Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Another IDiot Book: Science and Human Origins

The IDiots at Disco (Discovery Institute) have published another book. This time the authors are Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. Gauger and Axe are scientists so this book is supposed to be about science. Unfortunately, Casey Luskin is a lawyer which pretty much negates the authority of Gauger and Axe.

The book has been thoroughly reviewed by Paul McBride on Still Monkeys. McBride is a graduate student studying evolution in New Zealand. Read the reviews at ...

Science and Human Origins - Chapter 1 review
Science and Human Origins - Chapter 2 review
Science and Human Origins - Chapter 3 review
Science and Human Origins - Chapter 4 review
Science and Human Origins - Chapter 4 review: Part 2
Science and Human Origins - Chapter 5 review

Wanna know the bottom line?

1. Common descent is still alive and well.
2. Natural selection still works.
3. The human fossil record still demonstrates evolution.
4. Junk DNA still exists.
5. There's no evidence for Adam and Eve.

Here's how Paul McBride sums up his review.
Science and Human Origins has to be described first and foremost as being anti-evolution rather than pro-intelligent-design, or pro-science. If it offers solace to those seeking evidence against evolution for their faith, the solace should be as incomplete as the arguments made in the book.
This is a common criticism. Most IDiot literature is nothing more than a misguided attack on evolution. It's increasingly rare to see any defense of intelligent design. Perhaps that's because it's indefensible?


  1. Thanks for highlighting the review, Larry.

    Douglas Axe has a new "peer-reviewed" paper in Bio-Complexity claiming that the lack of organisms deriving energy from lignin is a giant problem for "Darwinism" but makes "perfect sense" under intelligent design. Ahem.

    I wonder, might that again class as an attack on evolution rather than positive evidence for ID?

    What I'd love to see is someone try to submit a realistic assessment of ID to Bio-Complexity, and see how they handle that in their peer-review process.

  2. Not only have no bacteria digested my Lincoln Log fortress, but I also detect a noticeable lack of sharks with laser beams.

  3. Over on ATBC, Zachriel posted:

    Butler & Buckerfield, Digestion of lignin by termites, Soil Biology and Biochemistry 1979: "An estimate of respiration rates of N. exitiosus indicates a significant release of C as respired CO2, and this species of termite would appear to return a considerable proportion of the C in litter lignin directly to the atmosphere."


  4. "Most IDiot literature is nothing more than a misguided attack on evolution. It's increasingly rare to see any defense of intelligent design. Perhaps that's because it's indefensible?"

    That pretty much covers it.

    1. Covers what? This is the offense I find in otherwise fairly intelligent scientists. They tend to get a little emotional when someone comes knocking on their house of straw. Instead of a temper tantrum, name calling and podium banging how about something intelligent. The only thing that makes me doubt ID is responses like this.
      In case it escapes you the book in question is an attack on evolution. There are several books attacking evolution written by peer approved, highly qualified scientists. Their articles, however, are rarely attacked until they begin to chip away at the (atheistic) alter of evolution. I've consistently seen far less emotion and much more substance from only one side of this debate. You have adequately defined the separation. Congratulations.

  5. The fossil record for human origins is notoriously bad. The evidence is of poor quality, often fragmentary or deformed, and is subject to a lot of speculation. However, I would argue that recent research has shown that "apemen", depicted in many science textbooks, never existed. Brain size may have increased over time, but humans have been the same (postcranially) for at least the last 1.8 million years.

  6. I always wonder about how creationist "peer review" works. Is there even any critical reviewing taking place? Do qualified people actually read those papers by Gauger and Axe and they have a real back-and-forth about the contents, with the reviewers citing other pieces of litterature as arguments against X, Y or Z? Do they even check to see if it is consistent with OTHER creationist litterature?

    Is it all, really, just "does it agree with our presuppositions?" -> quickspellcheck -> publish in propaganda complexity "journal" ?

    I love to read the reviews on with the open peer review system. You really get an insight into the review system and some of it can be really harsh. Is ANYTHING like that going on with "complexity" papers? I really fucking doubt it.

  7. The journal Biocomplexity refused to publish one my manuscripts after having initially accepted it. The reason was because they didn't like my political views. It is not a serious journal even though there is a review process and some of the articles have some good data.

  8. Atheistoclast, if Biocomplexity rejected one of your "papers" it can't be all bad.

    Joseph Esfandiar Hannon Bozorgmehr

    The Genetic code and the Latin language

    The genetic code and the biological information it makes possible are a profound engima (sic) for scientists studying the origin of life. However, a link to natural human language, in this case Latin, is found when the frequency distribution of characters is analyzed.

  9. That is not a peer-reviewed paper. It is a fun comparison between the the Latin language and the Peptide language. Both employ 20 standard characters in their respective alphabets (the letters Z,K,Y in Latin are either redundant or borrowed from Greek).

  10. Atheistoclast,

    Wishing the habilines and australopithecines out of existence won't have any effect on external reality.

    1. The habilines actually are a misclassifed species of australopith (Wood and Collard 1999). They share broadly the same body proportions, although the former has some more "advanced" cranio-dental features. I suggest you read this paper by Christopher Ruff:

      Relative Limb Strenth and Locomotion in Homo Habilis

      The habilines appear to have been as arboreal as they were terrestrial - rather like modern-day bonobos.

    2. The advanced cranial and dental features are exactly why the habilines cannot be placed in Australopithecus. To do so requires outdated "gradistic" taxonomy. Anthropologists who want to bar them from Homo need to erect a new genus. They and the australopithecines are still good transitional fossils between Homo erectus and the ape ancestral to humans and chimps.

    3. No, they are not. Both habilines and australopiths are just apes in every respect. The former may actually be made, in part, from a "wastebin" of parts that include human fossils: AL-666-1 is one such example of this. The most complete fossilized skeleton of Homo habilis (OH62) is very similar to that of a bonobo, as is AL-288-1 (Lucy). Other features appear similar to that of chimps,gorillas and even orangutans.

    4. Absolute nonsense. The pelvis and lower limb of Australopithecus are intermediate in form between Homo and other apes, and there are also many Homo-like features of the upper limb and skull. This is an excellent summary

      Christine Janis (forced to post as "Anonymous" due to the absurd vagrancies of my university google account)

    5. How much of the pelvis of Lucy, or any other australopith, has actually been recovered in order to make such an assertion? Here is a look at Lucy's fossilized remains:

      There are countless features, such as the inner ear, the wrist, phalanges, the length of the upper limbs and so on, that clearly show that the australopiths were suited for an arboreal life. Their "bipedalism" relates more to locomotion on the branches of trees (like orangutans) than it does to locomotion on the ground.


    6. Australopiths were bipedal when on the ground. This is well enough known for at least Lucy, africanus, and sediba. Australopiths show adaptation for bipedalism not seen in any bonobo in the hip and the femur and the foramen magnum. Not are they apes dentally. Further, the bonobo pelvis is closer to a gibbon's than to an australopith's.

      -anaxyrus (not Christine Janis)

    7. Australopiths were bipedal when on the ground. There is more than sufficient evidence of this for Lucy, africanus, and sediba. Evidence here comes from the femur and foramen magnum as well as the hip. Further, the last two of these species are dentally far from the apes and substantially closer to humans. The bonobo pelvis is closer to a gibbon's than to an australopith's.

      -anaxyrus (not C. Janis)


      Surprise! They retained some arboreal features ---- that's what makes them *intermediate forms*. Duh.

      C. Janis (not anaxyrus)

    9. PLUS ---- there are many synaporphies of the skull and braincase that link australopiths and Homo.

      Creationists like to think that paleontologists just "line up the fossils" according to general appearance and then claim ancestry. No, that's what creationists without any specific knowledge imagine scientists would do. Real science is hard!

    10. Bozo:"How much of the pelvis of Lucy, or any other australopith, has actually been recovered in order to make such an assertion?"

      You are not very knowledgeable regarding anatomy, are you?

      I find it comical to see creationists with limited or non-existent relevant knowledge declare this or that about issues they know nothing of, thinking their "insights" profound. I am reminded of a YEC book by, I think it was, Marsh that attempted to cast doubt on incomplete fossils by making an analogy with pottery shards. He declared that if you find a curvy bit of pottery, it could have been part of a tall slender vase, or a rotund jug or a bowl, etc. Apparently, that fool had never seen an actual vertebrate skull, either. You see, if you are even remotely knowledgeable of anatomy (and physiology), you don't really need complete specimens to deduce shape and function.

      It really is the domain of the simpleton, or the Dunning-Krugerite, to require a complete skeleton to make any sort of statements about it.

  11. Atheistoclast, does that comparison hold for authors other than Cicero ?

    1. Marcus Tullus Cicero sets the benchmark for Latin prose. But he is not the author of the language itself, only its finest exponent, so the works of others should be similar.

    2. Have you tried applying the Equidistant Letter Sequence algorithm to the works of Cicero ?

      Some startling revelations germane to the field of evolutionary biology and indeed many other fields of science not to mention the war on terrorism could come to light.

      You will have the last laugh and Biocomplexity will rue the day they refused to publish your manuscript.

  12. For those still interested in the OP, Ann Gauger has responded on the Biologic Institute website to "some critics", with rather wayward claims of being mispresented.

    The story has been picked up at Uncommon Descent where Denyse O'Leary/News upgrades Gauger's claim to one of dishonesty:"Figures: If the girl is making some sense, they have to make up something she didn’t say, so they don’t have to address what she did say. That’s life."

    My response is here.

    1. As far as I could understand your review, there is more than one possible protein that could perform function Y.

      And even if function Y is never realized, life will still go on, albeit with a different set of functions realized by a different set of proteins.

      Once you expose the teleological blinders and conspiracy theories that are part and parcel of a christian worldview it all boils down to, as one of the commenters on your site put it:

      They burn with "lab coat envy" toward real scientists, because real scientists work hard and make discoveries, and they know they never, never will.

      Good luck on the marathon, as someone who has been abusing my "intelligently designed" plantar fascia (don't get me started on the lower back, which has obviously made the transition from quadrupedal to bipedal locomotion under protest) for the last 30 years or so, I enjoyed your post on running and may just give those Vibram Fivefingers a try.

  13. "The real question is not 'Can X be turned into Y?' because that sense of direction requires preordination, which is not theorised to be a part of evolution. If we remove this preordination, the question becomes 'Can X turn into something else?'"

    Actually, the question is "What is the probability that such an X could turn into such a Y?" That is, what is the probability of the development of novel protein function? And then it's appropriate to look at one example, and compute its probability--as a start at getting the general probability of such events.

  14. Actually, Lee, "What is the probability of the development of novel protein function?" is not the same as "What is the probability that such an X could turn into such a Y?", because in the example you are referring to X and Y are specific proteins. The point is about preordination.

  15. > Paul McBride: ... in the example you are referring to X and Y are specific proteins.

    I think we agree, the goal is the general probability here.

  16. Perhaps someone could cite a mainstream peer reviewed paper that posits X evolving into Y.

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  18. So Athiestoclast has crawled back out from under the slimy rock he dwells beneath. Haven't seen much of him since he slithered away from Pandas's Thumb, having admitted that he planned to murder scientists who did not accept his views, and asserting he had every right to do so.

    Have you changed your mind Joe? Have you at least decided how many more papers/years you will suffer the real scientists laughing at your negligible work, before you set to blowing up their scientific conferences? You never did say.

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  20. Paul - you will be doing yourself a favor to simply ignore "Joe" at UD.