Debate review [Otangelo Grasso v. Jackson Wheat]: Nitrogenase, Chlorophyll, etc

Recently, there was an online debate on the topic of “evolution vs. creationism” between Jackson Wheat @JacksonWheat1 (for evolution) and Otangelo Grasso @Otangelo (for creationism).

While they introduce themselves at the start, I will also mention some of my personal interactions with the debaters:

A few years ago, I came in contact with Jackson Wheat and since then I have helped him with writing and fact-checking the scripts for his videos on his youtube channel.

Regarding Otangelo, he is a young earth creationist who (from my experience) suddenly popped up in internet communities which I often interact with. I found his blog “reason and science”, which he mentioned during his introduction, where he posts long threads. The bulk of his blog simply copy pasted paragraphs from other sources, supplemented with his commentary sprinkled in between. Very often, it is difficult to tell from which source the paragraph is copy pasted from. Sometimes it is even difficult to tell wether a paragraph is his own commentary or a copy pasted section. Sometimes the personal commentary text is in a different colour, but the delineation is not consistent. The blog is just a big mess, even just looking at the formatting alone.

Otangelo’s most used arguments are: 1) the appeal to personal incredulity and 2) argument from analogy. With the incredulity arguments, he mentions some biological complex process or structure, emphasising how amazingly complex it is as verbose as he possibly can, and then conclude that it just too complex for it to have evolved. Ergo, design is the only reasonable explanation. Regarding the argument from analogy, he will draw comparisons between biology and things that know are designed. E.g: DNA is a blue print. Sometimes he will just assert that these are not analogies… which is absurd. I als had a few interactions with him, often followed by deep disappointment. When I point out the fallaciousness of his arguments and that the conclusions simply don’t follow, he says things like:

OTANGELO: “incredulity is justified by the most basic logical principles. randomness does not select materials. intelligence does. you are unable to think even like a 10 year old.”

I guess if Otangelo is following his own advice to think like a 10 year old, that would explain a lot. In a recent interaction in a youtube live chat he asked me:

OTANGELO “how can you have synthesis of iron sulfur clusters, without the membrane import channels for iron and sulfur, and chelate of iron? and non-ribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS)?”

I provided this paper [Spontaneous assembly of redox-active iron-sulfur clusters at low concentrations of cysteine | Nature Communications]. This paper shows that the Fe-clusters, which are vitally important for many fundamental enzymes that are involved in core metabolism, can be produced from inorganic Fe2+/Fe3+ and S2− in the presence of the amino acid cysteine in water at alkaline pH. I was rather astonished by Otangelo’s response.

OTANGELO “u believe everything when it says: scientists say ?

there are many different FE-Sulfur clusters with different compositions. Each protein has a specific one. So you believe in pseudo science, because its [sic] from nature magazine. Awesome

i am warranted to be skeptical towards just so stories, like in that "science"paper. Synthesis of iron sulfur clusters is VERY complex !!”

How incredulous can someone be? I don’t have to believe what the scientists say. The paper is open access and you can read the methods and results for yourself. He claims that he is “warranted to be skeptical”, so I asked him if he actually read the paper in question. The next question would be to ask what part of the paper he actually thinks is unsubstantiated. However, he responded as such:

OTANGELO “have you read it? Or did you just google it right now ?”

Since he simply firing the question back at me, a classic way to avoid the question. I think it is safe to say that Otangelo did not read the paper at all. The problem here is that Otangelo has an assumed conclusion - that Fe-clusters are just ooooh sooo complicated, they can’t possibly form without the complex proteins - and when a paper comes along that contradicts him, he simply dismisses it outright. This is not skepticism… this is wilful ignorance. This is further exemplified when he says the following:

OTANGELO “well, they talk about protocells, and protometabolism. The problem is, thats just made up stuff. Nobody knows that a protocell is supposed to be.”

But the paper makes it clear what protocells are and how they can form, all while providing citations to previous work:

JORDAN ET AL. 2021 “Previous experimental work shows that hydrothermal Fischer-Tropsch-type syntheses can also form long-chain 1-alkanols and fatty acids55, which spontaneously assemble into protocells under alkaline hydrothermal conditions56,57. Amino acid synthesis from pyruvate has also been demonstrated under similar conditions58. However, the polymerisation of amino acids and nucleotides in water remains elusive, suggesting that the earliest stages in the emergence of life might have taken place in a monomer world17. Thus, protocells formed from combinations of monomeric molecules such as fatty acids were arguably the earliest units of selection at the origin of life16,59,60.”

He also commits psychological projection, saying that I haven’t read the paper. That I just googled it on the spot and gave it to him without looking what the paper says. He said it again later (in a different live chat):

OTANGELO “and everything indicates that YOU did not read the paper that you claim you did read. You just quickly googled it, and then though; Gotch ya”

While I obviously can’t show that I did read the paper, I can show that I did not quickly googled it on the spot. I was in fact aware of this paper for over 2 months. I follow ‘NatureEcoEvo’ on twitter and they tweeted about the paper in November 2021 on “Iron sulfur clusters: the first metal cofactors?”. I retweeted this, and look who is responding to my retweet?? None other than Otangelo himself… If Otangelo read the article that I retweeted back in November, he would have known about the paper before I provided to him again to answer his question about Fe-clusters… and he would’ve known better than to flatly assert that I “just quickly googled the paper”. However, it is clear that Otangelo is not someone who carefully considers the positions of those who he disagrees with, nor is he above making baseless accusations just to get himself out of a difficult situation.

So that is enough about my personal interactions with him. My apologies for starting the thread like this… these interactions occurred while I was writing this, and I just had to include it.

Moving on. IMO, the debate was not something special. The conversation was cordial and polite, but before the debate I knew that the choice of topic was problematic. “Evolution vs. creationism”. That is so unspecific that the debate can become unfocused, and that is exactly what happened. Otangelo and Jackson prepared to talk about very different subjects. Also, while I have previously said a lot of negative things about Otangelo, it should be stated that he is rather good in having descent conversations and debates. That doesn’t mean his arguments are good… they are not. I won’t go over every argument he makes. Certainly not every argument that are included in his slides (many of which are not even mentioned verbally). Just the ones that stood out to me, and keeping this as brief as possible.

@ 7:00 Otangelo intends to disprove universal common ancestry and that evolution explains the origins of complex life forms. First he cites paper by Koonin from 2007 “The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution” reading the abstract verbatim about the six major transitions for which Koonin thinks requires a “biological big bang” which is described as a rapid phase of evolution involving extensive horizontal gene transfer, and thus would differ with a simple tree-like evolutionary process. While I do think that horizontal gene transfer was and still is important in the evolution of single celled life, I don’t think that was a particularly relevant to things like the eukaryotic supergroups and especially not to the animal phyla of the Cambrian explosion. Koonin claims that the difficulty to resolve the relationships between the eukaryotic souper groups and the relationships between animal phyla hint do a biological big bang. However, we actually understand these relationships quite well, even better today. These don’t show evidence of excessive horizontal gene transfer. Furthermore, difficult to resolve phylogenetic relationships is not necessarily the result of explosive horizontal gene transfer. There can also be more “mundane” explanations such as incomplete lineage sorting that explains such situations. I also find him drawing the analogy to the ‘cosmological big bang’ rather far fetched to put it mildly, even regarding instances where horizontal gene transfer was likely prevalent. Koonin also seems to misunderstand punctuated equilibrium. For more, see Moran’s comments on Sandwalk:

Having said that, even taking this paper for granted, I don’t see any way how this can fit in a young earth creation model. Does Otangelo think that the eukaryotic supergroups and animal Phyla exchanged genes at some point in their phylogenetic history? Otangelo doesn’t even believe in them having a phylogenetic history. When responding to William Martin (one of the review commentators) Koonin also makes it clear that his hypothesis does not help ID proponents, and Koonin is rather prophetic about how ID proponents like Otangelo will abuse his work:

KOONIN 2007 “I changed “ready-made” to “abruptly”, to avoid any ID allusions and added clarifications but, beyond that, there is little I can do because this is an important sentence that accurately and clearly portrays a crucial and, to the very best of my understanding, real feature of evolutionary transitions. Will this be used by the ID camp? Perhaps – if they read that far into the paper. However, I am afraid that, if our goal as evolutionary biologists is to avoid providing any grist for the ID mill, we should simply claim that Darwin, “in principle”, solved all the problems of the origin of biological complexity in his eye story, and only minor details remain to be filled in. Actually, I think the position of some ultra-darwinists is pretty close to that. However, I believe that this is totally counter-productive and such a notion is outright false. And, the ID folks are clever in their own perverse way, they see through such false simplicity and seize on it. I think we (students of evolution) should openly admit that emergence of new levels of complexity is a complex problem and should try to work out solutions some of which could be distinctly non-orthodox; ID, however, does not happen to be a viable solution to any problem. I think this is my approach here and elsewhere.”

@ 12:13 Otangelo is dismissing all the paleontological evidence supporting evolution and common ancestry. On what basis you may ask? Because Michael Behe says so. No really, that’s it. Otangelo also says that Behe popularised the concept of irreducible complexity and interdependence in biology. I would say that the credit should go to H. J. Muller who came up with the exact same concept by a different name “interlocking complexity” 70 years ago, but reached the very opposite conclusion. That such systems are expected to evolve by a few simple steps: 1) a redundant part, 2) make it neccesary.

@ 14:17 Here he begins to talk about nitrogen fixation, which is one of the things I really wanted to get into. Otangelo says that cyanobacteria rely on other bacteria with complementary metabolisms. And he also says that without all these completing the nitrogen cycle, fixed nitrogen wouldn’t be available and life could not start. That is not accurate. While it is true that many other bacteria produce reduced nitrogen and make it available to other life, such as cyanobacteria, many cyanobacteria are able to fix nitrogen gas (N2) directly to ammonia themselves, without any other help. Also, ammonia can be produced without life, so it was available before life even existed.

@ 16:02 Otangelo shows a screenshot of the abstract of this paper telling us that “uncertainty remains about the origins of the earths’ early nitrogen cycle”. However, he has left out the part where it summarises the findings of this research, which says:

YANG ET AL. 2019 “Our data reveal a dominantly anaerobic marine nitrogen cycle in which ammonium-replete ferruginous waters underlay an ephemeral oxygen oasis. Driven by the emergence of oxygenic photosynthesis, increased primary productivity could have periodically strengthened export production, which allowed for the accumulation of ammonium in the water column during organic matter degradation. Restricted oxygen availability could have allowed the upwelling ammonium to reach the photic zone to provide ample nitrogen to fuel a prolific Late Archaean biosphere.”

Quote mining is not a good look Otangelo!

@ 16:29 Next Otangelo mentions Weiss et al. 2016 which conclude that LUCA possessed (among other things) nitrogenase. Otangelo claims that this conclusion was reached because:

OTANGELO “Nature magazine came up with a genius ad hoc idea. They simply claimed that nitrogenase, the enzyme in Cyanobacterias [sic], responsible for the chemical reaction that transforms nitrogen to ammonia was already extant in LUCA, the last universal common ancestor”

This is just flat out wrong. Firstly, cyanobacteria aren’t the only organisms that possess nitrogenases. Secondly, NO!! They didn’t “simply” make this claim as an “ad hoc” solution. They used statistical methodology to test which of the 286,514 protein clusters were likely present in LUCA. Other researchers have disagreed with this conclusion. I have read other papers that proposed that nitrogenase originated in Archaea, specifically methanogens, and later the nif operon from these spread around other lineages via horizontal gene transfer. Koirala & Brozel 2021, Mus et al. 2019, Boyd et al. 2011, Boyd et al. 2011 and Raymond et al. 2004.

Koirala & Brozel 2021

So there are legitimate disagreements to be had, but Otangelo expresses his disagreements by outright misrepresentation.

About nitrogenase, Otangelo is mostly right about his description. The nitrogenase enzyme fixes N2 to ammonia in the following reaction:

N2 + 8 H+ + 16 MgATP + 8 e− → 2 NH3 + H2 + 16 MgADP + 16 Pi

Since N2 contains a strong triple covalent bond, nitrogen fixation has a high metabolic cost, as you can that the hydrolysis of 16 ATP is required for reducing just one molecule of N2. The enzyme itself is composed of 2 main units.

Oldroyd & Dixon

  • The reductase: A homo-dimeric complex which includes an 4Fe-2S cluster, encoded by NifH
  • The nitrogenase: A hetero-tetradimeric complex, including 2 P-clusters between the a and b subunits, and two FeMoco clusters in the a subunit. Subunit a and b are encoded by NifD and NifK respectively.

Many other genes are also involved. Most importantly are those that encode for proteins involved in producing the FeMoco cluster. These are:

Larrea-Alvarez & Purton 2021

  • NifB: a SAM-dependent protein, which adds a carbon atom to the 4Fe4S cluster to produce the NiB-co intermediate.
  • NifE and NifN, together forming a hetero-tetradimeric complex that forms a scaffold for the ‘maturation’ of the cluster from NiB-co to VK cluster, and then finally FeMoco.
  • The P-cluster is produced by reduction of 2 4Fe4S clusters by NifH.

Otangelo concludes on nitrogenase by questioning how this could evolve? All these genes/proteins and cofactors all have to be together, otherwise they have no use. He later makes the conclusion that since this is so mysterious, design is the only option. That good old appeal to ignorance again. Do you really need all these proteins and cofactors all together, unless they have no function on their own? Let’s see.

The minimal gene set for nitrogen fixation includes the aforementioned six Nif genes: HDK (catalysis) and ENB (FeMoco cofactor assembly). There are quite a few more gene associated in many diazotrophs (nitrogen eaters).

Vincente & Dean 2017

NifF and NifJ supply electrons. There are also other genes involved in cofactor assembly. NifS takes sulfur from cysteine and supplies it to NifU, which is a scaffold for the synthesis the 4Fe4S clusters (the starting point of FeMo-o and P cluster biosynthesis, as well as providing the 4Fe4S for the NifH reductase). NifQ and NifV supplies molybdenum and homocitrate respectively needed to mature NiB-co into MoFeco. NifX and NifY shuttle NiB-co (from NifB to NifEN) and FeMoco (from NifEN to nitrogenase NifDK) respectively. NifM and NifW functions to allow NifH to fold properly and acquire its 4Fe4S cluster. Transcription regulators NifA, NifL. Hu & Ribbe 2016

However, these don’t appear to be always necessary. NifF/J can be functionally substituted by other promiscuous reducing agents such as ferredoxin. The shuttle proteins NifX/Y can be simply be skipped by transferring the compounds directly from NifB-to-EN and from NifEN-to-DK. Furthermore, NifS/U, NifQ and NifV aren’t needed because what they provide can be accomplished by other means. Molybdenum can be incorporated directly. Homocitrate is also a product of lysine biosynthesis, and 4Fe4S cluster synthesis can be done by other genes, since 4Fe4S clusters function in many other systems. These ‘housekeeping’ genes that can substitute for these Nif genes are also often homologous, which indicates that these accessory Nif genes evolved by recruiting housekeeping genes and were specialised specifically for nitrogen fixation. Vicente & Dean 2017, Larrea-Alvarez & Purton 2021, Buren et al. 2020 and Li & Chen 2020. It is also interesting to note that these accessory nif genes are mostly present within (facultative) aerobic lineages, but absent in anaerobes. Which would indicate that the simpler system evolved first in anaerobes (consistent with the oxygen sensitivity of nitrogenase) and the accessory genes are correlated with the adaptation to aerobic metabolism. Mus et al. 2019 and Boyd et al. 2015.

But what about the indispensible genes? NifDKH (catalysis) and NifENB (MoFeco assembly)? Surely these proteins and their cofactors all need to be together, otherwise they would be useless? Well…

Vedalankar & Tripathy 2018

The NifDKH nitrogenase complex is related to other enzymes. Hu & Ribbe 2020. Particularly, Light-independent protochlorophyllide reductase (DPOR), which convert protochlorophyllide to chlorophyllide a. It is also homologous to the enzyme Chlorophyllide a reductase (COR) that catalyses the reaction that changes chlorophyllide a to bacteriochlorophyllide a (in anoxic phototrophic bacteria). The enzymes have the same basic structure; subunits corresponding to NifH, NifK, and NifD in nitrogenase are homologous to ChlL/BchL, ChlN/BchN, and ChlB/BchB in DPOR; and BchX, BchY and BchZ in COR respectively. Another curious similarity is that they are also similarly sensitive to oxygen. In oxygenic phototrophs, the DPOR enzyme was supplemented by a light dependent DOR (LDOR). In angiosperms, the DPOR has been lost entirely. Also note that these enzymes share FeS clusters, but DPOR and COR don’t have FeMoco or P-clusters. They only have 4Fe4S clusters in the corresponding place for the P-clusters, and nothing in the corresponding place for FeMoco, except that this is the substrate binding sites in DPOR and COR. Hence, these enzymes are simpler than nitrogenase (lacking 2 of these unique cofactors), and yet… somehow… they are still functional. But we can go even further.

Moser & Layer 2018

It turns out the subunits D and K, which form the hetero-tetradimer of nitrogenase, are homologous to each other. This is similar to our haemoglobin, which also a hetero-tetradimer. It consists of two subunits, 2 alpha and 2 beta subunits, which are also related by gene duplication and haemoglobin likely evolved from a homodimer (produced by the original protein before the duplication event) Pillai et al. 2020. So, a straightforward evolutionary scenario for nitrogenase (as well as DPOR and COR) is that the tetradimer similarly evolved from a homodimer. Indeed, there is yet another nitrogenase-like enzyme CfbC/D (full name to long to put here). Subunit C is homologous to NifH and D is homologous to both NifD and NifK. However, instead of forming a tetramer, the D subunit forms a homo-dimer. This enzyme is involved in the biosynthesis of coenzyme F430, which is similar to chlorophylls and precursors. F430 is essential for methanogens, the same organisms wherein nitrogenase might have originated. Ghebreamlak et al. 2020

Carcia et al. 2022

But what about the the FeMoco cofactor assembly proteins? NifE/N and NifB? Well, NifE and NifN are also homologs of NifD and NifK respectively. That is right. The enzyme that makes the cofactor is homologous to the enzyme that uses it to reduce nitrogen. This is why it is proposed that the common ancestor of NifD/K and NifE/N perhaps did both functions, or was enzymatically promiscuous. Even modern nitrogenases and NifEN enzymes are rather promiscuous, catalysing various different reactions, not just nitrogen reduction. North et al. 2020, Hu & Ribbe 2016. Lastly, NifB is part of the radical SAM enzyme superfamily, which are involve din various processes. NASA 2010. This is similarly true for NifH, which appears to be part of a very ancient protein super family. Lahiri et al. 2008, Lutkenhaus 2012 and Thakur et al. 2013.

In short, Nitrogenase is not all or nothing. As revealed by its various homologs, many components and simpler precursors can still be functional. Furthermore, the evolutionary origins is also indicated from these homologs, as well as its own structure.

(due to word limit, the thread is continued in next post)


Otangello is a long time (ahem) contributor to many FB groups, tho often only until moderators tire of him and boot him out. He is known to use a variety of pseudonyms. His debate tactics never change; he interprets published papers to mean something they do not, and moves the goalposts when caught. His guest article on ENV is a sad commentary on how very little ENV has to offer. I’m genuinely surprised he was able to find anyone willing to debate him at all.

However, even Otangelo deserves a chance to respond to criticism. I’m pretty sure @Otangello @Otangello @Otangello will bring him here, even without candles and a mirror. :wink:


@ 19:06 Otangelo says that Cyanobacteria claimed to be the oldest life forms. Cyanobacteria are among the oldest life forms that we can clearly see in the fossil record, but they are likely not the oldest. Reductive metabolism that relies on environmental redox pairs that is independent on sunlight is older, e.g. methanogens and acetogens, which have rather simple membrane electron transport complexes, lacking even cytochromes and quinones. Photosynthesis evolved later. Lane & Martin 2012

@ 19:30 Otangelo says that if there was no ozon layer at the origin of life, then amino acids would have been destroyed by UV. Oh no, I wonder if there is some regions on earth that are protected from UV light… perhaps deep sea hydrothermal vents (and many other places for those who don’t agree with hydrothermal vents as the likely place for life’s origin)? Eh, who knows… cough.

@ 20:00 Otangelo is right to say that Nitrogenase is sensitive to oxygen. In fact, it is irreversibly damaged by oxygen. This has been proposed as an explanation for why oxygen levels were limited to below 2% during the ‘boring billion’. Alen et al. 2019. Otangelo thinks that cyanobacteria doing both oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation is a puzzling paradox (presumably unexplained by evolution). But the answer is pretty straightforward. They separate the two processes. Even his own slide shows that. Some cyanobacteria produce specialised cells called heterocyst which don’t perform photosynthesis. They maintain an anoxic environment within their cells by producing a thick cell wall and oxygen scavengers enabling nitrogenase to function. Other cyanobacteria simply perform photosynthesis during the day and fix nitrogen during the night when they don’t produce oxygen. Stal 2015.

@ 20:18 Otangelo says the following:

“Oxygenic photosynthesis is a prime example of irreducible complexity. No wonder, does Blankenship, an expert on the subject, confessed that the origin of cyanobacteria have long been a mystery because they kind of just appears out of the tree of life with this very advanced capability to do oxygenic photosynthesis without any apparent forebears.”

And he shows a pop science article which is talking about this paper showing a screenshot of a quote from Blankenship. However, Otangelo is again omitting an important part. Right after the text he shows, it says the following:

“But in 2013, researchers discovered a nonphotosynthetic class of cyanobacteria known as Melainabacteria. Now Fischer and his colleagues have discovered a second class of nonphotosynthetic cyanobacteria, the Sericytochromatia. The researchers suggest that both groups are clearly closely related to photosynthetic cyanobacteria, based on their genomes, but the two groups do not perform photosynthesis themselves.

One possible explanation for the lack of photosynthesis in these two classes of cyanobacteria was that they could once photosynthesize but then lost the ability. To find out more about this critical question, Fischer and his colleagues analyzed the genomes of 41 different kinds of nonphotosynthetic cyanobacteria. The team’s analysis of 38 Melainabacteria genomes and three Sericytochromatia genomes found no trace of photosynthetic machinery.

“This pretty strongly suggests that the ancestor of all three lineages of cyanobacteria was not photosynthetic,” said Blankenship, who did not take part in this research.

The fact that Oxyphotobacteria possess the complex apparatus for oxygenic photosynthesis while their closest relatives do not suggests that Oxyphotobacteria may have imported the genes for photosynthesis from another organism via a process known as lateral gene transfer. It remains a mystery what the source of these genes was, “and because it happened long ago, it’s pretty likely that the group may actually have gone extinct,” Fischer said.”

So basically they say that “X has long been a mystery, however, recently we have found more pieces of the puzzle.” But Otangelo just leaves out the latter part in order to misrepresent Blankenship as if he has “confessed” that we just don’t know how Oxygenic photosynthesis evolved.

Once again… Quote mining is NOT a good look!!

This is particularly insulting since Blankenship has (co-)authored numerous papers answering particular questions for the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis. That is not to say there aren’t open questions about the details (as is the case in all areas of science), but we do have a good picture of how it originated. In contrast to ID-creationism, which don’t have an answer beyond the non answer “Goddidit”. Just to provide a couple or review papers for those who are interested: Hofmann-Marriott & Blankenship 2011, Fischer et al. 2016

@ 38:00 the last thing I want to cover is something Otagelo said during the discussion phase about chlorophyll. He says that the biosynthesis pathway for chlorophyll synthesis involves 17 enzymes, 7 of which is specific to chlorophyll, and they only work all together. None can work individually. I could go into detail how each enzyme has evident homologs, like DPOR previously mentioned during the discussion on nitrogenase. But I think it would be enough just to point out that the intermediates in the pathway are photoactive on their own, so you can not assume that everyone of them are functionless on their own. Williamson et al. 2010, Byrant & Liu 2013, Tanaka et al. 2019, Martin et al. 2018, Fujita, Y., & Yamakawa 2017, Sousa et al. 2012 and Vedalankar & Tripathy 2019.

But what I find most frustrating of all this is that, when I went looking on Otangelo’s background, I found out that he had these types of conversation with others many years ago. For example, with @Rumraket (what a blast from the past for you this is, isn’t it?) on Sandwalk and the League of reason forum. The exact same argument (Otangelo tends to copy paste everything), and pretty much the same answers were provided… over six years ago. Otangelo outright refuses to learn. Let’s hope this will change, but I won’t hold my breath.



He’s spent some time here, as well. I don’t recall if there was a specific event that discouraged his participation or if he just grew bored.

1 Like

Sorry but I don’t believe in miracles.


Hi Nesslig,

Thanks for your post. I’m hoping to reply tomorrow or Sunday with a more substantial response to the topics you treat here, but I mentioned in the Live Chat where you linked me to this thread another interesting article I had read on iron-sulfur cluster formation in addition to Jordan’s recent piece. I went hunting for it and it is Sanden et. al. (2020), “Simultaneous synthesis of thioesters and iron-sulfur clusters in water: two universal components of energy metabolism”, published in Chemical Communications. Here is a link to pdf:

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Blast from the past are not the words that come to mind. Even though his cataclysmic incompetence makes anyone he debates look good, I keep being surprised that Otangelo is able to find new debate partners. Somehow I just can’t shake the desire to have the person I am conversing with at least give evidence that they are comprehending the arguments being leveled at them.

I mean consider this exchange:

Mikkel Rumraket RasmussenFriday, May 06, 2016 3:52:00 PM

I keep being surprised that you allow yourself to type out these counterfactual rants all the time. We keep explaining logic to you, because underlying all your problems is ignorance of basic logic which leads you to make so many invalid inferences and deductions.

Rather than have endless debates about evidence with you, you must first learn to think correctly. I don’t know how to keep coming up with new and inventive ways to explain what basic fallacies are and how to avoid them.

You keep bringing up Irreducible Complexity in arguments that are either outright deductively invalid (they are non-sequiturs, the conclusion does not follow from the premises) or are simply based on faulty information (the premises are provably false).

I don’t know what else to do now. There doesn’t seem to be any point to arguing about particular pieces of evidence and theory when your problem is much more basic. When people respond to you with mockery, it’s not because they can’t do anything else, it’s out of exhasperation that after so much time, you still fail at the most basic level of discourse: Thought itself.

Take an example, further down in this thread you write: “A simpler version of oxygen producing photosynthesis would only exist, if it would keep the function of producing oxygen.”

Isn’t it trivial to see the error in reasoning you make here? It is to me. Maybe, juuuuuuust maybe, the simpler version of photosynthesis did not produce oxygen, then?

The “function” of photosynthesis is not to produce oxygen , it is to power chemical reactions . Oxygen is just a waste product, and chemical reactions can be powered by light with waste products other than oxygen.

So there you go, your “argument” committed an elementary error in reasoning AND it was based on faulty information.

Otangelo responds:

UnknownFriday, May 06, 2016 5:52:00 PM


you seem to live on the moon, detached from reality. Take note and check the evidence i have exposed, and why i infer design as the best explanation, and how many of these logical inferences you were able to refute with more compelling naturalistic explanations. Know how many ? NONE.

" We keep explaining logic"

Are you of a Kings importance to refer to yourelf in the plural ? Or is it just your blown ego, which the less justified your world view is, the more you blow it to compensate the emptyness ?!!

How about rather than make lunatic acusations, you actually demonstrate where my logic fails ?

“(the premises are provably false)”.

You are kidding me, right ? Show me ONE premise of mine e which was demonstrably false. Just one.

" It is to me. Maybe, juuuuuuust maybe, the simpler version of photosynthesis did not produce oxygen, then? "

hahahahaha. You are kidding, right ? My sentence is perfectly logical and valid, and TRUE. THERE IS NO KNOWN SIMPLER PATHWAY OF OXYGENIC PHOTOSYNTHESIS KNOWN.

There are simpler versions of photosynthesis, which imho DO NOT PRODUCE OXYGEN. That was my entire point by which i refuted Larrys claim, that photosynthesis is reducible. Its not , if oxygen production is kept. If oxygen is a waste product or not, is irrelevant to the case. Its this waste product that makes you be here and write foolishness.

Guess that settled the matter eh? There are no simpler versions of oxygenic photosynthesis that don’t make oxygen. Sure there are simpler versions of photosynthesis, but they don’t make oxygen, so oxygenic photosynthesis couldn’t evolve. QED. Praise the lord.

Still, I think this is his best performance ever:
lots of mutations


I have never seen a better example of pulling numbers out of one’s ass.


OMG. Apparently Otangelo thinks that, according to evolution, every precursor of oxygenic photosynthesis must produce oxygen?

All the way back to abiogenesis, there must have been a precursor that produced oxygen. There is no way for a precursor to have functioned without producing oxygen as a waste product.

That is beyond idiocy, since it is already disproved by existent organisms everyday.

Also, I saw that live question. Hilarious.



Your review here is pretty awesome, I thought you did a hell of a job covering nitrogenase in particular. I have less to add overall than I thought I might, but I wanted to focus for a moment on Koonin’s BBB model and the collective reaction to it.

Someone commenting on Moran’s Sandwalk blog said they “rolled their eyes” when Koonin mentioned the Cambrian Explosion and I had a very similar reaction. On the other hand, when it comes to the earliest phases of life development (those that fall within the boundaries of abiogenesis rather than the “evolutionary epoch”), I think Koonin could have a point. I was actually disappointed with the responses of Bill Martin and Larry Moran siding against the analogy using inflationary cosmology and insisting that such analogies be avoided and the description couched in purely biochemical terms. Koonin responds to Martin that it would be proper for a biologist or biochemist to simply familiarize themselves with some cosmology, and that other analogies drawn between the two fields (e.g. Smolin’s “selection theory”) already exist in the literature. I think the comparison is conceptually valid and I see no problem in using it. At the same time, I think Koonin is probably wrong to say that it requires a change to evolutionary theory. It would apply best to abiogenesis, where the organizing principles come primarily from non-equilibrium thermodynamics, with selection either not present (in a strict or standard sense) or more auxiliary (competition among lipids and catalytic networks. etc).

In terms of the appropriateness of the analogy, for example, Koonin stresses a chaotic hot phase that kick starts a process that results in complexification during the cool down phase, and that’s precisely the situation that occurs under standard hydrothermal vent models, where synthesis occurs in the hotter areas in proximity to the alkaline fluids, but then thermophoresis drives the organics to the cooler regions where they can undergo phosphorylation reactions and other complexifications – the cooler regions allowing for much greater stability of the molecules. So you see the inflationary epoch with a rapid expansion and then, over cool down, the coalescing of galaxies, etc.

The rapid emergence of order as a result of dissipating energy gradients occurs much more quickly than anything seen in evolutionary history (e.g. the Cambrian Explosion over tens of millions of years compared to a 100,000 year process during the geological lifespan of a vent). Some recent preprints I’ve seen (e.g. Baidouri et. al. 2020) are stressing the complexity of LUCA as opposed to a view of gradualism. Some of the things Baidouri and team say I don’t agree with (they agree with Martin that LUCA was a hyperthermophile but I don’t think so), but it may be true that LUCA was complex and came into being rapidly, and that the dissipation accounts for a lot of this complexity, with evolutionary processes only having somewhat recently set in (geologically speaking) prior to LUCA. I don’t see any problem in viewing that as a “biological big bang”, and so for the earliest phases prior to the onset of evolutionary theory I don’t have a problem with Koonin applying such a model. He also wants to apply it to endosymbiosis, and it may also be appropriate there. Besides that, though, I think he goes too far when he tries to say that standard evolutionary theory is insufficient. Evolutionary theory doesn’t apply at abiogenesis, of course, and endosymbiosis is more rare than Margulis originally argued for. Also, endosymbiosis is already accepted by modern evolutionary theory.

I don’t think Koonin has exactly this in mind in his paper (understanding a BBB in terms of non-equilibrium thermodynamics), he seems more concerned with HGT and other mechanisms that are not vertical inheritance. But the basic conception he has in mind I think works pretty well at the earliest phases, yet is still prior to the onset of evolutionary theory itself.


Apparently, Google doesn’t work for IDcreationists. I just went to Google, typed in “photosynthesis that doesn’t produce oxygen”, and here is the top hit:

Took me all of 10 seconds.

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