In 2009 atheist biologist Richard Dawkins offered a scientific test to decide between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design (ID). The results are in, and as guest Casey Luskin explains on this ID the Future, the evidence has broken strongly in favor of intelligent design. At the time Dawkins presented the test, he was confident that comparative DNA evidence supported Darwin’s tree of life and its idea of universal common ancestry. He made the point in his 2009 book The Greatest Show on Earth and in two interviews. As he put it, “The single most convincing fact or observation you could point to” in favor of Darwinian evolution over against ID “would be the pattern of resemblances that you see when you compare the genes … of any pair of animals you like … and then plot out the resemblances and they form a perfect hierarchy, a perfect family tree. And the only alternative to it being a family tree is that the intelligent designer deliberately set out to deceive us in the most underhanded and devious manner.” But fourteen years later the picture looks very different. Tune in as Casey Luskin details the various ways that the rapidly developing field of phylogenomics is uncovering data that powerfully fits the ID model of life’s history and strongly undermines the idea of universal common ancestry via mindless evolution. As Luskin says in a recent Evolution News article, “Now, years later, scientists have sequenced a great number of whole genomes. And as a consequence, they know that Dawkins was wrong. Every gene does not deliver ‘approximately the same tree of life.’… On its own terms, the Dawkins test for evolution has come up for ID.” So why haven’t evolutionary biologists given up on universal common ancestry? Luskin says that some have, while others reflexively invoke auxiliary hypotheses and employ question-begging computer models to generate tree-like ancestries in the face of contrary data. Luskin compares the behavior to astronomers who protected the dying geocentric model of the solar system by invoking “epicycles” to explain away contrary astronomical data. Better to let the Dawkins Test speak for itself, Luskin says. Listen in for the full story.
On today’s ID the Future, Casey Luskin rebuts the oft-repeated claim that the human and chimp genomes are 98-99% similar and therefore surely resulted from Darwinian common descent. Luskin cites an article in the journal Science which describes the 98-99% claim as a myth. The original figure was derived from a single protein-to-protein comparison, but once you compare the entire genomes, and use more rigorous methods, the similarity drops several percentage points, and on one account, down into the mid-80s. Additionally, the chimp genomes used in the original comparison studies borrowed the human genome for scaffolding, thus artificially boosting the degree of similarity. What about supposed junk DNA similarities between human and chimp? Why would an intelligent designer put the same useless “pseudogene” in both the original chimp population and original human population? Surely a better explanation, the evolutionists argue, is Darwinian common ancestry. The problem with that argument, according to Luskin, is that pseudogenes are turning out to have functions. In other words, they aren’t, as evolutionists had assumed, just so much junk DNA. One example: evolution advocates Kenneth Miller and Eugenie Scott cited the beta-globin pseudogene as knockdown evidence of common descent between humans and apes. But the beta-globin pseudogene, it turns out, is essential for producing red blood cells. This means that finding this gene in both apes and humans is no more indicative of mindless common descent than finding wheels on both cars and airplanes. An intelligent designer would be expected to use the successful design element in both cases. Luskin provides still other lines of evidence undercutting the DNA-similarity argument for chimp-human common ancestry. Tune in to hear it all. And to read Luskin’s latest work on the subject, get the new free online ID book from South Africa, Science and Faith in Dialogue, with contributions from Luskin, Stephen Meyer, Hugh Ross, Guillermo Gonzalez, James Tour, Fazale Rana, Marcos Eberlin, and others.
Today’s ID the Future is Part 2 of a recent live webinar with Eric Cassell fielding questions about his new book, Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. He and host Casey Luskin explore the engineering wonders of web-spinning spiders and their extraordinary silk, and the challenge of transforming solitary insects into social insects (with their complex and interdependent caste systems) via a blind step-by-step evolutionary process, and the many thousands of genetic changes required. What does Cassell consider the best explanation? He invokes design theorist William Dembski’s work with No Free Lunch theorems to argue that blind processes are a no-go for explaining their origin. From there Luskin opens the webinar up to questions from the live audience. Have researchers tried to locate these algorithms in the DNA of the animals exhibiting complex programmed behaviors? Do any of the insects Cassell discusses use pheromones and, if so, how? What do biologists make of the apparently purposive nature of all these different kinds of complex programmed behaviors? Cassell fields these and other questions and says that more progress would be possible if not for the fact that so many scientists are infected with what he terms teleophobia — an unwillingness to recognize evidence of teleology and purpose in biology. Another question concerns examples of striking convergence among social insects and gifted animal navigators. Cassell argues that although the evolutionary community waves the term “convergent evolution” at such instances, they actually pose a powerful challenge to evolutionary theory.