Pseudogenes, Intelligent Design, and Kitzmiller

Has new evidence overthrown a key anti-ID argument in Kitzmiller? If the case was re-tried today, would the case for common ancestry fail? Should Behe rescind his argument for common ancestry?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you for clearly explaining pseudogenes. Learning new things in genetics is wonderful and I thank you for explaining it in the way that you do. Thanks again. Looking forward to Part 2, 3, …

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Thanks, Patrick. This is one of two posts on Luskin, but in the new year there will be a few more on the AiG vitellogenin paper. It’s interesting to see the DI and AiG beginning to mount more thorough (and misguided, unfortunately) rebuttals of pseudogene evidence. I think they realize that more and more of their (former) followers are finding it persuasive.


Hi Dennis,

I am looking forward to your response on the vitellogenin paper; I was hoping you would address it. The creationist focus on whether or not ‘pseudogenes’ have some level of functionality is obviously confused, since it is unclear what some newly acquired regulatory function through exaptation (or common design from their perspective) has to do with unexplained sequence homology and syntenty with protein coding genes.

My concern with the paper is that they try to cast doubt on whether there is a significant degree of homology or gene neigborhood synteny to begin with (not all that convincingly, but enough to merit a response). I don’t know if this paper shows that they are quietly recognizing the flaw in their: “look; it has a function after all!” argument, but it looks like they are not headlining that argument in this case. If this means that they have realized that their main argument is not coherent, then they are in trouble, since the only thing left to do is to cast doubt on the degree of similarity in each case as they do for vitellogenin. I’m wondering if you have seen any other hints that they are backtracking on their use of this common response.

As you’ve noticed, it’s a mix of “it has a function”! and “it’s not really a vitellogenin!”.

I haven’t yet worked through the paper in detail - I’m busy with other things until the new year. My sense of it so far, based on a quick read, is that they’re just throwing whatever they can against the wall in hopes something will stick.

Hi Dennis,

Yes, could be, and as you know, it actually will stick with may people, no matter what kind of response is issued. Either way, your effort to grapple with these issues has been one of the highlights on biologos, especially since the genetic evidence is so compelling when clearly presented, so thanks for tackling these topics head on.


Hi Dennis,

I’m still a little puzzled about how pseudogenes work as evidence against ID. It is much easier to see how they are evidence against YEC, and against any attempt to exempt humans from an evolutionary ancestry. But if Behe, a vocal pro-ID biochemist, can enthusiastically endorse them as evidence for common ancestry, how strong can the anti-ID argument be?

Hi John,

I apologize for inserting myself here. I think we are discussing two different strains of ID here; there are many ID proponents who reject common descent, and this is specifically an argument against that position. It is almost impossible to argue against ID unless it is clarified what is meant by the term “intelligent design”.

When ID is used in its widest sense, theistic evolution falls within its scope. In the case of this blog, arguing in the context of the Kitzmiller case and Luskin’s points, common descent was obviously one of the main targets for the ID position, so this blog is clearly written in opposition to that view. Since Behe accepts common descent, he obviously doesn’t feel threatened by this counter-argument.

Where common descent is accepted, I get the impression that the ID position is less problematic partly because it is less clear what is being claimed. If it is advanced in the form of a negative argument (“natural selection could not possibly produce such complex systems”), and it usually is, it becomes objectionable partly because it is not a positive argument for anything at all, and partly because it takes the form of a set of sophisticated arguments from incredulity that are not on solid ground. Behe offered such arguments in Darwin’s black box, but in my view, they have been roundly refuted since, and I get the impression that he has moved on. I think others here will tell you that this strain of ID has more recently developed into something more interesting, more scientific and more plausible, but I have yet to see these newer approaches explained in a manner that makes sense to me, or that genuinely challenges anything about modern evolutionary biology.

I would like to make a general comment about this blog, Dennis’ work and that of most of Biologos. I sense that a long term trend is starting, and that while it isnt easy to discern right now, it will continue to gain momentum. I see the trend in both the ID movement and even in creationism, as has been discussed in a recent excellent blog post by David MacMillan. The weight of science is slowly, but steadily pushing those who deny evolution in one direction, and I truly believe that at some point in time, all Christians will come to see the truth that evolution is God’s law of Biology. I know many YECs who have come to TE, but have heard of none who went the other way.

I also see Biologos as playing a key role in this historic shift. If Biologos didnt exist, where would Christian seekers find alternatives to YEC and those parts of ID that deny all aspects of evolution? If their choice were Ken Ham and remaining Christian, or turning to atheism, who knows how many would (and have done) opt for the latter. Biologos has already made an enormous difference, and that will continue. Dennis Venema, and the others here have in my opinion been playing an incredibly important role for the future of the Christian faith.

We dont need to all agree on every detail of how TE manages the reconciliation of faith and science, and I know we dont. But we all need to agree that such a reconciliation is possible and necessary. And we are all part of this redeeming work. All the best to Biologos and all here for the New Year, and may we continue to work to bring the Glory of God’s promise to fruition.


Hi John, it’s a good question - but one that we need Luskin to answer, I suppose. Behe’s the odd man out on this issue within ID circles. As far as I know, all the other ID leaders reject common ancestry.

That was a really interesting link. Thanks for sharing.

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Well you better act fast getting Luskin to answer as he is leaving Discovery Institute today. Seems like Discovery Institute is falling apart. I guess it’s business plan was poorly designed :smile:

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