Casey: The Octopus Proves Intelligent Design

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.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Casey: The Octopus Proves Intelligent Design

  1. The behaviour isn’t schizoid, it’s tribal. It doesn’t matter that the facts match their beliefs, it matters that they believe that the facts match their beliefs.

  2. In honor of Casey Luskin, the Dishonesty Institute is holding a special event, a roast, to be announced soon, for all his efforts in supporting intelligent design. For the first 3 lucky people who pledge massive amounts of money for the Dishonesty Institute to continue to fake its green-screen research and vanity published nonsense, they will receive a unique Casey Luskin bobblehead doll, the spitting image of our own Casey made by the intelligent designer himself!

  3. michaelfugate

    Even without duplication genes can arise ‘de novo’ via a start codon appearing in a noncoding region.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    I spent a bit yesterday reading a Casey article where he spent 90% of the effort in explaining how different homo sapiens are from other homo species, to justify two sentences of ‘therefor ID’. So the case of the octopus just gives him a bigger, more obvious gap to justify ID. Yep, god of the gaps clearly on display here.

  5. Yesterday I had a YEC/IDist on a Facebook forum announce that particular Luskin lugee** and proceed to tell me how it pointed out “huge problems for evolutionists” and how “Evolutionists are scrambling to sustain a theory in collapse.” After reading Luskin’s nonsense, I explained that, among other things, it was just one long Argument from Personal Incredulity fallacy. Her rebuttal was that my claims of such logical fallacies represented an ad hominem— and therefore were without merit.

    So, apparently, to critique pseudo-science rubbish, our review of the Discovery Institute’s “scholarship” can’t potentially hurt anybody’s feelings or else our arguments must be ignored. That’s what I call desperation and truly an argument of last resort. I’m getting tired of having to explain to YECs and IDists what an ad hominem is and is not.

    Speaking of stupid things IDist’s say, today’s BSF edition savors the
    Stupid Things Young Earth Creationists Say. No ducking required:

    ** FOOTNOTE: Some atrocities deserve their own scientific term. A Luskin-lugee doesn’t smell as bad as a Klinghoffer poo-fling, but it’ll make you duck just as quickly.

  6. I notice that Lufkin avoids the obvious conclusion from his rant: the sky fairy copied the design for humans from other apes, but specially created octopuses in her/his/its own image.

  7. Charles Deetz ;)

    abeastwood for the win! Looks just like a spaghetti monster anyway.

  8. Yes, abeastwood, it seems Cthulhu was the one true God afterall.

  9. God could have made humans with a body plan like those of insects or octopuses. And who knows what other body plans God could have chosen? But God chose to make humans as a vertebrate, a mammal, a primate – and especially close to the chimps and other African apes.

    This should suggest to us that God had a simillar purpose in mind in using that same body plan.

    And that means, if ID is to be introduced in schools, it would be telling our kids that if they want to follow God’s plan, they should act like apes.

  10. SC: “The Discoveroids clearly prefer to invoke the magic wand of their wondrous designer. It’s so much more logical than mutations.”


  11. As I read this I began to think of those other creationists the Raelians, maybe they’d think it WAS actually alien. In the Nature comments an advocate for the Velikovsky planetary collision “theory” made a note espousing exactly that.

  12. Perhaps the octopus was instead modeled after his greatness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  13. michaelfugate

    Maybe there is a different god for each bauplan. Each god creating organisms after its own image. Some gods have gone extinct with their bodyplans.

  14. Without doubt, Casey’s octopus has been touched by the Noodly Appendage of the FSM.

  15. OK, from now on, based on Casey’s brilliant analysis, I’m referring to the sky fairy as the celestial cephalopod.

  16. Larry Moran has a brief takedown of the Gerb over at The Sandwalk.

  17. If this was actually a “big problem” for evolution, scientists would be much more excited.

    Why is it that scientists who actually study evolution never seem to notice the threats to their theory that are found by Casey in the articles they publish? In fact, if they were the conspirators the DI claims that they are, they would not publish results that challenge evolutionary theory. There would be no papers in major journals for the DI to distort.

  18. I made a similar point in a debate some years ago. In response to the differences between squid and vertebrate eyes, he claimed that it was due to a different design for underwater vision. When I pointed out that sharks have vertebrate eyes, he terminated that line of discussion.

  19. In other words, he’ll keep using a bulls**t argument until it’s publicly exposed as bulls**t.

    And when the fuss has died down, he’ll go right back to using it, confident that most people won’t know, or won’t remember, how it was previously debunked.

  20. It is unfortunate there is no celestial cephalopod (I’m talking constellations here, not actual gods), there is the sea monster Cetus, but that is usually considered to be a whale.
    Perhaps the rather odd constellation Antlia the air pump could be reinterpreted as a cephalopod. Not too much of a stretch as that is how they get around.

  21. Troy: “Perhaps the rather odd constellation Antlia the air pump could be reinterpreted as a cephalopod.”

    Wait a minute! We already have a constellation — Cepheus! All we have to do is re-designate it. Instead of Cepheus, the king, it will now be Cepheus, the cephalopod. And since it’s north circumpolar, the vast majority of the world’s population can view it 365 nights a year! (Unless it’s cloudy or they’re too drunk.)

  22. The whole truth

    Luskin, a slobbering mouthpiece for IDiotic wedge agenda theocracy, preaches from the dominionist-toot pulpit that the octopus genome is a big problem for “Darwinism”. Well then, according to luskin, the octopus genome is obviously not a problem for up to date and ongoing evolutionary evidence and theory. I’m glad that’s settled.

    Hey casey, you pre-enlightment creobot types really should try to keep up with ongoing evolutionary evidence and theory. Endlessly bashing Darwin and “Darwinism” just helps demonstrate how far behind you troglodytes are.

    Yeah, I know that you god-wannabes really want to prevent scrutiny and stoppage of your autocratic/theocratic wedge agenda by falsely blaming all the world’s ills on Darwin, “Darwinism”, evolutionists, atheists, science, etc., and I know that your demonization of Darwin, “Darwinism”, evolutionists, atheists, science, etc., fools many of your fellow thumpers into believing that you’re valiantly fighting ‘the good fight’ for yahoo-yeshoo-holy-ghost against allegedly evil ‘monkey to man’ blasphemy, but you’re never, ever, ever going to ‘win’ your insanely perceived and prosecuted ‘holy war’ against science, reality, and reason/rationality, especially by being lying, willfully ignorant, irrational, falsely demonizing, evidence distorting/denying, monstrous-impossible-fairy-tale pushing, pseudo-scientific loons.

  23. @The whole truth: Yes indeed. If just once an ID person showed any evidence that they understood evolution or knew anything about it, I’d be more inclined to at least listen to their argument. And now I’m off to dine on some nice fried calamari. I know, it’s not octopus, but I’m doing it in honor of the celestial cephalopod (blessed be its name).

  24. @The whole truth: I join abeastwood in applauding your thoughts. Nice work!

  25. The whole truth

    You guys can’t see me but I’m taking a bow.

    Just kidding. 🙂

    Seriously though, thanks.