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Biology 103 Mid-Term Examination

You may use your notes. You may not use your textbooks or other materials.

Points will not be awarded simply for length of response. Quality of response regardless of length is important.

 

1. Exactly how natural selection acted to produce the modern human form remains hotly contested. Stedman et. al writing in Nature made a stunning contribution to our understanding of this process when they showed that a change (mutation) in a single Jaw muscle protein could have led to the development of the larger human brain capacity. They have shown that the smaller jaw may have created room for the larger brain to develop.

 

This article was the subject of considerable class discussion. Demonstrate your familiarity with the research and the issues it raises. How might this discovery streamline our understanding of human evolution and work to unify divergent theories?

 

Be as thorough as possible, utilizing material from class discussions and the reading assignments.

40 Points. Approximately 25 minutes. This answer will be graded by Professor Lewis.

Although this topic was covered thoroughly in class, I was not ever under the impression  in those discussions or in the assigned readings that we had to consider this research valid in any respect.  My first reaction was to think “this must be a joke”, but upon reflection I thought, “this must be a joke”—no offense.

 

I hope to demonstrate a clear familiarity and understanding of the paper, the findings and the conclusions reached by the authors but after doing so, I hope to show exactly why I believe that this kind of  research” is unlikely to unify evolutionists and contribute to our understanding of human origins. Those who think it might provide some unity believe the idea is some kind of smoking gun which provides a reason and a mechanism for humans to have evolved from apes who otherwise seem perfectly happy and well adapted to their environments.

 

The authors, Stedman et.al, submitted a paper to the journal Nature, which they published—indicating that not only is there pressure on Academic types to get published, but that there must also be pressure on certain magazines to publish-especially in the hotly contested area of human origins. Not to long ago, the National Geographic rushed into print an article on bird to dinosaur evolution which they came to regret when the fossil underpinning the article turned out to be  fake.  Another mythical transitional fossil disappeared with hardly a sound.

 

The proposition that the authors want us to consider is that a muscle protein mutation might be correlated with a change in brain size among human ancestors.  The idea is that this change reduced the “stiffness of the jaw”, shrinking the very large and powerful jaw muscles of gorilla-like primates, and therefore allowing brain size to grow. 

 

This caused even some evolutionists , I’m sure, to exclaim “No! dude! seriously? They published it?! No doubt this is the same idea that Steadman (the author) had rejected by his teacher for science fair in the eight grade.  A sure sign that the authors here are way off base is that some in the evolutionary community dismissed it (their proposition) even before “creation scientists” could.  It should be noted that the authors are not paleoentologists or anthropologists (who usually are at fault for jumping to unwarranted conclusions in my opinion) but cosmetic surgeons  and biologists. (Not that I’m slamming their credentials).

 

Different types of myosin are produced in different  muscles; in the chewing and biting muscles of the jaws, the gene MYH16 is expressed.  The Penn researchers  claim”  that they discovered” humans have a mutation in the gene that prevents the MYH16 protein from accumulating. That limits the size and power of the muscle.  This mutation assumption comes from the further assumption  that humans are descendants of apes. Apes do not have this gene (which limits muscle  buildup in the jaw) and so it is assumed that it is a “mutation” in humans.

 

I feel that again I am in “good company” when I criticize this research because even mainstream evolutionists have and are doing so.  "The mutation would have reduced the Darwinian fitness of those individuals," said anthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University. "It only would've become fixed if it coincided with mutations that reduced tooth size, jaw size and increased brain size. What are the chances of that?"

 

It’s true that many evolutionists embraced the idea. Science Magazine is a science popularizer. It takes original research and scientific articles from the scientific journals and “dumbs it down” for the more general scientific reader’s consumption.  Elizabeth Pennisi writes for “Science”. It was no doubt a Herculean task to dumb down such a dumb article, but she was up to it, writing : “A change in a single muscle protein may have been a key step in the evolution of modern humans, according to a new theory,”.

 

And, University of Michigan  anthropologist Milford Wolpoff called the research "just super." Anthropologists rarely get more insightful than that!

 

At first, I counted Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University as an ally when he said of the theory with teeth clenched: “Such a claim is counter to the fundamentals of evolution”.

 

But then I thought wait!. Counter to the fundamentals of evolution? That’s some kind of sneaky oxymoron. There is no such thing as “cafeteria cuisine”. There is no such thing as “delicious diet cola”. There is no such thing as the “fundamentals of evolution”. As you stated as a premise to your question, many issues in “evolutionary theory” are hotly contested. What isn’t counter to the “fundamentals of evolution”? Certainly, common sense is counter. The first law of physics and the second; thermodynamics are also counter to the “fundamentals of evolution”, but apparently, he hadn’t noticed that.

 

There are so many problems with this theory that one is almost paralyzed trying to decide which direction to go in or which topic to pursue. Has brain size and intelligence ever been significantly correlated—for one? Many people who have lost half their brains for one reason or another (medical reasons) are still smarter than apes.  Presumably small brained midgets and children (who have small brains?) are smarter than apes. In fact, most half brained people all  midgets and many children are smart enough to reject this theory.

 

Another one of the primary objections to the theory is the” just so” story (a wonderful, coincidental chain of events) that must be believed and accepted on faith for it all to make sense . The “just so story” was created some  time  ago to fill in the missing details in evolutionary theory.

 

Evolutionists love the just so story so much that even discredited ones continue to be used. For example, the textbook for this class:  “Molecular Biology of the Cell”, by Bruce  Alberts, et.al, 2002 Edition, is $110.00 on Amazon and $135 in the bookstore.  Now, they may have fixed it in the 2002 Edition, (I don’t know) but in my 1994 version ($60.00 used), it still refers to Haecles’s "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, ( a foetus goes thru stages of evolution) just so story on page 32. This bogus chestnut was discredited over 100 years ago! This would be like paying $100 bucks plus for a book in my Physical Geography class which claimed that the earth was flat or that the sun orbits the earth!

 

Lets see; the jaw shrinks and there is large brain (with all the bells and whistles) magically available to fill the new space? Another mutation immediately or concurrently follows that shrinks the size of the teeth, which are controlled by an entirely different set of genes? Just so story telling on the Shakespearean level! I guess we’re just lucky that smaller jaws didn’t lead to  huge necks  or giant chins?!

 

Finally, the last issue that I will mention is one of information—the incredible amount of information present in DNA which codes all these systems. Once we began finding out about DNA and understanding the complexity of our DNA and genetic system, it should have been more and more impossible to believe that this kind of change in an organism could occur through a single mutation.

 

What is the source of this information? Who is doing the complex coding of DNA? DNA not only tells the organism what to express, but also when to express, how long to express etc. I believe that evolutionists have been taking a free lunch on this by assuming that very complex information can arise purely by chance.

 

Scotty’s Paradox: The Free Lunch

 

In the Movie “Star Trek, the Voyage Home”, chief engineer Scott (visiting our time) wants to obtain a huge tank to hold the whales which are the subject of the film, and take them back with him to the future. He decides to bargain with “transparent aluminum”, which exists in the future, but not here in the present. (Actually it does, but I double digress). Bones, another character, objects that by giving the engineer the formula here in the present, they might change the future.

 

Scotty solves the problem by saying “hey, maybe he invented it”!

 

Neat huh! It exists in the future because this guy invented it in the past. On the other hand, he was able to “invent it” because someone in the future gave him the formula. This is the paradox and the free lunch. Where did the knowledge for transparent aluminum actually come from? From nowhere!? From the ether. No one actually had to spend any time on research and development—it just is. In real life, some intelligence is always responsible for artifacts of intelligence!

 

Evolutionists often unwittingly try to take advantage of the same paradox. Where did the complex information in our DNA come from? The ether! That’s literally where they believe it comes from. Like matter, in their minds it appeared—like magic!

 

Evolutionists  believe that no intelligence was actually utilized or consumed in the construction of systems so complex, they dwarf everything that man has ever built in terms of design and function.

2. As we’ve discussed in lecture, Kettlewell’s peppered moths remain as one of the best, if not the best, examples of natural selection ever found.  It is recognized as “one of the best examples of the impact on a species of a change in the environment,” and “a classic example of evolution in action”. “Industrial melanism” is a demonstration of the importance of natural selection in the process of evolution.” 

 

Recently, justified but minor criticisms of Kettlewell’s methodology by evolutionists have led some outside the mainstream of science to criticize the peppered moth example. Demonstrate your knowledge and familiarity with this valuable evolutionary example. Describe the experiment and its implications.  Respond to criticisms of the experiment. How have critics missed the boat? Why is this example still important one?

 

Be as thorough as possible, utilizing material from class discussions or from the textbook.

30 Points. Approximately 20 minutes. This answer will be graded by a teacher’s assistant.

In the late 1800’s  scientist J.w. Tutt came  up with an idea now known as “industrial melanism.” With respect to peppered moths, he theorized that in areas free of pollution,  lichen growing on trees would better camouflage light colored moths and conversely, in areas with factories that produced pollution, there would be no lichen and the tree trunks would be darker better camouflaging the dark moths. Whichever moths were better camouflaged would be less likely to be eaten by predators (birds) and so would dominate the population of the moths.(Who knew they had pollution problems in the late 1800's?)

 

Kettlewell  designed  and completed a series of experiments which ostensibly showed that this theory of “natural selection” was correct.  Evolutionists had been looking for data which bolstered natural selection as the operating method, as the engine of evolution. In Kettlewell and in the peppered moths

(Biston betularia), they appeared to have found valuable evidence.

 

Michael Majerus, an evolutionist, was one of the first to question Kettlewell’s methodology. His point was not so much to question Kettlewell’s integrity or to question his experimental conclusions, but rather to point out problems in the design of the experiment. Kettlewell had apparently glued some  moths to trees in daylight where  they became easy marks for predators even though Bistons were nocturnal and given a choice did not hang out on tree trunks. Also, he failed to determine  if the predators might have a predilection for one moth over another, mixed results  with dead moths and live moths etc..

 

Those opposed to the theory of evolution seized on Majerus ‘ comments and those of other evolutionists such as  Jerry Coyne who wrote Nature in 1998 that “for the time being, we must discard Biston as a well-understood example of natural selection in action, although it is clearly [sic] a case of evolution.”  Kettlewell has at this time it seems been largely discredited through books like Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells and others.

 

Opponents of evolutionary theory point out that what Kettlewell tried to show with respect to the moths only constituted micro-evolution in any case. At all times there were light and dark moths and no mutations, no new genes, no new DNA were created or even alleged. The only change was in relative numbers of pre-existing dark and light moths. 

 

Also, it must be noted that natural selection itself has been discredited in the eyes of many evolutionists as being sufficient in and of itself to produce changes in species that evolutionists believe occurred. Hence, the advent of such theories as “hopeful monsters” have been advanced as alternatives.

 

Majerus has been very hard at work trying to resuscitate Kettlewell out of I guess a sense of guilt and outrage that creationists would stoop so low as to quote him concerning flaws in the experiment. He reportedly is hard at work on new peppered moth experiments with a design that will be critic proof.

 

Evolutionists feel that it is important to have a pristine example of natural selection upon which to build their entire evolutionary apparatus and particularly bridle at the suggestion that an arrow was taken from their quiver by creationists.

 

The Sugared Donut

 

I’m not sure if extra credit is available on this question but I have designed and completed an experiment of my own which I believe duplicates the elements of Kettlewell, proving the efficacy of natural selection as an evolutionary process, but which also avoids some of the design problems (if not ethical ones) of his experiments. I call it the Sugared Donut.

 

Background:

 

Since the beginning of the term, and even before, our dorm unit has had delivered a dozen and a half (18) glazed donuts and a dozen and a half glazed donuts with powdered sugar, in separate boxes every two weeks. This is at a  cost of  approximately $15/monthly.

 

There are six men in our dorm. The donuts are kept in the refrigerator because they will mold if left out more than 2 or 3 days.

 

The Experiment:

 

One box goes on the top shelf and is easily accessible. The other box goes below, and has to sit behind the milk etc. Question? Will the  proportion of glazed donut to sugared donuts be impacted by the external environment; i.e. –on which shelf the respective  donuts are installed?

 

What would the natural predators of the donuts (us) do? I was to keep careful track of the donut consumption over a one month period. I decided that for experimental integrity, I could not eat the donuts. I was forced to get my donuts through  other sources.

 

For the first two weeks, I made sure  that the glazed donuts were on top and the sugared donuts were below. By the way, after a week all the donuts would begin to harden despite the refrigerator and I equate that with Kettlewell using dead moths—so the analogy is completely holding up at this point.

 

At the end of the first two weeks of the experiment, there were no (zero) glazed donuts  (top shelf) and four of the sugared donuts remaining. Obviously, the predators first zeroed in on the least camouflaged donuts (glazed) and only went after the sugared donuts (generally speaking) after the easy prey had been consumed.

The  Final Two Weeks

 

At this point, I took the new fresh donuts and placed the glazed donuts on the bottom shelf and placed the sugared donuts on the accessible, top shelf.

 

Here, I need to be upfront with a couple of occurrences which might impact experimental results if not my conclusions.

 

1)I ate one of the glazed donuts during the second week. Then I ate one of the sugared donuts so as to balance out my intervention.

 

2)Jeffrey, who ate donuts in weeks one and two was expelled from school during week three, leaving only four natural predators and myself for the final two weeks.

 

What happened, you may have heard about was the  whole Dean Miller scandal. Dean Miller, the Dean of the Biology Dept. had married his former teachers assistant (he 66, she 22) but that’s not the scandal.

 

Jeffrey knew Dean Miller’s wife. He saw her in the doctors office. Jeffrey says she was 8.5 months pregnant and due in a week. He was there for his acne and she was there seeing her pediatrician which share  medical offices at the University Med Center.

 

So Jeffrey, borrows the phone and calls Dean Miller. He leaves a message that goes "Hello, this is  Dr. Webster, your pediatrician. I don’t want you to be  alarmed but your son was born here 15 minutes ago. Now here’s the thing; he’s fine, don’t be alarmed, but he was born with a 4.5 inch  Vestigial tail.

 

Now, Mr. Miller I assure you that there is no cause to worry, it’s not prehensile. This kind of thing happens more than you would think. Your wife is still under sedation so I need you to contact me immediately. Now, if I can remove the tail in the next few minutes, he won’t feel a thing. Or, if you’d like, we can simply leave it on and let him decide later because I assure you that as he grows older it will appear much smaller. Please call either way as soon as possible and remember, and I must stress this, neither your son or your wife is in any danger."

 

Anyway, Jeffrey says he just thought that probably the Dean wouldn’t even go for it but that if he did, he would just make a few frenzied calls and the prank would be exposed. We think the doctors offices real phone number showing up on his caller I.D. convinced him.

 

Unfortunately, the Dean ended up calling 911 and then driving down to UMC as fast as he could. Witnesses say he came into Emergency yelling “cut it off”, cut it off”! We don’t know if that’s true but he did definitely show up at UMC.

 

Jeffrey got busted a month later because Dean Miller was outside MRAK Hall showing the baby’s picture and handing out bubblegum cigars and Jeffrey kept coming over looking at the picture and saying “he sure is a cute little monkey” and then rolling on the lawn. At the beginning of the next term he  will be permitted to apply for readmission.

 

I only mention all this because as I say it could impact my experimental results.  No chance I’ll repeat Ketllewell’s mistakes!

 

At the end of the month the totals were 1.5 sugared donuts remaining (top shelf) and seven of the glazed donuts remaining (bottom shelf). This was accomplished without gluing any of the donuts to the refrigerator door which I argue still would not invalidated my results.

 

The conclusions are obvious. This proof of natural selection supports the idea that in the future given enough time , even more complex pastries could evolve such as éclairs or even, cakes and pies.

3. Turn in your lab assignment in a separate Blue Book, labeled: Biology Lab. First Term. Professor Lewis. Be sure to include your name, your ss# and your e-mail address.

 

30 Points. Turn in with your other Blue Book.

15 Points. If you have no experimental results to report, you can still earn a maximum of 15 Points . Only for those without complete Lab results. By explaining what you learned from the work you completed, or briefly discussing how you would redesign your experiment you may receive partial credit up to 15 points.

 

15 Minutes. If needed. This answer and/or your Blue Book will be graded by a teacher’s assistant.

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