Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mutations 1



On March 14, I gave a talk in Grand Rapids at a conference called "Grand Dialogue." There are several colleges in the area which have this annual event which attempts to discuss the relationship between science and religion. I spoke along with Dr. Dennis Marshall of Aquinas college. We had a very attentive group of 12 and we had an interesting discussion afterwards.

The largest problem in discussing ID with a group is that there is so much to cover in so little time. I try to use pictures, but biology and genetics are obviously complex subjects that you can't learn in one afternoon. I assume that people already know certain things, but after the talk I wondered if I assumed too much when talking about mutations. That's why I have this picture here today and will add it to my future presentations.

The letters ATGC are the molecules that make up the rungs of DNA. They are specific shapes, and are read as a code to make protein in the cell. The protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. The code can have more than one set for a certain amino acid that will be matched to the code, as in the first line where two sets are coding for the same (blue) amino acid. When one DNA molecule is changed, for example by a copying mistake, it can change the amino acid and ultimately, eventually, the entire protein can have a new function.

Now, copying mistakes don't come quickly. It can be as little as 1 in 100 million. So in the 3.6 billion base pairs (rungs) of a human, there can be as little as 30 changes in a generation. What is more, many proteins lose their function before they gain another. When I give my talk, I show some pretty amazing proteins which are thought to have stayed pretty close to way they were in the very first organisms billions of years ago, such as the energy-making machine, ATP synthase. It is true that there may be copying of genes and other changes besides single point DNA change, but if the proteins changed too much, the organism wouldn't even survive to reproduce another generation.

Also, Hubert Yockey found by Information Theory that only one protein in 10^65 has function for a particular job (of a specific protein with 100 amino acids). Therefore, a unique protein showing up in an organism can come "from nowhere" and all of a sudden be functional. This is obviously not from the small changes implied by mutation and natural selection.

I hope our audience was able to follow my talk. In any case, they seemed to enjoy it, and I hope they can continue to pursue their interest from this introductory talk.

Texas Science Standards

Congratulations to those who worked so hard to recently bring about fair Science Teaching Standards in Texas. Students are now encouraged to critique science theories such as evolution, to evaluate the evidence as it truly presents itself.

The Discovery Institute has encouraged this approach to science classrooms. I can admire it in one way. It avoids the question of religion altogether. And scientific evidence as revealed by current research does show that there are definitely problems with the neo-Darwinian view of small changes through mutation and natural selection.

However much of a problem it is to "bring religion into the classroom," I can't help wondering if there is some way for all of us to deal with science education so that believers can be true to our religions, one of the original goals for our country. Because if religion is denied in science class, sooner or later the cracks will show. For Christians, God is the maker of the world, and therefore science is what God has made. An atheist cannot allow for a cell made by God in any way, whereas a believer can theorize that He made it directly and supernaturally (or at least should consider it as a possibility as compared to an indirect creation by some natural process after the Big Bang.) As one of the participants in my last presentation said, God didn't just say, "Let there be light," as in the Big Bang. According to Genesis, there were acts of creation after that. Whether or not we interpret "day" as 24 hours, it is not unreasonable to believe He directly created the biological cell.

How can that even be discussed when we keep materialistic, naturalistic evolution as the main structure which can only be picked at here and there? And it still marginalizes all who are Young Earth Creationists, forcing them into home-schooling and speaking against their own religion to pass state requirements for diplomas (as I understand at least some states do).

The Big Bang is looked upon by some Christians as the beginning of God's creation, but scientists speculate what happened beforehand--there is nothing sacred about the Big Bang to them.

Believers and non-believers are still very far apart in worldviews and there should eventually be respect for all people when it comes to our understandings of science. I am glad for progress of the type in Texas, but I don't think we are yet where we need to be.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Our Trip

My husband and I traveled to the Yucatan in Mexico for four days. We went to some Mayan ruins in bus tours. They stopped a few places which were not known to us. One of them was in a town named Valladolid. This was a place which was previously a Mayan village, and when the Spanish came into the area, they used the stones of the Mayan buildings for their own purposes. So, this church (picture upper left) was built about 1545 with Mayan stones. We went in and saw the biggest stone baptismal font I ever saw. I imagine the interior walls would have had to be re-done since that time, though they looked old. The floors were dark tile which looked marble.

We stayed at a place on the Caribbean, south of the main tourist city islands of Cancun and Cozumel. We asked about a bus connection to a church for Sunday morning mass. They told us to get on one at 9:00 am. We did, and were taken about 30 miles to the North to Playa Del Carmen. There was no church in sight at the stop and our driver did not speak English. I asked in Spanish for directions. I always dreaded trying to get them in Spanish, since I expected not to understand the answer. But he was slow and pointed, and I actually understood! We found the church (picture on right). But the driver said the bus wouldn't be back until 5:00 pm! I prayed most of the service for a way back to the hotel. Though I felt a little guilty for praying to be able to go to the beach, we had not had much time for swimming yet since we first went to the ruins, and it was one of the things I had looked forward to for the vacation. After the service, my husband asked the couple next to us if they were visiting here. They said yes, and they had a car. Their hotel was almost next to ours! They graciously drove us back and I enjoyed the beach on our last afternoon there!

You can see more of our vacation (the ruins part) on my husband's blog at http://muskegonmemories.blogspot.com/ .

The flights were long and I'm still catching up from all the activity of our last few weeks. I'll try to get back in the swing soon.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Science and Theology


I will be speaking, along with Dr. Dennis Marshall, at the Grand Dialogue tomorrow, March 14, in Grand Rapids MI. Our topic is, "The Science and Theology of Intelligent Design Theory." Many people think Intelligent Design Theory (ID) is not science, and those who do think it is not theology. So I'm bucking not one tide but two. The consolation is that to behold the science of life is fulfilling in itself, and to believe that God made it is joy. If I'm able to bring these wonders to others, so much the better.

After the Dialogue, my husband and I will take a short vacation. I hope to return to the blog on March 27. If you have been following, thanks!! If you are new to the blog, please check it out!! Enjoy the topics and links. I will be back soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Speciation


It has now been over a year since I started this blog! I am so thankful to have the opportunity to write in a forum accessible to public eye. This blog has been a great outlet, and past posts are there for anyone interested in Intelligent Design Theory (ID). I had said at the end of last year that I'd like to write about other topics, then got started on Origins and am still concentrating on ID. I hope to eventually diversify, but who knows where the blog will go from here. In any case, I sure have enjoyed it and I hope you do too.

Science Magazine has had a series of articles in honor of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday and 150th anniversary of his book, Origin of Species. In the Feb. 6, 2009 issue, (vol. 323) they concentrate on the progress made in research about how species came to be. Now, I know that we can all read the same thing and come up with different conclusions. I'm sure many have pride in all the knowledge we have gained in the past years and how far we have come. But, anyone who reads these articles must be able to see we do not have all the answers about evolution. A startling article is by Fraser et al. called, "The Bacterial Species Challenge: Making Sense of Genetic and Ecological Diversity." In this link to the abstract, they speak of the single-cell organisms, bacteria and archaea, and then say:
Taxonomists classify these organisms into species in much the same way as they classify eukaryotes, but differences in their biology—including horizontal gene transfer between distantly related taxa and variable rates of homologous recombination—mean that we still do not understand what a bacterial species is. (p.741)
Yes, you read correctly. They do not even know what a bacterial species is. And bacteria are among the most numerous of organisms on the planet. If they don't' know what a bacterial species is, they don't really understand speciation at all. The contrast between what was expected by scientists and the actual results of whole-genome sequencing is revealed by the above statement.

I have added a new link in the right column under Research Reading. It is an article by Koonin and Wolf of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The article is called, "Genomics of Bacteria and Archaea: the emerging dynamic view of the prokaryotic world," from Nucleic Acids Research. I've described this article before here, but I hadn't yet added the link. The link takes you to an abstract, but you can get the entire free article by clicking another link there. If you want the latest in genomic data, this is a good source (however it is technical).

The article shows that the "Tree of Life" predicted by Darwin is non-existent. There is what they call a "Dynamic" interplay of structures of organisms. There is no small changing from one to the next, up a smooth, slow gradient. There are some genes that stay the same, and some that change widely and some that are totally unique to the organism in question.

Intelligent Design Theory has recognized that the number of combinations of amino acids (which make up proteins) and nucleic acids (which make up genes) are too numerous to expect nature itself to be able to organize them in the meaningful, functional ways we find them.

The science community will try to formulate mathematical models in a way that makes sense of the new data. But it is important to realize that Darwin's conjecture of small increments of change, which made naturalistic and completely random evolution seem so easy, is now proven wrong.

I will be giving a talk on ID March 14 at the Grand Dialogue in Grand Rapids, MI and my husband and I are taking a short vacation afterwards.

Update 1/20/2013: My interest in Intelligent Design Theory (ID) has changed to what is called "Special Creationism," the belief that God created species separately and directly. Much of the biological science in ID is similar to Special Creationism.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Evolution Convention, Rome

The Gregorian University, Notre Dame, and the Pontifical Council for Culture are currently (March 3-7) holding their convention called "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories." There are many highly regarded scientists and others who discuss both the science and philosophy of evolution. There are other workshops in this series and one will be coming to Notre Dame in December 2009. That will discuss the political and social ramifications of evolution.

Most of the comments describing the conference have been dismissive, to put it kindly, of Intelligent Design Theory whenever it is mentioned,which seems to be often. The spokespersons also mix Young Earth Creationism in with Intelligent Design Theory, which are two different things. Once committed to keeping out any mention of ID in the conference itself, the organizers now say it will be discussed as a cultural or philosophical phenomenon, not as science. I, on the other hand, hope there may be follow-up articles or videos of the presentations. Perhaps there is something they know that would convince me of random materialistic, naturalistic evolution, and I like to listen to both sides.

But whether or not the persons involved in this conference understand that ID allows for evolution (which it does), they are absolutely opposed to the idea that God would touch His creation after the Big Bang. There is no room to allow for any other discussion--that would NOT be science.

The problem is, science is not cooperating with Darwin. For example, an article by Anderson et al. in Nature, (May 22, 2008), 453:515-518, about evolution of existing amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, admits of "large morphological and temporal gaps in the fossil record." And, "recent molecular analyses are controversial," meaning the sequenced genomes do not match with previous scientific interpretation of evidence.

The facts of science are so astounding, we should be glad the Lord could make us at all. In my theology, God created in the way He thought best. And in light of what He has done, we need to contemplate how very good He is.
~~~~~~~~~
Picture from Work of God's Children Educational Project,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

James Clerk Maxwell

This year is the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's book, Origin of Species. But it is another 150th anniversary for science, one of monumental proportions. Though I have heard much of Darwin in the media, I have not seen a word about this man and his work.

The man is James Clerk Maxwell, and his picture hung on the wall of Einstein's study. He was born in Scotland and in his 48 years was, as Einstein put it, the most influential scientist since Isaac Newton.

He even outdid himself, in that one of his works, that of mathematically describing electromagnetic energy, overshadows his accomplishment of exactly 150 years ago. But first, in 1859, he brought into physics a concept that is crucial to our understanding that was not even conceived at the time. He brought statistical analysis into physical law.

The first ever statistical analysis of physics was the Maxwell distribution of molecular velocity introduced in 1859. Though later modified by Ludwig Boltzmann, the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution still stands today. It has to do with ideal gas movements and how they relate to volume, pressure and temperature. Though molecules collide and have different velocities, there is a predictable statistical percentage that have the same velocities within a range. When temperature changes, velocities change in a statistical way. Though other scientists had started to understand the properties of ideal gases, Maxwell's contribution was a key piece to the puzzle. It fit into the understanding of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics. Mechanics provides information on physical things and how they are affected by forces. Statistical mechanics then describes those physical forces and their effects at a molecular level.

There is an endearing description of Maxwell on Wikipedia when he was three years old and already an inquisitive child. Of almost all things he asked his father, "What's the go 'o that?"

The distributions of velocity were worked out for ideal gasses, but there are kinetics to consider in liquids as well. The collisions of atoms and molecules cause random movements.

The structure of elements and molecules affect their chemistry. In the next few posts I will talk about some of the specific structures which make up biological organisms.