Nathaniel Jeanson’s Null Hypothesis

I’ve been investigating ICR researcher Nathaniel Jeanson’s recent paper in Answers Research Journal, “Recent, Functionally Diverse Origin for Mitochondrial Genes from ~2700 Metazoan Species.” As it’s a topic I’ve seen before I’m going to write about it, but I see this morning that Hemant Mehta at his Friendly Atheist blog has actually beaten me to it, writing “A Creationist’s Desperate Attempt to Sound Like a Credible Scientist.” However Mehta’s post mostly mocks Jeanson, going so far as to dig up a promotional video the ICR made about him, and doesn’t really address his arguments in any detail. All the more for me then. Continue reading

Bio-Origins Project: Hypothesis Disproven

The full ATP synthase enzymeNow it’s my turn to be smug. In last month’s edition of Acts & Facts “Deputy Director for Life Sciences Research” Nathaniel Jeanson announced that he was investigating differential mutation rates as an explanation for the observed differences in sequence in the same gene in different species. His hypothesis was that God had, in effect, a pool of genes to choose from when he created life. All organisms that needed a specific gene would be given the same one, but the particular genes needed by each would vary. These originally identical genes would then diverge through mutations, with Jeanson using lower generation times as proxies for higher mutation rates. His original supporting evidence came in the form of the mitochondrial ATP-6 genes of the elephant, mouse, and fruit fly.

As I pointed out at the time there are a number of flaws in this hypothesis. For one – despite Jeanson’s claims to the contrary – this process would not necessarily create the observed hierarchy in sequence similarity. More importantly, however, the three animals analysed at that point just happened to have their evolutionary relatedness approximately agree with the predictions of Jeanson’s differential mutation rate model. I predicted that the mere insertion of a fourth animal would ruin the correlation, suggesting a turtle as a good test subject.

The ICR has not tested a turtle, but instead has analysed a large number of mammalian ATP-6 genes. Jeanson has written a new article for the November Acts & Facts edition: Bio-Origins Project Update, Evidence Against Differential Mutation Rates. Continue reading

In Search of a Turtle

It has only been a month, but Nathaniel Jeanson already has an ‘update’ on his Bio-Origins Project (see here for last month) – Bio-Origins Project Update, Hypothesizing Differential Mutation Rates. Here’s how he opens:

You might expect that the same gene in different creatures would have the same sequence. Surprisingly, this is not so.

See, I wouldn’t expect that (I wouldn’t want to just assume the opposite in all cases either, however). I can’t speak for any creationists, however, so perhaps this is a new revelation for them? Continue reading

The Hunt for the Mythical Kind

Frankly, it’s about time. Young Earth creationists assert that the natural world is divided into clearly distinguishable “kinds,” collections of species that share common ancestry. This would produce what I’ll call the ‘fungus of life,’ and if true should be a damn slight bit more obvious than it is. While this – that is, actually testing the various out-there claims that creationists make – is generally Todd Wood’s department, the ICR is finally getting in on the act. But they’re not approaching it quite right. Nathaniel Jeanson opens his article, Bio-Origins Project Update, Comparing 2,000 Animal Species Molecularly, like so:

If you were to compare DNA across diverse species, what pattern would you expect to see? The Bio-Origins project at ICR has narrowed its focus to DNA to answer several major creation biology questions. We want to: 1) identify the created kind boundaries; 2) identify the mechanism by which the kinds underwent diversification into the vast array of species we see today; and 3) identify the biological reason why the diversification process is limited to change within kinds. We also want to gather evidence against the faulty evolutionary paradigm epitomized by the “tree of life.”

The flaw here is that he assumes that kinds even exist before starting out: if he were doing this properly he would test that fact first. Not doing so runs the risk (who am I kidding? It’s gonna happen) of phenomena being misinterpreted as the features he is looking for, and probably used later as proof that kinds exist into the bargain – and it would be terrible if the ICR was to fall into the trap of circular reasoning, a sin they baselessly accuse real scientists of committing about every other month. Continue reading