Friday, 29 April 2016

Chameleon's Amazing Tongue Inspires Robotics

Image courtesy of Geoff, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).




Joel Kontinen

A new paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A on the secrets of the chameleon’s tongue discloses hi-tech design that involves three integrated systems. The abstract uses design language:

The ballistic projection of the chameleon tongue is an extreme example of quick energy release in the animal kingdom. It relies on a complicated physiological structure and an elaborate balance between tissue elasticity, collagen fibre anisotropy, active muscular contraction, stress release and geometry. A general biophysical model for the dynamics of the chameleon tongue based on large deformation elasticity is proposed. The model involves three distinct coupled subsystems: the energetics of the intralingual sheaths, the mechanics of the activating accelerator muscle and the dynamics of tongue extension. Together, these three systems elucidate the key physical principles of prey-catching among chameleonides.

We would not associate expressions like 'complicated physiological structure' and 'elaborate balance' with random processes. In other words, the chameleon’s tongue does not look as though it was the product of the blind Darwinian watchmaker.

The BBC gives some more details:

The chameleon's tongue is able to extend to twice the length of the body while unravelling telescopically.

Past research has shown if the tongue were a car, it could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in one hundredth of a second
.”

The article goes on to discuss the details of the tongue:

Part of the secret of the chameleon's success, the researchers confirmed, is special stretchy tissue within the tongue.

At the core of the tongue is a bone, which is surrounded by 10-15 layers of very thin fibrous tissues, then a muscl
e.”

No wonder engineers are interested in copying the tongue’s mechanism in robotics.

Biomimicry or biomimetics, i.e. copying amazing design seen in nature, has become a flourishing research field.

Engineers are eager to copy the elegant design they see in the moth’s eye, flying snails and even flies, for instance.

The chameleon’s tongue also reminds us that we live in a fallen world where animals and plants need weapons and defensive strategies to survive.

Sources:

Briggs, Helen. 2016. Chameleon's tongue gives up secrets. BBC News. (20 April).

Moulton, Derek E., Thomas Lessinnes, Stephen O’Keeffe, Luis Dorfmann and Alain Goriely. 2016. The elastic secrets of the chameleon tongue. Proceedings of the Royal Society A. (20 April).




Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Transhumanist Wants to Turn Us Into Gods

Yearning to transcend human limitations. Image courtesy of greyloch, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).





Joel Kontinen

Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan thinks humans have a huge problem:

Humans are handicapped by our biology. We operate tens of thousands of years behind evolution with our inherited instincts, which means our behavior is not suited towards its current environment.”

He seems to think that he has found a solution to our dilemma:

Futurists like to say evolution is always late to the dinner party. We have instincts that apply to our biology in a world that existed ages ago; not a world of skyscrapers, cell phones, jet air travel, the Internet, and CRISPR gene editing technology. We must catch up to ourselves. We must evolve our thinking to adapt to where we are in the evolutionary ascent. We must force our evolution in the present day via our reasoning, inventiveness, and especially our scientific technolog. In short, we must embrace transhumanism -- the radical field of science that aims to turn humans into, for lack of a better word, gods.”

This has next to nothing to do with orthodox Darwinism that relies on random processes.

We already are wonderfully made, but we can never become gods, regardless of what we do. But we can become God’s children through faith in Christ.

The transhumanist believes we should immediately work to improve ourselves via enhancing the human body and eliminating its weak points. This means ridding ourselves of flesh and bones, and upgrading to new cybernetic tissues, alloys, and other synthetic materials, including ones that make us cyborg-like and robotic. It also means further merging the human brain with the microchip and the impending digital frontier. Biology is for beasts, not future transhumanists.

It seems that Mr. Istvan has read a bit more science fiction than is good for his health.

Transhumanists are by no means the first to think of superhumans. Friedrich Nietzsche toyed with the idea in the late 19th century, and Aldous Huxley envisioned his brave new world way back in 1931.

And then we heard about Superman and Batman and a big bunch of other comic book characters.

There is a tendency to see science as a secular saviour that can solve all our problems.

It might be good to remember that C. S. Lewis already warned of scientism.

Moreover, wishful thinking will not solve humanity’s basic problem that is sin.

Source:

Istvan, Zoltan. 2016. Transhumanism and Our Outdated Biology. The Huffington Post (21 April).



Monday, 25 April 2016

M0re Problems for Darwinism: Royal Society Set to Re-Examine Evolution


The entrance to the Royal Society. Image courtesy of Tom Morris, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).





Joel Kontinen


50 years ago, evolution was in big trouble. Mathematically, it just didn’t add up. A group of prominent scientists met at Wistar Institute for a conference to try to solve the problems. It produced a monograph entitled Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.

They couldn’t solve the dilemma. The problems are still there. To address them, the Royal Society is holding a meeting in November. A notice posted on the Society’s website explains why the conference is necessary:

Scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS, Professor Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and Professor Kevin Laland.

Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested. This meeting will present these developments and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and, in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications
.”

It is bound to be interesting, as professor Denis Noble is an outspoken critic of Darwinian mechanisms. Together with some other prominent researchers and professors, such as James A. Shapiro, Eva Jablonka and Eugene Koonin, he has launched a website called the Third Way.

They believe strongly that random mutations and natural selection cannot explain biodiversity.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the participants are willing to go far enough, i.e. the throw the entire naturalistic paradigm overboard.

Source:

New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. The Royal Society.

Here’s a brief video on the significance of the Wistar Conference, featuring Dr. Paul Nelson:

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Bubble Nebula: The Heavens Declare The Glory of God

The NGC 7635 Bubble Nebula. Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team.




Joel Kontinen

The Hubble Space Telescope has just given us a stunning view of the Bubble Nebula.

New Scientist gives some background facts:

The giant bubble, also known as NGC 7635, is a cloud of gas and dust 10 light years across, located in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1787 and has been partially photographed by Hubble before, but this is the first time the telescope has captured its full glory in a single image.”

The Bubble Nebula reminds us of the beauty we see in creation, and it’s not just us: The Old Testament writers also realised that only an awesome God could make such an awesome universe.

The heavens declare the glory of God(Psalm 19:1) and “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, English Standard Version).

We can see beauty everywhere, even in us. This challenges the indifferent Darwinian view of the cosmos.

Even in a world that suffers from Adam’s sin, we see amazing comeliness in both the small (such as a peacock spider) and the huge (for instance, galaxies).

We also enjoy wonderful colours and discern mathematical symmetry in all kinds of everything.

Source:

Aron, Jacob. 2016. Hubble telescope catches stunning picture of the Bubble Nebula. New Scientist (21 April).


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Darwinian Dilemma: Champion Monkey Swam (or Sailed) 160 Kilometres

The earliest North American monkey probably resembled a capuchin. Image courtesy of David M. Jensen, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).





Joel Kontinen

Fossils often present more puzzles for evolutionists than they solve. Thus, when they found the remains of monkeys in South America, they had to speculate that the Platyrrhini, as the new world monkeys are called, crossed the ocean on rafts from Africa.

With the discovery of seven teeth of a monkey known as Panamacebus in Panama, they have to postulate that the owner of these teeth must have swum across a stretch of ocean that was 160 kilometres (100 miles) wide, as they believe there was no land bridge between North and South America at the time.

Quite a swimmer. Or perhaps a champion sailor.

Stories like these might make evolution interesting, but the only ones they would convince are those who rule out more credible scenarios, including the global flood and its aftermath.

The remains are assumed to be “21 million years” old - another story that lacks hard evidence.


Source:

Barras, Colin. 2016. 21-million-year-old fossil is North America’s first monkey. New Scientist (20 April).



Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Evolutionary Secrets of Beards Disclosed – Or Perhaps Not

Genghis Khan. Image source: Dschingis Khan und seine Erben (exhibition catalogue), München 2005, p. 304, public domain.





Joel Kontinen

A recent article in The Conversation attempts to disclose the evolutionary secrets of beards. Why do some men sport them? And why do some women find them attractive?

The quest for finding a Darwinian answer for a variety of phenomena is not new. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) famously put it, “Evolution is the light that illuminates all facts, a curve that all lines must follow” and Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote an essay in 1973 entitled Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.

So does this also include beards?

The Conversation article obviously starts with the basic assumption that it does:

“What is the point of a beard, evolutionarily speaking? Children, women, and a whole bunch of men manage just fine without one. But take a walk down some streets these days and you’ll be confronted with all sizes and shapes of groomed (and less groomed) facial hair – from designer stubble to waxed moustaches and hipster beards.

When we see men paying attention to their appearance, it’s easy to assume that they’re just angling for partners. But our research on beards and voices shows that beards probably evolved at least partly to help men boost their standing among other me
n.”

Author Tamsin Saxton throws in some Darwinese, such as “evolution through sexual selection,” for good measure.

Evolutionists need this concept, as natural selection cannot explain the beauty we see in the animal kingdom and elsewhere.

However, sexual selection has become a controversial concept.

In 1870 Charles Darwin tried to show in his book The Descent of Man that peahens were enthralled by the peacock’s long tail. However, research shows that this isn’t true.

But a lack of facts has never kept evolutionists from speculating. In 2012, for instance, New Scientist had an article entitled: Why Haven’t Bald Men Gone Extinct?

Given the absence of evidence, evolutionists tend to use just so stories.

Source:

Saxton, Tamsin. 2016. Hirsutes you sir: but that beard might mean more to men than women. The Conversation (14 April).





Sunday, 17 April 2016

New Darwinian Moth Tale Without Head or Tail


Yponomeuta cagnagella. Image courtesy of Sarefo, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).





Joel Kontinen

While Darwinists tend to think that evolution is real, one thing that has definitely not evolved is their less than meticulous use of the word 'evolution'.

They use it so carelessly in a wide variety of meanings that one might suppose they do it on purpose to muddy the waters.

A recent example features a study on the behaviour of ermine moths (Yponomeuta cagnagella) published in the journal Biology Letters.

An article in Science puts an evolutionary spin on the results:

Moths from high light pollution areas were significantly less attracted to the light than those from the darker zones … Overall, moths from the light-polluted populations had a 30% reduction in the flight-to-light behavior, indicating that this species is evolving, as predicted, to stay away from artificial lights.”

So, what the article does is to equate a change in behaviour with evolution. The moths have not changed physically; they are still moths of the very same species than before.

Darwinian evolution (i.e. in its molecules to man definition) would probably head towards a speedy extinction, if its adherents were a bit more cautious – and honest – in their use of terms.

Now it lies in the emergency ward, kept artificially alive through fact-free storytelling and speculation. (You can read about some examples here, here, here and here.)

Source:

Morell, Virginia. 2016. Your porchlight is causing moths to evolve. Science (12 April).