Cornelius Hunter: Intellectually Dishonest? Or Uninquisitive? Or Both?

cgh_thylacineCornelius Hunter has a post up at his blog bashing evolution in connection with a recent paper on the evolution of Water Striders. It seems Hunter is upset because the research indicates that:

As usual the story is more complicated than evolution would have it. A regulatory gene that helps in the development of the water strider has opposite effects in different limbs, lengthening some and shortening others.

But:

Incredibly, evolutionists were quick to add their gratuitous, scientifically meaningless, interpretation of the findings. As one evolutionist put it:

Many have marveled at the ability of water striders to walk on water, and we are excited to have discovered the gene that has affected this evolutionary change.

Makes it sound like some poor developmental biologists, operating in a perfect theoretical vacuum, did some interesting research that the evil evolutionists were quick to appropriate for their own nefarious purposes. Hunter is talking about a recent press release at Science Daily and if you wander over you find that the quote came from an evil evolutionist named Locke Rowe.

The paper Science Daily mentions is Evolution of a Novel Appendage Ground Plan in Water Striders Is Driven by Changes in the Hox Gene Ultrabithorax. PLoS Genet 5(7): e1000583. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000583 by Khila A, Abouheif E, Rowe L . L. Rowe? Isn’t that that evil evolutionist that that appropriated the results and added his gratuitous, scientifically meaningless, interpretation of the findings?

So, basically, Hunter is complaining because one of the coauthors of the paper gave his interpretation of the results. Truly, evolutionists have no shame. I’ll bet Rowe even debased science by actually performing some of the experiments himself! He is the lead researcher on the team. I’ll bet all that evolution stuff was a post hoc explanation and evolution played no role in the research. From the first paragraph:

he diverse appendage morphologies found in insects constitute an important model for studying the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying morphological novelties [1]–[3]. Water striders are derived semi-aquatic bugs (Hemiptera, Gerromorphae, Gerridae), which possess a remarkable diversity of leg lengths and shapes among species and between sexes. We have a good understanding of the evolutionary forces that shape this diversity, including both adaptation to locomotion on the water surface [4],[5], and adaptations associated with mating [6],[7]. The combination of a striking diversity and an understanding of the forces shaping this diversity suggest that water striders provide an important context for understanding the developmental genetic basis of appendage diversification. Yet, there have been no developmental genetic studies of this group. Here we investigate the mechanisms underlying the distinctive appendage size ground plan in water striders. In most insects, the hind-legs (L3) are longer than the mid-legs (L2) and forelegs (L1), representing an L3>L2>L1 appendage size ground plan (Figure 1). Water striders have evolved a novel appendage plan where L2 are longer than L3 (L2>L3>L1; Figure 1). This ground plan has most likely evolved as a consequence of adapting to locomotion on the water surface [4]. L2 are disproportionately elongated and function as oars for propulsion, while L3 are shorter and function as rudders [7],[8]. L1 are the shortest among the three pairs, functioning primarily in prey handling.

And from the conclusion:

Although most insects possess the common L3>L2>L1 plan, multiple independent transitions to L2>L3>L1 appear to have occurred in the Veliidae, a group that is basal to the Gerridae [4],[35] (Figure 1). These transitions may have involved repeated parallel changes in the expression and function of Ubx to elongate L2 and shorten L3. It is only in the derived Gerridae where the L2>L3>L1 plan becomes a general feature, which may suggest that this ground plan has been a key adaptation during the evolution of this group [4],[35]. Future studies on semi-aquatic bugs should focus on whether transitions to the derived appendage ground plan are generally associated with parallel changes in Ubx expression and function, as well as on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the opposite effect of Ubx in L2 compared to L3.

So, far from being a gratuitous afterthought the evolutionary aspects were central to the research. Research which was then summarized accurately by the lead researcher. This is opposite to the picture presented by Hunter and one has to wonder wether this is a result of the lack of curiosity on Hunter’s part or because of intellectual dishonesty – especially because a few minutes research would have shown Hunter exactly how wrong his portrayal was. Rowe was clearly identified as the lead researcher, yet Hunter portrays one of his statements as if it came from someone rushing in to try and misappropriate the work. Furthermore it would have taken a few minutes to download the paper from PLoS Genetics (which is open access, so there is no excuse not to) and see that resolving an evolutionary question is central to the purpose of the paper.

Literature Cited

Khila A, Abouheif E, Rowe L, 2009 Evolution of a Novel Appendage Ground Plan in Water Striders Is Driven by Changes in the Hox Gene Ultrabithorax. PLoS Genet 5(7)

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6 Responses

  1. Furthering his credibility, Hunter includes “Darwiniana” in his blogroll. Denyse O is painful enough to read.

    The frustrating part of his post is that he really doesn’t even have the courtesy to explain the relationship between his complaint and his analogy about robots in car factories. We’re just supposed to laugh along with him so that nobody knows that we don’t get the joke.

    “Of course, Cornelius, how could the evolutionists be so stupid! (See, Cornelius, I get the joke, too. I think. What was it?)”

  2. I’ll bet Rowe even debased science by actually performing some of the experiments himself!

    A PI actually doing experiments? That would debase science. And his technicians, students and post-docs should all be fired for allowing him into the lab.

    Proper decorum must be maintained.

  3. Bob O’H – I think he had special permission from the Darwinian Orthodoxy!

    Mike – Well, yeah, but I was just focussing on the dishonest way he used that quote.

  4. I was referring to his post, not yours. He seems to be an intellectual lightweight to me, and I would never accuse you of that.

    I read some of his other stuff and they lack any substance, but are written in a style that reeks of self-referential wisdom.

  5. Sorry, Mike, I was unclear. I was actually agreeing with your assesment of Hunter.

  6. Hunter is talking about a recent press release at Science Daily

    One wonders if Hunter bothers to read any papers, or if he just reads the press releases. He has done this before. Shallow is as shallow does.

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