Confounding the Patriarchs

In late 2013, as a response to an article by Brian Thomas rounding up what he considered the ICR’s greatest hits of the year, I wrote a post consisting of historical quotes altered to support each creationist claim Thomas brought up. For example – pertaining to the usual comet trope – Confucius almost certainly never said:

Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the comet that is flourishing must be replaced often, as the bulbs don’t last like they used to.

Hardly the pinnacle of comedy, I know, but I never claimed to be any good. I mention this old post not to revisit past failures but to bring attention to the underlying point of this bastardisation of Marcus Aurelius:

He who has seen present things has seen all, both everything which has taken place from all eternity and everything which will be for time without end; for all things decay predictably and exponentially (except isotopes).

Anyone who has been reading creationist arguments for very long has probably noticed this for themselves: while YECs vehemently deny that radioactive isotopes decay in a predictable and inalterable fashion that could be used to accurately determine the passage of time, they themselves often contend that other processes decay in the same way. Humphreys’ ideas about planetary magnetic fields might be the example that most commonly appears here, but today Brian Thomas provides us with a new one. He writes, in “Did Adam Really Live 930 Years?“: Continue reading

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Disappearing Genes

Four-leaf clover

We’re not actually talking about four-leaf clovers today.

Gah, some real writers block on this one. Sometimes I get halfway through a post and I know what I want to say, but I can’t wrestle it into my usual style. It tends to happen when the topic is generally fairly boring, yet at the same time intensely interesting to me personally in a way that I can’t show to anyone else. I want to go down all kinds of rabbit holes, but this isn’t terrible conducive to producing a coherent and informative blog post. So I’ve stopped writing and opened a text document, and I’m going to try give you a tour of the more interesting bits.

First: the Brian Thomas article is “Clever Clover: Evidence for Evolution?“; the paper is “Adaptive gains through repeated gene loss: parallel evolution of cyanogenesis polymorphisms in the genus Trifolium (Fabaceae),” (press release, pdf). Some clover plants produce cyanide, some don’t, the pattern isn’t what you might expect – you see both forms in the same species, and the versions that lack cyanide (having it is the default) seem to have evolved independently via the same pattern of gene deletion. You get the idea, I hope. Continue reading

Tomkins’ 70%

Because mammalian eggs are produced early in life, while sperm are created continuously, fathers are responsible for a greater share of new mutations passed down to their offspring than mothers. This slightly complicates genetics-based time-since-last-common-ancestor estimations, leading to recent results to the effect that the human-chimp split happened about twice as far back as previously thought. Adam Benton has more information, if you’re interested.

This new paper has prompted Jeffrey Tomkins, the ICR’s go-to geneticist, to publish “Chimp DNA Mutation Study–Selective Yet Surprising.” Tomkins is known for contesting the typically-cited genetic similarity figures of 94-99% and having calculated using his own method a “conservative” (i.e. maximum) figure of nearer 70%.

Different types of mutations

Continue reading

The Case of the Missing Polyploidy

Osmunda regalis, a royal fern

Osmunda regalis, a royal fern.

For Wednesday 16 April Brian Thomas writes: “Fossil Plant Chromosomes Look Modern.”

An 180 million year-old royal fern fossil has been discovered in Sweden that is so stunningly preserved that it still shows the components of individual cells. The nucleus – and even the nucleolus – can be easily seen, and cells that appear to be in the process of division show their chromosomes. The paper, “Fossilized Nuclei and Chromosomes Reveal 180 Million Years of Genomic Stasis in Royal Ferns,” in Science, is unfortunately closed access, but phys.org has pictures. The preservation is good enough, in fact, that the researchers report that they’re basically the same as in living royal ferns. The “living fossil” creationist argument is probably well familiar to you, so the content of Thomas’ article shouldn’t be all that surprising. Continue reading

Editorial Insights from a Blind Cavefish

Mexican Tetra as Blind Cave FishYou’ll be wanting to look at this screenshot. The ICR article that we’re looking at (“Blind Cavefish Shed Light on Creation,” by Brian Thomas) looks like that as I write this, but it will almost certainly have changed before you see it.

It has always been clear that the ICR has some form of editing process – the relative paucity of typos, the long publication delay, and the fact that for them to do otherwise would be unprofessional being the more obvious clues – but I’ve long been interested in learning about it. This article has been misposted in an annotated draft form, and provides clues I never thought I’d see. My sincere thanks, then, to whoever made the mistake, and I hope nobody gets annoyed with you for it. Continue reading

Duon and Duoff

DNA UV mutation

Attentive viewers will note that this illustration – like Tomkins’ stock photo – is left handed.

Welcome to 2014! I hope you have all had time to settle in a little, and are ready to begin the year afresh. As always, in the event of an earthquake take cover under your desks and then exit through the doors at the front and back in an orderly fashion after the shaking ends. If there is a fire, leave immediately and do not panic. If both occur simultaneously, hope.

Our topic is, as always, the Institute for Creation Research: as such 2013 is not yet over for us. Today the subject is December’s infamous ‘duons’, and the Creation Science Update by Jeffrey Tomkins is called “Duons: Parallel Gene Code Defies Evolution.” Continue reading

Nathaniel Jeanson’s Null Hypothesis

I’ve been investigating ICR researcher Nathaniel Jeanson’s recent paper in Answers Research Journal, “Recent, Functionally Diverse Origin for Mitochondrial Genes from ~2700 Metazoan Species.” As it’s a topic I’ve seen before I’m going to write about it, but I see this morning that Hemant Mehta at his Friendly Atheist blog has actually beaten me to it, writing “A Creationist’s Desperate Attempt to Sound Like a Credible Scientist.” However Mehta’s post mostly mocks Jeanson, going so far as to dig up a promotional video the ICR made about him, and doesn’t really address his arguments in any detail. All the more for me then. Continue reading

Concentration is Important

Lego Color BricksThe building blocks from which DNA is made are known as deoxynucleoside-5′-triphosphates (dNTPs), which are made up of the familiar four DNA bases – Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine – plus a deoxyribose sugar and three phosphate groups. dNTPs are produced by the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), and the enzymes that replicate DNA must obtain these molecules from the solution around them.

Imagine you have a tower of randomly coloured lego bricks, which you are trying to construct an identical copy of. The problem is that the materials you are using are not orderly arrayed on the floor but are instead being thrown at you randomly and must be caught before use. Continue reading

The Microprocessor

Intel 4004

(Not this kind of microprocessor.)

The ICR does not usually post on local public holidays, but for Veterans Day (November 11) we have Incredible Microprocessor Protein Acts as Genome Guardian from Jeffrey Tomkins:

Researchers recently studied a highly sophisticated cellular machine that acts as a guard for the genome against harmful mutations and that evolution cannot explain.

Grammar is a wonderful thing – does he mean that “evolution cannot explain” the protein or the mutations? I don’t know for certain, but we’re going to have to use the former as our working assumption. Continue reading

Many Kinds of Ant

Atta cephalotes - Hans HillewaertThere are some interesting conclusions to be drawn from Jeffrey Tomkins article for today – called Newly Discovered ‘Orphan Genes’ Defy Evolution. This may seem odd, not least because a) all three of those pairs of words are common and uninteresting Tomkins-isms and b) the “recent review paper” he begins by talking about was actually published in 2009, but bear with me here. Continue reading