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.

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Leaf Miners and Amazing Symbiosis

This is the ADULT form of a leaf miner. Image from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cameraria_ohridella_8419.jpg
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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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!

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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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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I Get E-MAIL

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!

Bacterial Batteries?

A schematic of the bacterial flagellum.
Image in the public domain.
The bacterial flagellum has become a symbol of the intelligent design movement, and rightly so. After all, bacteria are commonly recognized as the “simplest” organisms on the planet. Nevertheless, these “simple” organisms can make an amazingly well-designed locomotive system. Well, it turns out that the flagellum isn’t the only example of the amazing things that bacteria can construct. It seems that they can construct batteries as well!

I saw a blurb about this in the March 1, 2010 issue of Chemical and Engineering News, so I went online to find more information. I found this article on Nature News. According to the article, Lars Peter Nielsen of Aarhus University (in Denmark) did some experiments to see how bacteria are able to consume organic compounds and hydrogen sulfide in sediments that have very little oxygen. You see, in order to use these compounds, the bacteria have to oxidize them, which means that have to remove electrons from them. In order to remove electrons from the chemicals they consume, however, the bacteria have to “put” those electrons somewhere else. In most organisms, the electrons go to oxygen molecules. This process, reasonably enough, is called oxidation, and it is the reason you and I breathe. We take in oxygen so that we can oxidize our food, which produces energy for us to live.

It is very easy to understand how most organisms oxidize their food, because most organisms are exposed to a reasonable amount of oxygen in the air they breathe or the water in which they swim. However, there are lots of sediments (on the sea floor, for example) that are low in oxygen underneath the surface of the sediments. Nevertheless, bacteria in those oxygen-poor sediments seem to oxidize organic compounds and hydrogen sulfide just fine. Nielsen wanted to know how they accomplish this feat.

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Still MORE Problems for Abiogenesis

A hydrothermal vent deep in the ocean. Some origin-of-life researchers hope that life could arise under such conditions.
Image from the NOAA.
I have blogged a lot about the myriad problems facing the idea that life arose naturally. Even those who want to believe in it admit that all origin-of-life experiments are miserable failures, producing only minute quantities of the simplest molecules of life, along with enormous amounts of “goo” that would be detrimental to life. Stephen Meyer’s seminal work, Signature in the Cell, points out the terrible informational problems that any origin-of-life scenario faces. Dembski and Wells point out that the very existence of so many different scenarios for the naturalistic origin of life indicate just how implausible it really is.

Now origin-of-life researchers face another huge problem – oxygen. You see, most evolutionists who accept scientifically irresponsible dating methods are confident of the fact that earth’s atmosphere didn’t have much oxygen in it until about 2.4 billion years ago. At that point, according to the evolutionary narrative, the evolution of photosynthesis allowed the carbon dioxide in earth’s ancient atmosphere to be converted into oxygen. This is called “The Great Oxidation Event,” and it is crucial to any evolutionary narrative.1

Why is this “Great Oxidation Event” crucial to evolution? Because all origin-of-life scenarios currently under consideration require earth’s atmosphere to be very low in or completely devoid of oxygen when life first evolved. A significant amount of oxygen would destroy any hopes of producing the molecules of life, as reactions with oxygen would convert them into chemicals that would not be useful in the chemistry of life.

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More on Slime Molds

About a month ago, I wrote about an interesting study on slime molds.

This organism is surprisingly intelligent!
(Image from KeresH at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dog_vomit_slime_mold.jpg)

Even though they have no brain or other kind of “central processing unit,” they can figure out what the most nutritious food is for them, and they can adjust their shape and eating habits to make sure they get as much nutrition as possible.

These results surprised many scientists, because slime molds are supposed to be primitive creatures.

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