August 9, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

How to Comb a Jelly

To make a comb jelly attractive to a Darwinist, all you have to do
is reduce by 1 the number of miracles required for its sudden appearance


Comb jellies (phylum Ctenophora) are fascinating little creatures in the ocean. They’re not related to jellyfish (phylum Cnidaria). Instead, they have comb rows along their transparent bells with tiny bundles of cilia that refract light as they beat, creating traveling waves of color that give them the appearance of little spaceships (see YouTube video). They are complex creatures with a gut, motility and a nervous system. Like many other animal phyla, they make their first appearance suddenly in the Cambrian fossil record, part of Darwin’s dilemma known as the Cambrian explosion.

Evolutionists have been worrying for years about where to fit comb jellies into their imaginary tree of life. Based on molecular comparisons, some have thought they might have been among the first multicellular animals. Other Darwinians have thought that idea far too improbable; they have tried to make sponges first, because sponges look much simpler to the eye (but see Evolution News about sponge complexity).

Another study in the long series of speculations about comb jellies pretends to make headway on the question. Darwinians feel they are making progress if they can subtract one miracle from the series of miracles required to explain any complex animal. In this case, evolutionists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology claim they can do away with the notion that neurons evolved twice independently. One miraculous sudden appearance of neurons will do. Whew!

Living ctenophores have 8 comb rows. Some fossils have 24 comb rows plus protective armor. (Marco Fasse, Creative Commons)

Into the brain of comb jellies: scientists explore the evolution of neurons (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, 9 August 2022).

Yes, the Darwin Party has an iron grip on science in Japan, too. They seized control a long time ago. As in America and Europe, there is no tolerance for creationism there, or intelligent design, either. Comb jellies? They exist; therefore they evolved! That’s all a student needs to know in science class.

Some professors, though, want to know when they evolved in the long chain of progress from molecules to man. And that question is not so simple.

Despite their supposed simplicity, very little is known about the nervous system of ancient animals. Out of the four animal lineages that branched off before the rise of more complex animals, only comb jellies (the first ancient lineage to diverge) and cnidarians (the last ancient lineage to diverge) are known to possess neurons. But the uniqueness of the comb jellies nervous system compared to that seen in cnidarians and more complex animals, and the absence of neurons in the two lineages that diverged in between, led some scientists to hypothesize that neurons evolved twice.

A diagram shows four phyla lined up. Two of them (ctenophora and cnidaria) have neurons. The other two (porifera, or sponges, and placozoa) do not have neurons. To Darwinians, only two explanations exist to keep Darwin’s notion of universal common ancestry intact. The caption reads,

How neurons first evolved is a long-standing debate. Some scientists believe that neurons evolved once and was then lost in some animal lineages (origin points shown in green). Others believe that they evolved twice, one time in the lineage that led to the rise of comb jellies, and a second time in the lineage that led to cnidarians and more complex animals….

Why invoke two miracles when one will do? Professor Hiroshi Watanabe, who leads the Evolutionary Neurobiology Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), performed divination on genes for neurons in the four groups. His conclusion? The phyla lacking neurons must have lost them. Neurons must have only evolved once in the common ancestor of the four groups.

“We already know that cnidarian peptide-expressing neurons are homologous to those seen in more complex animals. Now, comb jelly neurons have also been found to have a similar “genetic signature”, suggesting that these neurons share the same evolutionary origin,” said Prof. Watanabe. “In other words, it’s most likely that neurons only evolved once.

To the great relief of the Darwin Party, Watanabe’s explanation only requires one miracle. Or does it?

Functional Complexity Doesn’t Just Happen

Neurons are highly complex cells with exquisite channels that can selectively transmit sodium or potassium ions at high speed against the concentration gradient. In his recent book The Miracle of Man (Discovery Institute, 2022), molecular biologist Dr Michael Denton describes how these channels operate in human neurons:

Another element of prior fitness is the existence of small mobile ions—including sodium (Na) and potassium (K), which are ideally suited to move electric charge at great speed by diffusing rapidly down electrochemical gradients through the lipid bilayer via highly selective ion pores—referred to as ion channels or gates. What makes sodium and potassium ideal for this work is that they bind only weakly to organic compounds, rendering their mobility high. Indeed, their mobility and capacity to move rapidly down gradients through ionic channels is astounding. As Bruce Alberts [Harvard biochemist and former editor of Science Magazine] and his colleagues note, “Up to 100 million ions may pass through one open channel each second.” (P. 161.)

Those ions, remember, do not simply diffuse by osmosis. They have to be pumped in or out of the cell membrane against the concentration gradient. But that only begins the wonder of nervous system operation. Neuronal cells possess thousands of these channels, and as they open to ions, waves of charge pass down the length of the neuron rapidly and continue across synapses to the next neuron. In humans, a signal can pass from toe to head in a fraction of a second. Alberts says in his textbook Molecular Biology of the Cell that “Single Neurons Are Complex Computation Devices.”

Comb jellies (Ctenophora) are very complex animals to have appeared abruptly. (DFC)

Comb jellies, being smaller, can respond with a bit less complexity, but even then, a single neuron with its ion channels is irreducibly complex. It would be highly simplistic to imagine such a system of working neurons to “evolve” by miraculous emergence even once, let alone twice. If counting miracles, then, accounting for a single origin in the ancestor of four phyla instead of dual origins is not cutting the number of natural miracles in half; it is like subtracting one miracle from thousands.

No Help in the Paper

Watanabe’s solution was published August 8 in Nature Ecology & Evolution with the title, “Mass spectrometry of short peptides reveals common features of metazoan peptidergic neurons” (Hayakawa et al., open access). It begins with the unhelpful (for Darwin) sentence, “The evolutionary origins of neurons remain unknown.” Of course, it is not unknown to creationists who see neurons as products of intelligent design. But the ignorance continues under the Main subheading: “Understanding the origins of neurons remains one of the most intractable challenges in evolutionary biology.

A comparison of genetic characteristics revealed that the peptide-expressing cells of Cnidaria and Ctenophora express the vast majority of genes that have pivotal roles in maturation, secretion and degradation of neuropeptides in Bilateria [which includes humans]. Functional analysis of neuropeptides and prediction of receptors with machine learning demonstrated peptide regulation of a wide range of target effector cells, including cells of muscular systems. The striking parallels between the peptidergic neuronal properties of Cnidaria and Bilateria and those of Ctenophora, the most basal neuron-bearing animals, suggest a common evolutionary origin of metazoan peptidergic nervous systems.

Nowhere does the paper explain how complex neurons could have arisen by Darwin’s Stuff Happens Law. Instead, the whole point of the paper is to argue that neurons evolved once instead of twice. But “striking parallels” between the neurons of comb jellies, jellyfish and humans can be explained better by design instead of chance evolution—unless design has been ruled out of court by Darwin fiat.

Watch the comb jellies in action on YouTube and ask if these complex animals, with their beautiful lighting effects and neurons, just “appeared” from single cells by evolution. If you agree that such a story is highly implausible, are you mad yet at the Darwin Party for pretending that chance is the only scientific explanation, and for censoring anyone who sees evidence for design?

To really get animated about the situation, consider that the Darwinians believe that around 20 different body plans (phyla) including comb jellies appeared suddenly in the Cambrian explosion, with no fossil ancestors, and that Darwin himself considered this problem one of the main objections to his theory (watch the film Darwin’s Dilemma or read the book Darwin’s Doubt).

As if that isn’t intolerable enough, the situation with the Cambrian explosion has only gotten worse since Darwin, but the Darwinists are still teaching impressionable students that the Stuff Happens Law is the only valid scientific explanation for all of life, and they continue censoring anyone who disagrees with them. This intolerable situation stretches around the globe all the way to Japan. Evolutionary theory gives them numerous “intractable problems” like the origin of neurons, but they believe it in spite of evidence and logic. Now you see why Romans 1:18-22 is so pertinent for our times.








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