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Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Bacteria Talk

Posted by jlwile on October 29, 2010

Evolutionists have always wanted a “simple” life form to exist. After all, to make the leap from nonliving chemicals to living systems, there must be something that is alive in every sense of the word, but at the same time, is reasonably simple. For a long time, evolutionists wanted bacteria to represent that “simple” life form.

As I make clear in my biology textbook, however, there is no such thing as a simple life form, and that holds true for bacteria as well. The more we learn about them, the more we learn how complex they really are. One of the surprises that has emerged in the past few decades is that bacteria actually talk to one another. They have an incredibly complex means of communication, but Dr. Bonnie Bassler (a professor at Princeton University) does an excellent job of describing it in the following video:

Even though it is 18 minutes long, it is worth watching. She not only tells you how important bacteria are to nature and to you, she explains bacterial communication in a very easy-to-understand manner.

What I find interesting about it is how she and I take such a different view of what the data really mean. She says that because we now know bacteria have one language to talk to other members of their own species and a second language to talk to the bacterial community as a whole, it is clear that bacteria really “set up the rules” for communication between cells. Thus, the communication that makes your cells able to work together so that you survive is simply a more advanced version of what bacteria were able to evolve billions of year ago. I look at the same data, however, and see incredible evidence for design. Just as a common genetic code tells us there is a common designer for creation, the fact that cellular communication is common amongst all the cells in creation tells us that cellular communication is the result of a preplanned design.

Regardless of how you look at what these data mean, the facts are amazing, and Dr. Bassler does an excellent job of communicating them!

Genes aren’t Everything

Posted by jlwile on October 27, 2010

These calves are identical twins
(Image in the public domain)

It is commonly assumed (quite incorrectly) that an organism’s genetics determine pretty much everything there is to know about the organism. For example, many people think that because identical twins have identical genes, they are nearly identical. Of course, ask a few identical twins whether or not they are identical people, and you will soon find out how naive a view that really is. Indeed, even something as straightforward as fingerprints are not identical between identical twins. If fingerprints are not even identical between those who have identical DNA, it is likely that very few traits are governed solely by genetics. Thus, there is clearly an interaction between an organism’s genetics and its surroundings. Genetics might give you a predisposition for some traits, but your environment will play a role in whether or not that predisposition is actually followed.

However, what if there is something more than genetics and environment? Could there be something else that affects an organism’s traits? Vicki R. Nelson and her colleagues decided to investigate this question in a rather elegant way, and the results they obtained were rather surprising.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Here’s What You Do When A Fossil Find Contradicts Evolution

Posted by jlwile on October 25, 2010

A spider trapped in amber.
(Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spider_in_amber_(1).jpg)

Many trees produce resin, a thick liquid that typically oozes from wounds in the tree. While some scientists view resin as a waste product of the tree, resins have been shown to protect certain trees from insects, fungi, and other pests.1 Thus, resin is probably something purposefully produced by the tree.

If resin hardens, it forms amber, which is considered valuable both as a component for jewelry as well as a means by which fossils can be preserved. The photo above, for example, shows a spider that has been remarkably well-preserved by amber. It is assumed that the spider was trapped in a tree’s resin, and then the resin hardened around the spider. Because this forms a nearly airtight container, decomposition is greatly reduced, allowing for the formation of an incredibly well-preserved fossil.

Not surprisingly, different kinds of trees will produce different kinds of resin, which leads to different kinds of amber. Currently, there are five known classes of amber, based upon the specific chemical compounds that make up the amber. It has been generally thought (quite reasonably) that the chemicals in the amber are reflective of the kind of tree that originally produced the resin. However, that thinking will have to change in order to preserve the hypothesis of evolution.

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Go to the Ant

Posted by jlwile on October 22, 2010

This little ant scares elephants! (Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Acacia_collinsii3.jpg)

Proverbs 6:6 tells us, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.” As this verse suggests, scientists who have studied the ant have learned all sorts of wonderful things. I mentioned previously the remarkable mutualistic relationship between Crematogaster (also called Cregaster) ants and certain Acacia trees. The trees provide food and housing for the ants, and the ants fiercely attack anything that tries to eat their tree. As I discussed in a follow-up post, scientists who thought they would “help” Acacia trees by fencing them in to protect them from large herbivores like elephants actually ended up hurting the trees. In the end, the scientists could not improve on the protection that the ants provide the tree naturally.

This intrigued the scientists who were bested by the ants, so they wanted to find out whether or not it is really possible for the tiny Crematogaster ants to actually defend the tree from the world’s largest land animal. Thus, they conducted a follow-up study, and the results were incredible!

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Marvelous Monarch Medicine

Posted by jlwile on October 20, 2010

A Monarch Butterfly, Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_(butterfly)

Monarch butterflies are not only beautiful, they are truly marvelous creatures. Consider, for example, their annual migration. The story begins in a fir forest in Mexico, where monarch butterflies from eastern North America blanket the trees. They slow down their biological processes so that they can last through the winter months, and then in February or March, they start the 3,000-mile journey back to Eastern North America.1

However, none of them makes the entire trip. Instead, they lay their eggs and die along the way. The new monarchs that hatch develop into adults and then continue the journey. These monarchs typically live only about two months in total, at which point they lay their eggs and die. This continues until August, when the members of the current generation, none of which has ever seen the fir forest in Mexico, make the trip back there. Individuals often end up landing on the same tree in which their forefathers spent the winter!2 How do these intrepid travelers know where to go? That matter is still under investigation.

It turns out that this migration is just one of the marvels of the monarch. Current research indicates that monarch mothers are also able to medicate their offspring!

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Fetal Study Shows Social Interaction IN THE WOMB

Posted by jlwile on October 18, 2010

Ultrasound image of one fetal twin caressing the other's back (Image from PLoS One)

Those who want to say that a child inside the womb is not a human life have to ignore some very basic science. For example, they have to ignore the plain genetic evidence, which is found in the “blueprint” that makes each person. Of course, I am talking about the person’s DNA. While not all of a person’s characteristics are based on his or her DNA, most of them are. In other words, DNA contains the overall framework that makes a person who he or she is. More importantly, there is no other organism on the planet that has a genome like a human being’s genome. Thus, as soon as a person’s DNA forms, a human life has begun. When does that happen? It happens at the very moment of conception. At that moment, when the person is composed of just one cell, a human life has begun. Probably the best statement regarding this fact comes from Dr. Jermoe L. LeJeune, the brilliant geneticist who was the first to demonstrate a link between certain diseases and chromosomal abnormalities. While testifying before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee, he said:1

To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence

If you want to believe that a baby in the womb is not a person, then, you have to ignore the plain experimental evidence. LeJeune’s quote comes from 1981, and since them, more and more experimental evidence has been stacking up to show that a baby in the womb is most definitely a human being. The latest evidence to be added to the pile comes from ultrasound investigations of twins in the womb.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

“Goldilocks Planet” May Not Exist

Posted by jlwile on October 16, 2010

Not too long ago, a commenter asked about a “Goldilocks Planet” that had recently been discovered by Steven Vogt and his colleagues. The term refers to a planet that is thought to be close enough to its star to be warm, but not so close that it is unbearably hot. In other words, it is supposed to have a temperature that is “just right” for the existence of life.

Steven Vogt and his colleagues thought they had found such a planet in Gliese 581g. It is supposed to orbit a red dwarf (Gliese 581) with a period of 37 days. While this puts it very close to its star, Vogt and his team think it is hospitable to life because the red dwarf is cool compared to the sun.

In response to the commenter, I expressed my skepticism, not because I have a problem with the idea of extraterrestrial life, but because astronomers have been wrong in their assignment of “Goldilocks” status before. In addition, even if the planet is at the right distance from its star, there are a host of other conditions necessary for a planet to be hospitable to life.

Well, now there is another reason to be skeptical. The planet may not exist!

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These Guys Should Work for NASA

Posted by jlwile on October 15, 2010

Suppose you wanted to get video from outer space, but you didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money.  What would you do?  For the cost of an iPhone (which was recovered), an HD video camera (also recovered), a parachute, some Styrofoam, tape, handwarmers, weights, and a balloon, these guys did it!

Sex Really Complicates Things!

Posted by jlwile on October 14, 2010

Drosophila melanogaster (Image by http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Aka)

Evolutionists have always looked at nature in an overly simplistic way. They are forced to do so by their preconceived notions. As I mentioned previously, evolutionists cannot begin to appreciate the complex nature of genetics. If they did, they would understand that mutations cannot possibly add information to the genome and, as a result, they would understand that evolution has strict limits. It can only “tinker” with the genetic information that already exists in a population in order to produce individuals that are more fit to survive certain conditions. We call that “microevolution.” It cannot produce fundamentally new and innovative biological structures, which is what is necessary for macroevolution to occur. Thus, while microevolution (which has been demonstrated in both nature and the lab) is consistent with what we know about genetics, macroevolution (which has never been demonstrated in nature or the lab) is not consistent with what we know about genetics.

Of course, evolutionists won’t give up their overly simplistic view of nature, because it is necessary in order for them to cling to their dogma. As a result, they make many predictions, which time and time again are falsified by the data. Not surprisingly, a detailed study of microevolution in the fruit fly known as Drosophila melanogaster has falsified yet another one of their predictions.

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Homeschool Graduates and College: Real Success

Posted by jlwile on October 13, 2010

Image licensed from www.clipart.com

When people ask me why I am such a staunch advocate of homeschooling, I tell them it’s because I have seen the products of home education, and they are very impressive. While I was on the faculty at Ball State University, for example, I had students who graduated from public schools, students who graduated from private schools, and students who graduated from homeschools. In my experience, the homeschool graduates were truly head and shoulders above the others. This led me to look at academic studies that evaluated the efficacy of home education, and those studies echoed my experiences – When it comes to academics, homeschooled students are simply a cut above the rest. That’s why I am such an advocate of homeschooling.

Of course, a lot of universities recognize this fact. IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana makes it very clear on their website. They say:

Over 150 students have enrolled at IUPUI with home school backgrounds and as a group these students have academically excelled and out-performed the general student population.

Stanford University (like most serious universities) actively recruits homeschoolers, and they accept a higher percentage of their homeschooled applicants than the rest of their applicant pool. Jonathan Reider, an admissions officer at Stanford university explains why:

The distinguishing factor is intellectual vitality. [Homeschooled] kids have it, and everything they do is responding to it.”

Boston University agrees. They followed their homeschool graduates for several years and found their average GPA was 3.3 out of 4.1 That’s a sold “B.”

It’s not surprising, then, that when other universities examine their homeschooled population, they find real success.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »