Corals and sponges and ur-complexity*
Contradictions and imaginative scenarios pepper evolutionary dogma
Published: 27 October 2007 (GMT+10)
* Ur is a prefix meaning ‘first’—details follow below.
Today we feature two feedbacks, both about organisms placed by evolutionists at the very bottom of their hypothetical tree of life, but which confoundingly turn out to be not simple but extraordinarily complex. The first inquiry, from Fiona S of New South Wales, Australia, concerns corals, and the second, from K, also of Australia, concerns sponges. Andrew Lamb replies.
Dear Sir / Madam,
In the last issue of the Helix magazine (which is published by CSIRO, Australia, for young, unbelieving scientists) there was an article called ‘Coral Mystery’, which I’d like to share with you.“Corals are some of the simplest animals on Earth. But, did you know that they have more genes than us?
Though not all of these genes have been discovered yet, Australian scientists estimate corals have around 25,000 genes. Humans have only 20,000 to 23,000.
The reason that these little creatures have this many genes is a mystery, but the discovery is pretty thrilling, because corals are near the root of the family tree of all living animals. Finding out about them could give us some answers about the origin and evolution of complex features such as the nervous system of humans and other animals.
Some of the genes found in corals so far, are only shared with other vertebrates—which seems odd, since corals don’t have vertebrae!”
It goes on to say ...“We actually have quite a lot in common with corals,” says Professor David Miller, a coral genetics specialist from Townsville’s James Cook University.”
The ‘mystery’ is easily solved if we look at the evidence through the words of the Bible, and accept special creation by God.
I like the way Walter James ReMine, in his book, ‘The Biotic Message’, puts it in his message theory … “Life is the product of a single designer and was intentionally designed to resist all other interpretations of origin.”
We are “without excuse” to think otherwise.
Regards from Fiona S
Thanks Fiona for this interesting news, and your pertinent comments. An item on this coral research has been prepared for the next issue of Creation magazine.1 A recent article in New Scientist magazine about the phylogenetic turmoil caused by DNA research included several paragraphs on this coral research by David Miller. For some dramatic quotes from that article which illustrate the crisis such DNA research is causing for evolutionists, see ‘Trash the Textbooks’ (Creation 29(4):10).
Yes, the evolutionary slant in the CSIRO’s Helix magazine is disappointing, especially given the many accomplished creationists who have worked for CSIRO, such as Dr Ian Macreadie and Dr Raymond Jones.2
From small to BIG?
If evolution were really true, we would expect to see a progression from small to large, e.g.:
- from few genes to many genes—disproved by examples like the one you provided.
- from single-celled organisms to multicellular organisms—disproved by the existence of fossils of multicellular creatures in Ediacaran and other Neoproterozoic3,4 strata that underlie Cambrian strata.5
- from small body size to large body size—disproved by the giant megafauna of the past.
Creationist surgeon Dr Vij Sodera encapsulates this fallacious small-to-big idea in the title of his book One Small Speck to Man: the Evolution Myth.
The supposed slow growth of coral reefs has been claimed by evolutionists to show that coral atolls required many tens of thousands of years to form, but in fact coral can grow rapidly—see Telling a geological tale for surprising visual evidence of this. The 4½ thousand years since the Flood is adequate time for today’s coral atolls to have developed, especially considering the accelerated growth that the warm post-Flood seas would have induced—see How long does a coral reef take to grow? For fascinating information on some of the incredible features of allegedly primitive coral, see Coral: animal, vegetable and mineral.
Secular scientists are continually expressing astonishment at the complexity they find in creatures they presume to be primitive, and at the fact that they contain a proportion of DNA sequences identical to those in humans. Comparison of the DNA from any two organisms, no matter how far apart on the evolutionist tree of life, inevitably reveals a proportion of almost identical DNA. These findings are playing utter havoc with traditional evolutionary cladistics/phylogeny. The idea that random mutations produced all the diversity of life would mean that there would have to have been countless numbers of them over the alleged hundreds of millions of years, and yet organisms separated by nearly a billion years on the evolutionary timeline have some identical sequences. This also renders useless the so-called molecular clock that is used to put dates of millions of years on hypothetical evolutionary splits. Since the observable rate of mutation in some genes is zero, it becomes an exercise in selecting data to suit the story. Also, evolutionists find huge contradictions between the DNA similarities discovered and what they already ‘know’ about the evolutionary relationships of the different organisms, as represented by the traditional morphology-based phylogenies.
Evolutionists use the term ‘conserved’ to describe identical sequences of DNA from different organisms. When the organisms are very far apart in the evolutionary scheme of things, like corals and humans, they call identical sequences ‘ultra-conserved’.6 This term, ubiquitous in comparative molecular biology, is a very unfortunate one, as it grafts into the language the erroneous idea that the two organisms in question have common ancestry; that the identical DNA derives from a common ancestor. Only DNA from species belonging to the same original created kind can have the possibility of being conserved. Any identical DNA sequences from organisms of different kinds is not conserved, but merely identical, created that way in the beginning by God. Like the geological term ‘fossil record’, the biological term ‘conserved’ is one that creationists need to treat with caution.
I’ve got to write a paper on how animal multicellularity evolved (i.e. looking at urmetazoans, and how they relate to choanoflagellates) and infer some features of the last common ancestor to ‘all animals’. I can’t find anything on this topic on the website, and am curious as to how Creationists should respond. Whilst I doubt my lecturers will take pleasure in seeing a Creation view, I always like to add a bit into my essays, since the topics are already a bit … ‘rich’ anyway.
Thanks in advance!
Thank you for your email and phone call.
For any creationist student faced with assessment tasks involving evolution, we recommend first reading our articles How do I do my assignment about evolution? and So, you’re doing a report on Creation vs Evolution, listed under the topic ‘Education’ in our Frequently Asked Questions index.
One good way to prepare an assignment like the one you are doing is to present the various ideas from the perspectives of the evolutionists themselves, using their references and simply discussing the problems they identify with each theory. If you go to the websites of Science and Nature and other journals and search databases like NCBI Entrez for articles containing relevant keywords, it should be possible to turn up some papers that contradict each other.
Urmetazoa and other ur-fantasies
The prefix Ur- in Urmetazoa comes from the German language. In German it can mean simply ‘first’ but it can also carry the connotation of ‘primal’ in the sense of pertaining to earlier times. Thus the German word for jungle is Urwald (primeval forest) and the German word for great grandfather is Urgrossvater. Other examples include Urknall (big bang), Urschrift (original text) and Ursprung (source).
In a biological context, Ur means ancestral or first form. Evolutionary biology has lots of these hypothetical Ur-creatures. There are Urmetazoa and Ureumetazoa, plus Urbilateria, Urvogel, and (take a deep breath!) Uropisthokonta—all entirely imaginary (though sometimes the term Urvogel (proto-bird) is used to refer to the real creature Archaeopteryx) and all deriving directly from the erroneous assumption that since there is no Creator, then every creature must have had some ancestral organism from which it evolved. Hence the fecund Ur-menagerie. Haeckel’s imaginary Monera and the legions of evolutionary ‘proto’ creatures also spring to mind.
One academic has courageously argued that it is wrong to use such names, as they could be mistaken for real taxons:
“Urmetazoa” is not an officially accepted name in the scientific community, as the title might suggest. There is no requirement to give names to hypothetical common ancestors of monophyla. On the contrary, one should not do so because they could be confused with taxon names (a hypothetical ancestor is not a taxon).7
There is at least one exception to the Ur-means-imaginary rule. The name aurochs commonly used for the huge Bos primigenius cattle, known to Julius Caesar but passing into extinction by the early 1600s8, probably derives from Urochse meaning ancestral cattle-beast.
The first multicellular organisms
We know from the accurate history of origins recorded in the Bible that multicellular animals did not evolve from single-cell organisms, but that all living things were created by God to reproduce ‘after their kind’ (Genesis 1:25, etc.) Therefore, any accounts of evolution of single-celled organisms into multi-celled organisms will necessarily consist of speculative tales generated from imagination.
Besides the general problems facing all claims of evolution, such as the need to overcome the laws of chemistry, probability, thermodynamics and information, there are some obstacles particular to the single-cell to multi-cell leap. One is the dependence of multicellular organisms on apoptosis (programmed cell death) both during development and to maintain the adult organism’s health—see Apoptosis: cell ‘death’ reveals Creation. It is hard to imagine how single-cell organisms could evolve into apoptosis-equipped organisms like corals and sponges without, well, killing themselves. A second is the existence of anomalous genetic codes. If some of the organisms covered by your assignment topic are ones with anomalous genetic codes, then this would be another obstacle to evolutionary scenarios and worth featuring in your paper. See the comments on anomalous genetic codes in Chapter 6 Argument: Common design points to common ancestry of Refuting Evolution 2.
Fossils and ur-evolution?
Materials CMI has published that deal with multicellular organisms in Cambrian and sub-Cambrian9 rocks include (amongst others) Inaria, Kimberella and ‘primitive’ myths, Fossil pollen in Grand Canyon overturns plant evolution, and ‘Snowball Earth’—a problem for the supposed origin of multicellular animals. See also ‘The Fossil Record—From Microorganisms to Fish’, Chapter IV (pages 53–82) in: Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! In addition to these, a search of the CD_ROM database of creationist literature published by Creation Education resources turned up the article Zoology vs evolutionism, which could be useful to you for your project.
Fossil pollen, fossil spores and fossil wood fragments from numerous different kinds of vascular (woody) plants have been found in ‘Precambrian’ strata. Such findings are nigh unthinkable in the evolutionary scheme of things, the standard evolutionist position long being that vascular plants did not exist in the ‘Precambrian’. So such findings tend to be dismissed out-of-hand or studiously ignored. See A brief response to anti-creationist books plus the section on this in Chapter 15 Where are all the human fossils? of The Creation Answers Book.
It also used to be standard evolutionary teaching that there were no vertebrates in the Cambrian, but there is direct fossil evidence to the contrary—see Fish scales in the Cambrian.
Generally, fossils of any type of organism can be found in any strata of rocks, though they will be very common in some layers, and very rare in others, reflecting their habitat (sea-floor organisms buried first, highland organisms last), differential mobility (some could flee the rising floodwaters, others couldn’t), and hydrodynamic sorting (e.g. low-buoyancy organisms buried first, floaters later or not at all). Evolutionists use an idealized concept of ‘index fossils’. These are fossils they claim are found only in very specific ranges of strata. But in fact numerous instances of ‘out-of-place’ index fossils are being found all the time—see The fossil record: becoming more random all the time.10 Any specific fossil organism tends to be found predominantly at one level, and sparsely peppered through other strata.
Body parts: re-use and experimentation
Animals and people were designed by the same Creator, so it is no surprise that different creatures will have some biological subsystems in common while other organs/systems differ. It makes sense for a designer to re-use certain subsystems. The same principle applies with things built by humans. See Are look-alikes related?
These similarities are one reason why medical researchers do experiments on animals. Various animals like rats, rabbits, and monkeys have particular organs or physiological subsystems that are very similar to the corresponding organs/systems in humans, making them suitable for tests related to those organs/systems. Humans and animals are not entirely different, physiologically. It would not be expected that they would be, on the basis that one intelligent Creator would be likely to use the same design elements across different created kinds (just like an engineer would re-use the same components as much as possible in designing various types of motor vehicle). For example, a rat’s immune system works much like ours; they have similar blood glucose homeostasis; nervous system, etc. If there were not the similarities between different created kinds of animals and humans, we might be inclined to conclude that there are many creators, not just one. This is the ‘biotic message’ mentioned above by Fiona S (see book of this title by ReMine, and the review by Dr Don Batten)—the thread of similarity that runs through all living things that speaks of one Designer, one Engineer who created everything.
So, it is useful to study the organs and systems of animals to get an understanding of our own, but always with the proviso that we are different and what applies to animals needs to be verified in humans before we can say that this is how we work. Some drugs, for example, differ in their effects. Cats cannot tolerate morphine or aspirin and horses cannot take morphine, while dogs should not eat chocolate.
Note that just because two different creatures may have one very similar organ, this does not mean their other organs will be just as similar.
Evolution is at a loss to explain unpredictable congruencies between organisms that outwardly bear little resemblance to one another. These are called homoplasies or convergences—see examples (note in particular the quotes cited) in the alleged fish/amphibian series, mammal-like reptiles, and land mammal/whale series.
The prominent geneticist (and virulently hostile anti-creationist) Steve Jones once quipped, ‘We also share about 50% of our DNA with bananas and that doesn’t make us half bananas, either from the waist up or the waist down.’11 His comment highlights in a humorous way the point that levels of genetic similarity between different kinds of organism do not imply that those organisms have shared biological ancestry. This was a ‘throwaway’ comment by Jones, not intended to be taken in a precise, empirical way, but the point is a valid one, and would remain valid regardless of whether the figure he conjured up was 5% or 95%, and regardless of how near or how far apart the organisms were on the ever-morphing evolutionary tree of life.
- Coral complex, not simple, Creation 30(1):7, December 2007. Return to Text.
- Other creationists who have worked for Australia‘s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) include Dr Geoff Downes, Dr Ralph Matthews, Dr Edmond Holroyd, and Dr Andrew Snelling. Return to Text.
- Hagadorn, et al., Cellular and subcellular structure of Neoproterozoic animal embryos, Science 314(5797):291–294, 13 October 2006, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/314/5797/291. Neoproterozoic is the formal term for the strata commonly referred to as pre-Cambrian. Return to Text.
- Xiao, et al., Three-dimensional preservation of algae and animal embryos in a Neoproterozoic phosphorite, Nature 391(6667):553–558, 5 February 1998, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v391/n6667/abs/391553a0.html. Return to Text.
- I.e. disproved from the framework of evolutionary assumptions. Creationists know that the rocks underlying Cambrian rocks are not millions of years older than Cambrian rocks, and that therefore the presence or absence of particular fossil creatures in these rocks is of little significance with respect to origins. But from the evolutionist perspective, such fossils are problematic in that they contradict the anticipated evolutionary progression of life. Return to Text.
- See Truman, R., and Terborg, P., Ultraconserved sequences pose megaproblems for evolutionary theory, Journal of Creation 21(3):84ff, 2007. Return to Text.
- http://www.cosis.net/copernicus/EGU/bgd/4/S239/bgd-4-S239_p.pdf Return to Text.
- Wikipedia: Aurochs: Domestication and Extinction, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurochs#Domestication_and_extinction. Return to Text.
- I consider the term sub-Cambrian more accurate than ‘pre-Cambrian’. The ‘pre’ in pre-Cambrian implies the existence of successive great eons of time, whereas the ‘sub’ in sub-Cambrian merely describes, accurately and objectively, the physical relationship between the rock strata concerned. Similarly, other terms that presuppose age relationships such as ‘Early Cretaceous’ and ‘Late Tertiary’ should be rejected in favour of the objective stratigraphic terms ‘Lower Cretaceous’ and ‘Upper Tertiary’. Return to Text.
- See also Woodmorappe, J., A diluviological treatise on the stratigraphic separation of fossils, Creation Research Society Quarterly 20(3):133–185, December 1983, http://www.CreationResearch.org/crsq/abstracts/sum20_3.html. Return to Text.
- Jones, S., interviewed at the Australian Museum on The Science Show, broadcast on ABC radio, 12 January 2002, www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ss/stories/s456478.htm, 25 January 2002. Return to Text.