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Natural selection’s mixed-up marching orders
EVOLUTION | Scientific evidence once again disproves Darwin’s theory
by Julie Borg
Posted 1/11/18, 04:04 pm
Natural selection predicts populations should show gradual improvement and increased fitness. But, time and again, scientific studies reveal the assumptions of evolutionary theory are just plain wrong.
In a study published last year in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers compared the body structure of modern humans to fossils of Pleistocene hominins, a species evolutionists believe are human ancestors who lived during the most recent Ice Age. The scientists analyzed the relationship of hip width, femur length, and body mass to determine how much energy walking requires.
The leaner skeletons and narrower pelvis of modern humans reduce the work the hip muscles must do to maintain stability while walking, the scientists said. Based on the predictions of natural selection, they believed the bio-mechanical advantage of modern humans should require fewer calories for locomotion.
But contrary to the predictions of natural selection, the researchers found the broader pelvis of the Pleistocene hominins worked much more efficiently.
The so-called “March of Progress,” the ultimate icon of human evolution, depicts a sequence of primates marching from left to right, beginning with an ape-like creature and ending with modern man. The pictorial display implies evolution is progressive.
That progress, according to evolutionary theory, should include improved locomotion, David Coppedge, founder of the Creation Evolution Headlines blog, wrote. But it seems the iconic march is heading the wrong way.
“Living things owe no obligation to Darwin,” Coppedge noted. “They will break his laws with reckless abandon.”
Associated Press/Photo by Vahid Salemi (file)An Iranian technician works at the nuclear plant targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus.
Preventing a deadly biodata breach
Biologists’ increasing use of computer technology to store and analyze data has allowed researchers to begin decoding the human genome, create organisms with new functions, and make great headway in drug development and food safety. But sometimes our technological capabilities run ahead of our understanding of the dangers they pose.
In an article published by the online news source The Conversation, two Colorado State University researchers, Jean Peccoud and Jenna Gallegos, sounded the alarm that these new digitized capabilities also carry some pretty frightening security risks.
The threats, according to Peccoud and Gallegos, fall into two main categories: sabotaging equipment and creating dangerous biological materials.
In 2010, the malicious computer virus Stuxnet targeted computers and equipment run by the computers at a nuclear plant in Iran. A similar virus aimed at government laboratories that study infectious diseases or pharmaceutical companies producing life-saving drugs could wreak havoc, the researchers warned.
The danger that terrorists or others with ill intent could easily access genetic information online and use it to design or reconstruct deadly pathogens also poses an escalating risk. For example, in 2006, a journalist managed to order a fragment of smallpox DNA through the mail using online data available to the public.
In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used published DNA sequences to reconstruct the Spanish influenza virus of 1918 that killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide.
“It is time to start thinking about the security of digital DNA material now, not after a cyberbiosecurity breach has happened,” the researchers argued. —J.B.
Killer cells protect newly created fetus
New research from China shows that God designed the human uterus to nourish a baby and promote its growth from the start, even before the placenta forms and takes over that role.
In the study, published in the journal Immunity, scientists discovered that natural immune cells, called “killer cells,” found in the lining of the uterus help to optimize maternal nourishment of the baby and secrete growth-promoting factors. These cells, abundant in the uterus during the first trimester, decline substantially in number after the placenta forms. The killer cells promote the growth of blood vessels that increase fetal nourishment and growth, positively affecting birth weight.
When the researchers transferred natural killer cells to the uteruses of pregnant mice whose fetuses suffered from growth impairments, the impairments reversed. The researchers suggest transferring killer cells to pregnant women intravenously or through vaginal suppositories might accomplish the same effect in humans. Natural killer cells, which do not cause tumor growth, also offer a much safer alternative to embryonic stem cell therapies that require the death of a human embryo.
Of course, the researchers, unable to see the handiwork of God in the protection of a brand new life, described the killer cells as “endowed with unique functions that developed during the evolution of mammalian pregnancy.” —J.B.
Warning: Social bots may be hazardous to your health
Fake social media has become a common occurrence that can sway public opinion regarding a multitude of subjects. Now, researchers at the University of Southern California show social bots, automated accounts that use artificial intelligence to influence people, not only promote products and inaccurate ideas but also can encourage unhealthy behavior.
To investigate the potential harm of fake social media, the researchers studied automated Twitter accounts that spread claims electronic cigarettes help people stop smoking. Scientific research does not show e-cigarettes assist smoking cessation and several studies have shown vape juice contains harmful chemicals.
In the social bot study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Public Health and Surveillance, researchers analyzed nearly 2.2 million e-cigarette-related posts on Twitter over a four-month period. The researchers found social bots promote the idea that e-cigarettes empower people to quit smoking twice as often as human-generated tweets.
Jon-Patrick Allem, lead researcher, said social bots that pass on scientifically unproven health advice can be especially dangerous because “they are designed to promote a specific, slanted narrative—24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
The team plans to focus additional research on areas such as tanning beds, dietary supplements, fad diets, and soft drinks. —J.B.
Parent-baby mind meld
Parents love to gaze at their babies, and a new research study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that loving looks involve more than just admiration. The researchers studied the EEG patterns of 36 infants interacting with parents. They found mutual, direct eye contact actually synchronizes the brain waves of a parent and baby. —J.B.
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