Proteins that act like “adaptive machines”—are they evidence for evolution or intelligent design?
Princeton University researchers were conducting experiments on proteins that make up the electron transport chain, a “biomechanical network essential for metabolism.” The researchers discovered that during the experiments, the proteins “acted to correct any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations and restored the chain to working order.”
More specifically, researchers at Princeton and elsewhere, including Duke University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered that these proteins often seem to be in either the maximum or the minimum energy position—more often than could be accounted for by random chance, and consistent with systems designed for optimal management.
While this seems to be blaring evidence for the incredible design of life, the scientists —almost unbelievably—claim the research “answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: [h]ow can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a ‘blind watchmaker’?” At least, that’s according to researcher Raj Chakrabarti of Princeton’s department of chemistry. (We’ll note—as we have in the past with similar reports—that such evolutionary “puzzlement” never seems to be noted by evolutionists until it’s supposedly solved.) Chakrabarti continues, “Our new theory extends Darwin’s model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness.”
Commenting on the research, which was published in Physical Review letters, coauthor Herschel Rabitz explains, “What we have found is that certain kinds of biological structures exist that are able to steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness. . . . The data just jumps off the page and implies we all have this wonderful piece of machinery inside that's responding optimally to evolutionary pressure.”
The researchers compare the mechanism to a car’s cruise control or a home’s thermostat in that it serves as a self-regulating device, “allowing them to fine-tune and control their subsequent evolution,” the press release notes. Of course, cruise control and thermostats are perfect examples of designed technology.
The evolutionary chutzpah becomes almost overwhelming toward the end of the press release, which states, “The scientists do not know how the cellular machinery guiding this process may have originated, but they emphatically said it does not buttress the case for intelligent design” (emphasis added).
Further comments by Chakrabarti complete the evolutionary overstating. “Biological change is always driven by random mutation and selection, but at certain pivotal junctures in evolutionary history, such random processes can create structures capable of steering subsequent evolution toward greater sophistication and complexity.”
Our first question is why the researchers claim their find could help evolution—how, as Chakrabarti put it, the protein pathway could “[steer] subsequent evolution toward greater sophistication and complexity.” After all, what the researchers found is the electron transport chain’s ability to maintain function within parameters, not to develop new capabilities; it’s not as if the electron transport chain evolved into a nuclear reactor while the researchers watched.
Our second question is, doesn’t this just reinforce the idea of amazing level of design in living cells? Quite contrary to showing how information could result from the lack of it (which is what evolutionists need to show, ultimately), this find indicates even a more sophisticated design, and thus demands even more strongly a designer. It’s as if someone were to discover that a computer had an incredible ability to self-repair. That wouldn’t prove the computer was able to “self-repair” itself into existence; it would instead prove the computer’s design was even more advanced (and impressive, we might add) than first thought!
Once again, it comes down to presuppositions. If you believe such complexity can evolve, then this can be a centerpiece of evidence of what evolution can do. If you believe in design, then this is yet another example of incredible engineering. But while it comes down to presuppositions, there’s still room for illogic, as the intelligent design blog Uncommon Descent points out. To paraphrase their paraphrase of the research, “This looks just like something engineers design. We have no explanation for how this could work if it were based on randomness. But this definitely proves evolution and disproves design.”
Alas, apparently it’s good enough science for the U.S. taxpayer-supported National Science Foundation.
Once again, it’s “evolution in action.” Once again, it isn’t.
Long-time followers of the creation/evolution debate know that, from time to time, evolutionists claim to have observed evolution in action—or to have deduced it from the fossil record. Unsurprisingly, each of these times, creationists have found the “evolution” in question to be entirely in evolutionists’ imaginations.
In this week’s case, LiveScience reports on a type of Australian lizard, the skink, which has “gone from being five-fingered to legless (like most snakes) in just 3.6 million years.” So is this evolution? And did it happen in the “blink of an eye” in geologic time, as the report asserts?
Researchers from the University of Adelaide report that skinks of the genus Lerista sometimes have five fingers, sometimes have four, and sometimes have no fingers whatsoever and only tiny limbs—hence, the “evolution.” The researchers concluded, based on genetic sequencing and evolutionary interpretations of the fossil record, that the change from five-fingered to limbless occurred in “only” 3.6 million years.
The researchers report that skinks are losing their limbs because they spend most of their lives “swimming” through sand or soil, and their limbs can actually be a hindrance. In other words, natural selection favors skinks with mutations that corrupt their limb-building genes.
So, is this evolution? It all depends on how you define “evolution.” If all you mean is “change”—any change—within a population, then this is a perfect example of evolution. Of course, by this definition, everyone who works at Answers in Genesis could accurately call themselves “evolutionists,” since change within populations—driven by natural selection—is compatible with Scripture, observationally supported (as with this study), and described long before Darwin.
On the other hand, if you define “evolution” to mean the ability of organisms to generate new genetic information (something scientists have never observed) and evolve into entirely new kinds of animals (like fish evolving into tetrapods, or tree shrews into apes), then this study in no way supports evolution. After all, the skinks are losing genetic information, not gaining it—and that’s the opposite of what “molecules-to-man” evolution requires. LiveScience backs us up on this point (inadvertently, of course):
Skinner and his colleagues found that the evolution of a snake-like body form in Lerista skinks has occurred not only repeatedly but without any evidence of reversals (that is, fingers or limbs being added back).
The report also notes that 53 lineages of lizards and snakes have undergone “limb reduction” as well—but how many have scientists observed gaining functioning limbs? And of course, the 3.6 million year estimate ultimately comes from old-age interpretations of the fossil record. We, however, wouldn’t be surprised if skink populations have lost fingers or even limbs within the past century.
The latest common ancestor wasn’t found in the fossil record; instead, it was found alive and well today in the Southern Ocean (near Antarctica).
Researchers compiling the first-ever Census of Marine Life think they’ve put a finger—or should we say tentacle?—on the common ancestor of most of the world’s deep-sea octopi: Megaleledone setebos, a shallow-water octopus still living today in the icy ocean surrounding Antarctica is the closest living relative.
That’s the conclusion from DNA studies by British Antarctic Survey biologist Jan Strugnell, who examined the relationship between various deep-sea octopi. According to Strugnell, the octopi diverged 30 million years ago as “nutrient-rich and salty” ocean currents drove formerly shallow-water octopi to various ocean basins.
Among the ways the octopi then adapted to their new, deep sea environments was the loss of their ink sacs, as the defense was useless in the already pitch-black depths.
Is M. setebos very similar to a common ancestor? It’s entirely possible that, within the original octopus (or perhaps cephalopod) kind, degenerative mutations (such as the loss of the ink sac) allowed M. setebos-types to adapt to deep-sea environments and become the deep-sea species of today. However, forming date-specific conclusions about how and when creatures are descended from one another based on genetic sequencing is riddled with evolutionary presuppositions. Nevertheless, the idea of a common ancestor is just as feasible within the “created kind” model as it is within evolutionary models, since we know animals have speciated to varying degrees—within their kinds—since the Garden of Eden only a few thousand years ago.
If you’re interested in seeing the cornerstone of evidence for evolution—the birds that helped inspire Darwin—your chance is coming soon.
The cornerstone is actually the remains of two mockingbirds collected by Darwin himself in the Galápagos Islands. According to the BBC, differences in the specimens were the “‘catalyst’ for his transmutation theory—how one species changes into another.” They will go on display at London’s Natural History Museum next week, part of the Darwin200 celebration of Darwin’s birth.
Jo Cooper, bird curator at the museum, claimed, “What is fantastic about these two birds is that visitors will be able to see for themselves the crucial differences that Darwin saw.” Because Darwin “knew” from an earlier visit there was only one mockingbird species in South America, the differences in these specimens led him to conclude that “all mockingbirds in the world had descended from a common ancestor, because they shared a number of similarities with each other,” the BBC explains. The report adds, “This ultimately led Darwin to the conclusion that all organisms on Earth had common ancestors.”
Naturally, we beg to differ. Darwin extrapolated too far, since he didn’t understand what sort of adaptive changes (e.g., different beak lengths and shapes, and other information-depleting changes, which we observe in nature) are genetically possible and commonly occur within a kind and those which aren’t (e.g., entirely new anatomical structures and other information-adding changes we don’t observe).
As we’ve seen with the two items above, just because an animal population has undergone change (as in the case of the Lerista genus of skinks) or shares a common ancestor (as in the case of deep-sea octopi, possibly), this is not evidence that all forms of life are the result of changes from one common ancestor.
Here’s an analogy. Let’s say upon Shakespeare’s death, historians discovered in his estate a large box containing all his manuscripts. Now, some of the manuscripts are nearly identical with the exception of a few minor differences—these are actually manuscripts for the same play, but in different stages of editing—such as several copies of Romeo and Juliet with a few words changed in various places, or perhaps two scenes reversed. These are all descendants, in a sense, of the original rough draft (the “common ancestor”) of the play, and they “evolved” over time into the final product.
In fact, several manuscripts for each of Shakespeare’s plays and poems are discovered. The historians organize them in piles—for instance, a pile of variants of Hamlet, and a pile of versions of Macbeth. Now what if one historian comes along, picks up two versions of Julius Caesar, and—based on the similarities between those two manuscripts—claims every single manuscript of play and poem in the collection are all variants of one original short story? Is it any less reasonable to think that King Lear and Shakespeare’s sonnets are variations on the same work than it is to think that fir trees and turkey vultures share a common ancestor?
Absurd as it seems, that was the logic and evidence behind Darwin’s idea: these two mockingbirds share a common ancestor despite their differences; thus, all forms of life must share a common ancestor despite their differences.
Remember the “dinosaur dance party” we reported on News to Note three weeks ago? Yeah, forget that.
Thankfully, we reported on both sides of the story then: those who thought the marks on a rock in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument were dinosaurs tracks, and those who thought the “tracks” were all in some scientists’ minds. We said then:
It’s interesting to read how news organizations frequently pass off such news as this “dinosaur dance floor” find unchallenged. But the National Geographic News’s coverage reminds us how much interpretation goes into science.
Whereas other news sources plainly state the discovery of dinosaur footprints as a scientific fact, National Geographic News’s Rebecca Carroll quotes dissenting paleontologists Alan Titus and Andrew Milner. “I’ve observed thousands of tracks [of one of the dinosaurs the team identified] in early Jurassic rocks of the Colorado Plateau and have never seen one that looked like the one in the news release,” said Titus.
We concluded, “[T]hese may all turn out to be dinosaur tracks and marks indeed; our point is just that the news media is usually quick to hype the findings of one science team (which has an incentive to make its discovery as impressive-sounding as possible) and present it all as science fact. Bible believers should keep this in mind when it comes to any sort of news, and especially science news.”
Which brings us to this week’s Associated Press report, which begins, “So maybe there was no dinosaur dancing after all.” The report quotes the same Milner who gave his opinion to National Geographic News three weeks ago, but has since hiked to the spot with three other paleontologists. “We didn’t observe a single footprint,” Milner says, claiming the paleontologists “hoped” to find some.
Instead, the paleontologists believe the supposed dinosaur “footprints” and marks of tails being dragged are nothing more than erosion.
University of Utah researcher Marjorie Chan, one of the coauthors behind the “dinosaur dance party” idea, responded, “I’m interested in the truth, no matter what the outcome is.” That’s certainly an admirable attitude, and at this point, our guess is as good as anyone else’s who hasn’t visited the site. What’s important to remember is the certainty with which many news sources originally reported the news—and the likely credulity of many readers. Keep that in mind when reading science news (or news of any sort, really!).
Down in the Egyptian sand lay the remains of a pyramid that was once nearly five stories tall. Was it around before the Flood?
What’s left of the pyramid lay under 23 feet (7 m) of sand in the ancient royal burial complex of Saqqara, near Cairo. Archaeologists believe the new pyramid held the tomb of Queen Sesheshet and was a “satellite” pyramid to the tomb of her son, Pharaoh Teti.
The discovery included the white limestone casing for the base of the pyramid. Based on the size and angle of the base, archaeologists judged pyramid’s original height to be around 46 feet (14 m).
The find is surprising because the area had already been thoroughly searched for other pyramids. However, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, reports that the area where Sesheshet’s pyramid was found was once used as a pile for sand from other excavations. No wonder the pyramid was buried so deep!
Tomb raiders knew about the location at some point, however, as archaeologists discovered a shaft connected to Sesheshet’s funerary chamber. For that reason, the researchers expect Sesheshet’s mummy will be gone.
One question creationists must ask—and answer—is how the age of this pyramid matches up with the date the Bible gives for the Flood. After all, 4,300 years ago is roughly 2300 BC—only 49 years after Ussher’s date for the Flood, and before the dispersion at Babel. Could this pyramid date back that far?
The problem lies with the most widely accepted (secular) reconstruction of the Egyptian dynasties, which dates the pharaohs back past 3000 BC. But is there a model of Egyptian history that makes sense while fitting with what we know from the Bible? See Dating the Pyramids and the links below for the answer.
An amazing new human creation is a reminder of one of God’s amazing creations.
The new Isis target station 2 “super-microscope” represents some of the most modern human technology. It is designed to fire subatomic particles at objects (specifically proteins and bio-polymers) to “photograph” them on a microscopic level.
The Oxford Silk Group is particularly interested in the technology, as it should shed light on one of the Creator’s most elusive—and incredible—handiworks: silk. A BBC News report reminds us that silk spun by the orb-weaving spider is five times stronger than steel and three times more elastic than Kevlar; meanwhile, silkworms can produce up to a kilometer of silk thread in just a few days.
Scientists know the ingredients of the liquid “dope” spiders and silkworms form the silk out of, and they know the structure of spinning glands, yet they haven’t been able to produce silk in the lab. “[W]hy can’t we create a fiber as good as the spider?” asks Chris Holland, an Isis researcher.
While the older Isis target station 1 has taken a close look at silkworm dope, the neutron beam at target station 2 is 20 to 40 times brighter, with detectors “better positioned” for studying biological materials. That gives researchers hope that under closer examination, they will learn enough about natural silk production to replicate the process in the lab and, perhaps someday, in the factory.
Spending all this money and using the latest human technology to try to decode one of nature’s seemingly simple yet elusive marvels (a “miracle material,” as the BBC aptly calls it)—if there’s a more ironic reminder of God’s incredible designs, we’re not aware of it!
Atheists are spending tens of thousands of dollars in the United States to prove to the world they fail to grasp the connection between God and goodness.
Three weeks ago, we reported on an advertisement London buses will soon be carrying: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The campaign is funded by the British Humanist Association with the support of well-known atheist Richard Dawkins.
Apparently not wanting to be outmatched, the American Humanist Association has now unveiled their own campaign, scheduled to run on Washington, DC, buses over the next two months. Echoing a popular holiday song, the campaign cries, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”
According to the Associated Press, the AHA claims humanism “affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.” But when the Associated Press asked Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, what he thought of the campaign, he answered:
“How do we define ‘good’ if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it's going to be a crazy world.”
Wildmon is absolutely (pun intended) accurate: neither goodness, nor any other moral absolute, can exist in isolation from God. Otherwise, one man’s “good” may be another man’s evil, and the campaign is essentially saying “Why believe in a god? Just do whatever you want.”
For example, AHA spokesman Fred Edwords commented, “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.” But Mr. Edwords, why do you (presumably an atheist) care if other humans are alone?
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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