The Surprises Will Never Stop

Great catchupIn Circular RNAs Increase Cell Bio-Complexity (5 April 2013) Jeffrey Tomkins makes the arguement we’ve seen so many times even in the last week: something has been found to be biologically functional, therefore “bio-complexity” has increased, therefore design, therefore God.

The specifics are thus not hugely important. DNA can code for a variety of “RNAs” as well as just proteins – the function of these “circular RNAs” is apparently to act as a sponge for another RNA type, microRNAs. It doesn’t strike me as something that would be all that difficult to evolve, I have to say. Here’s a slightly more detailed summary, if you’re still interested. Continue reading

A Very Old Worm

The Great 2013 Catch-upIn Ancient Fossil Looks Like Today’s Acorn Worms (8 April 2013) Brian Thomas makes a living fossil claim – sort of. “Acorn worms” are more formally known as “enteropneusts,” which is a taxonomical class containing four families and around 90 living species. The rediscovery of a collection of old finds from the Burgess Shale apparently pushes the age of the earliest acorn worms back 200 million years to around 500 million years ago, i.e. the Cambrian explosion. Continue reading

80% Fish

"Missing in Action" background imageIt would appear that the ICR’s That’s a Fact video series also chose to take the last few weeks off, with only one video being posted in my absence – the next one is due next weekend. The now month-old latest video is called Missing in Action and it’s subject – so-called “missing links” – ties in nicely with the catchup post that will appear next.

The term “missing link” is a misleading descriptor, which is unfortunately commonly used in the media when discussing fossils. It invokes the image of a broken chain, now mended, and that’s not how evolution works. The creationist (mis)conception is even worse – the picture above, of what is supposed to be a literal half-dog, half-bear creature, is not some parody of how they misunderstand the idea but instead the main image for this very video. If it comes down to it they probably do know better than that, but they’re not about to give it away in their two-minute “science” videos. Continue reading

Optimisation is not Always Perfection (or Vice Versa)

The Great 2013 Catch-upIn Yeast Survive as They ‘Fail to Optimize’ (10 April 2013) Brian Thomas stumbles upon an important biological truth: what looks better on paper, when considering only a single part of a biological system, can still be bad for the survival of the organism as a whole.

He’s talking about a news article in Nature from February summarising two papers investigating how differing choices in codons that code for the same amino acid can affect the efficiency of the (here, circadian rhythm-related) proteins that they create, one studying a type of fungus and the other a bacterium. Continue reading

Swimming with Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs left plenty of bones, but some also created another type of fossil: preserved track marks. A handful of these tracks were made from swimming dinosaurs, and a new paper in the Chinese Science BulletinA new Early Cretaceous dinosaur track assemblage and the first definite non-avian theropod swim trackway from China (open access) – reports on the discovery of one such find.

Timothy L. Clarey’s new article on these tracks is called Dinosaurs Swimming out of Necessity, but the “necessity” conclusion is entirely his own. His article is quite similar to one from Brian Thomas published in January which we looked at in Stampede? For instance both Thomas and Clarey chose to claim in their opening paragraphs that, in the present day, it is very difficult to form footprints that will eventually be preserved as fossils – here’s Clarey’s opener:

What’s so fascinating about dinosaur tracks? Maybe it’s because their many mysteries beg for solutions. For instance, because tracks in mud are so short-lived today, how did dinosaur tracks ever preserve in the first place? Newly described prints bolster biblical creation’s explanation of dinosaur footprints.

It may be true that it’s hard to preserve footprints in mud, but it’s not so improbable once you consider the shear number of footprints that would have been made over the more than 180 million years of the Mesozoic Era. Clarey never does explain, meanwhile, how “biblical creation” suddenly makes preservation so much easier – not even a “footprints need to be preserved rapidly” claim (which is false, by the way). Continue reading

The Beta-Globin Pseudogene

The Great 2013 Catch-upIn Beta-Globin Pseudogene Is Functional After All (12 April 2013) Jeff Tomkins says… well, it’s in the title, really. This is the older article that Monday’s post alluded to, and it’s really quite similar. Again, we have a pseudogene. Again, it’s been shown that its sequence is being actively preserved by natural selection, as if it were actually useful. Again, it has been found that the pseudogene infact codes for functional RNAs. The biggest difference is that this pseudogene (“HBBP1”) is not a “processed pseudogene” like ψPPM1K was, but that’s not significant here. Continue reading

Ray Comfort at YOM

The infamous Ray Comfort (“Bananaman”) is a fellow Kiwi, but one that we’ve persuaded to leave and inflict himself on the rest of the world – after all, if he’d stayed he would have been a big fish in a rather small and derisive pond. At the ICR’s Your Origins Matter blog there’s a post up today called “Ray Comfort Answers Atheists, Part 1,” one of a number of guest posts that have appeared there in the last few months.

Readers of the Sensuous Curmudgeon blog should be familiar with Comfort’s “atheists ask” series, which is only new to YOM. Indeed even today’s specific questions should be familiar, as the most recent SC post is about a Comfort article on World Net Daily that includes both of those at YOM and a number of others. WND claims that this series is “exclusive,” but it doesn’t look like this is the case. Continue reading

Fibroblast growth factor 8

The Great 2013 Catch-upIn Embryology Gene Control Confounds Evolution (15 April 2013) Jeffrey Tomkins talks at length about a Developmental Cell paper called “An Integrated Holo-Enhancer Unit Defines Tissue and Gene Specificity of the Fgf8 Regulatory Landscape.” No, I don’t know what that means either. Continue reading

Negating Evolution with Epigenetics

Arabidopsis thalianaThat’s negation in the “contradicting” sense of the term, rather than as in nullification or reversal. That being said, Jeffrey Tomkins’ headline today is “Plant Epigenome Research Negates Evolution,” which in theory could mean that epigenetics is acting to actively prevent the changes that evolution is creating. This is not, however, the case – at least not here.

Biological research involves a lot of “model organisms,” one of which is the thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana. The paper that Tomkins is talking about today – Patterns of population epigenomic diversity (open access) – compares the patterns of DNA methylation of thale cress plants adapted to different environments, which they found to be much larger than they expected. DNA methylation involves the attachment of a methyl group to a base of DNA, which could be thought of as acting as a speed bump for transcription, slowing it down or stopping it entirely but in a way that can be undone if the group is removed. Eukaryotes like animals and plants seem to use every potential mechanism available to regulate gene expression, and this is no exception. And just as the sequence of As, Gs, Cs, and Ts can be determined and is called a genome, so too can the pattern of methylation within that genome be mapped – this is your “epigenome.” Continue reading


The Great 2013 Catch-upIn Striking It Rich with ‘Instant Gold’ (17 April 2013) Timothy L. Clarey points us to a Nature Geoscience paper called “Flash vaporization during earthquakes evidenced by gold deposits.” The gist is as follows:

The two scientists found that faulting events are key to gold deposit formation, where rocks split apart and quickly slip past one another, causing earthquakes. Faults through solid rock are never straight. Instead, they follow zigzag patterns that look like chain lightening and create small voids—openings in the rocks called “jogs.” Fast-forming jogs create instantaneous drops in pressure during movement, causing superheated deep waters to almost instantly “flash vaporize,” leaving behind thin coatings of gold and quartz.

Repeated earthquakes could build up the gold to levels that would be economical to mine. Continue reading