Ed Brayton has a post up about front-loading, and I'll mention the good news first. He made me aware of an interesting finding, of obvious relevance to front-loading, that I hadn't noticed myself. Turns out sea sponges contain genes for synapses, which is rather surprising, considering sea sponges don't even have nerve systems.
Considered among the most primitive and ancient of all animals, sea sponges have no nervous system (or internal organs of any kind, for that matter), notes Todd Oakley, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But, he adds, they "have most of the genetic components of synapses."…
He, Oakley and the rest of the team listed all the genes known to be operative in synapses in the human nervous system. They then examined the sponge genome. "That was when the surprise hit," said Kosik. "We found a lot of genes to make a nervous system present in the sponge."
So, tell us the bad news, Krauze! The bad news is that Brayton then goes on to criticize front-loading, getting the whole concept wrong and making all the same old mistakes that he should be too intelligent to fall for. The trouble starts with the very title of his post, "Exaptation vs Front Loading: Why Evolution Wins".
There is no need to place these concepts in opposition to each other. Front-loading is an ID hypothesis, involving evolution, which is perfectly open to the concept of structures changing functions (i.e. becoming exapted). Imagine that Brayton had written a post on the origin of car engines and called it "Engineering vs Combustion: Why Physics Wins", and you'll know how I feel.
Brayton goes on to make the oldest mistake about front-loading in the book, namely by claiming that it requires genes to be "turned off" or "without function":
But remember, some of those genes are highly conserved or 100% conserved – that is, identical or nearly identical – between sponges and humans. And while front loading means those genes had to be "turned off" for hundreds of millions of years, exaptation posits that those genes were turned on, expressed in the phenotype and serving different functions.
This is a chestnut that has been dealt with numerous times. Like here, where I write:
A designer wanting to front-load the evolution of life need not have inserted useless genes for eyes and hearts in a unicellular organism, where mutations would erase them in a few million years. Instead, the designer could have designed genes that could be adapted to multiple functions, so that a gene could serve one function in a unicellular organism and another in a multicellular organism. Flexibility – not micro-managing – is the key.
And what criticism would be complete without claim that "front-loading requires all genes currenly in existence to have been compressed in the first genome" A claim that has been dealt with here.
Brayton often makes fun – and justifiably so – of creationists who criticize evolution without having tried to understand it. Maybe he should heed his own advice and read up on that concept he's trying to criticize.