Instant Cooperation Among Organisms

The alga (left) and yeast (right) are free-living, but when put in a situation where they must cooperate in order to survive, they do.  (images in the public domain)
The alga (left) and yeast (right) are free-living, but when put in a situation where they must cooperate in order to survive, they do. (electron microscope images in the public domain)

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that I am fascinated with mutualism – the phenomenon whereby organisms of different species live together in a mutually-beneficial way (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). I think it is probably a glimpse of what nature was like before the Fall. Based on what I see in mutualism, I think that lots of species were designed to cooperate with one another, and many of the pathological relationships we see today are corrupted versions of previously-beneficial ones.

Evolutionists have a different view, of course. The generally-accepted view is that mutualism starts out with one species trying to exploit another species. Here, for example, is how the text Symbiosis: An Introduction to Biological Associations, Second Edition puts it:1

Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of two organisms starting out in a mutualistic association. Most mutualistic symbioses probably began as parasitic ones, with one organism attempting to exploit another one.

To be fair, the authors of this text do allow for another option. There are some relationships between organisms that seem neither harmful nor beneficial. Barnacles that live on whales, for example, seem to neither harm nor help the whales in most cases. These kinds of relationships are called commensal, and the authors allow for mutualism to start out as a commensal relationship and then evolve into a mutualistic one.

The key, however, is the first sentence in the quote. They say it is difficult to conceive of two organisms starting out in a mutualistic relationship. Why? Because evolutionists cannot allow for a grand design in nature. They can’t look at the relationships in an ecosystem and see how they fit together in an overall plan. Instead, they have to imagine some scenario in which relationships are cobbled together by selfish organisms that are only concerned with their own survival. If organisms live in a mutually-beneficial relationship today, it is only because they evolved together (in a process called coevolution) from a negative relationship or at least a relationship that didn’t begin as a mutually-beneficial one.

A new study indicates that at least in some cases, this evolutionary-inspired idea is wrong.

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More Problems with Carbon-14 and Old-Earth Assumptions

A triceratops thigh bone being sawed in order to prepare it for carbon dating. (click for credit)

As I have noted previously, it’s a wonderful time to be a young-earth creationist. All sorts of interesting data are being uncovered that challenge the supposedly “rock-solid” idea that the earth is billions of years old. One of the more recent developments is the carbon dating of bones and other carbon-containing materials that are supposedly millions of years old. Carbon dating uses the radioactive decay of carbon-14 into nitrogen-14, which currently has a half-life of 5,730 years. This means that in old-earth terminology, carbon-14 decays “quickly.” Thus, if a bone (or some other material that is made of carbon) is really millions of years old and hasn’t been contaminated, you wouldn’t expect to find any carbon-14 in it. The carbon-14 should have long since decayed to the point where it is no longer detectable, even with the best scientific instruments we have today.

However, creation scientists have carbon-dated fossils, diamonds, and coal that are all supposed to be millions of years old. Nevertheless, they all have detectable amounts of carbon-14 in them. For example, this study shows detectable levels of carbon-14 in a range of carbon-containing materials that are supposedly 1-500 million years old. Surprisingly, the study includes diamonds from several different locations! Another study showed that fossil ammonites and wood from a lower Cretaceous formation, which is supposed to be 112-120 million years old, also have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. If these studies are accurate, they show that there is something wrong with the old-earth view: Either carbon dating is not the reliable tool it is thought to be for “recent” dating, or the fossils and materials that are supposed to be millions of years old are not really that old. Of course, both options could also be true.

While these studies use several different samples, they represent the work of only a few scientists. As a result, it is always possible that they are not as reliable as they seem. However, as time has gone on, more people have been looking for carbon-14 in carbon-containing materials that are supposed to be millions of years old, and the results are becoming more and more convincing. The most recent set of studies was presented at the joint meeting of the Asia Oceanic Geosciences Society and the American Geophysical Union (AOGS–AGU) that was held on August 13-17, 2012 in Singapore.

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Surprising? Only to Evolutionists!

The human genome is the sum of all the DNA contained in the nucleus of a human cell.
(Click for credit)
In 2001, the initial sequence of the human genome was published.1 Not only did it represent a triumph in biochemical research, it allowed us to examine human genetics in a way that had never been possible before. For the first time, we had a complete “map” of all the DNA in the nucleus of a human cell. Unfortunately, while the map was reasonably complete, scientists’ understanding of that map was not. Despite the fact that scientists had a really good idea of what was in human DNA, they didn’t have a good idea of how human cells actually used that material.

In fact, there were many scientists who thought that most of the contents of DNA is not really used at all. Indeed, when the project to sequence the human genome was first getting started, there were those who thought it would be senseless to sequence all the DNA in a human being. After all, it was clear to them that most of a person’s DNA is useless. In 1989, for example, New Scientist ran an article about what it called “the project to map the human genome.” In that article, the views of Dr. Sydney Brenner were brought up. As the director of the Molecular Genetics Unit of Britain’s Medical Research Council, he was considered an expert on human genetics. The article states:2

He argues that it is necessary to sequence only 2 percent the human genome: the part that contains coded information. The rest of the human genome, Brenner maintains, is junk. (emphasis mine)

This surprising view was probably the dominant view of scientists during the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, the article represents the idea that the rest of the human genome might be worth sequencing as being the position of only “some scientists.”

Now why would scientists think that most of the human genome is junk? Because of evolutionary reasoning. As Dr. Susumu Ohno (the scientist who coined the term “junk DNA”) said about one set of DNA segments:3

Our view is that they are the remains of nature’s experiments which failed. The earth is strewn with fossil remains of extinct species; is it a wonder that our genome too is filled with the remains of extinct genes?

Indeed, evolutionists have for quite some time presented the concept of “junk DNA” as evidence for evolution and against creation. In his book, Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design, Dr. John C. Advise says:4

…the vast majority of human DNA exists not as functional gene regions of any sort but, instead, consists of various classes of repetitive DNA sequences, including the decomposing corpses of deceased structural genes…To the best of current knowledge, many if not most of these repetitive elements contribute not one iota to a person’s well-being. They are well-documented, however, to contribute to many health disorders.

His point, of course, is that you would expect a genome full of junk in an evolutionary framework, but you would not expect it if the genome had been designed by a Creator. I couldn’t agree more. If evolution produced the genome, you would expect it to contain a whole lot of junk. If the genome had been designed by a loving, powerful Creator, however, it would not. Well…scientists have made a giant leap forward in understanding the human genome, and they have found that the evolutionary expectation is utterly wrong, and the creationist expectation has (once again) been confirmed by the data.

The leap began back in 2003, when scientists started a project called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE).5 Their goal was to use the sequence of the human genome as a map so that they could discover and define the functional elements of human DNA. Back in 2007, they published their preliminary report, based on only 1% of the human genome. In that report, they found that the vast majority of the portion of the genome they studied was used by the cell.6 Now they have published a much more complete analysis, and the results are very surprising, at least to evolutionists!

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More on Mercury’s Magnetic Field

Mercury's magnetic field and how it interacts with the solar wind.
(Image courtesy of Windows to the Universe, click for details.)

One of the many scientific successes of young-earth creationism involves planetary magnetic fields. In 1984, Dr. Russell Humphreys produced a model of planetary magnetic fields that not only explained the data that were available at the time, but it also made several predictions.1 Over the years, many of those predictions have been borne out by the data (see here and here, for example). Compare this to the old-earth theory, which continues to struggle in accommodating the data that we already know (see here and here, for example).

Not content to rest on his laurels, Dr. Humphreys has continued to use his successful model to make more predictions. One of his recent predictions involved what MESSENGER (the latest unmanned spacecraft to visit Mercury) would learn when it measured Mercury’s magnetic field. The last spacecraft to visit Mercury was Mariner 10 back in 1974-1975, and based on some assumptions, it was able to measure Mercury’s magnetic field. Since that measurement was made more than 35 years ago, and since the young-earth model predicts that all planetary magnetic fields should decay fairly rapidly, Humphreys used his young-earth model to predict that Mercury’s magnetic field should have decayed by 4-6 percent since Mariner 10’s previous measurement. By contrast, the old-earth model predicted no measurable change.

Nearly five months ago, I wrote about the scientific paper that had been written regarding MESSENGER’s measurement. The main conclusion from the paper was that the shape of Mercury’s magnetic field is completely unlike what was assumed in the Mariner 10 measurement. As a result, I concluded that the new measurement could not be compared to the old one. That, of course, was a disappointing conclusion, since I was very interested in finding if the young-earth planetary magnetic field model was successful in yet another one of its predictions.

Interestingly enough, the first comment on the post suggested that the old Mariner 10 data should be reanalyzed now that we know the shape of Mercury’s magnetic field. That way, a proper comparison of the two measurements could be made. At the time, I suggested that the raw data probably still existed, but it might be hard to retrieve because of the changes that had taken place in computer technology. As a result, I wasn’t sure whether or not such a reanalysis could be done.

Well, even though a reanalysis of the raw data hasn’t been done, Dr. Humphreys has done the next best thing, and it does seem that the data at least partially confirm his prediction.

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The Appendix: More Evidence That the Creationist Prediction Is Correct

The Human Appendix (Gray's Anatomy Image)
For many, many years, evolutionists have called the human appendix a vestigial organ. In their view, our supposed ancestors needed a large cecum for digestive purposes. Over time, however, we evolved so that we didn’t need such a large cecum anymore. However, mutation and natural selection never got around to completely removing the large cecum and, as a result, we have a leftover, useless, small version called the appendix. As one evolutionist put it:1

…we have an appendix (a small remnant of a prior ancestor species’ intestinal sack) which not only is of no use to us but which can sometimes kill us when it gets clogged up and infected! What kind of god or other “intelligent designer” would design organisms with such useless, imperfect, wasteful, and sometimes even harmful physical features?

As I wrote previously, there is strong evidence that this evolution-inspired idea is incorrect. Evidence indicates that the appendix acts as a safe reservoir of the beneficial bacteria that usually populate your intestine. That way, when you have a disease that wipes out those bacteria, they can quickly repopulate your intestine so as to restore your normal level of health. This function conforms quite nicely to a creationist prediction made several years before this evidence began to mount.

Of course, a few pieces of evidence do not make a clear-cut case. As a result, it is important to test the idea that the appendix has a vital function in the human body by making predictions based on that assumption and then seeing whether or not the predictions are confirmed by the data. This has recently happened. In 2007, some medical scientists wrote a paper suggesting that the appendix served as a reservoir for the beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines.2 As a result, they predicted that if specific intestinal diseases were investigated, it should be found that people who have those diseases are better able to fight them if they have an appendix.

Well, a study that tested this prediction was recently published, and the prediction was dramatically confirmed.

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More Evidence Supporting The Young-Earth Theory of Earth’s Magnetic Field

One of my “top five” reasons for thinking that the earth is only thousands of years old comes from studying its magnetic field. As I wrote in the post I just linked, the young-earth theory of earth’s magnetic field (often called the ‘rapid-decay theory’) not only properly reproduces the magnetic fields of the planets, it actually predicted two of those magnetic fields before they were measured. When a theory can make predictions regarding unmeasured quantities and the subsequent measurements agree with the theory, there is strong evidence that the theory is true.

The young-earth theory of earth’s magnetic field not only correctly predicted the magnetic fields of two planets before they were measured, it has made other predictions that were later confirmed by measurement. As discussed in the previous post, it predicted that rocks from Mars should show that Mars at one time had a planetary magnetic field, even though it does not have one today. That was later confirmed. In addition, it predicted that Mercury’s magnetic field has decreased since it was last measured in 1975. MESSENGER, the latest spacecraft to visit Mercury, did a “quick and dirty” measurement of Mercury’s magnetic field in 2008, and the measurement confirmed this prediction, albeit with very large error bars. I eagerly await MESSENGER’S more precise measurement to see exactly how close the young-earth theory’s prediction is to the precisely-measured value.

In the meantime, some geologists have come up with even more evidence for the validity of the young-earth theory of earth’s magnetic field.

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40,000 Generations of Escherichia coli Data Support the Creationist View of the Genome

Jeffery E. Barrick and his colleagues have published the results of one of the most interesting evolution experiments I have ever read.1 Actually, the genius behind this experiment is Richard E. Lenski, who is on the author list as well. Lenski started an experiment with E. coli almost 20 years ago, and it is still producing excellent results. Essentially, the experiment followed twelve populations of E. coli over all those years. The focus of the paper was one of those twelve populations.

In the experiment, the bacteria were grown on a minimal medium with glucose as a limiting nutrient. Each day, a small sample of the culture was removed and placed in a fresh medium. Periodically, samples were frozen so that they could be analyzed in detail at any time.

Thanks to the wonderful technology we have today, the entire genome of E. coli can be sequenced in a “reasonably short” amount of time. So this paper reports on the results of comparing the genome of the original bacterium to that of the bacteria after 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, and 40,000 generations. The results were “rather surprising,” according to the authors.

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Creationist Prediction about the Human Appendix

The creationist view of science is a robust paradigm that has made many predictions regarding the data. Time and time again, those predictions have been demonstrated to be correct. Not all that long ago, I wrote about the fact that the only successful predictions regarding the data related to planetary magnetic fields come from a young-earth creationist model. Well, it turns out that specific creationist predictions have been confirmed again, much to the chagrin of evolutionists.

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My “Top Five” Reasons for Believing in a Young Earth (Part 2 of 6)

Now that I have the scientific philosophy out of the way, it is time to discuss the major data that lead me to believe in a young earth. The first issue is the phenomenon of planetary magnetic fields. We all know that the earth has a magnetic field. It’s what makes the Boy Scout compass needle point north. If we look at the other bodies in the solar system (planets and moons), some have magnetic fields, while others do not. Mars, for example, has no planetary magnetic field. It has some residual magnetism (which is important), but there is no significant planetary magnetic field. Mercury, on the other hand, has a magnetic field (which is also important).

Scientists have been studying the earth’s magnetic field since 1835, and since that time, its strength has been decaying. Also, it appears that at least a few times in the past, its poles have reversed. Most likely, then, at some points in the past, the Boy Scout compass needle pointed south.
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