Comb Jellies Force Evolutionists into Absurd Hypotheses

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Posted on June 5, 2014 in Darwin and Evolution, Dumb Ideas, Marine Biology, Philosophy of Science

Could something as complex as a nervous system evolve twice independently?  That’s what Darwinists are saying after looking at the genes of comb jellies.

Nature says it loud and clear: “Analysis of the draft genome of a comb jelly and of gene-transcription profiles from ten other ctenophores hints at an independent evolutionary origin for the nervous systems of these organisms.

Comb jellies (phylum Ctenophora; the C is silent) look like jellyfish but are not related to them.  Many flash iridescent lights along their sides with “combs” of cilia, giving them the appearance of alien spaceships.  The authors of a new study in Nature suggest a radical hypothesis, says Andreas Hejnoi in his review of the paper:

The ability of animals to respond rapidly and appropriately to changes in their environment is due to the presence of a nervous system consisting of up to billions of nerve cells. In this issue, Moroz et al. (page 109) present the genome of the comb jelly Pleurobrachia bachei, otherwise known as the sea gooseberry (Fig. 1a). Following a detailed examination of the developmental genes, structural genes and signalling molecules that are necessary for the set-up and function of nervous systems in other animals, the authors come to a radical conclusion: that the nervous system of comb jellies might have evolved independently of that of other animals.

Hejnoi doesn’t tell the half of it.  It’s not just the nervous system.  The authors say,

These data indicate that muscles and, possibly, mesoderm evolved independently in Ctenophora to control the hydroskeleton, body shape and food capture. Thus, ctenophores might have independently developed complex phenotypes and tissue organization, raising questions about the nature of ctenophore-specific traits such as their unique development, combs, tentacles, aboral/apical organs and nervous systems.

Practically the whole animal shows no evolutionary relationship to other animals!  The authors suggest even more miracles that should cause gasps among evolutionary geneticists who only have random mutations to work with:

These data suggest extensive gene gain in cell lineages associated with early segregation of developmental potential leading to ctenophore-specific traits in structures controlling feeding, locomotion and integrative functions; a finding consistent with proposed ‘orphan’ genes contributing to variation in early development and evolution of novelties.

But where did the orphan genes come from?  How could genes with no relation to known genes get linked to complex novelties, like a new nervous system?

Rather than question the evolutionary explanation, Hejnoi and the authors have allowed themselves to be forced into the notion that multiple complex systems involving billions of nerve cells, tissue cells and muscle cells emerged—not just once, but twice—by unguided natural processes.  Do any observers find this untenable?  On the contrary, Hejnoi tenaciously maintains evolution, even piling another absurd notion on top of it:

The simplicity of sponges and placozoans has led generations of zoologists to conclude that they are ancient animal groups, and may look very like the first multicellular animals that emerged on the planet more than 500 million years ago.

Over the past decade, however, extensive comparisons of protein and DNA sequences have led to surprising rearrangements at the base of the animal tree of life. In fact, it seems that previous assumptions about the origin of multicellular animals may be wrong, and that a group of gelatinous creatures, the ctenophores, collectively referred to as comb jellies, could be the first group to have branched off from the animal tree of life.

This seems to say that the complex animal emerged first, and the primitive animals devolved from it.  Comb jellies, these “mysterious animals” have “turned the table on textbook ideas” about animal evolution.  Indeed.

Just how complex are these comb jellies?  Hejnoi describes them:

Comb jellies are fabulous marine predators that propel themselves through the water column by means of blocks of cilia — the shimmering combs that give them their name. They catch their prey using innervated tentacles seamed with sticky cells called colloblasts and swallow it through their mouth, which opens into a sac-like gut. They have a nerve net with regional specializations, such as a sensory organ located at one pole of the body that is used for light reception and gravity sensing.

Since sponges and placozoans lack all of these features, “the proposal that the jellies evolved first seems odd.”  Good he noticed.  Hejnoi mentions specific differences between comb jellies and other animals in terms of genes and molecules they use in their nervous systems.  Then he emphasizes again how amazing these animals are:

On the basis of these characteristics, it would seem that an animal with such a small number of traditionally neural proteins would have a simple nerve net, as opposed to a central nervous system, and would not show any complex behaviour. On the contrary, however, comb jellies perform complex actions such as predation and horizontal diurnal migrations in the water column, so they must use different molecules in their nervous system.

Simplicity is not a solution, therefore.  Comb jellies are not simple.  They may use different genes and proteins, but they do sophisticated things with them.  Is it possible, given these facts, for Hejnoi to spin this into a victory for Darwinism?  Watch him: with a little imagination, anything is possible:

The phylogenetic position of comb jellies at the base of the animal tree of life and the findings of Moroz and co-workers suggest a fascinating scenario — that comb jellies evolved a nervous system that is unrelated to that of other animals. Heretical hypotheses such as this strike a blow against the anthropocentric view that complex animals emerged gradually along one lineage only, culminating in humans, and that complex organ systems did not evolve twice. But such views do not reflect how evolution really works. Evolution does not follow a chain of events in which one lineage progresses continuously towards complexity while other branches stagnate. Instead, it is an ongoing process in all lineages. When the animal tree branched more than 500 million years ago, one lineage gave rise to ctenophores and the other to all remaining animals alive today, and it seems that the two lineages independently evolved a rapid internal communication system.

Hejnoi has just turned the tables on the critics of Darwinian evolution!  It’s their fault, he suggests, for not having a vivid enough imagination.  It’s their fault for thinking evolution is progressive along the line to humans.  It’s their fault for not understanding how evolution really works.  It’s their fault for not having faith to believe that internal communication systems can evolve rapidly in separate lineages.  This is spin doctoring with chutzpah!

He still seems to feel the sting of absurdity, though, in suggesting that two nervous systems emerged separately by convergent evolution or “parallel evolution” (the authors’ favorite term).  So he holds out hope that the new “tree of life” picture is wrong:

However, the last word has not yet been said on this issue, because the branching sequence of the earliest animal groups is still hotly debated. Some researchers have expressed doubt that ctenophores are at the base, and claim that the lack of many genes in comb jellies can be explained by massive gene loss that mimics a simple genome.

Regardless of where ctenophores finally end up on the tree, the development and evolution of the complex nervous system of these creatures will be an enigma for some time. If it turns out that comb jellies are not at the base of the tree and that animal neurons indeed originated only once, someone must figure out why the molecular biology underlying the comb-jelly nervous system is so different from that of other animals.

Hejnoi thereby confesses that nobody in evolutionary circles knows the answer to fundamental questions about the earliest animals, or even “how evolution really works.”

This is rich.  C’mon, Ken Miller!  C’mon, Eugenie Scott.  C’mon Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and the NCSE crowd.  We dare you to tell us, your evolution critics, that we are too dumb to know how evolution really works.  That’s right; we’re stupid because we respect facts and common sense.  We lack the fanciful imaginations you guys have to envision “fascinating scenarios” where complex systems emerge multiple times independently by blind, unguided processes.

Hejnoi’s explanation for the “fascinating scenario” (see paragraph above beginning “The phylogenetic position of comb jellies”) is a classic example of Darwinian spin doctoring.  Critics should study it.  Debaters should put it in textbooks as an example of parrying a defeat into a victory.  He took a falsification of Darwinism and beat Darwin skeptics over the head with it!  He turned the cop’s gun on the cop.  It’s not the Darwinists’ fault this is a problem, don’t you see?  It’s the critics’ fault for not understanding how evolution really works!  You proud people think you are the top of the heap, but evolution favors the little guy as much as you!  Where’s your imagination?  Where’s your faith?

The facts about comb jellies—their complex nervous systems and the genes that encode them—should prompt a call of “game over” for Darwinism.  It’s one more in a long line of falsifications (the Cambrian explosion, molecular machines, integrated systems, etc.; incidentally, comb jellies appear fully formed and modern-looking in the Cambrian strata).  Unfortunately, since the Darwin Party controls the media, the science institutions and the referees, the spin doctoring will continue, unhinged and unfettered.  The Darwin skeptics will be the portrayed as the deniers, the flat-earthers, the anti-science folk.  What a corrupt regime Darwin’s disciples created!  Darwinism doesn’t need a tune-up.  It needs a junkyard.  Better yet, haul it off to a nuclear waste disposal facility, deep underground.  That would help protect the intellectual environment.

 

 

 

 

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