Monday, 5 April 2021

How Creationists Lie to Us - Ham and Platypus Eggs

Platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus
Does Oddball Platypus Genome Reveal Its Origins? | The Institute for Creation Research

In this article from Ken Ham's AiG, we have a prime example of how Creationist frauds misrepresent science to their target dupes.

First, here is what Creationist Bryan Thomas says, referring to an open access paper on the genomes of the monotremes in Nature, reporting on the work of a team of researchers at Copenhagen University:
The team zoomed in on the uniqueness of egg-laying in mammals. Today, chicks get all their nutrients from within the egg before they hatch. Newly-hatched puggles get some nutrients from within their platypus eggs, but they still need to lap mother’s milk. And of course, human babies initially get all their nutrients from milk. The research group demonstrated that chickens have three egg-producing genes, the platypus has one, and humans have none.

They concluded that since all three evolved from a common ancestor that laid eggs, the platypus lost two egg-specific genes while humans lost all three. This conclusion relies entirely on the premise of a common ancestor. It simply ignores the at least equally logical divine origins option. A smart Creator could have equipped each of these three creatures with the specific DNA sequences needed to carry out its own unique growth and development.
This subtle misrepresentation relies on three characteristics of Creationist frauds' target marks:
  • They will be ignorant of the subject so won't spot the false claims.
  • They will not read a scientific source to fact-check what they are being told and would not understand it if they did.
  • Although purporting to distrust science, they crave scientific support for their superstions and will be fooled by the inclusion of footnotes linking to science sources, believing this provides that scientific support.
Because they won't follow the links in Thomas' footnotes:
  1. Zhou, Y. et al. 2021. Platypus and echidna genomes reveal mammalian biology and evolution. Nature. Published online January 6, 2021.
  2. How Earth’s oddest mammal got to be so bizarre. University of Copenhagen Press. Posted on science.ku.dk January 6, 2021, accessed January 12, 2021.
his target marks won't read the truth. The references are to the published paper and to the Copenhagen University press release that accompnaied it, respectively.

In the press release we read:
During our own evolution, we humans lost all three so-called vitellogenin genes, each of which is important for the production of egg yolks. Chickens on the other hand, continue to have all three. The study demonstrates that platypuses still carry one of these three vitellogenin genes, despite having lost the other two roughly 130 million years ago. The platypus continues to lay eggs by virtue of this one remaining gene. This is probably because it is not as dependent on creating yolk proteins as birds and reptiles are, as platypuses produce milk for their young.

In all other mammals, vitellogenin genes have been replaced with casein genes, which are responsible for our ability to produce casein protein, a major component in mammalian milk. The new research demonstrates that the platypus carries casein genes as well, and that the composition of their milk is thereby quite similar to that of cows, humans and other mammals.

"It informs us that milk production in all extant mammal species has been developed through the same set of genes derived from a common ancestor which lived more than 170 million years ago — alongside the early dinosaurs in the Jurassic period," says Guojie Zhang.
In other words, mammals have not lost the genes for producing egg yolk proteins in the sense that they have disappeared (or as Thomas implies, were never there in the first place). They have been lost in the sense of a loss of function - by a process of transformign them into genes for making milk proteins.

In the paper, in Nature, in the section entitled Transition from oviparity to viviparity we read:
Monotremes provide the key to understanding how viviparity evolved in mammals. They are not as dependent on egg proteins as egg-laying avian and reptilian species owing to their nutrient acquisition from uterine secretions23,37, and the subsequent reliance of the young on lactation. Whereas reptiles have three functional copies of the major egg protein vitellogenin (VTG)38, in monotremes we found only one functional copy (VTG2) (Extended Data Fig. 10g and Supplementary Table 52) and a partial sequence for VTG1.

Similar to marsupials, monotremes have an extended lactation period and the composition of the milk changes dynamically as the development progresses to match the changing needs of the young37. SPINT3, a major milk-specific protein that is present in early lactation of therians with a probable role in the protection of immunoincompetent young in marsupials39, is absent in monotremes. Syntenic analysis confirmed that this region is conserved in platypus but contains two copies of a new protein that contains a Kunitz domain (Extended Data Fig. 10h and Supplementary Table 53). The Kunitz family is a rapidly evolving family, and one of the new members could have a immunoprotective function similar to SPINT3 in monotremes.
The authors have gone to considerable lengths to show that the evolutionary relationship between reptiles, birds and mammals shows evidence of common ancestry by showing how these genes, now with subtly changed functions, share a common origin.

When you show the world you know you need to lie for your faith, you show the world you know your faith is a lie that requires people to believe falsehoods.

Why would a true faith require people to believe falsehhods?
Thomas would have his readers believe that there is evidence in these genomes that a creator created each of these examples with just the right genes for their needs, so this shows intelligent design. However, reading the actual claims Thomas is misrepresenting it is clear than these genes are not simply lost. It is their original function that is lost. Are we to conclude then that an intelligent designer would include useless genes and simply break them to stop them working?

Where would be the intelligence in that design?

But perhaps the most instructive aspect to this sort of deliberate misrepresentation of science and the work of diligent scientists is not so much the contempt for their readers that these frauds have (to some extent their readers have themselves to blame for being so easily and willingly fooled) so much as the tacit acknowledgement that Creationism requires deception and misrepresentation.

As I have said before:

Creationists lie about science, not because they believe science is wrong but because they think science is right.
They just need people to believe otherwise.

Why would anyone want people to believe falsehoods?



[Correction] In the above article I said that the 'missing' egg-protein genes had been transformed into milk-protein genes. This is not supported by the research paper. Instead, the authors explain how these genes evolved in the platypus from genes associated with tooth production.

However, the major points of my article remain valid. It is also apparent, from a closer reading of the research that Bryan Thomas also mislead his readership by implying that the author's main evidence for evolution centred around the 'loss' of egg-producing genes in mammals. In fact this was only a minor part of the evidence with considerably more time being devoted to an analysis of the evolution of the sex-deterinant chromosome system, the sensory systems, heamoglobin degredation and reproduction as spelled out in their summary:

Summary


Complete and accurate reference genomes and annotations are critical for evolutionary and functional analyses. It remains a challenge to produce a highly accurate chromosome-level assembly, particularly for differentiated sex chromosomes. We have produced a high-quality platypus genome using a combination of single-molecule sequencing technology and multiple sources of physical mapping methods to assign most of the sequences to a chromosome-scale assembly. This permits better-resolved analyses of the origin and diversification of the complex sex chromosome system that evolved specifically in monotremes. We delineate ancient and lineage-specific changes in the sensory system, haemoglobin degradation and reproduction that represent some of the most fascinating biology of platypus and echidna. The new genomes of both species will enable further insights into therian innovations and the biology and evolution of these extraordinary egg-laying mammals.
In other words, Thomas deliberately misleaad his readership by misrepresenting the focus of the research, by ignoring the other evidence presented and by using a false dichotomy and misuse of statistics. It is not true to say that the evolutionary explanation (for a loss of genes) is no more valid than magic creation. Without evidence for the existence of a magic creator and evidence of it ever having been seen to interfer with living organisms, it is not valid to assert that it could have happened and claim that notion to be equally valid to (or better than) an explanation which relies entirely on demonstrable mecahnisms.

Thanks to Facebook user Patrick Dennis for pointing out this error.


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