Smells Like Design

Scalopus aquaticusBrian Thomas’ article for Wednesday – Moles Can Smell in Stereo – is a quickie. The subject is well summarised by that title: new research does indeed show that eastern moles specifically do smell in stereo, in much the same way as an animal might hear or see in stereo. This research was discussed in much more detail at Carl Zimmer’s blog The Loom, so there is no need to go over it here. Continue reading

Talking with Ants

Myrmica wheeleriFor the Friday DpSU Jeffrey Tomkins tells us that ‘Talking’ Ants Are Evidence for Creation. The subject is a paper in Current Biology called Ant Pupae Employ Acoustics to Communicate Social Status in Their Colony’s Hierarchy, about nearly-matured ant pupae communicating this fact to other ants via sound. Continue reading

New WMAP Results

WMAP 9yr resultsJake Hebert is also the author of today’s article, Do New Measurements Confirm Big Bang Predictions? The subject is a NASA press release about the 6th and final release of WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) data, which opens:

The WMAP science team has determined, to a high degree of accuracy and precision, not only the age of the universe, but also the density of atoms; the density of all other non-atomic matter; the epoch when the first stars started to shine; the “lumpiness” of the universe, and how that “lumpiness” depends on scale size. In short, when used alone (with no other measurements), WMAP observations have improved knowledge of these six numbers by a total factor of 68,000, thereby converting cosmology from a field of wild speculation to a precision science.

(Emphasis original) Continue reading

Technical Difficulties and Life on Mars

I’m having computer troubles which are going to prevent me writing anything of length for I don’t yet know how long – until I can get a new AC adaptor for my laptop, anyway. In the meantime, it appears that the ICR has slightly softened – or rather, modified – its stance on extraterrestrial life. As recently as August* we were explicitly told that there was no life on Mars (supposedly based on “a literal reading of Genesis 1”). In addition, back in December of 2011 Brian Thomas told us that if life was found on another planet – so long as it didn’t originally come from Earth – it would “essentially vindicate evolution and nullify creation.” Continue reading

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

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

The Black Sea Deluge

The Black Sea, from spaceAs the last surviving remnants of the ancient Tethys Ocean, the various bodies of water in the area stretching from the Mediterranean to (what’s left of the) Aral sea have had a rough time of it during the last couple of million years. The Mediterranean is of course connected to the Atlantic via the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, which has closed in the past causing the sea to largely dry up. Similarly, the Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean via the even narrower Bosporus.

There is a hypothesis, recently brought back to public attention, that around 5600 BC the Bosporus was opened, flooding what had previously been a freshwater lake and bringing its level up to the modern height. This idea has become associated with a possible origin for the Noachian flood myth. Hence Brian Thomas’ latest article, Did Underwater Archaeologist Confirm Noah’s Flood?

Underwater archaeologist Robert Ballard claimed to have found evidence beneath the Black Sea that Noah’s Flood really occurred. Christians who only read headlines may count this as confirmation of the Bible. But whatever Ballard found should not be considered direct evidence of Noah’s Flood.

Thomas’ position is unusual: similar to what we saw with the apocalypse business yesterday, Brian is pointing out that no this is not evidence of the Flood, but at the same time insisting that the Flood did in fact happen anyway. Continue reading

Genes are Useful

A Caenorhabditis elegansA paper from way back in February, called The Majority of Animal Genes Are Required for Wild-Type Fitness (pdf), opened with the following:

Almost all eukaryotic genes are conserved, suggesting that they have essential functions.

What this jargon-filled sentence means is that “almost all” genes in animals/plants/fungi/protists exist in other animals/plants/fungi/protists (and sometimes even in bacteria), and have thus not been lost or otherwise discarded, which suggests that they are probably fairly useful. It’s worth realising here and now that this logic is based on the unspoken premise of evolution, which in sane-people land is a fairly safe assumption for research purposes. If creationism were true, on the other hand, there would be no basis upon which to draw such a conclusion. Continue reading

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins swimmingEmperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the largest, and perhaps most famous, species of penguin. Thomas’ latest article is called Scientists Discover Secret to Fast Swimming Penguins. The article is fairly long, but the important parts are quite brief – which is good, because I have a Turtledove novel to read and I already wrote something today.

The executive summary is that the “secret” consists of air bubbles used as lubricant. Thomas points us to a 2011 paper on the subject, along with a somewhat more recent National Geographic article. Continue reading

Compare and Contrast

Complete single mutagenesis in the proteinI have an exam tomorrow, so this will have to be brief. The Friday DpSU – Study Shows Proteins Cannot Evolve – is by Jeffrey Tomkins, and relates to a paper published in Nature (pdf) in early October. From my quick reading the primary experiment of the paper was to take a short protein and test the relative functionality of mutated versions of it, where one amino acid in the chain had been substituted for one of the other possibilities – repeated for every possible single substitution. What they found is what should be expected: a small portion of the possibilities had a negative effect, but the vast majority had precious little (being only slightly negative or positive). Nevertheless, Tomkins opens:

Researchers just announced the systematic laboratory induced mutation of successive amino acids over the entire sequence of a simple bacterial protein. The results showed how even the simplest of life’s proteins have irreducibly complex chemical structures. The research also showed how random evolutionary processes that are ascribed to mutations are unable to propel evolution.

This is wrong. For one, the researches tried to modify the protein to bind to something slightly different than it usually does. They found that changing only two amino acids was sufficient to accomplish this, and that if only one of those changes was made the resulting protein would bind to both the normal and the different ligand:

Such a phenotype could be evolutionarily important when a mutational path characterized by a promiscuous but biologically functional intermediate is advantageous.

In addition, I hold out hope that when he says that the research demonstrates irreducible complexity he’s making some kind of private joke. Tomkins’ argument in that regard seems to boil down to “some mutations are bad,” and that’s not sufficient evidence for the claim. Continue reading