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Saturday, December 6, 2008

How to disprove evolution

attention: science content

Scientists talk a lot about common ancestors. No reason to go into details, but one thing they all agree with, would be that insects and mammals are only very distantly related. And it should be possible to see that in the genomes of these animals.

So if we know one protein in the mouse and another one with a similiar function in the fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster), we should expect that the honeybee has a protein that looks more like the fly protein.

But this isn't always the case. There are for example some genes responsible for circadian rhythms. Their proteins all interact in a complicated manner (if you're interested in details: you can see the paper here: it's from the Guy Bloch group) but there are certain differences between mouse and fly. And one fly protein (it's called cryptochrome) is missing in the bee. The bee has instead the mouse-like cryptochrome.
Does that disprove evolution?

As far as we know, it would.

There is no way that the honeybee is closer related to the mouse than to the fly or that it somehow stole the mouse gene, if evolution is true. Everybody who know me (and reality) a bit knows that there has to be a 'but' in this story.

And, indeed, there is a but.
What do you think the scientists did when they found this?

a) Didn't believe their eyes, had a beer or some more
b) Cried "Oh, this proves ID, Hallelujah, God is great"
c) Cried "Oh, this proves ID, let's do our best to deny it"
d) Had a closer look at the subject

Obviously a) but after they get over their headaches they continued with...any guesses?


Luckily for them, the Drosophila genome is by far not the only sequenced genome today. Apart from mice and human genomes, honey bees, bumble bees, moths, mosquitos, beetles, plants and a lot more genomes are sequenced. So it was only to compare some of them, and they found that in most insect species both the mouse-like and the drosophila-like protein are present.

What does that tell us?
First, that these genes are very old, tracing back to the common ancestor between insects and mammals.

Second, that genes can get lost during evolution (not very surprising). In this case the fly lost one of a pair of similiar proteins and the honeybee lost the other.

Third, that Drosophila might not be the ideal super model organism that fruitfly researchers always try to tell everybody. An ideal insect model organism should be a model insect, and Drosophila isn't. (But that's just me, defending myself for not working with it...)

Forth, and that's the most important one: Don't draw your conclusions too fast. And don't ignore the facts


  1. sorry for exposing you to that rant. The story turned out to be more complex than I first thought and it's just such a tiny finding.
    And it doesn't even prove evolution by its own, but I think it shows how science works.

  2. This is crazy talk.
    I didn't come from no monkey.
    Were you there and see this happen?

    See, it's easy to disprove evolution.

    Shut down the internet and get a bible cuz you are all going to hell

  3. That was a heartwarming story. Good to see that beer plays such an crucial role in the scientific process.

  4.      Of course, that actually fits with my contention that large-scale evolution is consistent with any conceivable observation. Faced with data that, on the surface, appear negative, they look for a way to show it doesn't rule out evolution. Faced with data which are, on the surface, positive, they pronounce another success.

  5. Tilia,

    I have to agree with Froggie on this one. All this dang crazy assed science talk don't mean nothin' cuz didn't none of us come from no ape. Girl, you gonna bust hell wide open with that there devil science stuff.

    Now git yer BIBLE and hush up!

    (I just repulsed myself with what I just typed.) :(

  6. Pvblivs,

    Of course, that actually fits with my contention that large-scale evolution is consistent with any conceivable observation. Faced with data that, on the surface, appear negative, they look for a way to show it doesn't rule out evolution. Faced with data which are, on the surface, positive, they pronounce another success.

    Really? Then you sure heard about the positive result of this experiment even before Tilia made this post, and never heard of the first problem until Tilia made this post, right?

    Well, many scientists published these kinds of inconsistencies at the beginning of the area of molecular evolution. They published these results Pvblivs. Nobody denied them the right to publish them. Then further work showed that the inconsistencies were due to complex histories of paralogy (gene duplications) and gene loss as attested by the examination of other species. This is what this Drosophila problem is all about. I am actually surprised that creationists do not use those examples to deny evolution. They like ignoring the eventual solution to any problems.

    So much for you "do not say anything until you solve it" theory.


  7. Get_education:

         Looks like another misrepresentation. I have stated that scientists seem to dismiss and regard as unimportant data which appear to be negative. It's not that they say nothing. It is that the masses are unlikely to hear the negative data, until turned to positive. There may have been published reports; but most people didn't see them.

  8. Pvblivs,

    Who is misrepresenting?

    Look at the most common defenses by fundies: fossil frauds. Were those frauds hidden? Who discovered those frauds? Who actually denounced them?

    Misses are not regarded as unimportant. Creacionists make sure they get the negative data, and they make sure everybody knows about these frauds, yet they forget who found the frauds in the first place.

    I know nobody dismissed the problems as unimportant. Otherwise there would be no money to continue investigating the issue. Again, the chromosome 2 problem was not announced everywhere, and it is quite a nice positive. It went public when it had to absolutely get public, pulled out by Ken Miller.

    The true problem is that we were not even little babies when the problems in molecular evolution appeared, nor when they were solved.

    You just think you only hear the positives because negatives are very hard to find nowadays. It is a problem of the times. Too much science now.

    Commonly people do not know what each scientist is doing, and that might be the fault of scientists themselves. But, whether you will acknowledge it or not, the proper importance is conveyed. The problem with molecules was clearly published at the very same top journals where the chromosome 2 findings were published. The problem with the chromosome was also well published. If people did not catch up to it is because there are lots of things going on, and, sure thing, because we scientists do not do as much noise as we should (either way). But that happens with both the positives and the negatives.

    By these times evolution has little if any big challenges to face. Yet, again, it is because there is already lots of knowledge, not because people dismissed problems before getting a solution.

    I know this is to no avail. As i said, I understand you position. But you do not seem to understand why I clearly see you are wrong.


  9. Charles,
    beer is one of the most important driving forces in science.
    Another one would be "I could make that guy, who has two Nature papers more than me and said something mean about my work, look like an idiot"...

  10. froggie and NM,
    that's not fair. I just proved that you're not descended from some nasty insects and you keep complaining about monkeys...

  11. Get education,

    Pvblivs has convinced himself that us biologists are so desperate for Darwinism to be true that we will count the hits and ignore the misses, cover up, rape, pillage, plunder...whatever we have to do to keep the faith. Oh shit, did I say that? My Darwin statue and set of black candles is well hidden in my lab, but I face Down House at least three times a day and say my Hail Darwins. How many times do you pray to our Lord and Savior Charles?

    I hope you have suppressed your negative data as well as I have. That damn general public-so hungry for the nitty-gritty of evolutionary biology...so angry when they find out that they had been kept in the dark until a problem had been solved!

    Seriously, get education, how dare biolgists solve what at one time was a problem. How unscientific!!! Anything that is inexplicable must remain inexplicable forever...otherwise, the theory can't be falsified!


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