More Science Labs: The OOL Question

• Views: 1,067

Here’s an interesting back-and-forth volley on the subject of intelligent design and science; first an article by Gordy Slack on What neo-creationists get right.

Then, evolution advocate Nick Matzke (who was featured in that video I posted yesterday on the Dover School District controversy) replies to Slack’s article in an essay on what scientists really know about one of the most fundamental questions, the Origin of Life (OOL): What critics of critics of neo-creationists get wrong: a reply to Gordy Slack - The Panda’s Thumb.

Read the whole thing, but here’s one section that deals with an issue that’s been raised in LGF comments over and over:

OOL Discovery #1. All known life can be traced back to a single common ancestor which, compared to what most people think of as present-day life (i.e. plants and animals), was relatively simple – microscopic, single-celled, perhaps as complex as an average bacterium or perhaps somewhat less so.

Because a lot of creationists, and sometimes others, are a bit thick in the head on correctly understanding this point, let me bash away at some common misconceptions. The phrase “single common ancestor” does not, and never has for people who were paying close attention, referred to a literal single individual organism. Think about a phylogenetic tree with humans and chimps on the branches. When you trace the tree back to the “common ancestor” of chimps and humans, does that node represent a literal single individual? No, of course not! Everyone (well, everyone paying attention) realizes that that ancestral node represents a species or population sharing genes in a gene pool. Ditto for all of the other ancestral nodes in a phylogenetic tree, including the Last Common Ancestor of known life.

With this understood, the debate initiated by Ford Doolittle and others over the precise nature of the Last Common Ancestor – they argue that it was a population of unicells that were rampantly trading genes – can be put in the correct context. It’s basically a debate about how wide or narrow the bottleneck the Last Common Ancestor represents, and whether (for example) modern life might contain some genes derived by lateral transfer from pre-LCA lineages that are now extinct. These debates are fascinating and highly technical, but they don’t undermine at all Point #1. Somewhat ironically and counterintuitively, those who say that there was rampant lateral transfer – this is supposed to be the “radical” position that “uproots the Tree of Life” when its proponents get their blood up – are actually pushing the LCA to something more and more like a traditional gene pool, i.e. species, i.e. what every other node in a phylogenetic tree represents.

Any way you slice it, all known life (with minor derived exceptions, and excepting viruses) shares a suite of protein and RNA genes, a DNA-RNA-protein system and a mostly standard genetic code (again with minor derived exceptions), etc. Even if various other bits of modern life came from other ancestral lineages (unlikely for most features in my opinion but there may be some exceptions), this shared system indicates that all known life, i.e. all the stuff that’s not extinct, descends from a pretty good bottleneck where these features were fixed in the “population.” And this reconstructed ancestor is maybe as complex as a typical bacterium and probably less so. It could be that in the last 50 years science discovered that known life had for-real multiple origins, or that at the root of the tree was a complex multicellular organism with 30,000 genes and huge, elaborately regulated, genome, but instead we get a unicell with a relatively small & simple genome. Various caveats, important to scientists but irrelevant to beginner-level education and dealing with creationists (e.g., somewhat more genes may have been passed through the bottleneck in some but not all organisms if the LCA was more of a gene-trading community) should not be allowed to distract from the Main Point: science has confirmed the hypothesis, going back at least to Darwin, that the ancestor of modern life was much less complex than life today.

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Donate with
PayPal
Square Cash Shop at amazon
as an LGF Associate!
Recent PagesClick to refresh
Orkestra Obsolete Play Blue Monday Using 1930s Instruments - BBC Arts More information: bbc.in New Order's Blue Monday was released on 7 March 1983, and its cutting-edge electronic groove changed pop music forever. But what would it have sounded like if it had been made 50 years earlier? In a ...
Thanos
19 hours, 7 minutes ago
Views: 105 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Tune-Yards - ABC 123 (Official Video) 'ABC 123' by Tune-Yards. New album 'I can feel you creep into my private life' is released January 19th 2018: smarturl.it Director: Dear Mr QuistgaardProducer: Abi Atkinson, LS ProductionsCommissioner: Gabe Spierer, Beggars GroupExec Producer: Saskia Whinney, SomesuchDOP: Deepa KeshvalaEditor: ...
Thanos
19 hours, 10 minutes ago
Views: 84 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Funding Restrictions Have Made Gun Violence Researchers Get Creative A study published Thursday concludes that a subsequent increase in gun exposure led to more accidental firearm deaths than otherwise would have occurred in the months after the school shooting. "It was the spike [in sales] itself that sort ...
Thanos
21 hours, 16 minutes ago
Views: 107 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Recycling Chaos in U.S. As China Bans ‘Foreign Waste’ Like many Portland residents, Satish and Arlene Palshikar are serious recyclers. Their house is coated with recycled bluish-white paint. They recycle their rainwater, compost their food waste and carefully separate the paper and plastic they toss out. But recently, ...
Thanos
21 hours, 31 minutes ago
Views: 172 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 2 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Trump Jerusalem Move: Tear Gas at Lebanon US Embassy Protest There have been violent clashes near the US embassy in Lebanon, in the latest protest against President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Security forces fired tear gas and water cannon to force back ...
Thanos
21 hours, 35 minutes ago
Views: 129 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 3 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Trump Says He and Trudeau Disagree on Trade Deficit. U.S. Stats Seem to Be on the PM’s SideHair Furor just can't seem to catch a break these days....Despite Trump's insistence the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada, statistics from the website of the office of the U.S. Trade Representative -- the office handling NAFTA negotiations -- ...
The Major
1 day, 3 hours ago
Views: 165 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Blondie - Doom or Destiny (Official Video)Blondie performing "Doom or Destiny" from the new album "Pollinator".Out Now: blondie.lnk.to Follow Blondiefacebook.cominstagram.com@BlondieOfficial vevo.ly
Thanos
2 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 248 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 2
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Black Coffee (Official Music Video) Official video for Black Coffee from the new Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa album Black Coffee. Pre-order: smarturl.it BLACK COFFEE is available to pre-order on CD and vinyl. The limited CD box includes 2 coasters, a postcard and an ...
Thanos
2 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 1,125 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Sparks - ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’ (Live at WFUV) wfuv.org • Follow @wfuv: ow.ly Sparks (allsparks.com) performs "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us" live in Studio A. Recorded 10.12.17. Host: Darren DeVivoAudio: Jim O'HaraCameras: Dan Tuozzoli, Kristal Ho, Monica Fafaul, Alexandra Brennan and Liz CarrEditor: ...
Thanos
2 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 176 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Conyers Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi informing them of his decision to step down from Congress as of Tuesday, amid allegations of sexual misconduct leveled by multiple ...
Thanos
2 days, 8 hours ago
Views: 181 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0