April 26, 2024 | David F. Coppedge

Archive: First Land Animals, Lateral Gene Transfer, and Beetle Fans

Enjoy some of our posts from 22 years ago, which were lost during a website upgrade in 2010.

Note: some links may no longer work.


When Animals Crawled Ashore, There Was Nothing to Eat   04/30/2002
Fossil arthropod trackways in Canadian sandstone, reported in the May issue of Geology, predate the first land plants, claims a team of geologists. These trackways put the land invasion 40 million years earlier than previously supposed. Cross-bedding and ripple marks lead the team to believe the rock came from sand dunes, possibly near a seashore. The tracks were made by what appears to be 16- to 22-legged lobster-sized centipede-like animals that dragged their tails in between their footprints. Nature Science Update claims this find overturns the idea that animals first emerged from the sea to eat leafy plants, but cautions that more examples need to be found before rewriting the natural-history books.

If there was nothing to eat, why didn’t they just go back to the water and evolve into something else? The alternate speculation is that they came ashore to lay eggs or escape predators. Add your story to the contest, because nobody was there, and the dating is all based on evolutionary assumptions; sandstone is “notoriously difficult to date,” a paleontologist in the Nature news article warns. The fact that trackways were preserved in stone indicates unusual circumstances for their preservation, or else the next gust of wind would erase them within minutes.

Consider the plausibility of each one of their theories: (1) If they came up to eat plants (but there weren’t any, according to this story), how did their feet evolve simultaneously with the ability to digest a new food source and breathe air? (2) If they came up to escape predators, how did they keep from drying out and suffocating before having to go right back out to the danger zone? And why would they want to colonize the land if there was no food? (3) If they came up to lay eggs, how did all the multiple miracles evolve simultaneously to allow them to dig and lay eggs that would not desiccate in the new environment? And how would the young know where to go to get back to the water?

More questions arise. How did delicate trackways get preserved in stone? How do we know the age of these rocks? Why is there no other evidence of land animals for 40 million years? How do they know 40 million years, or any of the other dates, without reference to any evolutionary assumptions?

Whatever these creatures were, and whenever they lived, they already knew how to crawl and take care of themselves. They did not evolve upwards; they died out. That is the science; anything else is pure fiction. Evolutionists keep finding things that don’t fit comfortably into their theory, but they never call the theory into question; they just stretch it, like silly putty, to encompass the new data. But if you stretch silly putty too fast and too far, it breaks.  


Darwin in the Stars, and Playboy, Too   04/29/2002
Survival of the fittest seems to be the law in galaxies as well as on earth, claims Space.Com. The article reports on computer simulations by Matthew Bate that show the bigger stars grabbing up all the planet-making material, leaving brown dwarfs like unfit wimps to straggle alone through space. Meanwhile, Nature Science Update claims stars are promiscuous and spend much of their time having affairs and love triangles. On May 2, JPL joined the contest by calling some teenage stars rebels without a cause.

We think science reporters need to stop imputing human vices to inanimate objects. Maybe they think the only way to get the MTV generation to pay attention to science is to get these big balls of hydrogen doing professional wrestling or having lurid affairs. Whatever they mean, neither of these stories appear (1) empirically justified or (2) helpful to evolution. Meanwhile, stars need to practice altruism and abstinence.


Evolution of an Enzyme Explained by Lateral Gene Transfer   04/29/2002
In the April 30 issue of Current Biology, a team of Canadian scientists claims to have found a relationship in an enzyme (ATP Sulfurylase) between archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes. They propose that lateral gene transfer (LGT) is the mechanism that spread this capability from one group to the other, and may be more important than mutation during redundancy (MDR) as a mechanism of evolution. If so, this puts a new twist on protein evolution: “As with the MDR model, it will be important to determine how functionally identical duplicates can escape from frequent silencing mutations until one of the duplicates acquires rare advantageous mutations. In any case … the prevalence of LGT among prokaryotes and the ‘quantum’ leaps over sequence space it permits (in contrast to point mutation) suggests it could play a more important role in the evolution of gene function than previously recognized.”

With the title “Origin and Evolution of the Large Subunit of ATP Sulfurylase in Eubacteria,” we thought someone was finally going to try to explain how a molecular machine evolved, but all we got was glittering generalities and hand-waving. How can lateral gene transfer be a mechanism for evolution of an enzyme? It means the information already existed in another organism; it did not originate de novo. You did not invent the monkey wrench if you borrowed it from your neighbor. Lateral gene transfer fits into both creation and evolution models, but has nothing to do with the origin of new capabilities.

So despite the bluffing title, these scientists have contributed little or nothing to evolutionary theory other than to suggest a new storytelling plot. Their little admission in the second to last sentence, though, destroys all hope: “it will be important to determine how functionally identical duplicates can escape from frequent silencing mutations until one of the duplicates acquires rare advantageous mutations.” (emphasis added). Whoops! How long do we have to wait for one of those? Has there ever been one case of an unambiguously advantageous mutation?  Arguably not.

Would you buy a used car from an Afghani salesman during a bombing raid, who borrowed an engine from another model, and said it will run better when the right piece of shrapnel hits it? Yet this is evolution’s bottom-line mechanism: mistakes and accidents! Get real; go to the Manufacturer and read the Warranty.


Was the Creator a Beetle Fan?   04/26/2002
The evolutionist J.B.S. Haldane is reported to have quipped that the Creator seemed to have had an “inordinate fondness for beetles,” in light of the remarkable diversity of Coleoptera species. In the May 7 Biological Proceedings of the Royal Society, Peter Mayhew of the University of New York counts the insect subgroups to quantify Haldane’s jest. He finds that beetles are not necessarily more diverse than their sister groups, although they appear to have radiated rapidly after evolving plant-eating habits. Mayhew also speculates about the reasons for species diversification: the development of wing flexion, plant eating, metamorphosis, etc. He feels more study is needed to resolve conflicts in group ages and family histories before species diversity among the insects can be understood.

Evolutionists like Carl Sagan have used Haldane’s comment as a jab at creationists; why would a Creator make so many beetles, if His chief creation was man, in other words. This biologist has shown that the number of beetle species is not way out of line with the diversity in other groups. Thus he blunts the force of Haldane’s jab.

But what of it? There is tremendous diversity in almost every group: orchids, fungi, birds, dinosaurs. Picking out beetles as the object of the Creator’s fondness is a selective evidence tactic. In the Genesis view, some diversification occurred after creation within the original kinds, but even if it was minimal, a Creator big enough to speak quintillions of stars into existence could easily make a few hundred thousand beetles if He wanted to. We don’t know how many were original; maybe beetle diversity should be seen as a function of habitats that needed to be filled, rather than a statement of what was the focus of the Creator’s fondness. The point is, God’s love is not necessarily tied to the group with the most species; to claim otherwise is to commit a non-sequitur.

Mayhew’s work is another example of scientific papers that assume evolution as a glittering generality that fixes all unknowns. Throughout the article, complex characters like articulated legs, flexible wings, ovipositors etc. are just assumed to have evolved somehow, and when they appeared, as if by magic, species radiation and diversification followed. But each of these organs is a giant structural/functional leap that would have required the coordination of multiple miraculous mutations– just consider all the steps involved in metamorphosis, for instance.

If evolutionists are still trying to figure out the variation in finch beaks, how can they so glibly attribute the origin of flexible wings (and all the associated marvels– muscles, energy conversion, brain navigation, circulatory/respiratory system changes, genetic information, etc.) to a process–natural selection–that appears so inept at adding just 4% to beak length? And where is the evidence they did evolve?  Every time a fossil insect is found in amber, scientists marvel at how modern it looks, with its wings and all its other complex parts fully formed.

In his conclusion, the author laments the conflicts between evolutionary (just-so) stories about taxon ages and phylogenies. He recommends, as usual, that more study is required. At some point, we need to quit the stalling tactic of sending Darwinism back to committee, and vote whether it is a bad bill.

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