Evolutionary Story Tells the Tale of Creation

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By Fazale Rana – December 4, 2019

Story Telling in the Evolutionary Paradigm

Storytelling isn’t just the purview of a mischievous kid facing the music in the principal’s office, it is part of the construct of science.

Recent work by a team of scientific investigators from the University of Florida (UF) highlights the central role that storytelling plays in evolutionary biology.1 In fact, it is not uncommon for evolutionary biologists to weave grand narratives that offer plausible evolutionary stories for the emergence of biological or behavioral traits. And, though these accounts seem scientific, they are often unverifiable scientific explanations.

Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s (1865–1936) book of children’s origin stories, the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) referred to these evolutionary tales as just-so stories. To be fair, others have been critical of Gould’s cynical view of evolutionary accounts, arguing that, in reality, just-so stories in evolutionary biology are actually hypotheses about evolutionary transformations. But still, more often than not, these “hypotheses” appear to be little more than convenient fictions.

An Evolutionary Just-So Story of Moths and Bats

The traditional evolutionary account of ultrasonic sound detection in nocturnal moths serves as a case in point. Moths (and butterflies) belong to one of the most important groups of insects: lepidoptera. This group consists of about 160,000 species, with nocturnal moths comprising over 75 percent of the group.

Moths play a key role in ecosystems. For example, they serve as one of the primary food sources for bats. Bats use echolocation to help them locate moths at night. Bats emit ultrasonic cries that bounce off the moths and reflect back to the bats, giving these predators the pinpoint location of the moths, even during flight.

Many nocturnal moth species have defenses that help them escape predation by bats. One defense is ears (located in different areas of their bodies) that detect ultrasonic sounds. This capability allows the moths to hear the bats coming and get out of their way.

For nearly a half century, evolutionary biologists explained moths’ ability to hear ultrasonic sounds as the outworking of an “evolutionary arms race” between echolocating bats and nocturnal moths. Presumably, bats evolved the ability to echolocate, allowing them to detect and prey upon moths at night by plucking them out of the air in mid-flight. In response, some groups of moths evolved ears that allowed them to detect the ultrasonic screeches emitted by bats, helping them to avoid detection.

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Figure: Flying Pipistrelle bat. Image credit: Shutterstock

For 50 years, biologists have studied the relationship between echolocating bats and nocturnal moths with the assumption that this explanation is true. (I doubt Mr. Reynolds ever assumed my stories were true.) In fact, evolutionary accounts like this one provide evidence for the idea of coevolution. Advanced by Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven in 1964, this evolutionary model maintains that ecosystems are shaped by species that affect one another’s evolution.

If the UF team’s work is to be believed, then it turns out that the story recounting the evolutionary arms race between nocturnal moths and echolocating bats is fictional. As team member Jesse Barber, a researcher who has studied bats and moths, complains, “Most of the introductions I’ve written in my papers [describing the coevolution of bats and moths] are wrong.”2

An Evolutionary Study on the Origin of Moths and Butterflies

To reach this conclusion, the UF team generated the most robust evolutionary tree (phylogeny) for lepidopterans to date. They also developed an understanding of the timing of events in lepidopteran natural history. They were motivated to take on this challenge because of the ecological importance of moths and butterflies. As noted, these insects play a central role in terrestrial ecosystems all over the world and coevolutionary models provide the chief explanations for their place in these ecosystems. But, as the UF researchers note, “These hypotheses have not been rigorously tested, because a robust lepidopteran phylogeny and timing of evolutionary novelties are lacking.”3

To remedy this problem, the researchers built a lepidopteran evolutionary tree from a data set of DNA sequences that collectively specified 2,100 protein-coding genes from 186 lepidopteran species. These species represented all the major divisions within this biological group. Then, they dated the evolutionary timing of key events in lepidopteran natural history from the fossil record.

Based on their analysis, the research team concluded that the first lepidopteran appeared around 300 million years ago. This creature fed on nonvascular plants. Around 240 million years ago, lepidopterans with tubelike proboscises (long, sucking mouthpiece) appeared, allowing these insects to extract nectar from flowering plants.

These results cohere with the coevolutionary model that the first lepidopterans fed internally on plants and, later, externally, as they evolved the ability to access nectar from plants. Flowering plants appear around 260 million years ago, which is about the time that the tubelike proboscis appears in lepidopterans.

But perhaps the most important and stunning finding from their study stems from the appearance of hearing organs in moths. It looks as if these organs arose independently 9 separate times—around 80 to 90 million years ago—well before bats began to echolocate. (The earliest known bat from the fossil record with the capacity to echolocate is around 45 to 50 million years old.)

The UF investigators uncovered another surprising result related to the appearance of butterflies. They discovered that butterflies became diurnal (active in the daytime) around 98 million years ago. According to the traditional evolutionary story, butterflies (which are diurnal) evolved from nocturnal moths when they transitioned to daytime activities to escape predation of echolocating bats, which feed at night. But as with the origin of hearing organs in moths, the transition from nocturnal to diurnal behavior occurred well before the first appearance of echolocating bats and seems to have occurred independently at least two separate times.

It Just Isn’t So

The UF evolutionary biologists’ study demonstrates that the coevolutionary models for the origin of hearing organs in moths and diurnal behavior of butterflies—dominant for over a half century in evolutionary thought—are nothing more than just-so stories. They appear to make sense on the surface but are no closer to the truth than the tales I would weave in Mr. Reynolds’ office.

In light of this discovery, the research team posits two new evolutionary models for the origin of these two traits, respectively. Now scientists think that the evolutionary emergence of hearing organs in moths may have provided these insects the capacity for auditory surveillance of their environment. Their capacity to hear may have helped them detect the low-frequency sounds of flapping bird wings, for example, and avoid predation. Presumably, these same hearing organs later evolved to detect the high-frequency cries of bats. As for the evolutionary origin of diurnal behavior characteristic of butterflies, researchers now speculate that butterflies became diurnal to take advantage of flowers that bloom in the daytime.

Again, on the surface, these explanations seem plausible. But one has to wonder if these models, like their predecessors, are little more than just-so stories. In fact, this study raises a general concern: How much confidence can we place in any evolutionary account? Could it be that other evolutionary accounts are, in reality, good stories, but in the end will turn out to be just as fanciful as the stories written by Rudyard Kipling?

In and of itself, recognizing that many evolutionary models could just be stories doesn’t provide sufficient warrant for skepticism about the evolutionary paradigm. But it does give pause for thought. Plus, two insights from this study raise real concerns about the capacity of evolutionary processes to account for life’s history and diversity:

  1. The discovery that ultrasonic hearing in moths arose independently nine separate times
  2. The discovery that diurnal behavior in butterflies appeared independently in at least two separate instances

Convergence

Evolutionary biologists use the term convergence to refer to the independent origin of identical or nearly identical biological and behavioral traits in organisms that cluster into unrelated groups.

Convergence isn’t a rare phenomenon or limited to the independent origin of hearing organs in moths and diurnal behavior in butterflies. Instead, it is a widespread occurrence in biology, as evolutionary biologists Simon Conway Morris and George McGhee document in their respective books Life’s Solution and Convergent Evolution. It appears as if the evolutionary process routinely arrives at the same outcome, time and time again.4 In fact, biologists observe these repeated outcomes at the ecological, organismal, biochemical, and genetic levels.

From my perspective, the widespread occurrence of convergent evolution is a feature of biology that evolutionary theory can’t explain. I see the widespread occurrence of convergence as a failed scientific prediction of the evolutionary paradigm.

Convergence Should Be Rare, Not Widespread

In effect, chance governs biological and biochemical evolution at its most fundamental level. Evolutionary pathways consist of a historical sequence of chance genetic changes operated on by natural selection, which, too, consists of chance components. The consequences are profound. If evolutionary events could be repeated, the outcome would be dramatically different every time. The inability of evolutionary processes to retrace the same path makes it highly unlikely that the same biological and biochemical designs should appear repeatedly throughout nature.5

In support of this view, consider a 2002 landmark study carried out by two Canadian investigators who simulated macroevolutionary processes using autonomously replicating computer programs. In their study, the computer programs operated like digital organisms.6 The programs could be placed into different “ecosystems” and, because they replicate autonomously, they could evolve. By monitoring the long-term evolution of these digital organisms, the two researchers determined that evolutionary outcomes are historically contingent and unpredictable. Every time they placed the same digital organism in the same environment, it evolved along a unique trajectory.

In other words, given the historically contingent nature of the evolutionary mechanisms, we would expect convergence to be rare in the biological realm. Yet, biologists continue to uncover example after example of convergent features—some of which are quite astounding.

Bat Echolocation and Convergence

Biologists have discovered one such example of convergence in the origin of echolocating bats. Echolocation appears to have arisen two times independently: once in microbats and once in Rhinolophidae, a superfamily of megabats.7 Prior to this discovery, reported in 2000, biologists classified Rhinolophidae as a microbat based on their capability to echolocate. But DNA evidence indicates that this superfamily has greater affinity to megabats than to microbats. This result means that echolocation must have originated separately in the microbats and Rhinolophidae. Researchers have also shown that the same genetic and biochemical changes occurred in microbats and megabats to create their echolocating ability. These changes appear to have taken place in the gene prestin and in its protein-product, prestin.8

In other words, we observe two outcomes: (1) the traditional evolutionary accounts for coevolution among echolocating bats, nocturnal moths, and diurnal butterflies turned out to be just-so stories, and (2) the convergence observed in these three groups stands as independent and separate instances of failed predictions of the evolutionary paradigm.

Convergence and the Case for Creation

If the widespread occurrence of convergence can’t be explained through evolutionary theory, then how can it be explained?

It is not unusual for architects and engineers to redeploy the same design features, sometimes in objects, devices, or systems that are completely unrelated to one another. So, instead of viewing convergent features as having emerged through repeated evolutionary outcomes, we could understand them as reflecting the work of a divine mind. From this perspective, the repeated origins of biological features equate to the repeated creations by an intelligent Agent who employs a common set of solutions to address a common set of problems facing unrelated organisms.

Now that’s a story even Mr. Reynolds might believe.

Resources

Convergence of Echolocation

The Historical Contingency of the Evolutionary Process

Endnotes
  1. Akito Y. Kawahara et al., “Phylogenomics Reveals the Evolutionary Timing and Pattern of Butterflies and Moths,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 116, no. 45 (November 5, 2019): 22657–63, doi:10.1073/pnas.1907847116.
  2. Ed Yong, “A Textbook Evolutionary Story about Moths and Bats Is Wrong,” The Atlantic (October 21, 2019), https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/10/textbook-evolutionary-story-wrong/600295/.
  3. Kawahara et al., “Phylogenomics.”
  4. Simon Conway Morris, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); George McGhee, Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
  5. Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990).
  6. Gabriel Yedid and Graham Bell, “Macroevolution Simulated with Autonomously Replicating Computer Programs,” Nature 420 (December 19, 2002): 810–12, doi:10.1038/nature01151.
  7. Emma C. Teeling et al., “Molecular Evidence Regarding the Origin of Echolocation and Flight in Bats,” Nature 403 (January 13, 2000): 188–92, doi:10.1038/35003188.
  8. Gang Li et al., “The Hearing Gene Prestin Reunites Echolocating Bats,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 105, no. 37 (September 16, 2008): 13959–64, doi:10.1073/pnas.0802097105.

Reprinted with permission by the author

Original article at:
https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/read/the-cells-design/2018/11/21/vocal-signals-smile-on-the-case-for-human-exceptionalism

Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance Makes the Case for a Creator

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By Fazale Rana – November 27, 2019

It isn’t that hard to imagine, because antibiotics weren’t readily available for medical use until after World War II. And since that time, widespread availability of antibiotics has revolutionized medicine. However, the ability to practice modern medicine is being threatened because of the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Currently, there exists a pressing need to understand the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains and to develop new types of antibiotics. Surprisingly, this worthy pursuit has unwittingly stumbled upon evidence for a Creator’s role in the design of biochemical systems.

Alexander Fleming (1881–1955) discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928. But it wasn’t until Ernst Chain, Howard Florey, and Edward Abraham purified penicillin in 1942 and Norman Heatley developed a bulk extraction technique in 1945 that the compound became available for routine medical use.

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Figure 1: Alexander Fleming. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Prior to this time, people often died from bacterial infections. Complicating this vulnerability to microbial pathogens was the uncertain outcome of many medical procedures. For example, patients often died after surgery due to complications arising from infections.

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Figure 2: A generalized structure for penicillin antibiotics. Image credit: Shutterstock

Bacterial Resistance Necessitates New Antibiotics

Unfortunately, because of the growing threat of superbugs—antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria—health experts around the world worry that we soon will enter into a post-antibiotic era in which modern medicine will largely revert to pre-World War II practices. According to Dr. David Livermore, laboratory director at Public Health England, which is responsible for monitoring antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, “A lot of modern medicine would become impossible if we lost our ability to treat infections.”1

Without antibiotics, people would routinely die of infections that we easily treat today. Abdominal surgeries would be incredibly risky. Organ transplants and chemotherapy would be out of the question. And the list continues.

The threat of entering into a post-antibiotic age highlights the desperate need to develop new types of antibiotics. It also highlights the need to develop a better understanding of evolutionary processes that lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Recently, a research team from Michigan State University (MSU) published a report that offers insight into the latter concern. These researchers studied the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that had been serially cultured in the laboratory for multiple decades in media that was free from antibiotics.2 Through this effort, they learned that the genetic history of the bacterial strain plays a key role in its acquisition of resistance to antibiotics.

This work has important implications for public health, but it also carries theological implications. The decades-long experiment provides evidence that the elegant designs characteristic of biochemical and biological systems most likely stem from a Creator’s handiwork.

The Long-Term Evolution Experiment

To gain insight into the role that genetic history plays in the evolution of antibiotic resistance, the MSU researchers piggy-backed on the famous Long-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE) at Michigan State University. Inaugurated in 1988, the LTEE is designed to monitor evolutionary changes in the bacterium E. coli, with the objective of developing an understanding of the evolutionary process.

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Figure 3: A depiction of E. coli. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The LTEE began with a single cell of E. coli that was used to generate twelve genetically identical lines of cells. The twelve clones of the parent E. coli cell were separately inoculated into a minimal growth medium containing low levels of glucose as the only carbon source. After growing overnight, an aliquot (equal fractional part) of each of the twelve cultures was transferred into fresh growth media. This process has been repeated every day for about thirty years. Throughout the experiment, aliquots of cells have been frozen every 500 generations. These frozen cells represent a “fossil record” of sorts that can be thawed out and compared to current and other past generations of cells.

Relaxed Selection and Decay of Antibiotic Resistance

In general, when a population of organisms no longer experiences natural selection for a particular set of traits (antibiotic resistance, in this case), the traits designed to handle that pressure may experience functional decay as a result of mutations and genetic drift. This process is called relaxed selection.

In the case of antibiotic resistance, when the threat of antibiotics is removed from the population (relaxed selection), it seems reasonable to think that antibiotic resistance would decline in the population because in most cases antibiotic resistance comes with a fitness cost. In other words, bacterial strains that acquire antibiotic resistance face a trade-off that makes them less fit in environments without the antibiotic.

Genetic History and the Re-Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

In light of this expectation, the MSU researchers wondered how readily bacteria that have experienced relaxed selection can overcome loss of antibiotic resistance when the antibiotic is reintroduced to the population.

To explore this question, the researchers examined the evolution of antibiotic resistance in the LTEE ancestor by exposing it to a set of different antibiotics and compared its propensity to acquire antibiotic resistance with four strains of E. coli derived from the LTEE ancestor (that underwent 50,000 generations of daily growth and transfer into fresh media in the absence of exposure to antibiotics).

As expected, the MSU team discovered that 50,000 generations of relaxed selection rendered the four strains more susceptible to four different antibiotics (ampicillin, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline) compared to the LTEE ancestor. When they exposed these strains to the different antibiotics, the researchers discovered that acquisition of antibiotic resistance was idiosyncratic: some strains more readily evolved antibiotic resistance than the LTEE ancestor and others were less evolvable.

Investigators explained this difference by arguing that during the period of relaxed selection some of the strains experienced mutations that constrained the evolution of antibiotic resistance, whereas others experienced mutations that potentiated (activated) the evolution of antibiotic resistance. That is, historical contingency has played a key role in the acquisition of antibiotic resistance. Different bacterial lineages accumulated genetic differences that influence their capacity to evolve and adapt in new directions.

Historical Contingency

This study follows on the heels of previous studies that demonstrate the historical contingency of the evolutionary process.3 In other words, chance governs biological and biochemical evolution at its most fundamental level. As the MSU researchers observed, evolutionary pathways consist of a historical sequence of chance genetic changes operated on by natural selection (or that experience relaxed selection), which, too, consists of chance components.

Because of the historically contingent nature of the evolutionary process, it is highly unlikely that the same biological and biochemical designs should appear repeatedly throughout nature. In his book Wonderful Life, Stephen Jay Gould used the metaphor of “replaying life’s tape.” If one were to push the rewind button, erase life’s history, and then let the tape run again, the results would be completely different each time.4

The “Problem” of Convergence

And yet, we observe the opposite pattern in biology. From an evolutionary perspective, it appears as if the evolutionary process independently and repeatedly arrived at the same outcome, time and time again (convergence). As evolutionary biologists Simon Conway Morris and George McGhee point out in their respective books Life’s Solution and Convergent Evolution, identical evolutionary outcomes are a widespread feature of the biological realm.5

Scientists see these repeated outcomes at ecological, organismal, biochemical, and genetic levels. To illustrate the pervasiveness of convergence at the biochemical level, I describe 100 examples of convergence in my book The Cell’s Design.6

From my perspective, the widespread occurrence of convergent evolution is a feature of biology that evolutionary theory can’t genuinely explain. In fact, given the clear-cut demonstration that the evolutionary process is historically contingent, I see the widespread occurrence of convergence as a failed scientific prediction for the evolutionary paradigm.

 

Evolution in Bacteria Doesn’t Equate to Large-Scale Evolution

The evolution of E. coli in the LTEE doesn’t necessarily validate the evolutionary paradigm. Just because such change is observed in a microbe doesn’t mean that evolutionary processes can adequately account for life’s origin and history, and the full range of biodiversity.

 

Convergence and the Case for Creation

Instead of viewing convergent features as having emerged through repeated evolutionary outcomes, we could understand them as reflecting the work of a divine Mind. In this scheme, the repeated origins of biological features equate to the repeated creations by an intelligent Agent who employs a common set of solutions to address a common set of problems facing unrelated organisms.

Sadly, many in the scientific community are hesitant to embrace this perspective because they are resistant to the idea that design and purpose may play a role in biology. But, one can hope that someday the scientific community will be willing to move into a post-evolution future as the evidence for a Creator’s role in biology mounts.

Resources

The Historical Contingency of the Evolutionary Process

Microbial Evolution and the Validity of the Evolutionary Paradigm

Endnotes
  1. Sarah Bosley, “Are You Ready for a World without Antibiotics?” The Guardian, August 12, 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/aug/12/the-end-of-antibiotics-health-infections.
  2. Kyle J. Card et al., “Historical Contingency in the Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance after Decades of Relaxed Selection,” PLoS Biology 17, no. 10 (October 23, 2019): e3000397, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000397.
  3. Zachary D. Blount et al., “Historical Contingency and the Evolution of a Key Innovation in an Experimental Population of Escherichia coli,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105, no. 23 (June 10, 2008): 7899-7906, doi:10.1073/pnas.0803151105.
  4. Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990).
  5. Simon Conway Morris, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); George McGhee, Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
  6. Fazale Rana, The Cell’s Design: How Chemistry Reveal the Creator’s Artistry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008).

Reprinted with permission by the author

Original article at:
https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/read/the-cells-design/2018/11/21/vocal-signals-smile-on-the-case-for-human-exceptionalism

The Smallest Thing There Is

or The World of the Very Small

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Did you ever ask yourself as a child, “What’s the smallest thing there is?” or, “How small do things get in our world?” or, “What’s the opposite of the universe?”

Well, it’s only a theory right now, as there’s currently no technological way of observing; but many quantum physicists think that at the very bottom of the physics ladder, is nothing more than vibrating bits of oscillating waves, that for now, can only be described as ‘strings’. They conjecture two types… open and closed strings.

We’re traveling down through the world of the very small. Smaller than the atom, smaller than protons and neutrons, still smaller than neutrinos and quarks, continuing downward until we finally reach the point where “No Man Has Gone Before.”

It can be daunting to try explaining string theory to most of us, but I did some research and found a less technical article on the subject, and have included it below.

The guitar string analogy is very helpful. I would say that most people have observed how a plucked guitar string appears to look like several strings as it’s vibrating.

This layman’s explanation of string theory is both enlightening and simpler to understand. Still, you may have to read it a couple of times or at least focus on the parts that make the most sense, but it will serve as a beginner’s guide. Afterward, you’ll be able to discuss and learn more about “The world of the very small.”


Think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension is in the string, different musical notes will be created by the string. These musical notes could be said to be excitation modes of that guitar string under tension.

In a similar manner, in string theory, the elementary particles we observe in particle accelerators could be thought of as the “musical notes” or excitation modes of elementary strings.

In string theory, as in guitar playing, the string must be stretched under tension in order to become excited. However, the strings in string theory are floating in space time; they aren’t tied down to a guitar. Nonetheless, they have tension. The string tension in string theory is denoted by the quantity 1/(2 p a’), where a’ is pronounced “alpha prime” and is equal to the square of the string length scale.

If string theory is to be a theory of quantum gravity, then the average size of a string should be somewhere near the length scale of quantum gravity, called the Planck length, which is about 10-33 centimeters, or about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. Unfortunately, this means that strings are way too small to see by current or expected particle physics technology (or financing!!) and so string theorists must devise more clever methods to test the theory than just looking for little strings in particle experiments.

String theories are classified according to whether or not the strings are required to be closed loops, and whether or not the particle spectrum includes fermions. In order to include fermions in string theory, there must be a special kind of symmetry called supersymmetry, which means for every boson (particle that transmits a force) there is a corresponding fermion (particle that makes up matter). So supersymmetry relates the particles that transmit forces to the particles that make up matter.

Supersymmetric partners to currently known particles have not been observed in particle experiments, but theorists believe this is because supersymmetric particles are too massive to be detected at current accelerators. Particle accelerators could be on the verge of finding evidence for high energy supersymmetry in the next decade. Evidence for supersymmetry at high energy would be compelling evidence that string theory was a good mathematical model for Nature at the smallest distance scales.

DougSig2

God Whistles While He Works

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God whistles while He works

First, let me say that the Bible clearly reveals that God especially enjoys music, and this is fundamental to the crux of my missive. Logically, even sad music holds interest for God, as the mood set by the instruments and lyrics give amplification to one’s suffering in melodic form. By singing with feeling, he or she is voicing that they’re in a seemingly hopeless situation, beyond their ability to conquer alone.

While many songs are certainly joyful and pleasing to God, it’s likely the songs of despair that are apt to move Him to have compassion. They tell Him that the situation is desperate enough to put to music and sing with fervor as intensely as any prayer. Indeed, music is prayer.

Any style of music sent up sincerely and purposely to God will surely be heard, for this is the most expressive type of language there is. It’s the universal language He conceived, and being the author of such an expressive form of communication is what led me to write this.

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I’ve convinced myself that God does not work in total silence. He has a voice because we hear Him speaking throughout the Old Testament, and occasionally quite loudly. Here then, are the thoughts from my own surrealist mind about a divine Creator who sometimes gets a little noisy while He’s working.

I began thinking one day about God’s creative propensity, His surroundings, and what He might have been doing long before He had created the angels. I’m not sure why my mind went in that direction just then, but I do know I’ve never lost my childhood inquisitiveness, nor do I ever plan to.

Anyway, there I was, sitting out on the porch in the early morning, gazing out across the treetops while rocking back and forth. My fingers were tapping out a rhythm on the arm of the rocker, and I began diving deep in thought. “Hmm, just what might God have actually been doing some of the time before he created the angels?” I knew He was called the Alpha and always was, but angels weren’t because they were first conceived in His mind. So surely, there had to have been an unknown interval when God was doing other things.”

That’s when I said to myself, “No, this isn’t what I want to know.” A list of the things He might be doing is all very intriguing, but really, it’s pretty much a given that He was forever doing a myriad of things involving conception and creation, but since there are no records of what those things were, it’s a moot point. What I really want to know is some aspect of how a perfect mind might focus and go about the task at hand. Like knowing from watching a person’s daily routine from breakfast to bedtime, and that just might be something that can very well be deduced from the Old Testament.

Granted, the rocking chair musing was little more than Holmesian deducing based on a little Biblical knowledge and a lot of conjecture, rendering it far out in left field. But that’s how I relax, have fun and keep my mind off depressing things… like living in one room. Other people mow their lawns to do that, but not me. I have to be comfortably loafing. Besides, I don’t have a lawn, and pondering is no less constructive than making up jokes and one-liners for a book. Well, except for the royalties the book can return if anybody buys the thing.

So I began thinking all over again, but this time with the specific angle of envisioning God out in the field, commencing His next seven-day creation project. How does He carrying Himself about? Does He move around in that same cloud that hovered over the tabernacle tent for forty years in the wilderness? How does He start His morning? Does He sit, stand, or both when He works or does He continuously move about?

Then a really intriguing thought suddenly entered my mind. Does God talk to Himself or make other kinds of vocalizations when He has an epiphany or asks Himself whether there’s a better way of doing the thing He’s creating? Yes, that’s it! That’s the question! Does He talk, shout, laugh, and even sing to Himself? If so, then I’ve stumbled onto an aspect of God I can relate to on a human level.

I talk things out and sing to myself all the time when I’m alone. So if I’m made in God’s image, why wouldn’t He talk and sing to Himself as well? I find that talking to another me, gets the kinks out of the project quicker and with greater clarity. Talking to one’s self is a useful thing. Of course, having a mental condition that causes strange verbalizing is not. Still, people who make fun of you for talking to yourself need to learn the difference.

Now the obvious began entering my mind, and the rest of the lights came on. “Hold the phone. God made the decision to populate heaven with angels for some intelligent company and to be recognized as being their Creator.” He thought out their makeup and endowed them with the specific talents and skills of His choosing. And what do we know from the Bible, to be one of the most exceptional talents that angels possess, that would have made Him want to create them precisely the way He did? They sing! They started singing from the time they were created, and they haven’t stopped since. Their singing is said to be the most beautiful sound in existence. It’s the Heavenly Choir.

Within an hour after stepping out onto the porch that morning, my rocking chair crossed the finish line. The Creator of music was making melodic sounds, either in thought or as singing with the same voice that spoke to Moses. And if God is singing, then it follows that like us, when we’re busiest, we often drop back from singing the lyrics to less focused humming or whistling.

There it was. A uniquely physical attribute that God undoubtedly has, that I, a music lover, could relate to and have a daily encouraging affinity with right here on this temporal plane. Whether it’s a fact or not doesn’t matter. It falls into the realm of probability, and I can take that rocking chair deduction and hold on to it as a comforting thought for myself. Like watching a memorable sunset by the ocean. Admittedly there is no practical use for speculative thinking as this. Still, imagination has always been useful to me as it gives me nearly as much pleasure in this life as music and puppies.

One way I remind myself that God loves music enough to hum or whistle occasionally is whenever I meet someone, I say, “Nice to meet you. I’m Doug, and I know something special about God”. When asked, “What?” I reply, “He whistles while He works.” It gets a laugh, but then God does that too… in between whistling, of course.

DougSig2

Hello Martha’s Vineyard

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Greetings everyone! And for those of you who still may not recognize me… Yes, I am Mark Zuckerberg, and I’ll be your intellectual speaker this evening. First of all, I can’t tell you all what a thrill it is for me tonight, to be with all of you hard-working, down to earth, common folks… here at Martha’s Vineyard. Can we get that microphone turned up a little more please? Thank you guys. Well, I see we have the U.S. Representative for the great state of Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy and his family with us here tonight. Glad you could make it Joe! How are those kids? Alright! Can you people in the back hear me okay now? Yeh? That’s great! Wonderful… wonderful…

Well, I’m delighted to have this opportunity to address you all this evening, on the topic of peace and tolerance in this new age of ours, through digitally enhanced, thoughtful and continuous concessionism, and how that facilitates the greatest coming together of civilized man in history, beginning right out there on Facebook… which I created. Thank you… thank you. No. Please… Hold the applause. Really… you’re much too kind.

The news for the present is far from what our generation would hope for, my faithful followers. I have hosted several conferences at my corporate headquarters this past year with the greatest philosophers and men and women in the mental and neurological disciplines of our time, and it has unfortunately been concluded that there is currently zero percent chance of achieving continual ‘peace and tolerance’ as defined by Webster, anytime, anywhere, within the confines of existing societal structures. An indication in my book that something’s gotta give.

Whether it’s peace in the real-world, or the LCDs in the face, virtual world of social networking that I’ve hooked you all on, your brain’s easily pissed-off limbic system will continue to stay one step ahead of a practical lobotomy for now, and there simply isn’t enough Thorazine on the planet to knock the meanness out of every human being. In other words, I didn’t bring a magic peace potion in my pocket to send you home with tonight, so don’t post any threatening tweets to me tomorrow or I’ll ban your tukas from Facebook… unless you point a gun at me of course… in which case I’ll run like the Flash downstairs to the corporate bunker!

As for Facebook tolerance, the aforementioned experts also tell me that most of you are so buzzed on caffeine, pills or lack of sleep from morning ’til night, that you’ve got one eye permanently trained on the ‘Unfriend’ button, with your trigger finger on the mouse, itching to click the sucker or type “WTF?!” as soon as the next opposing comment shows up. So I began asking myself, “Mark, how is the whole, ‘Why can’t we all just get along’ thing ever going to work with already perpetual offense-defense wired brains that are now on steroids?”

Folks, raise your hands out there in the audience if you truly believe you can make it through an entire year on Facebook, without either inadvertently offending or taking issue with someone by giving voice to your now ‘has to be wrong’ belief systems and refusing to surrender unconditionally to that wonderful blameless soul’s last 20 agitating comments, and so prevent the loss of yet another ‘never met before’ friend being tossed out with yesterday’s trash. I see three hands way in the back there. Well, I’m sorry to inform you three, but the timeline of human behavioral patterns says you wont be able to do it for 365 days in a row because both you and your friend’s emotions are lurking behind the brain’s ancient amygdala, waiting to jump out and see how fast they can open or shut the door in your faces; and it only gets exacerbated in the virtual world as one habitually perceives the other as never quite up to their level of knowing and in need of being shown the real facts of the matter. Shame on you barbaric cave dwellers! Catch up with the times why don’t ya.

Now here’s an original Zuckerberg idea I came up with last month that we can all get our minds around. Tomorrow you all deposit twenty-five dollars in one of my banks, and whoever comes out walking on water after twelve months of total non-confrontation, including typing words that can be taken more than one way, to a ‘not as close as you thought’ friend, takes it all? Naturally I’ll put a clause in the rules that states if no one wins, I get to keep the money and use it to buy up all the available stock in Apple… just because I can. I’ll come back to this idea later.

Barring catastrophe, no typical American grade school kid has learned any more as a child than i did about the brains terrifying emotional capacity. We lived right across the street from the school when I was growing up and I first began learning about peace and tolerance at the early age of seven. There was a bully named Jimmy Decker in second grade that would corner me at recess. Every day he would knock me down, take the lunch money out of my pants pocket, and then spit in my face. My mom told me to tell him, “Give peace a chance.” I came home the next day with a broken tooth and a busted lip, and she asked me what happened. I said, “I told Jimmy to, give peace a chance”, and he said, “Give me a chance at a piece of your sister and I’ll only take your lunch money on Tuesdays.” “Then he punched me in the mouth and took my lunch money.”

That was the year of my greatest epiphany. My mom always got weekends off from work, so early one Saturday morning I took moms credit card from her purse before she woke up, hopped the bus over to Radio Shack and bought a pair of walkie talkies and hid them under my bed when I got back. I slipped the credit card back in mom’s purse while she was over at the new neighbors playing bridge, and hurried upstairs to my room to work out the details of my master plan.

The following Friday, mom came screeching into the driveway from work in the middle of the day after getting a call from principal Powell, wanting to know if the reason I had been absent from school all week was because I had the same flu that was sending all the other kids home sick. She burst into my room screaming, “Why have you been skipping school all week young man?!” Confidently I said, “I no longer require the physical accouterments of continuing education mother. I duck taped a voice activated walkie talkie with a five year battery under the teacher’s desk, and now I can do my lessons without ever leaving the house, so the solution to the Jimmy Decker enigma and your ever growing fiscal loss of lunch money has been handily resolved at the same time.” Pretty clever huh.

I had to ride with her in the back seat to return the walkie talkies and was grounded for the entire summer for lifting mom’s credit card, but the potential of my concept of learning things remotely, stuck with me like glue on flypaper from then on. Oh, I’m sorry folks. I digressed there didn’t I… It’s a Zuckerberg thing. Where was I?

Human aspirations of living in a perpetually harmonious society have remained globally illusive because even though we know what that word ‘peace’ implies, our unharnessed, emotion-driven brains will never be capable of pulling it off, twenty-four seven… even if we all lived to be five-hundred years old! And greed is one of the biggest culprits right up there at the top of the human frailties ladder, requiring no teaching whatsoever. It just sprouts right out of the brain as a toddler. By the way, “I ate my ice cream, and now I want yours… plus that yellow Tonka truck you’re loading playsand into with mom’s tablespoon and making all those engine noises with your mouth. I can do that better than you can. That’s not even how an engine sounds. It goes, “brrrrrr…brumm brumm, chhhtt.”

The only snow storm chance in Hades for any semblance of tolerance on this earth while clinging to our grandparents ridiculous ancient values, would be to continuously concede with no drugs or alcohol while maintaining that silly, “We the People” nonsense at the same time… on every topic, everywhere, continuously, which would be ungoverned chaos with unrelenting brain fire. Anyway, that’s how it was explained to me by the experts, so I’m reasonably certain about that…

Okay everyone… This is the part of the evening I’ve been waiting for. It’s time to unveil the grand ‘Mark Zuckerberg Solution’! I present for your approval this evening, my ultimate plan that will finally achieve peace and contentment in our technologically advanced time. It’s really not that difficult to grasp, but you may want to take notes so you can ask the AIs in the back questions later.

We begin this massive planet-wide undertaking by implementing some long overdue changes. The complete agenda is much to lengthy to be addressed here tonight but here are a few of the ones that are at or near the top of the list so you can get the general scope of it. Included in the plans early stages are the following items. A merging of all independent nations the size of Israel and smaller to streamline geographical governing areas, establishing a new global hybrid form of socialism to ensure equality (hooray!), euthanizing cranky old people, required annual mood altering vaccinations and hopefully down the road, mandatory ‘genetic amygdala alteration’ or ‘GAA’ during infancy to eventually replace the vaccinations; and when we finally achieve the new calmer, non-argumentative peaceful order of homo sapient that has eluded us since the dawn… well then, peace will finally reign on Earth, Family Feud and Marriage Bootcamp will be the number one rated TV shows… and my Facebook will be smooth sailing for everyone, all the time! There just wont be any more of that nasty, ridiculous old divisive stuff hindering us and causing harmful stress and anxiety… not to mention the constant damage to the body’s antioxidants and such.

Well, that concludes my presentation. I love you all so much, and thanks for leaving your yachts for awhile and coming out this evening! Don’t forget to pick up one of our beautiful newly designed Facebook tee-shirts at the tables in the lobby on your way out. We’ve got plenty of the new spill proof 5X size for all you sedentary Facebook and Coke junkies, and they’re a real steal at only seventy-five dollars each. You can also buy them online anytime, and the shipping is free… when you order a minimum of four shirts. Also, we’ve setup 100 AI terminals in the back to answer all your questions. Just place your hand on the recognition pad to your right and state the last four digits of your social security number when prompted. Easy as pie!

Goodnight Everyone,
Mark Zuckerberg

Rabbit-Sized ‘Mouse Deer’ Rediscovered After Being Lost to Science

rabbitdearPhoto by Global Wildlife Conservation

After being lost to science for almost three decades, this tiny deer-like species has finally been rediscovered in the forests of Vietnam.

The “silver-backed chevrotain”—also known as the “Vietnamese mouse deer”—is about the size of a rabbit. Its last recorded sighting was in 1990, but after researchers managed to capture photos and video footage of the critter in the wild, it is now the first mammal to be rediscovered on the Global Wildlife Conservation’s (GWC) top 25 most wanted lost species in the Search for Lost Species.

The GWC and their partners at the Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research made their rediscovery in southern Vietnam. Their findings, which were published this week in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, is now spurring on efforts to protect the chevrotain and the other mysterious and extraordinary wildlife that share its home in Vietnam.

The silver-backed chevrotain was described in 1910 from four individuals collected from southern Vietnam. A Russian expedition in 1990 in central Vietnam collected a fifth individual. Scientists know almost nothing about general ecology or conservation status of this species, making it one of the highest mammal conservation priorities in the Greater Annamite mountains, one of GWC’s focal wildlands.

After several interviews with local villagers and government forest rangers who reported seeing a gray mouse deer—the color distinguishing the silver-backed chevrotain from the more common lesser mouse deer—the field team set three camera traps for five months in an area of southern Vietnam where locals indicated they may have seen the animal. This resulted in 275 photos of the species. The team then set up another 29 cameras in the same area, this time recording 1,881 photographs of the chevrotain over five months.

“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides a big hope for the conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species, in Vietnam,” said Hoang Minh Duc, head of the Southern Institute of Ecology’s Department of Zoology. “This also encourages us, together with relevant and international partners, to devote time and effort to further investigate and conserve Vietnam’s biodiversity heritage.”

There are 10 known species of chevrotains in the world, primarily from Asia. Despite their common English names, chevrotains are neither mice nor deer, but the world’s smallest small ungulates (hoofed mammals). They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs. Chevrotains typically weigh less than 11 pounds (5 kilograms).

The silver-backed chevrotain is one of a number of fascinating species that live in the diverse tropical forests of Southeast Asia, where some species have been discovered only in the last few decades. This includes the antelope-like saola (the Asian “unicorn”), which was only discovered in 1992 and that no biologist has seen in the wild.

A team is now setting out to determine how large—and stable—this population of silver-backed chevrotains is; assess the wider distribution of the species; and explore the threats to its survival. As part of the first-ever comprehensive survey on the species, the team began camera trap surveys in October in two additional areas. They will use all of the information that they gather to develop a conservation action plan that strengthens enforcement and protection of the species across its range, building on the increased enforcement already put in place at the site of rediscovery.

“It is an amazing feat to go from complete lack of knowledge of the wildlife of the Greater Annamites 25 years ago to now having this question mark of the silver-backed chevrotain resolved,” said Barney Long, GWC senior director of species conservation. “But the work is only beginning with the rediscovery and initial protection measures that have been put in place—now we need to identify not just a few individuals on camera traps, but one or two sites with sizable populations so that we can actually protect and restore the species.”

Reprinted from Global Wildlife Conservation

(WATCH the camera trap footage below)

My Take on the After Life

The data goes… the shell becomes dust.

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A truly eternal paradise would not be a state of solid matter, comprised of atoms and chemistry such as those listed on the Periodic Table of Elements here in our current physical realm, as all of these are subject to decay at the molecular level over linear time, and humans are comprised of these very elements as well, primarily C ‘carbon: group 14’ and H²O¹.

An eternal realm would necessitate a quite unfamiliar type of ultra perceived state where everything still seems perfectly tangible, yet at the same time completely foreign and impervious compared to the one we currently exist in. It would be a place where the laws of physics simply no longer apply, and by its very nature would exclude physical expansion or motion as our universe experiences, as well as the absence of time which is only a ‘light measuring’ contrivance to calculate that motion in the first place.

So how exactly do we get there from here, aside from the fact that we first depended on Jesus to purchase our ticket so to speak? Well, the only logical, rudimentary answer is that the soul would have to move or be guided through some form of inter-dimensional partition or portal, which cannot commence until one first stops breathing and the soul becomes detached and freed from the expired body it inhabited here in the world of physics. I would venture to say it’s likely also the same portal used by angels and even Lucifer, as in the story of Job wherein he pays God a personal visit.

A perceived realm opens up limitless possibilities that could never happen here on earth… not excluding such things as entire streets paved with gold or traveling at the speed of thought and so forth. If any of the occasional so called near death experiences should turn out to be remotely true, it would also explain why the authors of those events write of such observations, as running through a field of flowers, and then looking back to find that not a single flower has been crushed. It would be because they had perceived the field of flowers they’re seeing. The flowers weren’t biologically physical.

A realm of super-perception would truly be a paradisaical place. You say you miss all the dogs you ever had? Well that’s not a problem… just think them back, and there they’ll be, standing at your feet wagging their tails. Yep… they were right. All dogs do go to Heaven! I know I certainly wont have any problem living forever in a place where I can have my heart’s desires. I can’t wait to hear my Mother playing that golden harp she said she would have when she got there. If she plays it anything like she did the piano, there’s already a constant crowd around her.

DougSig2

Analysis of Genomes Converges on the Case for a Creator

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By Fazale Rana – November 13, 2019

Are you a Marvel or a DC fan?

Do you like the Marvel superheroes better than those who occupy the DC universe? Or is it the other way around for you?

Even though you might prefer DC over Marvel (or Marvel over DC), over the years these two comic book rivals have often created superheroes with nearly identical powers. In fact, a number of Marvel and DC superheroes are so strikingly similar that their likeness to one another is obviously intentional.1

Here are just a few of the superheroes Marvel and DC have ripped off each other:

  • Superman (DC, created in 1938) and Hyperion (Marvel, created in 1969)
  • Batman (DC, created in 1939) and Moon Knight (Marvel, created in 1975)
  • Green Lantern (DC, created in 1940) and Nova (Marvel, created in 1976)
  • Catwoman (DC, created in 1940) and Black Cat (Marvel, created in 1979)
  • Atom (DC, created in 1961) and Ant-Man (Marvel, created in 1962)
  • Aquaman (DC, created in 1941) and Namor (Marvel, created in 1939)
  • Green Arrow (DC, created in 1941) and Hawkeye (Marvel, created in 1964)
  • Swamp Thing (DC, created in 1971) and Man Thing (Marvel, created in 1971)
  • Deathstroke (DC, created in 1980) and Deadpool (Marvel, created in 1991)

This same type of striking similarity is also found in biology. Life scientists have discovered countless examples of biological designs that are virtually exact replicas of one another. Yet, these identical (or nearly identical) designs occur in organisms that belong to distinct, unrelated groups (such as the camera eyes of vertebrates and octopi). Therefore, they must have an independent origin.

 

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Figure 1: The Camera Eyes of Vertebrates (left) and Cephalopods (right); 1: Retina; 2: Nerve Fibers; 3: Optic Nerve; 4: Blind Spot. Image credit: Wikipedia

From an evolutionary perspective, it appears as if the evolutionary process independently and repeatedly arrived at the same outcome, time and time again. As evolutionary biologists Simon Conway Morris and George McGhee point out in their respective books, Life’s Solution and Convergent Evolution, identical evolutionary outcomes are a widespread feature of the biological realm.2 Scientists observe these repeated outcomes (known as convergence) at the ecological, organismal, biochemical, and genetic levels.

From my perspective, the widespread occurrence of convergent evolution is a feature of biology that evolutionary theory can’t genuinely explain. In fact, I see pervasive convergence as a failed scientific prediction—for the evolutionary paradigm. Recent work by a research team from Stanford University demonstrates my point.3

These researchers discovered that identical genetic changes occurred when: (1) bats and whales “evolved” echolocation, (2) killer whales and manatees “evolved” specialized skin in support of their aquatic lifestyles, and (3) pikas and alpacas “evolved” increased lung capacity required to live in high-altitude environments.

Why do I think this discovery is so problematic for the evolutionary paradigm? To understand my concern, we first need to consider the nature of the evolutionary process.

Biological Evolution Is Historically Contingent

Essentially, chance governs biological and biochemical evolution at its most fundamental level. Evolutionary pathways consist of a historical sequence of chance genetic changes operated on by natural selection, which, too, consists of chance components. The consequences are profound. If evolutionary events could be repeated, the outcome would be dramatically different every time. The inability of evolutionary processes to retrace the same path makes it highly unlikely that the same biological and biochemical designs should appear repeatedly throughout nature.

The concept of historical contingency embodies this idea and is the theme of Stephen Jay Gould’s book Wonderful Life.4 To help illustrate the concept, Gould uses the metaphor of “replaying life’s tape.” If one were to push the rewind button, erase life’s history, and then let the tape run again, the results would be completely different each time.

Are Evolutionary Processes Historically Contingent?

Gould based the concept of historical contingency on his understanding of the evolutionary process. In the decades since Gould’s original description of historical contingency, several studies have affirmed his view.

For example, in a landmark study in 2002, two Canadian investigators simulated macroevolutionary processes using autonomously replicating computer programs, with the programs operating like digital organisms.5 These programs were placed into different “ecosystems” and, because they replicated autonomously, could evolve. By monitoring the long-term evolution of the digital organisms, the two researchers determined that evolutionary outcomes are historically contingent and unpredictable. Every time they placed the same digital organism in the same environment, it evolved along a unique trajectory.

In other words, given the historically contingent nature of the evolutionary mechanisms, we would expect convergence to be rare in the biological realm. Yet, biologists continue to uncover example after example of convergent features—some of which are quite astounding.

The Origin of Echolocation

One of the most remarkable examples of convergence is the independent origin of echolocation (sound waves emitted from an organism to an object and then back to the organism) in bats (chiropterans) and cetaceans (toothed whales). Research indicates that echolocation arose independently in two different groups of bats and also in the toothed whales.

 

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Figure 2: Echolocation in Bats. Image credit: Shutterstock

One reason why this example of convergence is so remarkable has to do with the way some evolutionary biologists account for the widespread occurrences of convergence in biological systems. Undaunted by the myriad examples of convergence, these scientists assert that independent evolutionary outcomes result when unrelated organisms encounter nearly identical selection forces (e.g., environmental, competitive, and predatory pressures). According to this idea, natural selection channels unrelated organisms down similar pathways toward the same endpoint.

But this explanation is unsatisfactory because bats and whales live in different types of habitats (terrestrial and aquatic). Consequently, the genetic changes responsible for the independent emergence of echolocation in the chiropterans and cetaceans should be distinct. Presumably, the evolutionary pathways that converged on a complex biological system such as echolocation would have taken different routes that would be reflected in the genomes. In other words, even though the physical traits appear to be identical (or nearly identical), the genetic makeup of the organisms should reflect an independent evolutionary history.

But this expectation isn’t borne out by the data.

Genetic Convergence Parallels Trait Convergence

In recent years, evolutionary biologists have developed interest in understanding the genetic basis for convergence. Specifically, these scientists want to understand the genetic changes that lead to convergent anatomical and physiological features (how genotype leads to phenotype).

Toward this end, a Stanford research team developed an algorithm that allowed them to search through entire genome sequences of animals to identify similar genetic features that contribute to particular biological traits.6 In turn, they applied this method to three test cases related to the convergence of:

  • echolocation in bats and whales
  • scaly skin in killer whales
  • lung structure and capacity in pikas and alpacas

The investigators discovered that for echolocating animals, the same 25 convergent genetic changes took place in their genomes and were distributed among the same 18 genes. As it turns out, these genes play a role in the development of the cochlear ganglion, thought to be involved in echolocation. They also discovered that for aquatic mammals, there were 27 identical convergent genetic changes that occurred in same 15 genes that play a role in skin development. And finally, for high-altitude animals, they learned that the same 25 convergent genetic changes occurred in the same 16 genes that play a role in lung development.

In response to this finding, study author Gill Bejerano remarked, “These genes often control multiple functions in different tissues throughout the body, so it seems it would be very difficult to introduce even minor changes. But here we’ve found that not only do these very different species share specific genetic changes, but also that these changes occur in coding genes.”7

In other words, these results are not expected from an evolutionary standpoint. It is nothing short of amazing that genetic convergence would parallel phenotypic convergence.

On the other hand, these results make perfect sense from a creation model vantage point.

Convergence and the Case for Creation

Instead of viewing convergent features as having emerged through repeated evolutionary outcomes, we could understand them as reflecting the work of a Divine Mind. In this scheme, the repeated origins of biological features equate to the repeated creations by an Intelligent Agent who employs a common set of solutions to address a common set of problems facing unrelated organisms.

Like the superhero rip-offs in the Marvel and DC comics, the convergent features in biology appear to be intentional, reflecting a teleology that appears to be endemic in living systems.

Resources

Convergence of Echolocation

The Historical Contingency of the Evolutionary Process

Endnotes
  1. Jamie Gerber, “15 DC and Marvel Superheroes Who Are Strikingly Similar,” ScreenRant (November 12, 2016), screenrant.com/marvel-dc-superheroes-copies-rip-offs/.
  2. Simon Conway Morris, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); George McGhee, Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
  3. Amir Marcovitz et al., “A Functional Enrichment Test for Molecular Convergent Evolution Finds a Clear Protein-Coding Signal in Echolocating Bats and Whales,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 116, no. 42 (October 15, 2019), 21094–21103, doi:10.1073/pnas.1818532116.
  4. Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990).
  5. Gabriel Yedid and Graham Bell, “Macroevolution Simulated with Autonomously Replicating Computer Programs,” Nature 420 (December 19, 2002): 810–12, doi:10.1038/nature01151.
  6. Marcovitz et al., “A Functional Enrichment Test.”
  7. Stanford Medicine, “Scientists Uncover Genetic Similarities among Species That Use Sound to Navigate,” ScienceDaily, October 4, 2019, sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191004105643.htm.

Reprinted with permission by the author

Original article at:
https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/read/the-cells-design/2019/11/13/analysis-of-genomes-converges-on-the-case-for-a-creator

Fear and Faith Are Intrinsical

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Is it really always a matter of ‘Faith verses Fear’? I don’t think so… I still remember as a young boy, the first time I stood on the end of the high diving board at my neighborhood swimming pool. After staring down at the water below for several moments, I turned around and forced the entire line of people behind me to climb back down the ladder so I could go back to the shallow end for awhile, and muster up a lot more courage. I was afraid as I stood way up there, but at the same time I knew I had enough faith in myself to ultimately take that first plunge.

I would venture that the same thing will be true when I have to go through that ‘Final Door’ in life. It’s ‘Fear of the unknown’, and all the faith in the world, wont stop the ‘head rush’, of that final breath, anymore than the rush of dropping off the top of the roller coaster does… simply because you’re leaving the safety of the ‘Known’ goodbye.

The reality is that ‘Faith and Fear’ are really just brother and sister. You can have loads of faith in yourself, others and God, but if you have absolutely no fear in your mind, even when danger is possible or likely… then there’s a distinct possibility you’ve got a screw loose.

All mentally healthy people have what is called, “The Fight or Flight” instinct, which God Himself put there for us, and the longer you live, and the wiser you become, the more you come to lean on that very attribute for sound guidance.

If you’re on safari for your next vacation, and one afternoon a ferocious lion is charging straight at you, and your friend who saw it coming way off in the distance is already high up in the tree, holding a vine for you, are you going grab hold of it and be pulled to safety, or are you going to stand there and say, “OH, nice kitty kitty. I’ll bet it’s one of Jesus’s pet lions. You know, the one that’s always laying next to that lamb all the time.”?

Even if your a Christian… should you choose the latter, it’s probably already too late, but you seriously need to seek some counseling, because the part of that brain that God gave you, appears to be malfunctioning.

Jesus had faith and fear simultaneously. In spite of His perfect faith, He had grown quite accustom to the sensory experiences of physical life, and if you don’t think He was also one very frightened man the night before His crucification, you are most mistaken. The fact is, He was sweating blood from His forehead He was so frightened, and that’s called ‘hematidrosis’, which occurs in battle, when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress, and acknowledges imminent death is at hand.

Read again what He said on that fateful night, as He fervently prayed while waiting the inevitable;
“Father, if you are willing, please don’t make me drink from this cup (fear). But do what you want (faith), not what I want.”
Luke 22:42

And that right there is ‘Fear’ and ‘Faith’ at the same time… I guarantee it!

DougSig2

Glue Production Is Not Evidence for Neanderthal Exceptionalism

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By Fazale Rana – November 6, 2019

Football players aren’t dumb jocks—though they often have that reputation. Football is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, toughness, agility, and speed. But it is also an intellectually demanding game.

Mastering a playbook, understanding which plays work best for the various in-game scenarios, recognizing defenses and offenses, and adjusting on the fly require hours of study and preparation. Football really is a thinking person’s game.

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Figure 1: Quarterback Calling an Audible at the Line of Scrimmage. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Some anthropologists view Neanderthals in the same way that many people view football players: as the “dumb jock” version of a hominin, a creature cognitively inferior to modern humans. Yet, other anthropologists dispute this characterization, arguing that it is undeserved. Instead, they claim that Neanderthals had cognitive capabilities on par with modern humans.

In support of their claim, these scientists point to finds in the archaeological record that seemingly suggest these hominins were exceptional, just like modern humans. As a case in point, archaeologists have unearthed evidence for tar production at a site in Italy that dates to around 200,000 years in age. They interpret this discovery as evidence that Neanderthals were using tar as glue for hafting (fixing) flint spearheads to wooden spear shafts.1 Archaeologists have also unearthed spearheads with tar residue from two sites in Germany, one dating to 120,000 years in age and the other between 40,000 to 80,000 years.2 Because these dates precede the arrival of modern humans into Europe, anthropologists assume the tar at these sites was deliberately produced and used by Neanderthals.

Adhesives as a Signature for Superior Cognition

Anthropologists consider the development of adhesives as a transformative technology. These materials would have provided the first humans the means to construct new types of complex devices and combine different types of materials (composites) into new technologies. Because of this new proficiency, anthropologists consider the production and use of adhesives to be diagnostic of advanced cognitive capabilities such as forward planning, abstraction, and understanding of materials.

Production of adhesives from natural sources, even by the earliest modern humans, appears to have been a complex operation that required precise temperature control and the use of earthen mounds, or ceramic or metal kilns. In addition, birch bark needed to be heated in the absence of oxygen. Because the first large-scale production of adhesives usually centered around the dry distillation of birch and pine barks to produce tar and pitch, researchers have assumed that this technique is the only way to generate tar.

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Figure 2: Tar Produced from Birch Bark. Image credit: Wikipedia

So, if Neanderthals were using tar as an adhesive, the reasoning goes, they must have been pretty impressive creatures.

In the summer of 2017 researchers from the University of Leiden published work that seemed to support this view.3 To address the question of how Neanderthals may have produced adhesives, these investigators conducted a series of experiments. They sought to learn how Neanderthals used the resources most reasonably available to them to obtain tar from birch bark through dry distillation.

By studying a variety of methods for dry distillation of tar from birch in a laboratory setting, the research team concluded that Neanderthals could have produced tar from birch bark if they had used methods that were simple enough that they wouldn’t require precise temperature control during the distillation. Still, these methods are complex enough that the researchers concluded that for Neanderthals to pull off this feat, they must have had advanced cognitive abilities similar to those of modern humans.

Is Adhesive Production and Use Evidence for Neanderthal Exceptionalism?

At the time this work was reported, I challenged this conclusion by noting that the simplicity of these production methods argued against advanced cognitive abilities in Neanderthals, not for them.

Recent work by researchers from Germany affirms my skepticism. Their research challenges the view that adhesive production and use constitutes evidence for human exceptionalism.4 The team wondered if a simpler way to produce tar—even simpler than the methods identified by the research team from the University of Leiden— exists. They also wondered if it was possible to produce tar in the presence of oxygen.

From their work, they discovered that burning birch bark (or branches from a birch tree with the bark still attached) adjacent to a rock with a vertical or subvertical surface is a way to collect tar, which naturally deposits on the rock surface as the bark burns. In other words, tar can be produced accidentally, instead of deliberately. And once produced, it can be scraped from the rock surface.

Using analytical techniques (gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry) to characterize the chemical makeup of the tar produced by this simple method, the research team showed that it is comparable to the chemical composition of tars produced by sophisticated dry distillation methods under anaerobic conditions. Because of the simplicity of this method, the research team thinks that collecting tar deposits from burning birch on rocks is the most likely way that Neanderthals produced tar, if they intentionally produced it at all.

According to the research team, “The identification of birch tar at archaeological sites can no longer be considered as a proxy for human (complex, cultural) behavior as previously assumed. In other words, our finding changes textbook thinking about what tar production is a smoking gun of.”5

One other point merits consideration: A growing body of evidence indicates that Neanderthals did not master fire, but rather used it opportunistically. In other words, these creatures could not create fire, but did harvest wildfires. Evidence demonstrates that there were vast periods of time during Neanderthals’ tenure in Europe when wildfires were rare because of cold climatic conditions. During these periods, Neanderthals didn’t use fire.

Because fire is central to the dry distillation methods, for a significant portion of their time on Earth Neanderthals would have been unable to extract tar and use it for hafting. Perhaps this factor explains why recovery of tar from Neanderthal sites is so rare. And could it be that Neanderthals were not intentionally producing tar? Instead, did tar just happen to collect on rock surfaces as a consequence of burning birch branches when these creatures were able to harvest fire?

What Difference Does It Make?

One of the most important ideas taught in Scripture is that human beings uniquely bear God’s image. As such, every human being has immeasurable worth and value. And because we bear God’s image, we can enter into a relationship with our Maker.

However, if Neanderthals possessed advanced cognitive ability just like that of modern humans, then it becomes difficult to maintain the view that modern humans are unique and exceptional. If human beings aren’t exceptional, then it becomes a challenge to defend the idea that human beings are made in God’s image.

Yet, claims that Neanderthals are cognitive equals to modern humans fail to withstand scientific scrutiny, time and time again, as this latest study demonstrates. It is unlikely that any of us will see a Neanderthal run onto the football field anytime soon.

Resources

Neanderthals Did Not Master Fire

Differences in Human and Neanderthal Brains

Endnotes
  1. Paul Peter Anthony Mazza et al., “A New Palaeolithic Discovery: Tar-Hafted Stone Tools in a European Mid-Pleistocene Bone-Bearing Bed,” Journal of Archaeological Science 33, no. 9 (September 2006): 1310–18, doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.01.006.
  2. Johann Koller, Ursula Baumer, and Dietrich Mania, “High-Tech in the Middle Palaeolithic: Neandertal-Manufactured Pitch Identified,” European Journal of Archaeology 4, no. 3 (December 1, 2001): 385–97, doi:10.1179/eja.2001.4.3.385; Alfred F. Pawlik and Jürgen P. Thissen, “Hafted Armatures and Multi-Component Tool Design at the Micoquian Site of Inden-Altdorf, Germany,” Journal of Archaeological Science 38, no. 7 (July 2011): 1699–1708, doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.03.001.
  3. P. R. B. Kozowyk et al., “Experimental Methods for the Palaeolithic Dry Distillation of Birch Bark: Implications for the Origin and Development of Neandertal Adhesive Technology,” Scientific Reports 7 (August 31, 2017): 8033, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-08106-7.
  4. Patrick Schmidt et al., “Birch Tar Production Does Not Prove Neanderthal Behavioral Complexity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 116, no. 36 (September 3, 2019): 17707–11, doi:10.1073/pnas.1911137116.
  5. Schmidt et al., “Birch Tar Production.”

Reprinted with permission by the author

Original article at:
https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/read/the-cells-design/2018/11/21/vocal-signals-smile-on-the-case-for-human-exceptionalism