How did the Bombardier Beetle Evolve?

Just saw a recent article about this:

The bombardier’s “cannons” are a classic example of irreducible complexity.

Reminded me immediately of Dawkin’s response. I do not agree with Dawkins about everything, but I’d be curious how this author would respond:


Cant believe this argument is still being used.


The most fantastic thing about that video is the intentional stupidity and ignorance exhibited by people posting in the comments who didn’t get the point of the demonstration.


It’s a great example of how bad arguments from the “creation science” era rarely get retired. They get recycled no matter how many times they are debunked. They are still reassuring to those who don’t critically investigate what they’ve been hearing for years. I say that as someone who comes from that community. Not until later in life did I start reading other perspectives.

The late Duane Gish was unflappable. From what I observed, he could be corrected during a Q&A at a conference one week—and even promise to amend his errant claim in the next edition of the book in question—but recycle the bad argument at another creation science a week later. I think I still have somewhere in storage the old cassette tapes of those conferences. His “script” from week to week remained as is.


Thanks to me receiving a solid YEC ‘education’ after becoming a Christian, the bombardier beetle actually helped me get a small internal research grant one time. I had already been doing a bunch of stuff with hydroquinones and messing with hydrogen peroxide sounded fun. So I guess have Duane Gish to thank for teaching me about them indirectly as I would have never thought of the research project that’s about halfway over now.


a technical question: what is the chance to get a chamber by mutations? what was the use of a chamber without the chimical inside it?

Empty spaces (i.e., chambers) in organisms can serve many useful purposes. Some such structures provide more surface area opportunities for oxygen absorption. They can also lighten a structure, such as the hollow bones of birds. We humans have chambers called sinuses, which reduce the weight of the head, among other advantages.

I’m not an entomologist, so I don’t know much of about the evolution of bombardier beetles. But it is not hard to imagine ways in which such a chamber could evolve. Evolutionary processes have an amazing track record of applying an existing structure to a new purpose. (Of course, our natural tendency to use teleological words like “purpose” can imply that evolution has some anthropomorphic conscious goals. It doesn’t—just as an Evolutionary Algorithm has no conscious goals and driven sense of purpose. Even so, EAs can generate amazing solutions to real world problems.)

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Your own body has a lot of chambers which don’t contain hydrogen peroxide or hydroquinone. You should be able to imagine a use for them.

The question doesn’t make sense because chambers aren’t randomly created by mutations and then randomly filled with chemicals.

The questions are;
What are the ancestors of these chambers like and what did they contain?
What function did they serve?
What potential selective pressures could drive them towards the particular functions they have in the Bombardier beetle?

Those are relevant and sensible questions to aks if you want to assess how plausible some particular scenario for the evolution of the Bombardier beetle is.

After-the-fact probability calculations are completely meaningless for reasons explained millions of times: It commits the texas sharpshooter fallacy by considering transient outcomes of the accumulation of beneficial mutations “targets”. And in a larger space of fitness-enhancing solutions it makes no sense to point one out and declare it is unlikely for THAT one to happen instead of the billions of ways it could have happened otherwise.


Reminds me of the Bullfrog incident:

Of course, Gish was never able to back up this claim, but never admitted his error even under pressure from his colleagues.


Over at UD a new paper on caterpillars of the peppered moth has resurrected all the old stinky “peppered moth color isn’t evolution” arguments. Even Sal Cordova here trotted out the “not enough salt in the ocean” hoary old canard.

It’s like the ID-Creationists finally realized their ID claims aren’t working and went back to the old standbys for gulling new victims.

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This is a real problem for the evolutionary claim. A new device must be built at the cellular level and the devices are based on sequences both of nucleic and amino acids. The many solutions claim is without support. Its a paradigm that is mission critical for evolution yet it has no basis of reality of how irreducibly complex structures are built starting with code. ALL the different sequences depend on each other.

Looking at a sequence that produces a high level function and concluding that it was not the product of trial and error is not the Texas sharp shooter fallacy. It is a rational conclusion. Just like looking at a pattern of bullets that spell your name and concluding sharp shooting is a rational conclusion.

Good timing Bill! We were just discussing old beaten down ID-Creationist PRATTs and up you pop with your own personal favorite. :slightly_smiling_face:

Bill Cole forgets about selection feedback, episode #82,467

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ok. so say that the chamber can be used for someting else. now, there are many different anatomical traits in nature, so say that the number of possible combinations that can perform a functional trait is like the number of sand grains on earth (a huge number). but its still a tiny number compare with the entire possible combinations for a single gene (4^1000). so i think that this is indeed a good question.

Those are just assertions, and they are plainly wrong. Quoting from the article that @T.j_Runyon posted:

Therefore, the system is not dependent on the presence of the catalysts present in the bombardier beetle. There is function with fewer parts. This is yet another example of how you incorrectly assume the present system could not work without all of the parts.


You need to the math and evidence to back this up instead of empty assertions.

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48 posts were merged into an existing topic: Origin of Proteins

Doesn’t that depend on what the Bombardier beetle evolved from? What did the ancestor have in place of this shooting mechanism? What functions did it serve?

The many solutions claim is without support.

No it isn’t. Other beetles exist that survive and avoid predators by countless other methods and strategies. So it is from another beetle with whatever structures and mechanisms it had in place from which the Bombardier beetle evolved. I’m going to guess most insects have glands from which they can secrete various chemicals. Sex pheromones, predator repellants or what have you. Actually it’s not a guess, we know this is the case.

In my ignorance of insect anatomy, I’m going to guess these multiple different fluid secretion systems are probably all homologous in different aspects. It is interesting to consider that all insects have some sort of system by which they secrete things out of some rear-end opening. The venom glands and stingers in bees, wasps, and ants, are probably all homologous, and probably all distantly related to the secretion systems we see it beetles, including the Bombardier beetle.

It is also my understanding that all insects have their rectum in that location, and that in the end all these venom, pheromone, and I suspect whatever secretion glands are ultimately all derived from some secretion glands in the common ancestor of all insects that might have served some role in digestion, maybe by covering the intestinal lining in mucus for the easier flow of waste products through the digestive tract etc. etc.

Its a paradigm that is mission critical for evolution yet it has no basis of reality of how irreducibly complex structures are built starting with code. ALL the different sequences depend on each other. Looking at a sequence that produces a high level function and concluding that it was not the product of trial and error is not the Texas sharp shooter fallacy. It is a rational conclusion. Just like looking at a bla bla bla bla…

I have no idea what any of that is supposed to mean it’s your usual “sequence space” “mission critical” word salad.


This is question begging. How do we know it evolved?

The case you and T are making is evidence of preexisting parts is other beetles. That does not explain how evolutionary mechanisms can make the modifications. It also does not explain the origin of the mechanisms.


There is nesting hiearchical structure in the data.