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Let’s Do Assumption-Free Science! Some Concluding Thoughts on Gutsick Gibbon’s Challenge

Photo credit: Linda Tanner, via Flickr (cropped).

In a series of posts (hereherehere, and here) I have been responding to YouTuber Gutsick Gibbon, aka Erika, on the question of whether the paper by Baum et al. (2016) proposed a reasonable test of the separate ancestry model. I hope I’ve convinced you, my reader, that they did not. Their requirement that separate ancestry involves random distributions of traits has not been proposed by ID proponents and is at odds with how human designers design things.

The statistical zeros in Baum et al. (2016), which Erika herself declared “Insane!”, are a testament not to the unlikelihood of actual separate ancestry but to the poor design of their test of the separate ancestry model.

Shuffling functional synapomorphies/trait data that cluster due to optimization or constraints is not a valid model of separate ancestry. That is because it goes against everything we know about how design works. Designed technology contains components with correlations and patterns that, when viewed through a phylogenetic lens, can yield some degree of tree-like data. That doesn’t mean they arose due to common ancestry. It means they arose due to common design to meet functional requirements.

What ID proponents are encouraging in the greater scientific community is honesty about the fact that both design and ancestry can create genetic similarity. We are saying that everyone needs to think differently about the hierarchical signal we observe in life. In a nutshell, let’s start doing assumption-free science in phylogenetics where one doesn’t a priori exclude design as a reasonable hypothesis.

As I have noted, intelligent design does not rise or fall with common ancestry, for ID proponents have different views on that question. However, I trust that I have made it abundantly clear that ID proponents and others who question common ancestry have excellent scientific reasons for doing so. 


  • Baum, David A., Cécile Ané, Bret Larget, Claudia Solís-Lemus, Lam Si Tung Ho, Peggy Boone, Chloe P. Drummond, Martin Bontrager, Steven J. Hunter, and William Saucier. 2016. “Statistical Evidence for Common Ancestry: Application to Primates.” Evolution: International Journal of Organic Evolution 70 (6): 1354–63.
  • Doolittle, W. Ford, and Eric Bapteste. 2007. “Pattern Pluralism and the Tree of Life Hypothesis.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104 (7): 2043–49.
  • Ewert, Winston. 2018. “The Dependency Graph of Life.” BIO-Complexity. https://doi.org/10.5048/bio-c.2018.3.
  • Murphy, W. J., E. Eizirik, W. E. Johnson, Y. P. Zhang, O. A. Ryder, and S. J. O’Brien. 2001. “Molecular Phylogenetics and the Origins of Placental Mammals.” Nature 409 (6820): 614–18.
  • Perelman, Polina, Warren E. Johnson, Christian Roos, Hector N. Seuánez, Julie E. Horvath, Miguel A. M. Moreira, Bailey Kessing, et al. 2011. “A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates.” PLOS Genetics 7 (3): e1001342.

Emily Reeves

Emily Reeves is a biochemist, metabolic nutritionist, and aspiring systems biologist. Her doctoral studies were completed at Texas A&M University in Biochemistry and Biophysics. Emily is currently an active clinician for metabolic nutrition and nutritional genomics at Nutriplexity. She enjoys identifying and designing nutritional intervention for subtle inborn errors of metabolism. She is also working with fellows of Discovery Institute and the greater scientific community to promote integration of engineering and biology. She spends her weekends adventuring with her husband, brewing kombucha, and running near Puget Sound.



biologycommon ancestryErikaevolutionGutsick Gibbonhuman designersintelligent designphylogeneticsseparate ancestrystatistical zerossynapomorphiesTechnologyYouTube videos