Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

Swimming bacteria defy Darwin

Science | New study unintentionally highlights irreducible complexity in nature
by Julie Borg
Posted 1/18/18, 03:25 pm

Tiny biological motors that give bacteria the power to swim possess a complexity that baffles scientists and undercuts Darwin’s theory of evolution. A recent study in Scientific Reports claims the existence of the motors shows evolution produces inevitable and creative ideas, terminology that sounds more like the work of God than of natural selection.

“Natural selection is supposed to be blind, random, and uncaring, but not here,” Discovery Institute experts wrote on the organization’s blog.

Each of the proteins involved in the bacterial motor’s function is essential. The motors could not have worked before all the right accidental mutations required by natural selection took place, but with no survival benefit, natural selection would not choose them.

Charles Darwin himself admitted that the discovery of such irreducible complexity would destroy his assumptions. “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down,” he wrote in On the Origin of Species.

Nevertheless, the researchers said a biological “quantum leap” spurred the evolution of bacterial motors. Lead researcher Morgan Beeby likened the quantum leap to what would happen if the necks of giraffes suddenly increased in length because a giraffe gave birth to offspring with necks a meter longer, rather than because an extended series of random mutations over many years favored longer-necked giraffes.

“Evolution at the molecular scale is much more radical,” Beeby said. He described evolution as a creative process that “is constantly churning out new molecular ideas.”

Discovery Institute experts pointed out the inconsistencies between Beeby’s theory and Darwin’s: “Whatever ‘evolution’ Beeby is talking about is surely not Darwin’s variety, or that of neo-Darwinians, either. He has essentially proposed miracles by another name.”

Associated Press/Photo by Cliff Owen Associated Press/Photo by Cliff Owen An Ebola vaccine lab at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Vaccine makers struggle to respond to epidemics

Deadly infectious diseases that can attack without warning and spread quickly often leave drug manufacturers scrambling to develop new vaccines. When viruses such as SARS, H1N1, West Nile, Zika, and Ebola became public health emergencies in recent years, major vaccine producers set their profit-making activities aside to address the situation. But now, according to the news site STAT, many pharmaceutical companies say they can no longer do so.

Vaccine manufacturers who race to respond to crises are forced to reallocate resources and disrupt daily operations for an endeavor that will likely cost them much in the long-run. The process to develop new drugs is expensive and slow. Often companies find that by the time they can get a new medication ready the demand no longer exists.

One company, GSK was burned twice. In 2009 the company raced to produce a vaccine for the H1N1 flu epidemic, but when it finished the vaccine the outbreak slowed, public fear calmed, and many countries refused to take or pay for the vaccines they had ordered. Novartis experienced the same difficulty and has since ended its vaccine operation.

GSK also responded during the recent Ebola crisis but had to shelve the experimental vaccine it developed. Rip Ballou, head of GSK’s research and development center for global vaccines, told STAT the company does not want to turn down pleas for help in an emergency, but the way the organization responded in the past is no longer sustainable.

Russia and China are the only countries that have developed licensed Ebola vaccines. It looks as though no U.S.-manufactured Ebola vaccines will make it through the rigorous licensing process before 2019, STAT reported. —J.B.

LabCorp patents first diagnostic test for autism

LabCorp recently patented the first-ever diagnostic test for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), reported the Times News of Burlington, N.C., where the company is headquartered.

Identification of autism is difficult and subjective because symptoms vary and often overlap with other disorders. Doctors are left with only behavioral observations and caregiver reports to formulate a diagnosis.

The new test, which uses tissue samples to identify variants in a patient’s genetic code, should enable doctors to diagnose the developmental disorders earlier and with better accuracy.

ASD refers to a group of developmental disorders that involve a wide range of symptoms including social impairment, communication difficulties, and a restricted range of interests and activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that ASD afflicts about one out of every 68 children in the United States. —J.B.

No alien megastructure orbits Tabby’s Star

For the past two years a mysterious, flickering celestial body, Tabby’s Star, has captured the imaginations of those who think we may not be alone in the universe. Scientists puzzle about what causes the unusual star, over 1,000 light years from Earth, to periodically dim by up to 20 percent. Some thought perhaps an advanced alien civilization created a megastructure that orbited the star, but researchers recently analyzed new data that ruled out that hypothesis. The new information does not identify the source of the dimming, but researchers said most likely dust or comets account for the phenomenon. Or possibly Tabby’s star just dims occasionally on its own. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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