Synopsis Of The Second Chapter Of Nature's IQ By Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi
By Robert Deyes
Defense, Disguise, Perception is the descriptive title that Hornyanszky and Tasi have chosen for the second chapter of their book Nature's IQ. And the delivery of the facts is as convincing and thought-provoking as ever. Coupled with its vivid illustrations, the chapter lays out a set of arguments that are easily accessible to the expert and non-expert reader alike. The underlying principle of their text is simple- intelligent design lies at the heart of many of nature's phenomena.
As Hornyanszky and Tasi show from the onset, the natural world is replete with innovative defense mechanisms that afford potential prey with the protection they need. For many of those doing the eating, an aversion towards highly toxic prey such as the poisonous sea snake is one that is deeply ingrained into their instinctive fabric. It has to be. After all, one bite-sized morsel taken out of a creature such as a sea snake would be lethal to most prospective predators. The fire-bellied toad cautions all who might dare nibble at its poisonous flanks by flipping onto its back and displaying the red and black markings on its belly.
Warning-style markings are of course common-place throughout nature as are rapidly deployed disguises or masquerades that ward off would-be attackers. Many a high school student will learn about eye spots on moth and butterfly wings, designed as they are to give the impression that a much larger, potentially dangerous beast lies waiting. Bearers of such disguises often times exhibit associated behaviors only showing their disguises when threatened. The copper-band butterfly fish has the astonishing ability to move backwards so as to make the eye spot on its large tail look as if it really is at the front.
In the case of the American four-eyed frog, white and black nodes on its back stand out as realistic three-dimensional imitations of much larger mammalian and cephalopod eyes. These frogs exhibit the extraordinary ability to turn their backs to wherever danger is lurking, lifting their hind legs into a position that makes their fake eyes look all the more face-like and therefore less enticing for the hungry onlooker. For evolution pundits this theatrical act defies their version of the story of life since, in the words of Hornyanszky and Tasi "the simultaneous appearance, via chance mutations, of the pseudo-eyes and the knowledge of just what to do at precisely the right moment is, to put it mildly, highly improbable" (p.30).
As artful masters of disguise go, the treehopper Umbonia spinosa takes some beating. Making the most out of its thorn-like dorsal protrusion, this particular insect instinctively flattens its underlying body against the stems of rose bushes to avoid detection. The Atlantic Halibut about which Darwin himself wrote in The Origin Of Species, maintains its anonymity by also lying flat, camouflaged against the sand covered sea bottom. How would either of these creatures know that to lie still in their respective environments is the best way to eschew the grasp of a predator?
For these and all their earlier examples, Hornyanszky's and Tasi's intelligent design inference shines through as they reason in favor of irreducibly complex, genetically inherited systems that require both phenotypic and behavioral traits in order to achieve their respective functions. Knowledge of the most appropriate behaviors is not something that is learned but rather is genetically hard-wired into these creatures from birth. In order for such behaviors to be effective, they must have appeared in tandem with the phenotypic traits with which they are so evidently associated. Therein lies the designed IQ that we observe in many fauna.
Horyanszki's and Tasi's superb treatise is a 'must read' for all who are interested in the ongoing debates over the origin of animal behaviors. It is bound to shake the unquestioned acceptance of the Darwinian story of life that today pervades many a field of science.
For more information and to order Nature's IQ go to http://www.arn.org/arnproducts/php/book_show_item.php?id=129
Synopsis Of The First Chapter Of Nature's IQ By Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi
By Robert Deyes
Ethology, the field of biology that attempts to explain the origins of animal behavioral patterns, has traditionally focused on two possible sources for such patterns- those that are inherited and those that are environmentally induced. For the former of these two, the Darwinian mechanism is that which is most commonly advanced. The underlying axiom barely needs repeating- inherited behaviors have been acquired through gradual changes as a result of environmental selective pressures. In his 1973 Nobel lecture entitled Analogy As A Source Of Knowledge, Konrad Lorenz made his case in favor of the link between Darwinian gradualism and animal behavior. And yet in Nature's IQ, authors Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi blast such a gradualistic inference and re-interpret the evidence in favor of the intelligent design alternative.
For many key anatomical features found in nature, a necessary behavioral pattern must be present if a desired function is to be fulfilled. The prominent bioluminescent bulb of the anglerfish for example must exhibit a slow waving motion if it is to lure its prey. As Hornyanszky and Tasi so vividly illustrate, any intermediate behavior on the way to becoming the fully-fledged comportment we see today, would have been inappropriate and insufficient for catching unsuspecting fry. In effect, anglerfish are endowed with an IQ that must have appeared at once and in parallel with its predatory anatomy if it were to provide any selective advantage.
We see the same principle playing out in the trap-like lures of other creatures such as the decoy scorpion fish, the Argentine Horned frog and the copper-head snake. Most prominent of all is the alligator snapping turtle which holds its mouth open for extended periods of time while waiting for a victim to catch sight of its worm-like wriggling tongue. The New Guinean dung spider is able not only to assume the appearance of bird droppings but also produce a characteristic 'dropping' smell as a way of enticing and trapping insects that normally feed on such a delectable meal. Hungry Egyptian vultures repeatedly throw stones at ostrich eggs as they try to access their next meal- a behavior that has been conclusively shown to be integral part of the vulture's genetic constitution.
Hornyanszky and Tasi maintain that for all such cases, both the anatomical features and the accompanying behaviors must have arisen all at once if the observed functions were to have been achieved. In short they build on biochemist Michael Behe's showcase volume Darwin's Black Box by inferring that many such anatomical-behavioral functional units are irreducibly complex and thereby inaccessible to a progressive accumulation of random mutations.
Hornyanszky's and Tasi's case in favor of intelligent design is made all the more compelling through the wealth of examples that they draw on as well as the rich illustrations that accompany many of these examples. In all, the first chapter of Nature's IQ provides a firm foundation in support of the Intelligent Design case and sets the tone for the chapters that follow.
For more information and to order Nature's IQ go to http://www.arn.org/arnproducts/php/book_show_item.php?id=129
By Robert Deyes
The summer of 2000 promised to be very exciting for ornithologists and paleontologists alike as they flew into Beijing for the fifth quadrennial meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution (Ref 1). The setting was most appropriate given the richness of fossils that have been unearthed in Chinese soil. The central theme of the meeting lay in trying to resolve the question of whether birds had really evolved from dinosaurs (Ref 1). However, rather than a harmonious discussion with the constructive disagreement that one might expect from any scientific 'get-together' aimed at resolving discrepancies in data, the meeting did nothing but expose an underlying discord (Ref 1).
While some scientists such as Berkeley's John Hutchinson and Yale ornithologist Richard Prum were frustrated over issues that they considered long resolved, others were much more skeptical about the certainty of the facts. Storrs Olson, head of ornithology at the National Museum of Natural History, weighed in by accusing Prum of engaging in "ideological mumbo-jumbo" when Prum claimed that feathers had the same evolutionary origin as "hair like integuments found on dinosaur fossils" (Ref 1). So strong was Olson's feeling against the evolutionary link drawn between birds and dinosaurs that throughout the meeting he and others wore badges stating their case: "BIRDS ARE NOT DINOSAURS" (or B.A.N.D for short; Ref 1). University Of North Carolina paleontologist Alan Feduccia, well known for his discussions on temporal discrepancies between bird and dinosaur fossils, was similarly uncertain about the dinosaur-bird link. Feduccia made his uncertainty public to the sound of accusations claiming a creationist undertone (Ref 1).
With the latest evidence Olson and his 'BAND of merry men' appear to have been vindicated. New data on how birds breathe makes the dinosaur-bird link untenable. According to a recent study, the unique thigh bone and muscle structure in birds' legs play a key role in preventing lung collapse (Ref 2). For birds, that need about twenty times more oxygen than say reptiles, such structural support is crucial to survival (Ref 2). Theropod dinosaurs from which birds are thought to have descended, did not sport such a fixed thigh bone structure and are therefore not viable candidates for a hypothetical bird ancestor (Ref 2).
Of course the impasse over how birds evolved extends well beyond thigh bones and muscles. In fact, the origin of feathers continues to be a formidable stumbling block for 'evo-philes'. To further understand the difficulty that the feather poses to the assumed evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds, consider the feather's structural foundations. What we know is that the central rachis (or shaft) of the feather branches off into smaller barbs and barbules. The barbules are equipped with tiny hooklets at their ends that interlock with ridges in the posterior barbules to form an impervious, tightly-held vane (Ref 3).
From an aerodynamic standpoint, the arrangement of the feathers in the overall shape of the wing makes for an aerofoil that displays minimal levels of turbulence (Ref 3). The ability to change the geometry and shape of such an aerofoil makes it ideally suited for the various tasks that the bird has to perform such as landing, soaring and flapping. From a molecular and cellular perspective, the story is no less fascinating. The feather follicle, from which the central rachis projects, contains specific zones of epithelial cells specialized in the formation of each of the components of the feather (Ref 4). The molecular mechanisms by which such cell specialization is achieved have also been elucidated in recent years (Ref 4). Through concentration gradients and a highly-regulated activation of specific genes, the morphogenesis and development of a feather is a very tightly-controlled affair (Ref 4).
With such a realization, we begin to get a sense of why it was that twenty three years ago biologist Michael Denton so emphatically decried the step-by-step, unguided evolutionary origin of wings (Ref 3). As Oregon State University Professor John Ruben humorously quipped, "a velociraptor did not just sprout feathers and fly off into the sunset" (Ref 2). The wing- the perfect aerofoil- must meet rigorous criteria before it can provide the necessary lift (Ref 4). No slight fraying of dinosaur scales would have done the job.
Seemingly oblivious of these intractable challenges, some scientists have gone all out to prop up their evolutionary meanderings by focusing on the three-fingered limbs of theropod dinosaurs and modern day birds (Refs 5,6). Paleontologists Xing Xu and James Clark for example recently published on two specimens of a 156 million-old, toothless-beaked, herbivorous theropod called Limusaurus inextricabilis that, they maintain, is a Darwinian-style 'missing link' (Refs 5,6).
One factor that has long been a source of consternation is that the finger digits of theropods and birds do not appear to match. While theropods seemingly carried digits 1,2 and 3 of the pentadactyl arrangement, birds display what scientists believe to be digits 2,3 and 4 (Refs 5,6). Xu and Clark have ruffled feathers by claiming that theropod digits have historically been misidentified. Based on their study of L. inextricabilis, they contend that just like in birds early theropods would have had digits 2,3 and 4 (Refs 5,6).
Such a conclusion is not without its critics. In fact prominent Yale evolutionary geneticist Gunter Wagner has questioned the numbering assignments of bird digits adding that bird wings might be based on digits 1,2 and 3 after all (Ref 5). Wagner cites fundamental aspects of embryonic development in support of his case. University of California paleontologist Kevin Padian has similarly suggested that the digit morphology of L. inextricabilis might represent nothing more than an "oddly reduced hand", commensurate with its herbivorous lifestyle (Ref 5).
Today, nine years after the Beijing meeting, Olson would seemingly be justified in wearing his famous badge. For him and others, the 'B.A.N.D' does indeed play on. To be sure, contemporary evidence shows birds to be a distinct phyletic group not easily integrated into a man made evolutionary scheme. While evolutionists point proudly to the apparent anatomical similarities between birds and dinosaurs, they themselves admit to the pressing need to resolve crucial questions about the origin of flight, the evolution of feathers and the conversion to endothermy (Ref 7).
These are not side questions designed to obfuscate discussions, but rather questions that are central to the matter at hand. In light of such facts, perhaps a more radical message needs to be conveyed that echoes the beat of a different mantra: BIRDS ARE REALLY BIRDS (or B.A.R.B for short). It is perhaps time to re-examine our most treasured notions of bird evolution.
1. Rex Dalton (2000), Feathers fly in Beijing, Nature, Volume 405, p.992
2. See 'Discovery raises new doubts about dinosaur-bird-links', http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/osu-drn060809.php
3. Michael Denton (1986), Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler and Adler Publishers, Bethesda Maryland, 1st Edition, pp. 202-208
4. Mingke Yu, Ping Wu, Randall B. Widelitz, Cheng-Ming Chuong (2002), The morphogenesis of feathers, Nature, Volume 420, pp.308-312
5. Matt Kaplan (2009), Dinosaur's digits show how birds got wings, 17 June 2009, Nature, doi:10.1038/news.2009.577
6. Xing Xu, James M. Clark, Jinyou Mo , Jonah Choiniere, Catherine A. Forster, Gregory M. Erickson, David W. E. Hone, Corwin Sullivan, David A. Eberth, Sterling Nesbitt, Qi Zhao, Rene Hernandez, Cheng-kai Jia, Feng-lu Han, Yu Guo (2009), A Jurassic ceratosaur from China helps clarify avian digital homologies, Nature 459, pp.940-944
7. See 'Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?', http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/avians.html
By Robert Deyes
If we look close at cell's own schemes,
precision work, inte-gral teams.
Protein domains that play their role,
so specified, a common goal.
It's hard to think how bits mixed up
like random tea leaves in a cup
could make up schemes of grand design,
so tailor-made, so clocked, so fine.
And so the cells they specialize,
with jobs to do, new tissues rise,
cells work together unified,
communicate both far and wide.
Neuron- impulse forth it sends,
muscle then contracts, leg bends,
lymphocyte- the fort defends,
liver cells the body cleanse.
Cells and tissues form a whole.
Each cell it knows its place, its role.
The body works incessantly.
A stomach, heart, a mind that's free.
From whence did come that thoughtful brain
that takes decisions, loss or gain?
Through inner soul it comes to life,
through stress and strain, through joy and strife.
And creatures learn to live, adapt,
territorial boundaries mapped,
ecosystems grow, divide,
scatter seeds both far and wide.
So who did make such symphony,
so caref'lly planned it seems to be?
Our minds do tell of higher mind,
an earth so purposef'lly designed.
By Robert Deyes
Biology's Big Bang http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/Arts/Arts-idx?type=article&did=ARTS.SBREEDSBURG.I0014&isize=M
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