Yet Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction

This species of catus worm, Priapulus caudatus, falsified another evolutionary prediction (click for credit)
Look at the unassuming worm pictured on the left. It is commonly called a cactus worm, but this particular species is known as Priapulus caudatus. According to evolutionists, cactus worms have been around for at least 500 million years.1, but they just recently falsified yet another prediction made by the hypothesis of evolution. To understand the prediction and why it has failed, you need to learn some background information.

There are many different ways scientists classify animals, but one of the broader ways it is done is by symmetry. Most of the animals with which you are familiar are bilaterally symmetric. This means their bodies can be split into a left half and a right half, and those two halves are roughly mirror images of each other. Cats, dogs, and horses are all bilaterally symmetric, as they all have distinct right and left sides that roughly mirror each other. In addition, cactus worms are bilaterally symmetric. Since there are a lot of animals that have this kind of symmetry, scientists have to find characteristics among the bilaterally symmetric animals that will further classify them.

Well, there are two different ways that bilaterally symmetric animals develop their digestive tract. In all these animals, a puckered indentation forms in the embryo. This indentation, called the blastopore, forms the beginning of a tube that will eventually develop into the digestive tract. However, in some bilaterally symmetric animals, that blastopore ends up becoming the mouth, while in other bilaterally symmetric animals, the blastopore ends up becoming the anus. In other words, some animals start their digestive system with their mouth, while others start their digestive system with their anus. The “mouth first” animals are called protostomes, which is a combination of the Greek word “protos” (which means first) and “stoma” (which means mouth). The “anus first” animals are called deuterostomes, which means “mouth second,” since the Greek word “deuteros” means “second.”

So when a biologist looks at an animal that is bilaterally symmetric, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “How does the digestive tract develop?” That tells the biologist whether the animal is a protostome or a deuterostome. Well, it turns out that studying the embryonic development of animals is rather time-consuming, so scientists often use other characteristics to infer the group to which an animal belongs. With all that under your belt, you are now ready to learn about the falsified evolutionary prediction.

No one had bothered to study the embryonic development of a cactus worm in a detailed enough fashion to determine how its digestive tract forms. Nevertheless, cactus worms have been classified as protostomes for a long, long time. Why? Because they share major genetic and anatomical features with other known protostomes. In addition, they do not share nearly as many characteristics with the deuterostomes. For example, a study that analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of cactus worms as well as 42 genes from their nuclear DNA confidently stated that cactus worms are actually “slowly evolving ecdysozoans.”2 Why is that important? Because ecdysozoans are protostomes. From an evolutionary point of view, then, it is obvious that cactus worms are protostomes.

After all, cactus worms are so genetically and anatomically similar to protostomes and so different from deuterostomes that they must be very closely related to the protostomes. Since they are very closely related, they must share all sorts of similarities, including the way their digestive tracts develop. From an evolutionary point of view, then, there is just no need to study their actual embryonic development, right? Wrong!

José M. Martín-Durán and colleagues actually watched the embryonic development of a particular species of cactus worm, Priapulus caudatus. They found that in fact, the anus forms first, not the mouth. Thus, while cactus worms have been classified as protostomes for quite some time based on evolutionary reasoning, the fact is that the one species whose embryonic development has actually been studied is a deuterostome. The title of the paper says it all: Deuterostomic Development in the Protostome Priapulus caudatus.3

So while evolutionary reasoning confidently predicted that cactus worms are protostomes, the actual data indicate the exact opposite. The more we study nature, the weaker the evolutionary hypothesis becomes.


1. Dong X, Donoghue PCJ, Cheng H, and Liu J, “Fossil embryos from the Middle and Late Cambrian period of Hunan, south China,” Nature 427:237-240, 2004.
Return to Text

2. Webster BL, Copley RR, Jenner RA, Mackenzie-Dodds JA, Bourlat SJ, Rota-Stabelli O, Littlewood DT, and Telford MJ, “Mitogenomics and phylogenomics reveal priapulid worms as extant models of the ancestral Ecdysozoan,” Evolution & Development 8(6):502-10, 2006.
Return to Text

3. José M. Martín-Durán, Ralf Janssen, Sofia Wennberg, Graham E. Budd, and Andreas Hejnolsend, “Deuterostomic Development in the Protostome Priapulus caudatus,” Current Biology doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.09.037, 2012.
Return to Text

82 thoughts on “Yet Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction”

  1. What is the creationist hypothesis for why god would make these groups look so morphologically similar and yet so developmentally different?

    This kind of question – and there are many, many of them in other fields such as biogeography – are one of the lines of evidence supporting evolution.

    Evolutionary theory can explain how this happens and why in fact we might expect it now and again.

    I presume you will simply say the creator can do anything he wants even if it looks like he is just fiddling about for no reason?

    1. Thanks for your question, psiloiordinary. The Creator could probably do anything He wanted when it came to creation, but that’s not why some groups look morphologically similar but are so developmentally different. When I look at the biological world, it seems to me that the Creator designed His creation with ecosystems in mind. He wanted well-balanced ecosystems, which means He had to design creatures that would fill specific ecological niches.

      In general, creatures are morphologically similar because their kinds have been designed to play similar ecological roles. However, the details of these roles are different. As a result, the details of their systems vary, which often requires a different developmental pattern. The priapulida, for example, tend to be burrowers that sit in their burrows and catch their food. The ecdysozoa tend not to be. As a result, you would expect the details of their anatomy to be slightly different. It is possible that the digestive system produced by protostome development is better suited for the ecdysozoa lifestyle, while the digestive system produced by deuterostome development is better suited to the priapulida lifestyle. Alternatively, it might be that the protostome development of the digestive tract has a disadvantage in the eggs of the priapulida. As a result, the Creator used the deuterostome development instead.

      In the end, a creationist would expect a functional reason for different development among morphologically similar creatures.

  2. Dr. Wile, do you think evolutionary theory struggles to explain why bilateral symmetry is so widespread in nature? It seems to me that from an evolutionary standpoint, bilateral symmetry must be a quality that is vitally necessary for survival, since so many millions of unrelated species share it. But I don’t really see why perfect symmetry would be so necessary. It seems to me that most creatures would get along just fine if one side was slightly different than the other.

    1. Keith, I don’t think that evolutionary theory struggles with bilateral symmetry. There are a lot of distinct advantages to it. Two eyes on opposites sides of the head can be arranged to allow for either a wide-angle, low-depth-perception view or a narrow-angle, high-depth perception view. Two ears on opposite sides of the head allows for sensing a general direction for an incoming sound, etc. Thus, I would think bilateral symmetry would offer some distinct survival advantages, and an evolutionist would therefore conclude that it would be strongly selected.

  3. Unfortunately, you seem to have misunderstood the significance of this paper. The common ancestor of all members of Bilateria could have developed protostomally or deuterostomally, but before this finding it could not be determined which. What this finding demonstrates is that the common ancestor had deuterostomal development and that, in fact, this trait evolved earlier than protostomal development. That the cactus worm, who is a member of the phyla that branched off later than deuterostomes but earlier than the rest of the protostomes, develops deuterostomally tells us that protostomal development is a trait that evolved later on. The diagram in the study makes this clear.

    This finding presents no challenge whatsoever to evolutionary theory.

    Your error, it seems, is in assuming that all the traits that distinguish a phyla must arise altogether, simultaneously. This is similar to the common creationist caricature of evolution requiring that a chimpanzee give birth to a human.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Shrunk. I will have to disagree with you. I understand how the evolution of Bilateria will have to be rethought as a result of this study, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the evolutionary hypothesis predicted that the cactus worms use protostomal development. Indeed, in every phylogenetic tree I saw before this study, the Priapulida are grouped with the the protostomes. That grouping was based on evolutionary analysis, and we now know that it is wrong.

      As for this not being a challenge to evolutionary theory, there are many who would disagree. This article says, “A new study of priapulids, commonly referred to as “penis worms,” may have just unraveled a large part of what scientists have believed about evolutionary history.” Scientific American says, “Penis Worm Shakes Evolutionary Tree.” Nature News says, “Penis worm pokes holes in evolutionary dogma.” If nothing else, it is a challenge to evolution because we now know that the standard methods of phylogenetic analysis can lead to wrong conclusions, as they led to the wrong conclusion in the case of the Priapulida.

      Nowhere in my article do I even imply “that all the traits that distinguish a phyla [sic] must arise altogether, simultaneously.” I simply pointed out that the evolutionary hypothesis predicted that the Priapulida use protostomal development, and that prediction has now been falsified.

  4. You’re continuing to misunderstand the research here. that priapulids would demonstrate protostomal developement was not a prediction of evolutionary theory. It was a hypothesis or assumption based on reasonable, but incomplete, evidence available at the time. Priapulids remain part of the protostome phylum, but obviously the name of that phylum needs to be reconsidered. If this finding did falsify evolutionary theory as you claim, it would not be possible to fit priapulids into a phylogenetic tree at all.

    You are misrepresenting the articles you cite above. Evolutionary theory as a whole is not challenged by this finding. It makes perfect sense in the context of universal commona ancestry. All that changes is one specific aspect of the precise evolutionary history of Bilateria.

    You are correct, however, that phylogenetic analysis based on gross morphological appearance can lead to errors. This is why this method has been superceded by classification based on molecular genetics and developmental evidence, of which the finding we are discussing is a prime example.

    Tell me something: How would creationism allow someone to predict which species have deuterstomal development? If God is designing all species from scratch, why would he see fit to ensure every single fish, reptile, bird and mammal has its anus develop before its mouth?

    1. Thanks for your follow-up, Shrunk, but I am afraid that you are continuing to misunderstand the research that has been done on this. The idea that the Priapulida would use protostomal development is, indeed, a direct prediction of the evolutionary hypothesis. Based on several evolutionary analyses, it was thought that the Priapulida were very closely related to the protostomes. Thus, the prediction was that they would develop like the protostomes, and that prediction has been falsified.

      I also think you are confused on what I mean by a prediction being falsified. Nowhere in the article do I even imply that the evolutionary hypothesis has been falsified by these data. I am simply pointing out that one of its predictions has been falsified. Now, of course, the evolutionary hypothesis has so many falsified predictions under its belt that its validity is highly questionable. However, there is no way that a single study can falsify the evolutionary hypothesis.

      You also seem to misunderstand the research that has been done in this area, because the phylogenetic trees that have been developed are not based on gross morphological features alone. As this article discusses, they are based on direct genetic comparisons. Remember, the study that says the Priapulida are “slowly evolving ecdysozoans” was based on both mitochondrial DNA comparisons as well as comparisons of genes from the nuclear DNA. Thus, regardless of the methodology employed, phylogenetic analysis can lead to incorrect conclusions.

      Creationism would allow someone to predict the development of an embryo by looking at functionality. Most likely, there is a functional reason for deuterstomal and protostomal development. Since creationism posits that organisms are the result of pre-planned design, it would predict that development follows from functionality.

  5. Thanks for your reply, Dr. Wile. I don’t think I made myself clear enough, so let me try again. I understand that symmetry in general is a useful trait to have (if only because having two of something is good, in case one breaks), and I understand that some structures need symmetry in order to function optimally (such as eyes and ears). The thing which I think should puzzle evolutionists is that in many creatures, perfect symmetry seems to be present in biological structures that would function just as well if they were slightly off. For example, if my left arm was a quarter of an inch longer than my right, it would make little difference to me. The same could be said about the length of my earlobes, or the thickness of my eyebrows. Why should be they be exactly the same?

    1. Thanks for your clarification, Keith. I guess the first thing I would say is that perfect bilateral symmetry really doesn’t exist. Most bilaterally symmetric creatures have slight differences between their sides and, of course, once you look at their interior structure, the bilateral symmetry has several exceptions. Secondly, I would think that a shorter arm on one side would make a difference to you. Your center-of-mass would be off, for example, which would affect your balance. I would also think that grasping things with both hands would be a bit more difficult.

      At the same time, of course, there are clearly aspects of bilateral symmetry that aren’t all that important. As you suggest, differing earlobe length would probably not hinder you in any way. However, bilateral symmetry is something that is laid down in development. Thus, it seems to me that since some features of bilateral symmetry (equal arm length, equal leg length, equal ability of each ear to hear, etc.) are functionally important, it is simply the easiest, most direct developmental route to keep most features bilaterally symmetric.

  6. I’m afraid you’re the one still misunderstanding. The “prediction” that Priapulida develop protostomally is not the result of evolutionary theory. It was an assumption based on the fact that every other member of the phylum shows that trait. That is unrelated to evolutionary theory and, as you admit yourself, a creationist would likely have come to the same conclusion.

    Your claim that the phylogenetic analysis was incorrect is also false. The phylogenetic tree remains unchanged. Only the name of one phylum may have to be changed The finding seems more signficant because earlier taxonomists had the bad luck of naming the phylum after a trait that they believed all members shared, mistakenly as it turns out. They could have just as easily named the group after some other shared trait.

    You will note, however, that evolutionary theory provides a ready explanation for this unexpected finding. Since you claim creationism has greater explanatory power than evolution, perhaps you will put that claim to the test: Please share with us the functional signicance of the deuterstomal development of Priapulida, which according to your “theory” should be the result of “pre-planned design.

    1. Shrunk, I am sorry that you are still confused on this issue. Let me try to clear things up for you. This prediction is most certainly based on the evolutionary hypothesis. Since the mitochondrial DNA and the genes from the nuclear DNA of the Priapulida are so similar to the ecdysozoans, the evolutionary hypothesis would say that the Priapulida are closely related to the ecdysozoans. Indeed, one paper claimed they were “slowly evolving ecdysozoans.” From an evolutionary point of view, then, their development should be very similar as well. It is clearly not. Thus, the prediction of the evolutionary hypothesis is falsified. A creationist most certainly would not have come to the same conclusion. Since creationists don’t think that similar genetic and anatomical features necessarily imply common descent, a creationist would not assume that the the animals are closely related. As a result, a creationist would not assume that their development is similar.

      Please note that I never said the phylogenetic tree was false. I said that it led to a false conclusion, and that is quite correct. The phylogenetic tree led to the evolutionary conclusion that the Priapulida are closely related to the ecdysozoans and therefore develop in the same way when it comes to their digestive tract. That evolutionary prediction has been falsified.

      The evolutionary hypothesis provides no “ready explanation” for this unexpected finding. It is unexpected specifically because it does not fit well into the evolutionary hypothesis. Either the Priapulida and ecdysozoans are closely related or they are not. If they are closely related, the evolutionary hypothesis has to explain around the fact that their development when it comes to the digestive tract is markedly different. If they are not closely related, the evolutionary hypothesis has to explain around the fact that their genetics are so similar. Either way, the evolutionary hypothesis has to explain around the data that falsified its prediction.

      I have no idea what the functional significance of the deuterstomal development of the Priapulida is. I don’t think we understand the development process and its implications well enough to know that. I am just saying that functionality is how a creationist would analyze the situation.

  7. So you say this finding demonstrates that Priapulida are less closely related to other protostomes than was previously thought? That’s just a further demonstration of your faulty understanding of this issue.

    Evolution does provide a ready explanation for this finding: Deuterostomal development evolved prior to the existence of the last common ancestor of bilateria, protostomal development evolved afterwards.

    Your frank admission that creationism has no explanation to offer is appreciated, however.

    1. Of course this finding demonstrates that the Priapulida are less closely related to the protostomes than previously thought. If they were as closely related as previously thought, they would use protostomal development. They do not. Thus, they are less closely related than previously thought. That’s why this result is so surprising.

      Your evolutionary “explanation” is not an explanation at all. It is an attempt to get around the data, and the attempt fails miserably. If deuterostomal development evolved first and protostomal development evolved afterwards, then those that use deuterostomal development would have a lot of characteristics (genetic, molecular, and anatomical) in common with the Priapulida, as they are the ones that share this developmental pathway. However, they do not. The Priapulida are markedly different from the other animals that use deuterostomal development. Once again, then, this is a serious problem for the evolutionary hypothesis, which is why Nature News tells us that it “pokes holes in evolutionary dogma.”

      I understand your desire to deflect from this failed prediction. However, attacking another viewpoint doesn’t change the fact that this is a clear example of a falsified evolutionary prediction. Of course, it adds to the great number of other falsified predictions, which demonstrate how weak the evolutionary hypothesis is.

  8. The problem you’re having is that you are thinking a “protostomal development” as something more than a single trait that a number of related species share. All of the many traits that Priapulida share with other protostomes remain, and these still show that they are more closely related to them than some other species and, more importantly, remain part of the same phylogenetic group.

    As an analogy: Suppose paleoanthropolgists at one point believe that in human development increased cranial capacity evolved before upright posture. But then further evidence arises that demonstrates the opposite was more likely the case. Interesting though this may be, it does nothing to change the phylogenetic relationship between humans and chimps, and does not mean they are any closer or more distantly related. So that all of the other protostomes (as they remain called at the present, though the name is no longer appropriate)evolved the protostomal pattern of development after they diverged from the priapulsids does not mean they are any less closely related.

    1. The problem you are having is that you don’t want to accept the obvious conclusions of the study. As a result, you are trying to do anything you can to get around the data. If deuterostomal development came first and protostomal development evolved later, you would expect the protostomes to diverge from the deuterostomes. That’s not what happened in the case of the Priapulida, though. It went along with the protostomes while keeping its deuterostomal development. For your attempt to get around the data to work, you would have to explain why the other deuterostomes supposedly diverged from the protostomes, but the Priapulida did not.

      Your analogy doesn’t work because you are talking about two traits that supposedly diverged from the chimps. The order in which these two traits developed as humans supposedly diverged from chimpanzees is not important – they are both traits that diverged. In the case of this study, you have a trait that exists in animals that are markedly different in most other aspects. Somehow the Priapulida supposedly kept this trait and then supposedly diverged in a completely different direction from all the other animals that kept that trait.

      Once again, this is a serious problem for the evolutionary hypothesis.

  9. “If deuterostomal development came first and protostomal development evolved later, you would expect the protostomes to diverge from the deuterostomes.”

    Right, and that’s exactly what happened, as demonstrated in the study you discuss above. So we’re clear on that, correct? Oh, wait a minute:

    “That’s not what happened in the case of the Priapulida, though. It went along with the deuterostomes while keeping its protostomal development.”


    Final proof that you don’t have the slightest understanding of what you’re talking about. As you pointed out yourself, the title of the paper is “DEUTEROSTOMIC Development in the Protostome Priapulus caudatus.”

    1. Shrunk, that’s not what happened in the case of the Priapulida. They went along with the protostomes but kept their deuterostomal development. In all the other cases, the protostomes and deuterostomes diverged, but not the Priapulida! That’s the problem this study poses for the hypothesis of evolution, in addition to the fact that it falsified yet an evolutionary prediction. It is also why your attempt to get around the data doesn’t work.

      Yes, in my initial reply to you, I did switch the development schemes. That doesn’t mean anything other than I didn’t proofread very carefully.

  10. OK, you made an honest error. Fair enough. As to your larger error, perhaps if I take things step by step, you’ll understand. Here’s the process by which the phyla deuterostoma and protostoma arose, as it now appears to have occurred in light of the findings of the paper we are discussing:

    All members of bilateria are descended from a common ancestor that was bilaterally symmtetrical and whose gut developed in the deuterostomic pattern. From here, there was a divergence of two lineages, one of which became what is now known as the deuterostomes and retained the deuterostomic pattern. The other line became what is now known as the protostomes (though of course it now seems this is a misnomer). But immediately after the split, of course, they still had the deuterstomic pattern.

    This second line eventually arrived at the most recent common ancestor of all protostomes, and this ancestor possessed all the traits that are held in common by all protostomes now alive. However, what the study tells us is that this common ancestor did not have the protostomic pattern of development. We know this because the Priapulids, which is part of the phylum descended from this ancestor, does not show this pattern. So the most recent common ancestor of “protostomes”, in fact, still developed thru the deuterostomic pattern. After this ancestor, there was another split of lineages, with one line leading to Priapulids, and the other leading to the rest of Protostomia. The protostomic pattern of development evolved at a later time along this second line of descent, leaving Priapulids, who had already split off, with the earlier deuterostomic pattern.

    It’s really quite simple and, again, not at all a failure or contradiction of evolutionary theory, but yet another example of its power to explain observations in biology. Something at which creationism abjectly fails, because it is not a theory at all.

    1. That’s a nice bedtime story, Shrunk, but I have already told you why that doesn’t work. As I said before, “For your attempt to get around the data to work, you would have to explain why the other deuterostomes supposedly diverged from the protostomes, but the Priapulida did not.” Remember, deuterostomal development led to a completely different evolutionary lineage in all phyla except the Priapulida. What is so different about the Priapulida that they can keep deuterostomal development but at the same time follow the evolutionary pathway of the protostomes?

      In addition, I think you need to look at the phylogenetic trees, as your bedtime story doesn’t fit them at all. For your bedtime story to work, the Priapulida should appear on the phylogenetic trees as branch that diverges away from the protostomes – albeit later than the rest of the deuterostomes. However, that’s not what any phylogenetic tree shows. Instead, they all show the Priapulida nested comfortably in the middle of the protostomes. See here, here, and here, for example. None of these trees are consistent with your bedtime story.

      This is indeed a falsification of an evolutionary prediction, and it also poses a huge problem for the evolutionary hypothesis, which abjectly fails to explain the natural world. This is why creationism is superior from a scientific point of view. Its predictions are generally confirmed by the data, and it does a much better job of explaining the natural world.

  11. Hi Jay,

    You say this;
    “This is why creationism is superior from a scientific point of view. Its predictions are generally confirmed by the data, and it does a much better job of explaining the natural world.”

    OK how about these questions;

    Why would species supposedly created to suit their ecological niches in for e.g. the Galapagos bear so plain a stamp of affinity to those created in South America?

    Why, when the climate, volcanic soils etc. are identical between the Galapagos and the Cape Verde Islands would your creator stock the latter with creatures created to look like those in Africa?

    Why is your creator trying to trick people into thinking that the simple explanation is that they evolved?

    1. Psiloiordinary, I appreciate your questions, but they seem to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the creationist position. We don’t think that God created creatures “in South America” or in the Galapagos. We think that the archetypal kinds of creatures saved by the ark migrated from the ark, adapting as they went. Creatures on the Galapagos have an affinity to those in South America because the same kinds of creatures migrated into that general region, adapting as they went. In the same way, the creatures on the Cape Verde Islands look like those in Africa because of migration and adaptation. Perhaps this primer on biogeography from a creationist perspective will help you understand the issue better.

      The creator is not trying to “trick people into thinking” that they evolved. If that were the case, the evolutionary hypothesis would not suffer from so many failed predictions and so many problems. A serious study of the natural world demonstrates that the standard view of evolution simply doesn’t work.

  12. Hi Jay,

    You seem unaware of the fact that those questions were asked by Darwin and addressed the creationist position of his day.

    It is true that the current creationism is less than 100 years old and has had to change ad hoc in attempts to reflect some evidence that, after a long and hard chase, finally caught up with you.

    What are the odds that dispersal of animals from the Ark could possibly match the distribution of animals found on those two island groups, let alone the rest of the world. Why would god let the distribution of survivors from the Ark fit in with evolutionary theory. It would be very easy for him to give it a nudge here and there to make sure it did not fit the theory so perfectly in so many ways worldwide.

    Why would he want that?

    Why doesn’t the distribution of plants and animals fit a history of just a few thousand years of spreading out from one spot?

    If species adapted as quickly as you thought we would see it happening all around everyday. There are millions upon million of species of Beetles – how many were on the Ark? Do the math – you would have new species evolving every few hours in order to produce what we see today. Why don’t we?


    1. Psiloiordinary, I am not unaware that these questions were asked by Darwin. However, science has progressed a lot since Darwin, and that progress has shown us the problems with many of the “answers” that Darwin and his followers put forward.

      The odds that the dispersal of animals from the Ark matches the distribution of animals found today are very high. As the article I linked for you demonstrates, that view fits the available data better than the evolutionary view. God didn’t “let” the distribution of survivors from the Ark fit in with the evolutionary hypothesis. Once again, as the article I linked demonstrates, biogeography presents a number of problems for the evolutionary hypothesis.

      You ask, “Why doesn’t the distribution of plants and animals fit a history of just a few thousand years of spreading out from one spot?” First, plants didn’t migrate from the ark, so you would not expect plants to fit that pattern. Second, I think the distribution of animals does fit a history of just a few thousand years of spreading out from one spot quite well.

      No, you would not expect to see speciation happening all around us everyday. Speciation can happen rapidly when animal kinds are exposed to new conditions. This is what we see today (look at the studies here, here, and here, for example). However, as the ecological niches get filled, the rate of speciation slows significantly. As the animals (including beetles) spread from the ark, there would large numbers of speciation events happening all over the world very rapidly. There is no problem fitting the number of species we see today into the creationist view.

      I really think you need to look at the creationist literature, as all of these questions have been answered over the years in a very detailed way by creation scientists.

  13. Sorry Jay but you can’t just state that the distribution of animals fits them being stranded on the Ark just like that, there are huge swathes of evidence against that, much of it produced by religious people.

    You simply don’t get to have your own version of reality because you say so. Claiming that something has been answered in detail doesn’t count – the evidence has been weighed and the creationist view has lost the battle of ideas.

    Why do you think that almost all the worlds scientists think your ideas are wrong?

    You have no problem picking out little quotes here and there and deliberately twisting things to suit you as demonstrated here but why do all the scientists think you are wrong?

    Are they bad at their jobs? Are they in a conspiracy?

    Also why do most of the worlds Christians also think your ideas are wrong?

    Isn’t it just possible that you are worshipping the Bible rather than God? Might you be wrong?

    1. Psiloiordinary, it is most certainly possible that I am wrong. I have never claimed to be perfect. However, I have examined a large amount of data, and in my mind, they fit the creationist view significantly better than the evolutionist view. This isn’t “my own version of reality.” It is simply my interpretation of the data. And no, it is not the result of “picking out little quotes here and there and deliberately twisting things.” It is the result of honestly looking at the data.

      You ask, “Why do you think that almost all the worlds [sic] scientists think your ideas are wrong?” That’s easy. It’s a question that was answered quite succinctly by Dr. Patricia Adair Gowaty:

      “Paradigms are like glue, they constrain what you can see…It’s like being stuck in sludge — it’s hard to lift your foot out and take a step in a new direction.”

      Most of today’s scientists are stuck in a paradigm, and it is holding them like glue. Fortunately many scientists have removed themselves from this paradigm, and as a result, science is on its normal road to self-correction.

      This is why I am never impressed with the argument from majority. Because of the effect of paradigms, the vast majority of scientists can deny the obvious implications of the data for a long time. Just ask Dr. Dan Shechtman.

    1. Psiloiordinary, it is the paradigm itself. When you are taught in the paradigm and taught to interpret data within the paradigm, it is hard to look at the data any other way. That’s what Dr. Gowaty means when she says paradigms “constrain what you can see.” However, as more and more scientists leave the paradigm, science will slowly self-correct, as it always does.

  14. So you are looking at the data and it just happens to fit in with your narrow religious interpretation of the Bible.

    I can’t think of any other examples of scientific paradigms being overturned by views that fit with literal interpretations of religious texts. Perhaps you can tell me about some.

    I can’t see any evidence that “more and more scientists” are leaving the paradigms of evolution, cosmology, geology etc. I have seen the lists by creationists but these have been exposed as dishonest at best fraudulent at worst.

    You haven’t addressed any of my questions about many of the scientists being religious and also the majority of the religious being non-creationists. It would be good if you did, please.

    How do you feel about creationist organisations that have rules stating that any evidence that contradicts the bible must be wrong?

    1. Psiloiordinary, I don’t think you have read much of this blog, so you probably don’t really understand where I am coming from. I don’t have a “narrow religious interpretation of the Bible.” In fact, many of my creationist brothers and sisters are annoyed by the fact that I don’t have a problem with old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists on Biblical grounds. I think they are scientifically off base, but I can understand their views of the Scriptures. I disagree with their views, but I don’t find them heretical or “compromising” in any way. In addition, if you read much of this blog, you would know that I strongly disagree with any organization that makes rules regarding what evidence it will consider and what evidence it won’t consider.

      I would think that the scientific paradigm of the universe that reigned until the 1920s-1930s was overturned in favor of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1:1. After all, it was the scientific consensus up to that point that the universe had no beginning. However, as the implications of Hubble’s data became clear, the scientific consensus was changed to be consistent with the idea that there was a beginning, as stated in Genesis 1:1. But as this particular example demonstrates, it’s not the Scriptural interpretation that changed the paradigm; the data changed the paradigm. That’s what I think will change the current paradigm as well.

      Neither of the lists I linked to you have been shown to be either fraudulent or dishonest. Yes, more and more scientists are getting out of the evolutionary paradigm, and science is better for it.

      I thought that by addressing all scientists who are stuck in an incorrect paradigm, I was including those who are religious. They are just as likely to be stuck in a bad paradigm as any other scientist. Once again, I don’t agree with them, but I don’t consider them “off the reservation” from a Scriptural standpoint.

  15. Dr. Wile,

    I hate to belabour the point, but your are fundamentally misunderstanding this study.

    The reason the phylogenetic trees show, and even with this new finding should continue to show,Priapulida nested within Protostoma, is that this is where it belongs. All of the members of that group can be traced back to a common ancestor which, it now appears, developed in the deuterostomic manner. Why Priapulida retained deuterostomic development and the rest of Protostom did not is simply answered: because it diverged from the rest of the phyla before that trait evolved. You might as well be asking how it could be that squids have eyes and nematodes don’t, if they are both classified as protostoms.

    Your repeated question: “For your attempt to get around the data to work, you would have to explain why the other deuterostomes supposedly diverged from the protostomes, but the Priapulida did not,” is nonsensical, and betrays your misunderstanding. Your use of the phrase “other deuterostomes” suggests you think this finding means that Priapulsids are part of the deuterostome phylum. It does not. What it means is that deuterostomic vs. protostomic development can no longer be used as a distinguishing trait between the two phyla, that protostomic development evolved after the divergence of the two.

    I don’t know how many times and different ways I need to say that before you grasp it. Try reading without wearing your reality-distorting “Bible-goggles”. And perhaps heed your own advice regarding how blind adherence to a paradigm impedes understanding.

    1. Shrunk, I hate to belabour the point, but you are fundamentally misunderstanding the data related to this study. The phylogenetic trees clearly show that your bedtime story is incorrect. As you said, “So the most recent common ancestor of ‘protostomes,’ in fact, still developed thru the deuterostomic pattern. After this ancestor, there was another split of lineages, with one line leading to Priapulids, and the other leading to the rest of Protostomia.” The phylogenetic trees show no such split. They show the Priapulida nested comfortably with the rest of Protostomia. If there had been the split that you suggest, you should see it in the phylogenetic trees. You do not.

      I understand why you no longer want the development of the digestive tract to be an important feature by which you group animals. After all, this study falsified a prediction based on that view. However, simply saying it can “no longer be used as a distinguishing trait between the two phyla” doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, it is a distinguishing trait for the vast majority of animals. Thus, you have to explain why it is not for the Priapulida. What makes them so special?

      And no, I don’t think that the Priapulsids are part of the “deuterostome phylum.” In fact, there is no such thing as a “deuterostome phylum.” The Priapulsids are a part of their own phylum: Priapulida. I am just saying that the evolutionary prediction was that they would not develop like the deuterostomes, and that prediction was falsified. In addition, if you want to get around these data using the evolutionary hypothesis, you are going to have to explain why the Priapulida nest so comfortably with the protostomes.

      I don’t know how many times and different ways I need to say that before you grasp it. Try reading without wearing your reality-distorting “evolution goggles.” And perhaps heed my advice regarding how blind adherence to a paradigm impedes understanding.

  16. Ha ha, very clever.

    Your claim is that Priapulida belongs in a separate phylum apart from protostomes and deuterostomes and, in fact, the deuterostome phylum does not exist at all. Perhaps you could provide some evidence to support these assertions, rather than just asserting them. And, no, the study we are discussing does not support them.

    I will agree that the standard phylogenies may have to be revised in light of the current evidence, with the place of Priapulsida within them being adjusted. That’s how science works; details of a theory are modified in light of new data. But Priapulsida remains firmly within the phylum Protostoma. And it may well be that the current phylogenies are largely correct. It’s possible that other species w/in the protostomal phylum will also show deuterostomic development, and they just have not yet been investigated. I must confess ignorance on that point.

    1. Shrunk, it’s not my claim that the Priapulida belong in a separate phylum. That’s the accepted taxonomy right now. Also, there is no such thing as a deuterostome phylum. The deuterostomes are split into four separate phyla: Chordata, Echinodermata, Hemichordata, and Xenoturbellida.

      You are certainly correct that the standard phylogenies will have to be revised in order to get around these new data. However, it is clear that right now the phylogenies are absolutely inconsistent with the bedtime story that you told. Evolutionists have been very adept at explaining around all their falsified predictions, so I am sure it is only a matter of time before a phylogeny is published that gets around this particular falsified prediction.

      I agree that science works by adjusting hypotheses and theories in the light of new evidence. The geocentrists thought they were doing that as they added more and more epicycles to their model in order to get around the data that falsified their predictions. However, as the falsified predictions continued to mount, geocentrism was eventually abandoned. As the falsified predictions of evolution continue to mount (such as the one falsified in this study), evolution will eventually be abandoned as well.

  17. Falsified predictions? I’m sorry, but I think you don´t really understand the scientific work that has been made about evolution.

    Evolution is a very complex mechanism. So complex, that we scientist are making our efforts to understand it better. Evolution is not a static knowledge. Not everything has been said. There is much that we don´t know, but we know the basics. You said “As the falsified predictions of evolution continue to mount (such as the one falsified in this study), evolution will eventually be abandoned as well”.

    I don´t think that false predictions (in fact I would not have used “false”, but “not exactly”, because nothing is absolute) will make us to abandon evolution. I think that evolution will be much stronger.

    This type of study (the one with P. caudatus) give us (scientists) new data and information, not to discard evolution, but to remodel our way of thinking (in this case, the way we taxonomically group all organisms), to understand better how evolution work, to incorporate in our knowledge much more details that we have not seen, and precisely to grow as a thinking specie.

    We scientist can do things to refute a previous knowledge. But everything is done because of one goal: search the true. This study doesn´t mean that evolution is wrong. We humans (with the capacity of reason) have been on this planet only for a blink of an eye in the scale time of evolution (that doesn´t mean that we cannot see evolution in rapid proliferating bacteria for example [in Gauger et al. I think that the experimental design was wrong]). So, we are still gathering information about life in the planet, in the present and in the past, to better explain the origin and development of life on Earth.

    P.S.: I really don’t think you paid attention to the last statement of the paper about P. caudatus: “The present findings… highlight the importance of studying the great diversity of animal forms in our pursuit of a better understanding of animal evolution.” So, believe me: the more we study nature, the stronger the evolutionary hypothesis becomes.

    1. David, I agree that scientific knowledge isn’t static. However, what I think you’re missing is that scientific knowledge is also tentative. You are simply assuming that evolution is the correct view on origins, and as a result, you see failed predictions as opportunities to “tweak” the hypothesis. As I told Shrunk, that’s what the geocentrists did. Eventually, however, the failed predictions kept mounting to such an extent that it became clear the view itself needed to be abandoned. I personally think that’s also happening in the case of evolution. Evolution has just made too many false predictions. As a result, more and more scientists are abandoning it in hopes of finding a paradigm that actually works.

      I do agree that the goal of science is to find the truth. If you honestly believe in that goal, you have to at least be open to the possibility that the current scientific consensus on evolution is incorrect. After all, the scientific consensus has been demonstrated to be wrong on several occasions throughout history. So if you want to find the truth, you have to at least be open to the possibility that it is wrong in this case as well.

      I did, indeed, pay attention to last statement about the paper. I most certainly agree that we must study the diversity of animals to better understand animal evolution. If we do that, our understanding might result in a coherent model of evolution (which doesn’t exist right now), or it might result in us realizing that animal evolution didn’t happen. That’s the wonderful thing about science. Even the most ardently-held scientific dogma can be overturned when enough scientists follow the data rather than the majority of their peers.

  18. You’re quite right that I have been misusing the term “phylum.” I have been mistakenly using it to refer in general to a taxonomic group of organisms all of whom can be traced back to a common ancestor, and which included all descendents of this ancestor. The more correct term to have used would be “taxon” or “clade.” So if you re-read my posts with this correction in mind, they should make more sense. My apologies for any confusion.

    Your claim that this finding represents a failure of evolutionary theory remains false, however. Pripulsida remains correctly placed within the classification of Protostoma, and all this study demonstrates is that the protostomic pattern of development evolved relatively late after the divergence of protostome from deuterstomes, as I believe I have said before. You need to recall that the naming of the two classifications as “protostome” and “deuterostome” dates back over a century. Based on the primitive technology available back then, they concluded that all “protostomes” developed protostomically. Turns out they were wrong. Nothing earthshattering about that.

    1. Don’t worry about the confusion, Shrunk. It happens to everyone. I would point out, however, that had I made that mistake, you probably would have claimed it shows that I don’t understand the relevant biology. After all, you tried to use an obvious typo to claim that…

      I am not arguing that the Pripulsida shouldn’t go with the protostomes. I am simply stating the obvious fact that putting them there is a serious problem for evolution. After all, none of the phylogenetic trees support the bedtime story you gave, so right now, there is no evolutionary explanation for why the Pripulsida have deuterstomic development but nest so comfortably with the protostomes. Of course, I am also stating the obvious fact that this is a failed prediction of the evolutionary hypothesis, since the evolutionary hypothesis clearly predicted that the Pripulsida should use protostomic development.

      No, evolution does not provide an explanation for this fact. The one evolutionary bedtime story you tried to tell is demonstrated to be false by all the phylogenetic trees I have seen. Also, it’s not that creationism doesn’t provide an explanation for this issue. It’s that we don’t know enough to evaluate the issue in terms of creationism. Creationism would say that development is based on functionality, and we simply don’t know enough about this developmental pathway to understand its implications on functionality.

  19. I’m also still patiently waiting for a creationist explanation for the observed pattern of distribution of deuterostomic and protostomic development among species. Evolution provides a ready one. What is the creationist explanation?

  20. “I am not arguing that the Pripulsida shouldn’t go with the protostomes. I am simply stating the obvious fact that putting them there is a serious problem for evolution.”

    If you’re not saying they shouldn’t go with the protostomes, then you cannot claim their inclusion there is a serious problem. Your “obvious fact” is an obvious fallacy.

    “Of course, I am also stating the obvious fact that this is a failed prediction of the evolutionary hypothesis, since the evolutionary hypothesis clearly predicted that the Pripulsida should use protostomic development.”

    Another “obvious fact” that remains a fallacy, no matter how many times you assert this. That taxonomists a century ago believed a certain clade all shared the characteristic of protostomic development does not make this a “prediction” of evolutionary theory. As I have, a creationist would have come to the same conclusion with the evidence the early researchers had available to them.

    “The one evolutionary bedtime story you tried to tell is demonstrated to be false by all the phylogenetic trees I have seen.”

    Not the one included in the very article that you are citing in you post. And I am not the one telling “bedtime stories” (which is quite a ludicrous accusation from someone who treats the childish fairy tale of Noah’s ark as scientific fact).

    The one fragile strand upon which you are basing your argument is that most of the phylogenies show priapulsida as branching off later within the protostomal clade. But phylogenetic trees are not data in and of themselves. They are simply hypothetical constructions based on the best available evidence and subject to revision as that evidence improves. They are not carved in stone.

    It may well be that the placement of priapulsida needs to be reassessed in light of what you term a “bedtime story”. But it may also be that we will find that other “protostomes” besides prepulsida will be found to show deuterostomic development, and the current placement is correct after all. As I said, I confess ignorance over how extensive the current knowledge is of the embryonic development of other ecdysozoans. (Perhaps you are better informed?) But I do know that the classification of the early bilaterians is one of the more contentious issues in taxonomy, so any classification should be taken as provisional for the time being.

    Your argument that the claim of the paper on prepulsida should be dismissed because it seems to contradict current phylogenies is equivalent to rejecting general relativity because it contradicted what was written in the physics textbooks at the time. It’s a very flimsy basis for an argument.

    1. Shrunk, you still seem very confused about this. No matter where you group the Pripulsida, it is a huge problem for evolution. If you group them with the protostomes (where they clearly belong), then you have the obvious problem of how the Pripulsida kept their deuterostomic development but followed the evolutionary path of the protostomes. If you group them with the deuterostomes, then you have the problem of why they didn’t follow the other deuterostomes in terms of the rest of their evolution. This is the serious problem, and no amount of denying it will make it go away.

      And yes, it is an obvious fact that this is a failed evolutionary prediction. The evolutionary hypothesis said the deuterostomes developed one way, and the protostomes developed another way. Thus, those animals that are similar to the protostomes would used protostomic development, and those similar to the deuterostomes would use deuterostomic development. This study falsifies that prediction. And no, creationists would not have predicted this, because creationism predicts that development is based on function, not hypothesized common ancestry.

      Yes, you are the one telling bedtime stories, as you are making up a history that has no basis in reality. You claim that there is a phylogenetic tree in the article I cite that is consistent with your bedtime story. There is no such thing. The authors do present a cladogram in Figure 4, but that is not a phylogenetic tree. A phylogenetic tree is a branching diagram that gives the inferred evolutionary relationships among organisms based upon similarities and differences in their physical and genetic characteristics. Those all contradict your bedtime story.

      I agree that phylogenetic trees are based on the available evidence and subject to revision. However, they illustrate that evidence. Right now, there is simply no way to accommodate your bedtime story with the evidence we currently have. Based on the anatomical and genetic evidence we have, there is no way that the Pripulsida could have branched off when you say they did. They are simply too similar to other protostomes. As you can see then, this is nothing like claiming general relativity is wrong because it contradicts physics from the past. The bedtime story you are telling is not wrong based on old evidence. Based on the very latest evidence, we know that your bedtime story is wrong, because the genetic and anatomical similarities between the Pripulsida and the other protostomes contradict it.

      So once again, regardless of how much you try to deny it, these data falsify an evolutionary prediction and present a serious problem to the hypothesis of evolution.

  21. (SIGH). OK, one more time, an explanation of what this finding suggests about the evolution of protostomes:

    We start out with the common ancestor of both deuterostomes and protostomes. The embryonic development of this ancestor follows the deuterostomic pattern.

    Are you with me so far? Good. Let’s go on.

    At this point there is a branching into two lineages. One branch goes on to become deuterostoma and retains the deuterostomic pattern.

    Still following? I hope so, because we’re now coming to the part that is causing all your difficulty in understanding.

    The other branch leads to what will become protostoma. And it continues to evolve and differentiate from the deuterostomes, developing all of the traits that distinguish them as a group. This includes all of the traits that priapulida share in common with all other protostomes. However, at this point (and this is the important part) ALL THE ORGANISMS IN THIS POPULATION STILL DEVELOP IN THE DEUTEROSTOMAL FASHION. PROTOSTOMAL DEVELOPMENT HAS YET TO EVOLVE.

    Now, are you still with me? That is the crucial point at which you lose the plot, so read it as many times over as you require to finally let it sink in.

    OK? So let’s continue. The next bit is another part where you are having difficulty, but I’m sure you can do it. You’re doing great so far.

    We now arrive at the common ancestor of priapulida and other protostomes. At this point, the ancestor possesses all the traits shared by all protostomes. And at this point there is another split of lineages. One line leads to priapulida, as well as possibly other members of protostoma. All descendents along this line will retain deuterostomic development (because, as you will recall, protostomic development has yet to evolve). But all organisms along this line of descent WILL STILL BE CLASSED AS PROTOSTOMES, because they had not diverged until AFTER all of the traits that define protostoma had evolved. But, again, PROTOSTOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS NOT AMONG THOSE TRAITS. This is how priapulids are classed among protostomes, but still retain deuterostomic development in the embryonic state.

    The second line leads to the rest of protostoma, and it is along this line that protostomic development evolves. But, remember, priapulida will not be affected by this, because it had already diverged along its own line.

    As I said before, what I am unclear about is whether this means the place of priapulsida in the taxonomic tree needs to be reassessed, or whether it means that yet other protostomes may be found to show deuterostomic development, or if the answer is even known. I have sent an email to the authors of the paper to clarify, and will let you know if I receive a reply. I’ve also taken the liberty of inviting them to join this discussion and clear up any misconceptions that might exist. No harm in asking, right?

    OK, I know this explanation is not going to make a difference, and you’re going to just keep towing the creationist line. Your commitment to your belief that the Bible is inerrant is just too great for you to consider any aspects of reality that challenge that. But at least I am confident that I have done my best to demonstrate to any objective reader that your continued insistence that this finding represents a problem for evolutionary theory is only result of sheer stubborness or willful ignorance on your part.

    As for your other area of confusion, over what you claim is the difference between a cladogram and a phylogenetic tree, this article should help clear that up for you.

    1. (SIGH). OK, one more time, an explanation of why your bedtime story doesn’t work. You want the Priapulida to be evolving with all the organisms that will eventually become protostomes, but then there is a split. One line leads to the Priapulida and any other protostomes that might still retain deuterostomic development, and the other leads to the protostomes that have protostomic development. The problem is that the genetics tell a completely different story. According to mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA, the Priapulida and the Turbanella are the most similar of the protostomes. Thus, they had to share a recent common ancestor. However, the Turbanella use protostomic development. In addition, according to mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA, the Priapulida and Turbanella share a slightly less recent common ancestor with the line that gave rise to the Platyhelminthes, which also use protostomic development. I could go on. The point is that based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, there is no way the split your bedtime story depends on could have happened. Somehow, the Priapulida had to keep their deuterostomic development while all the time sharing common ancestor after common ancestor with the animals that use protostomic development.

      OK, I know this explanation isn’t going to make a difference, and you’re going to just keep towing the evolutionist line. Your commitment to your belief in evolution is just too great for you to consider any aspects of reality that challenge that. But at least I am confident that I have done my best to demonstrate to any objective reader that your continued insistence that this finding is not a problem for evolutionary theory is only result of sheer stubborness or willful ignorance on your part.

      As for your other area of confusion, that you don’t know the difference between a cladogram and a phylogenetic tree, these notes should help clear that up for you:

      Since your bedtime story depends on time (the split between what led to the Priapulida and the other deuterostomic-developing protostomes must occur before the protostomic-developing protostomes evolved), a cladogram cannot be used to support it. Even the link you gave indicates this:

      To some biologists, use of the term “cladogram” emphasizes that the diagram represents a hypothesis about the actual evolutionary history of a group, while “phylogenies” represent true evolutionary history. To other biologists, “cladogram” suggests that the lengths of the branches in the diagram are arbitrary, while in a “phylogeny,” the branch lengths indicate the amount of character change.

      So once again, there is no phylogenetic tree that supports your bedtime story, because the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA do not support it. Thus, this study remains a huge problem for evolution in addition to falsifying a prediction made by the evolutionary hypothesis.

  22. Given that turbinella and platyhelminthes are located within Spiralia while priapulida are within Ecdysozoa, I think it’s safe to say that your claim that they are the “most similar” of protostomes is simply another creationist fantasy, based on a misreading of the evidence. Thanks for confirming my prediction.

    I did receive a response from the corresponding author on this study, Andreas Hejnol. I am quoting this below with his permission. I think I will let him have the last word on this topic:

    “thanks for informing me about this blog. I was assuming that sooner or later a christian blog will catch up on those things although it is not really predictable what they are making out of this study. I stopped to react on these comments since they do not change anything in these people and in what they want and need to believe.

    “The phylogenetic position of these worms are determined by comparisons of molecular sequences, which is completely independent from the morphology. Nowadays we only ‘map’ morphological (that includes developmental) characters on trees that are resolved with such molecular sequences. We take them as a framework for interpreting morphological changes over time and thus it is not surprising that we have to revise previous thought ideas – this is scientific progress. Such changes are of course alien to creationist. The exact phylogenetic position of Priapulids is not solved yet, but what seems to be clear is that they are part of the Ecdysozoa either as sister group to all remaining Ecdysozoa or nested inside them. We have referenced other studies in the paper that deal with this issue.”

    1. Shrunk, you seem to be forgetting that the Priapulida are generally grouped with the Ecdysozoa. Hejnol’s response mentions this. When discussing phylogenies, we compare different groups. Thus, the Turbanella are the closest protostomes to the Priapulida, according to phylogenetic analysis. This is not some “creationist fantasy,” unless you think the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution publishes creationist fantasies.

      Thanks for quoting from Hejnol’s response. While he clearly knows little about creationism, he confirms the fact that this study presents a problem for the evolutionary hypothesis. After all, as he says, the position of the Priapulida has to be “solved.” What kinds of things need to be solved? Problems.

      So once again, we come to the conclusion that this is a problem for the evolutionary hypothesis, along with being a falsification of one of its predictions.

  23. You wrote:

    “Shrunk, you seem to be forgetting that the Priapulida are generally grouped with the Ecdysozoa.”

    in response to a post in which I wrote:

    “Given that turbinella and platyhelminthes are located within Spiralia while priapulida are within Ecdysozoa….”

    And the article you cite says nothing even remotely resembling “Turbanella are the closest protostomes to the Priapulida.” You can see the whole article here, if you doubt:

    1. Shrunk, I can see why you are confused. You don’t seem to realize that there are supplementary figures for the paper. You should look at supplementary figures 4 and 5. You will see how closely related the Priapulida and Turbanella are. Regardless of which figure you choose in the paper, however, NONE of them fit the bedtime story you have been trying to tell.

  24. No, I’m aware of those figures. You seem to have conveniently overlooked this passage from the discussion section:

    “We also note that our PM analysis placed the Priapulida inside the spiralian clade. This must also be regarded artificial, as the ecdysozoan affinity of priapulids is well supported (Bourlat et al., 2008; Philippe et al., 2005; Webster et al., 2006, 2007). Together, these examples demonstrate the necessity to compare multiple tree reconstruction methods and to evaluate molecular trees on the basis of additional morphological evidence.”

    When you read papers, it’s helpful to actually read the text, not just look at the pictures. And it’s also helpful to have some idea about how phylogenetic trees are determined when discussin an article about phylogenetic trees.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Shrunk. I did miss that. I was simply going by what was shown in the largest number of phylogenetic trees. However, as the section you quoted clearly points out, that was a mistake.

      Of course, the point is that none of the phylogenetic trees presented in that paper (or any other paper) support the bedtime story you are trying to tell to get around these data.

  25. Dr. Wile, Shrunk has repeatedly, and clearly, pointed out your errors. When will you admit to them? Or am I to think you don’t make errors about evolution? I assume that you have made some mistakes in your many blog posts and innumerable comment threads. Not just typos or mis-speaking. I mean full-on wrong about something. Can you share what those were?

    1. Mia, I am happy to admit when I am wrong. Indeed, I just did that in my most recent reply to Shrunk. I have done that previously on this blog, and I did it when I was a professor. When I was an atheist, I had to admit that I was wrong before I became a Christian.

      You might agree with Shrunk, but he has not done anything to demonstrate that the points raised in my post are wrong. He has repeatedly denied that this is a failed prediction of the evolutionary hypothesis, but he has offered no evidence to support that denial. He has tried to tell a bedtime story to get around the obvious fact that this is a problem for the evolutionary hypothesis, but as I have clearly demonstrated, that bedtime story is utterly inconsistent with the evidence we have. I am happy to follow the evidence wherever it leads, but that’s the key – there must be evidence to follow. The evidence we have right now shows that this is a failed evolutionary prediction and a problem for the evolutionary hypothesis.

  26. So the final point you are desparately clinging to, after having to backtrack on several of your key claims, is that priapulsida represents a “problem” for evolutionary theory, because its precise place in the phylogenetic tree remains uncertain.

    Very well, then. Tell us how creationism solves this problem. If your claim is true, it should be that all creationists will be able to determine where it belongs, without any disagreement or controversy. After all, you are saying this is “problem” for evolution, but not for creationism.

    I guess, in your case, this question is more specifically worded as “In what form did the prepulsida ‘kind’ exist on Noah’s ark? And what other organisms, currently alive, were descended from this ‘kind'”?

    And please, scientific evidence only. No “bedtime stories”, if you will.

    1. Shrunk, I haven’t had to backtrack on any of my “key claims.” The fact is that this study represents a falsification of a prediction made by the evolutionary hypothesis. It also represents a problem for evolution, because there is no way to explain how the Priapulida could retain their deuterostomal development while sharing so many supposed common ancestors with the protostomes, which is what the data clearly indicate from an evolutionary point of view. It’s not that the phylogenetic tree remains uncertain. It’s that no phylogenetic tree makes sense given the data we have. Despite your protestations, you have not provided any evidence against either of those key claims. In fact, in the course of this conversation, you have actually bolstered those claims.

      I will note, of course, that you have had to backtrack on several of your key claims. For example, early in this conversation, you claimed:

      Your claim that the phylogenetic analysis was incorrect is also false. The phylogenetic tree remains unchanged. Only the name of one phylum may have to be changed The finding seems more signficant because earlier taxonomists had the bad luck of naming the phylum after a trait that they believed all members shared, mistakenly as it turns out. They could have just as easily named the group after some other shared trait.

      At least you are now willing to admit that there is definitely something wrong with the current phylogenetic tree. That’s an improvement…

      I also think you need to understand creationism a bit better if you really want to enter into a discussion about it. You ask, “In what form did the prepulsida ‘kind’ exist on Noah’s ark? And what other organisms, currently alive, were descended from this ‘kind’” The fact is that the Priapulida did not go on the ark. They are marine worms. They didn’t need to be preserved on the ark. Now, of course, your real question is the “kind” to which they belong. I have seen no studies on the baraminology of the marine worms. Thus, I don’t think we know the kind to which the Priapulida belong.

      I have already told you how creationism could solve this problem, if we had enough information. Because creationism sees development following pre-designed function, the key would be to understand the functional significance of deuterostomic and protostomic development. At that point, we would probably understand why the Priapulida use the former, while so many similar animals use the latter.

  27. Ah, so the correct classification of priapulids represents a “problem” for creationists, as well. Yet somehow you don’t see this as reason to doubt the truth of creationism, or as “another failed prediction.”

    A guess “double standard” is another concept on which you are unclear.

    I also asked for scientific evidence, not a “bedtime story” about priapulids not going onto the ark.

    1. No, Shrunk, creationism made no false prediction regarding the Priapulida. However, the evolutionary hypothesis did. Also, it’s not classification that’s the problem for evolution. The problem is that there is no way to explain these data in light of the common ancestors that the evolutionary hypothesis requires for the Priapulida. Since creationism doesn’t require those common ancestors, there is no problem in the creation model.

      You are the one who brought up the ark, not me. I simply corrected your incorrect statement, which I have done several times throughout this conversation.

  28. Hi Dr. Wile!

    I recently watched two lectures you gave that were posted on youtube. I was wondering if there were any others that I might have missed, or that were posted on other sites. You wouldn’t happen to have an archive would you?

  29. This thread has been very informative, thank you Dr Wile and Shrunk.

    What I found particularly interesting was how each of you interpreted the scientific data according to your worldview. Same evidence/data but different interpretation.

    Makes me wonder whether one can truly “follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads” when cherished beliefs, either religious and secular are challenged.

    1. Jason, I do think it is possible to follow the evidence. However, it does require being willing to admit that you are wrong. That’s what I had to do when I was an atheist.

  30. Well, I think we’re pretty close to exhausting all we have to say to each other, Dr. Wile. You clearly are not disposed to changing your mind. And reality, by its nature, is not disposed to arranging itself to accomodate your religious beliefs. So you and reality are at an impasse, it seems.

    I will just mention my amusement at your straight-faced reference to “baraminology”, as if it were a respectable and legitimate area of scientific investigation. The reality (there’s that pesky subject again) is that the following is just one typical example of the high standards of scientific rigour that exist in that discipline:

    1. Shrunk, you are probably right. Reality, by its nature, is not disposed to arrange itself to accommodate your beliefs, and since you refuse to follow the evidence that reality presents, I fail to see what else I can do for you.

      I know that it is enjoyable to make fun of those with whom you disagree. However, if you ever want to deal with the data, you will have to evaluate the actual practice of baraminology, which is obviously much different from your mischaracterization of it. Perhaps this primer on baraminology will help educate you on the issue.

  31. I think this podcast has particular relevance to this thread. It’s a discussion with the author of a new book called “Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe”. Great stuff. Mentions creationism of course.

    1. Mia, the book itself is very interesting. I really like what he says on page 206, which is a part of his “Conclusion” section:

      “Pseudoscience” is an empty category, a term of abuse, and there is nothing that necessarily links those dubbed pseudoscientists besides their separate alienation from science at the hands of the establishment.

      I couldn’t agree more. Dr. Dan Shechtman was thought of as a pseudoscientist. Later, he won the Nobel Prize because his “pseudoscience” turned out to be correct.

  32. I agree that the case of a maverick like Schechtman provides an instructive example in the consideration of creationism. I would add, among several other possible examples, Lynn Margulis (endosymbiotic theory) and Barry Marshall and Robin Warren (the role of H. pylori in peptic ulcer disease). However, the examples of these scientists are not illustrative in the way you intend, Dr. Wile.

    When these researchers encountered resistance to their ideas, they did not hire lawyers to try to force the teaching of their ideas to school children. Nor did they spend millions of dollars creating movies about how persecuted they were, or erecting theme parks to promote their ideas, as creationists have done. Instead, these scientists hunkered down in their laboratories and within a few years produced the evidence that, ultimately, the scientific establishment could not ignore.

    This directly refutes the creationist narrative of science as an ideologically rigid institution that supressess and ignores knowledge, and instead demonstrates that science will accomodate any idea with the evidence to back it up, no matter how radical that idea initially appears.

    Creationists, OTOH, have been claiming for a century and a half that they have the evidence to disprove evolution. And yet in all that time they have yet to publish a single, solitary paper in a reputable peer-reviewed journal to back up this claim. Perhaps that’s because the evidence simply does not exist.

    1. Shrunk, you really need to investigate creationism seriously, as your comments illustrate that you have not. Scientists fighting against the hypothesis of evolution do hunker down in their labs and produce evidence that is slowly changing the orthodoxy of the evolutionary hypothesis. In addition, they have produced several papers in reputable peer-reviewed journals to further their case. Here are several such examples:

      Chase W Nelson and John C Sanford, “The effects of low-impact mutations in digital organisms,” Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling, 8:9, 2011

      Brand, L. and Tang, T., “Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: Evidence for underwater origin,” Geology 19:1201–1204, 1991

      S.C. Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117:213-239, 2004

      M.J. Behe and D.W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues,” Protein Science, 13:2651-2664, 2004

      D. A. Axe, “Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds,” Journal of Molecular Biology, 341:1295-1315, 2004

      W.-E. Lönnig & H. Saedler, “Chromosome Rearrangements and Transposable Elements,” Annual Review of Genetics, 36:389-410, 2002.

      M.J. Denton, J.C. Marshall & M. Legge, “The Protein Folds as Platonic Forms: New Support for the pre-Darwinian Conception of Evolution by Natural Law,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 219:325-342, 2002

      D. A. Axe, “Extreme Functional Sensitivity to Conservative Amino Acid Changes on Enzyme Exteriors,” Journal of Molecular Biology, 301:585-595, 2000

      Michael J. Behe, “Experimental Evolution, Loss-Of-Function Mutations, And ‘The First Rule Of Adaptive Evolution’,” The Quarterly Review of Biology 85(4):419-445, 2010

      The fact that there are so many studies in the peer-reviewed literature illustrates just how strong the case of creationists and intelligent design advocates is, because we know that the peer-reviewed literature is hostile to paradigm-breaking papers, as this E-MAIL from a journal editor to Dr. Michael Behe clearly demonstrates:

      Hi Mike

      I’m torn by your request to submit a (thoughtful) response to critics of your non-evolutionary theory for the origin of complexity. On the one hand I am painfully aware of the close-mindedness of the scientific community to non-orthodoxy, and I think it is counterproductive. But on the other hand we have fixed page limits for each month’s issue, and there are many more good submissions than we can accept. So, your unorthodox theory would have to displace something that would be extending the current paradigm.

      So yes, the cases of Dr. Dan Schechtman, Lynn Margulis, Barry Marshall, and Robin Warren are very instructive when it comes to creationism. Like creationists, they were all considered “cranks” or practitioners of “pseudoscience.” In the end, however, the data demonstrated them to be correct, just as the data are demonstrating creationists to be correct.

  33. Or,more succintly, as Carl Sagan said:

    “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

  34. Nine articles is a pretty pathetically small total, especially since most of them are included here:

    And I never denied that creationists occasionally publish research. Rather, I claimed that there has yet to be a single piece of evidence published to support creationism. And that includes the papers above. To the extent that they are not simply invalid, at most they raise questions (usually misguided) about details of the evolutionary process. Positive evidence to support creationism itself, and YEC in particular, will not be found if you look thru those articles. (Most of which I am already familiar with).

    1. Shrunk, once again, your comments indicate you have not investigated this very much at all. You are clearly not familiar with most of the papers, as they most certainly do provide evidence to support creationism. They all demonstrate the weakness of the evolutionary hypothesis, and many of them confirm the creationist view of variation. For example, the Behe paper demonstrates that in laboratory experiments on evolution, the main way that variation is produced is by loss-of-function mutations, which is a direct prediction of creationism. As a side note, one of the predictions made by Behe in that paper was recently confirmed. This, of course, is a stark contrast to evolutionary papers, whose predictions are routinely falsified by data such as those presented in my original blog post.

      The Brand paper presents evidence that the Coconino Sandstone was formed by water, which is a direct prediction of young-earth creationism and runs counter to the evolutionary view of how it was formed.

      The Meyer paper demonstrates:

      An experience-based analysis of the causal powers of various explanatory hypotheses suggests purposive or intelligent design as a causally adequate–and perhaps the most causally adequate–explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals and the novel forms they represent. For this reason, recent scientific interest in the design hypothesis is unlikely to abate as biologists continue to wrestle with the problem of the origination of biological form and the higher taxa.

      Of course, creationism also predicts a purposive or intelligent design as the explanation for the origin of complex specified information.

      The Lönnig & Saedler paper examines the role of transposons in the abrupt origin of new species and discusses the possibility of a partly predetermined generation of biodiversity and new species, which once again, is what creationism has predicted.

      As these papers indicate, the evolutionary hypothesis is failing. Not only do falsified predictions such as the one discussed in this post demonstrate that, but so do the increasingly frequent peer-reviewed papers from creationists and intelligent design advocates. You can desperately cling to your mischaracterizations if you like, but those of us who follow the evidence are not going to be distracted by such falsehoods.

  35. Shrunk says “You need to learn the difference between “evidence” and “unsupported assertion”.”

    Oh the irony 🙂

  36. Maybe you can quote the parts that demonstrate that Noah’s ark really existed, or that the earth is 6000 years old, Dr. Wile….

    1. I never claimed those studies say that, Shrunk. However, you incorrectly claimed they didn’t support creationism, which they clearly do.

  37. First I want to thank you for allowing open conversations within your blog. It’s very beneficial for everyone. I’ve been following your blog for about a month now and appreciate the time you take to share your thoughts and discoveries.

    I am a novice in the science realm so my knowledge of being able to discern truth is rather difficult. What Shrunk said about Noah’s ark (global flood) or the earth being 6k years old, are either of those a foundation for the creationist model? Are there currently any unrefuted studies suggesting a global flood?

    I have a couple friends who study a field of science at the university level, and one of them throws creationism science into the “brainless” / “religious driven” category, ergo they seem to suggest it’s not really science. I often wonder if this is due to not really understanding what creationism science really is or if there are a few bad apples who give creationism a bad reputation? Do you encounter this a lot as well?

    1. I am glad the discussion is beneficial, Russell. In answer to your question, a global flood and Noah’s ark are foundational for a young-earth creationist model. There are old-earth creationists who believe that the earth is roughly 4.6 billion years old but that God did create what we see today. Here is an example of such a group. Young-earth creationists think the earth is young, but not necessarily 6,000 years old. For example, I think the earth is probably closer to 10,000 years old.

      While there is certainly nothing “unrefutable” out there, I do think there is evidence for a global flood. You can find some of that evidence here.

      I do think that when people say that creationists are “brainless,” they really haven’t looked into creationism much. There are a lot of strong arguments for creationism, and even if you reject them, it is rather difficult to make the case that its serious proponents are “brainless.” At the same time, however, there are some really bad creationists out there, and they don’t help matters much!

      Now I do think that creationism is religiously driven. After all, if I didn’t believe in God, I probably wouldn’t consider creationism to be a viable option, either.

  38. If Creation science is rejected because it is “religiously driven” I fail to see why Evolution should get a free pass.

    As Michael Ruse, anti-creationist committed evolutionist, an ardent Darwinian said:

    “‘Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality.

    I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint—and Mr [sic] Gish is but one of many to make it—the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.

    ‘… Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.’”

    Further, in the prologue of his book The Evolution-Creation Struggle, he says:

    “In particular, I argue that in both evolution and creation we have rival religious responses to a crisis of faith—rival stories of origins, rival judgments about the meaning of human life, rival sets of moral dictates, and above all what theologians call rival eschatologies—pictures of the future and of what lies ahead for humankind.” [pg 3]

    Evolution is a religiously motivated, no doubt.

    In as far as Creationists being brainless:

    “It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”

    ― G.K. Chesterton


    One has to be insanely wedded to materialism and have more faith in the powers of chance, than any theist has in the powers of God. – Ben Wiker, Does science prove God?

    And finally

    Evolution is more ludicrous with each passing week. It is a religiously-motivated movement that force-fits scientific findings to its truth. Its unending trail of vacuous discoveries is nothing more than a reflection of the underlying religion.
    -Cornelius Hunter,

    As Cornelius Hunter says “Religion drives science and it matters”.

  39. Dr. Wile, you obviously didn’t listen to the podcast. You really should. The whole thing is good, but one part particularly deals with this thread. The author says that one reason that you can’t come up with a definition of science is those people who want to be thought of as scientists will just start doing whatever it is that the definition requires. Publish in peer-reviewed journals, make predictions (a favorite area of yours), do experiments, etc. What separates the wheat from the chaff is evidence. There is zero evidence that the earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old. (Again, that is one hell of an error bar). What evidence establishes the lower bound at 4004 BC besides a convoluted biblical chronology? What establishes the upper bound at 10,000 years besides it’s a round number?

    1. Mia, the book says the same thing. In other words, you can’t draw the distinction, because “those people” are doing science as well. That’s the point. You might not like that they are doing science, but they are.

      I agree with you that what separates the wheat from the chaff is evidence, and there is a lot of evidence for a young earth. I have never said that there is a “lower bound at 4004 BC.” I have repeatedly said that the earth is probably about 10,000 years old. Two very strong lines of evidence that support this number are the earth’s magnetic field (see here, here, and here) and dendrochronology.

  40. Well, so long as we are using quotations in lieu of scientific evidence, how about a couple from the creationist side. For instance, this from Todd Charles Wood:

    “Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.

    “I say these things not because I’m crazy or because I’ve ‘converted’ to evolution. I say these things because they are true. I’m motivated this morning by reading yet another clueless, well-meaning person pompously declaring that evolution is a failure. People who say that are either unacquainted with the inner workings of science or unacquainted with the evidence for evolution. (Technically, they could also be deluded or lying, but that seems rather uncharitable to say. Oops.)

    “Creationist students, listen to me very carefully: There is evidence for evolution, and evolution is an extremely successful scientific theory. That doesn’t make it ultimately true, and it doesn’t mean that there could not possibly be viable alternatives. It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution. I am motivated to understand God’s creation from what I believe to be a biblical, creationist perspective. Evolution itself is not flawed or without evidence. Please don’t be duped into thinking that somehow evolution itself is a failure. Please don’t idolize your own ability to reason. Faith is enough. If God said it, that should settle it. Maybe that’s not enough for your scoffing professor or your non-Christian friends, but it should be enough for you.”

    But, hey, no reason to go so far for evidence that even creationists themselves admit creationism is not a scientific idea. Look just a few posts above:

    “Now I do think that creationism is religiously driven. After all, if I didn’t believe in God, I probably wouldn’t consider creationism to be a viable option, either.”

    That should be game over for this blog.

    1. Shrunk, as you can see from the front page of my blog, I am very familiar with Dr. Wood’s work. I refer to him from time to time in my articles. I happen to disagree with him on his statement, however. While there is some evidence to support the evolutionary hypothesis, there is quite a bit of evidence against it, as this blog demonstrates time and time again. Indeed, you tried hard to rescue the evolutionary hypothesis from the failed prediction that generated this blog post, but you could not. The failed predictions of the evolutionary hypothesis are very real and growing in frequency, indicating its scientific weakness. In addition, there is strong evidence in favor of creationism. Thus, unlike Dr. Wood, I do find that evolution is a hypothesis in crisis. This is another indication that you haven’t really looked into creationism seriously. If you had, you would know that creationists are not monolithic. Like evolutionists, there is a lot of disagreement within our ranks.

      I am not sure why you think a belief in God makes it “game over” for my blog. I don’t hide the fact that I believe in God. Indeed, I have a hard time understanding anyone who studies science seriously and doesn’t believe in God. I say as much in the “about” section of my blog. Belief in God is what produced the science we have today (see here, here, and here, for example). Far from ending the game when it comes to science, then, belief in God is what started the game of modern science to begin with.

      In addition, consider the words of atheist philosopher Bradley Monton. In his book, Seeking God in Science, he says in response to the Dover decision:

      The reason this matters is that it’s a dangerous practice to try to impose rigid boundaries on what counts as science. For example, as I will show, a consequence of Jones’s criteria [for science] is that the aim of science is not truth…My position is that scientists should be free to pursue hypotheses as they see fit, without being constrained by a particular philosophical account of what science is.

      I agree. When you artificially constrain science to work in some narrow philosophical view (such as excluding a belief in God), it is no longer a pursuit of what is true. It is only a pursuit of what works within that narrow philosophical view.

  41. Dendrochronology? Are you serious? At your link, you conclude:

    “Given the fact that tree rings indicate the oldest living tree to be about 5,000 years old (roughly when you would expect the worldwide flood to have happened), and given the fact that the oldest tree ring chronologies (which are upper limits) extend only to a bit over 10,000 years, it is hard to believe that these kinds of trees have existed for hundreds of millions of years.”

    You call that evidence? It’s not even coherent.

    1. Yes, Mia, I think it is strong evidence. I am not sure why you think it is incoherent. Perhaps if you explained your confusion, I could help clear it up for you.

Comments are closed.