A Cambrian Entoproct

Barentsa discretaThe Cambrian fossil Cotyledion has long been an enigma to classify, having been moved from phylum to phylum. The discovery of around 400 fossils has provided enough information for a new study to move it, with confidence, to the Entoprocta phylum. This is a group of small aquatic animals most notable for the position of their anus – a picture of another entoproct, Barentsa discreta, is to the right. Because they are small and entirely soft-bodied there is only one other confirmed fossil entoproct, from the Jurassic, and so Cotyledion tylodes significantly extends the period the group has existed for.

Jeffrey Tomkins has graced us with an article on this species, called Another Cambrian Discovery Discredits Evolution. His entire argument rests upon the premise that evolution must inexorably increase the complexity of all creatures over time. Continue reading

Recursive Debunking

A couple of weeks ago Ashley Haworth-Roberts pointed me to a post on young Earth creationist Bob Sorensen‘s blog, Stormbringer’s Thunder, called “Debunking the ICR debunker.” Apparently, this title refers to me – ‘the’ and all. Sorensen’s post is primarily a link to a much longer essay at what is now Answers for Hope, the blog of Jason Petersen, called Online Atheists and You.

But before he gets to that link Sorensen has a few things to say himself. He claims that “Internet atheists” and evolutionists “often seek to shut down the rights of creationists and Christians to even express our points of view.” More specifically, he describes me as “an arrogant kid who seems to think that he is able to discredit and debunk the science presented by ICR scientists.” This is coming from a blog with an image in the sidebar stating “Parental advisory: I am right.” Sorensen is apparently quite fond of his image-based attempts at humour: the picture above right [Edit: Removed, see here to view] is from his post, and is supposed to represent the name of this blog, “Eye on the ICR.” In addition the ‘eye’ seems to be an envious eye, though I’m not sure what I am supposed to be envious of. Continue reading

Out on a Limb

Emerald Ash Borer adultBrian Thomas’ latest – Do People Live Longer among Trees? – has to be seen to be believed:

Could living near trees possibly affect human health? Increasingly, studies indicate that trees can improve human health. Evolution doesn’t expect this, but biblically speaking, trees and people have close ties.

Even for Brian this article is breathtaking. The subject is a recent paper, called The relationship between trees and human health (pdf), which set out to investigate a potential “relationship between the natural environment and improved health outcomes.” This was done by looking at changes in mortality in US counties that had been invaded by the emerald ash borer, which wipes out ash trees. Controlling for other variables – something which Brian describes as taking “steps to demonstrate that living longer was not linked to living among trees” – they discovered that there really was a correlation between tree death and human death. Continue reading

Darwin’s ‘Popular Notion’

Charles Darwin, by John CollierAfter a two-month hiatus the ICR’s short video series, That’s a Fact, has returned – better late than never, as they say. The new video is called Intelligent Surveys, about the results of all those polls that keep revealing the number of people who still believe in creationism in the US.

It has been so long since the last video that some of you may not even know what this series is all about. In brief, the ICR makes short videos of around two minutes in length on various topics. The videos are generally content-free (or as near to as makes little difference), and the few factual claims made tend to range from incorrect to not even wrong. The series began in October of 2011, a few months after this blog. While the videos always appear during the weekend, the posting schedule is otherwise erratic: while they have at times been weekly, fortnightly is more common, and a video that was supposed to appear two weeks ago never did. Originally there was a commenting system tied to the videos, upon which many flame-wars developed, but this is long gone now. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the supporters of the ICR actually like the series, which is bizarre. Continue reading

Stampede?

Dinosaur tracks at Lark Quarry The several-thousand prints at the Lark Quarry dinosaur track-ways, in Queensland, Australia, have long been interpreted as being the result of the only known dinosaur stampede. They were caused, it was believed, by a large hungry theropod spooking and scattering a group of smaller dinosaurs. A new paper – Re-evaluation of the Lark Quarry dinosaur tracksite (late Albian–Cenomanian Winton Formation, central-western Queensland, Australia): no longer a stampede? (pdf, SI) – argues that the site does not represent a stampede at all, but dinosaurs swimming with the current as part of a migration. Somehow, Brian Thomas gets from this research the title “New Dinosaur Tracks Study Suggest Cataclysm.” Continue reading

Ever More Complex

A new type of DNA sequencing technology has been developed and used to identify and characterize key regions of the genome called “enhancer” sequences. These are novel DNA features that were once thought to be a part of the so-called “junk DNA” regions of the genome. These key elements are now proven to be part of the indispensable and irreducibly complex design inherent to proper gene function for all types and categories of genes.

Jeff Tomkins’ New Technology Reveals More Genome Complexity is one of those articles that hits you with the nonsense almost from the beginning. Deconstructing that opening paragraph we find that the first sentence is perfectly accurate. There do exist in the genome regions, called enhancers, which promote the expression of the gene(s) they are associated with. Enhancers have been known for some time – they were even taught in my biology class last year, so they must be ancient – but a new paper in Science talks about a new method for identifying these regions. Continue reading

Noah’s Frogs

Hemiphractus fasciatusDid Noah Recognize Different Frog Species?, by Brian Thomas, is a fairly predictable discussion of baraminology. The article opens:

“What if Noah got it wrong?” is a question recently posed in a ScienceDaily article. “What if he paired a male and a female animal thinking they were the same species, and then discovered they were not the same and could not produce offspring?”

These were probably not intended to be serious questions. But if Genesis provides real history, maybe they should be.

The ScienceDaily article – Genetic Matchmaking Saves Endangered Frogs – is about a frog breeding project that is using “DNA barcodes” to ensure that they don’t try to breed similar-looking frogs that are of different species. Andrew J. Crawford is quoted in that press release as saying:

If we accidentally choose frogs to breed that are not the same species, we may be unsuccessful or unknowingly create hybrid animals that are maladapted to their parents’ native environment.

The journal paper the release relates to can be found here (pdf), but is not actually particularly relevant to the subject Thomas wishes to talk about. Continue reading

The Huge Large Quasar Group

The Huge-LQGThe cosmological principle is the idea that, ‘viewed on a sufficiently large scale, the properties of the Universe are the same for all observers.’ In general, this seems to hold true – but Brian Thomas’ most recent article, Massive Quasar Cluster Refutes Core Cosmology Principle, is in reference to an apparently contradictory observation.

The homogeneity aspect of the principle places a limit on the size of structures in the universe, though exactly what value this limit has is not universally agreed upon. But according to a recent paper, A structure in the early Universe at z ∼ 1.3 that exceeds the homogeneity scale of the R-W concordance cosmology (open access), the newly-discovered “Huge Large Quasar Group” (Huge-LQG) is significantly larger than even the largest calculated value would allow. Continue reading

YOM 2013: Selected Highlights

The Flammarion engravingYour Origins Matter returned from it’s holiday break a more than a week ago now, and it’s about time that I took a look.

The first post was about the end of the world, and wasn’t very interesting. The second – Have you been feeling hot or cold lately? – is much more so. It first challenges a piece of climate research on the grounds that it is based on “millions of years,” before breaking out some of the standard tropes (with a creationist bent): Continue reading

Why are there still Archaea?

Carl WoeseIn memorial of the death of microbiologist Carl Woese Brian Thomas brings out an old classic creationist trope, that which asks “why are there still monkeys?”, for ‘Ancient’ Bacteria Still Alive and Not Evolved. Because stupidity loves company just as much as misery, a few other, similar arguments are chucked in as padding.

Archaeans are amazing microbes that run on completely different metabolic processes than other microbes. Discovering the first of them must have been like finding a car that runs on hydrogen fuel cells amidst a landscape of gasoline-powered vehicles. This was the privilege of evolutionary biologist Carl Woese, who died on December 30, 2012. How did he interpret these findings, and what should we remember about his contributions?

They don’t have completely different metabolic processes – Thomas is exaggerating significantly here. He also thinks that he’s smarter than Woese, or at least has a better “interpretation” of his results. Continue reading