Discovery Institute vs Geologist

This is really amusing. Especially this bit:

I only hope the materialist, reductionist scales fall off your eyes one day. Until then, I feel sorry for your students.

(material omitted – afarensis)

The “scales falling off the eyes” bit is apparently derived from the Bible. I’ve only heard that phrase once previously, when speaking with a devout Christian friend. It’s a curious tactic for him to employ. I certainly can’t say it compelled me: basically it means that someone was deluded or wrong, and that a new piece of information shifts their perspective fundamentally.

They just can’t keep religion out of their discourse, no matter how hard they try to deny the connection between Christianity and ID. Check out the rest of the post.

Hat Tip: Ptaylor


When The Cat Is Away…

I haven’t been able to do much blogging because Mrs. afarensis has been doing work from home in the evenings (which ended Friday – she will be returning to her office Monday allowing me to actually write some posts). While this was occurring Dr. Ben Carson popped up in the news for criticizing President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast. Which caused a flurry of searches for info about Carson and resulted in a lot of hits for the post I wrote on his views on evolution. Which leads me to ask two things. First, What is it about neurosurgeons and pseudoscientific bullshit? Second, what is it about neurosurgeons that cause them to let their inner right wing nutjob loose on the rest of the world? Actually, I have a third, what is it about a middle of the road politician like Obama that sends right wing nutjobs into absolute paroxysms of insanity (don’t answer, I know the answer to this one)?

Mutations That Affect Phenotype

Pardon the awkward title of this post. What I would like to do in this post is revisit something I mentioned in the first part of my review of Science and Human Origins in that post I mentioned a paper by Jianzhi Zhang called “Parallel Functional Changes in the Digestive RNases of Ruminants and Colobines by Divergent Amino Acid Substitutions.” The paper looked at mutations in the pancreatic RnNase of ruminants and colobines and found nine mutations in colobine RNase and five -different- mutations in ruminant RNase. The fact that Zhang found fourteen different mutations that affected pancreatic in much the same way prompted Zhang to come up with an estimate of how many different mutations can affect the function of the Rnase. He concluded that this number was somewhere between 16-44. So, of those 16-44 theoretical mutations 14 had been identified.

I have found a more graphic example to illustrate the point. The picture below illustrates the Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R)

(Picture Source)

The picture is self explanatory. The black colored dots are mutations that cause melanism, the green dots are mutations linked to coat color changes in rock pocket mice, the red are mutations that cause red fur or hair, the blue are mutations that cause red hair in humans and possibly melanism in other species. Not shown are the mutations in the -COOH that affect coat color in retrievers and other dogs.

The point is that there are many ways to a new function and to say that unless a given specified pathway is followed evolution can’t happen is clearly nonsense.

Majerus and Mundy (2003) Mammalian melanism: natural selection in black and white. TRENDS in Genetics: 19(11)585-588
Zhang (2003) Parallel Functional Changes in the Digestive RNases of Ruminants and Colobines by Divergent Amino Acid Substitutions. Molecular Biology and Evolution 20(8):1310-1317


Book Review: Science and Human Origins – Chapter One: Part One

This little book is one of a class that was more common twenty years ago, when any acute literary critic thought he could demolish Darwin. Mr. Syme has, however, the advantage of having read some of the best works both for and against Darwinism, and is thus able to support his views by quoting writers of eminence. He begins boldly. In the table of contents of the first chapter we find such headings as, “A fatal admission—Darwin’s definition misleading—Refutes his own theory.” But when we look for the proof of these statements we find they rest on misconception, misrepresentation, or misquotation. A few examples will show that this is the case. – Alfred Russel Wallace 1891. Another darwinian critic. Nature 43 (1119): 529-530.

The above quote from Alfred Russel Wallace comes from his review of On the Modification of Organisms by David Syme. As the quote shows, criticizing Darwin as been a cottage industry since on the Origin of Species was published in 1859. As the above quote also shows, the reliance on misconception, misrepresentation, and misquotation has been a standard tactic in the arsenal of creationists for over one hundred years. As we will see below (and in future posts), the latest entry, Science and Human Origins, in the cottage industry continues this illustrious tradition.

Science and Human Origins was written by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. Science and Human Origins was published by the Discovery Institute earlier this year and created quite ruckus in the science blogosphere when it did. You can see this post (and the links therein) for additional details. Originally I was just going to review the section on fossils but have decided to review the entire book – or at least those parts I feel competent to deal with. This post looks at chapter one. Continue reading


Luskin On Neanderthals And A Johanson Redux

image Continue reading


Luskin, Science and Human Origins, and Dik-Dik Feces

The Discovery Institute recently published a book entitled Science and Human Origins that gives the ID take on human evolution. The book is authored by Douglas Axe, Anne Gauger (Both of the Biologic Institute), and Casey Luskin (from the Discovery Institute) From the book description at Amazon:

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.

The book was reviewed in five parts by Paul McBride (starting here). This review created some defensive posts from the folks that created the book, but the dik-dik feces hit the fan when Carl Zimmer asked a simple question (be sure to read all four parts). Nick Matzke captured some of the fun over at The Panda’s Thumb. What caught my attention were the comments referring to the fossil record of human evolution, which prompted a defensive post by Luskin in which he promised to discuss the issue further in future posts. In the meantime he has excerpted several sections of his chapter in the book. In this post I will look at this excerpt. Note, I have ordered the book and will be reviewing Luskin’s chapter on paleoanthropology as soon as it has arrived and I have had a chance to read it. If this excerpt is any example, however, i will have to set my expectations pretty low. Continue reading


The Demise Of The University Of Missouri Press: A Sign Of The Anti-Intellectual Times

I just found out, via NPR that the president of the University of Missouri has decided to kill off the University of Missouri Press, which sounds like a pretty idiotic thing to do if you ask me. Apparently, it will cost $400,000 to keep the press open, but the university needs that money to help defray the costs of the athletic departments transition to the SEC so the academic side of the university’s mission is getting screwed. Because, you know, college athletics is a multi-billion dollar industry that pays its employees (student-athletes) diddly squat for their revenue producing labor. Come to think of it I guess the student athletes are getting screwed too, but that is another issue…

At any rate, if you would like to help save the University of Missouri Press there is a Facebook page where you can learn more.