Thursday, August 31, 2006

Casey Luskin Advances Agenda of Ignorance by Misappropriating Scientific Terms

Casey Luskin, of the contemptibly dishonest Discovery Institute, is bashing Jerry Coyne for saying:

“After lecturing this spring to the Alaska Bar Association on the debate over intelligent design and evolution, I was approached at the podium by a young lawyer. The tight-lipped smile, close-cropped hair and maniacal gleam in his eyes told me that he was probably a creationist out for blood. I was not wrong.” (Luskin’s emphasis)

in this book review found in Nature.

Luskin, who has more of a toothy smile but still has the characteristic maniacal gleam in his eyes ;), claims that the take home message from Coyne’s statement is:
b>“Don't ask hard questions about evolution of leading Darwinists, or you will get called mean-spirited names in major scientific journals.”b>

While noting that someone has a maniacal gleam in their eyes may not be nice, it’s certainly not calling them mean-spirited names.

Luskin then goes on to ask a bunch of rhetorical questions suggesting that anti-Creationist bias at Nature may be why they are unable to publish all their valuable research.

Other than completely ignoring this beautiful paragraph that is the actual take home message from Coyne’s review:
“In the end, the true value of evolutionary biology is not practical but explanatory. It answers, in the most exquisitely simple and parsimonious way, the age-old question: “How did we get here?” It gives us our family history writ large, connecting us with every other species, living or extinct, on Earth. It shows how everything from frogs to fleas got here via a few easily grasped biological processes. And that, after all, is quite an accomplishment.”

Luskin puts his own ignorance of science, or inability to keep his own metaphors straight, on display:

“Incidentally, one of the two commercial uses Coyne does find for evolution includes "the use of ‘directed evolution’ to produce commercial products (such as enzymes to protect crop plants from herbicides)." (pg. 984) "Directed evolution" is otherwise known as intelligent design.”(emphasis Luskin’s)

No Casey, directed evolution is not otherwise known as intelligent design. Here is the earliest reference to directed evolution (done in 1971) that I could find on PubMed:


Department of Genetics, University of California, Davis,
California 95616
Manuscript received April 17, 1971
Revised copy received October 1, 1971

An experimental system for directing the evolution of enzymes and meta-bolic pathways in microbial populations is proposed and an initial test of itspower is provided.-The test involved an attempt to genetically enhance certain functional properties of the enzyme acid phosphatase in S. cereuisiae by constructing an environment in which the functional changes desired would be “adaptive”. Naturally occurring mutations in a population of I O 9 cells were automatically and continuously screened, over 1,000 generations, for their effect on the efficiency ( K , ) and activity of acid phosphatase at pH 6, and for their effect on the efficiency of orthophosphate metabolism.-The first adaptation observed, MI, was due to a single mutational event that effected a 30% increase in the efficiency of orthophosphate metabolism. The second, M2, effected an adaptive shift in the pH optimum of acid phosphatase and an increase in its activity over a wide range of pH values (an increment of 60% at pH 6). M2 was shown to result from a single mutational event in the region of the acid phosphatase structural gene. The third, M3, effected cell clumping, an adaptation to the culture apparatus that had no effect on phosphate metab-olism.--The power of this system for directing the evolution of enzymes and of metabolic pathways is discussed in terms of the kinetic properties of the experimental system and in terms of the results obtained.
What’s important to note about this process, directed evolution, is that the evolution occurs by completely random mutations. The end product, an improved enzyme, is not itself intelligently designed, only the selection process is designed by an intelligent agent. So if you’re trying to say that God the Intelligent Designer, created life and a system (natural selection) by which it was allowed to evolve through completely random mutations until present day biodiversity was established… Then fine, you’re a theistic evolutionist and a deist, not an advocate of Intelligent Design.

Nothing wrong with that, congratulations on joining the world of reason!

Unfortunately we all know you are a Creationist who tries to use science-y jargon and bad metaphors to try to make your beliefs seem to be based on evidence rather than Faith. That’s fine too, it’s a free country, but drop the misappropriation of actual science and scientific terms as belonging to, or supporting of, your Faith. It just puts your ignorance of science on display.
PZ Myers delivers a thorough lashing to the contemptibly dishonest Discovery Institute's David Berlinski for an erstwhile letter to Science.

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