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What’s the difference between the Institute for Creation Research and the Discovery Institute?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

The ICR is a young earth creationist organization; we know they’re a bunch of anti-scientific loons. The Discovery Institute claims to be pursuing an “evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins”. So why is the DI echoing the ICR’s totally bogus claim that 30% of the Gorilla Genome Contradicts the Supposed Evolutionary Phylogeny of Humans and Apes?

The bottom line is that the gorilla genome has confirmed that there is not a consistent story of common ancestry coming from the genomes of the great apes and humans. Hundreds of millions of base pairs in the gorilla genome conflict with the supposed phylogeny of great apes and humans. They might think their explanation salvages common ancestry, but clearly the gorilla genome data badly messes up the supposedly nice, neat, tidy arguments which they use to claim humans are related to the great-apes.

That’s breathtakingly wrong. I’ve already explained that incomplete lineage sorting is an expected outcome of evolutionary theory (see also Joe Felsenstein’s complementary explanation of the same phenomenon). There is a consistent explanation; coalescence does not represent a conflict with the phylogeny; the gorilla genome data does not mess up any arguments of common descent. That the Discovery Institute will so baldly mangle the evidence and distort its conclusions shows how dishonest or incompetent the organization is.

The article is by Casey Luskin, which does tilt the interpretation in the direction of incompetence. What a clown.

Comments

  1. says

    Funny how even incomplete lineage sorting shows up only in the separation of closely-related species, as, well, expected. I mean, why don’t we have 30% of our genes more related to gibbons or something like that, supposing that the Designer were as intent on being derivative as it must be?

    See, this is microevolution, or at least it would be if nearly all creationists weren’t dead-opposed to our evolution “from the apes.” If they just understood it as microevolution, even they’d likely note the lack of any problem, ignorant as the gerbil is.

    Glen Davidson

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The article is by Casey Luskin, which does tilt the interpretation in the direction of incompetence. What a clown.

    Now, PZ, a lot of clowns are good at what they do, namely making children laugh. Luskin insults clowns with his inane and presuppositional thinking, and only makes us laugh at his vain attempts to be “deep” on the subject of his imaginary deity. Not one clue how evidence works, which is why he squeaks so much.

  3. WhiteHatLurker says

    @Glen Davidson

    To paraphrase the creationists:
    If we descended from apes, why am I still an ape? 8-)

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lion has the exact same conclusive physical evidence for its imaginary deity as Luskin does. Zip, zero, zilch, nil, nada, nothing but bullshit. Typical of lying and bullshitting godbots…

  5. Louis says

    Ahhhh Lasey Cuskin*….Attack Hamster and All Round Ally Of Science.

    “Ally?” I hear you cry incredulously. Why yes, for his incompetence in anti-science is truly awesome, he score more own goals than an English goalkeeper facing the USA in the 2010 Soccer World Cup.**

    Louis

    * This Spoonerism of Luskin’s name has a meaning. Imagine, if you will, the filthiest, most depraved act of perversion and wickedness. Not the good kind of perversion and wickedness, the other kind. The kind done by nasty people. Double it. Add twelve. Square that, minus your age in millenia, add 2 and paint it a really unpleasant shade of lime green. Now think of the effluent produced by that act. Mix that effluent in a bowl and allow to stagnate under a hot sun for three days. THAT is Lasey Cuskin. The most disgusting thing conceivable.

    ** Odious sport. It is is not cricket, and it is certainly not rugby. Bounders and cads to a man. Someone them possibly are not Gentlemen.

  6. Louis says

    I have stopped having the spellings. TYPO the Gdo of Clerical Errors is smiting me hard. It is gone 2 am, insomnia is not being corrected by SIWOTI and Surrealism on Pharyngula, I may screw up blockquoting for an unprecedented 3rd time if I am not careful (resulting in the End of the Universe and General Unpleasantness) and I appear to have trodden in a Ken Ham and got it all over my boot.

    Goodnight. I go to sleep, perchance to lie there for hours mulling over why I can’t get below micromolar activity for this fucking dopamine agonist I’m trying to design.

    Louis

  7. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    The article is by Casey Luskin

    squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek

  8. says

    We and the gorillas are so close to our common ancestor that we still share 30% of our genetic heritage and that’s not evidence for common descent? One wonders if Lushkin can find his head with both hands.

  9. Louis says

    Otrame,

    Oh don’t, I’ll blush! Behind the bikesheds at 3pm again? I’ll bring the Spiderman costume and the inbflatable haggis. You bring some mice and a punnet of strawberries.

    Ask for “The Archbishop”.

    Louis

  10. tfkreference says

    Yes, it ruins the tidy little strawman of a chimp giving birth to a human. Our prophet Darwin must be most displeased.

  11. A. R says

    You know what really makes me angry? The fact that we have to spend money to fight this shit. Do you know how hard it is to get research funding? Imagine how much we could fund if we didn’t have to spend time and money on fundies…

  12. Larry says

    Is this an (admittedly oversimplified) explanation of incomplete lineage sorting? I’m more closely related to my brother than my cousin. But I can still share certain genes with my cousin but not my brother. For instance, my cousin and I could both have brown eyes while my brother has blue eyes. That doesn’t disprove the fact that overall I am closer to my brother, nor that we all descended from a common ancestor, in this case our grandparents. Assuming that’s a fair argument, I can’t understand why it would be so hard for people to grasp, but I suppose I overestimate creationists.

  13. catnip67 says

    Man! I was supposed to go and do some work! Now these bozos come along and write garbage, and I feel compelled! {blasphemy}Maybe the great prophet Darwin is channelling through me {/blasphemy}

    Ok. I’m not an expert in evolutionary boilogy at all. That makes me qualified to comment, as far as DI & ICR are concerned, ok?

    I can do rudimentary arithmetic though, and even I can see how Gorillas & homopanzees could have separated first, still maintaining some common genetic code, and then homopanzees split into human & chimp and the bits of their genetic code that diverges could include some of the gorilla code. I can conceive of the chimp genes being the ones that diverged and LO! we are left with 3 species with Humans and gorillas still sharing genes that the chimps don’t have. Geeze! It’s not hard.

    Apologies to PZ & everyone-else-out-there-who-knows-more-about-this-than-me for mangling your science. I promise not to play with it any more until I can put it back the way I found it (unmangled)

  14. catnip67 says

    Larry, that’s my over simplified understanding too.

    And a correction, I mistakenly said I was not an expert in evolutionary boilogy, when in fact what I meant to say was that I am no expert in evolutionary biology.

    In boilogy, I am indeed an expert, and on that subject, I’m your human/chimpanzee/gorilla.

  15. johnmarley says

    What’s the difference between the Institute for Creation Research and the Discovery Institute?

    The DI has never cold-called me at 9pm for a donation.

  16. says

    Do I have this right?: There’s a gene that everyone in our last common ancestor group has. After the split, both gorillas and the human/chimp common ancestors have it. After the chimp/human split, chimps have a mutation in that gene and humans don’t. The result is humans have a gene in common with gorillas, but not chimps. We can compare these accumulated differences to see how far apart different lineages diverge. The 30% figure means humans diverged from gorillas about two and a half times as long ago as the diverge from chimps.

  17. golkarian says

    What I find odd, is that they’ve known about this before the Gorilla genome was complete, I have a book called “The Tree of Life” on phylogenetics and they mention how some genes place gorillas and humans closer together. Plus this logic would place some humans closer to some chimps than to other humans due to their blood-type.

  18. says

    PZ, thanks for the link to my explanation using the coalescent, at Panda’s Thumb. It is the tougher but better way to think about these things, I swear. And yes, our explanations are complementary (and there are nice explanations of this at Biologos by Dennis Venema and even a correct assessment by Todd Wood at his web site too).

    I think that the real scandal of the DI coverage is not that they didn’t know about coalescence (or “incomplete lineage sorting”). Lots of scientists don’t know about it. But what is horrific is that before going off half-cocked and pontificating all over the place, they didn’t even make any attempt to understand the matter. (Not that this is the first time they have behaved that way).

  19. jeroenmetselaar says

    I have flushed things that know more about biology than Luskin.

    I did need your explanation to wrap my head around how to explain the Gorilla genome, but that is why I prefer to learn my science from professors and nor from brain-dead clowns.

  20. Agent Smith says

    Contrary to traditional folklore, mice don’t like cheese. Except for Mus luskulus. He reliably cranks out curds and whey with the most fetid aroma. The gorilla’s genome contradicts human-ape evolution? Yeah, if that’s true, then King Kong is real.

    If this guy works up any real influence, especially over education boards, I might develop coulrophobia.

  21. wcorvi says

    It isn’t enough to disprove evolution – they are also required to prove ID (or whatever) is correct.

  22. Blattafrax says

    Does this actually provide a lot more evidence for common descent than simple similarity between genomes? A point Luskin hints at in a somewhat strawman-garbled way at the end of his article.

    Speciation isn’t an instant event (that’s the strawman of Luskin’s ‘argument’ blown away then) and so we are inevitably going to share a variety of similarities with alternately gorillas and chimps. But we only notice this because our genomes are so similar and the differences that occurred _during_ speciation are large relative to those that took place _afterwards_. But as the time between speciation events increases, this will change. So, does this 30% “crossover” get smaller when we compare with Rhesus macaque? Bigger in comparison to Neanderthal? Where don’t you notice it any more, back as far as lemur; or oppossum?

    Just curious. Does anyone know if this is already known?

    I think this is also a killer argument against the “similarity implies common purpose, not common descent” idea. If the similarities come with a signature of an extended speciation, then it would be a perverse creator indeed that threw in that to its design.

  23. mnb0 says

    “how dishonest or incompetent the organization is.”
    This is a false dichotomy. Should be “dishonest ánd incompetent.

  24. peterh says

    The only “supposedly nice, neat, tidy arguments” are their own and could not be more wrong if they were overtly, barking mad. Oh. Wait.

    @#26: All the fundies “explanations” boiled down do show their sky daddy to be perverse, erratic, malevolent and irrational.

  25. raven says

    What PZ wrote is true but known a long time ago.

    Every day science discovers new, interesting, and useful things.

    Every day the creationists make up new lies about those findings.

    Put another way. Science created modern Hi Tech 21st century civilization and is the basis of that civilization. What has fundie xianity contributed in the last 1,000 years. Nothing.

  26. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    They should just combine the two and call it Creationism Research Und Design.

  27. says

    Seriously, why is anyone surprised by this?

    Gorillas and (the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans) are descended from a common ancestor. The two lines began to develop differently, keeping certain features in common but diverging according to the different selection pressures acting on them.

    When the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans split into chimpanzees and humans, both chimpanzees and humans still had some features in common with gorillas.

    The chimpanzee lineage, subject to different selection pressures from the human lineage, might well have continued to diverge further from the gorilla lineage; while the human lineage retained some features inherited from the common ancestor of gorillas and TCAOCAH.

    That is so simple, it takes a conscious effort of will not to understand it.

  28. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    That is so simple, it takes a conscious effort of will not to understand it.

    Actually, I think it takes faith to not understand it.

  29. jimnorth says

    Larry @16 Thanks for that really easy to understand explanation of incomplete lineage sorting. Someone now needs to write a book titled “Your Inner Gorilla”. I also now understand why King Kong fell for Fay Wray.

  30. Menyambal -- damned dirty ape says

    What’s the difference between the Institute for Creation Research and the Discovery Institute?

    The Disco Toot has a better nickname?

    Luskin says:

    Eugenie Scott once taught us that when some evolutionary scientist claims some discovery “sheds light” on some aspect of evolution, we might suspect that’s evolution-speak for ‘this find really messed up our evolutionary theory.’

    But if you follow the links that he provides, it turns out to be the very opposite of what he says.

    Luskin has poor reading comprehension, no regard for the truth, or both.

  31. julietdefarge says

    Discovery Channel – 1985
    Discovery Institute – 1990
    For an interesting class exercise, compare and contrast discovery.com with discovery.org

  32. jaranath says

    Time and again they protest that they’re really all about the science, that they agree with nearly all of evolutionary science…and then they try to undermine common descent. That’s not the only place it happens, but I’ve seen it most often with common descent.

    Once upon I time I actually believed that they meant it when they said they were old-earth, science-loving theists who just thought there was some evidence here and there that goddidit. Or rather, godhelpedit. But I dropped that a long time ago due to crap like this. They’re creationists, straight-up. At best they’re squeezed into feigning a pro-science demeanor because they’ve learned they can’t fool enough people otherwise. But if this country ever shifted strongly enough toward the fundagelicals such that they had the power to replace all evolution curricula with creationism, the DI would drop the act in an instant.

  33. David Marjanović says

    Funny how even incomplete lineage sorting shows up only in the separation of closely-related species, as, well, expected.

    I don’t know what you expected or why, but evidence for incomplete lineage sorting doesn’t automatically disappear after a few million years. There’s for example evidence for it in the origin of bats, even-toed “ungulates”, odd-toed “ungulates”, and carnivorans + pangolins, a series of divergences that happened in very short order.

    Imagine, if you will, the filthiest, most depraved act of perversion and wickedness.

    Almost by definition, I cannot imagine that.

    I appear to have trodden in a Ken Ham and got it all over my boot

    I thought “I trod on an Edmund” was said by the people who liked Blackadder?

    Do you know how hard it is to get research funding?

    Depends on where. If your publication list is any good, apply to come to Germany with a Humboldt Foundation grant. That’s what I did.

    Is this an [...] explanation of incomplete lineage sorting? I’m more closely related to my brother than my cousin. But I can still share certain genes with my cousin but not my brother.

    Exactly!

    After the chimp/human split, chimps have a mutation in that gene and humans don’t. The result is humans have a gene in common with gorillas, but not chimps.

    That’s also going on, but wouldn’t be confused with incomplete lineage sorting, because phylogenetic analyses can only be done with at least four branches. In other words, there’s an outgroup (probably orang-utans) that is used to root the tree. You’re talking about innovations only the chimps have; because of the outgroup, they wouldn’t be confused with an innovation that gorillas and humans share.

    Incomplete lineage sorting starts with populations that have some internal diversity – populations in which two or more alleles of the same gene occur. When such populations split, and the alleles are neutral in terms of natural selection, each new population may or may not inherit part or all of that diversity, at random; and then, genetic drift may reduce the diversity within each new population, again at random. This way alleles that are innovations – mutations – can end up with distributions that aren’t congruent with each other’s or with the phylogeny.

  34. mucklededun says

    “Homopanzees”!!?? Why have you stolen the name of my rock band to label the common ancestor of humans & chimps? It’s not fair.

  35. says

    I don’t know what you expected or why, but evidence for incomplete lineage sorting doesn’t automatically disappear after a few million years

    Yeah, I didn’t say that, did I?

    I knew that it could be misread, true, but didn’t want to drone on about the issue. That you’d be the one misreading it doesn’t surprise me, however.

    Glen Davidson

  36. Abdul Alhazred says

    Scientists don’t know everything, and beauty in nature proves infinite horror in the unseen realm. QED.

    :) :) :)

  37. Pierce R. Butler says

    Something the Institute for Creation Research and the Discovery Institute have in common: both receive funding from an underpublicized little ($500M+) organization called the National Christian Foundation, which also funds a wide variety of other dubious projects (such as the recent “viral video” cheerleading for US military intervention in Uganda).

  38. damientrotter says

    #38 David Marjanović… have you been reading those Sir Thomas Beecham quotes again?

  39. damientrotter says

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Oh dear, that should have been #7 Louis.

  40. sc_82d3f982287032a84c1aad94084e72c7 says

    It appears to be true that DI and ICR are developing their own parallel universe, complete with their own “science”, their own “research”, even their own “peer-reviewed literature”.

    Soon, we should expect to see them come up with their own periodic table.

    THAT will be such a gas (no pu intended…I think)!!!

  41. FilthyHuman says

    @Nerd of Redhead
    #3

    Now, PZ, a lot of clowns are good at what they do, namely making children laugh.

    They’re also good at being absolutely terrifying to some people.

  42. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    Now, PZ, a lot of clowns are good at what they do, namely making children laugh.

    They’re also good at being absolutely terrifying to some people

    Not to mention getting elected. Which creates both terror and laughter. Often at the same time.

  43. FilthyHuman says

    @Ogvorbis
    #48

    Not to mention getting elected. Which creates both terror and laughter. Often at the same time.

    Well, they do put the laughter in slaughter.

  44. alwayscurious says

    Strangely enough, when I followed PZ’s link to ICR a few days ago, I did mistake it for the DI website–the articles & style are nearly identical. Probably the authors & finances are the same too. In which case, Casey Luskin is likely just the ICR voice for the coward behind the curtain (DON”T GO BACK THERE!)

  45. brandonj says

    This stuff is not only disgusting, but frightening. These Institutes that attempt to misinform the general public, re-write history etc. actually influence people. We all really have to stand up and fight for good science.

    Check out the foundation that Luskin co-founded:

    IDEA Center

    Education is the preservation and propagation of knowledge. A city in my area just passed a law forcing schools of springboro, OH to allow equal time for ID…

    I did a blog post about this as well on my blog:

    Here

    I emailed Luskin a list of data I found online on incomplete lineage sorting and speciation in general. Maybe we can overload his email with real knowledge even if he doesn’t read it…

  46. Amphiox says

    30% of the genome more closely related between humans and gorillas = 80% of the genome NOT more closely related between humans and gorillas, compared to chimpanzees = chimpanzees are closer to humans than gorillas!

    As last I recall, 7 > 3. Can these people not count? It’s only up to ten, after all. Do they not have hands, and fingers?

    Or are their hands busy elsewhere?

  47. catnip67 says

    Someone now needs to write a book titled “Your Inner Gorilla”.

    Except that fundies would attempt to have it banned as bestial porn, given that they would not be able to tell the difference between “your” & “you’re”, and “inner” & “in a”

    “Homopanzees”!!?? Why have you stolen the name of my rock band to label the common ancestor of humans & chimps? It’s not fair

    You can have it back now, I’ve finished with it

  48. brandonj says

    Erulóra Maikalambe I had not heard of that organization. I would not be surprised if that is no coincidence either. The lows these people will go to to propagate their delusions is astonishing and frightening at the same time…

  49. johnharshman says

    PZ: It’s unfortunately clear that a great many of your readers still have no clear idea what lineage sorting is (much less coalescence), as they are confusing it with symplesiomorphy. Perhaps another attempt?

  50. says

    So incomplete lineage sorting isn’t a result of symplesiomorphy? Incomplete lineage sorting redirects to coalescent theory on Wikipedia, which doesn’t seem to really cover the topic.

  51. johnharshman says

    Incomplete lineage sorting is the result of two things: 1) populations are polymorphic, meaning they have multiple alleles at most loci; if frequencies are evolving neutrally, eventually one of those alleles will become fixed in the population and the others will become extinct. 2) “Eventually” can be a very, very long time.

    So if the common ancestor of chimps, gorillas, and humans (HCG) had two alleles at a locus, let’s call them A and B, then the two descendant species, HC and G, are also likely to have both A and B, at least for a while. If the second speciation, the one that gets H and C out of HC, follows soon enough, then H and C will also still have both A and B alleles. Now let neutral drift happen for another 5 million years. Eventually, all three species H, C, and G will fix one of those alleles and lose the other. Randomly, if the existence of HC was short enough. If human and gorilla both fix A while chimp fixes B, it looks as if the first two are closer relatives. No new mutations, just loss and fixation of gene lineages that existed in the common ancestor.

    PZ explained this in the original post.