News to Note, May 28, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on May 28, 2011
Featured in News to Know

Bigger brains for better noses, the tropical huntsman, lousy flies, the sponge’s squeeze, Darwin on the road

1. Survival of the Sniffer

Mammals grew bigger brains “the better to smell you, my dear!”

Paleontologists reporting in Science have concluded that it wasn’t survival of the smartest but survival of the sniffers that made larger brain size an evolutionary advantage.

2. Tropical Huntsman

Tropical Huntsman spider trapped in Baltic amber for millions of years?

Arachnologists and paleontologists have found a way to peer through opacified amber to see if an ancient Huntsman spider is really what 19th century naturalist Georg Karl Berendt said it was.

3. Flies with Lice

Nomadic lice hitching a ride on flies direct the course of evolution. Hmmm.

Pigeons and doves are plagued by lice. Wing lice tend to infest multiple species, but body lice are species-specific unless artificially transferred. Evolutionary biologists at the University of Utah believe that “the evolutionary history of body lice . . . parallels that of the host [bird] more closely than does the evolutionary history of wing lice.”1 Therefore, they designed an experiment to see how this evolution happens. (Well, sort of.)

4. The Sponge’s Squeeze

The secret of the sponge’s squeeze . . . revealed at last . . .

Movement without muscles: how do sponges do that? Debate has raged for a century. Modern technology has finally shown which of the sponge’s cells are doing the contracting. But the overarching goal of the Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology is to identify the evolutionary forerunners of muscle cells.

5. Darwin on the Road

A team of evolutionary scientists accepted the Great Commission for their Cause by going on the road to preach to the “yokels and morons” in America’s heartland.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Another source of genetic variation! That’s what a study from the University of Pennsylvania has found. DNA is not as faithfully copied to RNA as previously thought. And that means that proteins resulting from those miscopied genes may have significant variations. Furthermore, the “mismatches” are not random: repeated testing revealed that the same apparent “errors” were made with each transcription. These systematic RNA modifications do not correspond to known types of post-transcriptional RNA editing. If these findings are confirmed, our understanding of gene regulation and genetic variation will enter a whole new era.
  • The International Institute for Species Exploration has compiled a list of ten interesting species discovered in the past year. Before enjoying this slide show, recall that new species arise from a reshuffling, and sometimes loss, of genetic information. God in the beginning supplied the created kinds of organisms with an abundance of genetic material. As natural selection has operated upon genetic variations, the world’s biodiversity has grown, producing many species.
  • Thinking about death makes intelligent design more appealing than evolution. “When confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” says psychologist Jessica Tracy. “For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn't offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions.” Researchers concluded “that individuals can come to see evolution as a meaningful solution to existential concerns, but may need to be explicitly taught that taking a naturalistic approach to understanding life can be highly meaningful.” Their conclusions illustrate that evolution is a religion, claiming that a purposeful life on earth is all that matters and all that is. Jesus, on the other hand, said in Mark 8:36, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
  • Speaking of what (supposedly) evolved mammals of the human sort do with those big brains, don’t miss this Smithsonian article detailing the urban legends going around about that marvelous organ in your head. Incidentally, while admitting we do “have some brain reserves,” the article states that “evolutionarily, it would make no sense to carry around surplus brain tissue.” Once again, the worldview is showing. Human beings created in the image of God did not have to wade through eons of evolutionary experimentation to obtain a brain with subtle complexities to boggle the mind. God wrote those complexities into the human genome from the beginning.

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  1. Harbison, C. et al. 2011.Community interactions govern host-switching with implications for host–parasite coevolutionary history, PNAS (Published online before print).


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