Another Confirmed Creationist Prediction

This was one of the first depictions of Neanderthal man, based on the work of paleontologist Marcellin Boule.

In 1908 a nearly-complete fossil skeleton was found in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. Marcellin Boule, professor at the Museum of Natural History in France and director of the French Institute of Human Paleontology, analyzed the skeleton in detail, eventually publishing his findings in the scientific literature. Before his scientific publication, however, a weekly French newspaper (L’Illustration) published the drawing above, which was based on Boule’s work. The drawing was later published in the Illustrated London News. As you can see from the drawing, Neanderthal man was interpreted to be a sub-human creature that was probably one of the steps in the hypothetical evolutionary process that led from an ape-like creature to modern humans.

As time went on, more discoveries were made that indicated this view was far from correct. Artifacts were found indicating that Neanderthal man buried his dead, used fire, made art, etc. This somewhat elevated Neanderthals from sub-human to almost-human. When DNA analysis strongly suggested that Neanderthals and what some call “modern humans” interbred, it became increasingly clear that from a biological point of view, Neanderthals were, in fact, fully human. Nevertheless, most evolutionists still consider Neanderthals to have lower intelligence than modern humans.

Throughout this entire time, creationists have seen Neanderthals as human in every way, including their intelligence. As early as 1925, creationist Harry Rimmer wrote a pamphlet entitled “Monkeyshines: Facts, Fallacies, and Fables Concerning Evolution.” In it, he says that drawings like the one given above are incorrect. He goes on to state:

At any rate, these reconstructions of the Neanderthal man do not show him the way his skeleton really was. He also was a true man.

This has been a common theme throughout the young-earth creationist literature. Neanderthal man was truly human in every sense of the word. A recent paper confirms this long-standing creationist prediction, while at the same time falsifying the evolution-inspired idea that Neanderthal man was of low intelligence. The paper analyzed a cord that was found on a stone tool which was made by Neanderthals. While the cord was not part of the stone tool, it was stuck to the tool and was deposited either before or with it. The authors show that the cord was made of three strands twisted around each other, which indicates sophisticated intelligence. As they say, it

“…is the oldest direct evidence of fibre technology to date. Its production demonstrates a detailed ecological understanding of trees and how to transform them into entirely different functional substances. Fibre technology would have been an important part of everyday life and would have influenced seasonal scheduling and mobility. Furthermore, the production of cordage implies a cognitive understanding of numeracy and context sensitive operational memory. Given the ongoing revelations of Neanderthal art and technology, it is difficult to see how we can regard Neanderthals as anything other than the cognitive equals of modern humans.

As I have said before, it is an exciting time to be a young-earth creationist. The true test of a scientific theory is confirmation of its predictions, especially when those predictions are at odds with a competing theory. In this case (and many others), young-earth creationism is showing that it is a robust, successful scientific theory.

Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction

A common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster (click for credit)

The acid test of a scientific theory is whether or not it can make testable predictions about things that are not known. If it can’t, it isn’t really a scientific theory. If it can, those predictions should be tested by observation or experiment. If the results of the test confirm the predictions, you can have more faith in the theory. If they do not, you must either alter your theory or abandon it. One of the main reasons I am a creationist is that creationism has made many testable predictions, and many of those predictions have been confirmed. In fact, creationism has a much better track record when it comes to confirmed predictions than does evolution (see here and here).

Recently, I ran across another study that demonstrates another failed prediction of evolutionary theory. It studied the alcohol dehydrogenase protein (ADH) as made by fruit flies. Fruit flies often consume alcohol because they feed on rotting materials, and the ADH they make allows them to do that. How do they make ADH? They have a gene that gives the necessary instructions to the cell. That gene is, in effect, a “recipe” for ADH.

Studies have already shown that the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) tends to feed on alcohol-rich things (like rotting fruit) more than a similar fruit fly, Drosophila simulans. The evolutionary explanation that has always been given for this fact is that these two fruit flies had a common ancestor, and that ancestor had a gene that made less efficient ADH. As a result, the common ancestor didn’t eat alcohol-rich things.

The evolutionary line that led to the common fruit fly experienced mutations in the ADH gene, and those mutations ended up making the ADH more efficient. Natural selection then caused those fruit flies to survive, because they could now survive by eating a lot of rotting fruit, while the other flies could eat only a little rotting fruit. That process continued over time, eventually leading to the common fruit fly we see today, which eats a lot of rotting fruit. In evolutionary biology lingo, we would say that the common fruit fly underwent “positive selection” in its ADH gene, while the other fruit fly did not.

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Another Evolutionary Idea Falisified

In 1930, Dr. Ronald Fisher (statistician and geneticist) wrote a book entitled, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. In that book, he produced a mathematical proof of what he called the “Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection.” Partly due to his difficult writing style and partly due to a feud in the literature with American geneticist Dr. Sewall Wright, his theorem was misunderstood for quite some time. In 1972, however, physical chemist Dr. George R. Price explained it in a detailed way and showed that it was mathematically correct.

What is the importance of the Theorem and what does it say? This quote from Essential Readings in Evolutionary Biology (by Francisco J. Ayala, John C. Avise, 2014) answers both of those questions:

…Fisher’s formulation of the “fundamental theorem of natural selection,” which would play a preeminent role in the future development of evolutionary genetics: “The rate of increase in fitness of any organism at any time is equal to its genetic variation in fitness at that time.” (p. 73)

In other words, natural selection will cause an organism to increase in fitness as long as its population has variation in the genes associated with fitness. The more variation in those genes, the faster the organism will increase in fitness. As Drs. Ayala and Avise indicate, this theorem became very important in shaping the field of evolutionary genetics.

While Fisher’s fundamental theorem is still quite correct, it is limited. In particular, it doesn’t take the effect of mutations into account. However, there is a corollary attached to the theorem: Since mutations should increase the genetic variation in a population, mutations should lead to a faster rate of fitness increase. While that corollary was important in shaping Neo-Darwinism, a recent paper published in the Journal of Mathematical Biology has shown that it is false when even mildly realistic conditions are considered.

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What’s the Matter with the Universe?

A portion of the universe as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, using its full range of light sensitivities (ultraviolet to near-infrared).

The MSN headline is attention-grabbing, to say the least:

The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say

One of the things my Ph.D. advisor stressed over and over again is that there are two phrases any good scientist should be very comfortable saying. The first is, “I don’t know.” The second is, “I was wrong.” I have uttered both of those phrases throughout my career, and I am very glad that in this case, the scientists mentioned in the headline are wrong!

So why do these scientists say the universe shouldn’t exist? Well, if you don’t want to believe in a supernatural Creator, you have to figure out where the universe came from. Experiments demonstrate that even empty space contains a certain amount of energy, and our current understanding of quantum mechanics says that it is possible for energy to spontaneously be converted into particles. This is often called a quantum fluctuation, and for those who don’t want to believe in a supernatural Creator, it is a way of explaining how the universe got started. Particles sprung into existence from the energy of empty space, producing the universe we see today.

If this seems strange to you, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. As a nuclear chemist, I am well-versed in quantum theory and have no problem with the concept of particles springing into and out of existence in empty space. Nevertheless, the idea that this process can produce a universe is very strange to me as well, for a host of reasons. The MSN article linked above gives one of the most important: when particles spring into existence from energy, they must always be paired with their antiparticles. In other words, matter can, indeed, arise from the energy of empty space, but an equal amount of antimatter must be formed as well.

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Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction

A fossil cast of a Protoceratops nest (click for credit)
A fossil cast of a Protoceratops nest (click for credit)

According to the currently-fashionable hypothesis, dinosaurs evolved into birds. Indeed, some evolutionists take this to such an extreme that they say things like:

Birds Are Living Dinosaurs

While there are some evolutionists who disagree with this hypothesis, it is part of the current scientific consensus. Of course, for a hypothesis to be considered scientific, it must make predictions that can be confirmed by the data. The more its prediction are confirmed, the more reliable it becomes. The more its predictions are falsified, the less reliable it becomes.

Indeed, one of the reasons I consider the creation model to be very strong is that it has made several predictions which have been confirmed by the data (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example). The evolution model, however, has made many predictions that have been falsified by the data (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example).

The hypothesis that dinosaurs evolved into birds has been used to make a prediction about the time it took for dinosaur eggs to hatch, which is typically referred to as the incubation period. We can’t directly measure the incubation period of dinosaur eggs, but many evolutionists have assumed that it must be similar to that of birds, which is quite different from that of reptiles. For example, Dr. Kenneth Carpenter wrote a book entitled, Eggs, Nests, and Baby Dinosaurs: A Look at Dinosaur Reproduction. On page 200, he suggests that the incubation period of dinosaur eggs should be similar to that of birds. He shows how bird egg incubation period varies with mass and then writes about a particular dinosaur egg:

…with an estimated live weight (i.e., as it might have been 70 million years ago) of 152 g, would have an estimated incubation time (from time of egg laying until hatching) of thirty-five days.

Similarly, on page 266 of Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs: Understanding the Life of Giants, we read:

The amount of time necessary for a dinosaur embryo to mature to the hatching stage may never be known with certainty, but it can be at least roughly estimated by a model developed by Rhan and Ar (1974) for birds. On the basis of comparisons with extant birds that have, in contrast to modern reptiles, a rather constant incubation temperature of about 40 oC, a dinosaur egg of 1.5 kg – the size of an ostrich egg – would require an incubation time of about 60 days to hatch.

The latest research indicates that such predictions aren’t anywhere close to being correct.

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Another Evolutionary Prediction Falsified

Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jelly (click for credit)
Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jelly
(click for credit)
The best way to judge a scientific theory is to examine the predictions it makes about the observable universe. The more its predictions line up with the data, the more reliable the theory becomes. The less its predictions line up with the data, the less reliable the theory becomes. Since starting this blog, I have pointed out many instances where the predictions of evolutionary theory don’t line up with the observable data (here, here, here, here, here, and here). Dr. Hunter has an excellent review of several other instances. Now we can add yet another failed evolutionary prediction to this ever-growing list.

The animal pictured above is Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jelly. According to evolutionary theory, the comb jellies are “primitive.” Based on genetics, they are supposed to have evolved before some of the simplest animals on the planet: sponges. Even if you don’t believe the genetic arguments, most evolutionists would agree that comb jellies evolved well before the more “advanced” animals, such as roundworms.

One of the things that separates these “primitive” animals from the more “advanced” animals is their digestive tract. In animals like jellyfish and sponges, there is only one opening in the digestive tract. The animal must use that opening to take in food, and then later it must use the same opening to expel indigestible waste. According to the story of evolution, this “simple” digestive tract was the first to evolve, and then later, a more “advanced” digestive tract formed. In this more “advanced” digestive tract, there is one opening for taking in food and a different opening for expelling indigestible waste.

Since comb jellies are suppose to be among the “primitive” animals, evolution predicts that they should have “simple” digestive tracts. However, recent videos demonstrate that this evolutionary prediction is (not surprisingly) wrong.

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Yet Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction

This a colony of coral from the genus Acropora, the same genus analyzed in the study that is being discussed.  (click for credit)
This a colony of coral from the genus Acropora, the same genus analyzed in the study that is being discussed. (click for credit)

One of the main ways to test the validity of a scientific hypothesis is to use that hypothesis to make predictions. If those predictions are confirmed by the data, more weight is added to the validity of the hypothesis. If those predictions are falsified by the data, the validity of the hypothesis should be called into question. When it comes to the hypothesis of evolution (in the flagellate-to-philosopher sense), prediction after prediction has been falsified (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences adds to the very long list of failed evolutionary predictions.

In this case, the researchers were studying the phenomenon of apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. In an organism that is composed of several cells, it is important to have a mechanism by which cells that are diseased, very old, or otherwise unstable can be removed. That way, they won’t harm the rest of the organism. This is one of the purposes of apoptosis. When a cell recognizes that it is a potential threat to the organism as a whole, it can actually release protein-destroying chemicals that cause it to kill itself.

Not surprisingly, the process by which apoptosis occurs is incredibly complex. Nevertheless, scientists have made a lot of progress in understanding it. We now know that there are specialized enzymes that start the process. They belong to a group called the TNF receptor-ligand superfamily. In this superfamily, there are TNF ligands (collectively called TNFSF) and receptors (collectively called TNFRSF). When the ligands bind to the receptors, a process starts that can either cause the cell to override its programmed cell death or continue on with it, depending on other chemical signals that are taking place within the organism.

Now don’t get lost in the terminology here. The idea is that multicelled organisms must have a way to get rid of cells that might be bad for the organism as a whole. One way this happens is for special chemicals from a group called TNFSF to bind to other special chemicals from a group called TNFRSF. This activates a process that determines whether the cell should continue to be a part of the organism or kill itself for the good of the organism.

The researchers who published this study decided to analyze apoptosis in one of the more “primitive” organisms on the planet, a species of coral called Acropora digitfera. According to the researchers, corals like this species have been around for 550 million years, so it should be a good representative of some of the earliest animals that ever existed on the planet. Given that assumption, the researchers thought that the apoptosis process in corals should be rather simple – at least a lot less complicated than what we see in the “higher” animals such as flies, birds, and people. Surprisingly, they found the exact opposite.

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These Algae Falsify an Evolutionary Prediction

This is one of the species of algae that seem to falsify an evolutionary prediction (click for credit)
This is one of the species of algae that seem to falsify an evolutionary prediction (click for credit)

Two species that are closely-related should compete for resources more strongly than two species that are distantly-related. This is a prediction Darwin himself made, and while it hasn’t been tested very much, it has been assumed to be true ever since. In 1967, MacArthur and Levins formalized the prediction1, and at least according to some biologists, it is “central to ecology and evolutionary biology.”2 It’s one of those ideas that makes sense in an evolutionary framework but is hard to test. As a result, most biologists have just assumed that it is true.

Well, while studying algae, Dr. Bradley J. Cardinale and his colleagues inadvertently put the idea to the test. They were trying to measure the competition that existed between 23 different species of green algae, such as the one pictured above (Coelastrum microporum). All these species are commonly found existing together in North American ecosystems, so it is assumed that they compete with one another. In their experiment, they took two different species from the group of 23 and put them together in a laboratory environment. They then measured how the two species competed with one another.

Now remember, they were looking at 23 different species, but they only put two species together to compete with one another. In order to look at all possible combinations of these 23 species taken two at a time, then, they had to examine 253 separate situations. They examined each combination of species twice, to make sure that their results were consistent, so they looked at a total of 506 competitive situations. However, in order to compare how the species did in competition to how they did without competition, they also had to put each species in a laboratory environment on its own. They examined each of those situations twice as well. In the end, then, they examined 552 different situations of algae growing in a laboratory environment. In other words, this was an extensive experiment.

The results of this extensive experiment were rather surprising, at least to the investigators and many other evolutionists.

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Yet Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction

This species of catus worm, Priapulus caudatus, falsified another evolutionary prediction (click for credit)
Look at the unassuming worm pictured on the left. It is commonly called a cactus worm, but this particular species is known as Priapulus caudatus. According to evolutionists, cactus worms have been around for at least 500 million years.1, but they just recently falsified yet another prediction made by the hypothesis of evolution. To understand the prediction and why it has failed, you need to learn some background information.

There are many different ways scientists classify animals, but one of the broader ways it is done is by symmetry. Most of the animals with which you are familiar are bilaterally symmetric. This means their bodies can be split into a left half and a right half, and those two halves are roughly mirror images of each other. Cats, dogs, and horses are all bilaterally symmetric, as they all have distinct right and left sides that roughly mirror each other. In addition, cactus worms are bilaterally symmetric. Since there are a lot of animals that have this kind of symmetry, scientists have to find characteristics among the bilaterally symmetric animals that will further classify them.

Well, there are two different ways that bilaterally symmetric animals develop their digestive tract. In all these animals, a puckered indentation forms in the embryo. This indentation, called the blastopore, forms the beginning of a tube that will eventually develop into the digestive tract. However, in some bilaterally symmetric animals, that blastopore ends up becoming the mouth, while in other bilaterally symmetric animals, the blastopore ends up becoming the anus. In other words, some animals start their digestive system with their mouth, while others start their digestive system with their anus. The “mouth first” animals are called protostomes, which is a combination of the Greek word “protos” (which means first) and “stoma” (which means mouth). The “anus first” animals are called deuterostomes, which means “mouth second,” since the Greek word “deuteros” means “second.”

So when a biologist looks at an animal that is bilaterally symmetric, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “How does the digestive tract develop?” That tells the biologist whether the animal is a protostome or a deuterostome. Well, it turns out that studying the embryonic development of animals is rather time-consuming, so scientists often use other characteristics to infer the group to which an animal belongs. With all that under your belt, you are now ready to learn about the falsified evolutionary prediction.

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A Large, Detailed Study Confirms Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction

The La Brea Tar Pits as imagined by Charles R. Knight (public domain image)

Paleontologists have long recognized that the fossil record produces a serious problem for the hypothesis of evolution. Almost thirty years ago, Dr. David Wake and his colleagues stated:1

With natural selection operating in a changing environment as an agent of adaptation, we expect to see changes at the organismal, ultimately physiological and morphological, level. How, though, can we explain the paradoxical situation in which environments change, even dramatically, but organisms do not?

In other words, evolution predicts that in a changing environment, organisms should change in order to adapt. However, when we look at the fossil record, we don’t see such change. Instead, while it is thought that earth’s climate changed dramatically in many different ways throughout the fossil record, the fossils themselves show that the organisms living on earth didn’t change much at all. This has been called the “paradox of stasis,” and while several attempts have been made to resolve the problem2, none of them have been found to be satisfactory.3

In an attempt to understand the paradox of stasis better, Dr. Donald Prothero undertook a series of amazingly detailed studies. With the help of a small army of students, Prothero studied the fossils of all the common birds and mammals that have been preserved in the La Brea tar pits of Los Angeles, California. According to the standard geological view, these tar pits preserved species that lived in the area over a period of time when the region experienced wild climate change. It is thought that 35,000 years ago, the Los Angeles, California area had a very similar climate to what it has today. During the height of the last ice age (20,000 years ago), however, it was significantly colder and significantly wetter. As the ice age waned, the climate returned to what it was 35,000 years ago.

From an evolutionary point of view, one would expect that over the course of this dramatic change in climate, the birds and mammals living in the area would have experienced some amount of evolutionary change in order to adapt to their surroundings. However, that’s not what this series of studies found.

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