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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mystery Solved, We Evolved From Little More than Beer Foam!!!

I'll explain my sensationalized "beer foam" headline in a minute, but we need some background first.  A recent article written at, which appears to be based on a press release from a biochemist at Brandeis University, touts the following headline:

"First Large-Scale Formal Quantitative Test Confirms Darwin's Theory of Universal Common Ancestry"

As a former journalist, I take issue with this type of article because it is NOT journalism and it is NOT science. It is an interesting opinion, that's all.  Here are my three journalistic problems with the story:
1. The headline blatantly misleads the reader with its use of the word "Confirms." Such definitive language is false because one single study or test cannot confirm anything. It might "Suggest," "Support," or "Imply" but it cannot confirm.

2. The researcher's findings were NOT published in a peer-reviewed journal first. From a scientific standpoint, such "ground-breaking" findings are published in respected journals that must be screened by other scientists who vet the methods and findings of the researcher to ensure validity. Then it's released to general media - that didn't appear to happen in this case because it doesn't seem to cut the scientific muster.

3. There is only one researcher cited as a source in the entire article. There was no other scientist, investigator or subject matter expert included in the piece.  Journalism 101 requires more than one source for a story - otherwise it's simply opinion NOT journalism.

Here's why I contend that the "findings" are NOT science, but rather merely the opinion of this lone researcher. If you read the article the researcher basically, cherry-picked 23 proteins that are shared across complex life forms (humans and plants); bacteria and specific single-celled organisms.

After using statistical analysis of those proteins, the researcher reportedly found that the proteins were the same across the varied life forms. He then uses several assumptions to boldly proclaim that the commonality of these proteins "confirm" that all life forms can be traced back to a single evoluntionary ancestor.  Huh???

Unfortunately, this is a BLATANT example of circular reasoning.  The researcher pre-screened 23 proteins -they weren't randomly selected from the thousands of proteins that exist. Based on this protein subset which is common to diverse life forms, he then uses that "finding" to claim they have a common anscestor; and because they have a common anscestor, that's the reason they have this same set of default proteins. This is a logical fallacy NOT science. 

(BTW, Christians get clubbed for using the same type of circular reasoning when we say things like, "The Bible is true because it says so, and because the Bible says it then it must be true." Whether you like it or not that's circular reasoning. There are better ways to convey truth - but that's for another post.)

So my headline for this post claims that "We Evolved From Little More than Beer Foam." I based that on a direct quote from the reseacher in the ScienceDaily story, when he was asked what our universal common ancestor would look like:

"Theobald's study doesn't answer this question. Nevertheless, he speculated, 'to us, it would most likely look like some sort of froth, perhaps living at the edge of the ocean, or deep in the ocean on a geothermal vent.....'"

I admittedly took some poetic license by characterizing "...some sort of froth..." as beer foam, but ultimately this researcher's study is all about biochemical evolution.  It's important to note that the father of that theory of biochemical evolution was Dean Kenyon, who literally wrote the book on the topic titled "Biochemical Predestination" more than 40 years ago. 
However, in an act of extreme intellectual integrity, Kenyon rejected his own theory because it crumbled beneath the question of genetic information. The ScienceDaily story completely ignores the issue of how amino acids self-organized into proteins that produce specifc life functions. That entire life-function process requires DNA coding or information, without that critical blueprint which is absolutely necessary for protein assembly, there is NO beer foam (or any subsequent evolution from the froth); and neither the ScienceDaily article or the study its about can even stand up beneath the weight of a stiff English stout.

Check out this YouTube link that connects snippets of Kenyon's interviews.

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