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

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

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


Today’s DpSU, by Brian Thomas, is called Newly Found Biochemical Is Essential for Life. With a title like that you could be forgiven for concluding that the élan vital had been discovered. However, the implications of the headline seems to oversell the real discovery more than a little. The angle that Mr Thomas is actually going for is, oddly enough, a variation on the most typical anti-Junk DNA argument. 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

A Much Maligned Beetle

Back in June I shared a link to a blogpost about a “kids book” the Institute for Creation Research published in 1991, called Bomby the Bombardier Beetle. That book attempts to teach kids that the system that bombardier beetles use to defend themselves is irreducibly complex, based on a flawed description of how it actually works. In the 21 years since the publication of that book the ICR has at least learnt that their mechanism is incorrect, but as the latest That’s a Fact video, Beetle Battle shows, they haven’t let that persuade them that their anti-evolutionary conclusion is false.

We seem to be stuck with screenshots for the forseeable future: click to view

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A Non Sequitur on the Road to Irreducible Complexity

As you will probably be aware from even the most basic familiarity with anti-evolutionary arguments, creationists are adept at demonstrating that this or that is ‘complex’. See, for example, the latest from Dr Jeffrey Tomkins: Brain Function Discoveries Support Creation.

Golgi-stained neurons in the cortex, from a macaque.

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Soft Tissues are Back!

I told you they were conflicted.PLoS-logo

A new article is up at that repository of creationist nonsense, the Institute for Creation Research. It’s called Peer Review Fails in Soft Tissue Study, and is a follow up from an earlier article – Latest Soft Tissue Study Skirts the Issues, which intriguingly they didn’t reference in this article, which is unusual – which I covered in Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies a fortnight ago. A quick summary of the situation as of then is in order: Continue reading