Swim Bladders and Snake Venom

| 27 Comments

While the ID folks continue to blather about the impossibility of complex systems evolving naturalistically, real scientists are busy unravelling the steps by which such evolution actually occurred.

The March 18 issue of Science contains this research report and accompanying technical article (only available by subscription, apparently), about recent work on the evolution of swim bladders in fish. Meanwhile, Bryan Fry of the University of Melbourne in Australia has published this article in which he unravles some of the mysteries of snake venom evolution. This work is described in layman's terms by Carl Zimmer in this article from The New York Times.

From the Science article:

Scuba divers wear air-filled dive vests to move up and down in the water column. Researchers have now used the fish family tree to piece together how the piscine equivalent, an internal air sac called a swim bladder, evolved a complex capillary network and special hemoglobin molecule to inflate it with oxygen. Moreover, according to the proposal presented on page 1752 by Michael Berenbrink of the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, and his colleagues, these innovations helped fish expand their species diversity. “The scenario developed presents a fascinating picture of the evolution and radiation of fish,” says Bernd Pelster, an animal physiologist at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

And from Zimmer's NY Times article:

Ultimately, this rush is not what drives Dr. Fry, who is 34. His goal is to decipher the evolution of snake venoms over the past 60 million years. Reconstructing their history will help lead to medical breakthroughs, Dr. Fry believes. For the past 35 years, scientists have been turning snake venoms into drugs. Just this February, Dr. Fry and his colleagues filed a patent for a molecule found in the venom of the inland taipan that may help treat congestive heart failure.

Understanding the evolution of snake venoms will speed up these discoveries immensely, Dr. Fry predicted. “You need a good road map to get your research going,” he said.

I've posted further excerpts and additional commentary on these articles over at EvolutionBlog: Swim bladders here, Snake venom here. Enjoy!

27 Comments

I love to see articles like the one by Carl Zimmer, which illustrate for laymen why it is important to study evolution. I am studying to be a high school biology teacher, and people who have doubts about evolution have advised me to simply avoid the topic. This started a long and tedious debate between laymen that becomes difficult when I cite technical articles they do not understand. Articles like these make it easier to communicate with them.

Thank you for pointing it out!

While the ID folks continue to blather about the impossibility of complex systems evolving naturalistically, real scientists are busy unravelling the steps by which such evolution actually occurred.

You know, I don’t think evolution would have been quite so cool if everyone had gone, “Oh, I see, that makes sense.” The fact that 150 years later, people can hear the answer and still not believe it, just goes to certify Darwin’s genius. Their attempts to injure him, just make him look better.

Ya gotta love these folks.…they try so hard…

http://www.creationevidence.org/

if they would only use their powers for good, instead of evil…

It would appear that Jason’s rant is, like all other evos claims, to be one based on self-validation. However, I will gladly post yet another question to himself or any other of the neo-darwinist nazis, who frequent this site. Explain the evolution of human eyeball. Spare us all the fairy tale from Lord Charles on how it COULD have taken place. Present this beloved bullentin board with the scientific evidence for this mere freak of nature. Explain how all of these wonderful mutations just magically happened to take place over millions of years to achieve a post modern utility of function. Try not to stumble over the fact that these mutations mystically stopped mutating once visual clarity was accomplished. Then by mere chance they were able to encode themselves for each of the generations that followed, to replicate this marvel of chance, time and again. Don’t forget to include their interdependence on two additional complex structures; i.e. both vascular and central nervous systems. Take your time.

It’s worse than Mr. Alden supposes. Besides the evos, aka neo-darwinist nazis, he’s gotta contend with the even more reprehensible evo-devos who are currently congratulating themselves on having worked out in considerable detail the genetic basis for the evolution of eyes in bilateral animals.

Perhaps we ought to call this episode Eyeless in Gaza.

Obviously, the geometry of the dispute between the Creationists and modern biology is Euclidean. The parallel lines never meet.

Indeed, it’s much worse than poor Mr. Alden imagines. Why, those dastardly scientists even pretend that they useevolution to guide their research and use resources and time more efficiently, like this guy http://www.corante.com/loom/archive[…]or_venom.php . Good thing Dr. Charlie Wagner, who has discovered scientific laws disproving evolution, is on the case.

Nothing so reprehensibly convinces people that evolution is a good theory than these thousands of scientists who purport to use and observe it. It’s a huge, international conspiracy.

The eyes have it! I wonder what will be too complex to “understand” next for the ID crowd? Mirrors? Chinese iconic writing? (Unless you Chinese) Fingerprints? Stupidity? How 59 million americans vote for bush?

One has to conclude after a while that the debate is not about discovery or the advance of human understanding of the wrold and itself. Follow the money as crass as that may seem. Maybe it’s a form of the “Peter Principle,” call if the Fallwell Addition: If you can’t rise in the Academy–make your own with you as “top monkey.” Oops.

I think creationevidence.org could try harder than this:

In 560 A.D. the field was twice as strong as it is now. In David’s kingdom it was four times as strong. In Noah’s time it was eight times as strong. There are limits to how intense the magnetic field could have been. If we assume that the field has been decaying at the same rate for 10,000 years, the field would have been more intense than that of a magnetic star. …

Of course, it’s dangerous to observe a process for a relatively short period of time and then declare that the process has been behaving in exactly that way for all of time. …

However, during the flood, when cataclysmic geologic events were occurring at a rapid pace, these processes may have been recording what happened to the magnetic field over weeks or months instead of hundreds of thousands of years.

Would Prof. Heddle or someone from DI care to comment about the history of the Earth’s magnetic fields, and how it is evidence of ID?

Mr. Alden:

Try not to stumble over the fact that these mutations mystically stopped mutating once visual clarity was accomplished

They did? Blind people experiencing the effects of these mutations will be pleased to learn that they’re merely imagining themselves to be blind:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7149842/ http://www.sciencedaily.com/release[…]09132830.htm http://www.slu.edu/readstory/more/4262 http://www.sciencedaily.com/release[…]08071920.htm http://www.optometry.co.uk/articles[…]ggenheim.pdf

(a small sample of the >70000 hits you get if you Google: “blindness genetic mutation”)

Actually, I have another question for Mr. Alden: explain your own genetic history. Spare us the fairy tales about who your great-great-great-(etc.)-grandparents might have been. Present us with an accurate genealogy going back to Adam and Eve. Can’t do it? Oh dear. We may have to conclude you don’t exist.…..poof!

ID folks don’t just don’t realize that every living thing on the planet is performing on the high wire without a net. There are deleterious mutations in every generation. It is not the case that “mutations mystically stopped mutating once visual clarity was acomplished. “ I guess the theologically minded can’t believe that the biologists aren’t closet IDers.

We really don’t believe in providence. Honest.

“I guess the theologically minded can’t believe that the biologists aren’t closet IDers”

This actually reminds me of how my (Muslim) flatmate learned that I had actually read the Qur’an. He looked at me in astonishment and said ‘And you still don’t believe in Allah?’

He genuinely couldn’t understand how anyone could read the revealed word and not believe… I think the IDers are the same: being limited in their own understanding of complexity they really believe these canards about irreducible complexity are show-stoppers. They really think that belief in evilution simply shows we haven’t *looked*…

Of the seven posts made in response to my original request, only Russell made a direct, yet lame attempt. The other six included the typical, projectile-vomiting, a.k.a. evos double-speak. Therefore, I shall address the one and only, Sir Russell.

First - Blind people are actually blind. They LACK visual clarity, at various degrees of impairment. Sorry Russell, it is not mere perception, it is reality. Your movement claims the eye was established from a series of BENEFICIAL genetic mutations, over millions of years. Quick tip for you Russ: Before one lists a series of Net-Links in defense of one’s position, one might first want to actually READ those links in advance. Your links VALIDATE ID’s position. ( Sorry Russ, you just stepped in your own idiots-logic. ) Defective genes that cause blindness are the result of the scientific Laws of Genetics themselves, established into existence by an Intelligent Designer.

Second - In response to your follow-up question, regarding my ancestry, your analogy doesn’t fit. In order for your slant to work, Adam and Eve would have to represent a simple form of bacteria. Since you address them as human beings, existing as the start of my family history, they are of the same life form. No genetic mutation would have taken place. Your inductive reasoning is bogus.

Therefore the original question remains. Evos tell us that there is no direction in the TOE, no “ arrow “ they call it. How then did a life form experience a series of beneficial genetic mutations, encode them, pass them on to their offspring, retain those genes, encode them again, pass them on, over and over, each time creating an improvement, that leads us to a complex structure known as the human eye ? The statistical probability is ZERO. When you factor in the dependence on both vascular and central nervous systems, the probability becomes DOUBLE ZERO. Russ gets an “ E “ for effort, but still fails the test.

Looks like Joseph’s logic and understanding of science only rivals DonkeyKong’s

Comment # 24368

Joseph Alden Wrote:

Comment #24368 Posted by Joseph Alden on April 11, 2005 11:05 PM (e) (s) … First - Blind people are actually blind. They LACK visual clarity, at various degrees of impairment. Sorry Russell, it is not mere perception, it is reality …

I know he doesn’t mean what he says simply because he doesn’t know all the facts. There are people out there that are blind but can “see”. This condition is called “Blindsight” it has been tested in not only humans but monkeys. This phenomenon is typical in people with damage to their visual cortex. Essentially their eyes are find its just that the part of the brain that processes site is damaged. They often see nothing “pitch black” yet they can pick out location, size and shapes of object yet not see the object at all. In test monkeys have had their entire visual cortex removed yet still showed the ability to see objects they can’t see.

Your definition of blindness shows a bad lack of understanding of the diversity of the generic term “blind” not to mention his lack of understanding of the principals of evolution.

I’ll make a hypothesis here. Based on Joseph’s 2 posts I’ll say that I’ll be filtering his drastic misunderstanding of scientific principles within a few days if he’s still here after being showed the flaws in his logic.

just for more info on the evolution of sight. http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins[…]eepers.shtml Where d’you get those peepers

Therefore the original question remains. Evos tell us that there is no direction in the TOE, no ” arrow ” they call it. How then did a life form experience a series of beneficial genetic mutations, encode them, pass them on to their offspring, retain those genes, encode them again, pass them on, over and over, each time creating an improvement, that leads us to a complex structure known as the human eye ?

Selection.

The statistical probability is ZERO.

Please show your calculations.

Joseph Alden Wrote:

Defective genes that cause blindness are the result of the scientific Laws of Genetics themselves, established into existence by an Intelligent Designer.

Did anyone else say, “Huh?” to this statement? Could you explain what you mean by this please?

Who is the Intelligent Designer? How does this Designer relate to the “Laws of Genetics”? How did the Designer “establish [them] into existence”?

Once I’ve successfully explained biology to my cat, I’ll take on the more challenging task of trying to bring Mr. Alden up to speed. Meanwhile, if he’d pick up an actual book on the subject, and actually read it - one written by an actual biologist with no religious axe to grind - that would be a big help.

Russell Wrote:

Once I’ve successfully explained biology to my cat, I’ll take on the more challenging task of trying to bring Mr. Alden up to speed.

I have three cats, and though all have been surgically prevented from reproducing, there was a time when all three were shown to have a basic understanding of that most fundamental of ideas in biology. We have to hope that Alden never reached that level of enlightenment.

RE: cats and Mr. Alden.

(Just in case there was some thought my remark was motivated by being accused of “lame” efforts, using “idiot-logic”, failing to read my net-links…)

I guess my remark could easily be construed as a swipe at Mr. Alden’s intelligence. Let me just state, for the record, that’s not my point. My cat is a fine animal, certainly as “intelligent” as he needs to be. And I’m sure Mr. Alden would score higher on any measure of intelligence. But they both start with the same level of ignorance, and my cat doesn’t actively resist learning. He hasn’t developed the complex mentation to realize there are things he doesn’t want to understand.

Russell, are you saying that you are trying to indoctrinate your cat with meterialist, darwinian fundamentalism? For shame!

It appears our panel of amateurs have yet again taken the path of least resistance. They continue to follow the SOP of all dedicated evos. Their god, Lord Charles, would be proud of them. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: 1.) Respond to my original question by asking yet another question. or 2.) Dodge, evade and or change the subject matter. and or 3.) Continue with the normal, routine regurgitation, claiming IDers don’t listen, they don’t read, they don’t get it, etc., etc. If it’s SO easy to explain & so SIMPLE a concept, why not simply ANSWER the original question ? None of you will, because none of you can. Jon-boy asked for calculations. I have a suggestion. Perform the research that other scientists have already completed. Borrow the latest and greatest model that Cray has to offer and crunch the numbers yourself. You don’t trust our research, REMEMBER ? Problem is, your movement has already seen the results and they don’t like the answers. Hence, they continue with the psycho-babble.

Therefore, Intelligent Design rules victorious once again. Deciphering the human genome was just the tip of the iceberg. Our members will continue to embrace the true fields of scientific endeavor, i.e. Microbiology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Genetics, Botany, Astronomy, Physics, Aerodynamics, etc.,etc., to name but a few. We’ll leave the science-fiction of evolution to yourselves.

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“Once I’ve successfully explained biology to my cat”

well, i’m doubtfull as to whether you will be able to claim “success” but I’m am far more certain you will be able to claim more progress than with Mr. Alden.

one of Alden’s quips about using a cray [computer] reminded me of this little gem:

http://www.lunch.za.net/evolution/tree.php

as to his other assertion:

“Perform the research that other scientists have already completed”

er, could you please cite those peer-reviewed scientific publications again for us, professor?

this concerns me more:

“Deciphering the human genome was just the tip of the iceberg”

Are you implying that it was somehow the vast body of ID “researchers” (?) that somehow were responsible for the human genome project?

uh, that’s the project where all of the prinicples involved (including collins) concluded that the results suggested an overwhelming support for evolutionary theory, right?

laughable.

as to evoltionary theory only being involved with the biological sciences, might want to think again. OMG! there it is in psychology! In anthropology! it’s creeping everywhere! EEEK!

phhht

oh add two that you mentioned were where IDers “rule”:

botany and genetics.

in fact, all the genetics courses past basic genetics include a heavy grounding in evolutionary theory.

botany is simply a subset of biology. perhaps you meant zoology? makes no difference, evolutionary theory is just as grounded in both disciplines.

add microbiology, developmental biology, biomechanics, just about any discipline with the letters bio included.

yes, even molecular biology:

http://mbe.oupjournals.org/

come now, surrender and join us… you know you want to…

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on April 7, 2005 2:29 PM.

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