Friday, December 25, 2009

The Problem(s) With Penguins

Penguins have always been a problem for evolution. Their flippers, for instance, are supposed to be the vestiges of wings. "Say again ...?" you say? That's right, according to evolution penguins are supposed to have evolved from an earlier bird with wings. The bird morphed into a penguin and the wings morphed into the penguin's flippers. Anyone who has seen a penguin swim knows its flippers are not just a happenstance design. The penguin is an incredible swimmer and the last thing that comes to mind is that its flippers somehow evolved from a wing. Of course for evolutionists this transition is a fact, even though they don't know how it happened.

Now penguins have been discovered to defy the much touted molecular clock. The molecular clock is simply a measure of the time that two species diverged from their common ancestor, as determined by their genetic differences. In other words, like the ticking of a clock, the steady stream of mutations, which help drive evolutionary change, accumulate and can be measured. Sometimes evolutionists have an idea of the supposed time since divergence from the fossil record. They use such cases to compute the rate at which the mutations accumulate, and once they know the rate they can use it in cases in which only the genetic data are available.

Evolutionists have been using this concept of the molecular clock for almost fifty years. But the clock is consistently wrong and the concept is becoming increasingly suspect. As with the steady ticking of a clock, problems with the molecular clock concept have slowly but surely continued to mount. Indeed, molecular clock predictions have been falsified many times over. Here's one example of many.

Early on it was found that the molecular clock varies dramatically depending on context. It would be like the clock in the kitchen running twice as fast as the clock in the living room. For instance, if evolution is true then we must believe that this molecular clock varies dramatically for different types of proteins. The histone IV protein, for example, shows only a few changes

Evolutionists concluded that histone IV must have a highly constrained design. Histone IV is involved in DNA packing, and surely that role is too important to monkey with. As evolutionist Thomas Jukes wrote:

... the histones are a class of proteins that are bound to DNA in cells that possess a nucleus. They take part in the formation of nucleosomes. Any change in histones could therefore have a destructive effect on the integrity of the cell.

Jukes had no empirical evidence for this claim. It was based solely on the assumption that evolution is true. It is one example of many of how evolution corrupts science. In this case, laboratory research showed that cells sustain histone IV changes with fewer problems than expected. And the other histones sustain changes even more readily.

It was yet another example of evolution interfering with scientific progress in general, and of a molecular clock failure in particular. Now we are learning of dramatic failures of the molecular clock in penguins. These data are interesting because they are from penguin remains as old as 44,000 years. These remains allow for empirical comparison of old and current genomes (mitochondrial in this case), and the differences are several times off the molecular clock prediction.

Religion drives science and it matters.


  1. Merry Christmas Cornelius,

    Your blog is the best. I enjoy it more than any other science blog. You have an expertise in evolutionary biology that no other blog has to my knowledge. You can translate the science into english I can understand. Your analysis is unbiased, which is rare among evolutionists. I am sure you would be an evolutionist if the science supported it.

    As for the molecular clock, isn't it just another form of circumstantial evidence; evidence that in truth now argues against evolution? There is no link betweeen genetic mutation and beneficial phenotype change. It is mind boggling to me that evolutionists can believe the many simultaneous changes needed for evolution is possible by random fluctuations.

    I like to read some good science blogs from pro-evolutionst pov. They criticize other bloggers who do not have your level of expertise, but they never criticize you. I think they don't want any of their followers to learn the many serious weakenesses of Darwinism which you have convincingly shown.

    I always look forward to your next blog.

    Have a merry Christmas,

    Peter Wadeck

  2. Peter:

    Thank you for those kind comments. I agree with your point about evolutionists focusing on strawmen or weak criticisms. This has always reminded me of David Hume who, while obviously a smart fellow, apparently could not resist the great fun of exposing the naive and the simple and in the process finding satisfaction in his equally naive and simple conclusions. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  3. Cornelius,

    "a bird morphed into a penguin": are you suggesting that penguins aren't birds?

  4. "Anyone who has seen a penguin swim knows its flippers are not just a happenstance design. The penguin is an incredible swimmer and the last thing that comes to mind is that its flippers somehow evolved from a wing."

    A very odd assertion to make. Surely using wings to power yourself through water is very similar to using them to power yourself through air? There are some differences certainly (bouyancy v weight, water resistance, etc), but I have no trouble seeing how a flipper was once a wing.

    What do you see when you look at flightless cormorants?

    Their 'wings' are useless for flight, and indeed are used only as flippers with which to swim. Do you still see no resemblance to functional bird wings here?

    Then there are the wing/flipper bones. The bones in a penguin's flipper are thicker than those in the wing of a flying bird of a comparable size, but the arrangement of bones themselves are identical.

    Hardly comparing apples to oranges, is it?

    1. The debate is if not flippers and wings have the same functionality but if ever one morphed into another by the magic wand of evolution.
      Hope you got the thrust of my argument.To answer this,you ought to read Hunter's piece again and you will be enlightened.

  5. Histone H4 is mentioned. It's not correct to say that amino acid changes in H4 cause no problems. Don't get me wrong, Michael Behe's work was very good. I'm always amazed how people remain unaware of his work, essentially repeat his experiment, and are surprised to learn that many changes in H4 are viable. However, a mutant can be viable (not die) but still have problems. H4 is the most conserved of the histones, and as expected, changes in its amino acids are most likely to cause phenotypic effects. Here is the latest data from Huang et al. (2009) in Genome Research, Volume 19, pages 674-681 in their article entitled "HistoneHits: a database for histone mutations and their phenotypes":
    * between yeast and humans, H4 is 92% conserved at the amino acid level
    * 87% (89 out of 102) of the amino acids in H4 show some detectable phenotypic effect if altered by mutation
    * in contrast, for a much less conserved histone such as H2B, only 26 of the 112 tested amino acids have so far shown a phenotypic effect when altered (H2B has 130 amino acids in yeast, but 8 have yet to be tested)
    * mutations of the most conserved amino acids are 2.8 times more likely to give phenotypes than mutations of the least conserved amino acids

  6. cfauster: Thanks for those rolled up statistics.