Uncommonly Dense blows common descent.

| 38 Comments

The Other 95%, a blog devoted to invertebrates, dissects yet another Uncommonly Dense misconception. A recent Science paper (subscription) described the discovery that sea anemones have some genes that are very similar to some human genes. The Science News story says

One of the big surprises of the anemone genome, says Swalla, is the discovery of blocks of DNA that have the same complement of genes as in the human genome. Individual genes may have swapped places, but often they have remained linked together despite hundreds of millions of years of evolution along separate paths, Putnam, Rokhsar, and their colleagues report. Researchers see little conservation of gene linkages in nematodes and fruit flies.

Moreover, the anemone genes look vertebratelike. They often are full of noncoding regions called introns, which are much less common in nematodes and fruit flies than in vertebrates. And more than 80% of the anemone introns are in the same places in humans, suggesting that they probably existed in the common ancestor. “The work presents a missing piece of the puzzle, which people studying intron evolution have been searching for in the past few years,” says Majewski. “They present a strong validation for an intron-rich ancestor,” he says..

With its usual penetrating incomprehension, UD wonders how human genes got into anemones. The Other 95% straightens them out. Read and enjoy.

RBH

38 Comments

Wow. Just when I think the IDists can’t get any dumber, they do. “How did human genes get into an anemone?” has got to be one of the single most muddle-headed questions I’ve yet seen coming from that dimly-lit side of reality. I almost feel embarrassed for them.

Nobody who can ask that question deserves to express any opinion about anything in biology at all. It’s nothing more than a demonstration of the most fundamental ignorance of the subject. A first year university student shouldn’t even be sitting in a biology class if they’re this blatantly uneducated about inheritance, let alone take it upon herself to be dismissive of an entire scientific discipline.

This is just exasperatingly stupid. Hopefully they’ll learn something from the vivisection of their IDiocy… but I doubt it.

No. It is clear that the people contributing to this forum did not indeed read the actual article.

Unless one is a mind reader it is not clear that they did not read the article. What is clear that they “either did not read it or read it specifically to misrepresent it.”

Else they might have been surprised themselves to learn about the genetic evidence for the common descent of all animal phyla from the eumetazoan ancestor.

The surprise ended 20 years ago, when the evidence for common descent became so overwhelming that they stopped argument specifically for independent origins and started hiding behind weasel words like “common design.” And in the case of Michael Behe, simply concede common descent and move on to safer turf like “irreducible complexity.” How quickly we forget DaveScot’s panic attack, in which he pleaded with Dembski that it was time to give up the charade.

Mike O'Risal Wrote:

This is just exasperatingly stupid.

And they know it is. But as long as it fools their base they’ll keep piling it on.

Frank J Wrote:

And they know it is. But as long as it fools their base they’ll keep piling it on.

Do they? I’m not sure. It’s not something I’d expect any of them to admit, certainly.

If they do understand how ridiculous the question was and asked it anyhow, then they’re lying to their true-believers. If not, then they’re too ignorant to be afforded any credibility on any matter of biology whatsoever. In either case, there’s absolutely no room here for anyone to keep playing along unless those playing at home, as it were, are themselves either liars or ignorami. In the former case, it would be best to just shut up and stop spouting off, because deceit will eventually be found out. In the latter case, it would be best to just shut up and educate themselves and get back to the debate when they actually have something that does challenge evolutionary biology as we now know it. In that case, they could wind up contributing something to the search for knowledge instead of just coming off as a bunch of loud-mouthed morons.

Hello Mike and Frank,

I am glad that my article has made it to Panda’s Thumb and being discussed.

I think that questions highlights their centuries old view of humans as the center of the universe and above all other creation. While an extremely ignorant byproduct of religion, it nothing more than a shame which fuels their ill-conceived logic and misinformed rhetoric.

With regard to reading the article, they only quote a press release though they did provide one link to abstract from Science. I suppose I shouldn’t say it was clear, but I am 95% positive the actual article was not read by the poster and 99% sure that it was not read by 99% of the commenters. Its unfortunate to purport such disdain for a group of people or a certain theory without actually properly understanding the positions and literature of the other side. I believe many atheists have read parts or the whole of the Bible and evolutionary biologists and science philosophers have read many of the ID books. Yet, ID proponents continually read snippets, “read” an article from a 3rd hand source (like Uncommon Descent) and quote mine scientific literature ignoring any evolutionary analysis of a work and jumping to highly misinformed conclusions.

It appears that they are fooling the base, but the base wants to be fooled so that it remains in its philosophical comfort zone. At best, it is frustrating. At worst, it detrimental to our society and rule of law. I don’t have any solutions to the problem, but feel scientists have a duty to educate the public about science, within reason, and to battle creationisms wedge into science at every turn. Rest assured, when an invertebrate is threatened, I’ll be there to defend its evolutionary history!

If it is a choice between ignorance and deceit, I vote for deceit. If creationists are really this ignorant they have no excuse. If they choose not to read the paper before misrepresenting it they have no excuse.

It seems much more likely to me that most creationists will say absolutely anything, no matter how ignorant, even if they absolutely know that it is wrong, if they believe that there is even the slightest chance that someone will be fooled by it. Of course this is very easy to do if the people you are trying to fool are willfully ignorant and willing to buy any argument uncritically. Hence the persistence of such nonsense as “why are there still chimps”, “tornado in a junkyard”, “were you there” etc.

When you have no credability in the first place, loss of credability is most likely not a big concern. If creationists want credability they know that all they have to do is do some real research instead of denigrating the research of real scientists. Since this is what they choose to do instead, I vote for deceit as a much more likely motivation.

Of course that is just my opinion, I could be wrong. It might be that some creationists are really so ignorant that they actually believe nonsense like this. So, let’s see, how would that work? Humans mating with anemones I guess. That could get a little sticky. I wonder why someone would be more willing to believe that than believe in evolution? No wait, I forgot about common design. Yea, that’s it - the obvious common design of humans and anemones requires God to, … oh, never mind.

Uncommonly Dense blows common descent

I fixed the post title.

I read the anemone post on UD after looking at their comments on peppered moths. It was, as is typical of UD, total nonsense. It is good to see other websites debunking their nonsense.

One other point is that I made a polite reply to the UD post on peppered moths. I basically pointed out that scientists did additional research on moths while ID proponents did not do any research on moths, only throwing mud at the original research. This post never made it past their censors.

Since Sal of UD regularly reads and posts to Panda’s Thumb, I would like to ask him why ID proponents censor legitimate criticism of their claims.

Edwin Hensley Wrote:

… I would like to ask … why ID proponents censor legitimate criticism of their claims.

Edwin, I’ve never visited UD, but from what I gather having read several commentaries about it, pro-evolution posts always get deleted. I suspect this is because they can’t handle debating the actual issues.

You will notice the occasional troll here on PT; the troll’s points are often addressed by more than one PT commenter, but the points raised against the troll’s arguments go unanswered. This appears to be typical of IDC proponents on the web.

“UD wonders how human genes got into anemones”

When I read this question, I assumed this was an exaggerated rewording of the UD commentary. So I went there to see what they actually said.

Wow.

Mike O'Risal Wrote:

If they do understand how ridiculous the question was and asked it anyhow, then they’re lying to their true-believers.

If not lying, telling fairy tales.

ck1 Wrote:

“UD wonders how human genes got into anemones”

When I read this question, I assumed this was an exaggerated rewording of the UD commentary. So I went there to see what they actually said.

Wow.

Did they discuss all the research they are doing in the field of horizontal transfer?

I don’t think it’s too irrational an assumption that the ID creationists at UD didn’t read the published paper. If they had, they would have seen the following (in the abstract no less):

Nearly one-fifth of the inferred genes of the ancestor are eumetazoan novelties, which are enriched for animal functions like cell signaling, adhesion, and synaptic transmission. Analysis of diverse pathways suggests that these gene “inventions” along the lineage leading to animals were likely already well integrated with preexisting eukaryotic genes in the eumetazoan progenitor.

Now what does that tell anyone who’s at all familiar with the most basic concepts of evolutionary biology? (Hint: Think “core functions”)

Frank J: “Did they discuss all the research they are doing in the field of horizontal transfer?” No, but isn’t that why they set up Biologic?

(sorry, I don’t get the formatting)

David Stanton -

If it is a choice between ignorance and deceit, I vote for deceit.

I vote for deceit, too, with the caveat that a good con man, like a good actor, may believe his own BS at times, and that the very concept of “deceipt” may not apply to a mind damaged in certain ways. They may genuinely believe that everybody just has an agenda based on short term self-interest, and all this stuff about moths and sea anemones is just everybody saying whatever advances their own nihilistic agenda. Curiousity about and sincere interest in biology may be something that a person with strong sociopathic/psychopathic traits can’t even imagine, or has contempt for.

I’ll add some support for this view.

The UD writings were full of childish, folksy, talkback words, like “ain’t” and “hmmmmm…”. The reason for using this technique is to make the reader feel as if he is a “smart” person scornfully rejecting a “dumb” idea. But it presumes that the reader is not very smart or educated. This style of speech - falsely dumbing down the discussion of a complex issue so that a disadvantaged audience can enjoy a false sense of superiority over experts who intimidate them - is quite common when deception is the objective.

Implicit in the ID take is the assumption that it would be reasonable for an intelligent designer to stick human genes into a sea anemone.

Implicit in the ID take is the assumption that it would be reasonable for an intelligent designer to stick human genes into a sea anemone.

Be fair. It’s “intelligent” designer. Nobody said “reasonable” designer.

harold Wrote:

Be fair. It’s “intelligent” designer. Nobody said “reasonable” designer.

Interesting take. Perhaps its advocates might consider changing “intelligent design” to “insane design.” Then they could be a bit more internally consistent and still not have to change the monograms on their towels.

How quickly we forget DaveScot’s panic attack, in which he pleaded with Dembski that it was time to give up the charade.

Link, please. When did this happen?

David Stanton Wrote:

So, let’s see, how would that work? Humans mating with anemones I guess.

The man to aneman theme is inspiring. Seems lateral transfer goes a long way (though not that long):

(From the original post of Kevin Z)

“ … Whereas fruit flies and soil nematodes have proven to be exquisite model systems for dissecting the genetic underpinnings of metazoan development and physiology, their genomes are relatively poor models for the ancestral eumetazoan genome, having lost introns, genes, and gene linkages.”-Putnam et al. 2007. Science 317: 86-94

Maybe fruit flies have cleaned their genomes from most introns, but it seems they have also absorbed the entire Wolbachia genome:

“The host’s genes actually hold the coding information for a completely separate species,” he said. Werren doesn’t think the genetic transfer was intentional, like that of a virus, but accidentally slipped in during the fly’s normal DNA-repair activities.

So while ERV’s are still cool, there are some other mighty beasts out there…

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:

Maybe fruit flies have cleaned their genomes from most introns, but it seems they have also absorbed the entire Wolbachia genome

Definitely one of the most interesting stories that’s come out in awhile; I’ve been a bit surprised nobody here has blogged it nor, as far as I know, have any of the Creationist started breathing heavily over it.

I passed the article around my lab today, in fact, leading to the joke that this may be the first time in history that Wolbachia causes human fatalities — namely all those people who’ve been deleting “bacterial contamination” from their sequences all these years!

I propose we create an abomination of nature, half man, half anemone. We shall call him: Manemone.

Mike O’Risal:

Thanks for the response. You commented on something I didn’t think of (lazy layman here :-P), rejecting bacterial genes in analysis, and indeed I just stumbled on a blog that mentioned the same thing. It’s not a singular phenomena, the blog mentions Wolbachia fragments found in 11 species of flies and nematodes.

Another fun fact, seems they see switched on Wolbachia genes in D. ananassae. Okay, that probably translates to ~ 1 active gene :-):

Certainly, in the fly, the Wolbachia genes are not quiet stowaways and 2% are actually switched on. Whether they actually do anything is another matter – their gene transcripts are up to a million times less common than the flies’ own. Their role is a question that the researchers have yet to answer.

Wolbachia seems cooler and cooler, but hybrids are also chilling in another way until one gets used to their existence.

“You are… a beautiful, beautiful, butterfly.” [From Alien: resurrection.]

GuyeFaux Wrote:

Link, please. When did this happen?

Can some of you computer geeks help out?

I searched UD (where it originated), and PT and Talk.Origins (where there was a lot of discussion), even Google, with no success.

Anyway, it was ~2005, and DaveScot decided that the ID community should just concede common descent and move on. After all, Behe had conceded it a decade earlier, and other than a few YEC leaders, classic creationists still tuned it out and raved about Behe and ID. I guess that his rationale was similar to AIGs, in that it’s prudent to abandon the riskier arguments and concentrate on the slicker ones like IC and CSI. Dembski did some quick damage control, and politely scolded DaveScot, reminding him that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is the PC way to go.

Thanks RBH - and Jason too. This time I’m saving the link. While searching UD I suspected that it would have been deleted.

Another fun fact, seems they see switched on Wolbachia genes in D. ananassae. Okay, that probably translates to ~ 1 active gene :-):

Whats odd about this, prokaryotic and eukaryotic transcriptional and translational machinery differs significantly in details. Among others, many prokaryotic messages are polycistronic, few eukaryotic. Eukaryotic messages have a polyadenylation site and poly(A) tail. The RNA polymerases are also quite different.

Chances are, most of this Wolbackia genome is.…..noncoding DNA, it might even be junk DNA.

[salvador]

“we are going to lose. Plain and simple. No buts about it.” -Dave Springer

[/salvador]

Interesting take. Perhaps its advocates might consider changing “intelligent design” to “insane design.” Then they could be a bit more internally consistent and still not have to change the monograms on their towels.

Back in 1997, in the discussion of Dembski’s presentation at the NTSE, I pointed out that a consequence of his argument was that originating CSI could not be ascribed to any rational transformation, and therefore his argument applied to God as creator says that insofar as God produces CSI, God acts irrationally.

Dembski didn’t like that much.

raven:

raven Wrote:

Whats odd about this,

Thanks for the response and details which elaborates the quote I made.

I also remember a discussion around the ENCODE results and the low level and/or spurious transcription that researchers can detect now, which probably have no biological function. I should have written “active” for clarity.

I don’t think it’s too irrational an assumption that the ID creationists at UD didn’t read the published paper. If they had, they would have seen the following (in the abstract no less):

Nearly one-fifth of the inferred genes of the ancestor are eumetazoan novelties, which are enriched for animal functions like cell signaling, adhesion, and synaptic transmission. Analysis of diverse pathways suggests that these gene “inventions” along the lineage leading to animals were likely already well integrated with preexisting eukaryotic genes in the eumetazoan progenitor.

Now what does that tell anyone who’s at all familiar with the most basic concepts of evolutionary biology? (Hint: Think “core functions”)

I think folks here overestimate the intellectual competence of the UD commenters. They not only aren’t familiar with the most basic concepts of evolutionary biology, but they don’t comprehend them when exposed to them, and are incapable of making any sense of the quoted paragraph. So they fall back to concepts they can understand, like “there are human genes in the anemone genome”.

Dembski didn’t like that much.

But God, who is utterly free, is free to act independent of any reason to do so. The very notion “God should …” is surely blasphemous. So God, properly conceived, is a purely arational force.

Wesley R. Elsberry Wrote:

Dembski didn’t like that much.

So he must have been “thrilled” when Behe said at Dover that the designer might no longer exist.

I do get it, though. As long as one raves about ID, one can get away with saying almost anything, such as that ID “is” creationism, “is” religious, etc. The minute one says anything negative about the scam, it’s “You ‘Darwinists’ don’t understand ID…”

I still think of IDers as the townfolk of Rock Ridge - so dense that the new sherriff can hold a gun to his own head and say “No-body move or the nigger gets it!” and they reply; “Hold on, he’s not bluffing!” Oh baby, you are sooo talented - and they are so dumb! Dembski is the sherriff; he knows who he is fooling.

The people who make up and distribute ID are above average in intelligence* (*defined in the usual way as a cluster of closely associated cognitive tasks that impact on most types of academic training).

Dembski, Behe, Well, Johnson, etc, may or may not be as intelligent as the scientists they antagonize but are all academically gifted relative to the average person. The lack of insight, curiousity, self-awareness, judgment, honesty, or concern for others that they exhibit should not be confused with lack of intelligence.

The intended consumer of ID is probably a bigoted, brainwashed individual of relatively low intelligence, who supports anything that he or she perceives as “helping their team to win”.

In practice, many of the consumers are “in on the gag”.

Many of the clumsier “defenders of ID” attempt to use the same weapons as the big stars - fancy big words that mean nothing, obfuscation, distortion, goal-post-moving, subject-changing, and other snake-oil techniques. Sometimes people can’t even spell or use grammar correctly, but indulge in imitation of these slippery techniques anyway. This suggests to me that there is at least an unconscious understanding that the point is to “win” at any cost, even at the level of the bottom-of-the-barrel true believer.

I don’t see a lot of evidence that lack of academic skills (ie “low intelligence”) makes people into creationists. That may correlate with acceptance of certain non-political religious ideas that tend to overlap with creationism, at best.

What I see, for the most part, is honest people of all “intelligence” levels supporting accurate science, and a bunch of dishonest people of all “intelligence” levels attempting to push creationism with dishonest techniqes. Their level of “intelligence” reflects only whether they can produce mounds of grammatically correct slick verbiage, or whether they are forced to express the same BS and use the same deceptive arguments, but slowly and with poor grammar and spelling.

So God, properly conceived

gack.

Dembski, Behe, Well, Johnson, etc,

None of those folks wrote any of the material that is being referred to here. The piece in question was written by one “dacook”, who most likely is “a bigoted, brainwashed individual of relatively low intelligence”.

None of those folks wrote any of the material that is being referred to here. The piece in question was written by one “dacook”, who most likely is “a bigoted, brainwashed individual of relatively low intelligence”.

Gladly conceded.

harold Wrote:

Dembski, Behe, Well, Johnson, etc, may or may not be as intelligent as the scientists they antagonize but are all academically gifted relative to the average person.

Not necessarily.

First, it doesn’t necessarily take much intelligence to make an “academic” carrier, especially the faux ones.

Second, some of the above (esp. Wells) were driven by other and stronger concerns than the average person.

I get the impression that Behe initially made a conventional academic career and produced results, while for example Dembski and Berlinski barely made first cut. (Which may explain why they have switched goals.)

They may have bluster, but it is IMO less certain what general intelligence and social and academic skills they have. For example, reasoned or not, but Dembski has never showed that he knows what a definition is.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on August 30, 2007 10:48 PM.

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