Monday, October 28, 2013

Michael Egnor Keeps Digging

When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Will Rogers
I favor teaching biochemistry from an evolutionary perspective and I was pleased to see that ASBMB considers evolution to be one of the fundamental concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology [ASBMB Core Concepts in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Evolution]. (ASBMB screws up their description of evolution but at least their heart's in the right place.)

Unless they understand evolution, students can't really understand why some parts of a protein are the same in all species and other parts are quite variable. They certainly can't understand why you can construct a phylogenetic tree from sequences and why this tree closely resembles those trees made from comparing anatomy/embryology. They won't know why those molecular trees are consistent with a fossil record unless they understand evolution.

Students won't know why we can't make vitamin C and why we have a broken gene in our genome unless they understand how evolution occurs. They won't know how the complex photosynthesis system in plants arose unless they understand the more simple photosystems in bacteria and evolution.

Students will never understand how metabolic pathways form unless they understand basic evolution principles. They'll never learn to appreciate the genes and enzymes in mitochondria unless they know about evolution and endosymbiosis.

Don't bother asking students why most species can make all 20 amino acids. If they haven't been taught evolution they'll stare at you with a blank look. You'll get the same blank look if you ask them why DNA replication is so accurate and why it isn't perfect.

You can't possibly have an intelligent discussion in class about genomes and function unless the students understand evolution. And they'll never be able to refute the claims of people like Michael Denton, Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, and Stephen Meyer unless they understand evolution. Many of those claims focus on biochemistry and molecular biology. Surely we don't want to be graduating students who know even less about evolution that the IDiots?

Biochemistry students will never be able to make sense of anything about life at the molecular level unless they understand evolution. In the absence of evolution, the best they can hope for is to retain information by committing it to memory. True knowledge and understanding will be beyond their reach.

It should come as no surprise that Evolution Is Irrelevant to Michael Egnor. That's because he doesn't believe in evolution and he certainly doesn't understand it.

You want proof? Read his latest post: In Which Larry Moran Learns the Difference Between Comparative Biology and Evolution.
I took a few biochemistry courses in college, being a biochem major and all. And Larry's right: I never encountered evolution in my biochem courses, even at the graduate level.


If Darwin's theory of natural selection were acknowledged to be the empty tautology that it is, nothing fundamental to biochemistry would change. Species would still be similar or different, and their biochemistry would be similar or different. Biochemistry research depends substantially on comparative biology. Biochemistry research depends not at all on evolutionary biology.

Moran knows this, although his younger and less erudite minions may retain the delusion of Darwinism's grandeur. Old-guard Darwinists know that if they let down their guard and allow even a stirring of fresh air -- a bit of candor and transparency -- Darwin's whole Potemkin village will blow away like dust.
We visited Catherine the Great's palace when we were in St. Petersburg a few months ago. By a strange coincidence, my wife and I were discussing Potemkin's village just the other night. (She's a big fan of Catherine the Great.) The story is a myth but it seems like an apt description of Intelligent Design Creationism—except that no IDiot is as smart as Grigory Potempkin.

[Do I really have minions? Can I get them to mark exams and fetch coffee from Tim Hortons?]


  1. And to nobody's surprise, IDiot Egnor is also a global warming denier. He's even less competent to pontificate on that subject then he is on evolution.

  2. To be quite honest, I am quite sure that evolution barely came up in my undergraduate biochemistry course. I probably understood what was taught well enough (got an A), but its many quirks would have made a lot more sense and I would have definitely enjoyed it more if it was taught in the light of evolution.

  3. "...although his younger and less erudite minions may retain the delusion of Darwinism's grandeur."

    I think I've been insulted. Oh, no, considering the source I'll just chuckle.

    Dave Bailey

  4. Ouch, I'm a minion! And why did nobody told me Darwin had not invented taxonomy!


    Talking of Potemkin villages, what a coincidence! They got a real fancy 'un in the other Petersburg, down there in Kintucka

    1. told > tell (sorry, I've been reading too much IDiotic stuff)

    2. Yeah, it's hard to feel insulted when it's coming from an ignoramus like Egnor.

    3. @Piotr Gąsiorowski, Why are you forcing yourself to write in English nobody cares about? The more you try to pretend that you know how to write in English, the worst it gets. This is not an English language test. We all know you can't write in an everyday language that gets the point across, so don't try to impress us with something you don't have? It is too obvious.

    4. I'd have to say that his English is much better than yours, so perhaps you should think a bit longer before posting.

    5. Should I expect unbiased judgment from you? Don't be so harsh, man! What else can you say? You can't beat me at anything else, especially the origins ;)

      You don't understand the issue. You only know one language. barely :)

    6. Piotr's English is indeed excellent.

    7. LouiseG,

      It is better to remain silent and be thought an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt. And this applies as well to your and Piotr's comparative fluencies in English.

    8. LouiseG can't stop diggin either. They never can. Creationists are obligate diggers.

  5. One has only to ask why we need iodine and sodium, neither very abundant in many terrestrial environments, to realize that the fact that we got stuck with more or less unchangeable chemistry while our ancestors were in the ocean.

    Overall, organic chemistry and biochemistry are in practice quite different subjects. Life can do a great deal of chemistry, but design certainly can do a great deal of chemistry that life cannot do. Inorganic chemistry (metallurgy, etc.) seriously get beyond life's limits. We get used to life's limits, but explaining them really requires evolutionary theory.

    Glen Davidson

    1. Forget iodine and sodium. Why do so many enzymes need iron-sulfur clusters for catalysis? Hint: look at undersea thermal vents.

  6. Hey, why doesn't Smegnor come over here to Sandwalk or to PT or Jeff Shallit's blog to display his ignorance of evolution, biochemistry, etc.?

    Why does he crouch under the rock of ENV, which tolerates no comments and no questions?

    Oh, right. Because every time he showed up here, Smegnor's ignorance was exposed in a most humiliating way. Every... single... time.

    1. "Hey, why doesn't Smegnor come over here to Sandwalk or to PT or Jeff Shallit's blog to display his ignorance of evolution, biochemistry, etc.?
      [...] Oh, right. Because every time he showed up here, Smegnor's ignorance was exposed in a most humiliating way. Every... single... time."

      LouiseG is probably Smegnor, or one of the other IDiots that occasionaly post here. Clearly LouiseG isn't a woman: that much is clear due to the language expressions "she" uses.

    2. Egnor's arguments are idiotic anyway. The Ames test does treat bacteria as "a model for human carcinogenicity". It evaluates the mutagenic potential of chemicals, which (1) is not the same thing as carcinogenicity, and (2) does not depend on the degree of similarity/relatedness of the test genome to anything else.

  7. Most important of all, if they listened to Egnor, medical students would have no reason to expect that the biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology of other mammals would shed light on those phenomena in humans. You would be just as well advised to do your model-organism studies on potatoes.

    1. No, I think there's a non-evolutionary rationale: overall similarity. All things being equal, you would expect the species most like us in one way to be most like us in some previously unexamined other way, even if we had no idea whatsoever of evolution. Evolution comes in when we ask why there is such a thing as a mammal, i.e. why there is clustering, and why it's hierarchical. But that's not required to explain why we test drugs on rats instead of rutabagas.

    2. We'd have to rely on some notion of overall similarity to use a similarity-based argument. With evolution, we could make use of molecular and/or morphological clocks to make the analogous argument. Otherwise we could say that a derived state that we have would most likely be present in a sufficiently close relative.

  8. Said it before but just a quicky here.
    proteins, trees, or fossils are not needing evolution to explain them or just that as a option.
    Its options that fossils have no relevance as biological information without geological settling. So biological info minus geo equals zero.
    Tress would be that way from a common designer anyways and very likely and predictable.
    Protein changes in species follows minor changes that creationists welcome also.
    There are other options and so evolution is not needed in this subject and in fact is just a option at best.
    A sharp student should be skeptical as to why truth has been settled here when just a little imagination can hypothesis other ideas.

    why do evolutionists persuade themselves like details in biology demands a conclusion only of evolution.??
    Why is not the option of like blueprint from a like physics of biology not just as plausible??
    I mean if mere reasoning is all that is going on here then creationism has no problem persuading any audience for our reasoning.
    Theres no science going on here save lines of reasoning.
    Why is our reasoning wrong on this??

  9. Evolution was not really a core concept in my biochemistry degree course (1975-1978), though we also did two years of general biology (and a very useful module on 'earth sciences'). But it did figure, particularly in the tuning of enzyme kinetics and the cytochrome c trees, and the concepts of conserved and nonconserved rates of change, both inside and outside the transcript or the protein.

    As for 'empty tautology' - they're still peddling that line? When did tautology come to mean "wrong"?

    1. If Darwin's theory of natural selection were acknowledged to be the empty tautology that it is

      It's Egnor's way to make anything correct seem empty and thus inconsequential. Easy to demonstrate:

      "2+2=4? Hah! That's just the same as saying 4=4. It's just an empty tautology!"

      Thus the more evidence you have that something is correct, the less scientifically significant it is, according to Egnor's trope. Therefore, by being obviously incorrect, Intelligent Design advances science. Got that?

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  11. Lol, I see that Michael Egnor has quoted my post.
    Egnor, in addition to all that Larry said, let me ask you a few questions.

    1. Why has the ability to digest milk lactose persisted in some adult humans but not in others? Read:

    2. Why can some humans digest starch better than others? Read:

    3. Why has a mutation that makes white men more prone to testicular cancer persisted? Read:

    4. Why is a copy of the sickle cell gene beneficial to humans? Read:

    5. The Gorilla genome sequence showed that in 30% of the genome, Gorilla is closer to Human or Chimpanzee than the latter are to each other. Yet we claim that Chimpanzee is the closest living relative of Humans. You won't understand why unless you understand evolution. Read this great explanation by P.Z Myers:

    These are just a few examples to highlight the fact that a proper understanding of evolution is important to biochemistry. Mere comparative biology won't make sense here.

    Egnor further mentions the Ames test and says Salmonella is used because their biochemistry is close enough to that of humans. Yet the Ames test has also been adapted to eukaryotic cells such as yeast because they're closer to human cells than Salmonella. We also use mammalian liver extracts in the test to simulate human liver metabolism.
    So, while using bacteria for all their advantages, we do try to make the test more similar to the human condition by exploiting organisms that we know are more closely related to us.

    Now, having said all this, I don't have any hope that Egnor will openly acknowledge his mistakes.