A Tale of Two Falsifications of Evolution
In diatribes against creationists, evolutionists have long pointed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria as examples of evolution in action. Since antibiotics were unknown before the 1920s, debaters have taunted their creationist opponents with the claim that evolution is such an observable fact, we’re watching it happen right before our very eyes. The force of that argument has been undermined with a new discovery this week that pushes the “evolution” of such resistance way back before human civilization arrived. Another article is claiming that human brain chemistry existed way, way back, “long before animals, brains and even nerve cells existed.”
Antibiotic resistance: An article on Science Daily began, “Scientists were surprised at how fast bacteria developed resistance to the miracle antibiotic drugs when they were developed less than a century ago. Now scientists at McMaster University have found that resistance has been around for at least 30,000 years.” Gerry Wright and other McMaster scientists analyzed DNA from Arctic permafrost and found the genes for resistance there, including a gene for vancomycin resistance that was thought to have evolved in the 1980s. “We then recreated the gene product in the lab, purified its protein and showed that it had the same activity and structure then as it does now.” (They noted that this is only the second time a protein has been reconstituted from ancient DNA.)
Wright pondered the quandary raised by this find: “Antibiotic resistance is seen as a current problem and the fact that antibiotics are becoming less effective because of resistance spreading in hospitals is a known fact. The big question is where does all of this resistance come from?” It can no longer be seen as a recently-evolved trait in bacteria. In fact, the McMaster team expects to find these genes in samples going back a million years, according to evolutionary dating.
This requires a significant alteration of the evolutionary story. “Antibiotics are part of the natural ecology of the planet so when we think that we have developed some drug that won’t be susceptible to resistance or some new thing to use in medicine, we are completely kidding ourselves. These things are part of our natural world and therefore we need to be incredibly careful in how we use them,” Wright said. To rescue evolution, he turned to the personification fallacy: “Microorganisms have figured out a way of how to get around them well before we even figured out how to use them.” Lacking a brain, no microorganism has the power to figure out anything.
Microbe brains: In New Scientist, Michael Marshall titled a story, “Your brain chemistry existed before animals did.” Dirk Fasshauer and team at the University of Lausanne found “a pair of essential neural proteins called Munc18/syntaxin1” in choanoflagellates – single-celled organisms from early life history in the evolutionary timeline. “The finding is intriguing on its own, but much more significant when combined with a growing body of evidence that essential brain components evolved in choanoflagellates before multicellular life appeared.”
The proteins exhibit the three main functions of neurons: “carrying electrical signals along their bodies, signalling to their neighbours with neurotransmitters, and receiving those signals.” This means that these proteins could not have emerged under some evolutionary pressure to invent brains or even central nervous systems. To rescue evolution from this new finding, the article had to revise the story:
"The choanoflagellates have a lot of precursors for things we thought were only present in animals,” says Fasshauer. Today, says [Harold] Zakon [University of Texas at Austin], the nervous system seems “unbelievably complex”, but evidence from these tiny organisms suggests it was built up from several simple systems, which evolved separately for different reasons. For instance, Fasshauer suspects M. brevicollis uses Munc18/syntaxin1 to secrete chemicals, much like neurons use it to release neurotransmitters.
The very idea of a “precursor,” however, runs contrary to Darwinian theory. Evolution, being blind and without foresight, cannot create a precursor to anything that might be useful in the future. Nor can evolution evolve anything for “different reasons,” since there were no reasons, nor reasoning, for anything in the brainless age of choanoflagellates. Darwinian theory was intended to rid science of teleonomic explanations (i.e., that organisms use proteins to secrete chemicals or neurons use proteins to release neurotransmitters). Once again, the escape route taken by these researchers to save evolution was the personification fallacy, ascribing reasoning and planning to single-celled organisms.
To repeat a principle that bears repeating in these commentaries, it’s not that evolutionists are unable to concoct a story to explain surprises in the data. They are, after all, gifted storytellers. It’s that the data require a story to maintain a belief – and to evade falsification.