Rejecting Evolution, a path back to the dark ages

Journalist Denyse O’Leary wrote an op-ed in the Calgary Herald defending “Albertans right to reject Darwinian evolution.” It really should have been called “Albertans right to be ignorant of modern biology and medicine and a small step back towards the Dark Ages.” She is attacking a column by Rob Breakenridge where he is disturbed by the lack of belief in evolution in Alberta, Canada.  She says that he should not have written “about big topics without basic research.” O’Leary should take her own advice.

She starts by giving us her take on the 2005 Kitzmiller trial. This is the trial where it was ruled that Intelligent Design was essentially creationism and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

The 2005 Judge Jones decision in Pennsylvania, to which Breakenridge devotes much of his column, has not crimped the worldwide growth of interest in intelligent design. That is no surprise. A judge is not a scientist, and Jones cannot plug gaping holes in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

O’Leary is using one of ID proponents newest arguments to deflate the impact of the Kitzmiller trial. They are fond of pointing out that Jones isn’t a scientist. Well guess who else isn’t a scientist? That is right, Denyse O’Leary.  Instead, she is a “Toronto-based journalist; grandmother; Roman Catholic Christian.”  Don’t you just love the hypocrisy?

O’Leary then makes some audacious comments:

Evolution is—contrary to its (largely) publicly funded zealots— in deep trouble, for a number of reasons….Textbook examples of evolution often evaporate when researchers actually study them

And who do you think brought us these results that contradict earlier findings? Yes, scientists. Scientists who supposedly are stuck in the dogma of Darwinian evolution. Challenges to what we thought we knew is what makes Science the best way we have of looking at the world. But lets look at a few of the examples that O’Leary gives that supposedly “evaporate.”

One example that O’leary points to is the disappearance of eyes in the blind cave fish. As PZ Myers pointed out, this adaptation to living in a lightless environment is actually due to an increase in the expression of a particular developmental gene, sonic hedgehog.  This change leads to a stronger jaw with better sensory structures.  Both these changes are quite advantagous for searching for food in dark caves where eyes are useless.

O’Leary even has the gall to make a reference to Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution (2007) where he

notes that for decades scientists have observed many thousands of generations of bacteria in the lab. And how did they evolve?  Well, they didn’t.

Apparently, O’Leary doesn’t mind lying here saying that no evolution has been observed. As many of you will recall, evolution was observed in one such experiment by Richard Lenski’s group. They observed the gain of the ability of E. coli to utilize a food source (citric acid) that it could not use before. This story was all over the evolution and intelligent design circles. We can forgive Behe here because his book was published before Lenski’s paper, but O’Leary is just being dishonest.

O’Leary goes on to quote polls that show that only 37% of Albertans accept evolution. She even says “Well, good, let’s drive the numbers lower still.” Not only does O’Leary ignore evidence contrary to her position, misconstrue scientific findings related to evolution, and outright lie about recent findings, but she wants people to be scientifically illiterate.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve somehow ended up following O’Leary fairly closely.

    She really does believe her crap – that modern science is about to crumble away.

    She actually thinks that she, a Canadian “journalist” grandmother (she puts that in her blog profile) with no background in science as far as I can see, understands the issues better than anyone else.

    Mondo bizarro.

  2. I am pretty shocked that someone like O’Leary (with no obvious scientific training) can have such a following in the evolution/ creation debate. Just goes to show how bad the level of critical thinking skills are in the general public.

  3. Its obvious to any thinking person that if evolution had REALLY occured in the lab , something would have crawled out of the vat and either held up a little sign saying “hello ?” or eaten the scientists brain. WE badly need to return to the days of absolute church rule where everyone lived in peace, joy , and a loving brotherhood of Christ. Yup.

  4. Actually studies at Scripps Research Institute have came up with some really interesting results regaurding E. coli. Here’s some excerpts…

    “In the June issue of the open-access journal PloS Biology, the team describes how a protein called LexA in the bacterium Escherichia coli promotes mutations and helps the pathogen evolve resistance to antibiotics. The scientists also show that E. coli evolution could be halted in its tracks by subjecting the bacteria to compounds that block LexA. Interfering with this protein renders the bacteria unable to evolve resistance to the common antibiotics ciprofloxacin and rifampicin.”

    “When E. coli cells are subjected to damage, they upregulate repair enzymes, which then go to work trying to fix the problem. If the damage persists, the cell upregulates recombination enzymes, which are tasked with recombining the DNA — another way to repair it. And, says Romesberg, if the damage still persists, the cells upregulate enzymes whose sole task is to make mutations.”

    “Romesberg reasoned that since mutations can be turned on full-force, perhaps they could be shut off as well. Doing so, he says, would put a halt to evolution — an interesting prospect because the mutations responsible for evolution are the underlying causes of cancer and aging as well.”

    The Scripps researchers, discovered that E. coli, when stressed (such as running out of food as in Lenski’s experiment or in the presence of antibiotics in the Scripps experiment) selectively increases the mutation rate on certain genes. Thus the mutations in this case are not random but rather directed at a certain area in an attempt to solve a certain problem. Lenski should have have been aware of this but even if he weren’t he should have known just by definition alone selection can operate on any heritable change no matter how the change happened.

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