Saturday, March 14, 2009

Phillip Skell, Liar or Ignorant?

Re: "The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution"
Forbes Online 02.23.09, 01:47 PM EST

Philip S. Skell is a computational chemist. He disparages paleontology, and evolutionary biology. He is a creationist, and anything he writes must be interpreted with this in mind. His core argument is that evolutionary theory founders on the; "... origin of life, speciation, the essences of our fossilized ancestors, the ultimate causes of their changes, etc."

The origin of life, typically studied under the umbrella of abiogenesis, or astrobiology, is conceptually independent of evolutionary theory. Contemporary research is as much chemical as biological. Perhaps more so. As Darwin himself observed, concluding that there was a unique solitary original cell was merely the result of analogy, "But, analogy may be a deceitful guide." The core of evolutionary theory, common descent and natural selection, is unaffected by any origin of life scenario.

Skell seems unaware that speciation, the emergence of a newly isolated reproductive population is neither unknown, nor uncommon. We have directly observed the emergence of new species, conclusively demonstrating common descent, a core hypothesis of evolutionary theory. Depending on population size, and starting variability, selective pressures can be strongly acting resulting in rapid emergence of new species.
This is a much a "proof" of evolution as dropping a bowling ball on your foot "proves" gravity.

Skell is equally uninformed about the interplay between molecular genetics and paleontology. We have recently seen the publication of a draft genome of the extinct hominid, Homo Neadertalis. More tellingly, there has been a decades long exchange of opinions regarding whale evolution where hypotheses generated from both genetics and morphology have finally converged with the paleontological discovery of several new whale ancestors, particularly Ambulocetus natans, and Pakicetus.

Skell wrote that evolutionary theory is irrelevant to "doctors, veterinarians, farmers and other practitioners of biological science." He even mentioned that the discovery of penicillin was not a direct out come of evolutionary theory. And, of course it was not- it was a lucky accident. However, the subsequent and continuing development of antibiotics, including penicillin, was implicitly an application of evolutionary principles. It is either ignorant in the extreme, or dishonest, for Skell to claim that hereditable variations that result in altered population genomes under selection (evolution) are not critical to the study of antibiotic resistance. Equally, that evolutionary theory was not directly employed to alter clinical antibiotic prescription practice recommendations.


Anonymous said...

Phil Skell is one of those people that don't let reality get in the way of their religious fantasies. He totally ignores all evidence to the contrary that his delusions aren't even close to the real world.
PZ Myers destroys his prattle here:

Anonymous said...

Skell is totally off his rocker. He wouldn't know reality if it rogered him with a ten foot pole. Thats what happens when a scientist gets infected by religion. Check out Frank J for Jebus Tipler and his support for upper class twit and AGW denier Lord loony Monckton.

Bob Simes.