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Three Stunners Challenge Traditional Darwinism

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Photo: Titanokorys gainesi, by Jean-Bernard Caron & Joseph Moysiuk, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Here are three unrelated but surprising discoveries that will be of interest to the intelligent design community.

Shared Code

Scientists at Flinders University in Australia found that our DNA spreads up to a meter around us without even touching anything. We’re leaving breadcrumbs of genetic code everywhere we go!

A person can leave DNA on a surface without directly touching it, a Flinders University study has found, with the longer someone spends in a room the more likely they are to leave a trace of themselves behind.

The researchers placed DNA collection plates half a meter to five meters apart in offices that had been sanitized.

Without anyone directly touching the collection plates, DNA from multiple people was present after only one day, with the DNA profiles stronger the closer the plates were to an individual and the longer they stayed out. [Emphasis added.]

They published their findings in Forensic Science International Genetics

This discovery will be alarming to criminals, as they learn that police can follow their trail even without fingerprints. For the rest of us, it illustrates two things: (1) Forensics is an example of intelligent design in action, and (2) Our earth is indeed a privileged planet. It is loaded with complex specified information! What other world in our solar system can boast of such a distinction? Think of it: coded information is everywhere in our world: in clouds, on rock walls, in the soil, and even under the seafloor. Code not only inhabits life; it makes the world habitable, traveling on global transportation systems.

We share our personal CSI everywhere we go, resembling the character “Pig-Pen” in the old Peanuts cartoons, who walked with a cloud of dust around him — except that our dust is the most densely packed information in the known universe. Presumably our whole genome could be reconstructed from invisible particles that float off our skin and breath, as if we are sharing copies of our biography everywhere we go — a biography so information-rich that if printed in 130 volumes would require 95 years to read (University of Leicester).

Cambrian Giant

Remember when fossil hunters found Marble Canyon, a fossil bed in Canada that surpassed the Burgess Shale in extent and species richness? Scientists have extricated another amazing fossil there: a giant predator unlike anything seen before. Named Titanokorys gainesi by the Royal Ontario Museum, it is half a meter long, almost as big as the famous Anomalocaris.

“The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling, this is one of the biggest animals from the Cambrian period ever found,” says Jean-Bernard Caron, ROM’s Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology.

Like Anomalocaris, it has a toothed round mouth characteristic of radiodonts (round teeth). And like all the Cambrian animals, there is no evidence of transitional forms. Titanokorys carried a big carapace over its soft parts, including its enormous head and a suite of complex organs.

Like all radiodonts, Titanokorys had multifaceted eyes, a pineapple slice-shaped, tooth-lined mouth, a pair of spiny claws below its head to capture prey and a body with a series of flaps for swimming.

Live Science’s coverage begins with a 3D animation of the animal’s body plan. That’s a pretty big and complex animal to explode into the fossil record. Marble Canyon, remember, is thought to be earlier than the Burgess Shale. Remember, too, that a vertebrate fish called Metaspriggina was discovered there.

Calling on the DNA Cable

Proteins communicate long distance through DNA, announces the Weizmann Wonder Wander site. This may provide new theories about how proteins activate genes, contrary to the old “central dogma” that taught one-way communication from DNA to protein.

Proteins can communicate through DNA, conducting a long-distance dialogue that serves as a kind of genetic “switch,” according to Weizmann Institute of Science researchers. They found that the binding of proteins to one site of a DNA molecule can physically affect another binding site at a distant location, and that this “peer effect” activates certain genes. This effect had previously been observed in artificial systems, but the Weizmann study is the first to show it takes place in the DNA of living organisms.

The research also bears on the interesting discovery of horizontal gene transfer occurring in DNA libraries in the soil (see “Non-Mendelian Inheritance Undermines Neo-Darwinism”). A team at the Weizmann Institute of Science was looking into how some bacteria can “enrich their genomes by taking up bacterial gene segments scattered in the soil around them,” when they tapped into a long-distance “conversation” on DNA. When two copies of a transcription factor called ComK bind to DNA, they transmit a signal down the “wire” that facilitates binding by ComK at another remote binding site. The activation of all four copies surpasses a threshold, “switching on the bacterium’s gene scavenging ability.”

“We were surprised to discover that DNA, in addition to containing the genetic code, acts like a communication cabletransmitting information over a relatively long distance from one protein binding site to another,” Rosenblum says.

What is the physical mechanism for this kind of information transmission? They suggest it might involve twisting tension in the double helix. Perhaps, though, that is just the carrier signal on which higher-level information is transmitted.

They found that the sites must be at a specific distance from each other and have the same orientation, but that the intervening sequence of DNA letters had little effect. Perhaps this finding will unveil more function in so-called “junk” DNA.

“Long-distance communication within a DNA molecule is a new type of regulatory mechanism — one that opens up previously unavailable methods for designing the genetic circuits of the future,” Hofmann says.

Their paper in Nature Communications by Rosenblum et al. dispenses with the obligatory Darwin formalities briefly. “Whether natural promoters evolved to efficiently transmit allosteric signals across many nanometres remained largely unclear,” they say. Maybe it’s unclear because Darwinism puts static on the line.

Intelligent Design Expectations

Shared code, another Cambrian giant, and DNA communication all fit within intelligent design expectations, but challenge traditional Darwinism. The more that design advocates can present better explanations for surprising discoveries like these, the faster some researchers may pay attention to the design revolution that is clearly underway.