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DNA reveals God’s coded messages

Growing knowledge of genetic analysis reveals detailed design everywhere

A DNA sample being placed in a petri dish iStock/Pogonici

DNA reveals God’s coded messages

As science’s ability to detect and sequence DNA improves, it becomes increasingly evident that creation is embedded with specific and complex coded messages that didn’t just appear out of nowhere.

Last week, scientists from the University of Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History published a study identifying the exact species of shark that attacked a man 25 years ago. Jeff Weakley was bitten while surfing off Florida’s Flagler Beach in 1994. Just last year, he discovered a sliver of shark tooth embedded in his foot. Scientists were able to extract DNA from the pulp tissue of the tooth and identify his attacker as a blacktip shark.

“I was very excited to determine the identity of the shark because I’d always been curious,” Weakley said.

In another cold case—one with much more serious implications—police used genealogy testing to track down the suspect in a murder that happened 32 years ago in Washington state. Two weeks ago, a jury convicted William Earl Talbott II of two counts of aggravated murder after a trial decades in the making.

Scientists also recently learned how to gather and analyze DNA from environmental samples of soil, water, and air for information about the organisms that left bits of their genetic material behind. In a report published in Nature last month, molecular biologist Philip Thomsen extracted DNA from wildflowers picked from two grassland sites in Denmark and was able to detect more than 100 species of insects and arthropods that had visited them.

Those and a multitude of other discoveries show that virtually every spot on the planet harbors highly specific, coded messages with billions of letters in nonrepetitive DNA sequences. These messages tell molecules how to build tissue and organs, run complex metabolic processes, and construct brains, Discovery Institute experts noted on the organization’s blog, Evolution News & Science Today. “If these codes were written large on paper, it would be like walking on piles of blueprints and dictionaries at every step,” they said.

On a lifeless planet, a scientist would find only naturally occurring elements, every sample would react blindly to very predictable laws of nature, and equations could explain every process, the Discovery Institute noted. But on a life-filled planet, codes govern substances like tissues and organs and produce creatures that can fly or swim or think.

God put His fingerprint on our world in the clues and codes He left for us to discover.


Widely prescribed drugs may cause dementia

The use of anticholinergic drugs may account for 10 percent of the 500,000 dementia cases diagnosed annually in the United States, according to a study published online by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on June 24. Several previous reports showed similar results.

The current study, involving nearly 59,000 dementia patients, found that middle-age and older adults who took a standard dose of an anticholinergic drug for as a little as three years showed a 50 percent increase in incidents of developing dementia. Antidepressants, medications to treat overactive bladder, antipsychotics, and anti-epileptic drugs exhibited the strongest correlation.

Anticholinergic drugs, a class of more than 56 different medications prescribed for a variety of conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bladder conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, block the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Animal studies show that blocking acetylcholine causes an accumulation of certain protein fragments in the brain like those seen in Alzheimer’s disease, Noll Campbell, a professors of pharmacy at Purdue University, told Medscape. Doctors have noted similar changes in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients treated with this class of drugs, he said.

Other factors could cause people who take anticholinergic drugs to develop dementia. But, because other studies show similar results, Carol Coupland, the lead researcher, urged doctors to use caution in prescribing these medications.

“I would suggest that, from what we know so far, clinicians should weigh up the potential benefits and the potential risks of these drugs for their individual patients and consider alternative treatments if possible,” she told Medscape. “For most of these drugs, there are very reasonable alternatives that can be used.” —J.B.


A lake beneath the sea

Scientists have discovered a huge freshwater reservoir between 600 and 1,200 feet beneath the ocean’s floor off the northeastern coast of the United States. The area, called an aquifer, appears to hold at least 670 cubic miles of fresh water.

In the study, published June 18 in Scientific Reports, scientists said a gigantic hidden lake stretches from the shore of Massachusetts to New Jersey and as far as 75 miles out to the edge of the continental shelf.

Such reservoirs likely lie off many other coasts worldwide, according to the study. Scientists believe the aquifer formed at the end of the last glacial age when mile-deep ice in the area melted and deposited sediment, forming huge river deltas on top of the continental shelf and trapping the freshwater underneath. The study shows run-off from the land also feeds the undersea lake.

If scientists can map other aquifers, they may provide a source of water for arid areas. “If we can show there are large aquifers in other regions, that might potentially represent a resource in places like Southern California, Australia, the Mideast, or Saharan Africa,” said Kerry Key, a geophysicist and co-author of the study.

If scientists can find a way to tap into this vast freshwater supply, the water from the outer portions where some of it mixes with salty seawater would still need to undergo salt removal. Even so, it would cost much less than processing seawater, the scientists said. —J.B.


Hidden consciousness

Medical professionals and members of a patient’s family often decide to withdraw life-sustaining therapies from those in a vegetative state within the first few weeks following a brain injury. But no test can accurately predict the chance of recovery, and a new study shows such patients may have hidden consciousness.

The study, published June 27 in New England Journal of Medicine, showed that 15 percent of unresponsive, brain-injured patients demonstrated signs of hidden consciousness and cognitive abilities that weren’t apparent on routine neurological examinations. One year later, 44 percent of those patients could function independently for up to eight hours per day.

The researchers used EEG tests to monitor the brain activity of 104 unresponsive brain-injured patients while they asked them to move their hands. The results indicated that approximately 1 in 7 patients could understand the commands even though they could not perform them. —J.B.


Out-of-this-world cookies

Scientists aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may soon enjoy a bit of Hilton DoubleTree hotels’ hospitality. Later this year, Hilton plans to send a batch of its cookie dough, along with a prototype oven designed for long-duration space travel, to the ISS. If successful, Hilton will become the first hospitality company to take part in research aboard the space station.

“The simple gesture of a warm cookie welcome is a favorite of DoubleTree guests around the world, and now we are sharing that moment of hospitality as part of this experiment aboard the International Space Station,” Shawn McAteer, DoubleTree senior vice president, said in a statement. —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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