Author: Jackson Wheat
Hello, everyone, this is my very first blog post here at Evolution Corner! As the intro notes, the point of this blog will be to discuss science (particularly evolutionary biology), creationism, and intelligent design among other things. If you want to see more of my work, I operate a YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/jacksonwheat.
For this first post, I decided to take an article that I encountered on Twitter from the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to task. The article is titled “Three Puzzles Evolution Can’t Solve” and is authored by creationists Kevin Anderson, Brian Catalucci, and Nathaniel Jeanson. Anderson has a Ph.D. in microbiology, Catalucci is an airplane pilot with a master’s degree in computer science and engineering, and Jeanson has a Ph.D. in cell biology. Quite an interesting assortment of individuals. As the original article is quite long, I will split my rebuttal of it into parts. Here, we will look at the intro and Anderson’s section.
The article starts out with a statement that is completely par the course for creationism: “For more than a century Christians have looked for the scientific silver bullet that would destroy Darwinian evolution and prove biblical creation to be true.” Honestly, this encapsulates creationism (as well as intelligent design). At the end of the day, creationists just want to be rid of evolution; they will look at data only to the extent that they think it conflicts with or refutes evolution, which is completely opposite how researchers approach data. That is why creationists avoid or misrepresent over 90% of the available relevant technical data.
So, what are their puzzles? The authors claim abiogenesis, genetic “information”, and irreducible complexity to be the silver bullets, but far from being made of silver, they are not even bullets (they are Nerf darts). After all, evolution and abiogenesis are two separate fields. Anderson admits as much: “While Darwinian evolution does not claim to answer questions of life’s origin, its goal is to offer a natural explanation for the diversity of all life on earth (after it began).” If this is known from the outset, then it makes no sense to lump it in with the other questions as an evolutionary “puzzle”.
Anyway, Anderson begins his section by equating the modern concept of abiogenesis with spontaneous generation, declaring the field to violate the “fundamental law of modern biology”—biogenesis (I would have chosen segregation and independent assortment). But, the term “law of biogenesis,” like “polystrate fossils,” is a creationist invention. Biogenesis is indeed used in biology, but not in the way creationists use it. Living organisms do indeed produce other living organisms, but is this a refutation of abiogenesis? No. Abiogenesis does not posit that maggots arise from meat or weevils from flour; abiogenesis is a set of hypotheses that encompass how the first cells gradually arose over generations from proto-cells and biopolymers. Anyone trying to conflate abiogenesis with the old notion of spontaneous generation is not doing so honestly.
Anderson then does not really attempt to deal with any research on abiogenesis. He just handwaves the research away as “Sticking together a few amino acids, finding water on Mars or ‘organic’ material in meteorites, or even making numerous molecules from one reaction is still not creating life.” I have discussed proteomic research and finding organic molecules on meteorites in two videos: “Creationist Statistics” and “Misunderstanding Abiogenesis.” While not exhaustive reviews, the two provide starting points for people to investigate the relevant technical literature.
Anderson says, “A spontaneous origin of life has failed to meet the most basic of scientific tests. It has never been observed. On the other hand, we consistently observe that life comes only from life. After repeated verification, there has never been an exception. This is why biogenesis is a scientific law.” This is problematic for two reasons. First, no one is trying to just create life from biopolymers is one go. Experiments with abiogenesis are meant to provide plausible pathways by which life could theoretically arise. Each experiment investigates only a single step in the entire process. Second, by this logic, we have never observed the creationist designer creating organisms, so that designer cannot be invoked either. Anderson has knocked his own argument off the board.
Finally, Anderson wonders what would happen if researchers did manage to produce a living organism in the laboratory. Would creationists admit defeat? Of course not! He end runs the entire problem by saying, “Their accomplishment will use already preexisting components, and will be based upon decades of research and scientific understanding. It will not be a spontaneous event, but rather a carefully controlled and designed process. The achievement will be less a synthesis of life and more a semi-synthetic reassembly of life.” In essence, heads I win, tails you lose.
Nothing short of accidentally stumbling across an abiogenetic event with your handy tote electron microscope will apparently constitute evidence for abiogenesis to creationists. That is not surprising though; if creationists provided a reasonable challenge, then they run the risk of it being met. In total, Anderson did not attempt to engage with any evidence for abiogenesis but instead handwaved it all away. You, dear reader, are encouraged to investigate the technical literature for yourself. While there are many questions regarding the field of abiogenesis, Anderson has not dealt with any of them (and remember he admitted this is not an issue for evolution). In the next post, we will look at Catalucci’s section to understand if genetic “information” provides a problem for evolution.
“Three Puzzles Evolution Can’t Solve”: https://answersingenesis.org/evidence-against-evolution/three-puzzles-evolution-cant-solve/
“Creationist Statistics”: https://youtu.be/dV8U_4C1VII
“Misunderstanding Abiogenesis”: https://youtu.be/kjhZx8PTd_w
“Abiogenesis Pt. 2”: https://youtu.be/dL756OX8Mfc