Wood You Like Some Cellulose With That?

I apologise for the cheesy title, but it was just crying out to be used.

Cellulose 3D balls, from wiki[m/p]edia

Brian Thomas’ latest article at the ICR is called Earliest Fossil Shows Wood Could Not Evolve despite said wood fossil showing nothing of the sort. Indeed, the majority of this article has nothing to do with the fossil, and could easily have been written without it. If you take a look at my Terminology page you will see that for a short while I called these kinds of DpSU’s “Type Io” for the reason I give there. I think I shall resurrect that classification for this post.

What is this fossil? Scientists have found some fossil wood which is, according to Mr Thomas:

…supposedly 10 million years older than the prior record-holder.

You will note that he uses words like “supposedly” etc much more often than usual. Lacking a sound point, Mr Thomas seems to be trying to sow doubt and confusion even more than is usual. In this specific case he is attacking the age assigned to the fossil on the side despite not focusing his article on that aspect of the situation.

Given the time we’re talking about here – around 400 million years ago – and the state of the fossil record, a difference of ten million years is hardly a problem. The point is that the difference gives credence to arguments that the fossil is representative of a much older period than what had been previously observed.

It has been thought that wood evolved as necessary structural material in an arms race between plants that tried to grow taller and taller. The authors of this new study would have you believe that the stuff instead evolved to to improve mechanisms that transport fluids and raw materials such as carbon dioxide along with it. This they can tell from the “small size of the plants and the presence of thick-walled cortical cells.” It’s perfectly reasonable to guess that an arms race may have begun immediately after that, once this ability to have stronger xylems had evolved for other reasons, but we can’t tell whether or not this happened from the fossils.

B.T. sets the following up as a chicken vs egg type problem:

But which came first, the extra carbon dioxide that would be required to build the woody pipelines, or the woody pipelines that would be required to gather the extra carbon dioxide?

You don’t get how this wood’ve (aha) worked, do you, Mr Thomas?

Consider that a plant ‘finds’ (I really hate to use Lamarckian-style ‘striving’ type language, but I should hope that you get what I mean) that investing a little more carbon into better xylems is, all things considered, better for it’s survival and reproduction – that is, it gets more out than it puts in. The percentage of the population that has the trait for slightly better (relatively speaking) xylems increases. Soon all the cool plants are doing it. Lather, rinse, and repeat, at least until it is no-longer beneficial to do so. Not hard.

But neither inadequate water flow nor the necessity of mechanical support are sufficient causes for wood development. In the real world, problems never produce their own solutions. Rather, solutions are always purposefully engineered by intelligent problem-solvers.

As with my previous Brian Thomas post (and above), Mr Thomas is showing his ignorance of the process of Selection. Consider Adrian Thompson’s experiment, which I talked about in the first half of this DpSU back in June (go read it if you want to have any idea what I’m talking about here). To continue where I left off there, the evolved circuit was then presented with a “problem,” to put it in Mr Thomas’ terminology – it was moved to a different part of the machine that was running the experiment. As all iterations had previously been tested under identical conditions, there was no selection pressure for versatility on the circuit. This meant that the circuit was extremely “environment dependent.”

However, simply continuing the iterations of selection the circuit was perfectly capable of finding a solution to the problem without any “intelligent problem-solvers” having to do anything. Indeed, the entire experiment was a test of Selection’s ability to solve a problem. In short, then, Mr Thomas’ statement is completely false. Problems do fix themselves, at least if Selection is allowed a hand in the process.

Wood is such a highly engineered material that humans cannot, and may never be able to, manufacture it. For example, one critical component is cellulose. This functions like a molecular cable in which a suite of over 30 enzymes—arranged in hexagonal rings that in turn form a larger hexagonal pattern anchored onto a plant cell membrane—work together to manufacture bundles of cellulose fibrils called microfibrils.

The original point of my Thompson post was to point out that it is fallacious to compare the creative abilities of man with that of Natural Selection. Look at the pingbacks on that post – I’ve had to link back to it to point that out twice even before this post. It is becoming a recurring theme.

B.T. continues describing the complicated process of cellulose production. Again he misses the point like me trying to shoot an apple off your head. He fails to demonstrate how this could not have evolved from simpler origins, in the same way that we know how the eye could have evolved from a simple, light sensing group of cells into the vast and complex monster it has become. He is trying to back up a statement that “there is no such thing as “simple” wood.” There might not be now – if the more complex wood is better, it would have had a good chance of driving it’s competitors to extinction, after all – but that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t have been. I would say that cellulose is far too complex to be irreducibly so.

And there is no evidence that even one wood-making enzyme of the needed 30+ evolved. In fact, the existence of one or a few of those enzymes would be useless without all the rest, and the need to have all the enzymes present at once is strong evidence against wood having evolved. Despite the Science report’s claim that its findings represent confirmation of “wood early evolution,” there is still no known transition between fleshy and woody plants.

Wood is the same in its lowermost fossil occurrence as it is today because it was created on Day Three of the creation week to reproduce after its kind.2

And so he finishes. This is your transition, if you haven’t noticed. As far as I can tell, this study provides no evidence that there is a need – and always has been a need – to have all the enzymes in their complete forms. And you see that cite #2 – to Genesis 1:11-12 – at the end? That’s right, his entire article is what might be called “Original Research” from the ICR for once. Except I doubt that he’s done much – presumably he would’ve put the results of his detailed experiments on another page and linked to it from here? Who knows from this practically-inept institute…

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