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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bioluminescence

Posted by jlwile on June 18, 2010

Bioluminescent single-celled organisms make this wave glow.
Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bioluminescent_dinoflagellates.jpg

Bioluminescence is an amazing thing. Many living creatures use it to “light up” so they can communicate with others, more easily find food, or defend themselves against predators. In the picture above, for example, there are millions of single-celled organisms (called “dinoflagellates”) in the water. When they are disturbed, they use bioluminescence to glow. They are glowing in the picture because the wave is disturbing them. This is actually a defense mechanism. If the water is disturbed by an animal that eats them (such as a manta ray), the dinoflagellates glow, and the light might attract a predator that will eat (or scare away) the manta ray.

E. A. Widder wrote a review1 of bioluminescence in the May 7th issue of the Journal Science, and it is fascinating. As Widder points out, there are over 700 genera (the classification level above species) of organisms that use bioluminescence, and most of them (about 80%) live in the ocean. The mechanisms by which this process works are elegant and amazing, and they certainly defy any coherent evolutionary explanation.

The basic scheme of bioluminescence is fairly simple, at least as far as the chemistry goes. A chemical reaction occurs that has enough energy to excite an electron in a given molecule. Eventually, that electron must return to its unexcited state, so it must release energy. In the case of bioluminescence, it releases its energy in the form of visible light. That’s when we see a glow.

Of course, as is the case with most things, it gets very complicated once you look at the details of the process. There are many different chemicals used in nature for the purpose of bioluminescence, so to keep things as generic as possible, biochemists usually say that bioluminescence requires two kinds of molecules: a luciferin and a luciferase. The luciferin molecule reacts with oxygen, and the luciferase molecule is an enzyme that speeds up that reaction. The reaction makes a product molecule, called an oxyluciferin, with an excited electron. When the electron releases its energy, light is produced. Here is a nice animation that shows how it happens:

An animation showing the generic chemistry involved in bioluminescence.
from http://www.lifesci.ucsb.edu/~biolum/chem/

So as you can see, the luciferin reacts with oxygen to make the oxyluciferin. The luciferase is not used up in the reaction – it just helps the oxygen and the luciferin react. The result is an excited electron in the oxyluciferin, and when that electron relaxes, it emits light.

Of course, human science can synthesize luciferins and luciferases, but as is typically the case, what we can produce is primitive compared to what exists in even the simplest life form on the planet. For example, while the efficiency of a firefly’s bioluminescence is 88%, the most advanced synthetic luminescence reactions designed by humans are a mere 23% efficient.2

When we look at all the different organisms that use bioluminescence, we see a lot of different luciferins and luciferases. For example, the most common luciferin in bacteria is, not surprisingly, called “bacterial luciferin.” However, it is not only found in bacteria. It is found in squids and fishes as well. The luciferin used by the dinoflagellates in the picture above is (surprise!) called “dinoflagellate luciferin,” but once again, it is not only found in dinoflagellates. It is also found in krill, a small shrimp-like marine animal.

This, of course, produces a problem for evolution. Remember, evolution assumes that when animals have similar structures, it is because of common ancestry. Thus, evolution would predict that if you look at organisms that use bioluminescence, you should see an evolutionary pattern in their luciferins and luciferases. Closely-related organisms should have similar luciferins and luciferases, while distantly-related organisms should have less similar luciferins and luciferases. The problem is that you don’t see anything close to such a pattern.

The review article by Widder gives you an idea of the mental gymnastics this forces evolutionists to go through:

Based on the number of light-producing chemistries across the monophyletic lineages, bioluminescence is estimated to have evolved independently at least 40 times. Remarkably, not only is there evidence of independent origins within taxa (e.g., ostracods have two known chemistries: coelenterazine and vargulin) but even within individual species (e.g., the deep-sea anglerfish, Linophryne coronata, has two different light-emitting systems in adult females: bacterial luminescence in the dorsal lure and an intrinsic, unidentified chemistry in the chin barbel)3

In case you are having trouble parsing this, let me translate. Evolutionists are forced to assume that this incredibly elegant, efficient process evolved independently at least 40 different times, and the fact that these 40 different lines of evolution produced very similar lights in each case is the result of sheer coincidence. In addition, they must assume that even species which are thought to be closely-related must have independently evolved their bioluminescence, and once again, the fact that their bioluminescence looks similar is the result of sheer coincidence. As if that’s not enough, they must also believe that within a given species, bioluminescence evolved independently at least twice, and once again, the similarities are due to sheer coincidence.

Of course, I have pointed out this problem before. In his excellent book Life’s Solution, Simon Conway Morris discusses the vast number of situations in which organisms have very similar characteristics but a recent common ancestor cannot be incorporated into the hypothesis of evolution. As a result, evolutionists are forced to assume that the similarity is the result of evolution independently coming up with the same solution to a problem, and the fact that they look similar (even at the molecular level) is just the result of sheer coincidence.

Boy, I am glad I am not an evolutionist. I just don’t have that kind of faith!

REFERENCES

1. E. A. Widder, “Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity,” Science 328:704-708, 2010 (available online with subscription)
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2. Tōru Yoshizawa, Handbook of optical metrology: principles and applications, Volume 10, CRC Press, 2009, p. 33
Return to Text

3. E. A. Widder, Ibid, p. 707
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Comments

14 Responses to “Bioluminescence”
  1. “evolution assumes that when animals have similar structures, it is because of common ancestry”

    Absolutely not! You’ve already forgotten your lesson on homologous and analogous? (BTW, Austin Cline is a very productive guy!)

    “Evolutionists are forced to assume … that these 40 different lines of evolution produced very similar lights in each case is the result of sheer coincidence.”

    BS! If there is a “incredibly elegant, efficient process” that provides a benefit to organisms that possess it – it is strongly selected for – then it is likely that it will evolve independently more than once. The number here, at least 40 different times, seems large, but remember that all of the species discussed live in the same habitat, the ocean. And bioluminescence can have different benefits: “finding food, attracting mates, and evading predators.” A relatively simple process that provides multiple possible benefits in the same environment is expected to happen often. (And it’s not like all these independent evolutions happened within the last 10,000 years. There was plenty of time for this to happen again and again and again) Given these facts, evolution by natural selection PREDICTS that many independent evolutions will occur.

    Finally, shouldn’t you be reluctant to quote papers about “Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity” that rely exclusively for evolutionary explanations for these origins and diversity? I read “evolution” twice in the abstract (again, I can’t read the paper), but don’t see “creation” or “design” at all.

  2. jlwile says:

    Shooter, it is you who forgot your lesson. You tried to argue this before, and you failed miserably. As your favorite source says:

    “Consequently, structures with similar internal organization may have different functions in related organisms. This is the result of a single ancestral structure being adapted to function in different ways. The bones within bat wings, for example, are very similar to those in mice feet and primate hands, due to the descent of all these structures from a common mammalian ancestor.”

    As Morris clearly shows in his book (and as I schooled you before), homology and analogy cannot be distinguished. The way evolutionists do it is to simply say if evolution can accommodate it, similar structures mean a common ancestor. If evolution can’t accommodate it, it is the result of convergent evolution. Not exactly a scientific approach!

    By the way, Carl Wieland is a productive guy, and you will learn a lot more science from him than from Austin Cline.

    “If there is a “incredibly elegant, efficient process” that provides a benefit to organisms that possess it – it is strongly selected for – then it is likely that it will evolve independently more than once…A relatively simple process that provides multiple possible benefits in the same environment is expected to happen often. ”

    That’s what you are forced to believe in order to keep your preconceived notions. If you have enough faith to believe that, please do. However, just realize that you aren’t being rational at all.

    “There was plenty of time for this to happen again and again and again”

    Once again, wave the “magic wand” of time and ANYTHING, no matter how absurd, can happen. Man! What faith you have!

    “Finally, shouldn’t you be reluctant to quote papers about “Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity” that rely exclusively for evolutionary explanations for these origins and diversity?”

    Of course not. It’s great to quote these papers to show the mental gymnastics that evolutionists must go through in order to force the data to fit the hypothesis. I know this bothers you, but it is just too much fun!

  3. Josiah says:

    Norwegian Shooter, I honestly cannot help admiring your sheer dogged persistance. However It looks to me like in this case you just aren’t seeing the point.

    Bioluminescence is very, very complicated even for science (hence we only have 20% efficiency reactions) and even harder for evolution. Since no luciferin could produce noticible amounts of light (and therefore survival benefits) on its own, it NEEDS the enzyme. However the enzyme doesn’t do anything on its own at all. So to evolve this capacity an organism would have to generate both at exactly the same time. Otherwise one would have to develop and sit there over generations, providing no survival benefit and not therefore being selected for. Perhaps such coincidences may happen once or twice since the beginning of life, but the chance of creating 40 pairs of complex molecules such as these isn’t what you hope for.

    Besides it isn’t enough for a organism to just sit and glow which would be as good as sticking a neon sign above their head which reads “Over here. Eat me”. Rather they have to have further biological hardware to make use of the capacity for communication, self defence, etc. So even if an organism did suddenly develop both the reactant and the catalyst the survival benefit wouldn’t be so very great as you’re trying to imply.

  4. Josiah says:

    I also had a look at the homologous and analogous article you linked to. I tried to drop my prejudice and look at it from a neutral perspective and would ask that you try to do the same for my thoughts on the matter, and tell me where you think I’ve misunderstood it.

    Now the second section, about homologous structures, I found comparatively sound. In particular the argument of similarities causing IMperfections such as the similarity between flippers and legs causing poor flippers doesn’t imply an intelligent desinger, who’d make a flipper to do its job as a flipper. This is much more convincing than saying for example that bird wings all share a common design being descended from winged birds, which can easily be explained in a common design framework. Doubtless Dr. Wile will respond to this.

    The first section however simply doesn’t work. In fact when I read it I found it logically flawed, the closest thing I can liken its foundation to is a “circular reasoning” falacy. Circular reasoning arises when you say that A proves B which is proved by A. In fact it says A is true because A is true! Unless further evidence is introduced to support either A or B, neither A nor B is actually proven at all.

    In the article Austin Cline tries to refute the claim that the eye is simply too complicated to have evolved. He reveals the fact (which many creationists including Dr. Wile actually revel in) that there are multiple similar designs for the eye. He then tries assumes that these multiple designs evolved (A) and therefore the eye can evolve (B). Hence you can’t say that the eye didn’t evolve (A). And therefore it did (B). So A. So B. And so on forever.

  5. Thanks, Josiah, I try. But I’m afraid you’re just trotting out “irreducible complexity” to claim some evolutionary outcome couldn’t have happened. Besides arguing for a negation, the problem is ever “irreducible” system has be later shown to be reducible: the eye, the flagellum, blood clotting. Creationists will continue to offer some example of “irreducible complexity” that isn’t currently understood how it evolved, and later, the evolutionary mechanism is figured out. The Science paper cited is trying to move toward this exact outcome for bioluminescence:

    “The origins and functions of some bioluminescent systems, however, remain obscure. Here, I review recent advances in understanding bioluminescence in the ocean and highlight future research efforts that will unite molecular details with ecological and evolutionary relationships.”

    Now that’s Science!

  6. “As Morris clearly shows in his book, homology and analogy cannot be distinguished.”

    He did no such thing. His book was about showing that the frequency and power of convergent evolution makes it the dominant force in evolution*.

    “The way evolutionists do it is to simply say if evolution can accommodate it, similar structures mean a common ancestor. If evolution can’t accommodate it, it is the result of convergent evolution.”

    Again, wrong! Wikipedia:

    “A homologous trait is any characteristic of organisms that is derived from a common ancestor. This is contrasted to analagous traits: similarities between organisms that were not in the last common ancestor of the taxa being considered but rather evolved separately. As defined by Owen (1843), a homology is a ‘structural correspondence’, whereas an analogy is a ‘non-correspondent similarity’.

    Whether or not a trait is homologous depends on both the taxonomic and anatomical level at which the trait is examined. For example, the bird and bat wing are homologous as forearms in tetrapods. However, they are not homologous as wings, because the organ served as a forearm (not a wing) in the last common ancestor of tetrapods. By definition, any homologous trait defines a clade — a monophyletic taxon in which all the members have the trait (or have lost it secondarily); and all non-members lack it.”

    The difference between the two terms depends on the last common ancestor of the two species. The example of bird and bats shows this very well. The wing bone of both existed as a fore-arm in the last common ancestor to birds and bats. However, that LCA didn’t fly, so flight in birds and bats evolved independently. So your formulation – if evolution can accommodate it, similar structures mean a common ancestor – is exactly backwards. The correct understanding is if the common ancestor possessed the similar structure, that means the structure is homologous between the two species.

    “enough faith to believe that” You say this all the time, but this isn’t an argument. You are merely making fun of me. You side-step so many of my statements this way. Do you really think you’ve won the point?

    You said it was an “incredibly elegant, efficient process” which means it wasn’t absurd. And I’m not waving any magic wand. I don’t expect you to accept the earth is billions of years old, but at least you can understand how geological time works in evolutionary explanations.

    You should be ashamed to quote scientific papers like this because the mental gymnastics that you claim evolutionists must go through are only the result of your own distortions and misunderstandings of evolutionary arguments. For instance, in this post you misunderstand how evolutionists tell the difference between homology and analogy and then make up the idea that evolutionists believe is it sheer coincidence when a trait evolves convergently. What’s even worse about this second error, is that your convergent evolution expert cited in this post, Simon Conway Morris, believes the exact opposite. He would say that evolution is driven by convergent evolution, that “elegant and efficient” solutions will be found not contingently, but deterministically. He would say (and most evolutionist don’t agree with him) that if you rewound the tape of oceanic life, it is almost guaranteed that bioluminescence would evolve independently many times.

    * Again, seriously, all of Morris’ arguments are based on the fact of evolution. He is a 100%, dyed-in-the-wool, strong evolutionist. He says things like “in demonstrating the reality of evolution in the context of entirely unexceptional natural processes there is no dispute” and “Of course our brains are a product of evolution”. What gives you the right to use an evolutionary argument to claim evolution didn’t happen?

  7. Josiah says:

    I’m not trying to argue the point he was making, which could very well be proven correct by different logic or evidence. However the way in which he was making it, at least for the first section, isn’t valid. Essentially I’m pointing out that he used the assumption that eyes evolved (twice or more times) to prove that eyes can evolve each time. However he didn’t ground that assumption in anything at all, hence he has the circular reason.

    That isn’t really surprising since analogous structures don’t give evidence to evolution. All they demonstrate is that Whatever (Time&Chance, God, aliens, computer simulation?) created the world did a very good job of it.

    At the same time you’ll acknowledge that there is a certain degree of improbability involved with each step of evolution, and for analagous structures to develop that improbability is multiplied by itself. Just like the chance of winning the lottery 40 times is nearly infinitely less than that of winning it once, the chance of creating something like Bioluminescence in 40 different ways in different organisms is less than performing the same feat once. The question isn’t one of whether or not human science can comprehend a structure. It isn’t even one of whether random chance can create it. The question is purely and simply whether it would happen in the real world.

  8. Wikipedia link missed above.

    Josiah, I actually didn’t respond to your second comment at all. I’ll look into it. However, I can respond to the last paragraph in your last comment.

    You state some common mistakes among creationists. The first is similar to the “Goldilocks problem” in that you are looking at a historical result (Earth today or examples of convergent evolution) from the perspective of all possible results. In the case of convergent evolution, if you take as a baseline the first eukaryote, then the chance that squids and humans evolve their similar eyes, then the chance is indeed like winning the lottery 40 times (probably in a row).* But that’s not how evolution works. It doesn’t make large leaps and jumps. It takes the material at hand in any organism and slightly alters it in each new generation. If the small alteration improves the chances of its offspring reproducing (passing on its genes), then that alteration will be selected and spread across the whole population of organisms. Just this one change will take many generations to fix in a population. (See population genetics).

    So the way to think of the whole process is the chance that any one small improvement in passing on genes will occur is not small. Then the chance of the next small improvement is not small. And so on and so on over geologic time. It is not a situation of flipping a random coin and finding out the chance of getting x number of heads in a row (multiplying chances of event A (first) by chances of event B(second)). In this case, event B doesn’t depend on event A’s result (stastically independent events). In evolution, event B builds on whatever the result of event A is. Some B’s can’t happen without some A first. And some A’s preclude some B’s from happening. B is dependent on A.

    40 different ways of evolving a trait is indeed less likely than evolving a trait once. But we’re confronted with evidence that it did indeed evolve 40 different ways (actually, I don’t know how many different chemical processes there are, I can’t read the actual paper), sometimes different ways within the same species. [BTW, if these two different populations were geographically isolated, and became unable to produce fertile hybrids, thus becoming separate species, then we would say that the trait evolved convergently evolved in these two species.] So there is no point to comparing it to just one way to evolve bioluminescence. Those two results did not both happen. It did happen in this real world (the only one), so there is no question as to its likelihood.

    * This is where Morris differs with so many evolutionists. He claims that humans would certainly have evolved from any number of re-playing of history from the first eukaryote.

  9. jlwile says:

    >He did no such thing. His book was about showing
    >that the frequency and power of convergent evolution
    >makes it the dominant force in evolution*.

    Since you haven’t read the book, you have no idea. In fact, he shows example after example of similarities that were once thought to demonstrate common ancestry, but now in the face of data from molecular studies, etc., it cannot be accommodated by evolutionary theory. As a result, it goes from evidence of common ancestry to evidence of “convergence.” If there were an independent way to tell the difference between homology and analogy, that wouldn’t happen. So similarities are homologous until they cannot be accommodated by evolution. At that point, they become analogous. You should actually read books before you try to comment on them…

    Look at what your Wikipedia quote says. It says EXACTLY what I said. “A homologous trait is any characteristic of organisms that is derived from a common ancestor.” In other words, if the similarity can be accommodated by evolution as coming from a common ancestor, it is homologous. “This is contrasted to analagous traits: similarities between organisms that were not in the last common ancestor of the taxa being considered but rather evolved separately.” In other words, if the similarity cannot be accommodated by evolution as coming from a common ancestor, it is analogous.

    You really need to read the quotes you use…

    >By definition, any homologous trait defines a clade —
    >a monophyletic taxon in which all the members have
    >the trait (or have lost it secondarily); and all non-members lack it.

    Once again, exactly what I said. Remember, as your favorite source says, “A clade is a group consisting of an organism and all its descendants.” If the similarity can be accommodated by evolution such that the organisms can all be put in a clade, then it is homologous. If evolution cannot accommodate organisms with a given similarity into a clade, then that similarity is analogous.

    Thank you for twice confirming what I have already said!

    >“enough faith to believe that” You say this all the time,
    >but this isn’t an argument. You are merely making fun
    >of me. You side-step so many of my statements this way.
    >Do you really think you’ve won the point?

    It is neither a sidestep nor an argument. It is also not making fun of you. It is simply a statement of fact. You have FAR more faith than I if you believe the magic wand of time can produce something like bioluminescence a total of 40 different times! It is irrelevant whether or not I think I “won the point.” It is just important to point out the incredible faith it takes in order to be an evolutionist.

    >and I’m not waving any magic wand. I don’t expect you
    >to accept the earth is billions of years old, but at least you
    >can understand how geological time works in evolutionary
    >explanations.

    You most certainly are waving a magic wand, and I say that because I do understand how scientifically irresponsible ideas about the age of the earth affect evolutionary explanations. Evolutionists think that they can get away from the fact that they must believe in ridiculously improbable events happening over and over again by believing there is enough time for them to happen. However, that is nothing more than a magic wand – it negates the need for any mechanism or explanation. Just wave the magic wand of time, and it doesn’t matter how ridiculously improbable the event is.

    >You should be ashamed to quote scientific papers like
    >this because the mental gymnastics that you claim
    >evolutionists must go through are only the result of your
    >own distortions and misunderstandings of evolutionary arguments.

    I know you hate it when I point out the fact that evolutionary thinking is irrational, but get used to it. I do it a lot. In addition, I am sure it burns you even more that I can do that using evolutionary sources. Nevertheless, unlike you, I am not persuaded by the argument from authority. You are convinced when a scientist says, “trust me, I am an expert, and this is what the data say.” You’ve already proven that. However, I am not. I prefer to look at the data myself and think for myself. When I do that, it is easy to expose the mental gymnastics evolutionists are required to engage in so that they can continue to believe what they believe.

    >For instance, in this post you misunderstand how
    >evolutionists tell the difference between homology
    >and analogy and then make up the idea that evolutionists
    >believe is it sheer coincidence when a trait evolves convergently.

    It is clearly you who misunderstands how evolutionists tell the difference between homology and analogy, as the quotes you use to supposedly support your case actually support mine.

    >What gives you the right to use an evolutionary argument to
    >claim evolution didn’t happen?

    The fact that I actually look at what the data say and make logical conclusions from the data. Once again, I know how important the argument from authority is to you. However, you won’t find that on this blog. There are plenty of other blogs you can read if you want the argument from authority. Here, you will read what the data indicate, regardless of what your high priests say.

  10. jlwile says:

    Shooter, I will let Josiah reply to your posts to him, but I had to point this out. It is too much fun. You say:

    >But we’re confronted with evidence that it did indeed
    >evolve 40 different ways (actually, I don’t know how
    >many different chemical processes there are, I can’t read the actual paper)

    You admit that you haven’t read the paper, but you claim it shows evidence that bioluminescence evolved in 40 different ways! Nice. In other words, the scientist who wrote the paper says it happened, so you will believe it happened without bothering to look at the data.

    If you actually look at the data, you will see there is, indeed, NO evidence that bioluminescence evolved in 40 different ways. Instead, the author just shows that the similarities in bioluminescence cannot be accommodated in an evolutionary framework as resulting from a common ancestor, so the similarities must be sheer coincidence, and bioluminescence must have evolved in 40 different ways. That’s not evidence. It’s special pleading, and as Simon Conway Morris has shown, it is EVERYWHERE in evolution.

    Once other thing. You claim:

    >Besides arguing for a negation, the problem is
    >ever “irreducible” system has be later shown to
    >be reducible: the eye, the flagellum, blood clotting.

    Once again, that is certainly false. The flagellum has not been shown to be irreducibly complex:

    Spinning Tales About the Bacterial Flagellum

    Neither has blood clotting:

    Misrepresenting Michael Behe’s Arguments for Irreducible Complexity of the Blood Clotting Cascade

    In addition, the eye has never been called irreducibly complex. Instead, if you would bother to actually read what you are trying to critique, you would find that it is the MOLECULAR LIGHT-SENSING SYSTEM that is irreducibly complex.

  11. Josiah says:

    Your reply is interesting, Shooter, because it touches on the core of the difference that I see between Micro and Macro evolution.

    Micro evolution follows prety much the course you’ve said and in particular uses small changes to result in a large one. It’s like trying to roll six sixes on fair die, except that every time you roll a six you’re allowed to carefully move the die to the side and leave it as a roll. So you could expect to finish the challenge in about 36 rolls (if one in 6 rolls is a 6) instead of 46656 (6^6) rolls. Of course the element of random chance also works against evolution so saying the improvement WILL be selected is technically incorrect (a given animal that’s better able to store food, smarter, or even faster could still be caught and eaten by a predator.) Also the chance of an improvement IS actually quite small. However I’ll grant that you have enough specimines for the effect to be real and observable.

    However macro evolution requires some significant change which cannot be easily broken down into such stages. A finch with a marginally longer beak will be more likely to survive in certain environments, and hence more likely to breed and produce more long-beaked finches. But an insect which suddenly develops lucifrase wont be any more likely to survive. An insect which suddenly develops luciferin wont be any more likely to survive. An insect which suddenly develops any of the mechanisms needed for a tail-flasher but which doesn’t have the recipe for the chemicals wont’ be any more likely to survive. And so the selection system that you rely on disappears, falling back to improbabilities that frankly border on imposibility, even given centuries of random mutations.

    If I may argue one other thing; you say “But we’re confronted with evidence that it did indeed evolve 40 different ways.”
    It seems to me that we’re confronted with quite good evidence that it EXISTS in 40 different varieties, but to make the jump from that to your statement requires evolution to be the only method by which such things could possibly arise. Otherwise, as I said earlier, you are using circular logic in presuming that evolution is the mechanism used to prove that evolution is the mechanism used.

  12. Josiah, thank you. Your reply is interesting as well. Your new die-rolling example is much better than the lottery one. A trait is selected for when it results in increased (relative to rest of the population) reproduction of offspring. So it’s an after the fact determination. If an organism gets eaten before it reproduces, then whatever mutation has occurred will be lost, not selected for, no matter how beneficial it is.

    The chance that any given mutation is beneficial is very small. The vast majority are neutral and many are deleterious. But while mutation is required to evolve new traits, recombination is a powerful force in natural selection as well. The island effect – where isolated populations on islands change rapidly – is an example.

    “But an insect which suddenly develops lucifrase” Evolutionists don’t claim anything develops suddenly (saltation), but through small gradual steps. Again, I don’t know the details of lucifrase evolution, (note that the author of the review admits much is not known of mechanisms in this case either. And I am not afraid to admit when I don’t know something), but in this hypothetical, lucifrase will have a direct antecedent that is only slightly different that either benefited the organism or was neutral. So the first organism that developed lucifrase, took whatever material was at hand, and slightly altered it. A new complex molecule was not made from scratch.

    “Macro evolution” is not a process separated from micro evolution. Creationist misuse the term to deliberately mislead. Relatively “sudden” evolution is as rare as you suspect it must be.

    “evolution to be the only method by which such things could possibly arise”. Well, evolution is the only method that such things have been shown to arise. I’m still waiting for the evidence for special creation to be presented. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Only the massive amount of evidence for evolution is used in proving evolution happened (and is happening*). Then that established fact can be presumed to talk about traits that are in existence.

    * Question for Jay – Does recent (thousands of years) evolution of adult lactose-tolerance involve degrading of the genome?

  13. As for confronting the data on your own, Karl Giberson has a good post on BioLogos about that. Questions to answer about fossils if you are looking at the DATA yourself, without the filtering of the expert:

    “Where might you find a fossil if I asked you to go fetch one? How much of a fossil skeleton is typically present? How do you figure out the age of a fossil? What exactly is a fossil? What parts of a skeleton are most likely to be missing or incompletely fossilized? How do you decide if bones found together are from the same organism?

    If you cannot answer simple questions like these then you cannot confront fossil data “on your own.” And fossils are the simplest part of the evolutionary picture. Interpreting genomic data, with its complex biochemical, statistical, and historical underpinnings is not remotely possible without the relevant expertise.”

    Giberson responded to the criticism of this post at Uncommon Decent as well.

  14. jlwile says:

    It’s no wonder you like that post at Biologos, Shooter. After all, it is saying, “The only proper argument is the argument from authority. People are too ignorant to think for themselves. Therefore, they must listen to us. We are experts. We will tell them what to think.”

    You are free to be convinced by the argument from authority (much to the chagrin of Carl Sagan), but please understand that those of us who think for themselves will not be swayed by it. In answer to their very simple questions:

    >Where might you find a fossil if I asked you to go fetch one?

    Near where I live, I would go to Jefferson County, near U.S. 241. In general, you look for sedimentary rocks, preferably those that have been recently exposed by erosion. River beds that dry up in the summer are awesome places to find fossils.

    >How do you figure out the age of a fossil?

    Evolutionists think they can do that by looking at index fossils. They find fossils in the same stratum that they think indicate a certain era of earth’s history, and that tells them what era the stratum was laid down in. Of course, this is incredibly unreliable, but it is how evolutionists tend to work. If they are “lucky” enough to have the right kinds of rocks, they can use various radiometric dating methods as well. However, those are also very unreliable.

    >What exactly is a fossil?

    It is the preserved remains of once-living organisms. There are many types of fossils, including petrified remains, casts, molds, carbonized remains, remains encased in things like amber and ice, etc.

    >What parts of a skeleton are most likely to be missing or incompletely fossilized?

    Cartilage is likely to be missing. The lighter, less dense bones are less likely to be fossilized.

    >How do you decide if bones found together are from the same organism?

    There are many different ways, and it depends on the organism in question. For example, there are general characteristics in reptiles that indicate different stages of development. If you see several fossils that all indicate the same stage of development, it is likely that the fossils come from the same organism. Additionally, you can often recognize signs of specific abnormalities. If it is the kind of abnormality that affects many bones, you can assign them to the same individual that way. Also, sometimes the bones are found articulated together. That’s an obvious clue.

    Interestingly enough, these are all covered in my 7th grade science course. Thus, Biologos thinks that most people don’t have the equivalent of a 7th-grade education. Not surprising – they want to believe people are too ignorant to think for themselves. It seems that SOME people are…

    On the larger point, however, Biologos also doesn’t seem to understand the difference between DATA and INTERPRETATION. There are some very technical issues related to various scientific pursuits. Those are best handled by experts. However, that involves straight data analysis. Thus, when I read a scientific paper, the data HAS already been “filtered” by many experts. They have used their expertise to do things like determine which fossils come from which specimens, etc.

    What Biologos and you don’t want people to do is look at the data and think for themselves about what they mean. This doesn’t take nearly as much technical expertise as the data analysis does. Perhaps the reason you don’t understand this is that you haven’t done any scientific research. Since I have done scientific research for many years, it is commonplace to me. In my field, for example, I was once very well-known for the analysis of neutron energy spectra. Research groups from around the world would have me look at their raw neutron data and try to tease out what neutrons came from what kinds of nuclear reactions. Once I did that (the very technical part), they would then do the interpretation of the data (the much less technical part) to determine what it meant for their experiment.

    This is very common in science, and it is what is great about the scientific literature, which you seem incapable of reading. The scientific literature presents the data after the technical analysis. What an educated person does (and what you don’t do) is read the scientific literature so that he or she can see what the DATA say. Then, he or she thinks for himself or herself to draw conclusions. That way, you don’t get trapped into taking the beliefs of others on faith.

    I must say that it is nice to know that the fact that I have the audacity to think for myself bothers you so much!

    >Question for Jay

    That’s Dr. Wile to you.

    >Does recent (thousands of years) evolution of adult lactose-tolerance
    >involve degrading of the genome?

    Most likely. We must produce lactase when we are young, as that is how we feed. In many populations, however, the lactase gene is “turned off” later in life, and the adult is lactose intolerant. In order for a person to stay lactose-tolerant, the mechanism that turns the lactase gene off must be degraded to the point that it no longer works. Either that or more copies of the gene were made, and the turn off switch cannot find them all. Thus, lactose tolerance is the result of a loss of information in the genome.

    >“Macro evolution” is not a process separated from micro evolution.
    >Creationist misuse the term to deliberately mislead.

    Wrong on both counts. Macroevolution is certainly a process separated from microevolution, as it involves a completely different mechanism. Microevolution does not involve the insertion of anything new into the genome. It simply results from natural selection acting on standard genetic variation or genetic degradation caused by mutation. This process is well understood and easy to observe. Macroevolution, on the other hand, requires new information added to a genome. Not only has this never been observed, there is also no current mechanism consistent with the laws of chemistry and physics as we know them to allow for such a thing to happen. Evolutionist deliberately lie about this, because they want ignorant people to believe that evidence for microevolution is also evidence for macroevolution.

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