Go to the Ant, Thou Farmer 11/30/2008
Worker ants of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your fertility. The highly specialized worker castes in ants represent the pinnacle of social organization in the insect world. As in any society, however, ant colonies are filled with internal strife and conflict. So what binds them together? More than 150 years ago, Charles Darwin had an idea and now hes been proven right.The punch line is that a scientist at McGill University discovered how evolution has tinkered with the genes of colonizing insects like ants to keep them from fighting amongst themselves over who gets to reproduce. Does this idea Dr. Ehab Abouheif called reproductive constraint really enhance Darwins vitae?
The existence of sterile castes of ants tormented Charles Darwin as he was formulating his Theory of Natural Selection, and he described them as the one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to my theory. If adaptive evolution unfolds by differential survival of individuals, how can individuals incapable of passing on their genes possibly evolve and persist?Some prominent evolutionary biologists, however, are not convinced that natural selection can act on groups, as EvoWiki explains (see also 08/26/2004, 05/31/2004, 05/31/2007 and 03/21/2008). In fact, Marek Kohn just wrote a lengthy piece for Nature News about the unending debate between evolutionists about whether selection acts on individuals or groups. The rift is deep. Group-selection thinking is perceived by some as not just an abuse of natural selection but also a denial of it, on the one hand, but for others, it is the individualistic perspective that betrays influences from outside science. For Science Daily to claim that this story proves group selection, therefore, seems premature.
The ant farm was fun till Charlie and Tinker Bell showed up (03/16/2006).An Evolutionary Fly in the Turtle Soup 11/29/2008
Nov 29, 2008 A new fossil turtle was found. Is it a missing link? That depends on whether you believe the popular press or the scientists.
National Geographic News and Science Daily both led off with the missing link angle, complete with an artist reconstruction of the fossil turtle found in China named Odontochelys. Since the age of dinosaurs, turtles have looked pretty much as they do now with their shells intact, and scientists lacked conclusive evidence to support competing evolutionary theories, Science Daily announced, leading up to the tour de force: Now with the discovery in China of the oldest known turtle fossil, estimated at 220-million-years-old, scientists have a clearer picture of how the turtle got its shell. Little in the way of controversy was reported to alter this statement. Its another evolutionary success story.
Nature,1 however, titled its piece, Turtle origins out to sea. This isnt a missing link, argued Robert J. Reisz and Jason J. Head: its a challenge to evolutionary theory. The evolutionary relationships and ecology of turtles through time, and the developmental and evolutionary origins of the shell, they said, are major controversies in studies of vertebrate evolution and this fossil does not resolve them. It apparently has an undershell but not a top shell. It has a full set of teeth instead of a beak. Like many fossils of extinct animals, it has some features that appear primitive and others that appear derived (evolved). The discoverers put forth one evolutionary interpretation: The authors infer, therefore, that the plastron evolved before the carapace, reflecting the timing of shell ossification during embryonic development in living turtles. Reisz and Head, however, had a different take:
Although this evolutionary scenario is plausible, we are particularly excited by an alternative interpretation and its evolutionary consequences. We interpret the condition seen in Odontochelys differently — that a carapace was present, but some of its dermal components were not ossified. The carapace forms during embryonic development when the dorsal ribs grow laterally into a structure called the carapacial ridge, a thickened ectodermal layer unique to turtles. The presence of long, expanded ribs, a component of the carapace of all turtles, indicates that the controlling developmental tissue responsible for the formation of the turtle carapace was already present in Odontochelys. The expanded lateral bridge that connects the plastron to the carapace in other turtles is also present, implying that the plastron was connected to the laterally expanded carapace. Thus, an alternative interpretation is that the apparent reduction of the carapace in Odontochelys resulted from lack of ossification of some of its dermal components, but that a carapace was indeed present.If Reisz and Head are right, then, this is an advanced, specialized turtle. The absence of the carapace is a secondary loss not a turtle on the half shell evolving into a fully-housed modern turtle. Given the similarities between its shell morphology and early growth stages in living turtles, a simple truncation of carapace ossification, in which the adults retained juvenile features (paedomorphosis), could have been a developmental mechanism in the evolution of the reduced carapace. Loss of a feature is not the kind of evolution Darwin envisioned. Somehow, they found a way to put a positive spin for Darwin on this fossil anyway:
Regardless of the primitive or derived nature of its shell, Odontochelys is in evolutionary terms the most basal turtle yet found. Its discovery opens a new chapter in the study of the origins and early history of these fascinating reptiles. Both interpretations alter our views of turtle evolution: Odontochelys either represents the primitive ecology for turtles, consistent with the hypothesis that the turtles shell evolved in aquatic environments, or it represents the earliest turtle radiation from terrestrial environments into marine habitats. Either way, these ancient turtles demonstrate yet again the value of new fossil discoveries in changing our understanding of vertebrate history.Both interpretations may alter their views of evolution, therefore, but evolution itself was never subject to falsification no matter how opposite the two interpretations.
1. Robert J. Reisz and Jason J. Head, Paleontology: Turtle origins out to sea, Nature 456, 450-451 (27 November 2008) | doi:10.1038/456450a.
2. Li et al, An ancestral turtle from the Late Triassic of southwestern China, Nature 456, 497-501 (27 November 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07533.
Arent animals with a full set of teeth more advanced than those with just a beak? Teeth are extremely complicated structures that must develop according to a strict timeline and fit on the top and bottom. The beak on most turtles works well for them, but how can they say that this is evolution? Look at all the problems that remain: they dont know if turtles evolved as land animals or aquatic animals (see the 11/22/2008 story last week). They dont know if this fossil was primitive or advanced. And they wonder why turtles have not changed significantly since the age of dinosaurs. Where is the evolution?Eyesight: more reasons to be thankful, from 11/24/2005.
Knowledge of Light Is Power 11/28/2008
More power to them. How about a little humility, though, considering that their technology cant hold a candle to the light-harvesting abilities of blue-green algae? The paradigm of our time is that time and chance accomplished a feat that is taxing the design capabilities of the human brain, the most complex arrangement of matter in the universe.It Takes a Stellar Village 11/27/2008
Nov 27, 2008 Do galaxies embark on a purpose-driven life? The language in an article about galaxy evolution in Science Daily makes such seamless use of personal terms with natural processes, its hard to know where the data ends and the interpretation begins.
Galaxy Zoo, which uses volunteers from the general public to classify galaxies, and the Space Telescope A901/902 Galaxy Evolution Survey (STAGES) projects have used their vast datasets to disentangle the roles of nature and nurture in changing galaxies from one variety to another, the article said. We are told that galaxies move from the wilderness to the suburbs, that some of them are hiding their star formation, and that some are like heavyweight fighters. Some galaxies were murdered by strangulation.
The article also makes it seem that the data confirm a theory of galaxy evolution: Missing Link Discovered, the title announced triumphantly. All the people did was classify a lot of galaxies by color and shape. A few of the galaxies were observed in infrared light.
This article is typical of how many press releases go far beyond the evidence to pretend scientists understand something. They know, we are led to believe, when star formation turned on and off, how galaxies moved around over billions of years, and into which pigeonhole in the classification scheme each galaxy fits (see the problems with classification schemes in the 10/29/2008 commentary). The next step for both teams is to find out exactly what shuts off the star formation, by looking inside the galaxies themselves, the article ends. Didnt we see astronomers playing this game back in the 1930s, with completely different results? When data are hard to come by, and when processes exceed the lifetime of human civilization, scientific hubris becomes indistinguishable from myth.How Floppy Feet Produced Marathoners 11/26/2008
Nov 26, 2008 A picture of a muscle-bound furry gibbon adorns a story on Science Daily that claims, Floppy-footed Gibbons Help Us Understand How Early Humans May Have Walked. The story describes how two European researchers photographed the footwork of wild gibbons to find connections to human evolution. It turned out that gibbon footfalls are very different from ours, but evolution came in for the explanation anyway.
The first thing that [Evie] Vereecke noticed was that the animals dont hit the ground with their heels at the start of a stride. They move more like ballerinas, landing on their toes before the heel touches the ground. Analysing the gibbon foot computer model, Vereecke realised that by landing on the toes first they were stretching the toes tendons and storing energy in them. According to Vereecke, this is quite different from the way that energy is stored in the human foot. She explains that our feet are built like sprung arches spanned by an elastic tendon (aponeurosis) along the sole of the foot. When we put weight on our feet, the arch stretches the aponeurosis, storing elastic energy to power the push off at the end of a stride.So what does these differences imply for theories of human evolution? Vereecke was quick to point out that there are marked differences between the feet of gibbons and the earliest humans in the fossil record. She alleged, though, that both walk on two flexible feet and this was close enough to generate an evolutionary connection: it is possible to walk quite efficiently with a relatively bendy foot and that our ancestors may have used energy storage mechanisms that are similar to ours, despite their dramatically different foot shapes.
Science Daily added an opening synopsis to the evolution-drenched title that earned Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:
The human foot is a miracle of evolution. We can keep striding for miles on our well-sprung feet. There is nothing else like them, not even amongst our closest living relatives. According to Evie Vereecke, from the University of Liverpool, the modern human foot first appeared about 1.8 million years ago, but our ape-like ancestors probably took to walking several million years earlier, even though their feet were more floppy and ape like than ours.The research was published in Journal of Experimental Biology, 2008; 211 (23): 3661 DOI: 10.1242/jeb.018754. For more on human superiority in distance running in mammals, and the physiological specializations involved, see the 11/18/2004 entry.
A miracle of evolution. Its a miracle an evolutionist could say something that stupid. (On second thought,...) Darwinists stumble all over their own feet because their foundation is floppy.Chinas evolution-based campaign against human rights, from 11/30/2004.
Far-Out Science 11/25/2008
A new book on the history of science reviewed by Thomas F. Gieryn, a sociologist at Indiana University, in Science, 1 may provide insight. The book is The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation by Steven Shapin (University of Chicago Press, 2008). Shapin examined the difference between academic science (going on in the research universities) and corporate science (out to make a profit). Both groups distrust each other; Shapin is impatient with cultural commentators and academic social theorists who align virtue only with a pure science ideal and university-based inquiry and who often treat industrial and entrepreneurial science (or science done in big teams at state facilities) as corruptions of what makes science and scientists good.
The idealized vision of the pure scientist is largely gone, most philosophers of science admit these days. The ivory tower vs the greed-motivated entrepreneur is too simplistic; surely reality is somewhere in between, Gieryn said, agreeing with Shapin. For instance, university scientists are subject to some of the same pressures and selfish motivations of the corporate researcher, such as being distracted by teaching and endless committees and where the need to refresh ones grants speeds up the treadmill as it forces research agendas to align themselves with mandates of funding agencies.
What sets a good scientist apart, then? Shapin called his book a moral history of science for a reason. A prerequisite for good science, regardless of venue, is personal character and morality:
What makes Shapins attention to industrial and entrepreneurial research so compelling is how different todays technoscience looks when contrasted with histories in which pure science in universities becomes the gold standard. In these other sites of science, Shapin finds the paradox that gives the book its spring. Research managers at Bell Labs or General Electric judge scientists not only on their impressive credentials and technical skills but also by their personal dispositions for working well in large, variegated, transient, and loosely organized teams. Venture capitalists must, in the face of massive uncertainties about whether an invention will yield profits, rely on character judgments about the personal trustworthiness and dedication of this particular scientist or engineer, who may differ little from a thousand others in terms of bench skills or academic achievements. The Scientific Life provokes us to discard worn-out understandings that science outside universities is necessarily aberrant and that the credibility of scientific knowledge no longer depends upon moral judgments about the experts who make reality claims. In that task, the book succeeds masterfully.In other words, character counts.
1. Thomas F. Gieryn, History of Science: Who Scientists Are Now, Science, 21 November 2008: Vol. 322. no. 5905, pp. 1189-1190, DOI: 10.1126/science.1166262.
Last month we saw Dyche Mullins say that what sets a good scientist apart is intuition trusting ones instincts (10/21/2008). And then we asked why that makes science any more special than football coaching or prosecuting a case or hunting. Notice that Gieryn just referred to experts who make reality claims (i.e., scientists), but are you convinced by the reality claims in the 12 stories above? Some of these scientists wouldnt know reality from Reality TV. If asked to define reality philosophically, it is doubtful they could defend what they believe as being really real. They couldnt tell us where their presuppositions stop and their empiricism begins. If what they told us yesterday was scientific fact is now obsolete, how are we to trust what they are telling us now?Raise Money by Accomplishing Nothing 11/24/2008
Nov 24, 2008 Frank Drake is being honored on Space.com by the SETI Institute as the Father of SETI, His reputation is providing an opportunity for a fund raiser. For a lot of money, you can spend time with a celebrity whose accomplishments are questionable.
Its not often you get the opportunity to hang out with a legend! Spend some quality time with Frank Drake, the founder of modern SETI, and author of the Drake Equation.What some may consider unique, however, is the lack of measurable accomplishment for a celebrity scientist. His achievements have been more motivational than empirical. He founded a search for signals of intelligent origin in space that has found nothing since his first attempt in 1960. In addition, his well-known Drake equation that purports to calculate the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy is simply a list of requirements for naturalistic evolution put into quasi-authoritative algebraic terms. The factors are so little known, however, that famous origin-of-life researcher Stanley Miller once remarked that one could put any values one chooses into the equation and the result would be just as valid as any other ones estimate.
The Drake Equation is a joke. Its nothing more than a propaganda tool for atheistic cosmology, using visualization to give an air of scientific authority to ignorance. He left out the only term that can bring the possibility of life above absolute zero: intelligent causation. Only a fool would throw good money at ignorance (10/12/2007).Tip Link: Is evolution good for medicine? Read what Dr. Michael Egnor wrote on Evolution News.
Nature Cant Wait for Darwin Day 11/23/2008
By the time the 200th birthday of On the Origin of Species is celebrated, the life under study by science may well no longer be united by common ancestry in the way that all life is today. In that sense, Darwins view of the world will have been superseded. But whether that life exists around another star or in a bioreactor, it will still evolve, if given leave to, according to the simple and awe-inspiring algorithms of natural selection.The celebratory euphoria in this editorial was quenched somewhat by another article in the special issue by Janet Browne, historian at Harvard and authority on Darwin. Although calling Darwins theory a magnificent achievement offering remarkable explanatory power for 150 years, she found some dirty laundry in the political history of Darwinism.1 Noting that it is worth remembering that scientific anniversaries also provide an opportunity to push an agenda, and even to adapt the past, so telling us what we like best to hear, Browne revisited prior Darwin celebrations in 1882, 1909 and 1959 to see what happened then. She found an interesting phenomenon: Darwin celebrations tended to be agenda-driven attempts to shore up a theory in crisis:
But biologists will also surely use the occasion, once again, to affirm the truth and elegance of Darwinism in the face of criticism, this time from those who prefer a creationist view of the world. Evolution by natural selection has suddenly become a highly contentious idea, especially in the United States. Creationist proponents abound in the US school-board system, opinion polls highlight the publics belief in a divine origin for humankind, and ideas about intelligent design are widely circulated. Against this, Darwin has become the figurehead for rational, secular science, and Darwinism the main target of the fundamentalist movement spreading across the globe. Attacks extend beyond arguments over the Bible. To criticize Darwinism is a forceful way to express anxieties about the growing power of modern science and the perceived decline of moral values in society. To try to poke holes in Darwins argument is to express dislike not just for evolutionary theory but also for science itself.Browne, author also of the award-winning biography Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002),2 quipped in conclusion, Darwin himself would surely be amazed by how differently we have chosen to celebrate his anniversaries.
1. Janet Browne, Birthdays to remember, Nature 456, 324-325 (20 November 2008) | doi:10.1038/456324a. This article requires a subscription.
2. Search on the keywords "Janet Browne" for quotations from this outstanding book in previous entries.
Expressing anxieties? Expressing dislike for science itself? Moi? Au contraire; we are just helping shed light on evolution. Thanks to Brett Miller for this cartoon exposè that illustrates our 12/22/2003 commentary so well (click on the icon at right for the full cartoon). It will come in handy often, every time the Darwin Party uses some piece of contrary evidence to claim it is shedding light on evolution their favorite big lie (e.g., 09/18/2008, 09/03/2008). We love light at CEH. Celebrate Darwin Day in style turn on the floodlights, and shed the light all around.Darwin was his own best pedagogue; or is that demagogue? Revisit the 11/21/2003 entry.
Turtle Vaults Over 65 Million Year Evolutionary Hurdle 11/22/2008
Why did turtles enter the water? We have no idea. Its a mystery like asking why cetaceans went back into the sea, said Jérémy Anquetin, of the department of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum.Additional revelations about the gap came up: the differences between the fossil and modern freshwater turtles are minor small differences in cranial anatomy. The fossil was found in a state of exceptional preservation in alternating series of mudstone, shale and limestone, with sharks, salamanders and rare lizards and dinosaurs in the same strata. Joyce made another admission of doubt about the evolution story: Finally, although it is really difficult to assess the ecological habitat preferences of turtles, the authors make a compelling case that by this stage in evolution turtles had started moving into aquatic habitats. As to why they did so, Anquetin had just said, We have no idea.
The BBC got one thing right: the gap was in the evolutionary story, not in the real world. A turtle found exceptionally preserved in sediments along with other creatures a turtle so similar to modern freshwater turtles it looks like the ones you can buy in the pet shop with only minor differences in the internal cranial structure; a few samples stuffed into a 65 million year gap in the evolutionary fable that is undergoing revision anyway why are we supposed to believe the spin that this helps explain turtle evolution? This proposed missing link does not help fill the Credibility Gap. About the only thing you can believe in the story is Anquetins confession, We have no idea.Selfishness and Responsibility Are Just a Game 11/22/2008
Nov 22, 2008 Its become increasingly common for evolutionists to explain human behavior in terms of games. Another entry in this genre was published by Science Daily, which began, Game theory is used to predict the behaviour of individuals when making choices that depend on the choices of others. First developed as a tool for understanding economic behaviour, game theory is increasingly used in many diverse fields, ranging from biology and psychology to sociology and philosophy.
Researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol devised a mathematical model and applied it to humans, in order to provide a new explanation as to why a wide range of personality traits has evolved in humans and other social species. Their basic idea is that if you seed the mathematical model their colleague developed with variation and monitoring by others, a diversity of selfish and cooperative individuals popped out as an artifact.
In evolutionary terms, this trend is self-perpetuating: variation begets more variation, increasing the gap between those who trusted and co-operated, and those that exploited trusting individuals....They seem to be implying that politics, economics, law, national security, charity, and love have now all been subsumed under the game of evolution. But does a game really qualify as a scientific explanation? It seems to suffer the same flaw as natural selection: just as selection implies a selector, a game implies a game-maker who sets up the rules. Is that not what they did with their mathematical model?
OK, lets play their little game. Lets punish these non-cooperators for exploiting the gullibility of individuals. How could they complain? Were just more clever at the game than they are. While they are scratching their heads about our strategy, we move in for the checkmate: pointing out that, by sacrificing their own queen of rationality, they have exposed King Darwin to self-refutation. For more detail, read the entries from 10/02/2008, 06/03/2008, 05/02/2008, 04/23/2008, 03/21/2008, 03/12/2008, 02/03/2008, and 01/20/2008 and thats just from this year. It gets so tiring to beat the evolutionists at their own game all the time when were trying to get some work done.Is Darwinian Environmentalism an Oxymoron? 11/21/2008
Nov 21, 2008 Theres something magnetic about letters to the editor. We feel attracted to the responses of readers to what magazines print especially when a mini-debate takes place and the author of an article replies. In PNAS this week,1 two scientists aired a friendly squabble about the meaning of biodiversity and whether humans should defend it. Darwin found himself square in the middle of the issue.
Ivan Couée,1 a researcher in the Ecosystems-Biodiversity-Evolution section of the French National Center for Scientific Research, took issue with something Michael Novacek of the American Natural History Museum had said.2 Novacek had discussed the complex issues involved in dealing with public perception of the need to conserve biodiversity. Couée said that scientists, in their attempts to define norms and values for the public, often tend to present the conservation of every species as an absolute obligation. Then he nailed worldview issues at the core of these values; he could see creationists valuing conservation, but how does an evolutionist do so?
Certain visions of nature, as sacred creation, as precious patrimony, as optimally functioning system, or as aesthetics, all of which are static visions, may justify all-out systematic conservation. On the other hand, evolutionary biology gives a radical lesson of utmost modesty not only to mankind, but also to the concept of nature itself. Chaos, historical haphazards, tinkering, heterogeneity, random processes, and erratic fluctuations have resulted in the chemistry of molecular reproduction as a mechanism that has generated a myriad of life forms, known or unknown to us, emerging and disappearing, competing or sharing, essential or redundant for ecosystem functioning. A fundamental consequence of evolutionary biology may be that, stricto sensu, biodiversity and conservation are oxymoronic words, which is likely to result in real confusion in the public. Evolutionary biology should therefore be taken into account to a much greater extent in order to be much more cautious with words such as conservation and to develop a dynamic approach to biodiversity management.PNAS gave Novacek the mike for his rebuttal.3 He denied that sacred creation, patrimony or other such values require conservation of biodiversity, though proponents of those views do sometimes appeal to them. His article was just part of a series actually dealing with the biodiversity loss in an evolutionary context, he said. And he agreed that evolutionists must take a dynamic approach to an evolving ecosphere in ways that go beyond simply preserving biodiversity writ large. Nevertheless, he couldnt get away from preaching that something must be done:
For example, the implementation of plans for corridors and networks that link local populations of plants and coral reef species are practical solutions based on evolutionary principles, mindful of the reality that we cannot preserve all regions, all habitats, and all species. Not all factors are known or outcomes predictable with precision.... Evolution entails randomness, heterogeneity, and other factors that Couée mentions that frustrate our forecasts of Earths environmental future. Still, urgency dictates a straightforward effort to mitigate the current massive destruction of biodiversity. The word conservation may have problematic connotations, but by any other name there remains an acute need for a broad public as well as scientists to recognize the biodiversity crisis and to do something about it.But did he answer the question? Couée said that biodiversity and conservation are oxymoronic words to an evolutionist. In a fluid, dynamic world of speciation and extinction, what basis does an evolutionist have for saying anything should be conserved?
1. Ivan Couée, Conservation and biodiversity: Potential oxymoron and public misunderstanding, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, print November 19, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808294105.
2. Novacek MJ (2008), Engaging the public in biodiversity issues, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:11571–11578.
3. Michael J. Novacek, Reply to Couée: Biodiversity conservation by any other name, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print November 19, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0809261105.
You know what the real oxymoron is: consistent evolutionist. The concept of evolution (random, directionless, eternal change) is the opposite of consistency. These letters reveal that evolutionist cannot live with the implications of their beliefs. When you hear their urgent moral imperatives rising above their Darwinspeak, the choked voice of the imago Dei within them is struggling to be heard.Six problems with the planetesimal hypothesis the textbooks dont tell you about, and five more with the leading alternative hypothesis, from 11/20/2002.
Sponges Use Fiber Optics for Interior Lighting 11/20/2008
A spicule is a small, needle-like crystal. I expect youll agree its peculiar that spicules pick Yule colors to transmit. Find spicule four times in the previous sentence.Unique Orphan Genes Are Widespread; Have No Evolutionary Explanation 11/19/2008
Nov 19, 2008 We often hear about the similarities between genomes, but what about the differences? Theres a growing realization that groups of animals have genetic orphans genes that are unique to that line (see 01/02/2003). These genes have no evolutionary homology or kinship to genes from other lineages. How did they arise? And what do they do?
A German team examined orphan genes, also called taxonomically restricted genes (TRGs) in two species of hydra. They found that the hydra-specific Hym301 genes do something: they affect tentacle formation. Knockout experiments and alteration of expression of Hym301 genes clearly caused changes in tentacle length and arrangement. Their work was published in PLoS Biology1 and was summarized by Science Daily. They felt their experiments demonstrate that orphan genes are not baggage but are involved in the specific morphological character of the organism.
How do orphan genes arise? Their explanation was hidden in a passive-voice verb that basically says it just happens: Given that Hym301 genes are without homologs in eukaryotic genomes outside Hydrozoa, they might have been specifically acquired in this animal group. But how were they acquired, and who acquired them? Their next sentence could not even ascribe the acquisition to natural selection: An important step that remains to be demonstrated is the role of natural selection in fine tuning of expression of Hym301 genes or their gene regulators for this lineage-specific adaptation. If natural selection is only fine-tuning what was already there, it could not be responsible for the origin of Hym301. This was the only mention of natural selection in the paper.
References to evolution in the paper were oblique, vague, and otherwise unhelpful for macroevolutionary theory. For example,
Maybe this is just a little problem for Darwin, though if orphan genes are very rare. How common are they? The authors summary states that every group of animals also has a small proportion of genes that are extremely variable among closely related species or even unique. They elaborated on that small proportion in paragraph two: it is a substantial fraction of the genome
There is, however, one much less appreciated source for the creation of morphological novelties. All genome and expressed sequence tag (EST) projects to date in every taxonomic group studied so far have uncovered a substantial fraction of genes that are without known homologs. These orphans or taxonomically restricted genes (TRGs) are defined as being exclusively restricted to a particular taxonomic group. For example, analysis of the phylum Nematoda [roundworms] has identified more than 20% of genes that were nematode-unique TRGs. The draft genome of Ciona intestinalis revealed that nearly one-fifth of the genes were orphans. A comparison between the genome sequences of Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Saccharomyces cerevisiae [yeast] showed about 14% of the predicted proteins to be unique to Sc. pombe and 19% unique to Sa. cerevisiae. In Drosophila, [fruit fly] TRGs include indispensable regulators of development such as bicoid and spatzle. Recent comparative data on the genomes of 12 Drosophila species revealed that about 2.5% of genes are not present outside of the genus Drosophila and, therefore, have most likely arisen de novo. An even larger proportion of lineage-specific genes have been detected in the genome of Tribolium [a beetle]. In bacteria, the cumulative number of orphans identified does not appear to be leveling off, although hundreds of complete genome sequences have been already analyzed.The authors gave no suggestion that these orphan genes developed from precursors by an evolutionary process. Notice, for instance, this sentence about TRGs: Their functions and origins are often obscure, and later, Therefore, we consider the members of the Hym301 family as TRGs, which have most likely originated within the class Hydrozoa and expanded in the genus Hydra. The phrase most likely originated is silent on the question of how, and from where. A similar dodge phrase is have arisen, as illustrated in the final Discussion section: The sequencing of a large number of eukaryotic and bacterial genomes has uncovered an abundance of genes without homologs, classified as TRGs and has shown that new genes have arisen in the genomes of every group of organisms studied so far including humans. Their experiments provide no clues about where these genes came from. Again, they said, The observations also extend earlier findings of an abundance of TRGs in organisms from prokaryotes to animals.
The question of the origin of orphan genes was left to others: Therefore, future research on these species may provide novel insights on how TRGs are involved in the evolution of the corresponding adaptive traits.... Discovering not only the similarities but also the molecular differences between different organisms might yield intriguing clues in the mechanisms responsible for evolutionary changes. Science Daily was no help, either. The article also just hoped that the finding will be pointing the way to a new, more complete understanding of how evolution works at the level of a particular group of animals. It concluded, Emergence of novel genes may reflect evolutionary processes which allow animals to adapt in the best way to changing environmental conditions and new habitats. But how does evolution explain emergence? Stuff happens?
1. Khalturin, Anton-Erxleben, Sassman, Wittlieb, Hemmrich and Bosch, A Novel Gene Family Controls Species-Specific Morphological Traits in Hydra, Public Library of Science Biology, Vol. 6, No. 11, e278 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060278.
If you are not yet convinced that evolutionary theory is a mishmash of bluffing and obfuscation, in which scientists play mind games with word games, then please read this paper and explain how evolution was of any help at all in understanding this phenomenon. While they were busy finding homologies (good grief, even these authors referred to Darwins finches), a major obstacle to evolution was right there in front of them, but they ignored it: orphan genes are poorly studied and little understood, they said. Well, go study them, for crying out loud! Here is a finding that amounts to falsification of Darwinism and confirmation of creationism (limited variation within created kinds), and these authors tiptoed around the bad news with carefully-crafted passive verbs built on the assumption that evolution might explain it somehow, provided you are willing to wait for the vaporware and futureware that is perpetually on back order. Their functions and origins are often obscure, we are told. They emerged somehow. We need an emerge-ncy end to obscur-antism.Proteins Can Tie Knots 11/18/2008
Nov 18, 2008 Your job today is to invent a chain that can tie itself in a knot. The chain can contain little magnets and electrical parts, but when you let go of the ends, a knot will spontaneously form. This means that one end must form a loop and the other end must thread the loop. Give up? Maybe you should learn how cells do it.
There are certain chains of amino acids coming out of the ribosome translation machine that will tie a perfect trefoil knot (picture) every time. This knot becomes embedded deep within the overall structure of the protein. A trio of women scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tried to figure this out. Writing in PNAS,1 they only made small progress. All they could say was that the knot tying seems to occur early on, when the chain is loose. The tightening of the knot and the rest of the folding occurs slowly thereafter. They mutated certain amino acids to watch what happened but thats about all they could figure out at this point.
The protein they studied, YibK, is one of the simplest knot-tying proteins. They mentioned others with even bigger tricks:
The alpha/beta-knot methyltransferases (MTases) are a family of homodimeric proteins that exhibit an unusual trefoil knot deep within in their native structure. Such knots are particularly impressive because they are defined by the path of the polypeptide backbone alone and therefore require that a considerable segment of protein chain (at least 40 residues) has threaded through a loop. The question of how such complex topologies arise during protein folding is an intriguing one, and is of growing importance with the increasing number and complexity of knotted structures observed. In addition to trefoil knots, a highly intricate figure-of-eight knot and a knotted structure with 5 projected crossings have been observed. Consequently, when contemplating how a given polypeptide chain might fold, the possibility that it might knot must also be considered; if a global solution to the protein-folding problem is to be found, the puzzle of how such knotted structures form must be solved.Evolutionary theory played no role in their investigation.
1. Anna L. Mallam, Elizabeth R. Morris, and Sophie E. Jackson, Exploring knotting mechanisms in protein folding, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, published online before print November 17, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806697105.
A protein that can tie a figure-of-eight knot (picture) blindfolded with no hands: amazing. The Darwinians cant even do that eyes-open with their baloney.How the deaf hear music, from 11/27/2001.
Desperately Fleeing God in Cosmology 11/17/2008
Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.Those interested can read the whole article, where Linde and others elaborate on the pros and cons of the multiverse hypothesis. One line on page 3 stands out. Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at Queen Mary University in London, said, you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you dont want God, youd better have a multiverse. Linde admitted in the end that he cannot predict whether the multiverse hypothesis will gain traction any more than he can know anything at all: What can you predict? What can you know about the future?
The prophet Amos teased those in his day thinking wrongly about the day of the Lords judgment: It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! he said. Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him! (Amos 5:19). If Linde thinks he can escape God by running toward naturalistic cosmology, the bear of ultimate questions will gnaw on the bones of his speculation. If he runs into the house of the multiverse, the serpent of ultimate causation will bite his circular reasoning. The multiverse cannot escape from the question, Why is there something instead of nothing?Biblical Archaeology News 11/16/2008
Nov 16, 2008 Amidst the turmoil of the Middle East, teams of archaeologists quietly work and uncover things that make history come alive. Some findings have to survive years of debate. Among the following stories are hints that Bible skeptics are on the defensive.
The Khirbet Qeiyafa pottery shard is bound to be significant already for three reasons: it dates from the time of David, it was found in situ, and it bears an inscription a rare treasure in Biblical archaeology. It would be inappropriate for CEH to speculate on the significance of the inscription for corroborating the historical David till it has been translated and published, but when that happens, we will be quick to measure it on the exciting-o-meter.Cell Chaperone Is an Optimized Two-Stroke Machine 11/15/2008
Nov 15, 2008 Proteins need a protected space to fold, and the cell provides it: the GroEL-GroES chaperone (see 05/05/2003, 06/07/2006, and 02/13/2007). More details keep coming in about this protein dressing room as scientists continue to probe its secrets. Two new papers in PNAS by a team at University of Maryland and College Park reveal that this is no passive cavity. The system acts like a two-stroke engine with two timers.1,2
John P. Grason et al have examined the machinery in action, and found truly amazing properties in this tiny but complicated system. Well try here to reduce their complex jargon into easily-pictured analogies. To picture GroEL, think of two donut-shaped rings, studded with electronics, that stack on top of one another. Well call them cis and trans. The cis ring on the bottom has a floor, while the trans ring is open. When stacked, they form a barrel-shaped cavity. On top, another protein called GroES fastens and forms a protective cap. Now we have something like a scuba divers emergency decompression chamber, if you can picture it.
A good decompression chamber is going to keep the patient inside long enough, but not too long. Humans can control their chambers, but how does a sightless nanomachine do it? The answer: through the use of timers. There are two timers in the GroEL-GroES system that operate independently. Working together, they optimize the time the protein inside has for folding, without letting the prima donna hog the dressing room when others need to use it (sorry for the mixed metaphors). How the system accomplishes this is truly astonishing.
Deploying ATP energy, the two rings twist back and forth against each other, creating strain. They undergo a two-stroke cycle: starting in phase, then twisting 180° with respect to each other, then back again. The authors call the stages taut (T) and relaxed (R); when cis is taut, trans is relaxed, and vice versa. Their two-stroke cycle time is dependent on the protein inside the barrel and on the presence of ATP and potassium ion. This gives the operation some flexibility. The protein in the dressing room isnt unnecessarily rushed, and the chamber isnt wasting energy when no one is inside. The other timer, though, is like a countdown timer with no mercy. In the floor of the cis ring, a second timer running on ATP has a time limit that starts when the lid closes. When the timer hits zero, the protein is booted out, folded or not (see footnote 3).
Working together, these two timers optimize the protein folding time. The variable timer, like an idling engine, goes to work when the protein enters. It tries to adjust its time to the needs of the protein inside. But if the protein doesnt finish folding in the 3-to-4 second window of the second timer, it gets ejected. It can, however, come back in for a second try. The protein can keep trying, in fact, till it succeeds or gives up and gets recycled by the trash collection process (a very sophisticated recycling system described this week on PhysOrg). Heres how the authors describe how the timers interact:
In the absence of SP [substrate protein inside the cavity], the chaperonin machine idles in the resting state, but in the presence of SP it operates close to the speed limit, set by the rate of ATP hydrolysis by the cis ring. Thus, the conformational states [i.e., twisting motions] of the trans ring largely control the speed of the complete chaperonin cycle.What this means is that every actor gets a shot at the dressing room, but those with more costuming and make-up (i.e., more complex proteins) get more time within limits. If it exceeds the upper limit it has to go back outside and wait for another turn. The authors called this flexible mechanism, which coordinates a variable timer with a non-variable timer, iterative annealing. They said iterative annealing is simply a biological example of a well known and widely used principle of optimization. Maybe public shower operators could learn something here.
Analogies have their limitations, but to show that we are not making this up, here is the summary explanation in their own words. Look for a hint of excitement in their discovery:
The picture of the chaperonins that emerges from our work is that of a machine equipped with a timer, the trans ring, poised to respond to the appearance of SP [substrate protein inside the cavity] but otherwise idling in a quiescent state. We note that Natures design of this 2-speed protein machine minimizes the hydrolysis of ATP in the absence of SP. However, it maximizes the number of turnovers and minimizes the residence time available to the encapsulated SP to reach the native state, design principles well suited to the operation of an iterative annealing device.How did this system arise? One of the papers began with an oblique reference to evolution that raises more questions than it answers: As with many other cellular machines, the chaperonin nanomachine has evolved to operate at variable speed in response to biological demand. This puzzling statement seems to imply teleology a sin in the world of Darwinian explanations. In neither paper, however, did the authors speculate on how a blind, purposeless process could have produced an optimized system as functionally efficient and complicated as the GroEL-GroES chaperone. Quite the contrary. The quote above used the word Design twice.
Note: Both papers are categorized as Open Access and can be read in their entirety online; see footnotes.
1. Grason, Gresham, Widjaja, Wehri and Lorimer, Setting the chaperonin timer: The effects of K+ and substrate protein on ATP hydrolysis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print November 6, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807429105 (open access article).
2. Grason, Gresham and Lorimer, Setting the chaperonin timer: A two-stroke, two-speed, protein machine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print November 6, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807418105 (open access article).
3. The famous adventurer John Muir as young man invented a bed that would raise up when the alarm went off, putting the surprised sleeper on his feet.
Dont get too mad at Dr. Grason for putting the E-word into the paper. If he hadnt paid homage to Charlies Totalitarian Regime, he might have been Expelled. At least there is progress: the D-word outscored the E-word two to one. What a great day it will be when scientists are free to express joy at the designs they explore without having to say stupid things like it evolved (05/25/2005 commentary).Read one of our early stories from 11/14/2000. Does the Darwinian theme sound familiar? Has anything changed?
Poison Planet Was Lifes Training Ground 11/14/2008
Thus we come to the tentative conclusion that, through weathering and electrochemistry, peroxy in rocks provided enough oxidation power to change the course of our planets history. Over the course of 1.5 to 2 billion years, peroxy forced the early Earth to slowly but inextricably become ever more oxidized. Along the way dangerous Reactive Oxygen Species [ROS], constantly produced at rock-water interfaces and during peroxy hydrolysis, challenged the early microbes, archaea and bacteria. As Dr. Rothschild so aptly put it, the ROS might have provided a training ground for those early micro-organisms to learn how to deal with oxygen. They developed the basic enzymatic defenses, which our bodies still use today to fend off the detrimental side effects of our oxygen-based metabolism.It seems ironic that after Dr. Freund had employed chemical equations based on the laws of chemistry that he would end up imagining molecules overcoming those same natural laws through the exercise of courage and determination. And regarding oxygenic photosynthesis, a process so elaborate that todays biochemists struggle to comprehend it, he imagined the earliest eukaryotes had a simple motto: Just do it. The Navy Seals have quite a different motto: The only easy day was yesterday.
Sometimes the comments in an article do all the work of commentary for us. You didnt realize that simple cells have all the courage, determination and ingenuity of elite special forces, did you? Sure; they face their challenges, adapt, learn and develop protocols for handling explosives, all without a brain or a purpose. Maybe the SETI Institute people need to search for a little extra-terrestrial intelligence about five feet above the terrestrial surface they are standing on.Polishing Darwins Icons 11/13/2008
Nov 13, 2008 Finch beaks, peppered moths, transitional forms the standard props for evolution have been scrutinized ad infinitum for decades. Can anything new be said about them? Find out in these recent articles.
1. Saccheri et al, Selection and gene flow on a diminishing cline of melanic peppered moths, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, October 21, 2008 vol. 105 no. 42 16212-16217, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0803785105.
2. Downs, Daeschler, Jenkins and Shubin, The cranial endoskeleton of Tiktaalik roseae, Nature 455, 925-929 (16 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07189.
Leftovers again. High-profile criticisms, not just from creationists, have been leveled at these so-called proofs of evolution. It would seem in the interest of publishers to air the controversies and deal with them, rather than present the icons as news.Young Lava Conflicts with Lunar Age 11/12/2008
Nov 12, 2008 The Japanese found what the Americans and Russians didnt: young lava on the far side of the moon. Volcanoes shook up the far side of the moon for far longer than scientists thought, reported National Geographic News on photos from the Japanese Kaguya (Selene) spacecraft (11/15/2007).
Crater-count dating estimates the lava flows at 2.5 million years far younger than the ancient times when volcanism was supposed to have stopped. Until recently, the prevailing belief was that lunar volcanism started soon after the moon formed, about 4.5 billion years ago, and ended about 3 billion years ago. Volcanism was supposed to have stopped earlier on the far side of the moon than the near side.
A member of the team said, The finding will lead the scientific community to reconsider the early geology of the moon. Volcanism will have to be considered as a recurrent feature over a much longer period. The thermal history of the moon is certainly more complex than originally thought, another commented.
A scientist from the Lunar and Planetary Institute said that crater-count dating is generally reliable (but see 10/20/2005, 06/08/2006, and 03/25/2008; also 05/14/2003). But without samples to constrain the calculations, he admitted, they are just estimates. Others rejoiced that a feast of new quality data is coming from our nearest celestial neighbor after a data famine for decades.
Update 11/14/2008: A reader pointed out that a similar article on Space.com says 2.5 billion, not 2.5 million. Assuming 2.5 billion is the intended estimate, the original commentary below has been rewritten. The major point, however, stands: features are much younger than previously thought.
Its important to understand the significance of reports that show features much younger than expected. Evolutionists and old-earth creationists (OEC) are quick to retort that the data still show the earth to be far older than Biblical estimates. Granted; young-earthers cannot, and do not, claim that things like the younger moon lavas prove the moon is young in the range of 10,000 years. Is this a stand-off, then, where both sides have problems? No: it opens up new questions we should be asking.Should Obama drill for microbes to solve our energy woes? Read the 11/18/2006 entry.
Lizard Hair and Other Fables 11/12/2008
Whether excusable rhetorical devices or not, such notions run contrary to the core principles of Darwinian evolution. Darwins thesis did away with teleology. He wrote On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, not The Purpose-Driven Life.
Theres a message in the alternating entries about Darwinian storytelling and real discovery science. Can you see it? Read the next two entries. If you find it, you will see it throughout eight years of reporting evolutionary antics in Creation-Evolution Headlines. Not that it started eight years ago: it started in 1849 and even before whenever seekers of knowledge, tricked by Vain-Confidence, decided to take the shortcut through By-path Meadow. So begins the woeful tale of Pilgrims Regress.Scientists Marvel at Enzyme Efficiency 11/11/2008
Nov 11, 2008 Many chemical reactions occur from simple collisions. One atom may have spare electrons, another may need them. Attracted by each others valences, the atoms collide and bonds form. Not so with biological enzymes: these molecular machines owe their efficiency to their three-dimensional shapes. Made up of hundreds of amino acids, enzymes have active sites where precise interactions occur. Some even have moving parts that guide the molecules into the active site (e.g., 07/31/2004). The substrate leaves the enzyme unchanged, ready for its next customer. Scientists are finding that the precision of these machines is finely tuned. Here are some astonishing examples from recent papers:
Without catalysts, there would be no life at all, from microbes to humans, he said. It makes you wonder how natural selection operated in such a way as to produce a protein that got off the ground as a primitive catalyst for such an extraordinarily slow reaction.He may not have the answer, but studying such enzymes allows biologists to appreciate their evolution as prolific catalysts, Wolfenden said. See also the 05/06/2003 and 02/13/2004 entries.
1. Anthony J. Kirby and Florian Hollfelder, Enzymes under the nanoscope, Nature Vol 456 No 6, November 2008, pp. 45-46.
2. Paula M. Petrone, Christopher D. Snow, Del Lucent, and Vijay S. Pande, Side-chain recognition and gating in the ribosome exit tunnel, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print October 22, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801795105.
3. This is the half-time, the time for half the substrate to be consumed.
This is such wonderful science it is astounding that scientists can even measure such tiny structures working at such infinitesimal speeds and to think that these molecular machines have been there all this time with their jaw-dropping performances is a great thrill. You can just feel the evolutionists pain, cant you? (or gullibility; see 01/12/2004). Wolfenden struggles to imagine how natural selection could have produced an enzyme for an essential biological reaction vital to all life that speeds up a reaction from 2.3 billion years to milliseconds. He cant imagine how the protein got off the ground as a primitive catalyst for such an extraordinarily slow reaction. One thing we know about the ground: things fall down onto it; they dont spontaneously get up from it and go to work without directed energy and purpose. At this stage of chemical evolution, remember, there is no natural selection (see 01/26/2008). NS requires replication accurate replication. Without intelligent design, Wolfenden and other evolutionists have no recourse but chance.Evolution in Person 11/10/2008
Nov 10, 2008 For a blind watchmaker, Evolution is quite the seer. Science articles often personify Evolution into a wizard and worker of miracles. This is odd, considering that evolution is supposed to be an aimless, purposeless process of chance and necessity with no goals in mind.
The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a blind watchmaker? said [Raj] Chakrabarti, an associate research scholar in the Department of Chemistry at Princeton. Our new theory extends Darwins model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness.One commonality in the two articles was the attempt to insert direction into evolutionary theory, so that it does not wander about aimlessly, but is able to make progress toward greater sophistication and complexity. The other was to admit that standard evolutionary theory has been inadequate to explain the origin of novelty.
The second article contains this incredible piece of absolute balderdash:Treat yourself to a dozen living wonders in the 11/04/2005 entry.The scientists do not know how the cellular machinery guiding this process may have originated, but they emphatically said it does not buttress the case for intelligent design, a controversial notion that posits the existence of a creator responsible for complexity in nature.Darwinist arrogance knows no limits. They not only define ID wrong, setting up a straw man to knock down, they hide their ignorance behind emphatic bluster.
Defining Nature Produces a Dilemma 11/09/2008
Your Editorial Handle with care (Nature 455, 263–264 2008)2 notes that many people define nature as a place without people, and that this would suggest that nature is best protected by keeping humans far away. You question the value of this negative definition, arguing that if nature is defined as a landscape uninfluenced by humankind, then there is no nature on the planet at all.We have a problem here. Wickson explained that as an ecologist, she views humans as embedded in nature rather than separate from it. Even in the city, the food we eat and the products we consume are intertwined with the planet and other organisms. This view creates other problems, though, as she thought more about it: nothing humans do can be considered unnatural:
In this case, an atom bomb becomes as natural as an anthill.Wickson could think of no answer to this dilemma. She ended her letter with a question: Is there a better definition of nature?
1. Fern Wickson, What is nature, if its more than just a place without people?, Nature 456, 29 (6 November 2008) | doi:10.1038/456029b.
2. Editorial, Handle with care, Nature 455, 263-264 (18 September 2008) | doi:10.1038/455263b.
How about Nature is everything that God created. For a word that gets bandied about recklessly assuming intuitive comprehension, for a word that forms the crux of debates about whether creationism should be excluded from schools, nature is as slippery as an eel in greased hands. Wickson has pointed out a delicious dilemma that undermines not only the environmental movement, but materialism itself. What is the place of the human observer? If nature is what humans are not, this destroys evolutionism, because it makes humans somehow special. If nature is what humans are embedded in, then nothing in the universe is unnatural. We would have no choice but to accept the evil humans do.Proving the Obvious 11/08/2008
Nov 8, 2008 The well-known IgNobel Prizes are awarded each year for silly, useless research projects (see Improbable Research). There seem to be a lot of contenders that may never win the prize, but get reported anyway. One can only wonder why the reporters arent putting these on the funny pages:
What is the message you give a serial cohabiter when you study his behavior in sterile laboratory terms? That it is normal; hes just born that way. A bully getting his brain waves photographed gets no punishment. Should our dear female researcher at U Mo be allowed to extend her research into the male response to porn?Bodys Junk Is Useful Stuff 11/07/2008
Nov 7, 2008 Whats the difference between junk and stuff? The jokester replies that stuff is the junk you throw away, and junk is the stuff you keep. When it comes to stuff in your body that scientists have called junk, you had better keep all of it, because your life may depend on it.
Hang on to your stuff theyre calling junk some day they may change their mind and call it good stuff. The default position in biology should be that if its there, its needed. That position fits perfectly well with intelligent design. Considering that evolutionists once thought your pituitary gland, coccyx and tonsils were vestigial organs, their position can be considered dangerous. Their latest entries in the evolutionary junk bin, glia and non-coding DNA, have now been relabeled as functional. ID has had a steady winning streak in this game. Wiggle your ears if you agree.Its enough to make you want to be a creationist, an astrobiologist joked to NASA scientists and engineers about problems with origin-of-life research. No kidding: read about it in the 11/05/2004 entry.
Serving Up Life on the Rocks with a Twist 11/06/2008
On the other hand the existence of lifelike biomimetic structures in ice suggests that nature may well have copied physics. It is even possible that while ice is too cold to support most life as we know it, it may have provided a suitable internal environment for prebiotic life to have emerged.The article ended by calling this an intriguing idea that the European Science Foundation should explore further. This may provide a new twist to the idea that life arrived from space, it said. It may be that the precursors of life came from space, but that the actual carbon based biochemistry of all organisms on Earth evolved on this planet.
We may have to go for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Day at this rate. Look cross-eyed if you have heard anything dumber in the last week from a scientist. How do we dumb thee? Let us count the ways.Note: Font too small? Try clicking ctrl+ for a larger size. On older versions of Internet Explorer, look under View/Text Size.
What an Obama Presidency May Mean for Origin Science 11/05/2008
This is a nation where citizens are king. Those of you who want a culture of life and a nation of free speech in science will have to speak out and work harder than ever before. Many times in history have been far worse than this. It is never a time for despair in Gods kingdom.
VOTE! HELP RIGHTEOUSNESS PREVAIL (November 4, 2008) When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:10-11Darwins Prognosticators 11/04/2008
Nov 4, 2008 Scientists at Rockefeller University think they can one-up Darwin. According to Science Daily, they think they can predict evolutions next best move. Evolution is supposed to be aimless, so it is not clear how they think they can predict chance or decide what is best. The dubious nature of their quest, however, is only exceeded by the chutzpah in their hype:
Biologists today are doing what Darwin thought impossible. They are studying the process of evolution not through fossils but directly, as it is happening. Now, by modeling the steps evolution takes to build, from scratch, an adaptive biochemical network, biophysicists Eric D. Siggia and Paul Francois at Rockefeller University have gone one step further. Instead of watching evolution in action, they show that they can predict its next best move.They generated an algorithm that, like Darwinian evolution, showed no mercy. Only the fittest networks were allowed to survive and reproduce. Apparently it did not occur to them that the algorithm they wrote was doing the selecting by intelligent design:
Francois and Siggia found that certain mutations automatically increased a networks fitness and thus were immediately selected. When you look at systems like the eye or structures like the human spinal cord, you think how could these have evolved from a simple network, says Francois. In their current study, Siggia and Francois looked at how a complex biochemical network could evolve, and an answer came together: It is built through a specific series of mutations that is repeated over and over again, from scratch, every time they restart their simulations.But can you really get something for nothing? William Dembski proved in No Free Lunch that no evolutionary algorithm works better than blind search when intelligently-inserted auxiliary information from the side door is disqualified from the algorithm (09/04/2008 and 11/18/2002 commentaries). When you see an evolutionary simulation making progress toward a goal, you can be sure of one thing: someones cheating.
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week would not do justice to the insanity of this article, so this new original cartoon of the Bearded Buddha, drawn for CEH by Brett Miller, is awarded for a more appropriate level of disgrace (click cartoon for larger version, complete with sacrifices). If Obama and Biden get their way, public school students will line up at the shrine and make their offerings. Now, quickly, for your mental health, read the next entry (11/03/2008).Those who grew up with National Geographic magazines featuring the Leakey family showing off the latest ape-men may be dismayed to read the sequel: see 11/05/2003.
Biological Complexity Continues to Astound 11/03/2008
The palpable excitement in their tone required a look at the original paper in Science.1 Yusufzai and Kadonaga called their machine a molecular zipper and said, the pleiotropy of HARP mutations is consistent with the function of HARP as an annealing helicase that acts throughout the genome to oppose the action of DNA-unwinding activities in the nucleus. By pleiotropy, they mean that mutated HARP genes can cause problems all over the place. They identified one disease, SIOD (Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia), that can actually be traced to mutations in HARP. The genetic disorder leads to dwarfism, a damaged immune system and early death.
The HARP machine is ubiquitous in the nucleus, they said, because the possibilities for DNA winding errors are ubiquitous. Helicases might fail, or bubbles in double-stranded DNA might form spontaneously. Without repair machinery available, the DNA transcribing and duplicating machines could fail. In this manner, HARP would be able to promote the proper functioning of the cell by catalyzing the rewinding of the stably unwound DNA, their paper ended. More generally, HARP would serve as an opposing force to the numerous DNA-unwinding activities in the nucleus.
1. Timur Yusufzai and James T. Kadonaga, HARP Is an ATP-Driven Annealing Helicase, Science, 31 October 2008: Vol. 322. no. 5902, pp. 748-750, DOI: 10.1126/science.1161233.
None of these articles needed, referred to, or owed anything to evolutionary theory. This was the good old science at work: uncovering the mechanisms of the world, as if it were designed, and seeking to understand the workings of nature. In fact, the third article says this: The discovery represents the first time scientists have identified a motor protein specifically designed to prevent the accumulation of bubbles of unwound DNA. If that does not presuppose intelligent design, what does? And how did cells get along before chance found a way to invent a powered repair machine for DNA?Tip Link: Is natural selection natural? Neil Broom, a biomaterials researcher at University of Auckland, argues it isnt. In a penetrating essay on Metanexus, Does Nature Suggest Transcendence?, he shows how materialists unintentionally sneak intentionality into their supposedly materialistic explanations. Excerpt:
I think it is fair to say that at one popular level the expression natural selection serves as a kind of mantra, an almost magical utterance that quickly allays any doubts a skeptic might entertain. It is uttered with power and authority when any kind of biological achievement required to be explained, and in the currency of a wholly material world. My argument is that the claim that natural selection explains the extraordinary (read life processes) while drawing only on the ordinary (read material processes), is not only bad science, it is also contradicted by the very narrative the materialist seems compelled to employ to present his or her story of life.Solar System Surprises 11/02/2008
Nov 2, 2008 In the last few days and weeks, more amazing discoveries were made about bodies in the solar system.
Those who realize just how difficult it is to get images like these will appreciate more than ever the privilege of being among the first human beings to see such wonders from distant lands.Antimatter Or Anti-Consensus? 11/01/2008
Nov 1, 2008 Wheres the antimatter? If the universe began in a big bang, there should be equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Instead, there is only regular matter as far as our telescopes can see. (If antimatter were present, the annihilation of antimatter and matter would give a characteristic gamma-ray signature.) This is a big matter; the missing antimatter has been a conundrum for decades. Now, a new study using the Spitzer Space Telescope, reported on Science Daily, confirms that far, far too little is present.
Observations of the Bullet Cluster rule out any significant amounts of antimatter over scales of about 65 million light years, an estimate of the original separation of the two colliding clusters, the article said of the largest-scale study ever done in an environment that is an excellent test site for the search. All they saw was only three parts per million.
The article ends by claiming that if antimatter is discovered, it might tell scientists something about inflation and how long it lasted. This new study, however, places tighter constraints on the possibility of such a discovery.
Even if they did find antimatter, it would not tell them anything about inflation. Remember the skeleton that Sean Carroll let out of the inflationary closet? (05/11/2006). He said that inflation does not get rid of the fine-tuning problems it was invented to solve: the conditions required to start inflation are less natural than those of the conventional Big Bang.A pulpit-pounding sermon on why you should believe in the Big Bang, from 11/02/2002.