Monday, May 12, 2008

Can you say "nerd"?....

Acanthostega - classified as a stem tetrapod of the Devonian. What Darwinism would claim is a "missing link" or "a transitional" between fish and amphibians.

Ahhhh, Good ol' Acanthy; the mainstay of the Darwinian hypothesis for probably the last two decades or so. A funky kind of chimera tetrapod, with multiple digits on its fore (and presumably hind) limb. Awwwww.....

I'm of the thought that Acanthostega - besides being a chimeromorph of sorts - exhibited a Hox gene malfunction in the doubling of digits - digits that Acanthostega already possessed from the time it was created. I don't think that the evidence warrants the conclusion that Acanthostega arose from a fish ancestor. Here's why:

The doubling of digits, also known as polydactyly, is not uncommon even for modern day organisms (most notably amphibians) where digits and even whole appendages are doubled, due to a malfunction/mutation in the genes which code for proper limb placement. These genes are known as Hox genes, and essentially do the job of plugging in where exactly an antenna, limb, or leg goes. Remember news reports several years back about geneticists getting a fruit fly to grow legs where its antennae should've been? Hox genes at work (or out to lunch, presumably)...

But, besides polydactyly and lab technicians playing Dr. Frankenstein, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1. In order to go from fish to amphibian, the fish "fin" needs to dump the lepidotrichia - the fin rays of presumed fish ancestors - and generate the more complex articulated digit array of later tetrapods (like Acanthostega).

This complexity would include:

-Change in structural composition (from partially cartilaginous fins to fully ossified endochondral skeletal digits)

-Construction of the digits themselves (running the risk of hyperphalangy in the process)

-Functional articulation of skeletal structure into working digit array

-New musculature (including tendons), as well as new attachment points to the skeletal frame

-Structuring of nerve endings

-And finally, new and novel developmental pathways during embryonic development to make way for all of the above. (i.e., proper Hox genes clusters, Sonic hedgehog signalling, and regulation/timing of these biochemical systems.)

And so on. Basic upshot is that in order for the more complex limb with digits to have arisen from a fin design, the fin design would need to have been scrapped completely - the fins or lepidotrichia would be gone. Hence, the arrival of a new bauplan (body design) requiring an increase in complex functional information to arise on the genetic level, properly regulated so as to code for functioning limbs instead of thalidomide nightmares (or hyperphalangic hindrances - imagine Nosferatu picking his nose or wiping his arse with 10 foot long triple-hinged fingers)...

In other words, we need the genes to 'pop up' with all the new info for the hi-tech gadgets. Natural selection and mutation can only work with what's there - it can't do the biochemical equivalent of alchemy and make things (like complex and interrelated biochemistry to regulate limb-with-digit development) "appear" out of nowhere.

Some evolutionists will posit that the digits came from previous "radial" bones in the fish ancestor, and all that was needed was a mutation in order to duplicate the radials, until after numerous disasters and roulette wheel spins, we have a winner! Digits!

But consider: What would be happening is an unregulated growth algorithm running rampant due to mutation (for this is a non-guided process according to Darwin's hypothesis). If an indiscriminate duplicating of the radials - or internal bone structure of the fin - is taking place in the presumed fish ancestor, then the possibility for a non-functional result, such as hyperphalangy, is much more likely. (This is, of course, assuming that we've even gotten to the point of having any semblance of a functioning digit morphology for mutation to act upon - with all of the morphological and biochemical prerequisites mentioned above having been met.)

And natural selection would more likely weed out any genetic deviation from the fitness norm (depending on how strictly niched the organism is to it's ecology) rather than preserve potentially nascent structures. What we see in tetrapod fossils already are fully formed and (in most cases) functional limbs (even in a Hox gene example like Acanthostega, which has a fully digitated limb, not a fin. Which is why I think it's more reasonable to assume that Acanthostega's presumably mutated multi-digited limb happened *after* it was created, fully formed.)

So as with Vegas, so too in nature: The house always wins. "Hopeful monsters" aren't conscious capitalist ventures - faith in mutation and natural selection to "create miracles" is a false idealism, and I think it says more about Western thoughts on "success" and "beating the odds" than it does about factual biology.

Evolutionists tend to espouse the possibility of bioengineering wonders via mutation, but they seem to overlook the fact that their scenarios - while highly speculative and lacking experimental verification as is - are already assuming a complex state of affairs from the get go. To put it differently: They get the cart before the horse. They imagine what mutation can do in a fish limb, never realizing that the fish itself (not to mention a tetrapod like Acanthostega) is an already complex and fully functioning organism, complete with fully functional structures, both physiologically and biochemically.

Which is especially important to our scenario, since they propose that duplicating bones in the fin is enough to create digits - Well, where did the complex biochemical signaling for all of this duplicating and placing come from, in either fish or tetrapod? Where did the genetics come from to weave and form endochondral skeleton, musculature, nerve endings, and so on? Or cartilage? What about the ability of Hox genes to act as placement signaling for what later become interrelated morphological structures? Or the interlinked regulation between Shh and GLI3 expression, which is now understood as being an important factor in proper limb/digit development?...

These are the questions that evolutionists tend to overlook, unintentionally at times I think. The usual recourse is on the superficial: "It *looks* like a fin, therefore..."

2. Doubling or repetition of already existent genetic info (in this case, the genetic pathways for digit development in Acanthostega) does not constitute an increase in functional genetic info.

It's pure semantics to try to say that repeating an already complex signal is an increase in complexity. In the case of Hox gene duplication - and presumably the multi-digit state of Acanthostega - the complexity in the genome was already coded for: Acanthostega already had a fully functional limb with digits, which I believe mutated and doubled. (Polyphylangy! ...There's that word again.)

Anyhow, this business with having multiple digits, it's like copying and pasting an image multiple times on your computer: You may have more of the same image, and it may alter the content of a folder (more images, more hard drive space taken for more images), and the image itself may be altered in the process (lacking pixels, file becoming corrupted). But ultimately, the copying process itself does not account for the initial creation of the image, much less the computer. The creating of a specific image - as well as the computer - would require intent, purpose, intelligent input and direction.

Add on top of that: The image is a full, high res, 1 gig picture of the Sistine Chapel. That's about the level of specificity and detail we're dealing with when speaking about genetics (even for lil' Acanthostega baby fingers...)
-Older reconstruction of Acanthostega; may be accurate. Courtesy: PBS

And remember, this applies to the host of *other* features that need to be accounted for in an evolving "fish-to-tetrapod" scenario. These would include the evolution of neural pathways, metabolism, reproductive and developmental pathways, respiratory, locomotory (in the case of fish, respiration and locomotion go hand in hand - it needs to swim in order to breath!). And on and on and on... Picture: Sistine Chapel covering the interior of the NASA space shuttle.

Ultimately, this portion of Darwin's explanation is a Victorian creation narrative: Very ingenious in trying to explain things, but which... well... breaks all the cardinal rules of science. None of these hypothetical scenarios involving macro evolutionary increases is in any way observable, testable, or repeatable in a scientific, laboratory setting. And it runs contra to observed genetics.

...On the upside for Darwinism, however, here's a fairly positive example of macro evolution in action:

Yes, it's me. And yes, I got tagged on this: Portray yourself as you were in junior high/high school, and who you are now. (You see? Increase in information... maybe not complex or functional most of the time, however...)

So, here I am... was.... whatever... in all my junior high glory. And then, onto the future, which... is presently now. And stuff. Yeah...

Notice that I moved on from Hasidic locks to grocery bag stylin's. Koshrut and all that.

Colerase, PS CS, copy paper... More to come soon, minus the nerdiness. (Or maybe not...)


Marnie L. Coggin said...

Hey the work..still waiting for my own original autographed piece.. what, 8 years now? IM me!! Marnie

Alina Chau said...


Sorrentino said...

Great blog!

Khylov said...


Yes, I know; but pieces that take time go up in value, right? It's an inflation-meets-appreciation thing. Or depreciation... whichever one applies to what I do.

Alina, Sorrentino;

Thanks all. Checking your pages now...

Munchanka said...

You've GOT to find a way to boil that down into less words. I'm very interested in evolutionary science, but I don't have the time to read all that!

What I do know is that scientists have found the missing link that shows that whales did indeed dwell on land at some point, ambulocetus.

Khylov said...


One thing to keep in mind: Facts vs. Interpretation of Facts.

I hear ya about the word length thing (and I’m about to throw any wisdom on that front into the wind here for a second), but that’s kinda part of the problem: When evidence is in isolation, it can be made to say various things, which may or may not comport to the rest of the evidence. One example is the anatomical details in fossils which are interpreted as evidence for macro evolution: In isolation from the rest of the evidence - like irreducibly complex organic biochemistry, or contradictory findings in other fossils - any gradation or any mixture of features by themselves can be made to “link” so-and-such organism in a Darwinian ladder.

In other words, it’s superficial: If it *looks* like a fin; if it *looks* like an artiodactyl anklebone,… or, if it *looks* like a transitional. The same could be said about any man made (or God made) set of objects: You could gradate a series of nuts and bolts - from 4 sided US standard to hexagonal metric; or show the evolution of cars - from a Ford Pinto to the V8 Koenigsegg CCXR; or you can even have a bitchin' cladogram of guitars – from a 2 stringed dutar to a highly specialized 6 string Ernie Ball custom, etc…

In effect, it’s a method of interpretation over objects – created objects - that says more about the human mind than it does about the thing described. (Fact vs. Interpretation!) Operational science can only describe things as is; it is very limited in being able to (if at all) inform us on past events we didn’t witness, nor witness today.

Heh, it’s interesting you brought up one of the several archaeocetes. I’ve read the papers by Gingerich, Thewissen, etc, on a pretty good cross section of these buggers, most notably Rodhocetus and Pakicetus (forerunners to Ambulo). Gingerich has really flip flopped over Rodhocetus’ sacral flexibility (wasn’t connected, was connected; he can’t make up his mind), the usage of teeth to first link them to mesonychids and then later having that same evidence written off as “lucky convergence”, the whole host of *other* cetacean features which aren’t accounted for in the whale evolution scenario (Pesky complexity in biochemistry), plus the fact that evolutionists have a hard time showing experimentally how genetic mistakes can create cetacean breathing regulation, echolocation, spinal syncliny,etc…

In short, there’re a lot of skeletons in the closet over this group. (*drum roll*).

Munchanka said...

Well said. My point is, nothing ISN'T a transitional species. There is no such thing as macroevolution, because there's no such thing as things staying the same. The natural world is constantly changing, man can only create words and phylums in a vein attempt to organize his own thoughts on the matter.

Feathers, for example, originally (we believe) developed on dinosaurs, too large for the remotest possibility of flight. Whether the downing was for insulation, defense, breeding, or catching food (like fish--this is Matt Nolte's theory), they are now evolved for flight.

I guess my question to you, is: do you believe in evolution?

Josh (musarter) said...

Your work is awesome. It also cool to see an artist who knows his science. Thanks for the explanation you gave Austin, well said.
I am no scientist and I am not as well read as you are, but I think the answer boils down to three main points: 1. Observable Genetic mutations have always been detrimental to specimens. 2. No one has observed cross species evolution; I don't buy the "magic fairy dust" referred to as Millions of years. 3. There is no such thing as a completely objective researcher.

Khylov said...

Austin, Josh;

Thanks both of you for touching base on this and letting me know your thoughts in more detail. I guess, to wrap up what I was going to say to both of you, I'll do it by answering Austin’s question: Do I believe in evolution? (Hope this be workin for both of you’s - and yes, this breaks the "short response" rule in spades, so bear with me.)

No, I don’t believe in the macro evolutionary scenario. I think the key word here is believe, mainly because we cannot observe, test, repeat, measure in real time the claims that paleontologists – or any paleo researcher - make in regards to macro evolutionary events. (I think what I said earlier explains the fact vs interpretation thing, as well as dealing with past events scientifically.)

What has been shown is that micro evolution, or variation, takes place – the relative beak size and shape of finches changing, due to food type changing seasonally in an isolated ecological niche; and so on. That is not in dispute.

This concept was forwarded by Blythe (a creationist researcher) 25 years before Darwin. Blythe formulated the idea of natural selection culminating and preserving certain varieties of form while eliminating others – population statistics basically, and didn’t say much of anything beyond that. Darwin took it the next step and gave natural selection the power to not only preserve, but also to bioengineer wholly complex and amazing features from a previously non-existent state through the same process. And evolutionists have said more or less the same thing for the past 150-plus years.

The problem here is that mutation and natural selection:

1. have to work with what’s already there to begin with genetically and biochemically (which is interrelated, complex, and functionally balanced as is, from the get-go – which begs the question of where *that* came from, especially in “the beginning”). And:

2. neither of these mechanisms has been shown to do anything more than culminate and cull what is already present within the genome. (reiterating Josh’s words earlier)

This is why we have varieties of organisms, such as dogs (Canids), many of which seem to have lost a good deal over the years, genetically speaking. The same could be said about a myriad of other animals, some of which retain features, others losing them, some actually regaining features that were lost through interbreeding (i.e., the possibility of distinct delphinid spinal features being regained in false killer whales by successful interbreeding with bottle nosed dolphins – which has actually happened in the last several years, the interbreeding anyhow).

What I do believe:

Think of it as a Lawn of Diversity - created discrete archetype kinds which have all the genetic potential from the beginning, having been initially created de novo, ex nihilo, and then subsequently diversifying according to the initial archetype “blueprint” (some features being latent, some being expressed).

Whether or not this diversity was the original intent of the creator at the beginning is up for grabs, but I do think that it this process of mutation has been accelerated and intentionally set out of balance, due to what is described as “the fall”, or curse on the current world due to sin. It’s a faith statement ultimately, but given the evidence – not only from scripture but from observational science - that animals have functional genetic limits and reproduce “according/after their kind”, and that mutation and natural selection cannot bioengineer life’s interrelated complexity, as well as living beings being born, suffering, and dying due to an imbalance in biology… I think this explanation is logically more satisfying than the worlds’ (and Darwin’s) take on origins.

Is cool that the issue of dinos with feathers is brought up. It’s another surprise that, I think, highlights the chimera challenge to researchers: When you find something unexpected in an organism, be it living or extinct, and it shatters all previous preconceptions - what do you do? I think the best thing is to admit that animals (such as the platypus or Rodhocetus/Georgiacetus) are way beyond our current conceptions of what constitutes a safe, easily defined taxonomy for animals.

Same with dinos with feathers – they may have been a juvenile layer of down that kept the animal warm before reaching (I would guess) adolescence. Whatever the explanation or purpose was, our inability to test the past scientifically can only leave us with speculation at best.

It also begs the question then: What were dinosaurs exactly? They may be a completely separate Class of their own, sharing affinities with reptiles but being something completely different. Again, the concept of human perceptions of the natural world; and the question arises of whether or not this comports to reality, or if it’s merely what the eye wants to see.

This situation though with dinos and classification, it would then be the same as how monotremes (platypii, echidnas) are in relation to marsupials and even mammals – sharing features, but also containing a chimeric assortment of other features from other classes or orders. Archaeopteryx, the osteolepiforms and tetrapodomorphs, archaeocetes, therapsids, etc – I think all of these are simply strange chimeric animals that, in our surprise and haste, we assign to cladograms and phylogenetic Darwin trees, exactly because we have no exact modern day analogue for them.

But I think we’ll find, as time goes on, that nature is a strange and wonderful place, definitely a fantasia that we enjoy for free. Man should be mindful of trying too hard to superimpose his own definitions on a created world that - by the Creator - brilliantly exceeds our own imaginations.

Josh (musarter) said...

What a wonderful response; well spoken. I think what you have written is very convincing but no atheist or evolutionist will change their mind because faith is a funny thing. In the end, we all believe what we believe based on our own life experience.

hollerinwoman said...

Stumbled on your site in a search for polydactyly, go figure. Your grasp of micro v. macro evolution is astounding. I thought for a minute you were my brother in disguise -- he's an apologetics geekizoid. Oh, and your drawings are nice, too, tee hee.

Khylov said...

....People read these posts? Huh. You'll have to excuse me; I'm normally used to the atypical bright eyed undergrad type who comes here with fire in their lungs and methane on their tongue - and who will unfailingly do me the unwelcomed favor of disgorging their said-gas in my comments section over this topic. So, is a nice surprise to have someone actually wishing me well on this subject, in a thoughtful manner, and complimenting the art to boot. So many thanks for that; much appreciated.

You and your bro sound like interesting folks. Wish I lived closer to the heartland - we all should go bowling sometime. Or, failing that, identifying polydactyl fauna in (quote, unquote) "Devonian"* strata.

Or a combination of both. At the same time. It could happen - we'd just need some lawnchairs, and several bowling pins masoned out of carboniferous rock.

(* Strata named not so much for the imagined time frame involved, but on account of the popular 80's art rock band from Ohio - known for classic radio grabbers such as "Whip It", "Blockhead", and "Synthesizers Will Outlive the 80's".)