Still more fun: Douglas Axe's Crocoduck

In addition to being the bananaman, Ray Comfort is the co-popularizer of the crocoduck. Comfort believes that because modern biology shows that birds are descended from theropod ancestors, there must be a transitional form between extant birds and extant reptiles; hence a half-crocodile, half-duck. Here’s the video in which Comfort’s ex-child actor sidekick Kirk Cameron made that claim.

That general false claim–the claim that evolution predicts that there must be an evolutionary pathway directly linking two extant organisms or extant biological structures–is not unique to creationist loons, though. Doug Axe has posted a response to Paul McBride’s review of “Science and Human Origins” on ENV, and has disabled comments on his post. I won’t elaborate, but will note that an amusing part of Axe’s response is this:

Ann [Gauger] and I conducted experiments to find out how many changes would have to occur in a particular enzyme X in order for it to begin performing the function of another enzyme, Y. We found that they are too numerous for unguided evolution to have accomplished this transformation, even with the benefits of a massive bacterial population and billions of years. Having carefully made the case that our chosen X and Y are appropriate for the aims of our study, we think this result has catastrophic implications for Darwinism.

As has been shown, though, the research that Axe cites, The Evolutionary Accessibility of New Enzymes Functions: A Case Study from the Biotin Pathway, does not test an evolutionary hypothesis. By studying whether one extant enzyme in a family of enzymes could have evolved from another extant enzyme in the same family, when the evolutionary account is actually that both evolved from a common ancestor, Gauger and Axe are making precisely the same error that Comfort and Cameron made: the notion that “common descent” means that related extant populations evolved from each other, rather than from a common ancestral population. That about equivalent to claiming that common descent means that I am descended from my cousin Keith.

Even young-earth creationist biochemist Todd Wood rebutted that particular claim more than a year ago. Wood wrote

Instead of ancestral reconstruction, Gauger and Axe focused directly on converting an existing enzyme into another existing enzyme. That left me scratching my head, since no evolutionary biologist would propose that an extant enzyme evolved directly into another extant enzyme. So they’re testing a model that no one would take seriously? Hmmm…

Axe and Gauger quite simply didn’t test an evolutionary hypothesis in the paper Axe cited, but Axe continues to claim that it says something about the limits of evolution. But when even an honest young-earth creationist sees the error, persisting in it is no more than perverse. Axe is doing the equivalent of waving Ray Comfort’s crocoduck over his head, hollering “Evolution couldn’t do it!” Maybe Ray will have an opening in his ministry for Axe when the BioLogic Institute sinks beneath the waves.