Tag Archives: Genetics

Trilobites Swim Circles Around Creationists – Part 1

Property Of TheDarwinReport

TheDarwinReport

Apologetics Press is so intellectually anorexic, it’s frightening to imagine the base level of research involved in its preparation of creationist material. It’s like watching a poorly conceived horror movie; on the one hand it’s something to laugh at, and on the other it has the occasional shock, even if it’s just a comically masked killer jumping from behind a door with an over-sized knife. It’s cheap thrills, good for a few chuckles. So, here’s today’s feature —the Apologists had something silly to say about the complexity of the trilobite eye. It begins:

One of the most fascinating finds in the fossil record is that of the long-extinct trilobite. Trilobites resided in the Earth’s ancient oceans, and often are considered to be the world’s first arthropods—creatures that consist of hard shells, and that have multiple body segments and jointed legs. Trilobites, which possessed a hard exoskeleton, bear a resemblance to horseshoe crabs, and are thought by evolutionists to be one of the first animals to have lived on the Earth. [my emphasis]

Ah, the errors run like a river: 1) Old-earth creationism invariably involves typological thinking; in other words, some group of organisms must be a “type” without the word ever being adequately defined. Here the Apologists roll the more than 20,000 species of trilobite into one type, as if they were referring to a single creature; and throughout the remainder of the article, trilobite traits are lumped on to that type with complete disregard for the immense diversity that exists within the class, Trilobita. 2) And which paleontologist claims that trilobites were the first arthropods? The first arthropods are thought to have been leggy segmented soft-bodied worms from the Early Cambrian. In fact, if you were to remove all that armor from a trilobite it would look like a worm. It’d be like peeling an artichoke, where there isn’t much underneath. 3) Next, the Apologists claim “evolutionists” think of trilobites as the “first animals to have lived on Earth”. How does it work out that trilobites were the “first arthropods” and the “first animals”? What 19th century children’s encyclopedia have these dimwitted clowns been reading? The sponges might have something to say about who the first animal was.

Let’s wallow in the rest of the Apologists’ misconceptions:

Evolution postulates that all living animals have progressed from simpler creatures, and that by the process of natural selection, organisms have “improved” along the way. Conventional thinking, therefore, suggests that since trilobites are so ancient, they must have been fairly simple creatures with primitive features. However, the eye of the trilobite—which is incredibly complex—refutes such a concept.

Yeah, well, when you disregard the tens of millions of years of natural history that occurred prior to the trilobites’ reign, it’s easy to make that argument. If no creatures with simpler eyes than trilobites had existed, then there would be a problem. But since there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, the flaw clearly lies in the Apologists being willfully ignorant of the subject matter.

Most trilobites had a pair of compound eyes that were made up of 100 to 15,000 lenses in each eye.

Such intricacies suggest that evolution is a degenerative process, for nothing on Earth today compares to the eye of the trilobite.

Darwinian models that attempt to explain the trilobite’s eye are completely unable to account for such complexity, especially considering the fact that the trilobite is considered to have evolved so early. When one considers the complexity of the trilobite’s eye, and compares it with the considerably less-complex eye systems of animals and/or humans today, it would seem that evolution has “gone in reverse.” [my emphasis]

Additionally, they go on to quote-mine paleontologist Niles Eldredge, who only speaks to the complexity of the trilobite lens, not the entire eye. The unique characteristic of the double-layered lens (doublet) of the trilobite is that it corrects for the aberration that occurs when light travels from a less dense material like water to a more dense one like calcite (CaCO3), which is what the trilobite lens –and exoskeleton, not coincidentally– is made of. But the human lens is, in fact, more complex because it can change shape to focus, while the trilobite lens is fixed. What the Apologists don’t grasp is that evolution is adaptive and not progressive in the long term, and that the variation in nature demonstrates how many ways there are for solving the same problem. How many different types of eyes are there? Moreover, they fail to see that eyes don’t see; eyes merely collect light and convert it to signals for the brain to interpret. Are the Apologists going to argue that the trilobite brain was more complex than the human brain? They can speak for themselves –and their own brains– on this point. Are you smarter than a trilobite? Now that’s a game show I’d watch. Trilobites win every time.

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Filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, paleontology, Trawling For Creationism

Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

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Filed under Biology, Evolution, Science

Genome Size and Complexity

the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up "scala naturae" to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity -- please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).

(Note: the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up “scala naturae” to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity — please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).

The chart above and note are from genomesize.com

As the note says, the bars in the chart indicate ranges of genome size. The measurements are given as a C-value, which here is a measure of weight in picograms. As we can see, genome size and complexity do not go hand in hand. Salamanders, flatworms, and algae are just a few of the groups which have members with genomes sizes larger than that of the mammals. Et tu, Chondrichthyes? Members of the protozoa have the largest. Isn’t it bad enough that humans have to deal with penis envy, now this? If there is a creator, he has an “inordinate fondness” for amoebae. All that sexy amoebic swaying and oozing is what did it. It’s a damn popularity contest. The swimsuit contest lost us the most points; the amoeba slipped out of its top, showed some membrane, and won the day.

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Filed under Biology, Intelligent Design

Deepest Living Fish Found

If you occasionally peruse the New Scientist in book stores or on newsstands, or just enjoy a dose of easy-to-digest science, check out the magazine’s YouTube channel. My favorite of their latest videos is about the deepest living fish ever found. These little buggers, called Snailfish, show all the characteristics of a deep sea existence. For one, their tail musculature is greatly reduced, and their oversized pectoral fins provide most of the locomotion. Living in the deep, these fish don’t have to deal with strong wave action or fast currents. And it’s not surprising that their shallower-water cousins have more powerful tails, and a lot more body pigmentation.

God, the creator, must be a real lazy bastard. He basically took the same fish and pawned it off as two separate creations. I feel cheated.

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What’s Wrong With Being A Mad Scientist?

Fictional mad scientists are most often portrayed as highly driven and glory hungry; they are the unwitting villains, the victims of their own inquisitive natures. Author, Reto Schneider, has written The Mad Science Book, which chronicles the history and present of questionable experiments carried out by real-life “mad” scientists. A list of nine of these experiments is on The New Scientist website. My favorite is Dogbot, the robot dog that was a social reject. Real dogs wanted nothing to do with him. Maybe his nose glowed red or he aspired to be a dentist. Whatever the reason, Dogbot was not allowed to participate in dog games.

What I like about mad experimentation is it’s raw unbridled curiosity. What does it matter if some experiments go wrong or if others are completely useless and outright wacky? What counts is that humans have a desire to understand the world. Thomas Edison was a mad inventor; he wasted ten years of his life on devising a new mining technique, which failed miserably. He also designed furniture and homes made out of that comfortable substance know as concrete. Not big sellers.

The lesson here is that in a complex world, curiosity saves the cat, it doesn’t kill it. But still there is an intellectual divide in society. There are those who care to know the world, and those who don’t care to have their world views tarnished by reality. I’m talking about creationists here. To them a mad scientist is someone to be feared.

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Creationist Of The Month Club – Dinesh D’Souza

Weeeeeeeee, Im a creationist.

Wheeeeeeeee, I'm a creationist.

Dinesh D’Souza is a professional apologist. To him Christianity is the source of all good in the world, and evolution is nasty atheistic propaganda. Here’s an excerpt from a piece he wrote on evolution and intelligent design:

The problem with evolution is not that it is unscientific but that it is routinely taught in textbooks and in the classroom in an atheist way. Textbooks frequently go beyond the scientific evidence to make metaphysical claims about how evolution renders the idea of a Creator superfluous.

Chemistry and physics are also taught in an “atheistic way”, as are computer science and mathematics. Science, by its very nature, is secular because the supernatural is not open to any form of investigation. When teaching evolution a teacher ought not to even mention god, because god is not a source of viable data.

D’Souza accuses science of making “metaphysical claims“, but it is Christians like himself who are guilty of this sin. They presuppose the existence of a higher being, and they whine when their presupposition is contradicted in a science classroom. It is perfectly reasonable, considering the evidence, for a biologist to conclude that life on Earth evolved and was not designed. This claim is about the physical world, not the metaphysical one. To proclaim the existence of a grand designer is a “metaphysical claim“, one that is wholly untestable within our Earthly realm. In essence, what D’Souza is upset over is biologists not including a dash of the supernatural in the mix.

Most Christians don’t care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether Darwin’s theories can account for macroevolution or only microevolution. What they care about is that evolution is being used to deny God as the creator.

First D’Souza denounces science for making a “metaphysical claim“, then he squawks that science is not including the metaphysical. Way to go on the blaring contradiction there, Dinesh. Now I’m positive you’re a Christian and a creationist. Only an Olympic grade rationalizer would do a one-eighty within the span of a few paragraphs.

Yesterday, in another article, D’Souza offered his pity for biologist and atheist PZ Myers.

Asked whether Christianity deserves credit for founding the first Western hospitals, universities and even scientific breakthroughs, Myers said, “No. People made those contributions to Western civilization”… Christianity was a powerful motivating force in why people did those things. You can find all this out by opening up a history book.

[Emphasis added to distinguish the wheat from the chaff]

Apparently, D’Souza has no grap of science methodology or religion and its lack of methodology. Indeed, Christianity founded many great universities. But the fact remains that one cannot successfully investigate the natural world while limiting one’s answers to within a religious framework. European universities were scientifically unproductive places until the Enlightenment. In the 18th century, almost half of the pupils of Oxford and Cambridge studied for the clergy; emphasis was on the classics and the Bible. Natural philosophy, as science was known then, was looked upon with suspicion, as it meddled with the belief in creation. It was only when researchers were free to contradict scripture that any real work got done. Dinesh would find all this out by opening up a history book.

So, I dub Dinesh D’Souza creationist of the month for September, 2008. Congratulations, Dinesh, on a job well done.

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Top 15 Visitor Complaints Received By The Kentucky Creation Museum

Creation Museum

Creation Museum

15. Intelligent Design video game didn’t count toward college credit as promised

14. Line for Richard Dawkins piñata too long

13. Kirk Cameron wouldn’t stop hugging me, even after my wife complained

12. Social-Darwinism lecture hit too close to home

11. Animatronic Einstein sounded identical to animatronic Fred Flintstone. Or was it the other way round?

10. Snack bar ran out of the Ken Ham & Cheese Sub. Had to order the Duane Gish Knish. It was stale.

9. Ray Comfort’s banana demonstration was inappropriate for children

8. Gift shop charged extra for framing creation science degree. Signed, Chuck Norris, PhD.

7. Price of admission didn’t include ride on “Skippy: The Friendly Dinosaur”

6. Sciency DNA exhibit made my brain hurt

5. Sciency Noah’s Ark exhibit made my brain hurt

4. Kent Hovind was seen standing between Adam & Eve statues

3. My child didn’t receive free “God Hates Evilutionists” t-shirt

2. Charles Darwin look-alike complained when I hit him

1. Jesus-shaped bathroom soap gave me a Jesus-shaped rash





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