A worksheet targeted for High School students proving once and for all that Photosynthesis is not “Irreducibly Complex”

Some present may remember an entertaining (not to mention illuminating (pun intended) ) blog by Professor Larry Moran:

http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2016/04/fun-and-games-with-otangelo-grasso.html

I am a high school Biology teacher and Professor Moran threw out some challenges which cut me to the quick.

Here is a very brief and incomplete summary:

The dual photosystems of Blue-Green Algae clearly evolved late from a combination of a type I reaction center in species like Heliobacter and green sulfur bacteria and a type II reaction center from species like purple bacteria and green filamentous bacteria. The oxygen evolving complex was a late addition.

Both photosystems employ Porphyrins and Carotenoids which are important in various metabolic processes (not just photosynthesis) meaning their evolutionary history may reflect many other functions only to be co-opted later for photosynthesis. Meanwhile both can be demonstrated to have abiogenic origins.

Meanwhile RuBisCO is found in non-photosynthetic species…

According to Professor Moran, many misconceptions are perpetuated when teaching according to textbook orthodoxy. Instead we should consider Photoreduction and Photophosphorylation as two stand-alone processes, and that the capture of light energy to produce carbohydrates is a highly specialized phenomenon; which, from an evolutionary point of view is not really (at least not originally) part of “photosynthesis” (i.e. carbohydrate anabolism).

Even Flowering Plants not only can, but in fact most of the time do, decouple ATP/NADPH production from Carbon fixation. Indeed, much of the ATP & NADPH generated by Photosystems II & I respectively are in fact redirected to immediate energy needs, even in flowering plants.

Meanwhile, I heartily agree with Larry Moran’s thesis that it is important (nay, let’s say instead imperative) to teach students that there’s more to life than just flowering plants and humans?

Larry Moran (in very unsubtle and less than gentle terms) “suggests” such strategies should apply to teaching of all biochemistry; i.e. from simple pathways to more complex pathways.

A recent “must-read” article inspired me to respond to Larry Moran’s challenge,

https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms13924.pdf

… and I have cobbled together a worksheet, where I attempt to prove that photosynthesis is

1 – misunderstood (tis not really about Glucose and it’s not even about the Calvin Cycle) at least from a Biochemist’s evolutionary POV. Ecologists have justification to differ.
2 – NOT “irreducibly complex” but rather a hodge-podge cobbling by evolution over a long period of time. (cf https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/evolution-and-tinkering-1977-francois-jacob)

Larry Moran’s fingerprints are all over this work of mine, for which I really cannot claim any originality on my part.

I would be grateful for any constructive input and suggestions for improvement. Remember, the intended target audience remains high school students.

Thanks in advance and best regards,

Here it is:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By6ZKSkkTEG-QXFtWVhKOWNwREE/view

374 thoughts on “A worksheet targeted for High School students proving once and for all that Photosynthesis is not “Irreducibly Complex”

  1. Tom, to dazz:

    You, Corneel and Keiths frequent this site more than I.

    Since Mung is flaunting evasiveness yet again in his own peculiar idiom, perhaps you could tell us how Mung would answer my series of three questions.

    I am guessing 1- No. 2-Yes 3- No

    Does anyone present have evidence to suggest otherwise?

    I’d say he’d answer ‘yes’ to all three, based on unambiguous statements like this one:

    FFS. What else could it mean? I’ve clearly aligned myself with Behe. You think “universal common ancestry” is code for “not universal common ancestry”?

    Yes. Whatever “science” means by a LUCA. All extant life evolved from that. And humans are no exception.

    ETA: I think that answers all three of your questions. Do you agree?

    Tom, I don’t understand why you won’t just go by what Mung has written. Remember, the failure to take someone’s unambiguous words at face value is exactly what we’re criticizing Bill for. Don’t repeat his mistake.

  2. keiths:

    Tom, I don’t understand why you won’t just go by what Mung has written.Remember, the failure to take someone’s unambiguous words at face value is exactly what we’re criticizing Bill for.Don’t repeat his mistake.

    Hi Keiths

    As I already mentioned earlier, you and others linger on this site much more than myself and I am not up to date on details of previous posts and threads

    Frankly – Mung’s posts are beyond confusing as he seems prone to switching horses in midstream

    Quick examples (I will not bother to search more):
    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/a-worksheet-targeted-for-high-school-students-proving-once-and-for-all-that-photosynthesis-is-not-irreducibly-complex/comment-page-1/#comment-198721

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/a-worksheet-targeted-for-high-school-students-proving-once-and-for-all-that-photosynthesis-is-not-irreducibly-complex/comment-page-1/#comment-198730

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/a-worksheet-targeted-for-high-school-students-proving-once-and-for-all-that-photosynthesis-is-not-irreducibly-complex/comment-page-1/#comment-198744

    But THANK YOU!

    I will accept your answer as final, based on your better understanding of Mung’s prior confabulations and given Mung is not living up to his “…established history of providing direct and non-evasive answers about what [Mung] believe[s] if asked directly to do so. “

    So for everyone’s benefit (as well as mine) Mung is on public record affirming the three quick answers to my questions posed above are

    1- Yes. 2-Yes. 3- Yes.

    I thank you for clearing that up

  3. Tom,

    As I already mentioned earlier, you and others linger on this site much more than myself and I am not up to date on details of previous posts and threads

    You don’t need to be up-to-date on previous posts and threads. The comment of Mung’s that I quoted is from this thread and it was addressed to you.

    I don’t understand, Tom. If you want to know what Mung thinks, why not read the comments he addresses to you? That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

  4. keiths:

    I don’t understand, Tom.If you want to know what Mung thinks, why not read the comments he addresses to you?That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

    Hi Keiths

    Normally I would agree, the key consideration the quotes in question are in fact unambiguous

    I am leary when an opponent refuses to directly answer straight forward “yes/no” questions with neither ” yes” nor “no”… especially when contorted responses posed as rhetorical questions include terms such as “science” in quotes

    I have been burnt in the past in similar exchanges and remain wary.

    But hey… I will defer to you and agree for what it’s worth.

    Mung has publically declared his answers to my three questions as stated above as

    1- Yes. 2- Yes. 3. Yes

    Let’s move on

  5. Reviewing the posts in this thread I remain perplexed:

    How is it Mung has any objections to my Worksheet?

    To my reading Behe would endorse ithe worksheet in its entirety given “photosynthesis” as described is nothing more than a “straw man” as far as Behe’s notion of IC is concerned.

  6. dazz: One doesn’t need to understand phylogenetics to know that common descent explains the nested hierarchy anyway.

    So dazz accepts common descent because common descent explains the nested hierarchy. Not because he’s put in any effort to reading or thinking about it. And they say religious belief is a bad thing.

  7. keiths: Again, each of you is trying to pin the same stupid belief — that humans descended from chimps — on the other.

    Since Tom avoided the question perhaps you will address it.

    Why would it be “a stupid belief” to hold either that humans descended from chimps or that chimps descended from humans? What within evolutionary theory precludes either of those hypotheses?

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/a-worksheet-targeted-for-high-school-students-proving-once-and-for-all-that-photosynthesis-is-not-irreducibly-complex/comment-page-6/#comment-199696

  8. Mung: So dazz accepts common descent because common descent explains the nested hierarchy. Not because he’s put in any effort to reading or thinking about it. And they say religious belief is a bad thing.

    Well, at least I’ve thought about it enough to realise that one must understand
    that common descent entails a nested hierarchy, so it’s evidence for a nested hierarchy what should justify our belief in common descent and not intuition.

    You, OTOH, fell at the first hurdle

  9. dazz: Well, at least I’ve thought about it enough to realise that one must understand that common descent entails a nested hierarchy…

    Yet you cannot articulate how you came to this realization. IOW, you lack the tools to convince anyone else.

    There’s nothing about evolution or common descent that requires a nested hierarchy and people have already admitted quite frankly that to get a nested hierarchy as an entailment requires special pleading.

    You get a nested hierarchy unless you don’t.

  10. TomMueller: OK, I agree LM is an expert in PS I & PS II in the ETC

    But I never was apprised that JF was an expert in QM and was bent on unifying QM and GTOR

    to which I can only reply: WTF?!

    Larry maybe a speculative expert on photosynthesis but he has no clue how quantum superposition works in the process… He quoted one article on his blog that seems to suggest the photosynthesis doesn’t use quantum entanglement but he disregarded many, many other experiments that prove it otherwise…

    I was being facetious in regard to Joe Felsenstein as being an expert in quantum physics because he embarrassed himself several times at TSZ commenting on quantum mechanics…

    I would like to emphasize is that sunlight photon harvesting system used in photosynthesis is beyond irreducibly complex…It is beyond our imagination…

    There is just no way that any mechanism of evolution can evolve a systems that is able to absorb light that resides in two places at once…

    How does a system evolve to find and absorb a photon of sunlight if its position is described by the mathematics of quantum theory which describes the position of a particle only in terms of probabilities?

    How does a system evolve to employ quantum superposition to finding particles of light that can occupy multiple positions at once and can simultaneously travel along all possible paths to achieve the remarkable efficiency of photosynthesis at the same time?

    Do you even comprehend how such a system works?

  11. So, Tom.

    Books that you read that convinced you of the truth of universal common ancestry.

    List them. Give dazz a hand. Thanks.

  12. Mung: and people have already admitted quite frankly that to get a nested hierarchy as an entailment requires special pleading.

    Who are “those people” and what’s that special pleading?

  13. Mung:
    A web is not a nested hierarchy dazz.

    So you are not denying that common descent implies a nested hierarchy, you reject that there’s evidence for a nested hierarchy?

  14. Pay attention dazz.

    There is evidence for a nested hierarchy. There is also evidence for a web.

    Do you understand that a web is not a nested hierarchy?

  15. Laurence A. MoranMonday, February 11, 2013 4:11:00 PM
    @Allan Miller,

    when I said …

    One of the most profound implications of the net of life is that it’s consistent with several independent origins of life that preceded the rise of a modern genetic code and contributed to existing species.

    I meant exactly that. It does not mean “evidence for” and it does not mean that I support the idea of multiple origins of life. I mean exactly what Craig Venter meant in his talk.

    The old tree of life based on ribosomal RNA has a single common ancestor. The modern net of life, based on a large number of genes, does not. Therefore it is not scientifically correct to say that all modern species descend from a single common ancestor. You can say that, based on currently available scientific evidence, there was probably a single origin of life but that’s not the same thing.

    @Rumraket,

    I’m a proponent of metabolism first. I think the evidence supports an origin scenario where nucleotides and the genetic code arose much later than cells that could carry out rudimentary energy metabolism and synthesis of small molecules like simple amino acids.

    I think there was a time when a simple genetic code accounting for only a few amino acids began to operate. That process could have evolved independently around many different thermal vents. There would be a great deal of redundancy in the primitive code and this would be compatible with all sorts of gene swapping events.

    Not only that, but different self-replicating RNAs could have independently come into existence in different locations. If the primitive cells were mobile they could have”

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2013/02/craig-ventor-discusses-tree-of-life.html

  16. Mung:
    Pay attention dazz.

    There is evidence for a nested hierarchy. There is also evidence for a web.

    Do you understand that a web is not a nested hierarchy?

    Imagine God created life in a way such as every living form descended from some specially created UCA. Imagine every descendant has it’s genome randomized. That’s still a nested hierarchy. An undetectable one, but a nested hierarchy, do you follow?

  17. dazz, to Mung:

    Imagine God created life in a way such as every living form descended from some specially created UCA. Imagine every descendant has it’s genome randomized. That’s still a nested hierarchy. An undetectable one, but a nested hierarchy, do you follow?

    dazz is trying to teach you something, Mung. Pay attention.

  18. Mung,

    I would like to explain common descent to others who doubt it. I’d love to explain the reasoning to them.

    That would require understanding the reasoning, which is not a very Munglike thing. Are you sure you want to go this route?

    Know any good books that make the case for universal common ancestry? Coyne? Dawkins? Mayr? Gould? Prothero?

    There’s a website you may have heard of. It’s been mentioned, I don’t know, maybe a thousand times or so here at TSZ. Can you figure out what I’m referring to?

  19. dazz,

    I wonder how nested hierarchy idea fits with the evidence for the net of life which is consistent with multiple origins of life Larry Moran and Craig Venter support?
    Must be hell of the probability… lol

  20. J-Mac,

    How does a system evolve to find and absorb a photon of sunlight if its position is described by the mathematics of quantum theory which describes the position of a particle only in terms of probabilities?

    Dude, you are seriously confused.

    Evolution doesn’t care about the theories behind the phenomena it exploits. It does not have to understand or model those phenomena. It just uses them.

  21. J-Mac:
    dazz,

    I wonder how nested hierarchy idea fits with the evidence for the net of life which is consistent with multiple origins of life Larry Moran and Craig Ventersupport?
    Must be hell of the probability… lol

    Groundhog logic fail day. There could be a trillion OOL events and still there could be a LUCA. IOW, LUCA is not necessarily the first living form to ever exist. It really is not that hard, if I get so can you guys

  22. dazz: Groundhog logic fail day. There could be a trillion OOL events and still there could be a LUCA. IOW, LUCA is not necessarily the first living form to ever exist. It really is not that hard, if I get so can you guys

    Yes… and a trillion of miracles you are willing to believe in… as long as it supports your beliefs…
    It’s not that hard to understand…it’s hard to comprehend this kind of faith…

  23. Does the idiot know that he is talking to himself? As far as I know most people have him on ignore… puzzling….

  24. J-Mac,

    Does the idiot know that he is talking to himself?

    Why are you referring to yourself in the third person?

  25. J-Mac: I’m a proponent of metabolism first. I think the evidence supports an origin scenario where nucleotides and the genetic code arose much later than cells that could carry out rudimentary energy metabolism and synthesis of small molecules like simple amino acids.

    Oh?
    Did your god not create things in the creation week? Don’t you believe your own religion’s origin scenario

  26. Bill,

    How’s the coping coming along? Have you finally come to grips with Michael Behe’s acceptance of common descent, including of a common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans?

  27. keiths,

    How’s the coping coming along? Have you finally come to grips with Michael Behe’s acceptance of common descent, including of a common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans?

    Sure, I think he accepts both hypothesis as valid candidates to eventually be tested.

  28. colewd:

    Sure, I think he accepts both hypothesis as valid candidates to eventually be tested.

    Still in denial, I see.

    Behe himself leaves no doubt:

    Over the next few sections I’ll show some of the newest evidence from studies of DNA that convinces most scientists, including myself, that one leg of Darwin’s theory — common descent — is correct.

  29. keiths,

    Over the next few sections I’ll show some of the newest evidence from studies of DNA that convinces most scientists, including myself, that one leg of Darwin’s theory — common descent — is correct.

    How is this inconsistent with what I said?

  30. colewd: How is this inconsistent with what I said?

    Because he doesn’t just accept a hypothesis that needs to be tested. He accepts the conclusion of the test. He’s saying it has been tested and found correct and that is why he accepts it.

  31. Rumraket,

    Because he doesn’t just accept a hypothesis that needs to be tested. He accepts the conclusion of the test. He’s saying it has been tested and found correct and that is why he accepts it.

    Show me where he says this.

  32. colewd:

    How is this inconsistent with what I said?

    Christ, Bill. Why do I have to explain this to you?

    Behe accepts common descent as true. You are trying to pretend that he regards it merely as a “valid candidate to eventually be tested.”

    You’re still in denial.

  33. A few hours ago…

    colewd:
    Mung,

    Like common descent LUCA is ambiguously defined term.Just to start this process you have to say the eukaryotic cell evolved.Evolved from what?Whats the proposed test for this hypothesis?I want to share what you and Behe are smoking because it has to be good

    Now…

    colewd: Show me where he says this.

    WTF?

  34. keiths,

    Behe accepts common descent as true. You are trying to pretend that he regards it merely as a “valid candidate to eventually be tested.”

    Because I don’t think you understand what his actual thinking is. You try to slam dunk his thinking to simply “believing common descent is true”. What does that even mean? It is not an accurate description of his thinking. Tom tries to analyze Mung’s belief in common descent and you shut Tom down because you know if this discussion is pushed into the detail your argument becomes meaningless.

    I asked Tom for a definition of common descent and he has yet to be able to define it. So with no definition what does Behe believing that common descent is true really mean?

  35. colewd:

    You try to slam dunk his thinking to simply “believing common descent is true”. What does that even mean? It is not an accurate description of his thinking.

    Behe:

    The bottom line is this: Common descent is true; yet the explanation of common descent — even the common descent of humans and chimps — although fascinating, is in a profound sense trivial.

    Bill, what is wrong with you?

  36. keiths,

    The bottom line is this: Common descent is true; yet the explanation of common descent — even the common descent of humans and chimps — although fascinating, is in a profound sense trivial.

    Do you agree with Mike that common descent is in a profound sense trivial? Do you want to share the rest of the quote to show why Mike thinks common descent is trivial?

  37. colewd: Do you agree with Mike that common descent is in a profound sense trivial? Do you want to share the rest of the quote to show why Mike thinks common descent is trivial?

    Yes I agree with him, the explanation is trivial. It’s just reproduction over many many generations.

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