Naked anaspids

This strange fish is Euphanerops longaevus, which is one of two species of 370 million year old jawless fishes (the other is Endeiolepis aneri, and the paper suggests that they may actually represent differently preserved members of the same species). These are soft-bodied animals that are usually poorly preserved, and are of interest because they seem to have some properties in common with both the lampreys and the gnathostomes, or jawed fishes. Their exact position in the vertebrate family tree is problematic, and the experts go back and forth on it; sometimes they are grouped with the lampreys, sometimes as cousins more closely related to the gnathostomes.

Euphanerops longaevus, preserved as an imprint. Scale bar, 10 mm.

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Paul Nelson has been twittering about ORFans for some time now—he seems to precede his talks by threatening to make us evolutionists tremble in our boots by bringing them up, but he never seems to follow through. Ian Musgrave got tired of waiting for him to give us a coherent creationist argument about them, and has gone ahead and cut him off at the knees by explaining the place of ORFans in evolution.

In case you’re baffled by the jargon, “ORF” is an Open Reading Frame, or a stretch of DNA bracketed by a start and stop codon; it’s a kind of bare minimum criterion for recognizing an actual gene within a DNA sequence. An ORFan is an orphan ORF sequence, or one that doesn’t have a known function or affinity to other known genes. It is not surprising that genes exist that do not have an easily recognized homology with other genes—novel genes have to arise sometime, and we do not have a complete understanding of all sequences of all organisms.

The short answer is that Nelson is deluded, and ORFans do not conflict with evolution at all…but read Ian’s post for all the details.

Are you ready for Coulter?

Here’s a description of the contents of her newest book:

Though liberalism rejects the idea of God and reviles people of faith, it bears all the attributes of a religion itself. In Godless, Ann Coulter throws open the doors of the Church of Liberalism, showing us:

  • Its sacraments (abortion)
  • Its holy writ (Roe v. Wade)
  • Its martyrs (from Soviet spy Alger Hiss to cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal)
  • Its clergy (public school teachers)
  • Its churches (government schools, where prayer is prohibited but condoms are free)
  • Its doctrine of infallibility (as manifest in the "absolute moral authority" of spokesmen from Cindy Sheehan to Max Cleland)
  • And its cosmology (in which mankind is an inconsequential accident)

Then, of course, there’s the liberal creation myth: Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

For liberals, evolution is the touchstone that separates the enlightened from the benighted. But Coulter neatly refutes the charade that liberals are rationalists guided by the ideals of free inquiry and the scientific method. She exposes the essential truth about Darwinian evolution that liberals refuse to confront: it is bogus science.

How many lies can you count in that?

Now here’s the best part: guess who is her source on matters of evolution?

William Dembski.

I’m happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann regarding her chapters on Darwinism.

That is so typical of Coulter’s research: find the most wrong-headed fool around and parrot his ill-informed opinions. This is going to be world-class suckage. This book is going to be a black hole of reason—reading it is going be like sticking your brain in a Cuisanart. What we’re going to find in there is all the lies and nonsense we can expect to hear echoed back at us for the next decade, the dishonest crap that every clueless wingnut bozo is going to absorb instead of real science.

And I’m going to have to read it. For I so love the world that I will sacrifice my neurons to bring my people rebuttals.