Thursday, February 25, 2016



Evolution and God merge when we extend the view of each to the beginning of the Universe and try to understand natural selection and the Act of Creation.  We get into a murky philosophical area that seems to be world's apart to most types of scientists and peoples of various spiritual persuasions.  It seems to be a result of looking at the same thing from two different perspectives.

Things look vastly different when the view through a telescope is compared to the view through a microscope.  Our sensory perceptions via sight and hearing are not incompatible since we, from the beginning of our life, have learned to accept the truth of both and now have no struggle to understand their compatibility.

A pictorial display of perspective was part of my thought this morning when I awakened to the following view from our condo as a result of sleeping in because a storm closing schools had been predicted.

The same bush that is to the left of the snow covered table is bowed down under the weight of fresh heavy wet snow.  In the following photo it is shown less than four months earlier after a frost had helped the upper leaves get their fall colors.


I don't have a picture to show the before creation view to compare with the pictures above.  Nor do I have a picture that shows natural selection.  Natural selection is a term that summarizes the culmination of many events whose precise details can only be predicted in a general way.  Furthermore it is determined by the absence of elimination for the survivors still capable of reproduction and fortunate enough to, in fact, reproduce because of factors they have or lack that differ from those not surviving to reproduce.


After thinking about this post and before composing it I happened to do some channel surfing and found a discussion in progress on EWTN where a layman was trying to explain his church's view on evolution, and a clergyman was looking at its possible position in the philosophical or theological scheme of causality.  They seemed to be a little closer to finding evolution possible than some skeptical scientists are of finding God possible.

Evolution by the process of natural selection and God as its creator are both facts to me.  But I have to recognize many do not have the experiences to come to the same conclusion.  I would like to contribute to all accepting God and evolution.  But I realize I may only be able to prove to some scientists a few new facts about evolution, whereas I am dependent upon God to complete the resolution of the broader conflict.

Life goes on for those of us surviving the worst shooting event known in Kalamazoo, six of the eight shot died.  About the same time, the natural death, at age over 99 and one half years, of a friend who lived a commendable life, will not make national news.  May they all rest in peace and enjoy the gifts God has prepared for them.

Joe Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan      February 25, 2016  [my camera's clock is a few hour slow, just like me]

Monday, February 22, 2016



The earliest skeletons were hydrostatic skeletons with the body or cell fluid inflating the organism to its characteristic shape determined by the outer covering.  The support and protection functions of a skeleton were the original values of a hydrostatic skeleton  The exoskeleton of arthropods was a successful adaptation that added movement to the support function.  The shells of mollusks and several other phyla were primarily of value for protection, but some groups added movement to their value along with support.

Bony skeletons of vertebrates add values that are not related to the skeletal functions of support, protection, and movement.  Mineral storage is one of those additional functions.  In mammals the blood-forming tissue is primarily the marrow of bone cavities.  So the bones are therefor important in enabling the blood to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide, produce an immune response to foreign organisms, and trigger clotting of blood to close wounds.

The earliest chordates lacked a bony skeleton, but they did have a skeletal rod of dense tissue, the notochord, above which the central nerve cord developed.  The notochord is still an important skeletal structure of lampreys, jawless fish without paired fins.  Among the diversity of fishes in the Paleozoic were Ostracoderms and Placoderms, close to freshwater ancestors of the lungfishes and coelacanths preceding amphibians.

The sharks and other fish with cartilaginous skeletons were marine and did not develop bony skeletons.  In freshwater ponds and streams fish were able to survive with mineral deposits converting cartilage to bone without the danger of making them sink to the bottom of the ocean if they stopped swimming.  The bony fish in the ocean are descendants of freshwater fish with lungs that gave them buoyancy which compensated for the heavy bony skeleton.  Eventually the lungs developed into the swim bladder of modern fishes found in both freshwater and the ocean.

"Crossopterygians* in the same branch as the lungfish progressed toward the legged amphibians by greater development of paired, lobed fins.  They were thought to have become extinct at the end of the Devonian, until an unusual deep-water form, a coelacanth, in the Indian Ocean was first caught in 1939.  During the Devonian some of the freshwater relatives made the transition to primitive amphibians."

[*A reference included for the above quotation from Evolution Insights, 2010, was as follows.
Gorr, Thomas, and Traute Kleinschmidt.  1993.  Evolutionary relationships of the coelacanth.  Am. Scientist, 81:72-82.  Their hemoglobin is closest to frog tadpole hemoglobin.  Lamprey and hagfish have monomeric hemoglobin, other vertebrates have tetrameric hemoglobin (with 2 alpha and 2 beta chains) and most have two forms of hemoglobin- juvenile and adult.]


As noted in the (January 28, 2016) post on muscle, strength of bone scales up proportional to the cross sectional area (or square of linear dimensions), whereas the strength a skeleton needs to support an animal scales up with the mass (or cube of linear dimensions).  Thus terrestrial dinosaurs and elephants are about as massive as animals can become on land.  The support function of whale skeletons is much less because of the buoyancy water provides negating much of the gravitational forces acting on their bodies.

Birds have less weight than might be expected  because many bones are hollow and air filled.  They further economize on energy needed for flight by having only one functional ovary in females, as well as having shelled eggs to lay in nests.  Laying one egg at a time, instead of numerous ones as a turtle does, means less weight during flight.  The tremendous energy demands for flight are provided by a lung with a flow through design rather than the in and out flow to and from the sack-like lungs of other terrestrial vertebrates.


Bone is living tissue.  Bone cells are widely separated but connected by microscopic canals.  Long bones usually begin with one central and two terminal centers of ossification.  Mature long bones have layers of bone around the exterior.  As the bone gets bigger inner layers are dissolved along additional vessels that then produce fresh layers, leaving fragmented arcs of bone layers between the new canals with fresher bone.  The length of bones increases until cartilaginous centers of ossification are completely converted to bone.

The method of continuing bone renewal is a slow process, but a broken bone that heals, with poor match of the two portions fusing, will eventually be much closer in shape to the original bone.

In addition to genetic control of bone development, there is an effect of orientation and activity that may contribute to bone development.  Bone development appears to be increased by exercise and/or stress placed on the bone.  The upright posture of humans results in much less development of bony anchorage for muscles attached to the back of skull for holding up the head, as compared to primates using arms to aid walking.

Natural selection of unusual bony formation favoring survival is illustrated by the skull of the Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus.  It is a flycatcher that frequently perches on the topmost twigs of trees or other high perches.  From there it will fly out and chase a much larger crow or hawk.  You would think its perch would make it vulnerable to a hawk, but it probably has 360 degree vision of the horizon without turning it head.  It is possible because its skull behind the orbits for the eyes on each side has a deep groove.  So it appears that vision is not obscured in any horizontal direction.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan     February 22, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016



The study of possible life elsewhere in the solar system (exobiology) or even in more remote reaches of the universe (astrobiology) is of interest to those studying evolution of life on earth as a possible origin of life here, or as perhaps the source of alien beings looking for resources or other things on our planet.

What was once the province of science fiction and comics with rocket ships or Superman has attracted more attention as a possible reality.  The unbelievable idea of space travel became reality to a degree by the space programs of the United States, Russia, and others.  The possibility of life arising on another planet on our solar system is given greater credence by the discovery of water on Mars, the Moon, and probably other bodies in the solar system.  Life's transport to Earth via rocks in space with evidence of some of the compounds of life could happen in a limited way.  However, those rocks with biological molecules could have been blasted into space from Earth billions of years ago, perhaps in association with the moon's origin or another comparable event.


Complex life forms, qualifying as life from outer space, coming to our planet seems impossible, even though there are probably billions of planets with conditions suitable for the evolution of life.  Just as our feeble efforts to send messages or materials demonstrating our life to other worlds, others would have as much of a problem reaching us with messages.  Complex beings with the technology to try to reach us, even if every one from billions of planets tried, would be well mummified, pulverized, or otherwise killed by the time they reached us or we connected in outer space.

The evidence of origin of life on earth by chemical and biological evolutionary processes is so strong it leaves little need or reason for an inoculation of life from space.  In fact, the continuity of life forms from one celled to complex animals and their shared basic biochemical processes makes it extremely unlikely that any organisms we know of had an alien origin.  Even the dead bodies of aliens that died on the way would likely be incinerated by the final step of entering our atmosphere.


Some have suggested a silicon based system might be possible.  But the fact that some polymers and other compounds similar to carbon based ones can be based on silicon may overlook the fact that the carbon based ones are the ones that show up as the building blocks in simulations of the conditions of pre-biotic life.  If a silicon based system exists somewhere it would be subject to the same principles of natural selection directing carbon based systems.


Finding a planet in a remote star system is extremely difficult even though a protoplanetary disk was very likely to be associated with each one's development.  Our life with technology and social sophistication has only existed at a level with space capabilities for less than one millionth of the time earth has existed.  Other planets, of the trillions that may exist, are likely to have a similar slice of their history with such a capability.  So life elsewhere could have vanished somewhere during the several billions of years of another star system's planetary history.  Or it could be yet to happen billions of years in the future.


Yes, there probably is life on many other planets in the universe, maybe even in the Milky Way.  Yes, it is interesting and maybe even fun to think about it.  But learning their secrets or even their learning ours is not likely to happen in our earthbound lifetime.  And the Moon and Mars are unlikely to be of much use as places for us to go if we destroy the habitability of our planet.


Strangely enough, it might have a strong resemblance to us if it developed on a planet with a sweet spot for life similar to Earth's.  Much of the selection bringing about our evolution would be repeated to get a big-brained animal with bipedal locomotion so hands for tool-making could develop.  The social structure favoring selection of communication and cooperative skills for survival and development of technology are partially enabled by our size and upright posture.  Long life is essential for development of our society, written communication to some extent supplements this advantage.  Perhaps somewhere an arthropod-like human shaped animal fills our role.

I have my own view of the spiritual ramifications of the above discussion but still await an answer.  Scripture can sometimes be interpreted on several levels.  Could the words of Jesus in John 14:2, "In my Father's house there are many mansions.", and John 10:16, "Others I have which are not of this fold.", and accompanying verses be construed as referring to other religions, people from other worlds, or both?

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan     February 8, 2015