We are all familiar with the usual creationist claim that similarities in the morphology and DNA of species is evidence — not of evolution and common ancestry — but of the miraculous work of a designer, who likes to use the same designs over and over again. Thus, humans and chimps aren’t related by descent from a common ancestor, but are merely an example of similar designs by the same designer.
Today at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute we see an example of their willingness to flip that silly argument around and claim the exact opposite — that genetic diversity is also evidence of the work of their mystical intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who suddenly isn’t constrained to re-use the same old designs over and over again.
The new Discoveroid post is by Casey Luskin — our favorite creationist. It’s titled The Octopus Genome: Not “Alien” but Still a Big Problem for Darwinism. Casey says, with bold font added by us:
These days, new genomes of different types of organisms are being sequenced and published on a regular basis. When some new genome is sequenced, evolutionary biologists expect that it will be highly similar to the genomes of other organisms that are assumed to be closely related.
[T]he latest organism to have its genome sequenced has confounded that expectation: the octopus, whose genome was recently reported in Nature. It turns out to be so unlike other mollusks and other invertebrates that it’s being called “alien” by the scientists who worked on that project.
This is the Nature article Casey is talking about: Octopus genome holds clues to uncanny intelligence. That “alien” reference is referred to as a joke in the article:
“It’s the first sequenced genome from something like an alien,” jokes neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who co-led the genetic analysis of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides).
That article also says:
Surprisingly, the octopus genome turned out to be almost as large as a human’s and to contain a greater number of protein-coding genes — some 33,000, compared with fewer than 25,000 in Homo sapiens
This excess results mostly from the expansion of a few specific gene families, Ragsdale says. One of the most remarkable gene groups is the protocadherins, which regulate the development of neurons and the short-range interactions between them. The octopus has 168 of these genes — more than twice as many as mammals. This resonates with the creature’s unusually large brain and the organ’s even-stranger anatomy. Of the octopus’s half a billion neurons — six times the number in a mouse — two-thirds spill out from its head through its arms, without the involvement of long-range fibres such as those in vertebrate spinal cords.
If the octopus genome fascinates you, you can read that whole article online without a subscription. Let’s get back to Casey:
But the big story here is the large number of unique genes found in the octopus genome. … The paper doesn’t even try to speculate about how these unique cephalopod genes might have arisen. The standard view — that new genes originate via gene duplication — is hardly mentioned.
We’ve discussed gene duplication before — see How One Gene Becomes Two Different Genes. It’s an observable, natural way to generate new functions — without the magical infusion of “information” from a supernatural source. Casey goes on:
But invoking gene duplication requires one to find another gene elsewhere that’s similar. Given that cephalopods apparently have many unique genes not similar to genes found in other organisms, gene duplication might not be a candidate explanation in many of these cases. One wonders if future investigators will resort to “de novo” gene origin.
Well, Casey may wonder about that, but the Nature article doesn’t mention it, so we won’t waste time on it. Then he gives a huge quote from something Stephen Meyer wrote, which we’ll ignore. After that he says:
In other words, de novo isn’t an explanation at all. It’s more like a magic wand to be invoked when evolutionary biologists encounter some unique gene and they have no way to explain its origin via duplication from a similar pre-existing gene.
The Discoveroids clearly prefer to invoke the magic wand of their wondrous designer. It’s so much more logical than mutations. After several more paragraphs in which he criticizes the de novo appearance of new genes (which, we remind you, isn’t mentioned in the Nature article), he concludes with this:
Whenever you see “de novo” origin of a gene invoked, you know that evolutionary biologists lack any explanation for how that gene arose. Scientists haven’t had much time yet to analyze the cephalopod genome, but given early reports of many unique genes, it will be interesting to learn to what extent they are forced to invoke these mysterious processes — what amounts to evolution ex nihilo — to explain how this “alien” genome arose.
So there you are. We’re left with a new pair of contradictory creationist rules for explaining biological evidence: (1) similar genes in species are due to the work of a common designer; and (2) dissimilar genes are also the work of a common designer. Heads, they win. Tails, they also win. The evidence of intelligent design is undeniable!
We are humbled at this demonstration of the erratic, schizoid, self-contradictory nature of creation science.
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