A Bit of a Stretch

The distortion and misrepresentation of scientific research by creationists is nothing new. Even so, I feel that I rarely see a story so painfully twisted as the one in African Populations Fit Biblical History – just reading it is threatening to give me a headache. Brian Thomas has prepared a masterpiece.

The article relates to a paper (pdf) published in Cell in early August, which sequenced and compared genomes from the African Hadza, Sandawe, and Pygmy peoples. According to a physorg article:

It identifies several million previously unknown genetic mutations in humans. It finds evidence that the direct ancestors of modern humans may have interbred with members of an unknown ancestral group of hominins. It suggests that different groups evolved distinctly in order to reap nutrition from local foods and defend against infectious disease. And it identifies new candidate genes that likely play a major role in making Pygmies short in stature.

Brian opens:

What if geneticists discovered, lurking in the DNA sequences of modern humans, clues of a heritage that mirrors the historical account of the dispersion at Babel? Researchers appear to have uncovered such clues in a recent attempt “to reconstruct modern evolutionary history” of three hunter-gatherer African tribal populations.

That’s a big ask – or rather, a big twist. Continue reading

Convergent Evolution

A Monarch Butterfly caterpillar feedsIt’s official: ICR “news” articles are now called Creation Science Updates. Or rather “Update” – they haven’t really mastered this pluralisation thing. The first article of this brave new era is called How Some Insects Can Eat Poisonous Plants, by Brian Thomas.

The chemicals used by milkweeds (including swan plants) and similar as a poison to deter herbivorous insects are known as cardenolides. They work by blocking the sodium pumps in cell membranes, but a handful of organisms are resistant to its effects. The most famous of these is the monarch butterfly, which was already known to have a amino-acid substitution mutation (referred to as “N122H”) in the gene coding for the pump that contributed to the butterfly’s immunity. A new paper in PNASCommunity-wide convergent evolution in insect adaptation to toxic cardenolides by substitutions in the Na,K-ATPase (pdf) – takes a look at the underlying genetics of all 18 insects known to be resistant, along with a number of their relatives. Continue reading

Jason Lisle: The Rest of the Story

Lisle speaks on CNNA couple of weeks ago I reported on a news segment on CNN in which both Bill Nye and Jason Lisle were interviewed in relation to Paul Broun’s “lies straight from the pit of hell” comments. Predictably enough Lisle’s own comments in his interview were mercilessly edited – these things always are, creationist or not – and he isn’t happy. In a long post on his personal blog he promises to provide “the rest of the story,” complaining about the editing along with inaccuracies in the news piece:

Recently, I was interviewed by CNN reporter Lisa Sylvester for a brief news story regarding Congressmen Paul Broun’s comments about origins. CNN aired only a tiny snippet of my comments. So it seems appropriate to give a more detailed summary here.

At the time Lisle gave a short and vague description of what else he talked about besides the short segment that made it to the finished product. Appropriate or otherwise, this unexpected post is certainly welcome. Continue reading

Perfectly Suited for Life (as we know it)

The universe, what is known of it, is vast beyond measure.  It is estimated that there are about 100 billion galaxies in the universe with each containing about 100 billion stars each.  Among all of those stars, one medium sized star hosts eight or nine planets, one of which we call home – Earth – a tiny speck of dust in a measureless universe.

That’s the opening of the latest post to appear on the ICR’s Your Origins Matter website, What’s So Special About our Blue Planet? The planet Earth being perfect for life – and that there is none like it in the universe – is a common creationist argument. You’d think, then, that the author of this YOM article could have done some research and not just written down what sounded about right. “Eight or nine planets” indeed – we can’t have those astronomers telling us what is and isn’t a planet now can we? Continue reading

Arthropod Brains

Fuxianhuia protensa from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang FaunaThe latest article from Brian Thomas is Cambrian Creature Had Complicated Brain. It relates to a study that found that a Cambrian arthropod, Fuxianhuia protensa, had a “modern” brain (at least for an arthropod). But first, here’s Brian’s conception of the Cambrian explosion:

In the evolutionary scheme, Cambrian fossils represent creatures from an ancient time when they had only recently emerged from unidentified sub-animal life forms. As such, evolutionists expect Cambrian creatures to be more complicated in structure than their supposed precursors, but simpler than their more “highly evolved” descendants.

“Unidentified sub-animal life forms”? Continue reading

A Directory of Randomness

I sometimes regret tethering this blog so tightly to the activities of the ICR – it means it’s harder for me to talk about what I want (not that I’m very good at that). After all, moments of hilarity and craziness are by no means limited to this one organisation. And science itself is cool too, I suppose. Anyway, here are some vaguely-relevant things I have read recently: Continue reading

Just How Long Does DNA Last?

Those were the days...The moa can be considered New Zealand’s equivalent of the Mammoth. Both were large animals hunted to extinction by humans in relatively recent history. Sightings of both are occasionally claimed, deep in the forests. And both invoke optimistic hopes that they could be someday cloned, and returned to their ancient grasslands. The moa is also the animal in the picture to the right, and the icon for this blog is a moa footprint – as you might have gathered I’m rather fond of them. They last properly came up on this blog eleven months ago, in The Extinction of the Megafauna, but in today’s post – Bone DNA Decays Too Fast for Evolution – Brian Thomas brings them up in quite a different context. For those readers unfamiliar with the soft-tissue family of young Earth creationist claims, think radiometric dating – and be prepared to have your expectations completely reversed.

DNA is a biochemical that contains genetic information. And like all other cellular ingredients, it decays if cellular systems don’t maintain it. Now, scientists are more confident about how fast it falls apart after a cell dies.

A team of researchers recently completed a thorough investigation of 158 ancient leg bones that belonged to giant extinct birds called moa, which once lived on New Zealand’s South Island. Using radiocarbon ages and measures of DNA integrity, the researchers generated a DNA decay rate with unprecedented rigor. But their results do not fit with claims from secular scientists who have found plenty of examples of intact DNA from supposedly million-year-old samples.

They used radiocarbon dating and produced a result with “unprecedented rigor”? How… odd for Mr Thomas to say such a thing. Continue reading

The Image of God

Today’s YOM quickie is called Imago Dei, which is the Latin version of the famous phrase from Genesis 1. No, not that one – this one:

1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

But what does it mean? God is, generally speaking, not claimed to have a physical form. Old Testament God isn’t all that nice either, so a metaphorical interpretation of the concept would really be all for the best. Continue reading

Anatomy of an Oyster Shell

Some Pacific oysters on a plateWe’re still on the same (4 October) edition of Nature today as we were on Friday, with Jeffrey Tomkins and Brian Thomas collaborating to produce Oyster Genome Confounds Mollusk Evolution.

Most evolutionists who study fossil mollusks believe these creatures evolved from a hypothetical ancestor that had no shell. How could nature, with no intelligent input, coax imagined soft-bodied ancestors to blindly construct the hard shells of oysters, which research now shows contain over 250 different proteins?

The paper is The oyster genome reveals stress adaptation and complexity of shell formation (open access; a Science Daily article can be found here), and does indeed mention that they “identified 259 shell proteins.” In their article Tomkins and Thomas take the popular “if it’s complex the it must be designed/can’t have evolved” line, with little further evidence offered. Let’s take a tour. Continue reading

Science Essentials is Gone

For the last few weeks I have been privately following the extended demise of the ICR’s K-12 “educational” blog, Science Essentials. The TL;DR of this post is that science-essentials.org now redirects to a page on the main ICR website, but there is more to the story than that. Continue reading