Blood Flow Requires a Complex, Well-Designed System

Editor's note: Physicians have a special place among the thinkers who have elaborated the argument for intelligent design. Perhaps that's because, more than evolutionary biologists, they are familiar with the challenges of maintaining a functioning complex system, the human body. With that in mind, Evolution News & Views is delighted to present this series, "The Designed Body." For the complete series, see here. Dr. Glicksman practices palliative medicine for a hospice organization.

The cells that make up the organs and tissues of the body require the blood in the circulation to give them what they need so they can do what they need to do. The heart must pump enough blood with enough pressure behind it to maintain sufficient blood flow. Blood flow can be defined as the volume of blood that passes a given point in the circulation system within a given amount of time, and is usually measured in "milliliters per minute" (mL/min).

As I've shown in prior articles in this series, the laws of nature state that blood flow (Q) to a given organ is directly related to the pressure (P) of the blood as it enters its capillaries and inversely related to the vascular resistance (R) applied by its arterioles. This natural relationship can be expressed as Q = P/R. The higher the pressure, the more blood flow and the lower the pressure, the less blood flow. And the higher the vascular resistance, the less blood flow, and the lower the vascular resistance, the more blood flow.

Common sense tells us that the wider the passageway the easier the flow. Just consider rush hour traffic moving along a highway. The more lanes there are available, the more cars can move through in a given amount of time. Now think about what happens when the cars leave the highway. Compared to a single-lane exit ramp, a double-lane one provides much less resistance and allows easier flow off the highway. The blood hurtling through the smaller arteries, trying to enter the arterioles on the way to the tissues, is like cars in a crush of rush hour traffic trying to enter the various exit ramps to reach their destinations. The wider the opening in the arterioles, the more blood can flow through, and the narrower the opening, the less blood can flow through.

The arterioles can increase or decrease the amount of resistance they apply to the blood trying to enter an organ by increasing or decreasing the contraction of the muscle surrounding them. An increase in muscle contraction closes down the opening in the arteriole, making the passageway (lumen) smaller. This increases the resistance and lowers the blood flow. And a decrease in muscle contraction opens up the lumen, decreasing the resistance and increasing the blood flow. In fact, the laws of nature state that the change in blood flow is directly related to the fourth power of the change in the luminal diameter. This means that if the luminal diameter of the blood vessel doubles, the blood flow increases by a factor of sixteen, and if it halves it decreases by a factor of sixteen.

At rest, total blood flow within the systemic circulation (cardiac output) is about 5,000 mL/min (5 L/min). With high levels of activity, something our earliest ancestors would have had to do often, it rises to about 25L/min. However, just because the body can generate enough cardiac output to meet its metabolic needs doesn't mean that the increase in blood flow will automatically go to the organs and tissues that really need it. This requires the body to take control in order to follow the rules that nature throws at it. Real numbers have real consequences, and if with increased activity the body can't get enough blood flow to the heart and skeletal muscle while preserving it to the brain, the body cannot function. This is what the body of our earliest ancestors would have had to have been able to do to survive within the laws of nature, something that evolutionary biology has yet to even mention, never mind explain.

The blood flow to a given organ or tissue is dependent, not only on its mass, but also its energy needs, in other words, what it's doing. The brain of a 70 Kg man has a mass of only 1500 gm, about 2 percent of his total mass. But at rest, the brain receives 750 mL/min, or 15 percent of the cardiac output. The brain needs a high amount of blood flow, over and above what one would expect for its size, because even though the body may be at rest, the brain is always working hard. In fact, no matter how little or how much the body exerts itself, the amount of blood flow to the brain must stay at 750 mL/min for it to work properly. The heart, with a mass of only about 300 gm, less than 1 percent of the body's total, is another organ that must constantly work, even when the body is at rest. At rest, the heart receives about 250 mL/min of the cardiac output, or about 5 percent of the total blood flow.

In contrast, the skeletal muscle, with a mass of about 30 Kg, or 40 percent of the body's total, at rest receives only 15 percent of the cardiac output, or 750 mL/min. At rest, the remaining blood flow mostly goes to the liver and gastrointestinal system (25 percent), the kidneys (20 percent), the fat (5 percent), the bones (5 percent), the skin (5 percent), and the lungs (2.5 percent).

The muscles surrounding the arterioles respond to several different factors. Some of these are intrinsic to what is going on inside and around the arterioles. This includes the pressure the blood applies as it enters and stretches the arteriolar wall and the presence of certain chemicals related to the metabolism of the tissues. Other factors are extrinsic to the arterioles, which include various hormones released by glands and neurohormones released by nerve cells. At rest, the main extrinsic factor that affects local blood flow is the sympathetic nervous system.

Except for in the brain, the sympathetic neurohormone, norepinephrine, attaches to specific receptors on the muscles surrounding most of the arterioles in the body and tells them to stay contracted. The resulting vasoconstriction causes limited blood flow through most of the organs and tissues. At rest, particularly in the brain and the heart, the main intrinsic factor that affects blood flow is autoregulation, in which the arteriolar resistance is constantly adjusted to match the pressure of the entering blood to maintain a relatively constant blood flow.

When the body is very active, such as when our ancient ancestors were running to find food or trying to avoid becoming food, the cardiac output is about 25L/min. The majority of this quintupling of blood flow must go to the skeletal and heart muscle so the body can do what it needs to do to survive. In fact, compared to what it receives at rest, during extreme physical exertion, the amount of blood flow to the skeletal muscle increases 28-fold to about 21 L/min and the blood flow to the heart muscle more than quadruples, going from 250 mL/min at rest, to over 1,000 mL/min. The brain is able to maintain its usual blood flow of 750 mL/min, but most of the other organs and tissues of the body see a decrease in blood flow.

For example, the blood flow to the liver and gastrointestinal system drops about 60 percent, from 1.25 L/min to 500 mL/min and the blood flow to the kidneys drops 75 percent, from 1,000 mL/min to only 250 mL/min. Since the change in blood flow is directly related to the fourth power of the change in the luminal diameter this means that the luminal diameter of the arterioles supplying blood to the skeletal muscle must increase by 130 percent and those to the heart muscle by 40 percent. Those to the liver, the gastrointestinal system and the kidneys decrease by about 10 percent. So, how does the body know when to make these changes?

When the body becomes active the main intrinsic factor that affects local blood flow is something called metabolic or functional hyperemia. Increased muscle activity causes the local buildup of several different chemicals that make the muscles surrounding the local arterioles relax. This vasodilation reduces the vascular resistance and increases local blood flow. This is one of the main reasons why the blood flow to the skeletal and heart muscle increases with activity.

In addition, the main extrinsic factor that affects local blood flow with increased activity is an increase in the sympathetic response as well, but with an added twist. Except for the brain, an increase in norepinephrine usually makes the muscles surrounding the arterioles everywhere else in the body contract. This causes an increased vascular resistance and less blood flow. This explains why, with increased physical activity, the blood flow to most of the other organs and tissues is reduced. But with increased activity, more epinephrine is released as well. The muscles surrounding the arterioles that supply blood to the skeletal and heart muscle are unique in that they have specific receptors for epinephrine. Epinephrine stimulates these muscles to relax, reversing the effects of norepinephrine, which reduces the vascular resistance and increases the blood flow to the skeletal and heart muscle.

We have seen that to survive under the laws of nature, the body must follow the rules and take control by making sure that, when it comes to blood flow to specific organs and tissues, the numbers follow the Goldilocks principle and be "just right." Having all the parts in place to maintain this type of control requires, not only that the system be irreducibly complex, but also have anatural survival capacity to be able to do exactly what has to be done and at the right time. In fact, to do all of this the body must inherently know that Q = P/R and the change in Q is directly related to the fourth power of the change in the luminal diameter.

This completes our discussion of cardiovascular function and how the body makes sure that its trillions of cells get what they need to live, grow, and work properly. However, life is a dynamic process and our earliest ancestors would have had to have remained very active to win the battle for survival. The body does not live within the imaginations of evolutionary biologists but within the laws of nature in which battles involves injuries. Injury to blood vessels leads to bleeding, which if serious enough can be fatal. That's what we'll start to look at next time.

Read original article HERE

Doctors and Evolution

David Klinghoffer

In an almost charmingly naïve article, Francie Diep at Pacific Standardwonders, "Why Do Some Doctors Reject Evolution?" Her news peg is Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who has expressed reservations about Darwinian accounts of evolution -- though I don't know that anyone has questioned him sharply and in an informed way about his ideas on the subject.

Miss Diep is perplexed: "We assumed such beliefs would be unusual among doctors." Not so, she discovered.

[W]hen Pacific Standard talked to doctors, many didn't find their colleagues' rejection of evolution unusual. "Nope, it's not uncommon at all," says David Gorski, a surgeon and researcher at Wayne State University. Even in the national spotlight, Carson isn't the only high-profile politician-physician to doubt the well-established biology concept.

All of the physicians Pacific Standard talked with, both on and off the record, had the same answer to "How is it possible?": Although doctors use many insights from biology, many don't actually need to understand or believe in evolution correctly to do their jobs.

"Most physicians are not scientists. This is not a knock, but they're more akin to engineers," Gorski says. "They take science that's already known and they apply it to a problem, the problem being making patients better."

It's not a knock? It sure sounds like one. The countervailing consideration is that physicians and engineers -- and why not throw in computer scientists as well? -- do something on a daily basis that evolutionary biologists never do. The doctor or engineer's responsibility is to maintain, devise, or build complex systems, even from the ground up, systems that must operate continuously without fail. If the system does fail, then the physician, engineer, or computer scientist has flopped in his job. Not uncommonly, the results of such a flop can be fatal -- for the patient on the operating table, for example, or the passenger in the jet airplane.

Luxuriously insulated from reality, biologists theorizing about the history of life, how it arose and developed, face no such pressure to fill in what Ann Gauger calls the "white spaces" in evolutionary thinking. (For more on that, see "The Modesty Chronicles.") Vague stories and magic words typically substitute for detailed explanations of how biological systems could come into being through purposeless, unintelligent processes alone. It often seems that the only serious pressure that Darwinists do face is from us.

Miss Diep rolls out the usual line about how evolution is vital to biology which is vital to medicine, ergo medicine needs evolution or ought to do so. But even some hardline Darwinists admit that the practical benefits of their cherished theory are scarce.

Coincidentally, a correspondent today sends across my desk this from biologist Jerry Coyne, of Why Evolution Is True fame. Writing in Nature ("Selling Darwin"), Coyne has conceded:

[T]ruth be told, evolution hasn't yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn't evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of 'like begets like'. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.

He wrote that in 2006 -- maybe he'd be more circumspect now. But I'm not aware that anything has changed in medicine or other fields to shift a reasonable person from such a view.

Coyne, of course, believes that the importance of evolution lies in its power to explain, or explain away, not to heal or otherwise improve the quality of our lives. It's precisely that explanatory power, as we know, that is most urgently in need of critical examination.

Read original article HERE      

Chimps Can Cook! -- Or Not

We are continually told: "Humans are not exceptional!" Scientists and advocates huff and puff to show how animals are just like us, and the media eats it up.

This one made me laugh. The other day, the Guardian ran an article with a title that declared chimpanzees can cook. The title, however, ended up being a bit misleading:

 

A study found that chimpanzees prefer the taste of cooked food, can defer gratification while waiting for it and even choose to hoard raw vegetables if they know they will have the chance to cook them later on.

 

The findings suggest that our earliest ancestors may have developed a taste for roast vegetables and grilled meat earlier than previously thought, potentially shifting the timeline for one of the critical transitions in human history.

Wow! So, given the chance, they cook? Well, not exactly. They just exchanged raw food for better tasting cooked food:

For safety reasons, this was a plastic lunchbox with a false bottom, which researchers used to "transform" raw sweet potato placed inside by the chimpanzees into a cooked slice of a similar size...

Overall, the apes chose cooked potato nearly 90% of the time when they were given a straight choice and they were nearly as keen when they had to wait one minute while it was "cooked" by the researcher (who shook the plastic box ten times).

The chimps continued to opt for the cooked option 60% of the time when they had to carry the food some distance in order to place it in the "oven" -- although since they often carried it in their mouths this was a challenge and they sometimes appeared to eat the food on the way, "almost by accident".

So, chimps don't cook. Nor is there any evidence they have ever tried. They reacted to an unnatural situation set up by humans. But, of course, this means chimps are people too, or perhaps better stated, we are just chimps:

 

Dr. Erica van de Waal, a psychologist at the University of St Andrews, said the findings add to the growing list of parallels that have been observed between human and ape behaviours. "The more we study our primate cousins, the more we realise that they have the bases of most of our cognitive abilities, including for language, culture and fairness," she said.

 

Other than the fact that they don't have the actual abilities.

The experiments were performed at the Jane Goodall Institute's Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which may shed some light on the results. Goodall is an ideologue as much as a scientist and exaggerated the inner lives of the chimps she observed to make them seem more human.

Read original article HERE

Warm-Bloodedness is an Ocean Fish Stuns Evolutionists

It's a big, round fish called the opah, found in deep waters around the earth and looking a bit like someone's goldfish that seriously outgrew its bowl. Some fish, like tuna and sharks, can control temperature in parts of the body. This one can keep its whole body warm, giving it improved performance in the coldness of the depths. It's the first example of whole-body endothermy in a fish, raising new questions about the evolution of a complex trait.

The story caught the attention of many news sites, such as the BBC News and the Washington PostThe Weather Channel featured a short news video and report, saying that warm-bloodedness gives this fish a competitive advantage when it hunts slower, cold-blooded prey. Nate Scott at USA Today got a little crazy with his coverage, saying "Scientists have found a warm-blooded fish and we're probably all dead... They're evolving."

This is a sign. This is a message from the deep. Fish are changing. They're getting smarter. It won't be long before the warm blood of this fish starts burning hot, hot with a desire to eat us one by one.

Or perhaps not. Let's take a look at this nice harmless fish scientifically. Calling it "warm-blooded" is a bit of a misnomer, since it lacks the tightly regulated endothermic homeostasis seen in higher vertebrates like mammals and birds. Instead, as Sacha Vignieri explains in a short statement in This Week in Science, the opah distributes heat around its body that's generated by its swimming muscles.

Mammals and birds warm their entire bodies above the ambient temperature. Generally, this ability is lacking in other vertebrates,although some highly active fish can temporarily warm their swim muscles. Wegner et al. show that the opah, a large deepwater fish, can generate heat with its swim muscles and use this heat to warm both its heart and brain. This ability increases its metabolic function in cold deep waters, which will help the fish compete with other, colder-blooded species. [Emphasis added.]

Conservation of muscle heat is not that unusual. As noted, tuna and some sharks can warm parts of their body with it. The source paper in Scienceidentifies the key to the mechanism in the opah: counter-current heat exchangers in the gills.

Here, we describe a whole-body form of endothermy in a fish, the opah (Lampris guttatus), that produces heat through the constant "flapping" of wing-like pectoral fins and minimizes heat lossthrough a series of counter-current heat exchangers within its gills. Unlike other fish, opah distribute warmed blood throughout the body, including to the heart, enhancing physiological performance and buffering internal organ function while foraging in the cold, nutrient-rich waters below the ocean thermocline.

Counter-current heat exchangers (CCHE) are common in vertebrates. We have them in our kidneys. Similar mechanisms are found in sea turtles, foxes, and dolphins. Illustra Media's new film Living Waters (to be completed this month) will illustrate a particularly amazing example of a CCHE in humpback whales that creates a severe challenge for Darwinian evolution.

Other fish have CCHE's, too, so it's not overly surprising that the opah can use the mechanism to distribute heat generated by its fin muscles to warm itself. This does not, however, minimize the wonder of a CCHE. It is achieved by a "wonderful net" of blood vessels (rete mirabile, literally "miraculous web" in Latin) that provides an ingenious method to regulate core body temperature.

In a rete (plural: retia), arteries and veins mesh into networks of fine vessels that flow in opposite directions, as the term counter-current implies. This allows heat to diffuse from warm arteries to cold veins. In dolphins, excess heat from swimming is shed to the environment through retia in the dorsal fin and tail, where the blubber layer is absent.

The opah has retia in its gills. The authors explain how this provides warm-bloodedness in an unusual way for a fish:

What is exceptional about the opah is its arrangement of counter-current retia mirabilia located inside each thick, fat-insulated gill arch (Fig. 2), which thermally isolate the respiratory exchange surfaces from the rest of the body. Vascular casts of the gills (Fig. 2, A, C, and E) reveal that unlike other fishes, extensions of the afferent and efferent filament arteries (which deliver and collect blood immediately pre- and post-gas exchange at the gill lamellae) are embedded within each gill arch in a tightly bundled and contorted manner to form an arterio-arterial rete. Specifically, the afferent and efferent arteries of each individual filament are closely coupled (Fig. 2E) and stacked in an alternating pattern within the arch (Fig. 2, C and D) so that the cold oxygenated blood of each efferent vessel (returning from the respiratory exchange surfaces) should be warmed by the conduction of heat from the warm deoxygenated blood in the afferent filament arteries on either side (which are carrying blood to the gas exchange surfaces). As a result,oxygenated blood leaving the respiratory exchange surfaces should be warmed before entering into efferent branchial arteries for distribution to the rest of the body.

These retia, in other words, are unusual in that they are all composed of arteries, not arteries and veins. Heat from the warmer deoxygenated blood is transferred to oxygenated blood in the gills, so that it is not lost to the ocean water. But even that is not enough to keep the fish's brain warm. The authors found an additional rete in the muscles that move the eyes that adds a littlemore heat to the cranium. This way, the fish can avoid the mental sluggishness of a cold brain.

"Of particular importance is the capacity of opah to increase the temperature of the heart," they continue, by conserving body heat with specialized fat layers. The combined systems work well for a fish that spends most of its time below the thermocline in the frigid waters of the deep. "With a warm body core and heart, and even warmer cranial region, opah have the capacity for enhanced physiological function in their deep, cold habitat."

In short, the opah employs specialized adaptations of traits that are present in other fish. They are arranged in ways to conserve and channel heat for this species' deep-water needs. Consequently, the fish can call the world's deep oceans home.

And Now, Evolution

What do the authors say about how these adaptations evolved? Not much.

This study presents morphological, temperature, and behavioral data that demonstrate an independent evolution of a more whole-body form of endothermy present in the opah, Lampris gutattus -- a poorly studied, large, mesopelagic fish with a circumglobal distribution....

In many respects, the opah has converged with regionally endothermic fishes such as tunas and lamnid sharks for increased aerobic capacity. However, unlike these active, more surface-oriented predators that are thought to be derived from tropical ancestors and to use regional endothermy to expand their thermal tolerance or habitat utilization into deep and colder waters, the opah's evolutionary history is likely tied to greater oceanic depths, with all but the most basal lineage of the Lampridiformes inhabiting the mesopelagic zone (200 to 1000 m depth). Therefore, rather than using regional endothermy to dive below the thermocline during temporary forages, the opah (with its more whole-body form of endothermy) is distinctively specialized to exploit cold, deeper waters while maintaining elevated levels of physiological performance. The discovery of this form of endothermy, coupled with the recent finding of several distinct opah species inhabiting different regions of the world's oceans (including the subpolar southern opah, L. immaculatus), sets the stage for future comparative studies to further explore this key evolutionary innovation.

The explanation? Convergent evolution to the rescue! This fish's evolutionary history is tied to the depths. Give us more funding, and we can "further explore this key evolutionary innovation."

If that leaves you feeling unsatisfied, consider intelligence as a cause. Intelligence can take a solution that works in one environment and apply it in different animals in different environments. A rete mirabile is a complex system that cannot arise in a gradual, stepwise manner, because all the parts have to function together before any part has survival value. "Convergence" and "innovation" are magic words that provide no understanding. But since we know of a cause -- intelligence -- that can adapt a similar solution in multiple ways, that is a cause that a rational scientist should pursue.

Real Science vs. Bill Nye the "Science" Guy

If you grew up among Generation Xers and Millennials as I did, then you probably loved watchingBill Nye the Science Guy on TV. Nye's quirky, off-beat, after-school PBS show achieved no small feat: It made kids laugh and got them to appreciate science -- and they didn't even realize they were learning.

While most Bill Nye-fans -- myself included -- enjoyed his wacky experiments and corny jokes, few if any realized there was another side to Bill, one that he didn't start unveiling until just the past few years: Nye advocates a hardline, intolerant, and divisive materialistic worldview view that stands diametrically opposed to the values shared by most Americans.

In 2010 he was named "Humanist of the Year" by the American Humanist Association. In hisacceptance speech, he explained his deeply nihilistic views:

I'm insignificant. ... I am just another speck of sand. And the earth really in the cosmic scheme of things is another speck. And the sun an unremarkable star. ... And the galaxy is a speck. I'm a speck on a speck orbiting a speck among other specks among still other specks in the middle of specklessness. I suck.

Nye again made headlines in 2012, after declaring that parents who "deny" evolution should not instill in their children their own beliefs about life's origins:

When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in [evolution], it holds everybody back. Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science. ... And I say to the grown ups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

In 2014, Nye gained even more notoriety by participating in a debate watched by millions of people, pitting him against a famous young earth creationist, Ken Ham. While Nye deftly argued that the universe is billions of years old, he also highlighted his materialistic view that life is the result of strictly unguided natural causes. He then set out to capitalize on that publicity by releasing a book at the end of last year, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.

Undeniable promotes the standard dumbed-down atheistic narrative about science, society, and evolution -- except now his book is influencing younger thinkers who mistakenly think Nye is an objective source of information for everything about science.

On the first page, we learn that for Nye, evolution answered his biggest questions about life, the universe, and the meaning of everything. "As I learned about evolution and descent by natural selection, the answers fell into place," he writes. "After all, evolution made us who we are."

Later, Nye reveals that his view that humans "suck" comes directly from his study of evolution: "As I learned more about evolution, I realized that from nature's point of view, you and I ain't such a big deal." According to evolution, Nye says, "humankind may not be that special."

And why aren't we special? Under Nye's nihilistic thinking, "evolution is not guided by a mind or a plan," and nature even shows "lack of evidence of a plan." For Nye, "Every other aspect of life that was once attributed to divine intent is now elegantly and completely explained in the context of evolutionary science."

Under Nye's outlook, even humanity's advanced abilities, like our moral codes and selfless altruism, are not special gifts that show we were made for a higher purpose. Rather, "Altruism is not a moral or religious ideal, no matter what some people might tell you," for human morality is merely a "biological part of who or what we are as a species."

If you think Nye's ideology is bad, wait until you see the science he uses to justify these claims.

On the natural chemical origins of life, Nye maintains that the famous Miller-Urey experiments "simulate[d] the conditions on earth in primordial times," and "produced the natural amino acids." Yet it's been known for decades that the Miller-Urey experiments did not correctly simulate the earth's early atmosphere. An article in Science explains why the experiments are now considered largely irrelevant: "the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller-Urey situation."

Nye also promotes the unsophisticated argument that humans and apes must share a common ancestor because our gene-coding DNA is only about 1 percent different. "This is striking evidence for chimps and chumps to have a common ancestor," he writes.

This argument is not just simplistic, it's also false.

Another article in Science challenged "the myth of 1%," suggesting the statistic is a "truism [that] should be retired," and noting, "studies are showing that [humans and chimps] are not as similar as many tend to believe." Geneticist Richard Buggs argues more accurate genetic comparisons show "the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70 percent."

But if we do share DNA with chimps, why should that demonstrate our common ancestry? Intelligent agents regularly re-use parts that work in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and wheels for airplanes). Genetic similarities between humans and chimps could easily be seen as the result of common design rather than common descent. Nye's crude argument ignores this possibility.

Undeniable also covers fossils -- but Nye botches his arguments that the fossil record shows "transitional forms."

Nye cites Tiktaalik as a "'fishapod' (transition between fish and tetrapod, or land animal with four legs)" that is a fulfilled "prediction" of evolution because of when and where it was found in the fossil record. (This is at least a bit better than when Nye called Tiktaalik a "fish-lizard" during his debate against Ken Ham.) Nye is apparently unaware that this so-called evolutionary "prediction" went belly-up after scientists found tracks of true tetrapods with digits some 18 million years before Tiktaalik in the fossil record. As the world's top scientific journal Nature put it, this meansTiktaalik is not a "direct transitional form."

In another instance, Nye claims we've "found a whole range of human ancestors, includingSahelanthropus tchadensis," apparently not realizing that an article in Nature reported there are "many... features that link the specimen with chimpanzees, gorillas or both," since "Sahelanthropuswas an ape."

Nye calls the fossil mammal Ambulocetus a "walking whale" with "whalelike flippers, and feet with toes." Nye apparently missed a paper in Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics which found thatAmbulocetus had "large feet" and called its mode of swimming "inefficient" -- very different from whales. Another paper found that unlike whales, Ambulocetus was tied to freshwater environments and lived near "the mouths of rivers, lunging out at terrestrial prey -- analogous to the hunting process of crocodilians." This mammal had nothing like "whalelike flippers."

There are many other scientific errors in Nye's book, but one more will suffice. ThroughoutUndeniable, Nye attempts to demean humanity by claiming our bodies are poorly designed. Some of his examples -- he quips that our "waste disposal plumbing is immediately adjacent to our reproductive and pleasure producing plumbing" -- cause no biological problems whatsoever, and are not any kind of design flaw. But he also promotes an old canard that the human eye is wired backwards.

According to Nye, "the human eye's light-sensing cells are tucked behind other layers of tissue" which is "not an optimal optical arrangement." He apparently never saw a 2010 paper in Physical Review Letters which found that our eyes have special glial cells which sit over the retina, acting like fiber-optic cables to channel light through the tissue directly onto our photoreceptor cells. According to the paper, the human retina is "an optimal structure designed for improving the sharpness of images." Indeed, just this month a headline at Scientific American reports: "The Purpose of Our Eyes' Strange Wiring Is Unveiled." That article confirms the purpose lies in, "increasing and sharpening our color vision."

Nye tells his readers that the eyes of cephalopods like the octopus have "a better design than yours." But an article at Phys.org called our retinal glial cells a "design feature," and concluded: "The idea that the vertebrate eye, like a traditional front-illuminated camera, might have been improved somehow if it had only been able to orient its wiring behind the photoreceptor layer, like a cephalopod, is folly."

Undeniable offers triumphalist statements, with Nye saying things like "The natural world is a package deal; you don't get to select which facts you like and which you don't." Yet his book consistently ignores, or is simply unaware of, facts that contradict his arguments for evolution.

Mostly, however, Nye dismisses Darwin-critics by labeling them as "creationists" and "science deniers" marked by "stubborn ignorance," a lack of "honesty," who "want to suppress" evolution by teaching "fictitious alternatives" in schools. He adopts the customary scare-tactics of censors, arguing that if we allow kids to question Darwinism, then that amounts to an "assault on science," and threatens to throw society back to the Dark Ages:

Our understanding of evolution came to us by exactly the same method of scientific discovery that led to printing presses, polio vaccines, and smartphones. ... What would the deniers have us do? Ignore all the scientific discoveries that make our technologically driven world possible, things like the ability to rotate crops, pump water, generate electricity, and broadcast baseball?

In Nye's vision, humanity's salvation comes from "celebrating evolution" so "we can open more minds and unlock more of our vast human potential."

Yet it is Nye who is doing the disservice to society. By caricaturing the debate over Darwinian evolution as one of enlightened science vs. ignorant religion, Nye uses his position as a spokesman for science to hide from his readers -- many of whom are students -- the facts about legitimate scientific challenges to evolutionary biology being raised by mainstream scientists.

Moreover, by adopting the patently false atheist-supremacist position that Darwin-skeptics can't do good science, Nye's rhetoric discourages many bright young Darwin-doubting students from entering scientific fields. In effect, Nye's own divisive prejudices and discriminatory attitudes towards Darwin-doubters may be hindering his own goals to inspire young people to become scientists and find scientific solutions to problems facing society.

 

Those who want to read about scientists who raise credible challenges to Darwinian theory might turn to Stephen C. Meyer's 2013 book Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

Meyer, a Cambridge University trained philosopher of science, explains that the mainstream peer-reviewed scientific literature is saturated with technical papers challenging neo-Darwinian evolution. His challenge to Darwinism is rooted in the Cambrian explosion, an event in the fossil record where many of the major animal phyla appear in a geologically abrupt manner, without evolutionary precursors, some 530 million years ago.

Meyer explains that rapidly building all of these new types of organisms would require the origin of an immense amount of new biological information to specify their diverse body plans. Where does new genetic information come from? He explains:

Our uniform experience of cause and effect shows that intelligent design is the only known cause of the origin of large amounts of functionally specified digital information. It follows that the great infusion of such information in the Cambrian explosion points decisively to an intelligent cause.

Bill Nye also tackles the Cambrian explosion in Undeniable, dismissing it briefly. Apparently using an analogy to smoking a joint, Nye tries to argue that gradual evolution can explain the explosive appearance of new animal life: "If you were to puff on almost anything for 20 million years, you might expect an increase in volume, no?" In his view, the Cambrian explosion simply reflects "an increase in the size and robustness of the shells of invertebrate sea creatures that are inherently better preserved as fossils" and is thus "an artifact of the fossils ... rather than an actual very, very fast production of diversity in species."

The problem for Nye is that paleontologists disagree. As Meyer documents, the Cambrian explosion not only reflects the origin of hard-shelled animals but also the abrupt appearance of many soft-bodied animals as well, such as polychaete worms, lobopods, and various jellyfish-like creatures. Moreover, the consensus of paleontologists agrees that the main pulse of the Cambrian explosion lasted less than 10 million years. Meyer shows that given the mathematics of evolution, this is not enough time for animal body plans to evolve.

Even evolutionary biologists are mystified at how to explain this. As one paper in BioEssaysadmitted in 2009, "elucidating the materialistic basis of the Cambrian explosion has become more elusive, not less, the more we know about the event itself."

My present purpose is not to wade into the paleontological details of the Cambrian explosion, but rather to highlight a fascinating scientific debate that Bill Nye obscures. At the same time that mainstream scientists are raising serious scientific challenge to the adequacy of neo-Darwinian evolution, popularizers like Nye are telling the public that those who would question Darwin want to send us back to the days before electricity.

Nye's aggressive atheistic worldview apparently cannot allow him to fathom the possibility that evolutionary biology might not be the right answer. He must cast everything in stark, black-and-white terms, where there are enlightened, honest, and factually correct evolutionists and ignorant, corrupt, and entirely misguided people whom he labels "creationists." There's no room for dialogue, no room for debate.

Unfortunately, Bill Nye's intolerant worldview seems to be rubbing off on many of my Gen-X and Millennial friends. But if they want their views to correspond to reality, they would do better to read Darwin's Doubt, and get a factually-based appreciation for how 21st century science is leaving Bill Nye, and Charles Darwin, behind.

Are Shell Spirals "Merely" Works of Physics?

Article taken from www.evolutionnews.org

statement from CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research, touts research in theJournal of Theoretical Biology. The news release states flatly, "Physics determined ammonite shell shape." It goes on to say that, even though individual shells of different species are "exceptionally diverse," they can all be explained by a biomechanical model.

"Their approach provides new paths for interpreting the evolution of ammonites and nautili," the article boasts. What's missing in this story? Well, it is hidden away behind the word "emergence."

The shape of living organisms evolves over time. The questions raised by this transformation have led to the emergence of theories of evolution. To understand how biological shapes change over a geological time scale, researchers have recently begun to investigate how they are generated during an individual's development and growth: this is known as morphogenesis. Due to the exceptional diversity of their shell shapes and patterns (particularly the ribs), ammonites have been widely studied from the point of view of evolution but the mechanisms underlying the coiled spirals were unknown until now. Researchers therefore attempted to elucidate the evolution of these shapes without knowing how they had emerged. (Emphasis added.)

Ammonite shells are famous for conforming to the Golden Ratio of the Fibonacci sequence (see thismesmerizing artistic video). Strangely, the news release did not mention that. All the researchers called on to do the artwork were forces and rates:

By examining various fossil specimens in light of the simulations produced by the model, the researchers observed that the latter can predict the number and shape of ribs in several ammonites. The model shows that the ornamentation of the shellevolves as a function of variables such as tissue elasticity and shell expansion rate(the rate at which the diameter of the opening increases with each spiral coil).

With their model, they believe they've got the shape solved as well as its evolution:

By providing a biophysical explanation for how these ornamentations form, this theoretical approach explains the diversity existing within and between species. It thus opens new perspectives for the study of the morphological evolution of ammonites, which seems to be largely governed by mechanical and geometric constraints....

 

More generally, this work highlights the value of studying the physical bases of biological development: understanding the "construction rules" underlying the morphological diversity of organisms makes it possible to partially predict how their shape evolves.

Here's what's missing: information. If cells were not pre-programmed with the ability to secrete proteins and minerals in the right orientations, at the right times, a spiral shell obeying the Fibonacci sequence would not result. If only forces and expansion rates were operating blindly, there would be a chaotic jumble.

What controls the tissue elasticity? The information in DNA. What governs the shell expansion rate? The information in DNA. What determines the geometric constraints? The information in DNA. The ammonite takes advantage of physics, but the shell is not merely a product of physics; it is directed by programmed information.

But critics of intelligent design could argue, don't we find the same spirals in galaxies and hurricanes? Don't they, too, conform to the Fibonacci sequence? Yes, but those phenomena are not directed by DNA to make the spirals for a function. The ammonite shell has a function: to provide a habitat for the squid-like animal inside.

We might compare a natural snowflake to a piece of jewelry imitating a snowflake. The latter has a function -- to be an adornment. No natural law acting on silver ore in the ground is going to produce a snowflake shape by chance in a reasonable amount of time.

Similarly, inanimate forces devoid of information do not pull material out of seawater and organize them into chambered spirals that function as houses for cephalopods. You'll notice that the CNRS researchers call their model a "biophysical" model, not just a physical model. Hidden in the "bio" part is the genetic information that directs the "physical" part.

If the researchers feel that physics alone can produce ammonite spirals, we might ask if physics alone can also produce the video about Fibonacci ratios in nature that we referenced earlier.

The Design Filter can distinguish between phenomena that appear outwardly similar, like the spiral galaxy and the ammonite shell. The former can be explained by natural law and chance. The latter cannot, because the forces available in seawater are inadequate and too improbable. We can therefore not only infer design, but actually observe the information in the DNA acting to produce the result.

Why would the universe be organized in such a way that the Fibonacci sequence shows up in so many places, including in non-living objects like spiral galaxies and hurricanes? If natural laws are contingent, the number of possible universes allowing such outcomes must be vanishingly small. This suggests even deeper levels of design in the fabric of the universe. As William Dembski argues in his new book Being as Communion, it's "information all the way down."

European Space Probe Lands on Comet, Heralded by Overheated Promises of Solving the Enigma of Life

The European Space Agency successfully landed its probe Philae on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko following a ten-year journey through space. Excellent. Now with that accomplished, let the overheated promises pour forth that the landing will solve the enigma of life's origins on Earth, or help reveal the existence of life elsewhere. Countdown: ...3, 2, 1. Go!

  • "Scientists hope the £1billion project will solve some of the greatest puzzles in science -- including the origins of life on Earth." (Daily Mail)
  • "Experts hope studying the inhospitable mountains and ice-filled craters of the comet will help to unlock the secrets of our how life started on our planet." (Express)
  • "Opinion: How comet mission helps in search for alien life." (CNN)
  • "Scientists hope that samples drilled out from the comet ... will unlock details about how the planets -- and possibly even life -- evolved, as the rock and ice that make up comets preserve ancient organic molecules like a time-capsule." (Reuters)
  • "Rosetta’s success will illuminate the origins of life -- it’s a billion well spent." (The Guardian)
  • "Rosetta has travelled four billion miles in its quest to find out, among other things, whether comets could have sparked life on Earth." (Telegraph)
  • "Another idea is that they could have 'seeded' the Earth with the chemistry needed to help kick-start life. Philae will test some of this thinking." (BBC)
  • "Some of the complex molecules thought to be the first building blocks for life may be preserved in 67P's ice." (The Verge)

European space scientists indeed deserve hearty congratulations for an amazing achievement. But as for unraveling the mystery of life here or elsewhere? Get real.

At best, closely examining a comet may illustrate a scenario whereby organic molecules were delivered to our planet, or to another. It can tell us nothing about the really vital question of how the information in life arose -- how those molecules became organized and arranged into complex living systems, the kind that successfully land probes on distant comets.

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Biology's Quiet Revolution

Jonathan Wells

In 1980, I overheard a prominent Ivy League cell biologist say that all the basic features of living cells had been discovered; we just needed to fill in the details. His remark reminded me of a statement attributed to William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) in 1900: "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Of course, many revolutionary discoveries in physics were made after 1900. Similarly, many revolutionary discoveries in cell biology have been made since 1980.

Features of living cells that were known by 1980 included the nucleus, the plasma membrane that encloses the cell, the nucleolus (a rounded structure inside the nucleus), chromosomes, mitochondria (tiny energy factories inside the cell), vesicles (tiny membrane-bound compartments in the cell), and the Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum (a network of membranes inside the cell). Scientists had also discovered that DNA carries information encoded in sequences of its four subunits; that the coded information is transcribed into messenger RNAs; and that messenger RNAs are translated into proteins by complex molecular machines in the cell called "ribosomes." Indeed, it became widely accepted that DNA thereby determines the main features of cells -- and the multicellular organisms that are composed of them. Put simply, "DNA makes RNA makes protein makes us."

This view fit neatly with the modern version of Darwin's theory of evolution, according to which DNA mutations provide the raw materials for evolution by natural selection. "With that," said molecular biologist Jacques Monod in 1970, "the mechanism of Darwinism is at last securely founded, and man has to realize that he is a mere accident."

But there have been many discoveries in cell biology since 1980, including some that undermine the idea that "DNA makes RNA makes protein makes us."

Before 1980, biologists already knew that protein-coding regions of DNA in plants and animals are separated by non-protein-coding regions, and that the former could be spliced together in various ways before translation. But it wasn't until 1985 that biologists discovered the "spliceosome," a molecular machine that engaged in RNA splicing that rivals the ribosome in its complexity. Biologists subsequently learned that a single protein-coding region in DNA can yield thousands of different proteins through alternative splicing.

In 1986, biologists discovered RNA editing, by which a cell modifies the subunits in a messenger RNA before translating it into protein--so the final product is not what would have been predicted from the original DNA sequence. At first, this process was found only in single-celled organisms, but extensive RNA editing has since been discovered in humans. In 2003, biologists discovered the "editosome," which performs RNA editing and (like the spliceosome) rivals the ribosome in its complexity.

So several important structures in cells have been discovered since 1980. Significantly, these discoveries cast doubt on the old adage that "DNA makes RNA makes protein make us." If "makes" is taken to mean "determines," then in many cases it is not true that DNA makes RNA.

In many cases it is also not true that RNA makes protein. A protein consists of a string of amino acids that folds into a three-dimensional shape. A protein's function depends on its shape, but in many cases the same amino acid sequence can fold into different shapes.

In 1982, biochemist Stanley Prusiner discovered "prions," proteins that normally fold one way but can fold differently and thereby cause disease. There are also healthy proteins in which the same amino acid sequence can fold into more than one shape; these are known as "metamorphic" proteins. The first was discovered in 1992, but more have been identified since then.

In 1996, biologists discovered a protein that does not fold into a unique shape but can assume different shapes when it interacts with other molecules. Since then, many such proteins have been found; they are called "intrinsically disordered proteins," or IDPs. IDPs are surprisingly common, and their disordered regions play important functional roles.

Recently, biologists Jeffrey Toretsky and Peter Wright published a scientific review article about transient functional compartments inside cells (but not enclosed in membranes) that they call "assemblages," many of which are composed of IDPs. According to a news report in ScienceDaily, the authors are "issuing a call to investigators from various backgrounds, from biophysics to cell biology, to focus their attention on the role of these formations."

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