Series reviewing Douglas Axe's Undeniable

Thanks for that link - hadn’t seen that yet. Where to begin…

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I also see that Axe just skates over the evidence in the 2008 paper that this is not an example of gene loss rather than a de novo gene. If anyone wants to see that evidence, here’s the paper:

Axe also is not portraying the second paper properly. Here’s their evidence that at least one new protein that provides a growth advantage was found by their experiment. Screenshots from this paper.

07 AM

I’ve never really understood where they are coming from when it comes to de novo gene evolution. From Axe’s response:

Gene evolution has long been thought to be primarily driven by duplication and rearrangement mechanisms. However, every evolutionary lineage harbours orphan genes that lack homologues in other lineages and whose evolutionary origin is only poorly understood.

Translation: Genomic sequencing has revealed something that contradicted evolutionary thinking — namely, an abundance of genes that don’t appear to have any evolutionary history (hence the name orphan genes).

First, many orphan genes are produced by indels or substitutions in non-coding DNA which result in a gene promoter and/or a reduction in stop codons. These orphan genes will lack homologs in other species because they didn’t evolve from a coding gene, but they still evolved from orthologous DNA. I don’t see why the theory of evolution would disallow this type of gene evolution, and they never explain why this runs counter to the theory. Even if an orphan gene is the result of a strange recombination event that produces novel DNA sequences, that still doesn’t run counter to the theory of evolution. I have no idea where they are getting the idea that random mutations producing new open reading frames and/or novel DNA sequences runs counter to a theory that proposes those very things.


Yep. They’re opposing a straw man version of evolution. You’ll see exactly the same sort of language used when they are dealing with incomplete lineage sorting.

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Why is Axe already responding at ENV? Looks to me like the Henry Center is giving him the “last word” anyway at the end of the series. Does the name “Venema” get him so worked up that he can’t contain himself?

Does anyone live on the underside of the flat earth, or have they all fallen off into space?

It’s become clear to me that ID has exhausted its intellectual capital and is now purely a political movement.

From Axe’s reply: “ordinary curious people are well equipped to see through all the technical huff and bluff used by people with PhDs.” The great Culture War strategy of anti-intellectualism and fear of the educational establishment. “We don’t need no stinkin’ experts tellin’ us what to believe!”

It’s like the DI book on theistic evolution. They continually use “Darwinism” and “neo-Darwinism” as synonyms for “evolution” so that they can talk out both sides of their mouths. Example: “First, considering the critical view I take not just of Darwinism but also of the academic echo chamber that, with iron-lung-like artificiality, allows this otherwise dead theory to persist, it should be clear that I wrote primarily for people outside the echo chamber. The exclusion of anyone who fits that description from providing even one of the reviews of my book therefore raises questions about the true intent of the exercise.”

If Axe had such concerns about the true intent of the exercise, why did he participate? I’m not a member of the academic echo chamber. I would be glad to review Unreliable, err, make that Undeniable, for him if he’d like.


That’s how we know the earth is flat. If it were not flat, it would slope; and if it sloped, we would slip off.

That’s the slippery slope argument. :slight_smile:


Without a slippery slope, the Winter Olympics would be pretty boring.


Down the slippery slope, where atheism waits at the bottom!

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I found it rather interesting that he apparently didn’t know a single detail of who would be writing and when he would be able to respond. These are the kinds of details I would insist upon before participating.

I had a moment of incredulity myself when reading Axe’s response. I found this quote telling:

“My claim is that you don’t need to be able to follow technical arguments about genes and proteins and mutations in order to understand why Darwin’s explanation of life can’t possibly be correct.”

  1. Actually, I think it would be necessary to understand an argument before effectively refuting it.
  2. As other’s have mentioned, he calls it “Darwin’s explanation” as though the scientific evidence compiled in the last 150 years is meaningless. I have never heard anyone suggest that genetics “can’t possibly be correct” because of the insufficiency of “Mendel’s explanation”.

Axe is flat-out damaging the credibility of Christians in science.


I feel your pain, and I used to worry about damage done to Christian credibility by the Discovery Institute. It’s certainly true that the DI makes Christianity look bad. But I’m not sure that Axe’s disavowal of scientific thought, or his consistently misleading statements about science and his critics, will affect the specific credibility of “Christians in science.”

I say this because I just don’t see any attention being paid to Axe or the DI in the scientific community. He’s publishing silly papers in a vanity journal that isn’t indexed in PubMed or Scopus. Neither he nor any other DI scholar seems to attend scientific conferences or engage in even the most rudimentary interaction with the scientific community. It really does seem that the DI is solely a small group of political apologists with a platform that just doesn’t reach science. Unlike Ken Ham and his apparatus, which can make the news by virtue of bizarre spectacle, Axe and the DI are irrelevant.

They can do damage by keeping lots of people in the dark, and Christians should worry about that. But in my opinion and in my not-so-limited experience, mainstream scientists know that Christians can do good work. Axe is long gone, and so is Ken Ham, but [content removed by moderators]. Again, just my opinion.


I’m very happy to see this book finally getting attention. I’ve come across it at the library and have considered picking it up but with my own priorities and I hate to say, a low of opinion of Axe, I haven’t picked it up. Glad I came across this

Does anyone have the link to the intro of this series? Can’t track it down. And after reading Axe’s definition of functional coherence, it seems a lot like irreducible complexity. Did anyone else get that feeling?

Just FYI, it’s virtually certain that Axe himself is reading this thread, so posts should be written as if he’s in the room. In other words, focus on the ideas, not the person.


Thanks, Brad, I certainly hope he is.


Just to be clear, when I said I have a low opinion of Axe I meant of his previous work not of him as a person.

In calculus terms, approaching but not completely ‘zero’ attention. At least from a poll of biological and chemical science colleagues where I work. It mainly holds a tiny niche comprised of those who follow the evolution / creation debate as a hobby.


Exactly. The group of people least likely to dismiss Christians because of Axe are scientists because they have interacted with Christian scientists and know that they are good scientists (or at least no better or worse than non-Christian scientists). I would suspect that the vast majority of scientists don’t even really consider the religious faith of their peers when they are interacting on a professional level. The focus is on the science.


This is such an important point, and I hope that it sinks in. I am not saying that the scientific community includes no bigots or thoughtless jerks, nor am I claiming that no Christian has ever been unfairly tainted by association with other believers who have attacked or rejected science. But it is hard to overstate the magnitude of irrelevance of religious belief in the assessment of scientific merit. This irrelevance seems, in my experience, to mirror the irrelevance of the DI.

So, my advice to discouraged Christians reading Axe’s words with alarm: yes, it’s a problem that so many Christians reject science. Work on that problem. But don’t worry about whether you, as a Christian scientist, will be marginalized by non-Christian scientists because you share a faith with apologists who work to undermine science. As we say in biology, “That’s not how that works.”


And as noted in an earlier thread, it’s really not about the science. It’s about the interpretation of Scripture.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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