Coyne and Embryonic Development…Wrong AGAIN!

A student recently sent me a question based on a statement made in Dr. Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Since there doesn’t seem to be much written about it for a general audience, I thought I would summarize the issue. Here is Dr. Coyne’s statement:

One of my favorite cases of embryological evidence for evolution is the furry human fetus. We are famously known as “naked apes” because, unlike other primates, we don’t have a thick coat of hair. But in fact for one brief period we do – as embryos. Around sixth months after conception, we become completely covered with a fine, downy coat of hair called lanugo. Lanugo is usually shed about a month before birth, when it’s replaced by the more sparsely distributed hair with which we’re born. (Premature infants, however, are sometimes born with lanugo, which soon falls off.) Now, there’s NO NEED for a human embryo to have a transitory coat of hair. After all, it’s a cozy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the womb. Lanugo can be explained ONLY as a remnant of our primate ancestry: fetal monkeys also develop a coat of hair at about the same stage of development. Their hair, however, doesn’t fall out, but hangs on to become the adult coat. And, like humans, fetal whales also have lanugo, a remnant of when their ancestors lived on land.1 (emphasis mine)

Note the strong words by Dr. Coyne. Embryos have “no need” for such hair, and thus its presence can “only” be explained as a remnant of our primate ancestry. Not surprisingly, Dr. Coyne is wrong on both counts.

Continue reading “Coyne and Embryonic Development…Wrong AGAIN!”

Synthetic Life Shows the Impossibility of Abiogenesis

Dr Craig Venter made the news last week in a big way. As The Guardian put it:

Craig Venter and his team have built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell to make what they call the world’s first synthetic life form.

It’s an amazing feat of biotechnology, and the process he and his team produced might result in some incredible applications down the road. What I find interesting about the process, however, is how well it illustrates that life simply cannot come about as the result of random chemical reactions guided by some sort of selection process. In other words, this stunning achievement really demonstrates the impossibility of abiogenesis.

The scientific report of Venter and his team’s accomplishment can be found on the website of the journal Science1. I finally got around to reading it, and it is truly fascinating. When you look at the details of how they created their “synthetic” life form, you find that Venter and his team relied on already-living systems not once, not twice, but a total of three times. Without relying on these already-living systems, they would not have been able to produce their “synthetic” cell.

Continue reading “Synthetic Life Shows the Impossibility of Abiogenesis”


I want to discuss more about Dr. Peter Borger’s excellent posts at Creation Ministries International’s website, because I really think he is onto something. As anyone who is remotely familiar with young-earth creationism knows, God designed specific kinds of organisms. Those organisms were created with the ability to adapt to changing environments, so the organisms we see today are those that descended from the various created kinds. The scientific pursuit dedicated to determining exactly what kinds of organisms were made and how the organisms we see today are related to those created kinds of organisms is called baraminology. This word comes from the Hebrew words bara, which means “created,” and min, which means “kind.”

So how did God give these created kinds the ability to adapt to changing conditions? According to Dr. Borger, He gave them baranomes, which are:

pluripotent, undifferentiated genomes with an intrinsic ability for rapid adaptation and speciation. Baranomes are genomes that contained an excess of genes and variation-inducing genetic elements, and the law of natural preservation shaped individual populations of genomes according to what part of the baranome was used in a particular environment.

In other words, the genome of each created organism was full of many genes, some of which the organism didn’t even need. These “excess genes,” as well as changes produced by the built-in elements that promote genetic change, were then acted on by natural selection (which he calls “natural preservation”) to produce the various organisms that we see today. In the article I linked above, Dr. Borger produces some powerful evidence to support this idea.

Continue reading “Baranomes”

Others Get E-MAIL

In my “Links to Investigate” section, I recently added Red Wagon Tutorials. This is a business set up by the most talented teacher with whom I have ever worked. Not surprisingly, he is a young-earth creationist, and he recently forwarded me an E-MAIL that demonstrates what happens when a great young-earth creationist teacher uses great young-earth creationist materials in class. Here is the E-MAIL:

Dear Mr. Rosenoff,

I was in your 2006-2007 TPS highschool Biology class and then in your 2007-2008 TPS highschool Marine Biology class. I am currently in my second year of college/senior year of highschool. I wanted to let you know how much taking your classes has helped me and shaped my career path. In my first year of college I took BI143, Marine Biology. I learned more in your class than I did in the college class. Also, without everything you
taught me about marine biology, lab procedures, and note taking, I wouldn’t have received one of the few A’s in the class. Currently I am taking BI102, cellular biology. So far everything has been review. The time you took to explain all the concepts, especially genetics, has really helped me excel in this class. My teacher is constantly shocked that I always know the answers or am one step ahead of the class because of what I remember from your biology class 3 years ago.

Also, because of how amazing your classes were, in the fall of 2011, I will be transferring to OSU to major in biology with a premed emphasis. I am also hoping to attend a medical school that has a joint M.D. / Ph.D. program so I can continue in biology. If all goes as planned, I will have my Ph.D. in biology by the time I am 28. Thank you so much for all the time you took to make biology fun and interesting to me. Your classes were the first time I had actually enjoyed science.

Note that this student is in her second year of college and her senior year of high school. Not only is she well ahead of most of her peers, she is clearly excelling in her college-level courses. While her own hard work and the fact that she is being homeschooled both play a large part in her success, note who SHE credits. She credits Mr. Rosenoff. That’s the power of an excellent teacher.

Of course, this kind of E-MAIL also shows how ignorant some evolutionists are when it comes to education. Remember that not too long ago, an AP news article discussed young-earth creationist science texts, including those that I wrote. Remember what Dr. Jerry Coyne said in that article:

“If this is the way kids are home-schooled then they’re being shortchanged, both rationally and in terms of biology,” Coyne said. He argued that the books may steer students away from careers in biology or the study of the history of the earth.

This E-MAIL clearly shows just how wrong Dr. Coyne is. This young lady was definitely not shortchanged when it comes to her science education. She is way ahead of her peers when it comes to science. In addition, far from steering clear of a career in biology, she is going for her MD/PhD.

It’s really too bad that people like Dr. Coyne are more committed to dogma than to science. If Dr. Coyne were really interested in producing excellent students who are excited about science, he would not make such ignorant comments about quality science textbooks!

Genetic Redundancy – An Amazing Design

Rotating Anmation of DNA
(Animation in the public domain)
As I mentioned previously, Dr. Peter Borger has an amazing series of articles on genetics over at Creation Ministries International’s website. He is putting together a very impressive interpretation of the genome based on what has been learned about genetics over the past few years. He starts his series with a discussion of genetic redundancy, which is truly incredible.

The article begins by discussing something that has been known for quite some time: It is possible to disable a gene so that it no longer produces the protein it is supposed to produce. This technique is called gene knockout, because it as if the gene has been “knocked out” of the organism’s genome. The organism is referred to as a knockout organism or just a knockout.

Why would you study a knockout organism? Well, imagine that you have identified a gene but don’t really know what it does for the organism. If you create a version of the organism with that gene knocked out, any negative effects that you see will most likely be the result of the missing gene, so that will give you some idea of what the gene does.

This is a great experimental procedure that has produced a lot of genetic understanding over the years. However, it has also produced a very interesting result: often a knockout organism is not significantly different from the standard (usually called wild-type) organism. In other words, some genes can be knocked out of an organism with little or no effect on the organism itself.

This might sound surprising to someone who is not familiar with the genetics literature, but it really isn’t. In fact, geneticists thought they had an explanation for this interesting result…until experiments over the past decade or so really upset the applecart.

Continue reading “Genetic Redundancy – An Amazing Design”

The RNA Virus Paradox

A diagram of HIV, which is a retrovirus (image in the public domain)

Dr. Peer Terborg has an incredible series of articles on genetics and the design of life over at Creation Ministries International’s website. The ones to which I refer begin with “Evidence for the design of life…” While I plan to write about many of the major concepts discussed in these articles, I want to start with sort of a “sidelight” that appears in part 3 of his series.

Not too long ago, I wrote about the fact that evolution (in the ‘goo to you’ sense) is, at best, an unconfirmed hypothesis. A commenter, Grant C, tried to convince me that it is something more by offering several lines of evidence for evolution. Of course, I attempted to educate Grant on what the evidence really meant, but after only a few exchanges, he stopped responding.

One of his major lines of evidence for evolution was endogenous retroviral insertions (ERVs) in the genomes of primates. If you don’t know what ERVs are, you need to first learn what a retrovirus is.

Continue reading “The RNA Virus Paradox”

Science Has Demonstrated Evolutionists Wrong and Creationists Right…AGAIN

Schematic of the Human Retina
Illustration by Megan Fruchte

Many evolutionists have claimed that the human eye (actually the vertebrate eye in general) is wired “backwards.” According to evolutionists, this is such a terrible way to make an eye that it clearly shows the eye has no Designer. What is so “terrible” about the way the eye is wired? Well, light that enters the eye is detected by specialized cells called rods and cones. Those rods and cones convert the light that they detect into signals that travel through association neurons and into nerve fibers that carry the signals to the brain. As shown in the illustration above, however, the neurons and nerves that carry those signals are in front of the rods and cones. Thus, light must travel through the nerves and association neurons before it can hit the rods and cones.

According to evolutionists, this is a terrible design. After all, if anyone with any sense were to design an eye, the rods and cones would be the first thing the light hits. That way, the rods and cones would get an unobstructed view of the light. Since the vertebrate eye is not designed the way these evolutionists think should be “obvious,” it is clear (to them) that the eye was not designed. Indeed, in his book The Blind Watchmaker (probably his best work), Richard Dawkins says:

Any engineer would naturally assume that the photocells would point towards the light, with their wires leading backwards towards the brain. He would laugh at any suggestion that the photocells might point away from the light, with their wires departing on the side nearest the light. Yet this is exactly what happens in all vertebrate retinas.1

Of course, like most evolutionary nonsense, the more science we learn, the more we see how wrong this argument is.

Continue reading “Science Has Demonstrated Evolutionists Wrong and Creationists Right…AGAIN”

Babies and Morality

Is morality something that is a part of our very being, or is it something that is learned from our culture? From a scientific point of view, that is a hard thing to answer. Data exist that could support either argument, so often the conclusion that is drawn from the scientific evidence tells us more about the interpreter than the data. A very interesting article in the New York Times illustrates this in very stark terms.

Before I start discussing this article, there are two things I want to make clear. First, I got this article from PZ Myers’s blog. As anyone who reads this blog probably knows, he is my favorite atheist. More than anyone else, he demonstrates how the atheistic worldview is based on irratonaility. As I have written before, there are serious scholars who are atheists, and their arguments need to be heeded. There are also hacks that are atheists, and their arguments make it very easy to be a theist. PZ Meyers is, indeed, one of the hacks. Nevertheless, I read his blog because it is fun to see the mental gymnastics through which a scientist must go in order to be an atheist.

The second thing I want to make clear is that I do not think that the argument from morality is a reasonable argument for the existence of God. While there is ovewhelming scientific evidence for the existence of God, the argument from morality simply isn’t one of them. Indeed, in my experience, some of the most immoral people I know call themselves Christians, and their “morality” is put to shame by many atheists.

So…while I don’t think the argument from morality holds much weight, I do think that the interpretation of any data related to morality (like the interpretation of many other kinds of data) is heavily influenced by whether or not you think God exists. This New York Times story demonstrates that in no uncertain terms.

Continue reading “Babies and Morality”

Now This is Interesting…

Answers research journal has just published a very interesting study called Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin. If you are not familiar with the term “holobaramin,” it refers to a group of animals that are all related to one another through common descent.

Remember, in the creationist view, God created individual KINDS of organisms, and the genomes of those organisms were created so that they could adjust and adapt to changing conditions. As a result, the organisms that God created could change significantly, but not infinitely. Their amount of change is bound by the level of information in their genomes.

Wolves and dogs, for example, are a part of the same holobaramin. Even though a Chihuahua and a timber wolf might look and behave very differently, they both descended from the same kind of animal created by God. So when a creationist says that certain creatures belong to the same holobaramin, he or she means they both descended from the same created kind of creature.

The analysis presented in the peer-reviewed paper linked above says that Australopithecus sediba should be placed in the human holobaramin, which means it descended from people. If you recall, this is quite different from my analysis of A. sediba.

While the paper does do a solid baraminological analysis, I am not sure I agree with that conclusion. After all, this paper focused only on craniodental features. While I don’t have a problem with that in general, I do have a problem with including Australopithecus sediba in such an analysis. Remember that the majority of the cranial and dental bones recovered were from a juvenile, and it is difficult to compare juveniles with adults. Thus, I am afraid that making a definitive placement for Australopithecus sediba is a bit premature. Hopefully, more fossils will eventually be published so that a more thorough baraminological can take place.

The other conclusion of the paper was quite interesting:

Results indicate that hominins may be divided into as many as four different holobaramins: (1) the genus Homo (including Australopithecus sediba), (2) the genus Paranthropus, (3) Australopithecus africanus, and (4) Gorilla, Pan, Australopithecus afarensis, and Australopithecus garhi.

So Australopithecus africanus is not related to and A. afarensis or A. garhi. That surprises me. However, based on the craniodental data, it seems to be the correct conclusion.

Another Confirmation of the Creationist View of the Genome

In my previous post, I discussed the new journal BIO-Complexity. I briefly discussed the first two articles in the journal, but I want to go into one of them in more detail, because the results are fascinating.

To understand the importance of the paper’s result, remember one of the ways evolutionists think information can be added to a genome. They think that gene duplication occurs, resulting in two identical genes. The copy of the gene can mutate freely, since it doesn’t really have to produce anything. After all, the original gene is still producing the protein that the organism needs, so if the duplicate gene doesn’t produce anything useful, there is really no problem. Since the copy is free to mutate, it can presumably become a completely different gene, adding information to the genome. This is supposed to play a major role in evolution.

So imagine you have this gene copy that is free to mutate. Since it can mutate a lot, it presumably can “explore” all sorts of possibilities as far as the new proteins it might make. When it hits on a protein that is beneficial to the organism’s survival, it will be naturally selected, and presto, there is new information in the genome of that species.

This idea sounds reasonable (ignoring annoying things like information theory), but it hinges on the assumption that a duplicated gene is free to mutate and that the cell continues to “sample” that mutating gene so as to “try out” the new proteins for which the duplicate is coding. Well, that didn’t happen in the experiment presented in the BIO-Complexity paper.

Continue reading “Another Confirmation of the Creationist View of the Genome”