June 23, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Animal Patterning Keeps Scientists Puzzle-Solving

Here’s a fascinating area of research for a budding young scientist: the development of animal patterns.  Look at the dazzling wing patterns on butterflies in an illustration on Science Daily or consider a zebra’s stripes.  How do such patterns emerge from a single fertilized egg?  “Although this has been studied for years,” said a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, “there is still a lot we don’t understand.”
    Clues from gene knockout experiments have shown that the patterns can be disrupted if one or another of two genes is not expressed properly.  During development, it appears that pairs of genes do a sort of tug-of-war.  As cells migrate, their protein products “work against and battle each other: when one gains a slight advantage, the other weakens, which in turn causes the first to gain an even bigger advantage,” the article said.  “This continues until one dominates in each cell.”  Sometimes one protein wins, sometimes the other.  Thus a black stripe can appear in one place on a zebra and a white stripe in another.
    This is only a partial answer, however.  It explains how a pattern can emerge from no pattern, but does not explain why the pattern unfolds in the exact places it does.  Something tells the cells where to move and when to stay put.  What regulates and choreographs all this motion?  More research will be required.

We need bright, young, curious kids to go into science with a design mentality.  This is another area ripe for intelligent design research.
    Discovering a physical mechanism for how patterns form in a developing embryo will not explain it away.  Does deciphering Morse Code lead to a conclusion the code evolved?  No; it opens up new avenues to understand purposeful communication.  Design-theoretic research that unlocks the mystery of animal patterning will only reinforce the design principles that make possible a peacock’s tail, a tiger’s stripes, a giraffe’s tile patterns and the spots on your dog Spot.  Evolutionists have nothing to offer but fables.
    The insights that could be gained from this budding branch of genetics and developmental biology could be huge.  Once we understand the design principles behind animal patterning, many spinoffs come to mind.  Doctors may be able to monitor and control the migration of cancer cells, for instance.  Nanotech engineers may be able to mimic the push-and-pull actions of proteins to assemble microscopic machines.  Computer scientists may be able to apply the principles in fuzzy-logic applications.
    Get your kids off the junk food of entertainment and onto substantive matters.  Inspire them to become ID-motivated scientists.  They might be able to improve the lives of millions.

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