• Weaknesses of Evolution – Part 1 – Origins of Life

    As I’ve previously mentioned, there are a lot of state legislatures that are promoting creationism bills right now.  Even in Texas though, those bills rarely make it out of committee.  Mainly because it is quite obvious what the intention of the bill is (for example, in Missouri here).  That is, to allow creationism to be taught and discredit science.  Most, if not all, of these bills disguise the discrediting of science as ‘weaknesses of evolution’.

    What I thought I would do is take some of these ‘weaknesses of evolution’ and examine them.  Hopefully providing a resource to show how these weaknesses aren’t really problems or they have been dealt with by current science.

    Our first installment is taken from strengthsandweaknesses.org a website about giving Texans a better science education (by ignoring science, but I will show that).  This link has their Essential List of Scientific Weaknesses of Evolution Theories.

    In this post we’ll just talk about the first list:  “Origins of Life”.

    First of all, origins of life is a common area of confusion.  Until self reproduction occurs then evolution cannot occur.  Therefore, the origin of life is (technically) not a problem with evolution (or even biology), but instead is a issue with chemistry.

    Second, this is a very active area of research in biochemistry circles.  A few years ago (2009, IIRC), a symposium on recent research on origins of life occurred.  Over 200 papers where presented.  Just from the previous year or two.  So far, in all the research papers on the topic produced since the 1950s (since the Miller-Urey experiment), there has not been a single result that would indicate that basic chemistry cannot develop into what we would consider life.

    All it would take is one paper to unequivocally state, this step cannot happen because of x, therefore it is impossible for life to develop without some outside influence.  Yet, that has never happened.  Indeed, a lot of the steps required for life have not one, not two, but multiple chemically valid steps to achieve the same result.

    OK, let’s get to the specific ‘weaknesses of evolution’.

    The extreme improbability of obtaining any specific amino acid sequence needed for the proteins of life systems.

    Ah yes, the fallacy of the large numbers.  It’s a classic.  For example, the human hemoglobin B subunit of our blood is 147 amino acids long.  Each position could be one of 20 normal amino acids in the human body (there are actually more amino acids than that though).  So, the chances of randomly assembling HBB from amino acids is about 1 in 5.605 x10^192.

    To give you an example of the improbability of this.  It’s like way more improbable than guessing which electron I’m thinking of out of the entire universe.  Vastly improbable.  Nearly impossible.

    It’s a darn good thing that biology and evolution don’t work this way isn’t it?

    This is a fundamental mistake in thinking by the creationists (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and not say that it’s simply a trick or a lie).

    No biologist would suggest that the HBB protein or gene just popped into existence fully formed, ready to go.  HBB is one of the products of several billion years of incremental changes, duplication events, mutation events, and selection.

    Every allele and protein that is produced in every organism on the planet has a multi-billion year history of changes, refinements, and mistakes.  It is exceedingly difficult to track these changes because genes and proteins don’t fossilize.  But we can examine distantly related organisms to see what changes in genes have occurred and see if those organisms have those genes.

    Globins, for example, is a large group of proteins.  Hemoglobin is just one variant of globins.  There are entire groups globins in fish, worms, bacteria, even plants.  This is actually excellent evidence of common ancestry and that my claim that modern hemoglobin didn’t appear fully formed.

    Almost every single organism on the planet has a globin type protein.  That’s an indication that the first globin appeared very early in the evolution of organisms.  Now, when I say ‘appeared’ I don’t mean rabbit/hat appeared.  Even with genes and proteins, there’s always a first.  At some point, some allele produced a protein that wasn’t quite globin, but then a mutation of some kind happened and it resulted in a protein that was so useful, it has been required by living things ever since.

    That may sound like a just-so story, but the evidence is quite compelling.  Glb3 is a haemoglobin protein in plants that binds oxygen and carbon dioxide. HbN is a haemgolobin protein that bind oxygen allowing certain bacteria to detoxify nitric oxide.  Leghaemoglobin is the oxygen carrier for legumes that allows them (well, the symbiotic bacteria) to fix nitrogen.

    All of these are remarkably similar (pretty much all oxygen carriers), but in vastly different organisms.  This also shows how different organisms have used variations in globins to occupy specific niches.  Evolution isn’t ‘what do I need to survive’, it’s ‘here’s what I have, how can I use it to survive’ (allowing for the anthropomorphism of things that don’t think and can’t control their genetics).

    In conclusion, no one (except maybe creationists) expect complex, long chain proteins to appear fully formed.  That’s not how evolution works.  It’s not how reality works.  Basically, the creationists are expecting a neolithic tribe that has just discovered fire to produce a space shuttle.

    This is an excellent paper those goes into detail about what I’ve just discussed.  HEMOGLOBINS FROM BACTERIA TO MAN: EVOLUTION OF DIFFERENT PATTERNS OF GENE EXPRESSION (PDF)  It’s not the only one either.  And notice the date, 1998.  This kind of research that shows the varying ancestral genes and the (sometimes massive) changes to individual lineages’ genes and proteins is not cutting edge.  In many cases, it’s 20 or more years old.

    Another excellent example of this is the work of Richard Lenski and his long term evolution experiment. He started the project in 1988 and has been growing Esherichia coli for over 25 years now.  Not only is he growing them, he’s keeping samples of every 500 generations (about 75 days).  By sequencing the current generation genes and any past generation genes, he can actually show where mutations happened and what caused specific effects in the bacteria.  He’s currently well over 50,000 generations of bacteria in his lab.

    The most exciting thing to come out of this research was a complete accident.  The researchers use citrate to stabilize the growth medium.  They use citrate because E. coli can’t metabolize it.  However, between generation 30,000 and 30,500 a mutation occurred.  The bacteria were now able to consume and use citrate in their bodily processes.

    That’s pretty cool, but it gets better.  Remember he’s freezing a population sample every 500 generations.  he’s been able to go back in time with the populations and found out that no bacteria before generation 27,000 has ever been able to generate a descendant that produced a citrate eater.  Some mutation happened about generation 27,000 in one bacteria.  That mutation caused the potential for future mutations to allow the bacteria to utilize citrate.  Only bacterial descendants from a specific population have a small chance of, at some point, developing the ability to use citrate.  But the ability is there and when it appears, it is a very powerful mutation.

    Citrate is a totally unused niche in the bacterial population in that lab.  A bacteria that doesn’t have to compete for food can reproduce rapidly without having to forage or be under stress for low food.

    Here’s where Lenski and some students and colleagues analyzed all those genes.  You know what they didn’t find?  Any evidence of a deity or intelligent designer.  They just found simple mutations.  Simple mutations, natural selection, and an ability that never before existed in E. coli populations.  Indeed, the inability to metabolize citrate is one of the defining characters of E. coli.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Lenski thinks that this is a new species or even a new genus of bacteria.  Right there, in the lab, for all the world to see.

    The creationists don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and just keep spewing the same misinformation.


    Category: CreationismCultureEvolutionGovernmentOrigins of LifeResearchScienceSociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • RexTugwell

      Happy Anniversary, Smilodon! Today marks exactly one year
      that you, the one who always demanded that creationists show their math, made
      your fundamental mathematical error in the above post. For your readers who
      don’t know to what I’m referring, Smiley’s mistake was inverting the base and
      exponent in his calculation of the probability of hemoglobin forming by chance.
      Why is this a big deal? Well, even when the error was pointed out to Mr.
      Retreat many moons ago – and many times since – he still refuses to correct it;
      claiming it was an estimate or some such nonsense. This is a textbook example
      of what the folks over at Uncommon Descent refer to as Darwin Derangement
      Syndrome (DDS). DDS is the condition characterized by an almost fundamentalist,
      dogmatic faith in neo-Darwinism such that even in the face of evidence
      to the contrary, one refuses to modify his views. Along with this condition is
      the related symptom of the zero concession policy. This policy states that no
      matter what the evidence, one must never admit being wrong – especially to a

      So the error continues to linger as a testament to Mr. Retreat’s DDS. Is there a cure? God only knows.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Of course, we both know that the calculation doesn’t matter because that’s not how hemoglobin formed anyway.

        So, you’re saying that the number, if it was a totally random arrangement, should be 7.523^-157?

        OK, if you say so. No one really cares. Because it’s a bunk calculation anyway. It’s meaningless. But if it makes you happy, there you go.

        BTW: Do you have ANY actual evidence for your position… whatever that is? No? Of course you don’t. You would have posted it the first time I asked you for it.

        • RexTugwell

          Of course the calculation matters. It matters a great deal – to you. Otherwise you would have posted the correction the first time I asked you to correct the error. So how did hemoglobin form and where the heck did you get 7.523^-157? Please tell me that in defending your miscalculation you didn’t answer with another miscalculation?

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            No, it doesn’t matter. Because proteins, DNA, etc are not produced randomly. If you agree with this statement, then you should talk to your fellow creationists who do use this argument.

            If you disagree, then you need to provide evidence that DNA and proteins ARE produced randomly.

            Just out of curiosity, do you know what the shortest RNA that acts catalytically is?

            • RexTugwell

              Do try to stay focused, Smilodon! The topic under discussion is the Origins of Life (your title). Gene duplication, gene splicing, gene transfer, gene fission nor gene fusion are not going to be of any help to you.

              Just out of curiosity, do you know if the affinities of nucleotides are different and where did you get the number 7.523^-157? Show your math.

            • Doc Bill

              I realize you are tugging as well as you can, Rexy, but the topic under discussion is how blowhard, know-nothing creationists like you misrepresent origins of life research, are unable to discuss the simplest topic and dwell incessantly on the rhetoric of who said what. I must say you are holding up the creationist side of the argument admirably. Bravo. (slow clap)

            • RexTugwell

              I can see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
              Last one to leave, turn off the lights.

            • SmilodonsRetreat

              Rex, you have been told why it doesn’t matter what the actual number is. It doesn’t matter because that is a random assembly. Since a random assembly didn’t happen, then there’s no point in talking about it.

              What you are asking me to do is defend YOUR position. Not my job.

              The shortest RNA with catalytic ability is directly relevant to origins of life questions.

    • Doc Bill

      Ah, creationists! The Beavis and Butthead’s of humanity. You know, Rexy old boy, it really doesn’t matter if you need 400 million more cubic miles of water to flood the earth to a depth of X feet or 100 million or 600 million. The calculation is irrelevant because the water ain’t there. I know you don’t understand and you would be content to hound me about assuming the earth was a perfect sphere or some such nonsense. But it’s just as meaningless as calculating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

      So, you see, my dim little creationist buddy, it doesn’t matter if the probability of the price of tin in Bolivia is ten to the tenth or ten to the bazillionth, the result is equally meaningless. Proteins don’t form randomly. Everyone in the world knows that except Beavis, Butthead and creationists. But if you want to dance around singing the “Proteins Can’t Form Randomly” song I’ll be delighted to listen. Just sing in tune, OK. (I’d suggest “Old MacDonald”)

      Tell you what, Tuggy, why don’t you lay it on us what a reasonable probability is of a protein of any length whatsoever forming randomly. Since you’re so dandy at telling us what “too big” is, how about clueing us in on the Goldilocks number.

      Snarkily yours,

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Be sure to include the fact that amino acid affinities are not the same in your calculation, Rex.

        • RexTugwell

          Are the affinities of nucleotides different? I’d be happy to use nucleotides in my calculation instead. That’ll decrease the probability by about 74 orders of magnitude. Of course, assuming a non-racemic mixture and all peptide bonds. Why even bring up hemoglobin anyway, was that protein present at the origin of life?

      • RexTugwell

        I’m not feeling the love, Doc Bill. All I’m feeling is your impotent fury. Take a breather before you have a stroke and stop making fun of my name!. Not sure why you’re bringing up the flood but if it makes you fell better, go ahead.

    • “Here’s where Lenski and some students and colleagues analyzed all those genes.
      You know what they didn’t find? Any evidence of a deity or intelligent designer.
      They just found simple mutations. Simple mutations, natural selection,
      and an ability that never before existed in E. coli populations.
      Indeed, the inability to metabolize citrate is one of the defining characters
      of E. coli. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Lenski
      thinks that this is a new species or even a new genus of bacteria. Right
      there, in the lab, for all the world to see.

      The creationists don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and just keep spewing
      the same misinformation.”

      So, the Big Question is: What has Lenski’s experiments proved other than
      that bacteria evolve into bacteria?

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Really, You would expect them to change into bunnies?

        You have it backwards, like most creationists. Evolution is slow changes over long, long time periods. It’s creationists that expect magical poofs that change proto-dogs into 200 species in less than 4000 years.

        • So you acknowledge that bacteria only evolve into other

          Fruit flies only evolve into other fruit flies.

          DNA, whilst permitting for variety e.g. in the dog kind there
          are species for Great Danes to Chihuahua’s, proscribes for change from one kind of creature becoming a different kind (baramin in Hebrew) of creature.

          In others words a dog will only ever produce another dog and
          will never produce a non-dog.

          To get round the science that undercuts the notion of common
          ancestry Darwinists have no alternative but to invoke billions of years which is based on the assumptions of uniformitarianism.

          And in common with many but not all Darwinists when you
          encounter opposition to your cherished theory which you cannot bear you feel forced to defend yourself not with hard science facts and evidence but with (attempted) mocking which does nothing to advance your cause and only serves to highlight that your position is one of faith.

          I see that this discussion will go nowhere except down and
          so we will conclude it as this early stage. Thank you for your time.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            WIth in the observable time-frame of known events… that’s mostly true.

            There are example of cyanobacteria forming clusters, with specific roles in a human time-frame.

            DNA doesn’t proscribe anything. This is another statement made without any evidence. I know you don’t have any evidence for this claim because the leaders of the various creationist movements don’t and you’re just parroting them.

            Tell me, what’s the difference between a whale and an artiodactyl, in detail please.

            And you have evidence that the Earth and life on it hasn’t been around for billions of years… ignoring ALL of the relevant science to date?

            I too see this all the time. Claims. No evidence. Sadly, you lied, because I provided the evidence that you claimed I didn’t.

            You’re absolutely right though. I don’t have time to teach you the fundamentals of basic chemistry, ecology, evolutionary biology, and physics. Just go back to your hole and yell about how you defeated the evil Darwinist (whatever the fuck that is).Pat yourself on the back.

            In the meantime, science will keep on researching all the things you say are impossible.

            • LOL

              Thank you for demonstrating by your use of foul abusive
              language and personal attack that you actually don’t have hard facts and evidence to defend your faith in Darwinian evolutionary natural processes and which drives you to such abuse.

              Case Proven

              End of.

            • SmilodonsRetreat

              I’m curious… did you read the links that I provided that contain peer-reviewed research? No? Well, I did provide them and they contain my review of and links to peer-reviewed research that shows you are wrong.

              You, on the other hand, have ignored my multiple requests for evidence for the claims that you make, especially those that ignore relevant science and directly contradict observed evidence.

              My case is supported with evidence. You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

          • Doc Bill

            Well, that’s absolutely correct, my little creationist snowflake. I’ll be careful with my potty fingers, oh, so tempting, and treat you with the respect you deserve.

            So, dogs begat dogs and never a non-dog. OK, so miacids begat miacids and never a non-miacids. But, hold the phone, Joan, where have all the miacids gone???

            Well, fragilous snowflakus, they’re all around us! For, you see, the descendants of miacids became lions, tigers and bears (Oh, my!) and dogs and cats and civets, raccoons and the creationist’s most favorite animal – the weasel – and even seals.

            As for Lenski, his experiments don’t prove anything! Trick answer, because experiments in general don’t “prove” anything. They provide support (or not) to an hypothesis. The significance of Lenski’s experiments is that he captured a snapshot of every generation of his starting culture for over 25 years. This allows him to “go back in time” and trace genetic changes mutation by mutation. Thus, he was able to document the changes that led to the CIT+ strain.

            • ROFL

              I’ve lost count of the number of discussions I’ve had over the years with Darwinists posing as scientists but you are way out there in a league all of your own and apparently – in a world of your own!

              So despite you attempted humour which in nothing really more than bluff and bluster you don’t actually have anything in the way of hard facts and evidence for your faith in microbes to microbiologist.

              In your bottom to top model IF it were THE correct model for the diversity of life bacteria would “naturally” have to have evolved into something other than bacteria and whatever that “something” else happened to be would have had to evolve into another “something” else. You do realize that don’t you?

              BUT and it’s a big BUT you don’t KNOW what bacteria evolved into – for the simple reason there are no hard facts and evidence for bacteria evolving into anything other than bacteria as proven by Lenski.

              ALL that you have is just-so story and that it is why you needs must resort to mocking humour – but the joke is on you!


            • Doc Bill

              Willy-B, you’re back! I thought you were, like, bye, Felicia. Haven’t met your embarrassment quota for the week? Maybe we can help you out.

              It seems the joke’s on you! I DO know what bacteria evolved into – other bacteria. Round ones, long ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, hairy ones – all sorts. There are probably even creationist bacteria who say things like “if bacteria evolved, how come we’re still here.” Those bacteria usually end up wearing “Kick Me” signs on their back, assuming bacteria have backs.

              However, I am so glad you appreciate mocking humor, ridicule, sarcasm and derision. Most creationists don’t and it’s such a wasted effort. It’s ironic, really, because creationists are parasites – they suck up all the fruits of science and technology but return nothing in exchange. Sucks to be you. That’s a pun, son. See you in the Lake o’ Fire!

            • SmilodonsRetreat

              It is funny. You are arguing with an actual chemist and a guy who actually dine a ton of research on this topic, including conversations with researchers about their papers and all you can say is “it can’t happen ”

              Have you read the posts and research papers I linked to? Yes or no?