A paper in the January/February Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology dispels “the myths of intelligent design” by examining the evolution of amoebas and other unicellular organisms.
Proponents of intelligent design claim the Cambrian explosion of 545 million years ago, when the body plans of the ancestors of most animals developed, occurred too rapidly be explained by the gradual process of Darwinian evolution. Biologists Mark Farmer and Andrea Habura point out in their paper that unicellular protistan evolution lasted 1 billion years, providing the genomic diversity from which multicellular organisms arose during that remarkably fertile period.
Evolution skeptics also claim that no one has ever seen the development of a new species, a myth Farmer and Habura tackle by outlining a case in which amoebae became symbiotically dependent upon infecting bacteria. The symbiotically dependent amoebas developed into an undeniably separate species, because attempts to interbreed with the parent stock would infect and kill them.
Intelligent design proponents often question why fossils do not show transitional forms as one species evolves into another. The protist fossil record is exquisitely detailed, allowing the authors to do exactly that. The biologists also refute the creationist claim that biochemical changes in organisms are too complex to occur without a designer by explaining the way in which the malaria parasite’s resistance to the drug chloroquine likely evolved.
“A detailed understanding of protistan biology,” Farmer and Habura conclude, “offers scientists and laypersons alike the ability to address current attacks on evolutionary theory, and to refute the claims of [intelligent design] creationists who insist on invoking supernatural explanations to account for observable phenomena.”