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A perfect mess

Evolutionist makes comical attempt to redesign the human body

Alice Roberts (left) with a model of the redesigned version of herself Facebook/October Films

A perfect mess

The Bible affirms that humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, but many evolutionists don’t buy that. They point to what they consider the flawed human body as proof that no creator exists.

Recently, Alice Roberts, an evolutionary anatomist who referred to the human body as an untidy “hodgepodge of assembled parts,” accepted a challenge from the director of the Science Museum Group in London to design a “perfect” human body that would fix “errors left behind by evolution.” The June 13 BBC program Can Science Make Me Perfect? documented the results, which clearly showed that God knows best.

Roberts teamed up with biologists and artists to engineer a virtual representation of her own body with adaptations she believed would improve upon its design.

But far from perfection, the elfin creature Roberts designed with pointy ears, big eyes, long skinny legs, and a baby poking out of a pocket in her stomach posed both an evolutionary and design impossibility, biologist Ann Gauger wrote on the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and Science Today.

Roberts designed her body with eyes like an octopus’s to avoid the human blindspot, but with larger eyeballs. To improve hearing she gave herself cat ears. She copied the design of the chimpanzee spine with four, rather than five, lumbar vertebrae to prevent herniated disks and built up the wings of the pelvis to provide greater stability.

Roberts decided to forgo the untidy birthing business by designing herself with a kangaroo-like pouch so she could give birth to tiny progeny in the early stages of development and then keep them tucked away until they could function independently. She streamlined her legs to make her feet light and easy to move like an ostrich’s, with large tendons to act as shock absorbers. And she imitated the skin pigment of some cephalopods so that her skin could turn dark to protect her from sunburn and skin cancer in the summer and could turn light to allow her to absorb more vitamin D in the winter.

But the body Roberts created would never function, Gauger noted. The characteristics that Roberts borrowed from other species need to work in conjunction with many other systems. Growing ostrich legs would affect our hips and spine and overall stability. Ostriches can run much faster than humans can, but they can’t climb.

Octopus eyes could not connect with a human brain, but our sensitive, camera-like eyes work efficiently with our brains. And a human baby who grows for nine months within its mother to allow plenty of time for brain development could never come into the world at an early stage and then crawl from the birth canal up to the mother’s pouch.

Science cannot make us perfect because only God could create the human body capable of fulfilling His command to subdue the Earth and have dominion over every living thing.

Ankur Dalia

Ankur Dalia IU Communications/Photo by James Brosher

Fishing for drug-resistant genes

Seeing how bacteria acquire new genetic information can help scientists better understand antibiotic resistance and how to fight it.

At least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making conventional drugs less effective in treating bacterial infections. The World Health Organization found strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in nearly 490,000 people suffering from tuberculosis and 500,000 people with other infectious diseases.

When bacteria die, their DNA material can be absorbed by other bacteria. Incorporating that DNA into a gene is known as natural transformation, a mechanism of horizontal gene transfer, which lets bacteria take on new traits such as antibiotic resistance. For the first time, scientists at Indiana University observed how bacteria use harpoon-like appendages to grab bits of DNA from their surroundings and reel them back into their own bodies for absorption, just as though the bacteria had gone fishing.

In their study, published last month, the researchers dyed Vibrio cholerae, the bacteria that causes cholera. They watched the bacteria grabbing nearby DNA using the tip of surface appendages called “competence pili” and pulling the DNA back into their bodies through surface pores. Fluorescent dye made the pili—which is more than 10,000 times thinner than human hair—visible.

Researchers are hopeful that better understanding the spread of antibiotic resistance may allow scientists to develop new ways to fight it.

“It’s important to understand this process, since the more we understand about how bacteria share DNA, the better our chances are of thwarting it,” said Ankur Dalia, an assistant professor of biology at Indiana University. —Harvest Prude

Ankur Dalia

Ankur Dalia IU Communications/Photo by James Brosher

A lullaby for cancer cells

Researchers are exploring new methods of fighting cancer, including identifying dormant cancer cells and neutralizing them before they awaken.

Cancer recurs when dormant cells break off from the original tumor and lodge in new parts of the body undetected. Because they do not start growing until activated by a trigger, they are incredibly difficult to find. Scientists do not yet know what triggers the dormant cells’ growth, making them nearly impossible to stop.

Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, professor and researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, is investigating mechanisms and molecular factors that lead to dormancy. His hope is to understand what triggers the dormant cells and develop a way to prevent it. Two years ago, Aguirre-Ghiso and his team found a combination of drugs that could induce dormancy in prostate cancer cells grown in labs and in mice.

Kathy Miller, a breast-cancer specialist at Indiana University in Indianapolis, summed it up this way: “As long as those cells remain dormant, they’re not killing my patient.”

Aguirre-Guiso and other scientists from around the world met June 19-22 in Montreal to share findings on dormant cancer cells and discuss new ideas and strategies for eradicating them. —Charissa Crotts

Ankur Dalia

Ankur Dalia IU Communications/Photo by James Brosher

Dark side of the moon

On July 27 the moon will treat folks in Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America to the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century. Earth’s shadow will completely engulf the moon for a full 103 minutes—the longest possible time for totality is 107 minutes. Altogether the eclipse will last nearly four hours.

The celestial event will happen during the smallest full moon of the year, when the moon is at its farthest point from the Earth, which will be at its most distant point from the sun. The darkest region of Earth’s shadow will reach its maximum length and width, making the eclipse last longer and giving the moon a reddish tint. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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