More Complex than Previously Thought – Part XI – Simple Bacteria?

Because of their rigid adherence to a failed framework, Darwinists have continuously been surprised at the sophistication of even the simplest organisms.  The researchers examined mycoplasma pneumoniae and found the following.

The inner workings of a supposedly simple bacterial cell have turned out to be much more sophisticated than expected.

An in-depth “blueprint” of an apparently minimalist species has revealed details that challenge preconceptions about how genes operate. It also brings closer the day when it may be possible to create artificial life.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which causes a form of pneumonia in people, has just 689 genes, compared with 25,000 in humans and 4000 or more in most other bacteria. Now a study of its inner workings has revealed that the bacterium has uncanny flexibility and sophistication, allowing it to react fast to changes in its diet and environment.

“There were a lot of surprises,” says Peer Bork, joint head of the structural and computational biology unit at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. “Although it’s a very tiny genome, it’s much more complicated than we thought.”

The biggest shock was that the organism gets by with just eight gene “switches”, or transcription factors, compared with more than 50 in other bacteria such as Escherichia coli. Transcription factors are generally thought of as the key components enabling living things to respond to environmental conditions by switching genes on and off.

Another unexpected discovery was that bacterial genes grouped together in clumps or families called “operons” don’t work as had been thought. The assumption was that if there are four genes in an operon they always work in unison, but the new analyses show that only one, or perhaps two, operate at any one time.

Even more surprising, the proteins the genes make don’t necessarily always couple with their nearest neighbours – again contrary to previous assumptions. Instead, they often join up with proteins originating from other, distant operons, vastly increasing the bacterium’s flexibility and versatility when faced with a changed environment.

Reference:
(1). ‘Simple’ bacterium shows surprising complexity, NewScientist, 11/26/09.

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The God Gene Redux

Darwinists of all stripes can hardly refrain from evolutionary storytelling when it comes to human psychology.  Not surprisingly, they focus largely on their opponents–those who have faith in God.  The recent work by archeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery seems to follow the familiar template.1  Start with an actual study, then speculate wildly about how natural selection brought about the observed results.

During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state.

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

For believers, it may seem threatening to think that the mind has been shaped to believe in gods, since the actual existence of the divine may then seem less likely.

In case you missed it before, I think John Cleese’s work in this area is as good or better than any other Darwinist speculating in this area.

Reference:
1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/weekinreview/12wade.html

Expelled Exposed…Exposed

From the website NCSE Exposed:

Of course critics of ID (like the folks at the NCSE) should have every right to publish their views within academic circles and should have the full protection of academic freedom. But academic freedom doesn’t just mean the freedom to agree with the predominant viewpoint. Academic freedom in science means nothing if it doesn’t include the right to hold legitimate minority scientific viewpoints. ID proponents have published serious scientific research in mainstream, credible academic venues. Many of them have sterling academic qualifications and accomplishments. They have earned the right to freely express their views without fear of intimidation or discrimination.

But free expression of pro-ID views in the academy is exactly what the NCSE doesn’t want. “Expelled Exposed” is now exposed for what it really is: it’s not just a website making the case against ID (which is perfectly fine if that’s what ID critics want to do)—it’s a website attempting to convince people that ID deserves no academic freedom. In other words, “Expelled Exposed” is an effort to encourage the further persecution of ID-proponents.

Ironically, by denying that professionally qualified ID proponents have a right to “a place in academia,” “Expelled Exposed” has justified the central thesis of the documentary Expelled, namely that qualified ID proponents do not receive academic freedom to hold, discuss, and promote their views within the academy.

I like the Discovery Institute more all the time based in part on the rabid hatred that many Darwinists have for this tiny organization. Can such intense fear and hatred come from a defense of “science” or is there something deeper going on?

Correlation does not imply causation unless Darwin is involved

You have probably heard the saying, “correlation does not imply causation.” In other words, just because two things are associated, it does not mean that one causes the other. Perhaps this time-honored standard of scientific investigation should be amended based on what is often practiced by Darwinists. I propose, “correlation and Darwinian storytelling imply causation.” This kind of thinking does not pass scientific muster, but it is the kind that is often practiced, particularly when the evolutionary roots of behavior are being studied.

As a case in point, consider the recent study, Musical Aptitude Is Associated with AVPR1A-Haplotypes.1

NewScientist2 reports on the study:

MUSICAL ability is linked to gene variants that help control social bonding. The finding adds weight to the notion that music developed to cement human relationships.

Järvelä thinks musical aptitude evolved because musical people were better at forming attachments to others: “Think of lullabies, which increase social bonding and possibly the survival of the baby.”

And from the original source:

Interestingly, AVPR1A has been known to modulate social cognition and behavior (see the recent review by Donaldson and Young [55]) making it a strong candidate gene for music perception and production. Several features in perceiving and practicing music, a multi-sensory process, are closely related to attachment [56]. Based on animal studies Darwin proposed in 1871 that singing is used to attract the opposite sex. Furthermore, lullabies are implied to attach infant to a parent and singing or playing music together may add group cohesion [57]. Thus, it is justified to hypothesize that music perception and creativity in music are linked to the same phenotypic spectrum of human cognitive social skills, like human bonding [13] and altruism [17] both associated with AVPR1A. It is of notice that both altruism (also called pathological trusting), and intense interest towards music and relatively sparse language skills are the characteristic features of Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS), a neurodevelopmental syndrome with elfin facial features, supravalvular aortic stenosis, hypercalcemia and scoliosis [55], [58]. AVPR1A is also associated with autism, an opposite phenotype with poor social communication skills [14], [46], [59].

The source article is actually titled appropriately. In other words, it suggests the mere genetic association (correlation). The authors seem to want us to believe that since Darwin proposed studies in 1871 about the singing behavior of animals and reproduction, it is reasonable to think that evolution is the hidden causal variable in the mix.

References:
1. Ukkola LT, Onkamo P, Raijas P, Karma K, Järvelä I, 2009 Musical Aptitude Is Associated with AVPR1A-Haplotypes. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5534. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005534
2. Genes help us make sweet music together, NewScientist, 6/2/09


Re-post from Uncommon Descent.

Faith and Evolution: New Website

William Dembski posted on a new website launched by the Discovery Institute (faithandevolution.org).  The design is sleek, and there is some useful information there.  I was reading some of the information on theistic evolution and came across this astounding passage:

And biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University, author of the popular book Finding Darwin’s God (which is used in many Christian colleges), insists that evolution is an undirected process, flatly denying that God guided the evolutionary process to achieve any particular result—including the development of human beings. Indeed, Miller insists that “mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained, that we are here… as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.” [Finding Darwin’s God (1999), p. 272]

Miller does say that God knew that the undirected process of evolution was so wonderful it would create some sort of rational creature capable of praising Him eventually. But what that something would be was radically undetermined. How undetermined? At a 2007 conference, Miller admitted that evolution could have produced “a big-brained dinosaur” or a “mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities” rather than human beings. [Quoted in Darwin Day, p. 226]

The Outsider, DB, would call this type of thinking, making it up as we go.  Essentially, that appears to be the approach of most theistic evolutionists. Unfortunately, they seem to apply a similar process to theology that many Darwinists apply to history. In other words, they imagine God to be whatever they want (e.g., a powerless cosmic puppy dog who loves you perhaps). Basically, they often seem to be worshiping science first and God second. But the God they worship (second to science) appears to be one of their own making.

Reference:
According to theistic evolution, did God direct evolution and know its outcome?

Life: Transcending Nature's Laws

Much is made of naturalism being a necessary basis for science.  Indeed, we are told that science cannot exists with any other basis.  Curiously, life seems to transcend some basic principles or laws of the natural world.  It defies the second law of thermodynamics, which is, briefly stated, that the level of disorder (entropy) in any given system will tend to increase until a state of equilibrium is reached.  However, in the reproducing of life, the level of entropy radically decreases during development.  Next, is the law of conservation of information.  William Dembski recently published a book chapter on this subject.(1) Again, stated simply, information can be neither created nor destroyed.  However, Darwnists view evolutionary processes as having the ability to 1) create information and 2) defy the second law of thermodynamics (although they try to state that evolution is consistent with the 2nd law of thermodynamics).

So, it is in this sense that life can very minimally be considered to be beyond natural (i.e., supernatural).  It is beyond natural in that it transcends laws of nature and what can be accomplished by natural forces alone.  Therefore, this argues powerfully for a supernatural (beyond natural law) origin of life.

(1). “Life’s Conservation Law: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information”

Idiocricy, Political Correctness, Darwinism, and Eugenics

The Outsider (DB), has an excellent post on these matters.

“Idiocricy:” A Bad Comedy or Covert Eugenics (Genetics) Propaganda?