How stupid do they think we are?

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Jonathan Wells has an article at Evolution News and Views which is, typically for Wells, chock full of misinformation. But, as almost anyone could refute his central contentions with one minute on Wikipedia, you have to wonder just how stupid the Discovery Institute and its Fellows think we are.

What has Wells exercised is a report in Science Daily about a team French Scientists that have investigated the three dimensional structure of an enzyme called aminoglycoside acetyltransferase Ib (Maurice et al., 2008). They discovered that aminoglycoside acetyltransferase Ib has a flexible active site which can evolve to accommodate new antibiotics, allowing the bacteria to break these antibiotics down and make them inactive. Most excitingly, they have discovered how this enzyme can evolve to act on synthetic antibiotics that are structurally unrelated to their current substrates.

Wells is appalled by the idea that evolutionary biologists might claim some degree of responsibility for this finding, and bends over backwards to demonstrate that evolution has nothing to do with it. However, he completely misrepresents evolution, molecular biology, genetics and history. The bizarre thing is that many of the claims can be disproved with a few moments on Wikipedia.

Wells Wrote:

First, some bacteria happen to have a very complex enzyme (acetyltransferase), the origin of which Darwinism hasn’t really explained. Come to think of it, most cases of antibiotic resistance (including resistance to penicillin) involve complex enzymes, and the only “explanations” for them put forward by Darwinists are untestable just-so stories about imaginary mutations over unimaginable time scales.

Aminoglycoside acetyltransferase isn’t particularly complex, it’s a simple 201 amino acid long protein that is a member of a large family of proteins that transfer acetate from Acetyl Coenzyme A to … well, just about anything. For example, many bacteria use these things for adding acetate to biogenic amines such as serotonin (yes, bacteria have serotonin). In this particular case, a mutation to an aminoglycoside acetyltransferase that normally breaks down the antibiotics kanamycin and neomycin (and other structurally similar antibiotics) results in an enzyme that can still breakdown aminoglycoside antibiotics, but can now break down structurally unrelated fluoroquinone antibiotics (eg. ciprofloxacin) .

embor20089-f3.jpg Figure 3 from Maurice F, Broutin I, Podglajen I, Benas P, Collatz E, Dardel F. Enzyme structural plasticity and the emergence of broad-spectrum antibiotic resistance. EMBO Rep. 2008 Feb 22; A shows the structure of one of the standard amionglycoside antibiotics, the counter-ion HEPES and ciprofloxacin, B shows how HEPES fits into the standard aminoglycoside acetyltransferase Ib, with important binding sites identified, C shows how the mutant binding sites now fit ciprofloxacin into the enzyme.

This is particularly significant, as the wholly synthetic fluoroquinones have never been present in the environment before humans produced them. The first report of metabolic resistance to fluoroquinones was in 2006, so this is a recently evolved mutation. A single mutation is enough to produce an enzyme that can break down fluoroquinones (Robicsek et al, 2006). This shows just how mutable proteins are, and how very simple changes can produce significant novel metabolic pathways. Remember, the enzyme can now act of a wholly synthetic chemical, never present in the environment before, which doesn’t look like the natural substrate for this enzyme.

In this particular case, we can easily recreate the mutations that lead to the development of fluoroquinone metabolizing enzymes. Contra Wells, we can explain the origin of this enzyme without hypotheticals. What about penicillin resistance?

Beta lactamases, a group of enzymes which break down penicillin, have diverse origins, but most trace their lineage to a group of cell wall synthesis enzymes, the D-Alanine D-Alanine peptidases (which in turn are minor modifications of more general peptidase enzymes). We can test the idea that beta-lactamases originated from D-Alanine D-Alanine peptidases by making the same putative mutations in D-Alanine D-Alanine peptidase and see if we can produce a beta lactamase. In fact, a single mutation is all it takes to convert a D-Alanine D-Alanine peptidase to a beta-lactamase (Peimbert M, Segovia L. 2003).

The D-Alanine D-Alanine peptidases have generated a number of different antibiotic resistance proteins. It only takes a single mutation in a D-Alanine D-Alanine peptidase to convert it to a vancomycin resistance enzyme (Park et al 1996). Our understanding of the evolution of antibiotic resistance, far from being predicated on “unlikely mutations over unimaginable times”, is based on very likely mutations over a few decades, that we can, and have, tested experimentally.

Now, you just have to go to the original Science Daily report to see Wells is wrong, that the researchers have both the ancestor and the evolved enzyme. No hypothetical mutations needed. If you expend a bit more effort you can go to the linked abstract from the actual paper, or do a Wikipedia search of antibiotic resistance, to see that Wells is is very wrong. Who did Wells think he was fooling?

Wells Wrote:

Yet Mendel’s theory of genetics contradicted Darwin’s, and Darwinists rejected Mendelian genetics for half a century.

While Mendels’s theory of genetics didn’t quite contradict Darwins’s theory of genetics (they were both particulate theories, but Darwin’s was a somatic cell based theory), it did contradict the most widely held theories of inheritance at the time (blending inheritance - almost no-one accepted Darwin’s theory of inheritance, even people who accepted evolution and natural selection).

Importantly, Mendel’s theory did support Darwin’s theory of natural selection, by showing how variants would not be lost over time (as they were with blending inheritance). Darwinists didn’t reject Mendel’s theory. Mendel’s theory was originally ignored partly because published in an obscure journal with limited distribution and partly because it attempted a radical mathematical analysis of biology that the few people who read Mendel’s paper did not understand. It was rediscovered by evolutionary biologists in 1900 seeking to understand heredity. Biologists of all stripes rapidly took the theory up. This can all be found at Wikipedia and other online sources, so it is hard to see what Wells is hoping to accomplish with his farrago of nonsense.

Mendel’s work was heavily promoted by evolutionary biologists who thought saltation (mutational jumps) drove evolution. The big problem for natural selection was that although Mendelian inheritance explained how favourable traits could persist and not be diluted out, the traits appeared to be binary, you either had a trait or not (incomplete dominance not withstanding). How could it explain traits that appeared to have continuous variation? This was solved between 1918 by statistician RA Fischer and the 30’s by Sewall Wright, JSB Haldane and others, leading to the “Modern synthesis” of the 40’s which fused Darwin’s ideas with population genetics, leading to one of the most fruitful research programs in biology until the modern molecular biology era. In no sense could Darwinian evolutionary biologists be said to “reject” Mendelian inheritance. Indeed Fischer saw biometry as a way of reconciling the discontinuous nature of Mendelian Inheritance with the continuous variation seen in nature.

Again, the thing is any body with a computer and access to Wikipedia can find out this history. Who did Wells think he was fooling?

Wells Wrote:

And although an understanding of genetics is important when dealing with antibiotic resistance, Darwin’s theory of the origin of species by natural selection is not.

This is the exact opposite of the truth. Mendelian genetics describes the particulate nature of the gene, and how these particulate genes are inherited. Natural selection describes how these particulate genes spread through the population, based on the degree of fitness they provide to the organism. The issue is a bit simpler in bacteria, where there is usually only one copy of a gene.

We know that organisms vary, and that mutations will generate new variations, new genes, not previously seen. We know that if there is selection pressure, these genes will spread. We know that if we control the selection pressure (either by using controlled, high doses of antibiotics to ensure all bacteria are wiped out, or by using multiple antibiotics in chronic infections), we can reduce the appearance and spread of resistance genes. We can even predict the emergence of new resistant strains using evolutionary analysis (Delmas et al., 2005; Orencia et al., 2001). All this from understanding evolutionary biology

Wells Wrote:

Third, Dardel and his colleagues made their discovery using protein crystallography. They were not guided by Darwinian evolutionary theory; in fact, they had no need of that hypothesis.

No, they understood that the difference between the fluoroquinone metabolizing enzyme and the parent enzyme was due to mutations, so they sought out the sequence differences, and determined how they affected the structure. As well, based on the structural flexibility they determined, they made predictions of the likely ability of the parent and child enzymes to evolve further, novel actions and antibiotic substrates, based on known selection pressures.

Wells Wrote:

So how, exactly, is Darwinian evolution essential to understanding and overcoming antibiotic resistance as the Darwinists claim it is?

Understanding how novel mechanisms arise via mutation, understanding how selection pressure makes these mutant genes spread, understanding how to modify selection pressure to reduce/prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. Understanding the importance of the structural basis of the target mutations. That’s how.

You can intelligently design your antibiotic all you like, make it fit snugly into its target enzyme, make it resistant to degradation by the current crop of degradation enzymes. But if you don’t take account of the evolutionary potential of the bacterial enzymes and the target enzyme, and understand how resistance spreads, then your intelligently designed antibiotic is toast before it even gets through clinical trials (crunchy, tasty and easily broken down).

update: Orac has weighed in on this article as well. PZ Myers mentions it as well.

References:

  • Delmas J, Robin F, Carvalho F, Mongaret C, Bonnet R. Prediction of the evolution of ceftazidime resistance in extended-spectrum β-lactamase CTX-M-9. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2006; 50: 731–738.
  • Orencia MC, Yoon JS, Ness JE, Stemmer WPC, Stevens RC. Predicting the emergence of antibiotic resistance by directed evolution and structural analysis. Nat Struct Biol 2001; 8: 238–242.
  • Park IS, Lin CH, Walsh CT. Gain of D-alanyl-D-lactate or D-lactyl-D-alanine synthetase activities in three active-site mutants of the Escherichia coli D-alanyl-D-alanine ligase B. Biochemistry. 1996 Aug 13;35(32):10464-71.
  • Peimbert M, Segovia L. Evolutionary engineering of a beta-Lactamase activity on a D-Ala D-Ala transpeptidase fold. Protein Eng. 2003 Jan;16(1):27-35.
  • Robicsek A, Strahilevitz J, Jacoby GA, Macielag M, Abbanat D, Park CH, Bush K, Hooper DC. Fluoroquinolone-modifying enzyme: a new adaptation of a common aminoglycoside acetyltransferase. Nat Med. 2006 Jan;12(1):83-8. Epub 2005 Dec 20.
  • Maurice F, Broutin I, Podglajen I, Benas P, Collatz E, Dardel F. Enzyme structural plasticity and the emergence of broad-spectrum antibiotic resistance. EMBO Rep. 2008 Feb 22;
  • 4 TrackBacks

    My animus for Jonathan Wells knows no bounds — he's an appalling fraud who doesn't understand the science he criticizes. Case in point: he recently smugly asserted that a recent study to characterize the molecular changes involved in the evolutio... Read More

    Jonathan Wells has launched a nasty attack on PZ Myers and Ian Musgrave on the discredited Discovery Institute web site.... Read More

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    What’s in a Word? from Evolution News & Views on March 19, 2008 7:46 PM

    Apparently, when the word is evolution, what’s in a word is whatever Darwinists want to put there. On February 29 I predicted that Darwinists would try to take credit for a recent advance in understanding a mechanism of antibiotic resistance, even thou... Read More

    210 Comments

    Ian, I get the feeling that Wells is preaching to the choir. He does not care whether we are convinced or not - he is simply restating a fistful of lies as if it in some way rebutted the inspired work reported in the Sience Daily article. That way his constituency can feel all warm and fuzzy without having to go through the tedium of first trying to understand the article in Science Daily, and then having to do all their own quote-mining.

    Additional to this parag:

    Wells is appalled by the idea that evolutionary biologists might claim some degree of responsibility for this finding, and bends over backwards to demonstrate that evolution has nothing to do with it. However, he completely misrepresents evolution, molecular biology, genetics and history. The bizarre thing is that many of the claims can be disproved with a few moments on Wikipedia.

    I think he must also be misrepresenting organic chemistry, too. He certainly has no understanding of the behaviour of any organic molecules, whether simple (like HEPES) or complex.

    BTW, for the uninitiated, HEPES is an abbreviation of Hydroxyethyl-piperazine ethanesulphonate.

    Fisking Wells? Such fun, like shooting fish in a barrel

    Dembski, Wells, Behe and their cohorts probably know that we, the pro science folks, are not dumb. These articles are meant for the consumption of their followers. The televangelists and the vocal opinion “influencers” take up these articles and dress it up even more. Since there is not going to be a record or paper trial they can get to be even more outrageous and misleading in their speeches and sermons. So the correct question is, How stupid they think their flock are?.

    And the answer is quite obvious: very, extremely, totally, 100%, completely, insanely.

    And the follow up question is Are they right in making such an assumption?

    And, sadly the answer again seems to be, yes.

    A first year college biology assignment: “Read the Wells article and write an analysis of it” might yield some interesting results.

    whether simple (like HEPES) or complex.

    I can’t explain why but for some reason I read this as HERPES.

    I’m always thunderstruck if I see anything in an article by Wells that does look like an accurate description of something in biology.

    What is the most shocking for me is that Wikipedia is already more accurate than the creationists.…..

    As principal investigator of the study under discussion, I’d like to strongly support the view advocated this page. In fact, I was completely amazed to see how our work has been misrepresented by M. Wells.

    Actually, we did indeed use darwinian evolution within this work (something unusual in structural biology). In order to obtain an enzyme with increased stability (a critical point for structural studies), we used selective pressure to obtain mutants of the enzyme. We selected for bateria with increased aminiglycoside resistance, by plating them on antibiotic containing medium. It turned out that some bacteria evolved such stabler enzymes variants which made this whole study possible !

    Finally, I would not consider myself as a chemist, I got my PhD in molecular microbiology. It seems that M. Wells finds it easier to portray us as non-biologists, and hence implicitly as non-evolutionists

    I’m horrified that this guy shares my surname. Please don’t assume that all Wellses are as dumb as this one.

    Wells knows exactly how stupid his audience is. (It isn’t us btw)

    He knows he can get away with saying this stuff because he knows his target audience won’t do any fact checking. And even if some of them do, most of those will take his word over that of those atheist scientists.

    I doubt he even cares what we think.

    “How stupid do they think we are” That’s a leading question we probably shouldn’t proffer with people of the limited integrity of Billy The Kidder and Michael Behemoth around!

    Ravilyn Sanders: These articles are meant for the consumption of their followers. The televangelists and the vocal opinion “influencers” take up these articles and dress it up even more.

    Exactly. The PBS Nova program Intelligent Design on Trial was very helpful in explaining this phenomena.

    If you did not see it then there was a portion of the program where they documented the way the various people in the town came up with their choice of textbooks for the new biology curriculum. They couldn’t teach creationism because of Edwards v. Aguillard. So they were looking for alternatives. One of the people involved came upon a DVD by the Discovery Institute or some other think-tank for intelligent design.

    One of the key ideas that stuck in my head is how one of the people involved essentially said “I like creationism, but we can’t teach that. Wow, this intelligent design sounds nice and here’s a DVD with people with PhD’s supporting intelligent design as a worthwhile alternative to Darwinian evolution”.

    Behe, et al are merely speaking to the choir.

    Third, Dardel and his colleagues made their discovery using protein crystallography. They were not guided by Darwinian evolutionary theory; in fact, they had no need of that hypothesis.

    Accomplished - and retired - X-ray crystallographer Lyle Jensen was featured in a six part interview for ID the Future. Despite his long and productive career, Jensen is able to provide no support at all for Intelligent Design from either his personal experience or from the field of crystallography. Instead he offers: 1) the fossil record, based on a report of a Discovery Institute-sponsored meeting in China as reported by ID-friendly journalist Fred Heeren (who has also written for the Weekly World News) 2) Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity 3) Evolution is based on circular reasoning, which biologists have been brainwashed into accepting (no examples offered) and 4) Disregard for supernatural hypotheses is preventing advances in science (no examples offered.)

    As for the reliance of macromolecular crystallography on evolution, it is true that a person could work on crystallographic methods, or apply those methods to solve structures, without directly invoking evolution. However, they will be missing a great deal in experimental design and analysis by disregarding evolution. The field is tied closely to comparative genetics and taxonomy. Just as sequences from closely related species are more similar than those from distant species, so too with the structures. The overall folds, and the active sites, are conserved through selection, while individual residues, particularly on loops away from the active site, are less well-conserved due to neutral drift. Any grad student ought to understand this before tackling a project. If a protein refuses to crystallize, trying a different species is a common tactic, with the understanding that the results will still be largely applicable. Crystallographers who work on inhibitor drugs for viral proteins have to deal with the rapid evolvability of those proteins. I could run on about this for several pages, but my basic point is: macromolecular crystallography does not strictly require the use of evolutionary theory, but it sure helps, and if you discount evolution, you will not be as good a crystallographer as you could have otherwise been.

    Fourth, their discovery may aid in the intelligent design of new antibiotics. Chemists will attempt to synthesize new drugs purposefully, by looking ahead to the desired goal and working toward it. No Darwinian evolution here.

    For an alternate viewpoint:

    CLUES FOR OVERCOMING HIV DRUG RESISTANCE

    Researchers are gaining insights into how some anti-HIV drugs avoid resistance mechanisms

    CELIA M. HENRY, C&EN WASHINGTON

    Human immunodeficiency virus evolves rapidly in patients, making the development of drug resistance a major problem in combating the virus. Some drugs are better than others at avoiding resistance mechanisms, but little is known about what gives them this edge.

    In two recent papers, Eddy Arnold, a professor in the Center for Advanced Biotechnology & Medicine and the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, Piscataway, N.J., and his colleagues propose how they think some HIV reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors manage to successfully evade the effects of resistant mutations. A coauthor on both papers is virologist Stephen H. Hughes of the HIV Drug Resistance Program at the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health). Arnold and Hughes have collaborated on studies of the structure and function of HIV RT since 1987.

    “Unless you consider drug resistance, the virus is going to beat you,” Arnold says. “We know that HIV is a moving target. We know that a moving target is hard to hit, particularly when its movements are unpredictable. What we’ve tried to do is consider in the strategy as many resistance mutations as we’re aware of.” …

    crosspost from PZ board:

    Wells is close to the Real Jesus Christ. Whose name is Sun Myung Moon.

    wikipedia:

    “A number of opponents denounce it as a cult with bizarre features such as Sun Myung Moon’s saying he is the ““Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord”[18]

    The central tenet of the Moonies is that Moon is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Who ever thought the Messiah would turn out to be a Korean wacko?

    Anyone such as Wells who can buy into the Unification cult can buy into anything. In all due seriousness, there is a large piece of a normal person missing from Dr. Wells.

    Guy is living a nightmare whether he knows it or not.

    [quote]But Darwin’s theory isn’t really about how existing species change over time.[/quote]

    That’s up there with Ben Stein’s Hovind-esque mischaracterization of evolution as a theory that must explain the origin of stars and planets.

    Dembski, Wells, Behe and their cohorts probably know that we, the pro science folks, are not dumb. These articles are meant for the consumption of their followers. The televangelists and the vocal opinion “influencers” take up these articles and dress it up even more. Since there is not going to be a record or paper trial they can get to be even more outrageous and misleading in their speeches and sermons. So the correct question is, How stupid they think their flock are?.

    And the answer is quite obvious: very, extremely, totally, 100%, completely, insanely.

    And the follow up question is Are they right in making such an assumption?

    And, sadly the answer again seems to be, yes.

    Exactly.

    Roy

    I’m convinced that Wells did not even open up a textbook when he was off at the university getting his doctorate at Reverend Moon’s behest. I’m certain that he hired someone to sit in for him in class, and hired someone to do all of his assignments and labwork for him.

    Don’t forget that Dembski tried to explain ID’s output by claiming that it helps them for us to think that they’re stupid. He didn’t exactly explain how or why, true, yet it appears that Wells is busily doing his part to make ID “look stupid” (they don’t actually think that we are, just to be clear on that).

    Even they’re not stupid, in that they’re not low IQ. They just have a stupid idea to sell, they do seem to be too enamored of it even to understand biology (good disinformation designers have to understand what they’re twisting and maligning), and they thus can’t both be pro-ID and sound intelligent.

    When it comes down to it, I do think that Dembski’s claim was an attempt to make endless faux pas sound as though it was deliberate. I slipped on that banana peal and got all bruised on purpose, you know. I simply thought that he’d better get that excuse out for the tenth time today, to explain why Wells’ comedy routine is a straight line of pratfalls.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/3yyvfg

    Frederic Dardel:

    As principal investigator of the study under discussion, I’d like to strongly support the view advocated this page. In fact, I was completely amazed to see how our work has been misrepresented by M. Wells.

    Actually, we did indeed use darwinian evolution within this work (something unusual in structural biology). In order to obtain an enzyme with increased stability (a critical point for structural studies), we used selective pressure to obtain mutants of the enzyme. We selected for bateria with increased aminiglycoside resistance, by plating them on antibiotic containing medium. It turned out that some bacteria evolved such stabler enzymes variants which made this whole study possible !

    Finally, I would not consider myself as a chemist, I got my PhD in molecular microbiology. It seems that M. Wells finds it easier to portray us as non-biologists, and hence implicitly as non-evolutionists

    I just love it when the primary source calls Bullshit on the Bullshitter!

    How stupid do they think we are? you ask.

    You’ve missed the point completely! It’s now how stupid we are, it’s how stupid their target audience, the believers, are. That’s what matters.

    Creationism isn’t about reason, it’s about power. And the power of lies is sustained by propaganda, not by reason.

    Frederic,

    Thanks for stopping by and setting the record straight. Your statements alone put the lie to the Wells nonsense. By the way, did Wells contact any of you and ask if you considered evolutionary theory important in your work?

    This is pretty stupid stuff coming from people, some of whom at least, claim not to have any problem with “microevolution”.

    Keep up the good work Frederic. And next time, you can perhaps put some language in the introduction about how your research was guided by evolutionary principles. It won’t stop the quote mining or misrepresentation, but it will give the cretins something else to explain away. Other than that, don’t worry about it. Real scientists can see the value of your work.

    Don’t you mean Jonathan Wells?

    Looking at Frederic’s website, I notice we share some of the same research interests. Specifically:

    French wines and Paris restaurants

    http://coli.polytechnique.fr/fred.html

    The evolution of drug resistance has become a major problem and challenge in medicine. The three most common single agent killers worldwide, HIV, malaria, and TB all show high levels of this. The latest disaster is XDR TB, resistant to all known drugs. Mortality ranges from 30-96% with treatment. Two billion people worldwide are infected or have been infected with TB.

    Evolution and evolutionary biology matters to everyone whether they know it or not. This makes the current attack on evolution not just misguided but rather stupid and malevolent.

    XDR Tuberculosis — Implications for Global Public Health [NEJM Feb 15, 2007]

    Mario C. Raviglione, M.D., and Ian M. Smith, M.B., Ch.B. In early 2005, physicians at a rural hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa, were concerned by a high rate of rapid death among patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who also had tuberculosis. A study revealed the presence not only of multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis but also what came to be called extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis. XDR tuberculosis is caused by a strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to isoniazid and rifampin (which defines MDR tuberculosis) in addition to any fluoroquinolone and at least one of the three following injectable drugs: capreomycin, kanamycin, and amikacin. Of 53 patients with XDR tuberculosis, 55% claimed they had never been treated (implying that they had primary infection with an XDR strain of M. tuberculosis); two thirds had recently been hospitalized; and all 44 who underwent testing were HIV-positive. All but one of the patients died of tuberculosis, with a median survival period of only 16 days from the time the first sputum specimen was collected. Genotyping analysis revealed that 85% of the 46 isolates tested belonged to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) family of tuberculosis strains, which had been recognized in the province for a decade.1

    But, as almost anyone could refute his central contentions with one minute on Wikipedia

    There’s your problem. You should be checking Conservapedia.

    :-)

    Nigel D Wrote:

    Ian, I get the feeling that Wells is preaching to the choir.

    Like any professional anti-evolutionist, Wells is targeting two choirs. One is the ~25% of the population who won’t admit evolution under any circumstances. To them his arguments aren’t even necessary, but they provide encouragement to the subset that understands them. The other choir includes the other ~25% that doubts evolution because they have been misled about it, plus those who tentatively accept evolution and/or are unsure either way, but who could be persuaded by the feel-good sound bites, even if they don’t understand the detail.

    To put it in perspective:

    Ian Musgrave Wrote:

    But, as almost anyone could refute his central contentions with one minute on Wikipedia, you have to wonder just how stupid the Discovery Institute and its Fellows think we are.

    Almost anyone could, but how many will?

    Just a minor point: there’s no ‘c’ in Fisher’s name.

    Bob wrote:

    “Don’t you mean Jonathan Wells?”

    H.G. Wells and Orson Wells were also good story tellers, but at least there was a grain of truth in their tales. Of course there is reality and then there is “or Wellsian” doublespeak. I wonder what Colbert would say about the turthiness of that.

    If I was not interested in the truth and found that the only way I could get people to freely give me large sums of money was by fabricating lies to support their illogical beliefs, then I too might be passionately inclined to publish those lies as often as possible.

    Wells, Wells.

    :-)

    George: If you were interested in an answer you would have responded to mine.

    Marilyn:

    By the way, George, I don’t believe in “Darwinism” and never have and never will, because that is a meaningless term made up by the ill-informed. I do accept the scientific fact of the modern theory of evolution, and I will continue to accept it until you or someone else can provide some actual evidence that falsifies the theory, or come up with an actual scientific theory that explains reality better. Again, put up or shut up.

    If I was a praying kind of person, I’d be praying for “shut up” The alternative is just too horrible to contemplate.

    Wait. I thought a retort was a kind of glass vessel, ya know, like the mad scientist has for mixing teh colorful, smelly potion. What, never evven been to a movie! What kind of troll is ttah?

    Please observe teh spell. ;-)

    Got it George. You’re smart enought to know where to find the evidence yourself, right? It’s just that you so enjoy acting like an argumentative ignoramus.

    […withdrawing food dish.…]

    Very well, George. Please explain to me how the Hyopsodus and Cantius records do not represent transitional sequences. Please explain to me how the extensive marine fossil record does not represent multiple transitional fossil sequences – starting with, say, Foote’s stuff or perhaps Stanely just to begin? I’m waiting. Details, George, not insults.

    You claim that you didn’t insult anyone, then you admit that you did, but that really it was because people were insulting Behe. Sigh.

    What on earth do you mean by “Darwinism?” Please define it. I gave specific responses to your querry, parsing out the two possible meanings that you seemed to allude to. Now you insult me because I didn’t somehow answer some definition to you have decided on in your mind. Define it precisely.

    Glen Davidson:

    I don’t want to feed ye olde troll,

    —- one who feeds a troll is a troll himself, troll!

    but I have to say that, given the amount of fossilization among a number of phyla, and the quantity of the fossil record, I would find a complete lack of transitional fossils to be a very disturbing unfulfilled prediction of MET (in context). Of course by “transitional” I do not mean “ancestral species,” I mean something closely related to the “ancestral species.”

    —– disturbing?? would you still believe in Darwinism. and you will have to define MET. I think you are confused on what it is.

    In other words, the fact that many transitionals have been found is a significant prediction of MET that has turned out to be correct.

    —- OK does not Darwinism predict that we should find many, many more transitionals than what we do???

    The “would you believe if…” schtick is being used to try to isolate the converging strands of fulfilled predictions of MET, since nothing other than evolutionary theory makes sense of both crown groups and of extinct groups known only from the fossil record.

    It’s a kind of misdirection, as well, since a lack of transitionals (in context) ought to be accompanied by other problems with cladistics and genomics. That is, a lack of transitionals, when we have good reason to expect them, should mean that the rest of the evolutionary predictions would be skewed or even nonsensical. So it hardly makes sense to ask “what if there were no transitionals” when there is no meaningful explanation for the whole of biology except for MET.

    ““””So it hardly makes sense to ask “what if there were no transitionals” when there is no meaningful explanation for the whole of biology except for MET.””””

    ——– great example of circular logic! biology would do just fine without transitionals. jeez there arent that many

    What is more, there were always transitional taxa known. While no transitional species were known when Darwin wrote his first book, the fact that mammals evolved from reptiles, reptiles evolved from amphibians, and amphibians evolved from fish, was fairly obvious from morphological comparisons.

    ——- homology is not a proof of common descent sorry.

    Sure, modern representatives, and even fossil representatives, had their own evolutions since, say, fish and birds separated, but that fish gave rise to birds was not in doubt (to intelligent and intellectually honest people).

    Evolutionary theory developed with the knowledge of “intermediate taxa,” then, so it’s kind of like asking if you’d believe in Christianity if Jesus never existed to ask if you’d accept evolution if transitionals had never been found.

    —- duh! I can accept the possiblity of Darwinism without transitionals. You really do not need a great fossil record to substantiate Dism. Cannot compare with religion. that is faith based. Would I believe in heliocentrism if there were no parallax: duh NO!

    It’s a trollish, nonsense question, of course, sort of like asking if you’d accept General Relativity if light didn’t bend in the presence of gravity, but all of the other predictions of General Relativity worked out.

    —– if one prediction fails the theory is caput sorry!

    The fact is that light not bending in the presence of gravity would be a severe problem for it, and yet we’d probably provisionally accept the rest of General Relativity until something meaningful replaced it. The trouble is that, unless some good idea were advanced to replace it, the failure of General Relativity with respect to the bending of light, while the rest of General Relativity worked, makes no sense at all.

    One would have to ask if humans can make sense out of the world, if MET successfully predicted everything it does except the expected transitional fossils, or if General Relativity successfully predicted everything it does except light bending in the presence of gravity (of course I don’t mean when light is moving directly into the gravity well). Both failures would make nasty gashes into their respective theories, yet would not by themselves yield up any better ideas for explaining everything else that they explain. And of course the fact that both make successful predictions throughout the range of their command of their respective phenomena gives us good reason to accept both.

    —- duh again. if a theory predicts something and it does not happen the theory is wrong sorry. i know life is tuff but thats the way it is

    —- you are making excuse for your faith now. I said with adequate proof I would completely accept Dism but you are saying no matter how much lack of proof you would find you would still adhere to it: FAITH!

    See, even trolls can help to make a good point, which is that transitional fossils are very important pieces in favor of MET.

    —–and a troll like yourself you try to get off that fuzzy thinking wagon. are you that undergrad kid?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/3yyvfg

    Ravilyn Sanders:

    Lurkers, please note that all George does is to ask questions and throw insults. He is incapable of answering any questions.

    george: I certainly have answer questions! go ahead and ask one.

    Why can’t humans (and primates and some bats) synthesize vitamin C? Almost all the mammals make their own vitamin C. We have the genes to make vitamin C but our vitamin C factory in every cell of our bodies is turned off. Why?

    There are a number of possible answers: concommitants is my best guess. I think that it was necesary to turn off the ability to syth vit C to allow some other process to happen more easily. Or just and experiment by a designer. Just to see what would happen

    Seems like “George” here has a severe identity problem. Here he is, signing his excretions as “Glen D”, who has a far better track record as even my humble self can tell. But he might not be aware that he isn’t in fact even “George”… Then again, that will not be his only, or even his biggest problem.

    Bill Gascoyne:

    I certainly have answer questions! go ahead and ask one.

    George,

    A retort is not an answer.

    Answer:[n] a statement that solves a problem or explains how to solve the problem.

    Retort:[n] a quick reply to a question or remark (especially a witty or critical one).

    When did I retort? you are projecting

    Rrr:

    Seems like “George” here has a severe identity problem. Here he is, signing his excretions as “Glen D”, who has a far better track record as even my humble self can tell. But he might not be aware that he isn’t in fact even “George”… Then again, that will not be his only, or even his biggest problem.

    Keep your ‘excretions’ to yourself

    When did you answer, “George”?

    There is no name for what you do. Or if there is, I prefer ignorance.

    Rrr:

    When did you answer, “George”?

    There is no name for what you do. Or if there is, I prefer ignorance.

    Well there is a name for what you do: laziness!

    Rrr:

    Wait. I thought a retort was a kind of glass vessel,

    it’s both.

    Bill Gascoyne:

    Rrr:

    Wait. I thought a retort was a kind of glass vessel,

    it’s both.

    Thanks. For a minute there, I was getting scared maybe the madness could be contagious. Now I can rest more easily.

    When did I retort? you are projecting

    Pot. Kettle. Black. Not worth my time. Outa here. Go ahead and declare “victory,” Georgie Girl.

    Bill Gascoyne:

    When did I retort? you are projecting

    Pot. Kettle. Black. Not worth my time. Outa here. Go ahead and declare “victory,” Georgie Girl.

    Bill Gascoyne:

    When did I retort? you are projecting

    Pot. Kettle. Black. Not worth my time. Outa here. Go ahead and declare “victory,” Georgie Girl.

    Yes your logic was not very good. have you taken any engineering courses? that might help you here. good luck!

    george: There are a number of possible answers: concommitants is my best guess. I think that it was necesary to turn off the ability to syth vit C to allow some other process to happen more easily. Or just and experiment by a designer. Just to see what would happen

    You should at least know what the scientific explanation for it is, even if you don’t agree with it. Frankly, your best guess is way off the mark. You don’t even know the basics like why the primates lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C and you demand to know how multi chamber heart evolved! sh without eyes, and the ring species.

    As for the Designer experimenting, surely you don’t want to go there.

    You know what happens when you turn off vitamin C synthesis and don’t get fresh fruits for a long time. People get scurvy. And die a painful death. Even if these people were Christian missionaries on long sea voyages to bring the Gospel to the savage pagans. Makes your “Designer” particularly vindictive (or at least apathetic) towards Christian Missionaries, if the “Designer” took away our vitamin C factories on a whim.

    George,

    Please go away. You didn’t answer any of my questions, even the most basic ones. You say that evolution has never been tested and yet you are completely unable to address the genetic evidence that exists. You asked for evidence and you were given evidence, if you don’t understand it, don’t cry about it, take the opportunity to learn. You claim that you are not a creationist, well what is your explanation for the diversity of life we see around us? You stoop to personal insults without even knowing who it is that you are talking to. Just for the record, all of you guesses were completely wrong. Shut up and leave already.

    For anyone who really cares, the SINE insertions I mentioned are genetic errors that increase the probability of disease and death. That the same genetic mistakes are shared between species is strong evidence of common descent. George has no explanation other than “I don’t understand it therefore it can’t be true.” I suggest we all ignore him and hope that he will go away.

    Getting back on topic, at least in George we have an example of the target audience that Wells is playing to.

    Shenanigans!

    I call shenanigans.

    Send the troll to Trollheim.

    mpclavan: What on earth do you mean by “Darwinism?” Please define it. I gave specific responses to your querry, parsing out the two possible meanings that you seemed to allude to. Now you insult me because I didn’t somehow answer some definition to you have decided on in your mind. Define it precisely.

    In the two hours since this was posted, “George” has found the time to post several insults. He’s even found the time to demand a definition of MET (acronym for Modern Evolutionary Theory, IIRC). But he has not found the time to answer the question.

    So, George, let’s try this again. What, if anything, does the word “Darwinism” mean? You keep throwing it around, but you never bothered to define it. This is not a term commonly used by scientists, the most common use is as an ill-defined creationist smear defigned to confuse science and religion and sbstitute personal attacks on Charles Darwin for actual arguments. But you claim that you AREN’T a creationist. You also claim you believe in evolution but not “Darwinism”, without explaining the difference. What, if anything, is the difference? Don’t tell us to look it up, there’s so much equivocation on this word that no dictionary is of any use. YOU tell us what you mean. If you mean anything at all, it should be easy.

    Why would “George” fail to define this term, even when asked? Does it have any meaning at all? Could it be he himself does not know what it means? Or does he just want to be able to slip around and use whatever definition he finds convenient at the time?

    I understand the frustration with the postings of trolls, and of the urge to stop feeding them. Certainly there is a point beyond which they lose all usefulness.

    However, there is an extent to which they are useful. I am a non-scientist, with my main field being fuzzy studies (with concentrations in religion and linguistics), and I have learned a lot from the responses to trolls. My education in biology is spotty, consisting mostly of websites and popularizing books such as those of Gould and Dawkins. As a result, some of the more technical threads go completely over my head, and I find myself hearing wah, wah wah, like the teachers on Peanuts. In all fairness, I suggest that those who are disappointed in that read some linguistics – I suggest “Hittite and the Indo-European Verb” – and see how long it is before wah wah wah kicks in.

    The point is, when trolls are encountered the arguments quickly come down to a level I can understand. After all, trolls are almost by definition ignorant of much of the evidence for evoloution, so the most important of it must be explained in very simple terms. Just what is suited for me.

    So even though I think this troll thread has run its course, please don’t automatically stop once trollness has been determined. Those of us who lurk learn from troll-fighting.

    phantomreader42:

    mpclavan: What on earth do you mean by “Darwinism?” Please define it. I gave specific responses to your querry, parsing out the two possible meanings that you seemed to allude to. Now you insult me because I didn’t somehow answer some definition to you have decided on in your mind. Define it precisely.

    In the two hours since this was posted, “George” has found the time to post several insults. He’s even found the time to demand a definition of MET (acronym for Modern Evolutionary Theory, IIRC). But he has not found the time to answer the question.

    So, George, let’s try this again. What, if anything, does the word “Darwinism” mean? You keep throwing it around, but you never bothered to define it. This is not a term commonly used by scientists, the most common use is as an ill-defined creationist smear defigned to confuse science and religion and sbstitute personal attacks on Charles Darwin for actual arguments. But you claim that you AREN’T a creationist. You also claim you believe in evolution but not “Darwinism”, without explaining the difference. What, if anything, is the difference? Don’t tell us to look it up, there’s so much equivocation on this word that no dictionary is of any use. YOU tell us what you mean. If you mean anything at all, it should be easy.

    Why would “George” fail to define this term, even when asked? Does it have any meaning at all? Could it be he himself does not know what it means? Or does he just want to be able to slip around and use whatever definition he finds convenient at the time?

    From talk origins: Not perfect but usable for this conversation

    1. Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant or recently created nor perpetually cycling, but rather is steadily changing, and that organisms are transformed in time. 2. Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth. 3. Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by “budding”, that is, by the establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species. 4. Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type. 5. Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.

    Now be civil and tell he how you define MET. (And I do not thin MET is a term that scientsts use much I think the proper term is the synthetic theory of evolution)

    phantomreader42:

    mpclavan: What on earth do you mean by “Darwinism?” Please define it. I gave specific responses to your querry, parsing out the two possible meanings that you seemed to allude to. Now you insult me because I didn’t somehow answer some definition to you have decided on in your mind. Define it precisely.

    In the two hours since this was posted, “George” has found the time to post several insults. He’s even found the time to demand a definition of MET (acronym for Modern Evolutionary Theory, IIRC). But he has not found the time to answer the question.

    So, George, let’s try this again. What, if anything, does the word “Darwinism” mean? You keep throwing it around, but you never bothered to define it. This is not a term commonly used by scientists, the most common use is as an ill-defined creationist smear defigned to confuse science and religion and sbstitute personal attacks on Charles Darwin for actual arguments. But you claim that you AREN’T a creationist. You also claim you believe in evolution but not “Darwinism”, without explaining the difference. What, if anything, is the difference? Don’t tell us to look it up, there’s so much equivocation on this word that no dictionary is of any use. YOU tell us what you mean. If you mean anything at all, it should be easy.

    Why would “George” fail to define this term, even when asked? Does it have any meaning at all? Could it be he himself does not know what it means? Or does he just want to be able to slip around and use whatever definition he finds convenient at the time?

    From talk origins: Not perfect but usable for this conversation

    1. Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant or recently created nor perpetually cycling, but rather is steadily changing, and that organisms are transformed in time. 2. Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth. 3. Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by “budding”, that is, by the establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species. 4. Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type. 5. Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.

    Now be civil and tell he how you define MET. (And I do not thin MET is a term that scientsts use much I think the proper term is the synthetic theory of evolution)

    David Fickett-Wilbar:

    I understand the frustration with the postings of trolls, and of the urge to stop feeding them. Certainly there is a point beyond which they lose all usefulness.

    However, there is an extent to which they are useful. I am a non-scientist, with my main field being fuzzy studies (with concentrations in religion and linguistics), and I have learned a lot from the responses to trolls. My education in biology is spotty, consisting mostly of websites and popularizing books such as those of Gould and Dawkins. As a result, some of the more technical threads go completely over my head, and I find myself hearing wah, wah wah, like the teachers on Peanuts. In all fairness, I suggest that those who are disappointed in that read some linguistics – I suggest “Hittite and the Indo-European Verb” – and see how long it is before wah wah wah kicks in.

    The point is, when trolls are encountered the arguments quickly come down to a level I can understand. After all, trolls are almost by definition ignorant of much of the evidence for evoloution, so the most important of it must be explained in very simple terms. Just what is suited for me.

    So even though I think this troll thread has run its course, please don’t automatically stop once trollness has been determined. Those of us who lurk learn from troll-fighting.

    I find that Darwinists like write off those with whom they cannot foist ignorant beliefs on a ‘trolls’ It relieves them from having show evidence for their theory. It is common lowly tactic but it is one tool that Darwinists and use without having to use much brainpower or research.

    OK let see that evidence for Darwinism! Cant wait to see it!

    (and dont just parrot talkorigins. lets see if you can form your own phrases)

    “You also claim you believe in evolution but not “Darwinism”, without explaining the difference.”

    I assumed that most people with a junior high or greater education would know the difference.

    This is a real failure of our education system when someone can say the above. I would have hope this would have been explained in junior high. Not knowing these fundamentals of biology shows how bad our education system is

    Oh for goodness sake, this has just turned into a troll-fest. I’m going to turn off the comments now.

    Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 10, column 1, byte 261 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.8.8/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

    Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 7, column 1, byte 237 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.8.8/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

    Ian Musgrave:

    Oh for goodness sake, this has just turned into a troll-fest. I’m going to turn off the comments now.

    No answers? Did not think so

    George, I asked you to define what YOU mean when you refer to “Darwinism”. Instead, you gave a definition that you yourself claim is “not perfect but usable for this conversation”.

    But I guess that’s the best that can be expected for now, so let’s take a look at it. The definition includes five points, but you didn’t say which point makes “Darwinism” “the belief that has little validation”. (your own words, if you remember)

    Earlier in this thread, you claimed to believe in evolution but not “Darwinism”. You did not explain the difference, then or now.

    So, which part of “Darwinism”, as you defined it, do you have a problem with?

    Do you reject “evolution as such”? You said you didn’t. But concern trolling and dishonesty are common among creationists.

    Is it “common descent” that’s causing your hangups? Are you a baraminologist or something?

    Could it be “Multiplication of species”? Do you not believe it is possible for one species to develop from another (an event that has been directly observed)?

    Is your objection to “Gradualism”?

    Do you not like “Natural Selection”?

    Or is your problem with “Darwinism” something that is not mentioned anywhere in the defintion you gave? In which case, you would be arguing against a definition that exists only in your imagination.

    george:

    phantomreader42:

    mpclavan: What on earth do you mean by “Darwinism?” Please define it. I gave specific responses to your querry, parsing out the two possible meanings that you seemed to allude to. Now you insult me because I didn’t somehow answer some definition to you have decided on in your mind. Define it precisely.

    In the two hours since this was posted, “George” has found the time to post several insults. He’s even found the time to demand a definition of MET (acronym for Modern Evolutionary Theory, IIRC). But he has not found the time to answer the question.

    So, George, let’s try this again. What, if anything, does the word “Darwinism” mean? You keep throwing it around, but you never bothered to define it. This is not a term commonly used by scientists, the most common use is as an ill-defined creationist smear defigned to confuse science and religion and sbstitute personal attacks on Charles Darwin for actual arguments. But you claim that you AREN’T a creationist. You also claim you believe in evolution but not “Darwinism”, without explaining the difference. What, if anything, is the difference? Don’t tell us to look it up, there’s so much equivocation on this word that no dictionary is of any use. YOU tell us what you mean. If you mean anything at all, it should be easy.

    Why would “George” fail to define this term, even when asked? Does it have any meaning at all? Could it be he himself does not know what it means? Or does he just want to be able to slip around and use whatever definition he finds convenient at the time?

    From talk origins: Not perfect but usable for this conversation

    1. Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant or recently created nor perpetually cycling, but rather is steadily changing, and that organisms are transformed in time. 2. Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth. 3. Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by “budding”, that is, by the establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species. 4. Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type. 5. Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.

    Now be civil and tell he how you define MET. (And I do not thin MET is a term that scientsts use much I think the proper term is the synthetic theory of evolution)

    I’m really not the person to define MET for you. It was Glen Davidson’s term, and I’ve only seen it here. I’m not even entirely sure I’ve got the acronym right. I just found it a tad hypocritical of you to demand a definition from someone else while failing to define your OWN terms.

    YOU were the one denouncing “Darwinism”, but you have not explained what your problem is with it. Try. How is “Darwinism” distinct in your mind from “the synthetic theory of evolution”? Why do you find the former lacking in validation but not the latter?

    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on March 3, 2008 1:46 AM.

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