March 23, 2020 | Sal Cordova

Evolution by Losing Genetic Information


Evolution as taught by the Norman Bates School of Motel Management

by Sal Cordova

In a March 8, 2020 press release on Science Alert, a pair of evolutionary biologists announce that evolution of major groups of animals is through LOSS of genes. Against the backdrop of the “March of Man” icon, showing humans emerging from ape-like ancestors, it announces in bold type:

That Classic Image Everyone Uses to Illustrate Evolution Is Actually Wrong


Our results show that the origins of major groups of animals, such as the one comprising humans, are linked not to the addition of new genes but to massive gene losses.

The authors, Jordi Paps and Cristina Guijarro-Clarke, go on to suggest some sort of alternating loss and gain of complexity over time. This echoes a theme by Wolf and Koonin who said that the dominant mode of evolution is by genetic loss interspersed with explosive bursts of unexplained complexification (which they dare not characterize as miraculous). But between these unexplained brief explosive bursts of unexplained complexification, the normal mode of evolution is reduction and gene loss. Their paper, “Genome reduction as the dominant mode of evolution,” was published in BioEssays in 2013:

A common belief is that evolution generally proceeds towards greater complexity at both the organismal and the genomic level… However, recent evolutionary reconstructions challenge this notion… Two notable examples are the reconstruction of the complex archaeal ancestor and the intron-rich ancestor of eukaryotes. In both cases, evolution in most of the lineages was apparently dominated by extensive loss of genes.

This is actually a variation on theme articulated by J.B.S. Haldane way back in 1932 in his classic book, The Causes of Evolution:

Secondly, natural selection can only act on the variations available, and these are not, as Darwin thought, in every direction. In the first place, most mutations lead to a loss of complexity (e.g. substitution of leaves for tendrils in the pea and sweet pea) or reduction in the size of some organ {e.g. wings in Drosophila). This is probably the reason for the at first sight paradoxical fact that, as we shall see later, most evolutionary change has been degenerative. (JBS Haldane, Causes of Evolution, page 139.)

Faced with the problem of humans appearing more advanced than chimpanzees, especially in mental capacity, Haldane flipped the common “march of man” picture of evolution. He suggested that chimps are superior creatures and that humans are actually degenerate apes:

the study of evolution does not point to any general tendency of a species to progress. The animal and plant community as a whole does show such a tendency,

The change from monkey to man might well seem a change for the worse to a monkey. But it might also seem so to an angel. The monkey is quite a satisfactory animal. Man of to-day is probably an extremely primitive and imperfect type of rational being. He is a worse animal than the monkey.

So evolution not only destroys the less fit individuals, many times it hacks to pieces their genomes and selects them as favored creatures!

The Norman Bates Management School

In the classic 1960’s horror movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock, a deranged manager of a motel, Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins), hacks his customers to death. In 1976, Perkins replayed his iconic role as the psycho Norman Bates in a Saturday Night Live (SNL) parody. They parody showed a commercial for the “Norman Bates School of Motel Management” —

Norman Bates: [ to camera ] Are you tired of slaving away in a dull, dead-end job? Fed up with meager paychecks that never stretch quite far enough? Sickened and disgusted by missing out on the good things of life? Hi, I’m Norman Bates for The Norman Bates School of Motel Management, here to explain how you can be your own boss while earning money in this rapidly-expanding field. Best of all, you learn at home, right in the privacy of your own shower. I’ll show you how to run anything from a tourist home to.. [ camera pans to scary-looking duck trophy on the wall, then back to Norman ] ..a multi-unit motor inn. You’ll receive step-by-step instructions.. [ camera pans to scary-looking owl trophy on the wall, then back to Norman ] ..on how to make reservations and how to determine room rates, how to change the linen, and even little-known tricks of the trade, such as improving customer relations by giving guests a complimentary newspaper in the morning. [ holds up newspaper that reads “Los Angeles Times: SLASHER STRIKES AGAIN!”

William Dembski extended this parody in the intelligent-design blog Uncommon Descent back in 2006:

Yes, a diploma in motel management can be your passport to prosperity, independence, and security, but are you motel manager material? Let’s find out with a simple quiz.

Question 1: A guest loses the key to her room. Would you
A) Give her a duplicate key
B) Let her in with your passkey
C) Hack her to death with a kitchen knife

Question 2: Which of the following is the most important in running a successful motel?
A) Cordial atmosphere
B) Courteous service
C) Hack her to death with a kitchen knife

The correct answer to each question is C): “Hack her to death with a kitchen knife.”

Likewise, with Darwinism (aka Darwinian theory, the blind watchmaker, mechanistic evolution, naturalistic evolution, unintelligent evolution, etc.), the answer to every question over how some complex biological system formed is:

C) Hack to death all organisms that don’t have that system or some precursor to it.

We can thank Darwin for that insightful answer. The short-hand for it is NATURAL SELECTION.


One might say the latest ideas from evolutionary biology are well suited for the Norman Bates School of Motel Management!

Salvador Cordova has appeared on National TV, radio shows, newspapers, books and magazines for his work in promoting Intelligent Design and Creation Science. He is a former scientist and engineer in the aerospace and defense industry and presently serves as a professor and researcher in the area of Christian apologetics at small Bible College. He has four science degrees and is working on a PhD. For his previous entries on CEH, see his Author Profile.


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