Leaf Miners and Amazing Symbiosis

This is the ADULT form of a leaf miner. Image from:
I ran across a short article on Creation Ministries International’s website that really intrigued me. It was about “green islands” on decaying leaves, which are patches of green on a leaf that is otherwise dead. I have seen these “green islands” many times, and I just assumed they were the result of areas in the leaf where the majority of chlorophyll just hadn’t completely decayed away. Perhaps that region was chlorophyll-rich and thus would take longer to lose its chlorophyll than the rest of the leaf. However, when the green spot is strongly localized, it is probably the result of the larval version of a leaf miner insect.

This really intrigued me, so I spent some time looking into leaf-mining insects, and what I found was truly incredible. First, there are a lot of leaf miners. Some are moths, some are flies, some are beetles, and even some are wasps. The adult lays her eggs in within the tissue of a leaf, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae begin eating the insides of the leaf. This, of course, protects the larvae, because they are not exposed to predators. They stay inside the leaf until they are ready to pupate (start metamorphosis into their adult form).

Now, of course, if a larva is “unlucky” enough to hatch shortly before or after the leaf falls from the tree, this could be a problem. After all, the larva is eating the living tissue inside the leaf and therefore needs the leaf to stay alive while it is feeding. What happens if the leaf dies before the larva is ready to pupate? Well, that’s where the “green islands” come in. It seems that the larva can keep the portion of the leaf it is eating alive so that it can continue to eat and develop, and that’s why the area around the larva stays green!

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Life Is A Cabaret

You might have noticed that my blogging frequency has declined a bit. That’s because I am in a play, Cabaret, that is getting ready to open this weekend. It’s being performed at Anderson’s Mainstage Theater in Anderson, IN. Shows are at 7:30 PM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (4/29-5/1) this week and then Friday and Saturday (5/7,8) next week.

In case you are interested, I play Ernst Ludwig, a Nazi. I befriend the leading man in the show, Clifford Bradshaw, and no one knows I am a Nazi at first. I have to be fun and likeable (a stretch for me) so that when you finally see that I am a Nazi and will ruin everyone’s life, you are kind of surprised.

I am working with a very talented group of people. The person who plays the Emcee (Lot Turner) is playing his character in a much more “gritty” way than most interpretations I have seen, and the person playing Clifford Bradshaw (Cameron Vale) has a great singing voice. To me, however, the real standout is the young lady playing Sally Bowles, the female lead. Her name is Tiffany Taylor, and her interpretation of the character is truly unique. Her Sally is carefree, daring, and talented (as she must be), but there is a sophistication in her Sally that I have never seen in any production of Cabaret. The two people playing the older romantic parts, Herr Schultz (Bill Malone) and Fraulein Schneider (Nita Arnold), are simply adorable on stage. They play “two old people in love” in the cutest way I have ever seen. The closest thing I have to a love interest is Fraulein Kost, who is a prostitute. The actress who portrays her, Connie Rich, has the best German accent of all of us, and she plays her part spot on. She has a WONDERFUL singing voice, but unfortunately she has only one short song, and it is partly spoiled by me singing along with her.

The set is minimalist, which I don’t like, and the show suffers from some of the typical problems associated with community theater productions. However, it has been a lot of fun. If you are in the area, it is worth the $10 price of admission.

A Million Visitors in Just Under Three Years – Amazing!

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I have some problems with the Answers in Genesis ministry. At the same time, however, Jesus tells us that we must judge a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45), and the fruits of the Answers in Genesis ministry show that it is a very good tree.

One of those fruits is the wonderful Creation Museum, which just recently welcomed its one millionth guest. This is a remarkable achievement, given the fact that the museum has been around for less than three years.

What makes the museum so popular? Well, unlike many museums, it actually makes its visitors THINK. Rather than just mindlessly repeating the dogma of the day regarding origins, it actually shows how strongly a person’s preconceived notions can affect the conclusions that he or she draws from the scientific data. It also has a lot of world-class displays, including one of the famous fish eating another fish fossils and an amazing discussion of the construction processes that could have been used by Noah to build the ark.

There are some things I don’t like about the museum, but they pale in comparison to the things I like about it. I know most evolutionists are furious about the Creation Museum, and it’s easy to understand why. The more people think, the less they will believe in evolution!

With Enough Faith You Can Believe Anything!

The fish in the above public-domain photograph is a ninespine stickleback fish. It gets its name from the nine spines that stick up from its back. A similar fish, the threespine stickleback, looks very similar but (you guessed it!) has only three spines sticking out its back. Both fish have two spines sticking down from their pelvis, but those spines are typically larger in the threespine stickleback. These similar species of fishes have shown us more examples of the failed predictions of evolution.

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Cameleon Tongues – Another Example of Amazing Design

A chameleon using its tongue
The design we see in nature is powerful evidence for the existence of God. Indeed, it is so powerful that it forced world-renowned atheist Antony Flew to admit his lifetime of scholarship was wrong and that God must exist. The more we learn about this planet and the life on it, the more we stand in awe of that amazing design. The chameleon is an excellent example of this trend. For a long time, scientists have known about the amazing design features of the chameleon. The more we learn, however, the more amazing chameleons become!

For quite some time, biologists have puzzled over why a chameleon’s tongue is not affected by the temperature. After all, chameleons are cold-blooded. In other words, they cannot regulate their internal body temperature. As a result, their internal body temperature changes with the temperature of their surroundings. The colder the surroundings get, the colder the internal temperature of a chameleon gets.

Well, the colder the temperature, the slower the chemical reactions that power an animal’s muscles. Because of this, cold-blooded animals show a significant reduction in muscle action the colder the surroundings become. However, a chameleon’s tongue shows no significant reduction in action, even when the temperature dips almost to the freezing point of water! This is strange, because the tongue is a muscle, and all the chameleon’s other muscles are affected by temperature. Why not the tongue? Biologists now know the answer to that question, and it is remarkable.

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Australopithecus sediba: An Extinct Ape

On April 8th, Scientific American’s website had a story entitled “Spectacular South African Skeletons Reveal New Species from Murky Period of Human Evolution.” In that post, the author said:

Scientists working in South Africa have unveiled fossils of a human species new to science that they say could be the direct ancestor of our genus, Homo.

So those who discovered the fossil think that it could be a direct ancestor of genus that contains modern humans. Do the data support this bold claim? Not at all. In fact, based on the actual fossils that have been published,1 A. sediba looks like nothing but a specialized form of extinct ape.

First, you need to understand the nature of these fossils. They seem to come from two individuals. One is assumed to be an adult female (and is called MH2), and the other is assumed to be a juvenile male (and is called MH1). To get an idea of what few remains we have from these two individuals, you should click on the link below, where the actual fossil remains are laid over sketches of what complete skeletons would look like.

Illustration of the actual fossils

So from the assumed juvenile male, we have a fairly complete skull, one fairly complete humerus, one fairly complete tibia, one fairly complete clavicle, and assorted bits from the spine, pelvic girdle, ribcage, femur, and feet. From the assumed adult female, we have a fairly complete humerus, a fairly complete radius, a fairly complete ulna, a fairly complete scapula, and assorted bits from the jaw, clavicle, spine, ribcage, pelvic girdle, femur, knee, fibula, and feet. That’s not much to go on.

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Antony Flew Dies

With apologies to Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked), there are atheists, and then there are Atheists. Hacks like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers are atheists, and scholars like Thomas Nagel and Bradley Monton are Atheists.

Well, one of the greatest Atheists of all time, Antony Flew, recently died at the ripe old age of 87. Interestingly enough, he didn’t die an Atheist. Why? Because he was convinced by the evidence that God must exist. In his own words:

There were two factors in particular that were decisive.  One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source.  I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so.  With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code.  The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical.  The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a”lucky chance.” If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

Now don’t get the wrong idea – Flew did not become a Christian. After a lifetime of arguing against the existence of God, however, he was forced to concede that the evidence clearly indicates that God does, indeed, exist. To him, this God is not necessarily a personal God, but He is an all-powerful Creator. In the end, Flew was probably best described as a Deist.

Flew was a rare man, indeed. As an Atheist, he was a formidable foe. As a philosopher, he had enough integrity to follow the evidence to its logical conclusion, even if it meant repudiating his life’s work and finally admitting that God exists. As an Atheist-turned-Deist, he was a powerful demonstration of just how strong the evidence for God’s existence is.

He will be missed.

Wasp Pharmacology

A beewolf wasp
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wasp_August_2007-12.jpg
Beewolves are solitary wasps that typically prey on bees. The females dig tunnels and then drag their bee prey into the tunnels, where they lay their eggs on the bee. That way, when the larvae hatch, they have a ready source of food. There are several species of beewolves, but one in particular, Philanthus triangulum, loves to prey on honeybees, which makes it a pest for beekeepers.

Scientists from both the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and the University of Regensburg studied the reproductive process of this species, and they found an amazing thing: the female uses a cocktail of antibiotics to protect her young.1 Where does the female get those antibiotics? From bacteria that she cultures in her antennae!

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It is always wonderful to hear from students who use my courses and then experience spectacular success in university-level science courses. As readers of my blog already know, this happens a lot, and it is a nice reminder of how effective a young-earth creationist education can be.

However, every now and again I get a report about how effective a young-earth creationist education can be for pursuits other than university. Here is an example:

I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound appreciation for your stellar science products. My wife and I homeschooled our daughter through high school and used your biology, chemistry, advanced chemistry, and physics courses. Our daughter graduated last May and is now in paramedic school. Though all of the other 22 students ranging in age from recent high school graduates, to adults/post high school and college, etc. are struggling with patho-physiology and pharmacology, our daughter is not….as a matter of fact, she is excelling and earning the highest grades the instructor has ever given! She is able to converse with the medical director on a very high level having never taken any college courses prior to beginning these classes. She is affectionately known as “the overachiever”, the “guru”, and the “brain” who tutors everyone else. Thankfully, the other students do not see her as a threat, but as an asset. She feels that [your books were] wonderful preparation for the intensity of these classes, and we feel the same way.

It’s great to know that this person’s daughter is going to be out there saving lives. In addition, because of her commitment to sharing her expertise with others, there will probably be a few other paramedics out there who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to pass their training. This is all thanks to a young-earth creationist education and a student who took it seriously. It turns out young-earth creationism is not only good for science, it is good for public health!