Sunday, 31 May 2015
Few would deny the beauty of flowers, which to some extent depends on the intricate mathematics used in their design.
But when it comes to plant intelligence, we might be a bit too reluctant to admit that they’re not stupid.
Actually, flowers are a lot smarter than we used to think. That is the take-home message from a recent review of two books in New Scientist: Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola (Island Press) and Plant Sensing and Communication by Richard Karban (University of Chicago Press).
We knew that flowers liked to turn towards the sun. But there’s much more:
“Clearly, we will never play chess with a rose, nor ask the orchid on our windowsill for advice. But that is the point: humans are guilty of serious parochialism, of defining intelligence in terms of a nervous system and muscle-based speed that enables things to be done fast, say all three authors.
Plants and animals face similar challenges: to find resources and mates, and avoid predators, pathogens and abiotic stresses. In response, says Karban, ‘plants communicate, signaling within [themselves], eavesdropping on neighboring individuals, and exchanging information with other organisms’. They have adaptive responses that, if they happened at speeds humans understand, would reveal them to be ‘brilliant at solving problems related to their existence.’ ”
Communication, signals and information are anything but Darwinian terms. They all suggest teleology. In other words, the existence of plants is no accident but there is a purpose behind them.
They defy naturalistic explanations.
Barnett, Adrian. 2015. Intelligent life: Why don't we consider plants to be smart? New Scientist 3023 (30 May).
Friday, 29 May 2015
There’s not much evidence for the latest hominin – a few teeth and two tiny pieces of the mandible or jawbone. But the earliest reports touted the find as a new human ancestor.
Found in Ethiopia, it already has its own species name Australopithecus deyiremeda although some experts are a bit more cautious, as the diversity within a species can be considerable.
Au. Deyiremeda is thought to be closely related to Au. Afarensis (a.k.a. Lucy) that many evolutionists revere as their grand-grand-grand etc. mother – or something like that. The assumed dates for both southern apes are almost identical, just over 3 million years.
Warning of the danger of extrapolating a bit too much from the evidence, Mark Twain wrote: “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”
It might not be a bad idea to spare a few thoughts on some of the past announcements concerning our assumed ancestors. The evidence for Nebraska Man consisted of a single tooth.
Moreover, perhaps science journalists should keep in mind what J. Shreeve wrote in Discover magazine in 1990: ”Everybody knows fossils are fickle; bones will sing any song you want to hear.”
Callaway, Ewen. 2015. New species of early human discovered near fossil of ‘Lucy’ Nature news (27 May).
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
“As far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing,” David Berlinski writes in his book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.
He was referring to some of the most infamous leaders of all time – who managed to kill millions of people. Most of them were atheists and they drew inspiration from Darwinian evolution.
While ISIS is certainly brutal, the atrocities committed by some evolution-believing leaders were by far much deadlier.
One might perhaps see a parallel between what happened then and what is happening now in the world of science. If researchers believe that there is no ultimate lawgiver, they might bend the rules, if they think they can get away with it.
Scientific misconduct seems to thrive in a community that embraces Darwinism.
Misconduct in science seems to be a global phenomenon. Now and then, science publications report on researchers who have distorted data or perhaps tried to make their research conclude something it doesn’t.
Recently, the journal Nature reported on misconduct in UK universities:
“Just a fraction of universities in the United Kingdom have made public the extent of their investigations into research misconduct, a survey has found — even though all have been told that they should do so.”
The survey disclosed that of the 44 universities the survey contacted, only 27 responded. Of these “only one-third had published summaries of their investigations into research misconduct for 2013–14.”
Twelve reports were published. They discussed 21 cases of alleged misconduct, including plagiarism, falsification, questions over authorship, fabrication and breach of confidentiality.
Darwinism might not be a good idea for science.
Berlinski, David. 2008. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. New York: Crown Forum. The above quote is from pp. 26–27.
Gibney, Elizabeth. 2015. UK universities slow to publish reports of misconduct investigations. Nature 521 (7552), 271. Nature (21 May 2015).
Monday, 25 May 2015
Who would have guessed that tiny ants could apply mathematics? An article in ScienceDaily states:
“When ants go exploring in search of food they end up choosing collective routes that fit statistical distributions of probability. This has been demonstrated by a team of mathematicians after analysing the trails of a species of Argentine ant. Studies like this could be applied to coordinate the movement of micro-robots in cleaning contaminated areas for example.”
Ants are not the only animals that display collective intelligence. Starlings fly in flocks of up to 300,000 birds and never seem to collide.
Some other amazing examples of animal intelligence or skills that challenge evolutionary explanations:
· Bees might be able to use a mind map when navigating.
· Zebrafish make their own sunscreen.
· The bowerbird can imitate practically anything it hears.
· Dogs are better learners than chimpanzees.
· Cockatoos are better tool users than chimps.
· A fox can be more intelligent (and not just cunning) than we’d expect.
· The octopus is an “eight-legged marvel”.
Previously, ants were known to build living rafts to stay alive.
In a blind Darwinian world, we would not expect animals to be as intelligent as they are. Some have brains the size of a pinhead, and yet – as in the case of ants – their skills are amazingly complex. No wonder Proverbs 6:6 says: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (NIV).
Plataforma SINC. 2015. Ants' movements hide mathematical patterns. ScienceDaily, (May 12).
Saturday, 23 May 2015
It’s a great time to believe in the Bible. Some of the amazing skills found in the animal kingdom that we get to know about almost daily point clearly to a very intelligent – and benevolent – author of all life.
A recent discovery features the zebrafish’s ability to make its own sunscreen.
For some time, researchers had known that bacteria, fungi and algae could produce sunscreen to protect them from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. But that zebrafish could also do so was a big surprise.
According to a report in eLife:
“It was thought for many years that the ability to synthesize small-molecule sunscreens was limited to microbes, and that higher marine organisms obtained these compounds exclusively from their diet. Now, in eLife, Taifo Mahmud and co-workers at Oregon State University—including Andrew Osborn, Khaled Almabruk and Garrett Holzwarth as joint first authors—show that zebrafish can synthesize gadusol (Osborn et al., 2015). They also present evidence that the pathway used by zebrafish to make gadusol is distinct from the pathway used by microorganisms to synthesize MAAs.”
Obviously, zebrafish have genes that can make gadusol.
The take away message from this discovery is that even in a fallen world, God, who knows everything, is interested in the welfare of not only humans but also of animals.
Brotherton, Carolyn A. and Emily P Balskus. 2015. Biochemistry: Shedding light on sunscreen biosynthesis in zebrafish. eLife (12 May).
Thursday, 21 May 2015
Mathematics can be wonderful. Just think about the Fibonacci sequence that is seen in almost everything that lives and in some things that don’t, such as broccoli, seeds, ammonite shells, flower petals, compound eyes and the arms of spiral galaxies.
But when it comes evolutionary mathematics, it’s an entirely different story. In 2010, Nature published a paper on supposedly 395 million year old fossilised tracks found in Poland.
That silenced some of the buzz around Tiktaalik, which was assumed to be the link between sea creatures and land animals.
Now, a new study claims that a “333-million-year-old” animal from Australia was the first tetrapod or four-footed animal to walk on land.
According to New Scientist:
“IT WAS one small fall for a tetrapod, but it signals one giant leap for tetrapod kind. A broken leg bone pushes back the emergence of our four-legged ancestors from water on to land by at least 2 million years.
A gap in the tetrapod fossil record means we know little about what happened between the time when limbs evolved from fish fins some 360 million years ago and the first land-adapted tetrapods appeared 330 million years ago.
To find out, Peter Bishop at the Queensland Museum in Hendra, Australia, and his colleagues analysed a rare tetrapod fossil from that gap, a 1.5-metre-long Ossinodus which lived some 333 million years ago in what is now Australia. They found that Ossinodus's forearm bones were strong enough to support the animal's body on land.”
As 395 million years old is somewhat older than 333 million years, one might wonder what this buzz is about. After all, 395 million –333 million equals 62 million, which, obviously, is a long time.
But in the evolutionary story, many birds are older than the dinosaurs from which they supposedly evolved, so perhaps we’re seeing a similar kind of mathematics here also.
Barras, Colin. 2015. Oldest broken bone reveals our ancestors' switch to life on land. New Scientist 3022 (20 May).
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Fish were supposed to be cold-blooded, but researchers have discovered that there is at least one exception - the opah (Lampris guttatus), also known as moonfish. Science magazine states that it
“lives in deep, cold water, but it generates heat from its massive pectoral muscles. And it conserves that warmth thanks to body fat and the special structure of blood vessels in its gills.”
The opah manages to keep its body temperature 5 °C warmer than the water, thanks to an amazing design feature:
In contrast to other fish, “the opah has an elaborate network of tiny blood vessels, in which arteries lie next to veins in tightly packed arrays.”
As the article shows, this looks very much like a designed feature:
“This arrangement of paired arteries and veins is known as a rete mirabile, or ‘wonderful net,’ …The opah is the first fish discovered with a rete mirabile around its gills. The gills’ heat exchanger is wrapped in a centimeter-thick layer of fat, which is unusual in fish.“
When it comes to the animal kingdom, words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘amazing’ are not understatements. Time and again, the features we see in animals make us wonder how wonderfully they are made.
There’s no sign of the handiwork of the blind watchmaker.
Stokstad, Erik. 2015. Scientists discover first warm-bodied fish. Science (14 May).
Sunday, 17 May 2015
Even in the animal kingdom, appearances can be misleading. We would not think that bowerbirds with their tiny brains could imitate almost anything they hear or that robins could use quantum technology to navigate from one continent to another, always finding the same place they left the previous year.
Even after the cosmic Fall, it’s a wonderful world. When we think about how bees navigate, how hummingbirds are designed, what gecko feet are like and how incredibly powerful the
mantis shrimp is, we would probably agree that we live in a world full of wonders.
Here’s one more addition to the list. A brief article in New Scientist featuring an animal most of us have probably never seen states the following:
“Take one look at a flying lemur, or colugo, sitting in a tree and it brings to mind a scrawny kid forced to wear his big brother's hand-me-downs. Flaps of skin hang around its ankles and get in the way as it clambers awkwardly around the forest.
Once the colugo leaps into the air, though, everything changes. Its baggy folds transform into enormous wings as the animal sails gracefully through the canopy.”
It is logical to think that the One who is full of grace and truth (Jesus) would create animals that can sail gracefully through the air.
The gracefulness we see in the animal is just a partial reflection of true grace, which saves us.
Piotrowksi, Jan. 2015. Zoologger: The clumsy tree-dweller transforms into a gliding ace. New Scientist (15 May ).
Friday, 15 May 2015
How do you get everything from nothing?
The short answer is that you can’t, regardless of how many million years you try. Contrary to what some atheists like Stephen Hawking say, there is no way the entire universe could make itself and everything in it.
Quantum fluctuations cannot salvage bad thinking.
It might be good to remember what Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936) said about this atheistic dilemma:
“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything."
Chesterton was a famous writer and Christian thinker who was not afraid to criticise Darwinian evolution and atheism.
While evolution is an ideology that has passed its shelf life, Chesterton’s thoughts are as fresh as they were two or three generations ago.
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Hardly a week goes by without a paper on molecular machines being published in a major science journal. Recently, PNAS published a study on the cytoplasmic dynein, which transports cargo by walking along a microtubule.
Fine-tuning is very much evident in its walk:
“Cytoplasmic dynein is the primary minus-end–directed microtubule (MT) motor. It is unclear how dynein coordinates ATP hydrolysis and MT attachment within and between its two motor domains, each containing four AAA+ ATPases (AAA: ATPase associated with various cellular activities), AAA1–4. We characterize how mechanical tension and nucleotide states of AAA1 and AAA3 regulate dynein–MT binding. Dynein binds MTs tighter when subjected to tension opposite its normal motility. ADP binding to AAA3 unexpectedly weakens MT-binding strength and reduces the bond strength anisotropy. Finally, AAA3 'gates' the activity of AAA1: ATP binding to AAA1 induces MT release only if AAA3 contains nucleotide. This work expands understanding of the role of force in dynein mechanochemistry and identifies regulatory functions of AAA3.”
A kinesin motor does practically the same thing, but in the opposite or plus-end direction. Both the dynein and kinesin suggest that our cells work in anything but a haphazard way.
In other words, fine-tuning and amazing design are evident from start to finish.
Nicholas, Matthew P. et al. 2015. Cytoplasmic dynein regulates its attachment to microtubules via nucleotide state-switched mechanosensing at multiple AAA domains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi: 10.1073/pnas.1417422112
Monday, 11 May 2015
How do you get a head on to an animal with an ancestor that didn’t have one? That is one of the many puzzles evolutionists need to address.
According to the evolutionary story, early organisms did not have a head. The best explanations Darwinists can produce are a few just so stories that apparently lack both head and tail.
A recent study attempts to explain the initial arrival of the head, however. A ScieneNow article states:
“A scientist has discovered one of the oldest fossil brains known (more than 500 million years old) and, in the process, may have revealed how arthropod heads first evolved, the University of Cambridge announced today. The study, published in Current Biology, describes how the researcher examined two arthropod ancestors—related to modern-day insects, crustaceans, and spiders—and identified a hard plate, known as the anterior sclerite, connected to their brains. The plate, which isn’t found in modern arthropods but could be fused with parts of the head, has similar characteristics to the heads of other early wormlike arthropod ancestors. As a result, it may mark one of the early transitions from soft-bodied creatures to the hard-bodied arthropods we know today, the researcher says.”
The choice of expressions, such as ‘could be’ and ‘may mark’ might suggest that this has little if anything to do with empirical science and more with assumptions that rely heavily on naturalistic philosophy.
In order to give a head to a creature with headless ancestors, one would need a major influx of genetic information.
As the Darwinian watchmaker is blind and cannot plan future development, this remains a big hurdle for evolution.
There is a much better explanation. It is presented in the Book of Genesis, and it features the Creator God.
How did the head evolve? Ancient brain holds clues. ScienceNow May 7, 2015.
Saturday, 9 May 2015
Popular culture is awash with references to millions of years. A recent advertisement for Singapore Airlines in Time (Europe) describes Australia and New Zealand as “the greatest open air galleries on earth.”
“Great art should never be rushed. This piece took millions of years.” This is how they introduce a picture of limestone stacks standing in water in Victoria, Australia.
Known as the Twelve Apostles, they currently consist of eight stacks, some of which are roughly 50 metres high. In 2005, one of them collapsed, leaving the rest to withstand the water and wind.
However, it is far more logical to understand that the Apostles, like many other geological features, such as the Three Sisters and Heavitree Gap, are actually monuments sculpted by the global flood of Noah’s day that we can read about in Genesis.
A huge problem for the belief in millions of years is that erosion tends to break rocks in far less time. Just keep in mind what happened to Apostle #9 in 2005.
It is no longer with us.
Thursday, 7 May 2015
“130 million years” ago.
A paper published in Nature Communications is probably ruffling some feathers in the Darwinian community. It reports on the discovery of two fossils of wading birds assumed to be “130 million years” old.
Commenting on the discovery, an article in Science uses expressions like “birds startlingly like today’s”, “spectacularly preserved with feathers and all”, “telltale traits of a modern bird” and “remarkably similar to that of today’s birds”.
Translation: there’s hardly been any evolution in the meantime.
This is a story that is repeated time and again, as more fossils are unearthed.
The Darwinian dilemma is by no means a minor one: Birds are assumed to have evolved from dinosaurs but many modern birds are older than dinosaurs. If one subscribes to the Darwinian timescale, one has to assume that descendants lived before their ancestor, as Dr. Jonathan Wells suggested over a decade ago when discussing Archaeopteryx.
It seems that sooner or later – and probably sooner – we'll approach an era when we'll know that most animal kinds, though not necessarily species, lived at the same time and show much less change than Darwin believed.
1972 saw the publication of Dr. Duane Gish’s book Evolution: The Fossils Say NO! Over twenty years later, Gish, who was a pioneer of biblical creation, followed this with the book Evolution: The Fossils Still Say NO!
If the Chinese bird fossils could speak, they would agree with Dr. Gish – and Genesis.
Balter, Michael. 2015. Feathered fossils from China reveal dawn of modern birds. Science (5 May).
Wang, Min. & al. 2015. The oldest record of ornithuromorpha from the early cretaceous of China. Nature Communications 6, article 6987. (5 May).
Tuesday, 5 May 2015
For several decades, animal rights activists have tried to do away with the distinction between humans and apes. Notwithstanding the genetic difference of roughly 30 per cent, they desire to elevate chimpanzees to personhood status.
Despite several attempts, they have failed. However, a recent campaign came closer to success than the previous ones. As reported by Nature news:
“A campaign by animal rights activists to establish the legal personhood of chimpanzees took a bizarre turn this week, when a New York judge inadvertently opened a constitutional can of worms only to clamp it shut a day later. On 20 April, New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe signed an order forcing Stony Brook University to respond to claims by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, were being unlawfully detained. The Coral Springs, Florida, organization declared victory, claiming that because such an order, termed a writ of habeas corpus, can only be granted to a person in New York state, the judge had implicitly determined that the chimps were legal persons.”
With legal experts protesting, the judge changed her order, at least slightly:
“By that evening, Jaffe had amended the order, letting arguments on the chimps’ detainment go forward but explicitly scratching out the words WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS at the top of the document.”
Habeas corpus is Latin for ‘You have the body.’ It is an old legal concept that was initially part of the Magna Charta (1215). It basically allows the court to ascertain whether a person has been imprisoned illegally.
Previous attempts at blurring the gap between humans and animals include the following:
· In January 2008 a chimpanzee named Matthew Hiasl Pan made headlines throughout the world as activists attempted to get the Austrian High Court to grant it the status of a person. The court refused to do so, however.
· In June 2008 the environmental committee of the Spanish parliament approved a resolution that called for the right to life and freedom for great apes.
· In early 2010, Thomas White, a professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, caused a stir by suggesting that dolphins should be treated as ”non-human persons."
· In 2014, professor Peter Singer wanted to define chimpanzees as people.
These attempts stem from a desire to believe in Darwinian evolution, which has no special place for humans and (at least in its orthodox version) does not acknowledge creation or the Creator.
This view has insurmountable theological and scientific problems. It puts death before the Fall and cannot account for the origin of genetic information, which requires a Mind.
Borrell, Brendan. 2015. Chimpanzee ‘personhood’ case sows confusion. Nature news (22 April).
Sunday, 3 May 2015
There’s no shortage of evidence for design in our world. Illustra Media has produced documentaries on butterflies and birds that show how wonderfully they are designed.
In July it will release another ID documentary, this time on life in the oceans. Here’s the trailer for Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth:
Friday, 1 May 2015
Bowerbirds are known for building intricate structures called bowers and decorating them. But they are much more versatile. They can imitate the calls of other birds, such as kookaburras and honeyeaters, as well as sounds that cats and even cars’ engines make.
There’s more. On a field trip in Papua New Guinea, researchers taped a male streaked bowerbird “belting out an extraordinary soundscape. It started with dogs barking and people chatting as they traipsed through the forest slashing at foliage, and continued with the sounds of machete strikes and a falling tree, complete with the rustle and shake of leaves and the great crash of it hitting the ground.”
This is amazing. Despite their tiny brains, birds are better toolmakers than chimps and crows, for instance, beat them in intelligence tests.
Birds have an amazing collection of design features. Feathers are light but almost never break before their time. Even the tiny hummingbird has awesome strength. Elegant design keeps the cormorant from getting wet.
Bird brained? Perhaps it’s time to cease using this expression. It doesn’t correspond to reality. Like most animals, birds were created to be intelligent.
Cossins, Daniel. 2015. Birds do impressions – it's time to take them seriously. New Scientist 3019 (30 April).