Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mammalian-Like Clockwork in the Honey Bee

More than forty years ago evolutionists coined the term molecular clock to describe their concept that molecular changes tick away over long time periods and so can be used to measure how long it has been since two species have diverged from their common ancestor. Molecular clock predictions have consistently been falsified and in recent years a different sort of clock--the circadian clock--has also been found to have unexpected genetic patterns.

You may remember from second grade that honey bees perform a dance to guide other bees to food sources. Aristotle observed their intricate movements and Karl von Frisch won a Nobel Prize in 1973 for decoding the language of the bee. In fact bees can return to the same source many miles away and at precise times during the day. One important enabling design is the bee's circadian clock, which plays a role in several complex functions. As one paper put it:

The circadian clock of the honey bee is implicated in ecologically relevant complex behaviors. These include time sensing, time-compensated sun-compass navigation, and social behaviors such as coordination of activity, dance language communication, and division of labor.

Of course evolutionists do not know how such wonders arose by themselves. And recently the story became even more unbelievable when it was discovered that the bee's molecular clockwork contradicts evolutionary expectations. That is, structure and expression patterns of genes associated with the bee's clock are inconsistent with the fly and closer to mammalian clock genes. As one evolutionist admitted:

the discovery raises many additional questions concerning the evolution of biological clocks and the significance of differences in the organization of the clock in different creatures. For example, why is the clock of bees closer to humans than that of flies? Is the similarity between bees and mammals related to the behavioral complexity of bees? How did the clock of ancestral insects work: was it more similar to that of bees or flies?

It is yet another surprise to evolutionists who are really having their clocks cleaned.


  1. Cornelius,
    a few things:

    1) circadian clock genes make terrible candidate molecular clocks, because, as you note, they have highly divergent functions and hence would not be expected to evolve at a constant rate. this is why good molecular clocks employ non-coding genes or focus on silent mutations. so that these genes don't work as molecular clocks is hardly a failed prediction; if anything, it's a succesful prediction.

    2)gene expression patterns have nothing to do with molecular clocks, which are based on sequences. so why do you lump this in with "molecular clock expectations?"

    3)while we don't know exactly how these genes arose, researchers are making progress. see here for an example: Yuan et al. 2007 Mol biol Evol 24:948. but until we have a mutation-by-mutation account, i gues it does't count, right>

    4) do you always cite the words of a science writer as if they were the words of a researcher? or do you consider the author of the article to be an "evolutionist", too?

    otherwise, great, crystal clear post, as usual.

  2. oh, and points 1) and 2) were written as if the authors of the work actually did any molecular clock analyses, as you incorrectly imply.

  3. Khan:

    "so that these genes don't work as molecular clocks is hardly a failed prediction; if anything, it's a successful prediction."

    Ah, hah, only an evolutionist could find a successful prediction here. I agree that using the molecular clock, rather than a more general homology argument, was a stretch (the pun was irresistable), but only because the differences are so great (ie, the finding of a gene family in the honey bee that otherwise had been found in vertebrates but not insects).

    And no, I did not mean to lump the expression level differences in with the molecular clock, you have to draw the line somewhere in how much detail you explain.

    It would be a dramatic misrepresentation of science to tell folks that these results constitute a successful prediction for evolution.

    As for Yuan Mol biol Evol 24:948, this is an unfortunate example of shoe-horning the evidence into the evolution model. Evolutionists require that evolution is true, and will describe all observations in terms of evolution, no matter how heroic the theory must become.

    From a theory-neutral perspective their claims are not scientific. They discuss the dramatic genetic differences in the *cry* gene family patterns, and use massive evolutionary change, with the usual abundance of gene duplication events, massive mutations that led to new functionality, and gene loss events, to describe their origin.

    This is the usual evolutionary speculation that has nature performing all kinds of creative functions that we otherwise have little reason to think it could do. Yes, we do see things degrade, but the adaptive improvements we observe are via extremely complex, sophisticated, built-in adaptation mechanisms which provide pre-planned adaptation pathways.

  4. Cornelius,
    so you sacrifice accuracy and rigor for the sake of a good pun. no wonder no one cites your papers (h-index of 2, meaning you have 2 papers cited more than two times).. although i guess that's not bad since you've only published 3.

  5. Cornelius,
    it's also a dramatic misrepresentation of science to claim that this research had anything to do with molecular clocks. or that a different gene family is found in insects and mammals (or is drosophila not an insect?). or that gene expression has anything to do with molecular clocks (you still haven't corrected the mistake). or that finding unexpected result is a reason to discard an entire theory. being a protein guy, i'm sure you realize how badly theoretical Ramachandran plots sometimes predict emprically measured plots. does this mean that sterochemistry theory should be discarded?

  6. "you still haven't corrected the mistake"

    Done, thanks.

    "or that finding unexpected result is a reason to discard an entire theory"

    But I didn't say that.