Gill slits, and Adam and Eve

| 184 Comments

Troy Britain at Playing Chess with Pigeons does an exceedingly thorough job on creationist and IDist blather about gill slits in embryology, and in the process provides some nice historical context. Recommended.

And for the “ID isn’t religious” crowd out there, IDists Ann Gauger and Douglas Axe of the Disco ‘Tute’s Biologic Institute, along with the DI’s attack gerbil Casey Luskin, have a new book called Science and Human Origins coming out in which they “…debunk recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.” An intelligent design argument for a literal Adam and Eve, anyone? The Discovery Institute is becoming more and more overtly creationist, with apologetics overwhelming any scientific aspirations it might once have had. And after all, what do those dumb population geneticists know?

184 Comments

From the first link:

“Charles Darwin once said that he thought that the evidence from the comparative anatomy of embryos is “by far the strongest single class of facts” in favor of common descent (Darwin, 1860) and while it has since been eclipsed by genetics, it remains one of most compelling subsets of evidence for evolution. And perhaps the single most striking detail of the comparative embryology in vertebrates, are the structures colloquially known as “gill slits”.”

So when Robert shows up at 4 AM and trashes up the thread with a bunch of denialist nonsense, he won’t even have to click on the link to get this quote. All he will be able to do is to claim that embryology is not biology. Good luck with that.

Reality is so mean, so discourteous to creationism, by putting out there a host of evidences from the sequence of fossils necessary if evolution to have occurred, embryology, genomics, wonderful transitional forms, and (related) morphology, that there is nothing left to do but to shun that anti-god bigot.

Nothing, including reality, deserves any consideration if it is so impolite to pious Bible thumpers.

Glen Davidson

Thanks Richard!

My pleasure. That was a great job.

Troy Britain said:

Thanks Richard!

By gum, Richard, that DI book is even worse than I thought. According to that Amazon.com link, “Evidence for a purely Darwinian account of human origins is supposed to be overwhelming. But is it? In this provocative book, three scientists challenge the claim that undirected natural selection is capable of building a human being, critically assess fossil and genetic evidence that human beings share a common ancestor with apes, and debunk recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.”

So not only are they arguing that all humans descended from one couple, they’re also denying (sorry, “critically assessing”) that humans and apes had a common ancestor. This is getting pretty close to unapologetic literalist YEC.

Glenn Branch has pointed out a positive review of the new DI Gauger-Axe-Luskin book in a Seventh Day Adventist magazine here. It summarizes the chapters, and only one seems to be about Adam and Eve, most are about human/chimp unrelatedness.

Joe F.: It summarizes the chapters…most are about human/chimp unrelatedness.

Has anyone told Behe?

A big read here but gills conveys a image. It means and was meant to persuade people that having gills in embryo of all creatures is evidence of a early primitive stage we all come from. Creationists say they are not gills from a living early ancestor but a needed operation and application for the unique case of embryonic development. Not gills!

Its not the same as Kiwi buds and marine mammals. they actually have these vestigial bits and pieces, and very rare examples of this in nature or fossil, in adult life. These gills are not in adult life when the body/DNA has reached its completion in making the creature. Not a accurate analogy. Atrophy of these bits is not the same as simple development of a embryo in a special stage of growth. It was plain wrong guessing for Darwin to persuade himself or others we all evolved up from gill things and presto here is the evidence for that early stage in our growth from conception. its a line of reasoning only anyways and not based on scientific evidence however its just a useless idea from long ago . Creationists make a good point about this. If evolutionists insist gills in early growth are evidence of leftovers from our ancestors then stick to it. The idea seems to be losing breath.

You didn’t read the article very carefully, did you, Byers? Because Troy Britain explained numerous times during the article that the “gill slits” are never functional gills in most chordates. (Most embryologists would prefer to use the term pharyngeal arches rather than gill slits or branchial arches for this reason.) What’s more, the pharyngeal arches don’t “atrophy” – in humans they develop into important anatomical structures such as the facial muscles, larynx, jaw bones, and so on. If these arches “atrophied”, as you claim, then you would not be able to speak, hear, eat, or move your face, you would not be able to regulate your calcium metabolism, and you’d have no arteries to your brain or lungs.

Byers, you didn’t read the bit in the article which showed that no scientist before or after Darwin thought that these were gills, did you? All bar one, that is - and he was an ardent creationist!

Scientists before Darwin thought that these were structures like those that developed into gills in fish, and couldn’t explain why they were there in reptiles, mammals and birds. Darwin explained why.

The rest of your post illustrates your shambolic thought processes as well as demonstrating your incoherent prose. Those structures, like the vestigial remnants of the Kiwi’s wings, are not “analogies”. They are facts to be explained - and creationism does not explain them, but evolution does. They are “leftovers” from ancestors, and your denial is merely further demonstration of your ignorance and superstition.

Is the pressing question “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?” answered in either of these publications?

Self-refutin’ Robert

“It’s a line of reasoning only anyways and not based on scientific evidence”.

You do love incanting this phrase, or a version thereof. You have no idea what it means or how to apply it, but you do seem to cling on to it as if it were a magical charm or a sorceror’s trick that can somehow, magically, settle an argument. Where did you get it from? Morris and Whitcomb? Genesis?

That said, you can invoke this word-magic all you want, insist on it all you want, but it has no efficacy - let’s face it, there are millions of scientists and researchers around the world doing things that you claim are in error, based on lines of reasoning and no scientific evidence, and yet they manage to accrue actual knowledge of the world and apply it successfully. By contrast, the “scientists” working according to the authority of YECCH are a hopeless shambles that can’t actually do anything, other than obtain monies by fraudulent deception.

Dave Luckett said:

Byers, you didn’t read the bit in the article which showed that no scientist before or after Darwin thought that these were gills, did you? All bar one, that is - and he was an ardent creationist!

What did you expect for an invincibly stupid Idiot For Jesus, like Robert Byers, to do? Read the article using elementary school-level reading comprehension skills?

Chris Lawson said: So not only are they arguing that all humans descended from one couple, they’re also denying (sorry, “critically assessing”) that humans and apes had a common ancestor. This is getting pretty close to unapologetic literalist YEC.

Yes, this is pretty much just rewarmed Creation Science: take biblical claims, package them separately from the bible as statements about the world, and say you merely want to tell students the scientific evidence for these claims. What, they happen to correspond with our reading of the bible? Pure coincidence!! Nothing to see here!

Of the 5 Creation science propositions presented in 1982 in McLean vs Arkansas, this book appears to repeat McLean’s #2, #3, and #4. Only the Adam and Eve claim is new.

Some relevant quotes from McLean:

The facts that creation science is inspired by the Book of Genesis and that Section 4(a) is consistent with a literal interpretation of Genesis leave no doubt that a major effect of the Act is the advancement of particular religious beliefs. [end of Section III]

Section 4(a)(2), relating to the “insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism,” is an incomplete negative generalization directed at the theory of evolution.

Section 4(a)(3) which describes “changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals” fails to conform to the essential characteristics of science for several reasons. First, there is no scientific definition of “kinds” and none of the witnesses was able to point to any scientific authority which recognized the term or knew how many “kinds” existed. One defense witness suggested there may may be 100 to 10,000 different “kinds.” Another believes there were “about 10,000, give or take a few thousand.” Second, the assertion appears to be an effort to establish outer limits of changes within species. There is no scientific explanation for these limits which is guided by natural law and the limitations, whatever they are, cannot be explained by natural law.

The statement in 4(a)(4) of “separate ancestry of man and apes” is a bald assertion. It explains nothing and refers to no scientific fact or theory (26).

And lastly:

The methodology employed by creationists is another factor which is indicative that their work is not science. A scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist, and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory.

The creationists’ methods do not take data, weigh it against the opposing scientific data, and thereafter reach the conclusions stated in Section 4(a). Instead, they take the literal wording of the Book of Genesis and attempt to find scientific support for it.

…The Court would never criticize or discredit any person’s testimony based on his or her religious beliefs. While anybody is free to approach a scientific inquiry in any fashion they choose, they cannot properly describe the methodology as scientific, if they start with the conclusion and refuse to change it regardless of the evidence developed during the course of the investigation.

Robert Byers said:

A big read here but gills conveys a image. It means and was meant to persuade people that having gills in embryo of all creatures is evidence of a early primitive stage we all come from. Creationists say they are not gills from a living early ancestor but a needed operation and application for the unique case of embryonic development. Not gills!

Its not the same as Kiwi buds and marine mammals. they actually have these vestigial bits and pieces, and very rare examples of this in nature or fossil, in adult life. These gills are not in adult life when the body/DNA has reached its completion in making the creature. Not a accurate analogy. Atrophy of these bits is not the same as simple development of a embryo in a special stage of growth. It was plain wrong guessing for Darwin to persuade himself or others we all evolved up from gill things and presto here is the evidence for that early stage in our growth from conception. its a line of reasoning only anyways and not based on scientific evidence however its just a useless idea from long ago . Creationists make a good point about this. If evolutionists insist gills in early growth are evidence of leftovers from our ancestors then stick to it. The idea seems to be losing breath.

Robert,

Please explain the temporal/spatial expression of the hox genes in the vertebrate pharyngeal arches. After you have demonstrated that you understand the developmental biology involved, then maybe someone will care to discuss your misconceptions. It won’t be me, but maybe someone will try.

Anyway, you can now drop the routine of claiming that evolution is based solely on geology. You were wrong, admit it. Your brain is atomic and unproven.

I believe that Ken Miller is working on a book on human origins.

One doesn’t even have to read the book to tell it’s a pile of doggie poo written by three (?) scientists!

Axe and Gauger are known ID creationists at the Dishonesty Institute’s faux research lab that doesn’t produce any research results whatsoever, and of which “Luskin is research coordinator at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.”

But Luskin’s credentials are the funniest of all. “He earned his M.S. in earth sciences from the University of California, San Diego, and CONDUCTED GEOLOGICAL RESEARCH at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography.” Yes, he was a graduate student, yes, his “research” consisted of the lab work required of all graduate students, and yes, he did manage to get his name on one published paper as a grad student contributor, but not as the author of the paper (his grad school advisor’s paper), AND THAT WAS IT. So much for Luskin’s research career! But Luskin continues to parade around his inflated, phoney credentials and call himself a “scientist.” Obviously Amazon does not verify the credentials of the authors very well.

Troy Britain said:

Joe F.: It summarizes the chapters…most are about human/chimp unrelatedness.

Has anyone told Behe?

The DI has been conducting a big tent scam since the beginning, and has never really tried to hide it. So they have Behe’s blessing, and he has theirs.

Note the wording: “debunk recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.” Nowhere do you see “support recent claims that the human race did start from an original couple that did not have biological ancestors. And I predict that you will not see it in the book either. Because they know they can’t support that. But they don’t need to, because their word games will (1) convince committed deniers of common descent that they’re right, and (2) give evolution deniers who still find common descent convincing (or are unsure) more reassurance that evolution is dead, dying, falsified or unfalsifiable.

This is just another case of the old “same evidence different conclusions” scam. Sure these “scientists” can “debunk” anything they like. After all, they haven’t got any new data and they haven’t earned the right to analyze anyone any existing data. They also haven’t got the background, training or knowledge in the relevant fields to have an expert opinion. So exactly why should anyone accept their pronouncements over the real experts? Exactly why should one even consider a popular book compared to real scientific journals?

Anyone got a reference for the “recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.” Anyone know if the book discusses all of the evidence such as mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome markers, micro satellites, SINE insertions, etc. Or is it just an inbreeding depression, genetic diversity, population genetics kind of argument?

Maybe those wacky DI folks are counting on people confusing/conflating biblical Eve with mitochondrial Eve. The IDea is to keep doubt alive, after all.

DS asked: Anyone got a reference for the “recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.” Anyone know if the book discusses all of the evidence such as mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome markers, micro satellites, SINE insertions, etc. Or is it just an inbreeding depression, genetic diversity, population genetics kind of argument?

The statement is probably referring to this peer-reviewed publication:

Dennis Venema, “Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 62, Number 3, September 2010. link

Joe Felsenstein said:

Glenn Branch has pointed out a positive review of the new DI Gauger-Axe-Luskin book in a Seventh Day Adventist magazine here. It summarizes the chapters, and only one seems to be about Adam and Eve, most are about human/chimp unrelatedness.

Based on the review, I see that DI has decided to go with the “we won’t accept evolution until you describe and find every intermediate between earlier hominids and humans” defense. They are literally asking for scientists to come up with a confirmable, historical record of exactly which mutations happened when.

Ah, precious false dichotomy, how we loves you. Bad hobbitses must prove their idea to the most minute detail, otherwise we win.

Carl Drews said: The statement is probably referring to this peer-reviewed publication:

Dennis Venema, “Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 62, Number 3, September 2010. link

My bet is that Venema will review the book on BioLogos, and will eviscerate it. He’s not shy about calling out IDist nonsense.

Based on the review, I see that DI has decided to go with the “we won’t accept evolution until you describe and find every intermediate between earlier hominids and humans” defense. They are literally asking for scientists to come up with a confirmable, historical record of exactly which mutations happened when.

It’s a lie anyway. If we did that, they would just move the goalposts. Creationist goalposts are on wheels and motorized because they move them so often. I suppose they would then ask for names and social security numbers of every intermediate.

If they had the same amount of evidence for their religion and for evolution, we would have videotapes of the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus would show up on TV talk shows and talk about them and how things are going in heaven and hell.

Jesus isn’t dead. He is god, the most powerful being in his universe. Such a trivial task would be very easy inasmuch as a grade schooler could do it.

Carl Drews said:

DS asked: Anyone got a reference for the “recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.” Anyone know if the book discusses all of the evidence such as mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome markers, micro satellites, SINE insertions, etc. Or is it just an inbreeding depression, genetic diversity, population genetics kind of argument?

The statement is probably referring to this peer-reviewed publication:

Dennis Venema, “Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 62, Number 3, September 2010. link

Thanks for the link Carl.

From the Venema paper:

“Recent progress in examining genetic diversity solely within our species has provided a comple- mentary means to estimate our ancestral effective population size, using assumptions independent of those used for cross-species, comparative-genomics approaches.”

So Robert was wrong again. There are not two different forces operating. SNP variation and measures of linkage disequilibrium, well documented at the intraspecific and population levels, are sufficient to falsify creationist scenarios. And the comparison of complete genomes provides the opportunity to accurately estimate ancestral population sizes. These were found to be in the range of 8 - 10 thousand for humans.

This is biology pure and simple. There is nothing atomic about. There is nothing unproven about it. There are not two factors. The evidence comes from comparative genomics that allows for examination of homology, synteny and pesudogenes. It has nothing to do with phenotype or body form or anything else. It is strong and compel;ling evidence of common ancestry.

Now if Robert can explain linkage disequilibrium and its relation to human SNP analysis, then maybe someone will care about his opinion. Same for any other creationist. How in the world could they write and entire book to trying to misrepresent this tremendous research? It would have been nice if at least one of them were a geneticist or population geneticist.

“The Discovery Institute is becoming more and more overtly creationist, with apologetics overwhelming any scientific aspirations it might once have had. “

As if it could be more overtly creationist

I was unaware of the “Discovery Institute Press.” Looks like the Dishonesty Institute has set up their own little publishing function to circumvent any (all) science publishers who reject their books as pseudoscience and assign them to the religious side of their publishing houses. Now the DI can claim their books are science books (reviewed and raved by religious reviewers of course).

DavidK said:

I was unaware of the “Discovery Institute Press.” Looks like the Dishonesty Institute has set up their own little publishing function to circumvent any (all) science publishers who reject their books as pseudoscience and assign them to the religious side of their publishing houses. Now the DI can claim their books are science books (reviewed and raved by religious reviewers of course).

But that’s just because there is horrific persecution of fictional causes in science, coupled with unfair demands for “evidence.”

How could they possibly cope with the viciousness that bans fictional explanations and requires evidence?

Glen Davidson

Chris Lawson said:

You didn’t read the article very carefully, did you, Byers? Because Troy Britain explained numerous times during the article that the “gill slits” are never functional gills in most chordates. (Most embryologists would prefer to use the term pharyngeal arches rather than gill slits or branchial arches for this reason.) What’s more, the pharyngeal arches don’t “atrophy” – in humans they develop into important anatomical structures such as the facial muscles, larynx, jaw bones, and so on. If these arches “atrophied”, as you claim, then you would not be able to speak, hear, eat, or move your face, you would not be able to regulate your calcium metabolism, and you’d have no arteries to your brain or lungs.

Yes the ‘gills” don’t atrophy because they are not or ever were gills. I said the kiwi etc atrophied. Darwin did see the gills as remnants pictures of a previous anatomical past. This is not true and so creationists rightly insist on this. Thats the point.

DS said:

i don’t want to believe it so it isn’t true and anyone who says it is is wrong i don’t need any evidence i believe it so it must be true so there is no evidence that shows it is not true just bad reasoning i claim there is a barrier so there must be even if i have no evidence and you can’t prove there isn’t and even if you can i can ignore anything i don’t like or just pretend to not understand it or actually not understand it i can do this for years at a time without ever learning anything so everyone will realize that logic reason and evidence is worthless in the face of invincible willful ignorance there is a barrier in my brain and there is nothing you can do about it i remain impervious to reality and you say there is no barrier

Sorry, DS. That’s a reasonable effort, but just pulling an ee cummings isn’t sufficient. The text it still way too easy to read. The subjects and verbs mostly agree, and you have actual noun phrases in there. Though I do like some of the obvious run-ons. You need some randomly capitalized letters, random misspellings, and random homonyms and homophones. I’ve seen you do better. :-)

Other than that, I’d give the effort a B-.

Scott F said:

DS said:

i don’t want to believe it so it isn’t true and anyone who says it is is wrong i don’t need any evidence i believe it so it must be true so there is no evidence that shows it is not true just bad reasoning i claim there is a barrier so there must be even if i have no evidence and you can’t prove there isn’t and even if you can i can ignore anything i don’t like or just pretend to not understand it or actually not understand it i can do this for years at a time without ever learning anything so everyone will realize that logic reason and evidence is worthless in the face of invincible willful ignorance there is a barrier in my brain and there is nothing you can do about it i remain impervious to reality and you say there is no barrier

Sorry, DS. That’s a reasonable effort, but just pulling an ee cummings isn’t sufficient. The text it still way too easy to read. The subjects and verbs mostly agree, and you have actual noun phrases in there. Though I do like some of the obvious run-ons. You need some randomly capitalized letters, random misspellings, and random homonyms and homophones. I’ve seen you do better. :-)

Other than that, I’d give the effort a B-.

Thanks for the critique. I’ll try to not try harder.

DS said:

Scott F said:

Sorry, DS. That’s a reasonable effort, but just pulling an ee cummings isn’t sufficient. The text it still way too easy to read. The subjects and verbs mostly agree, and you have actual noun phrases in there. Though I do like some of the obvious run-ons. You need some randomly capitalized letters, random misspellings, and random homonyms and homophones. I’ve seen you do better. :-)

Other than that, I’d give the effort a B-.

Thanks for the critique. I’ll try to not try harder.

That’s the spirit! Just keep working on not trying, and eventually you’ll achieve complete incoherence. :-)

There is no try. There is do, or do not. :p

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