November 27, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Is Life More than Sewage?

Look at the sewer pipe accompanying an article on Science Daily.  The article claims that a bacterium in the sewer water is a “missing link” in our evolution.  How can this be?
    For a long time, evolutionists have tried to bridge the gap between bacteria, which lack a nucleus, and eukaryotes which have them.  A leading theory was that at some time two prokaryotes fused together, one becoming the nucleus for the other.  This theory is called endosymbiosis because the engulfed cell became dependent on the host cell and the host cell benefited from work done by the slave cell.  But now, evolutionists at the University of Dublin claim that larger bacteria in sewer water provide the missing link between the two cell types; no fusion was needed.
    Dr Emmanuel Reynaud from University College Dublin, one of the co-authors of the paper in Science,1 told the media, “Our discovery means that the appearance of eukaryotic cells on Earth can be explained by Darwinian evolution over billions of years rather than a ‘big bang’ fusion theory.”
    In their paper in Science,1 the Devos and Reynaud claim that the Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia, Chlamydiae (PVC) form a “superphylum” that acted as “a ‘cauldron’ for the evolution of eukaryotic and archaeal features, and that the superphylum is indicative of a path of intermediate steps between such an ancestor and an archaeal-eukaryotic ancestor (before the eventual split of the two domains).”  Their assertion, however, was hardly a hypothesis; they called it “a starting point for considering whether such features originated in a PVC-related ancestor from which the common eukaryotic and archaeal branch arose.
    As evidence, they pointed to intermediate-looking structures for the bacterial cell wall and cytoskeleton.  They also suggested that organelles originated by invagination of the cell membrane.  A table in their paper lists 14 features, some of which are shared by archaea, and some which are shared by eukaryotes.  These and other outward similarities they said “may illustrate intermediate evolutionary attempts” at becoming eukaryotes.  Notably absent from their list, however, is a full nucleus with the nuclear pore complex that controls entry and exit, chromosomes, mitochondria, and many of the machine-operated organelles characteristic of eukaryotes.
    In all honesty, they could not be dogmatic about their suggestion, as the ending paragraph makes clear:

The PVC bacteria are indeed a curiosity and their phylogenetic location in the Tree of Life is unclear.  Although these features could be the result of lateral gene transfer events, convergence, or a complex universal ancestor, their intermediate nature can be considered a more parsimonious scenario.  The possibility of a fusion scenario remains disputed.  More evolutionary scenarios are likely to unfold—and be debated—as more bacteria and archaea are discovered and characterized.  Although division into three domains of life remains the norm, the PVC superphylum may reflect continuity between the three domains, blurring their distinction.

The news media, though, went berserk with the suggestion that another “missing link” had been discovered.  In addition to Science Daily’s teaser, “Sewage Water Bacteria: ‘Missing Link’ in Early Evolution of Life on Earth?”, SoftPedia announced that “Sewage Sheds Light on the Origin of Eukaryotic Cells,” and Before It’s News stated confidently, “Sewage Water Bacteria Fills ‘Missing Link’ In Early Evolution Of Life On Earth.

1.  Devos and Reynaud, “Evolution: Intermediate Steps,” Science, 26 November 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6008 pp. 1187-1188, DOI: 10.1126/science.1196720.

Where are the reporters saying this is dumb, dumb, dumb?  Why do they fall in line like toy ducks with a string-pull voice recording, quacking “Missing link! Missing link!”?  Here are the headlines astute journalists should be writing:

  • Your Ancestors Live in Sewage?  Get Real
  • Two Evolutionists Tell Grand Fib in the Name of Science
  • Scientists Declare War on Endosymbiotic Theory, Causing Rift Among Evolutionists
  • Evolutionists Guilty of Claiming Similarities Suggest Ancestry
  • Complex Molecular Machines Ignored in Weak Evolutionary Tale
  • Speculation Without Evidence: Evolutionists Appeal to Imagination
  • Evolutionists Admit They Don’t Know Where Bacteria Fit in Tree of Life
  • Two Evolutionists Invoke Miracles to Explain Origin of Eukaryotes

This last one is justified by counting the number of times Devos and Reynaud invoked the well-worn evolutionary miracle words originated, arose, emerged and the like in their “scenario” (i.e., tall tale).  If PVC was such a glorious revolution in celldom, how come all the other bacteria didn’t get with the show?  Why did they live happily for two billion years without getting hip?  If journalists would just do their jobs and ask critical questions, science news would be a lot more interesting.
    It’s a sad state of affairs in science when evolutionists can tell stories and get away with it.  What we need as a “more parsimonious scenario” in biology is less scenario and more observational evidence.  Certain evolutionists and their gutless lackeys in the media could learn a little parsimony – by getting fired.

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