Thank Goodness the NCSE Is Wrong: Fitness Costs Are Important to Evolutionary Microbiology

The evolution of antibiotic resistance is typically the result of small changes allowing for survival in a microbe or other organism under special circumstances where the organism faces extremely strong selection pressure due to the presence of some antibiotic drug. In other cases, it is the result of the transfer of pre-existing antibiotic resistance genes from one microbe to another, and the selection of such microbes in an environment containing antibiotics. Even in the first example, evolution does not produce a truly new function. In fact the change produced often makes the microbe less fit when the antibiotic is removed–it reproduces slower than it did before it was changed. This effect is widely recognized, and is called the fitness cost Read More ›

Testing the Orchard Model and the NCSE’s Claims of “Nested Patterns” Supporting a “Tree of Life”

In my previous post responding to the National Center for Science Education’s (NCSE) attacks on Explore Evolution‘s treatment of biogeography, I explained that there are many examples where there is inconsistency between evolutionary expectations of biogeography and plate tectonics. The NCSE is thus wrong to have claimed that “The consistency of these sorts of nested patterns cannot be explained without reference to common descent. The creationist ‘orchard’ is scientifically meaningless, since it makes no predictions.” * The classical “universal common descent” view is contrasted with the orchard model at below: The NCSE’s claim is perplexing because, as noted, the NCSE also claimed that “continuity [between biogeographic and evolutionary patterns] is what would be expected of a pattern of common descent, Read More ›

Sea Monkeys Are the Tip of the Iceberg: More Biogeographical Conundrums for Neo-Darwinism

In my previous post responding to the National Center for Science Education, I observed that the origin of South American monkeys (platyrrhines) is a striking example of a discontinuity between evolution and biogeography. As I observed at the end of that post, which was adapted from “The NCSE’s Biogeographic Conundrums: A Defense of Explore Evolution‘s Treatment of Biogeography“: the NCSE was not quite accurate when claiming that “By comparing macroevolutionary patterns between different groups, we find that the same patterns repeat. This strongly suggests that the same forces drove the diversification of those different groups.” The truth is that whenever oceanic “sweepstakes” dispersal is required, we find an exception to expected neo-Darwinian rules of biogeography. And as will be seen Read More ›

Sea Monkey Hypotheses Refute the NCSE’s Biogeography Objections to Explore Evolution

(Cartoon Courtesy of Pete Chadwell)  In its response to the chapter on biogeography in the supplementary textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (EE), the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) asserts that EE “mangles the tiny fraction of biogeography covered.”* My response to the NCSE’s arguments, “The NCSE’s Biogeographic Conundrums: A Defense of Explore Evolution‘s Treatment of Biogeography,” notes that “[t]he NCSE’s approach is to cherrypick examples to support their arguments for universal common descent, but a large number of ‘biogeographic conundrums’ that challenge neo-Darwinism could be discussed.” For example, in its response regarding marsupials, the NCSE admits, “If the [North American] opossum truly had roots in Australia, it would indeed be a biogeographic conundrum.” Since North Read More ›

Testing Common Descent via the Continuity Between Biogeography and Evolution

Last fall I spoke at a symposium on intelligent design (ID) and the law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My forthcoming paper from that conference, “The Constitutionality and Pedagogical Benefits of Teaching Evolution Scientifically,” deals with many issues, one of which is a rebuttal to dumbed down versions of evolution that some evolution-lobbyists wish to teach students. The primary force in the evolution lobby is the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). In its response to the chapter on biogeography in the supplementary textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (“EE”), the NCSE asserts that EE “mangles the tiny fraction of biogeography covered.” The reality, however, is that the NCSE drastically Read More ›