Plant Galls And The Discovery Institute

The Pixie

Well-known member
Galls are structures on plants that benefit the parasite, but are detrimental to the plant. Here is a great paper that demolishes evolution, because how could plants possibly evolve to have structures that are detrimental to them?

Here is the Discovery Institute's take on that paper.

The new paper is typical of Lönnig’s writings, with an abundance of details and references. As you listen to his podcast on carnivorous plants, or read his new article on plant galls, I suggest the following exercise: Try to imagine hypothetical species that would falsify Darwin, using his own criteria, in a more spectacular way.

The only problem is... plant galls are caused by the parasites, not the plants.

It is the parasites that have evolved the ability to cause galls, not the plants.

How Could The Author Get It Wrong?​

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, author of the article, actually spent 25 studying plant genetics and mutations and has a Ph.D. in genetics - or so the DI assure us. His paper has "an abundance of details and references". So how come he made such a fundamental error?

He is an expert in plant genetics, but he has missed the fact that these structures are coded in the parasite DNA, and not the plant DNA.

And his whole argument is therefore null-and-void.

Why Has No One Corrected Him?

Because they want it to be true. In pseudo-science, wishful thinking trumps facts every time. These people are utterly convinced they are right, so grab at anything that supports their faith-claims. And once they have grabbed it, they cling to it like a drowning man to a bit of wood.

Lönnig got is wrong, and his argument fails. But Lönnig will never admit that. No one at the Discovery Institute will admit that.

Because ID is pseudo-science. Religious beliefs dressed up to look like science.

Real Science​

For those interested in real science...

Our study of the goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis, shows that gall size variation results from genetic variation among flies despite selective pressures by natural enemies. .... Quantitative-genetic methods were used in a greenhouse experiment to evaluate the contribution of insect genetic variance to phenotypic variation in gall size. Significant differences in gall diameter were found among full-sib families of gall makers. Gall dimensions were genetically correlated with one another at most developmental stages. Observations of galls growing on goldenrod clones in both the field and the greenhouse suggest that plant genotype also influences gall phenotype, and thus affects gall-maker vulnerability to natural enemies.

Each of these anomalous plant structures represents an extended phenotype that is under the metabolic control of a gall-inducing organism, typically a mite or insect. The extended phenotype of the galling insect results in production of atypically formed and positioned tissues that are hardened, are mostly three-dimensional, and resistant to flattening. ... The assignment of modern galls into morphotypes has been used productively to distinguish species of thrips, aphids, and tenthredinid sawflies.
 

rossum

Well-known member
At least Dr. Lönnig appears to have read Darwin:

"If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection."​

A pity that his example shows Gall-fly DNA acting to benefit Gall-flies.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
Galls are structures on plants that benefit the parasite, but are detrimental to the plant. Here is a great paper that demolishes evolution, because how could plants possibly evolve to have structures that are detrimental to them?

Here is the Discovery Institute's take on that paper.

The new paper is typical of Lönnig’s writings, with an abundance of details and references. As you listen to his podcast on carnivorous plants, or read his new article on plant galls, I suggest the following exercise: Try to imagine hypothetical species that would falsify Darwin, using his own criteria, in a more spectacular way.

The only problem is... plant galls are caused by the parasites, not the plants.

It is the parasites that have evolved the ability to cause galls, not the plants.

How Could The Author Get It Wrong?​

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, author of the article, actually spent 25 studying plant genetics and mutations and has a Ph.D. in genetics - or so the DI assure us. His paper has "an abundance of details and references". So how come he made such a fundamental error?

He is an expert in plant genetics, but he has missed the fact that these structures are coded in the parasite DNA, and not the plant DNA.

And his whole argument is therefore null-and-void.

Why Has No One Corrected Him?

Because they want it to be true. In pseudo-science, wishful thinking trumps facts every time. These people are utterly convinced they are right, so grab at anything that supports their faith-claims. And once they have grabbed it, they cling to it like a drowning man to a bit of wood.

Lönnig got is wrong, and his argument fails. But Lönnig will never admit that. No one at the Discovery Institute will admit that.

Because ID is pseudo-science. Religious beliefs dressed up to look like science.

Real Science​

For those interested in real science...

Our study of the goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis, shows that gall size variation results from genetic variation among flies despite selective pressures by natural enemies. .... Quantitative-genetic methods were used in a greenhouse experiment to evaluate the contribution of insect genetic variance to phenotypic variation in gall size. Significant differences in gall diameter were found among full-sib families of gall makers. Gall dimensions were genetically correlated with one another at most developmental stages. Observations of galls growing on goldenrod clones in both the field and the greenhouse suggest that plant genotype also influences gall phenotype, and thus affects gall-maker vulnerability to natural enemies.

Each of these anomalous plant structures represents an extended phenotype that is under the metabolic control of a gall-inducing organism, typically a mite or insect. The extended phenotype of the galling insect results in production of atypically formed and positioned tissues that are hardened, are mostly three-dimensional, and resistant to flattening. ... The assignment of modern galls into morphotypes has been used productively to distinguish species of thrips, aphids, and tenthredinid sawflies.
You must not have read your own link. Lönnig realizes that we are dealing with two separate species with diverse DNA. But his theme is that the plants have developed so as to benefit the invading parasite which meets Darwin's own criteria for falsification:

“If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the
exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could
not have been produced through natural selection.”

Or in Lönnig's own words:

"In other words, it has been proved that thousands of different kinds of
elaborate plant galls are formed for the exclusive good of the gall insects
and mites87, which facts have – according to Darwin’s own assessment –
annihilated his theory, “for such could not have been produced through natural
selection”.

Note that the gall is composed of plant tissue and houses the invading species and controlled by the plant DNA.
 
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docphin5

Well-known member
You must not have read your own link. Lönnig realizes that we are dealing with two separate species with diverse DNA. But his theme is that the plants have developed so as to benefit the invading parasite which meets Darwin's own criteria for falsification:
You are likely reading in to it more than what is there.

To falsify evolution one species would have to evolve a trait independent of another species which benefits from it. For example, humans evolve a secreted hormone that exclusively benefits sponges in the ocean to reproduce faster.

In the case of plant galls and parasites they are two species interacting with one another in nature. IOW, they are evolving together, influencing each other’s expression of DNA and affecting each other’s process of natural selection.

I can think of another example. Herpes B virus. It evolved in nonhuman primates (macaques) to become a mild disease in the host species, but remains highly lethal in aberrant species, eg, human primates. IOW, the host species evolved an immune system that benefits the virus to replicate and spread without killing the host. In humans the virus is known as Herpes Simplex virus which is mild in humans but lethal in macaques.

But no one takes it as an example for evolution having been falsified just because one species evolved an immune system benefitting the propagation of virus, for the obvious explanation that the virus killed off the members of the host species whose immune system could not control it. It doesn’t fit what would falsify evolution Because the species are evolving together.

“If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the
exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could
not have been produced through natural selection.”

Or in Lönnig's own words:

"In other words, it has been proved that thousands of different kinds of
elaborate plant galls are formed for the exclusive good of the gall insects
and mites87, which facts have – according to Darwin’s own assessment –
annihilated his theory, “for such could not have been produced through natural
selection”.

Note that the gall is composed of plant tissue and houses the invading species and controlled by the plant DNA.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
You must not have read your own link. Lönnig realizes that we are dealing with two separate species with diverse DNA. But his theme is that the plants have developed so as to benefit the invading parasite which meets Darwin's own criteria for falsification:

“If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the
exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could
not have been produced through natural selection.”

Or in Lönnig's own words:

"In other words, it has been proved that thousands of different kinds of
elaborate plant galls are formed for the exclusive good of the gall insects
and mites87, which facts have – according to Darwin’s own assessment –
annihilated his theory, “for such could not have been produced through natural
selection”.

Note that the gall is composed of plant tissue and houses the invading species and controlled by the plant DNA.
Can you tell us the evidence for the last bit: "controlled by the plant DNA". That is the crux of it. I could not see that in Lönnig's article, and the other papers say it is controlled by the parasite's DNA.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
Can you tell us the evidence for the last bit: "controlled by the plant DNA". That is the crux of it. I could not see that in Lönnig's article, and the other papers say it is controlled by the parasite's DNA.
Can you show me in the other papers that say it is controlled by the parasite's DNA?
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Can you show me in the other papers that say it is controlled by the parasite's DNA?
Sure. See the bits I quoted in the OP. In particular the bits in bold for the first one.

ETA: That said, if Lönnig is claiming this refutes evolution, the onus is on him to show it is i the plant DNA.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
You are likely reading in to it more than what is there.

To falsify evolution one species would have to evolve a trait independent of another species which benefits from it. For example, humans evolve a secreted hormone that exclusively benefits sponges in the ocean to reproduce faster.

In the case of plant galls and parasites they are two species interacting with one another in nature. IOW, they are evolving together, influencing each other’s expression of DNA and affecting each other’s process of natural selection.

I can think of another example. Herpes B virus. It evolved in nonhuman primates (macaques) to become a mild disease in the host species, but remains highly lethal in aberrant species, eg, human primates. IOW, the host species evolved an immune system that benefits the virus to replicate and spread without killing the host. In humans the virus is known as Herpes Simplex virus which is mild in humans but lethal in macaques.

But no one takes it as an example for evolution having been falsified just because one species evolved an immune system benefitting the propagation of virus, for the obvious explanation that the virus killed off the members of the host species whose immune system could not control it. It doesn’t fit what would falsify evolution Because the species are evolving together.
I am not reading into it anything. I am simply stating what the article says. If you have a problem with the theme then take it up with the geneticist and not the messenger.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
Sure. See the bits I quoted in the OP. In particular the bits in bold for the first one.

ETA: That said, if Lönnig is claiming this refutes evolution, the onus is on him to show it is i the plant DNA.
Unfortunately, I do not have full access to your link. But what I have from the abstract is: "The benefits derived by the insect from its interaction with the host plant suggest that gall-making ability is an adaptive trait of the insect subject..." and then ends. I would garner from this that in order for your claim to be true, the parasite DNA changed so as to alter the gall to their benefit. And in order by for our claim to be true, the changes would be fully controlled by the plant. But according to your own quote, the onus is on Lönnig to show that it is in the plant DNA. This implies that they have shown that it is in the parasite DNA.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Unfortunately, I do not have full access to your link. But what I have from the abstract is: "The benefits derived by the insect from its interaction with the host plant suggest that gall-making ability is an adaptive trait of the insect subject..." and then ends. I would garner from this that in order for your claim to be true, the parasite DNA changed so as to alter the gall to their benefit.
I can only see the abstract too, but can apparently see more of it than you.

The benefits derived by the insect from its interaction with the host plant suggest that gall-making ability is an adaptive trait of the insect subject to modification by natural selection. Our findings, that variation in gall phenotype influences insect fitness and that gall phenotypic variation is affected by genetic variation in the insect population, support this interpretation. Our study of the goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis, shows that gall size variation results from genetic variation among flies despite selective pressures by natural enemies.

And in order by for our claim to be true, the changes would be fully controlled by the plant.
Right. And I see no evidence that that is the case.

But according to your own quote, the onus is on Lönnig to show that it is in the plant DNA. This implies that they have shown that it is in the parasite DNA.
Do you mean in my post, rather than my quote?

Lönnig is claiming evolution is refuted. That claim is founded on galls being encoded in the plant DNA. If galls are encoded in plant DNA evolution is refuted, if they are encoded in insect DNA evolution is not refuted. If we do not know where they are encoded, we do not know if evolution is refuted or not.

Therefore Lönnig has to show it is in the plant DNA for his argument to work.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
I can only see the abstract too, but can apparently see more of it than you.

The benefits derived by the insect from its interaction with the host plant suggest that gall-making ability is an adaptive trait of the insect subject to modification by natural selection. Our findings, that variation in gall phenotype influences insect fitness and that gall phenotypic variation is affected by genetic variation in the insect population, support this interpretation. Our study of the goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis, shows that gall size variation results from genetic variation among flies despite selective pressures by natural enemies.


Right. And I see no evidence that that is the case.


Do you mean in my post, rather than my quote?

Lönnig is claiming evolution is refuted. That claim is founded on galls being encoded in the plant DNA. If galls are encoded in plant DNA evolution is refuted, if they are encoded in insect DNA evolution is not refuted. If we do not know where they are encoded, we do not know if evolution is refuted or not.

Therefore

has to show it is in the plant DNA for his argument to work.
To quote from the Lönnig article:

"Also, some investigations have shown that proteins of inner-gall
and plant tissue were “characteristic only for gall tissues”. Moreover, “the chlorenchyma cells
within the nutritive tissue are generally homogenous and usually include a large nucleus,
conspicuous nucleolus, high enzymatic activity, RNA richness, fragmented vacuole,
numerous mitochondria, a dense/abundant cytoplasm, and the accumulation of carbohydrates
(and lipids in some systems)” (Richardson et al. 2017); for additional special features, see
text. As to a synopsis of the present state of the molecular investigations, cf. footnote 171 on
p. 59. To sum up: For insects, for example, the plants provide an unsurpassed five-star luxury
hotel for free for the entire larval developmemt.

In short, entirely new organs (complex, refined, sophisticated, “high tech” galls), consisting
of up to seven differentiated layers with diverse positive functions for the guests, are formed
at the exclusive expense of the plant host
, i. e. without any useful return by the animals
(“fremddienliche Zweckmäßigkeit” (Erich Becher)"

These are not by changes to the parasitic DNA but controlled by the plant DNA.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
To quote from the Lönnig article:

"Also, some investigations have shown that proteins of inner-gall
and plant tissue were “characteristic only for gall tissues”. Moreover, “the chlorenchyma cells
within the nutritive tissue are generally homogenous and usually include a large nucleus,
conspicuous nucleolus, high enzymatic activity, RNA richness, fragmented vacuole,
numerous mitochondria, a dense/abundant cytoplasm, and the accumulation of carbohydrates
(and lipids in some systems)” (Richardson et al. 2017); for additional special features, see
text. As to a synopsis of the present state of the molecular investigations, cf. footnote 171 on
p. 59. To sum up: For insects, for example, the plants provide an unsurpassed five-star luxury
hotel for free for the entire larval developmemt.

In short, entirely new organs (complex, refined, sophisticated, “high tech” galls), consisting
of up to seven differentiated layers with diverse positive functions for the guests, are formed
at the exclusive expense of the plant host
, i. e. without any useful return by the animals
(“fremddienliche Zweckmäßigkeit” (Erich Becher)"

These are not by changes to the parasitic DNA but controlled by the plant DNA.
What is your basis for thinking these are controlled by the plant DNA?

Certainly the section you put in bold indicates no such thing.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
To quote from the Lönnig article:

"Also, some investigations have shown that proteins of inner-gall
and plant tissue were “characteristic only for gall tissues”. Moreover, “the chlorenchyma cells
within the nutritive tissue are generally homogenous and usually include a large nucleus,
conspicuous nucleolus, high enzymatic activity, RNA richness, fragmented vacuole,
numerous mitochondria, a dense/abundant cytoplasm, and the accumulation of carbohydrates
(and lipids in some systems)” (Richardson et al. 2017); for additional special features, see
text. As to a synopsis of the present state of the molecular investigations, cf. footnote 171 on
p. 59. To sum up: For insects, for example, the plants provide an unsurpassed five-star luxury
hotel for free for the entire larval developmemt.

In short, entirely new organs (complex, refined, sophisticated, “high tech” galls), consisting
of up to seven differentiated layers with diverse positive functions for the guests, are formed
at the exclusive expense of the plant host
, i. e. without any useful return by the animals
(“fremddienliche Zweckmäßigkeit” (Erich Becher)"

These are not by changes to the parasitic DNA but controlled by the plant DNA.
Wrong. They are reactions to the chemicals produced by the parasite. You would have a case if there were dozens of empty galls hanging around like hotel rooms waiting for a guest, but there isn't. The parasite has evolved a way of altering the growth of the plant tissue in response to the chemical signals it produces. Just as the zombie fungus has evolved a way of controlling the behaviour of insects in response to the chemicals it produces.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
What is your basis for thinking these are controlled by the plant DNA?

Certainly the section you put in bold indicates no such thing.
Did you think that the parasite DNA is responsible for plant organs?

But in the long run, it is not the scenario that you claim of ID proponents hanging on to wooden planks but rather an honest scientist offering a differing view. And the scientific response should not be an attack but rather a welcoming appreciation for testing the limits of a theory. Instead, I see a scathing reply to what appears to be some clinging to a pet theory for life which falls more in line with your depiction.
 
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The Pixie

Well-known member
Did you think that the parasite is responsible for plant organs?
Yes. That is what the article I linked to says.

Did you assume the organs must be due to the plant DNA?

But in the long run, it is not the scenario that you claim of ID proponents hanging on to wooden planks but rather an honest scientist offering a differing view.
It is a differing view based on a flawed assumption.

And given the background of the "honest" scientist, I have a hard time imagining he does not know that.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
Yes. That is what the article I linked to says.

Did you assume the organs must be due to the plant DNA?
Well, yes. I would assume that the plant's DNA is responsible for its own organs while the parasite's DNA would be left out of that side of the loop. If that were not the case then Darwin's falsification criteria would be useless since the other organisms DNA (the parasite) could create benefits for itself from altering the host. Or “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the
exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.” is no longer valid as a falsification of Darwin's theory.
It is a differing view based on a flawed assumption.

And given the background of the "honest" scientist, I have a hard time imagining he does not know that.
This appears to be the same posturing as in the case of Behe's IC structures and the "junk DNA" fiasco. There is no flawed assumption just an entrenched mind-set threatened by a challenge to their pet theory which they will defend tooth and nail and thus demonstrating that it is not really science.
 
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The Pixie

Well-known member
Well, yes. I would assume that the plant's DNA is responsible for its own organs while the parasite's DNA would be left out of that side of the loop.
Ah, right. I guess that is the mistake Lönnig made too.

The fact is that the galls are encoded in the parasite's DNA, not the plant. Again, look at the articles I linked to in the OP.

If that were not the case then Darwin's falsification criteria would be useless since the other organisms DNA (the parasite) could create benefits for itself from altering the host.
That is an interesting point. Here is one of his falsification criteria:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

He does not actually specify that it has to be encoded in that organism. The evolution of galls presumably did indeed form by "numerous, successive, slight modifications", but those modifications were encoded in the parasite DNA, nut the plant's.

I will acknowledge that Darwin is very unlikely to have been considering that when he made his statement, but the fact is that it still works.

Or “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the
exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.” is no longer valid as a falsification of Darwin's theory.
I agree with you here. But I think most evolutionary biologists would agree that evolution has come a long way since Darwin. If you want to say Darwin got this wrong, then, then you are right. But evolution is as strong as ever.

This appears to be the same posturing as in the case of Behe's IC structures and the "junk DNA" fiasco. There is no flawed assumption just an entrenched mind-set threatened by a challenge to their pet theory which they will defend tooth and nail and thus demonstrating that it is not really science.
You call it posturing, I call it science.

The fact is that evolutionary biology can explain the evolution of plant galls and IC structures perfectly well. Scientists "will defend tooth and nail" evolution because it is good science.

Your objection here is, in fact, applicable to ID. The fact is that the DI has not retracted this paper which is foundered on a clear error. It is they who are entrenched in their faith-beliefs, it is they who promote pseudo-science.
 

Cisco Qid

Active member
Ah, right. I guess that is the mistake Lönnig made too.

The fact is that the galls are encoded in the parasite's DNA, not the plant. Again, look at the articles I linked to in the OP.


That is an interesting point. Here is one of his falsification criteria:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

He does not actually specify that it has to be encoded in that organism. The evolution of galls presumably did indeed form by "numerous, successive, slight modifications", but those modifications were encoded in the parasite DNA, nut the plant's.

I will acknowledge that Darwin is very unlikely to have been considering that when he made his statement, but the fact is that it still works.


I agree with you here. But I think most evolutionary biologists would agree that evolution has come a long way since Darwin. If you want to say Darwin got this wrong, then, then you are right. But evolution is as strong as ever.


You call it posturing, I call it science.

The fact is that evolutionary biology can explain the evolution of plant galls and IC structures perfectly well. Scientists "will defend tooth and nail" evolution because it is good science.

Your objection here is, in fact, applicable to ID. The fact is that the DI has not retracted this paper which is foundered on a clear error. It is they who are entrenched in their faith-beliefs, it is they who promote pseudo-science.
Your argument seems to be that a stimulus from the parasite solicits a response from the plant which is then embedded into the plant's genome or even into the genome of both species.

Note the except from your first link:

"The benefits derived by the parasites from these host reactions suggest that they could be the result of adaptive evolution. For selection to favor such "manipulative parasites," however, the host response must be influenced, at least in part, by the parasite's genome. Confirmation that beneficial host reactions are heritable characters of parasites would add important evidence supporting this evolutionary interpretation."

There appears to be a gap between the confirming important evidence and the suggestion that they could be the result of adaptive evolution.
Do you see something that I don't see?

Your second link: "Ecology and Evolution of Gall-Inducing Arthropods: The Pattern From the Terrestrial Fossil Record", is simply a fossil history of galls and their expansion without any discussion or elaboration on the genome.

These don't appear enough to nullify the L. argument. And the fact that he has ridden your theory of an invalid falsification criteria should be to his credit.
 
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