Is This the End of the God of the Gaps?

We found this amazing news at PhysOrg, and it changes everything. The title of their article is Stone Age black bears didn’t just defecate in the woods — they did it in a cave too. In spite of their jocular title, the article is important — really important, because it has scientific and political consequences. But first, some background:

The “data” relied upon by all creationists is their claim that we don’t have enough evidence to support the theory of evolution. In the Wikipedia article on God of the gaps, they say: “God of the gaps is a theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence.”

Those gaps in our scientific knowledge are the entire data-set supporting the Discoveroids’ “theory” of intelligent design. Gaps lie at the heart of the Cambrian “explosion” and all the other “missing links” in the fossil record that they take to be evidence of their designer’s clandestine handiwork. Despite Wikipedia’s ever-growing List of transitional fossils, they can’t be found rapidly enough to stifle creationists’ faith in divine creation.

Building on the “data” of missing links, creationists like the Discoveroids devise arguments for their “design inference,” about which they babble incessantly using undefinable terms like “specified complexity.” Additionally they have William Paley’s watchmaker analogy. But really, without gaps in the evolutionary data, they don’t have anything.

Okay, that’s enough background. Now, let’s see how that article in PhysOrg is going to totally demolish the creationists’ arguments. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Scientists have sequenced ancient DNA from soil for the first time and the advance will transform what is known about everything from evolution to climate change. The findings have been described as the ‘moon landings’ of genomics because researchers will no longer have to rely on finding and testing fossils to determine genetic ancestry, links and discoveries — and it is thanks to Stone Age black bears who defecated in a remote cave in Mexico 16,000 years ago.

That’s worth repeating: “… researchers will no longer have to rely on finding and testing fossils to determine genetic ancestry,” Here’s another quote:

A team of scientists from The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, University of Copenhagen, led by Professor Eske Willerslev, director of the foundation and a Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, recreated the genomes of animals, plants and bacteria of microscopic fragments of DNA found in Chiquihuite Cave.

Got that? Without fossils, using mere fragments found in a cave, they recreated the genomes of animals, plants, and bacteria too. Imagine what this will do to the “gaps” in the fossil record, so beloved by creationists. Returning to the PhysOrg article, it says:

The results, which have been published today (April 19 2021) in Current Biology, are the first time environmental DNA has been sequenced from soil and sediment and includes the ancient DNA profile of a Stone Age American black bear taken from samples in the cave.

Here’s a link to the article: Environmental genomics of Late Pleistocene black bears and giant short-faced bears. If you click over there, you may find that it behaves strangely in your browser. That was our experience. Anyway, PhysOrg then tells us:

This ‘scientific first’ has wider significance as it increases scientists’ ability to study the evolution of animals, plants and microorganisms, which has been hailed as the dawn of an ‘entirely new era’ of population genetics. The work was possible as a result of advanced technology and understanding over the past five years. This is because working with highly fragmented DNA from soil samples means scientists no longer have to rely on DNA samples from bone or teeth for enough genetic material to recreate a profile of ancient DNA, which opens up the field to what can be tested and studied.

The article goes on for quite a bit, but we’ve given you enough to get you interested. If this means what we think it means, it won’t be very long before the creationists don’t have any — or at least not many — gaps left where they can claim that their designer (or other deity) performed his miraculous work. We’ll be watching to see if they start howling about this research.

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

11 responses to “Is This the End of the God of the Gaps?

  1. Derek Freyberg

    The only thing that I found when clicking through was that the site asked about accepting cookies. Once you get through that step, and I just turned off everything except the essential cookies, the article appears just fine. The idea that you can just look at cave bottom silt and see evolution in action is fascinating, though beyond my scientific understanding.
    On a related note: Neil Shubin (“Your Inner Fish”, “Some Assembly Required”, and the discovery of Tiktaalik) gave the 2021 Ryerson lecture at the University of Chicago yesterday. It’s on YouTube: He talks initially about Tiktaalik and then about how molecular biology ties in with evolution (“evo-devo”). Nothing new, but well presented.

  2. Eddie Janssen

    I hope this is not a very late April Fools joke.
    I have no direct clue, let alone any evidence but I felt uneasy reading passages of the article.

  3. Quanta Magazine for today, April 21, 2021, has an article about the genome of the “corpse flower”, Rafflesia admoldii:
    DNA of Giant ‘Corpse Flower’ Parasite Surprises Biologists
    By Christine Wilcox
    “The bizarre genome of the world’s most mysterious flowering plants show how far parasites will go in stealing, deleting and duplicating DNA.”

  4. I’m really surprised this item didn’t generate some excitement. I think the news is amazing.

  5. Theodore J Lawry

    I would presume that DNA in soil would not last very long compared to DNA in bones, which only lasts up to a million years or so, and only in exceptional cases. So “dirty” DNA is good, but it won’t do what SC hopes.

  6. docbill1351

    That cave, WERE YOU THERE??????

    I didn’t think so!

  7. I recall a recent article on one of the science sites discussing how animals inherited info not directly via their DNA. Due to the manner in which the DNA wound around certain proteins or other molecules, I.e. like long necks or such. I’m not expressing this well, I just haven’t found the article, but thought at the time that SC would jump on it.

  8. Our optimistic Curmudgeon awaits a day when

    the creationists don’t have any — or at least not many — gaps left where they can claim that their designer (or other deity) performed his miraculous work

    Such a day ain’t coming. Creationists believe as they do, not on any rational foundation, but from an emotional need. The ultimate Gap in which their designer/deity dwells is the one between their irrational emotive need and reality.

  9. Oregon painter

    Actually creationist have the ultimate gap….the universe and it’s beginning. Think kalam argument….either god brought it into existence or one has to believe in something far less likely…an universe from nothing. Bear in mind that nothing is a philosophical nothing….and it’s not a god of the gaps argument…because they offer positive evidence for it….god…while from nothing is far less likely. Or so I have heard the argument stated as such a thousand times

  10. @Oregon painter
    One reaction:
    This has nothing to do with the science of evolutionary biology, the age of life on Earth in billions of years, common descent, including humans being of the family of hominids, mammals, tetrapods, etc. So what’s to complain?
    Another reaction:
    The universe could have no beginning, being eternally old, or in a cycle of recurring time, or other kinds of time.

  11. Dave Luckett

    Oregon painter: Nobody knows the ultimate origin of the Universe. There was a singularity that expanded. But the cause? There is no evidence. God is a possible cause. An irruption from another Universe? Some unknown natural law that states that absolute nothing is unstable? There may be others. It’s unknown.

    Thus, there is no dichotomy. It’s not God or nothing. It’s God or some one or several of something else. Nobody knows. There’s no evidence.

    What follows is inevitable. If it isn’t known, it isn’t known. I’m as dissatisfied with that statement as anyone, but I can see no way around it. I cannot say what caused the Universe. So I can’t say it was God.

    Contrary to some people who contribute here, I would very much like it to be God. But I know that what I’d like is not usually how things are, and confusing what is with what I’d like, is a deadly trap.