Spiders: God’s Filter Technicians?

A diagram of the web of the spider Nephila clavipes, which is being focussed on in the paperBrian Thomas writes Magnetic Spider Webs Attract Scientists’ Attention. He means electrical, not magnetic, but we’ll forgive him that one and move on.

Spider webs have electrical properties that help them attract insects: a paper last year noted that positively charged objects are more attracted to the silk than neutral objects. This is unsurprising, as weak electrostatic charges build up all the time simply from different materials rubbing together. Thomas says: Continue reading

Friday Falsehoods #1

You don’t need me to tell you about the upcoming “Ham on Nye” debate – a name with many curious connotations – nor give you my opinion on whether it is a good idea or not. But any aspiring debater needs to be able to almost reflexively parse creationist claims for their most crucial and obvious errors. At present we’re four articles behind, so this is the perfect time to start this series – in future I will probably pull from other, non ICR sources as well.

The format we’ll start off with is to give you a quote from each article to consider, and then (if I can get it to work) you can go to the next page to see what I made of each. Then, head to the comments below to tell me what you would have said. Continue reading

Methane is an Odourless Gas

Cassini's view of Titan on November 29 (click to enlarge)It’s that time of year again: time for Brian Thomas to recycle the news stories of the year in a rapid-fire format. First up are the astronomy topics.

If the moon was formed over four billion years ago by some colossal impact as secularists assert, then it should be dry as a bone. The violent impact would have melted all the minerals and thus would have ejected any water from its magma. But this year researchers reported discovering water within the minerals of some moon rocks. Not only does this refute the molten moon narrative, but it supports Scripture’s recent and watery lunar origins.

The Moon is mildly damp: see this post for more details. To quote the apostle Peter:

For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were transformed from water, but a little bit was left behind because He wasn’t paying much attention. And when He saw this He left it there, because it would screw with people when they saw it.

Continue reading

Creationist Infighting: Michael Denton’s Structuralism

There’s not a great deal for me to say here: recently published on the ICR website is another Brian Thomas article, Structuralism: A New Way to Avoid Creation, which criticises a recent paper in the Intelligent Design journal Bio-Complexity by Michael Denton. There is as such no right side to this fistfight.

In short, Denton wants wants us to return to what is effectively the pre-Darwinian concept of platonism, though he claims that its earlier acceptance was not based on prior belief in the philosophy but on “but rather upon the empirical finding that a vast amount of biological complexity, including the deep homologies which define the taxa of the natural system, appears to be of an abstract, non-adaptive nature that is sometimes of a strikingly numerical and geometric character.” While Thomas praises Denton’s “influential, evidence-based book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” he attacks structuralism as just another way to “exclude God.” As I said, there’s not right side here. Go check it out if you don’t believe me.

I Agree

Belgian blueAlmost entirely, in fact. Jeffrey Tomkins writes “Marketing Myostatin Inhibitors with Fake Science,” about nutritional supplements being marketed to reduce the activity of a protein called Myostatin (literally “muscle stop”) with the intent of increasing muscle mass. According to Tomkins, one claim made is that myostatin is somehow “vestigial”: Continue reading

Gene Tales

MRNA structure

It’s not an overly interesting “tale” today: Jeffrey Tomkins writes Long Complex Gene Tails Defy Evolution. His topic is a new paper announcing the discovery that mice and humans can both have longer and more numerous 3′ UTRs (messenger RNA untranslated regions in the 3′ direction relative to the coding sequence – i.e. the magenta section of the above image) than previously thought. The new sequences that have been “conservatively” determined to be of this nature total 6.6 million bases in mice and 5.1 million in humans, which is quite a lot – something along the lines of 0.2% of the size of the entire human genome, though I’m not certain that they can be directly compared. Individually,

they identified 2035 mouse and 1847 human genes that have 3′ UTR tails ranging from 500 to 25,000 bases long. In some cases, they were even longer than the protein-coding areas of the genes themselves.

Tomkins points to the “hundreds to thousands of built in regulatory switches per gene RNA copy.” As you can tell from the title alone he is making a “that’s complex, so it’s out of reach of evolution” argument, which we’ve looked at ad nauseam. Given this, there are only two things that are worth clarifying: first, while the individual tails had lengths up to 25,000 bases long the vast majority were much shorter and the average was only a few thousand; second, while Tomkins claims that “[t]hese incredibly long gene tails literally contain hundreds to thousands of genetic switches within each single mRNA,” (emphasis added) the paper only says that “these extensions collectively contain thousands of conserved miRNA binding sites [Tomkins’ “switches”]” (emphasis added). The results are therefore not quite as impressive as they might be, and as Tomkins is selling them.

Morality, and a Lack Thereof

Here’s a topic that I haven’t previously talked about on this blog: abortion. Looking at the search results the word has been used here all of once, and that in a quote from Rhonda Forlow’s Science Essentials blog (which, I remind you, is now defunct). It’s a touchy subject, for reasons that hardly need spelling out. On occasion I have nearly done so – most notably in August last year, when I considered contrasting this YOM post on how if a bacterium is alive, so must be a zygote, with the earlier Acts & Facts article that restricted “biblical” life to things with a soul, independent movement, and blood – but always decided against it.

The latest “Creation Science Update” article is called Abortion: The Evolution Connection, by Jake Hebert and a guy called Michael Stamp (who I’ve never heard of before, but probably would have if I’d been paying enough attention during my hiatus – his job at the ICR is that of “an editor,” apparently). After writing several paragraphs I’ve decided that I won’t, in fact, go against my self-imposed rule beyond that which is required to simply acknowledge the article’s existence. The reasoning should be familiar: evolution means that there is no God, and therefore no morality. I’ll leave it up to you to find the logical problems with their argument – they are many.

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

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

A Logical Leap

Opportunity and Curiosity Rock Abrasion ToolsFor Wednesday Jason Lisle provides a surprisingly up-to-the-minute article, Washing Machines on Mars, opening:

Several news outlets yesterday heralded early reports from NASA that the Curiosity rover on Mars has found evidence that the red planet could have supported primitive life.

Lisle cites three headlines: NASA: Yes, Mars could have hosted life; Mars had the right stuff for life, scientists find; and Wow! Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Primitive Life, NASA Says. If you haven’t heard the news you should probably go read one or two of those. Where do washing machines come in to it? Continue reading