Darwinians Fill Gaps With Magic
Like rabbits in a magic show, things just “appear” on the Darwin stage. And like magicians, Darwinians don’t reveal how the trick is done.
Vertebrate origami: This act uses a magic sheet. The Darwin magician stretches a sheet of rubber. Folds emerge in the sheet, then a vertebrate body plan appears right before your eyes: “The folds that will give a final shape to the animal form along the boundaries between cell territories with different properties,” the article states. “This work has shed light on the mechanism for the formation of vertebrates and thus how they appeared during evolution.” (Science Daily)
Presto! Brain in a burst: “New research shows that a burst of evolutionary innovation in the genes responsible for electrical communication among nerve cells in our brains occurred over 600 million years ago in a common ancestor of humans and the sea anemone.” (Science Daily)
Life in a flash: “A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust, or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth,” begins another article on Science Daily. “But what happened next?” The magician needs nitrogen, so a stage hand brings it. “The ability to use atmospheric nitrogen to support more widespread life was thought to have appeared roughly 2 billion years ago,” the article continued. “Now research looking at some of the planet’s oldest rocks finds evidence that 3.2 billion years ago, life was already pulling nitrogen out of the air and converting it into a form that could support larger communities.” Triple-bonded di-nitrogen is a tough nut to crack (accomplished today by bacterial machines, 3/06/10 #6), but life figured it out offstage somehow.
Four ring circus: How did marine mammals as different as seals, whales, manatees and walruses all develop separately into sea creatures from land-dwelling ancestors? Abracadabra! “The marine mammals shared the traits needed to live in a marine environment, but they developed their traits separately – a process called convergent evolution.” It must be true, the researchers argue, because the genes involved show signs of “positive selection”—in some cases, the very same sites on the very same genes. (PhysOrg)
Light and magic: This case of convergent evolution takes place in a 40-ring circus. “Making light is such a useful trait that it has evolved independently at least 40 times,” National Geographic claims about the evolution of bioluminescence.
When the first four-legged creatures emerged from the sea roughly 375 million years ago, the transition was anything but smooth. Not only did they have to adjust to the stress of gravity and the dry environment, but they also had to wait another 100 million years to evolve a fully functional ear….
“Lungs started to appear in fish underwater when they evolved air breathing in response to low oxygen levels in water 350 to 400 million years ago,” says study author Peter Madsen, a biologist at Aarhus University in Denmark.
Mammals pop into the dinoscape: Time to re-draw the backdrop of Dino World. They need to include more mammals. PhysOrg tells why two new Jurassic mammals—very similar to modern ones—turned up Chinese Jurassic fossil beds, fully diversified and adapted:
With claws for climbing and teeth adapted for a tree sap diet, Agilodocodon scansorius is the earliest-known tree-dwelling mammaliaform (long-extinct relatives of modern mammals). The other fossil, Docofossor brachydactylus, is the earliest-known subterranean mammaliaform, possessing multiple adaptations similar to African golden moles such as shovel-like paws. Docofossor also has distinct skeletal features that resemble patterns shaped by genes identified in living mammals, suggesting these genetic mechanisms operated long before the rise of modern mammals….
“We consistently find with every new fossil that the earliest mammals were just as diverse in both feeding and locomotor adaptations as modern mammals,” said Zhe-Xi Luo, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and an author on both papers. “The groundwork for mammalian success today appears to have been laid long ago.“
Agilodocodon and Docofossor provide strong evidence that arboreal and subterranean lifestyles evolved early in mammalian evolution, convergent to those of true mammals….
“We believe the shortened digits of Docofossor, which is a dead ringer for modern golden moles, could very well have been caused by BMP and GDF,” Luo said. “We can now provide fossil evidence that gene patterning that causes variation in modern mammalian skeletal development also operated in basal mammals all the way back in the Jurassic.“
The articles didn’t say how these adaptations arose from any ancestors. They must have just “appeared” and stayed basically the same all the way to the present day.
Did you enjoy the magic show? This is the kind of thing Penn & Teller do every day. A new commercial shows them turning two stage hands into a 2016 Mazda CX-5 under a sheet, then sawing it in half with an invisible saw. They don’t tell you how the trick is done, and neither do the Darwin magicians (who are typically atheists like Penn Jillette). All you have to do is believe. As they wave their magic wands of millions of years over the empty table, wonderful things appear behind the curtain as they utter their magic words appear, arise, emerge, develop, evolve, and converge.
What? You thought you were in the science lab? “A-hyulk! The trick is on you!” Goofy says. “This is Fantasyland!”