancient flagellar motor – the tiny rotating wheel that powers the swimming movement of bacteria – might have looked like, and then re-engineer it for further experimentation and research.” So much for not evolving.

In what must be an improbable case of convergent evolution, a team headed by Morgan Beeby at Imperial College London has been awarded a grant for a project titled “Darwin rwinDa: rewinding and rerunning evolution to study innovation in action” (no, that is not a typo). According to a press release from Imperial College, their intention is to discover “How can gradual, Darwinian evolution build such a structure if not by inventing all necessary parts at once?”

In truth, the sudden appearance ex nihilo of these two projects is not entirely convergent evolution. Both teams applied for grants awarded “under the umbrella theme ‘Complex mechanisms of living organisms’” by the Human Frontier Science Program, and each received 1.4 M$ over a period of 3 a. The HFSP awarded 28 grants to begin in 2021.

Setophaga coronata


Photograph by David Rintoul.

Photography Contest, Honorable Mention.

Yellow-rumped warbler
Setophaga coronata, yellow-rumped warbler (aka myrtle warbler). Mr. Rintoul writes that the warbler "was photographed on a winter day in Manhattan, Kansas. This warbler, unique among the North American wood warblers, has the ability to digest the waxy coatings of various fruits such as bayberry, cedar, and myrtle. This adaptation allows them to winter further north than most warblers, which mostly depend on insects during the winter months."

Casey Takes a Swing at Ardipithecus—and Strikes Out

Ardipithecus ramidus
Ardipithecus ramidus skull in National Museum of Natural Sciences of Spain. This specimen illustrates a key derived feature in the human branch of the evolutionary change in form and function of the upper canine teeth. They are relatively smaller, and do not show a wear pattern in which the canine maintains a sharpened edge by "honing" the surface as it passes by the premolar in the lower jaw.Credit: Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In a recent posting, Study: Hands of "Ardi" indicate a chimp-like tree-dweller and knuckle-walker, Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute reports some of the findings from a recent re-analysis of the forelimb anatomy of Ardipithecus and comes to the unsurprising conclusion that “Ardi” was not designed for obligate bipedal orthogrady, otherwise known as the way humans get around the world when forced to walk.

He swings for the fences, telling us all reasons why these findings eliminate Ardi from its status as an ancestral hominin. However, his conclusions are based on common rookie mistakes about evolutionary science in general, and hominin evolution in particular. And so, the intention to hit the ball out of the park results in a disappointing strikeout reminding me of another well known Casey.