June 18, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Bombardier Beetle Answered by Evolutionists

Evolutionists bravely take on a creation icon: the bombardier beetle. Does their explanation work?

Evolutionists are very cocky people. They feel it unnecessary to pay any notice to creationists at all. But when they do, it is only to show Darwin’s superiority, with a brief put-down to anyone who questions the omnipotence of his Stuff Happens Law. Once in awhile, it seems, they want to reassure the peasants that King Charles is still on the throne, and can take all comers, even those religious-fundamentalist creationist wackos. A case in point appeared in a press release from the Stevens Institute of Technology on June 16:

The beetle’s extraordinary arsenal has been held up by some as a proof of God’s existence: how on earth, creationists argue, could such a complex, multistep defense mechanism evolve by chance? Now researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. show how the bombardier beetle concocts its deadly explosives and in the process, learn how evolution gave rise to the beetle’s remarkable firepower.

The debate stage is set. For decades, at least since the 1960s, creationists have, indeed, challenged evolutionists to explain the bombardier beetle by slow-and-gradual Darwinian processes. These beetles produce a burning explosion by combining two chemicals that are kept inert in reaction chambers until they are ignited through a nozzle containing a catalyst that triggers the explosion.

Furthermore, creationists have pointed out more recent findings that the beetle emits the hot vapors in a series of rapid bursts, minimizing the jet propulsion that otherwise would send the beetle hurtling forward. A quick presentation can be seen in ICR’s That’s a Fact video, “Beetle Battle.” For more detail, see Melissa Webb’s article at Answers in Genesis (22 Dec 2019), where she featured Dr Andy McIntosh who was inspired by the bombardier beetle’s design to invent a new kind of jet sprayer.

Intelligent design advocates also show how the explosive reactions in the bombardier beetle pass the Explanatory Filter, differentiating it from natural explosions like volcanoes and geysers (see Evolution News).

So how could an evolutionist explain the bombardier beetle’s explosive defense mechanism? All the parts of this irreducibly-complex system would have to be in place for it to work. If the explosion occurred too quickly, the beetle would be killed and not leave any offspring. If it took place too slowly, it would provide no benefit to deter predators. See Jobe Martin explain the problems for step-wise evolution in this YouTube video from Exploration Films. The bombardier beetle, along with other evidences, was consequential in turning Dr Martin from an evolutionist to a creationist.

For decades, creationists have owned the bombardier beetle as their icon. Till now.

Darwin’s Comeback!

Now, Stevens Institute of Technology takes on the evolution of the bombardier beetle!

“We explain for the first time how these incredible beetles biosynthesize chemicals to create fuel for their explosions,” said Athula Attygalle, a research professor of chemistry and lead author of the work, which appears today in the July 2020 issue of the Science of Nature. “It’s a fascinating story that nobody has been able to tell before.”

Here’s a summary of the evolutionary research:

  • Dr. Attygalle found a way to tag the chemicals in the beetle with deuterium, so they could be followed.
  • He next sedated the bugs in the freezer to slow down the action for observation.
  • The sedated bugs were made to fire their chemical mixtures onto special filter papers.
  • Dr. Attygalle also dissected some of the bombardier beetles, and sampled the emitted chemicals by disabling the reaction chamber.

Did an evolutionary scenario pop out of the observations? Read carefully. Look for it:

Using mass spectrometers, Attygalle checked the samples sent to Stevens for deuterium-labeled products, enabling him to figure out exactly which chemicals the beetles had incorporated into their bomb-making kits. “People have been speculating about this for at least 50 years, but at last we have a clear answer,” Attygalle said. “It turns out that the beetles’ biochemistry is even more intricate than we’d thought.”

Previously, researchers had assumed that two toxic, benzene-like chemicals called benzoquinones found in the beetles’ spray were metabolized from hydroquinone, a toxic chemical that in humans can cause cancer or genetic damage. The team at Stevens showed that in fact just one of the beetle’s benzoquinones derived from hydroquinone, with the other springing from a completely separate precursor: m-cresol, a toxin found in coal tar.

It’s fascinating that the beetles can safely metabolize such toxic chemicals, Attygalle said. In future studies, he hopes to follow the beetles’ chemical supply chain further upstream, to learn how the precursors are biosynthesized from naturally available substances.

So far, we have read that the beetles’ biochemistry is even more intricate than they thought. We’ve read that it’s fascinating the beetle can safely metabolize such toxic chemicals. And we’ve read that Dr. Attygalle hopes to figure this out “in future studies.”

Things are not looking good for Darwin yet. Now comes the key argument:

The team’s findings also show that the beetles’ explosives rely on chemical pathways found in many other creepy-crawlies. Other animals such as millipedes also use benzoquinones to discourage predators, although they lack the bombardier’s ability to detonate their chemical defenses. Evolutionarily distant creatures such as spiders and millipedes use similar strategies, too, suggesting that multiple organisms have independently evolved ways to biosynthesize the chemicals. 

In short, the evolutionists say that we shouldn’t be surprised that the bombardier beetle can synthesize these toxins, because other bugs can do it, too. Evolution must have been able to solve this problem multiple times. Take that, Dr Jobe Martin!

The Darwin Defender bows for applause.

That’s a reminder that the bombardier beetle, though remarkable, is part of a rich and completely natural evolutionary tapestry, Attygalle said. “By studying the similarities and differences between beetles’ chemistry, we can see more clearly how they and other species fit together into the evolutionary tree,” he explained. “Beetles are incredibly diverse, and they all have amazing chemical stories to tell.”

The Darwin Party struts again by B.A.D. assertion, as it always does.

If you are not yet groaning over this snow job, let us help you get started. Look at what pompous Dr Attygalle, posing as Darwin’s Casey at the Bat, failed to do:

  • This frog will soon be vomiting.   Credit: Shinji Sugiura.

    Did he explain the beetle’s ability to synthesize toxic chemicals? No; he just said that other “creepy crawlies” can do it, so they must have independently evolved the ability, too (multiple miracles).

  • Did he explain how the bombardier beetle stores the chemicals safely inside its body? No.
  • Did he explain how the chemicals are ejected without burning the beetle? No.
  • Did he explain how the catalyst evolved? No.
  • Did he explain the origin of the muscles that send the chemicals into the reaction chamber? No.
  • Did he explain how the catalyst ignites the chemicals at the moment of ejection? No.
  • Did he explain how the beetle fires rapid pulses of the exploding chemicals to avoid getting thrown off by jet propulsion? No.
  • Did he explain how the beetle can aim its turret without burning its own legs? No.
  • Did he identify specific mutations in some ancestor that were selected to lead to this innovation? No.
  • Did he identify a specific ancestor? No. He said, “Beetles are incredibly diverse, and they all have amazing chemical stories to tell.” This effectively multiplies his problem; now all the diverse beetles require explanation, too.
  • Did he explain how the brain software evolved to let the beetle know the precise instant the explosion is needed? No.
  • Did he answer the argument from irreducible complexity? No.
  • Did he explain anything about how the bombardier beetle evolved? No.

In the end, Dr Attygalle made his problem worse! Now, he cannot rely on previous notions that the two explosive chemicals were derived from the same chemical precursor. Like the Abstract says in his paper,

Our results refute the previous claim that 1,4-hydroquinone is the precursor of all substituted benzoquinones in bombardier beetles and reveal that they are biosynthetic products of two independent pathways.

He has effectively doubled his problems! What can he say? All he can do is turn up the perhapsimaybecouldness index, appeal to futureware, then express his undying faith in the power of the Stuff Happens Law:

Most likely, the aforementioned biosynthetic channel of hydroxylation of appropriate phenolic precursors and subsequent oxidation is not restricted to bombardier beetles; it could well be a general pathway that leads to the formation of all congeners of benzoquinones, one of the most widely distributed groups of defensive compounds in arthropods.

So there you have it. His answer is convergent evolution. Multiple miracles! Pour on the Darwin Flubber! Get high on Darwine, and maybe the creationists will go away!

Darwin’s champion hitter has just struck out. In fact, he went out with a high foul ball, caught by a creationist in the stands behind the catcher.

The bombardier beetle remains an icon of creation that defies evolution. Celebrate this victory loud and long!

(Visited 570 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.