Are cephalopods better designed than humans?

0 Comments
Reflections in eyes of leopard
Amur leopard (not a cephalopod), showing retroreflection from tapetum. Colchester Zoo, Monday, November 19, 2007. Photograph by Keven Law. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The answer to the titular question depends on what you think they are designed for; hence, it seems to be a silly question. When it comes to the eyes, however, there is little doubt: human (and other vertebrate) retinas are in backward in that nerves, blood vessels, and other structures are piled on top of the photoreceptors and thus reduce sensitivity, if not resolution. Additionally, the nerves go out through a hole in the retina, which makes us susceptible to glaucoma. Cephalopod retinas, by contrast, face forward, with nothing covering the photoreceptors, and the nerves do not have to pass through a hole in the retina. Cephalopod eyes are thus clearly better designed than human eyes.

I raise this question by way of introducing an article, The night begins to shine: The tapetum lucidum and our backward retinas, by Nathan H. Lents, in the January-February issue of Skeptical Inquirer. The tapetum lucidum, or just tapetum, is a reflective membrane in the retinas of many nocturnal vertebrates and is located just behind the photoreceptors. Its purpose is presumedly to direct the light that the photoreceptors miss back into them and thereby increase the sensitivity. Interestingly, tapetums composed of many different materials appear to have evolved many different times in different creatures. Cephalopods have no tapetum, presumably because their retinas face forward, with the photoreceptors directly facing the light. Prof. Lents explains all this and more in great but easily understandable detail.

Ken Ham Using Creation Museum for Kentucky Politics

0 Comments
IRS brochure

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG), along with the extremist Jeff Durbin of Arizona’s Apologia Church, are hosting a political event for pastors at the Creation Museum to support pending Kentucky anti-abortion legislation. To my knowledge this legislation has not yet been introduced as of January 18. The rally is also advertised on January 18, AiG’s weekly “Answers News”, near the end of the show (about 34 minutes in).

Back in March 2007, when the Creation Museum was about to open, AiG’s Mark Looy and Ken Ham penned a post to their website titled “Goose-stepping to Zion.” This essay claims AiG is “apolitical” and states:

Trioceros jacksonii

0 Comments

Photograph by Mark Sturtevant.

Photogrphy Contest, Honorable Mention.

Chameleon
Trioceros jacksonii – Jackson’s chameleon. Dr. Sturtevant writes, "The Hawaiian islands harbor many unique species of plants and animals that have evolved there while in isolation. But of course humans have introduced many non-native species to the islands, and these foreigners come from around the world. This large chameleon was found along a forested path on Maui, and is one of many species of chameleons that thrive on the islands after having been introduced there through the pet trade and general human stupidity. This large chameleon is quite capable of swallowing baby birds that are in the nest, and so it is a threat to the native birds."

Another Impressive Year for Creationist Journal BIO-Complexity [sic]

0 Comments
Lateral view of ankle
The foot and ankle of the chimpanzee (A) and human (B). T: axis of transverse tarsal joint; U: axis of upper ankle joint; L: axis of lower ankle joint. Note: All bones are conserved and homologous. Credit: Elftman, H., & Manter, J. (1935). The evolution of the human foot, with especial reference to the joints. Journal of anatomy, 70(Pt 1), 56.

A new article has been published in the illustrious journal BIO-Complexity [sic]:

Burgess, S. (2022). Why the Ankle-Foot Complex Is a Masterpiece of Engineering and a Rebuttal of “Bad Design” Arguments. BIO-Complexity, 2022.

For those not familiar with it, BIO-Complexity [sic] is a journal dedicated to publishing work from the Intelligent Design creationist community. Frustrated by their almost completely futile efforts to get their work or ideas published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, intelligent design proponents took to creating their own journal in 2010 with Douglas Axe as the founding editor-in-chief. Axe was also head of the Biologic Institute, the only research institute dedicated to intelligent design creationism, and the publisher of BIO-Complexity [sic]. The institute has now closed. No word yet on what will happen with the journal, but I imagine the green screen has been repurposed. You can read more about the history of the journal here.

BIO-Complexity [sic] and The Biologic Institute (and Axe himself to a certain extent), are all funded by the Discovery Institute, the organizing body of the intelligent design creationist movement, which probably needs no introduction to the readers of Panda’s Thumb. But in case you’ve just crawled out of the Olduvai Gorge, you can read about it here.

The new article on the human ankle by Stuart Burgess perfectly aligns with the grand traditions of BIO-Complexity [sic]:

Pandas, Kitzmiller, and the frozen frog fallacy

0 Comments

Paul Braterman is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Texas and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry at the University of Glasgow

Cover of <em>Of Pandas and People</em>
Cover of Of Pandas and People, Second edition. Fair use claimed.

 

This Kitzmas was different. For the first time, the Discovery Institute allowed the anniversary of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District to pass without complaining about the verdict. Perhaps they are hoping that we will forget about the incredible badness of the text that they were trying to foist on the District’s students. Of Pandas and People is carefully constructed to be as misleading as possible, and we shouldn’t let them forget this, as long as contributors and advisers responsible for it remain in position within the Discovery Institute1, while the Institute continues to promote works such as Denton’s Evolution – A Theory in Crisis, that perpetuate the same elementary errors of logic. But first, an apparent digression. When students first come across the use of molecular or DNA sequencing in constructing phylogenetic trees, they are sometimes puzzled. They have been told that mammals are descended from fish by way of amphibians. Therefore, as a matter of common sense, they might expect that frogs should be closer to fish in evolutionary terms than we are. This is another example of the Evolution as Progress error. While amniotes have progressed through synapsid to mammal to humans, the pinnacle of creation, the frog has remained a lowly frog and should, therefore, be closer to the common ancestor, as if the ineluctable processes of molecular mutation had somehow been suspended. We might call this the “frozen frog fallacy.”

At this point, a Table like the one shown below might help: