As kairosfocus pointed out in a recent post, my 2013 article on macroevolution skeptic Professor James Tour seems to be doing the rounds on Facebook and Reddit. Some commenters have accused Professor Tour of confusing macroevolution with the scientific problem of how life originated. To make such an accusation against one the world’s leading chemists is not only extremely impertinent but also factually wrong, as the skeptics would have realized if they had read my follow-up post, Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details. (While they’re at it, they might also like to read my post, Could the eye have evolved by natural selection in a geological blink?)
On a deeper level, however, the skeptics’ attempt to divorce to the theory of evolution from the origin of life is fundamentally flawed. “Says who?”, you ask. Says evolutionary biologist PZ Myers, that’s who – in his 2008 post, 15 misconceptions about evolution. Myers was responding to a list of common myths about Darwin’s theory of evolution, drawn up by Listverse founder Jamie Frater. For the most part, Professor Myers thought Frater’s post was excellent, but on a couple of points, he differed sharply with Frater’s responses to these myths about evolution. Frater had argued that evolution doesn’t deal with the origin of life, but PZ Myers argued that this compartmentalization of the two issues was tantamount to “cheating”:
[Myth] #15 is also a pet peeve [of mine]: “Evolution is a theory about the origin of life” is presented as false. It is not. I know many people like to recite the mantra that “abiogenesis is not evolution,” but it’s a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation. Abiogenesis research proposes similar principles that led to early chemical evolution. Tossing that work into a special-case ghetto that exempts you from explaining it is cheating, and ignores the fact that life is chemistry. That creationists don’t understand that either is not a reason for us to avoid it.
Well, there you have it. If you accept that “life is chemistry,” as any card-carrying materialist surely does, then you cannot honestly maintain that the evolution of life should be studied in isolation from the question of how it originated.
Finally, I’d like to thank kairosfocus for drawing readers’ attention to my article once again.