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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2005
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Claim CB821:

Modern versions of the phylogenetic "tree of life" are based on DNA and other molecular analyses. Inconsistent and bizarre results based on different molecular analyses "have now plunged molecular phylogeny into a crisis" (Wells 2000, 51).


Wells, Jonathan, 2000. Icons of Evolution, Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., pp. 49-54.


  1. A few inconsistencies are to be expected, because biology is messy. Genes need not always evolve at the same rate in different lineages. Some molecules may converge as a result of selection or chance. Horizontal gene transfer occasionally occurs. Such exceptions will be rare, but there will be a few of them among the vast body of consistent results. Most inconsistencies can be resolved by basing an analysis on multiple genes (Rokas et al. 2003).

    Other inconsistencies will occur as a result of methodological and interpretive mistakes (Sanderson and Shaffer 2002). Phylogenetic analysis is a very complex subject; people who do not understand it well cannot be expected to get it right all the time. Publishing one's methods and results allows others to catch mistakes. Creationists looking for inconsistencies can dishonestly pick out the few there are while disregarding the vast body of consistent results and the reasons for the inconsistencies.

  2. Some claimed inconsistencies are really consistent. Wells, for example, cited a study which "placed sea urchins among the chordates" (Wells 2000, 51), but sea urchins (and echinoderms in general) do group with chordates as a sister group. Wells (2000, 51) also cited another study that "put cows closer to whales than to horses," which is also entirely consistent with genetic, morphological, and fossil evidence.


Tamzek, Nic, 2002. Icon of obfuscation.


  1. Rokas, A., B. L. Williams, N. King and S. B. Carroll, 2003. Genome-scale approaches to resolving incongruence in molecular phylogenies. Nature 425: 798-804.
  2. Sanderson, Michael J. and H. Bradley Shaffer, 2002. Troubleshooting molecular phylogenetic analyses. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 33: 49-72.
  3. Wells, 2000. (see above)

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created 2003-8-7, modified 2003-10-22