Saturday, July 23, 2016


The Present

The three years of this blog presents a mix of evolution and other topics that may lack focus for those wanting the story of evolution, or God, or creativity, or science.  My life, in retrospect, seems to bring me to a blend of those topics in a cohesive view not easily clarified for others.

I have not tried to clarify things as much as I should have.  In the rush (can one who works at snail or turtle's speed rush?) to get the essential new points presented before they got buried with me, I neglected making all the needed connections and clarifications,

I recently abandoned work on a blog post about the importance of the end products of protein metabolism (primarily ammonia, uric acid, and urea) in the evolutionary transition of animals from aquatic to terrestrial habitats.  The uric acid method of storing many toxic ammonia molecules in less soluble, and therefore less toxic molecules, made possible the shelled eggs of vertebrates, and less need for water for elimination of those wastes by birds and insects,  Mammals emphasized the conversion of ammonia to urea as a less toxic alternative.  But the evolutionary story of these facts are well covered in many basic biology texts.

Many other important facts of evolutionary significance are also well covered in basic texts.  But, unfortunately, extreme age of abyssal organisms due to their greatly slowed metabolism, the close relationship of all advanced animals via annelid ancestors, and related facts are missing.  Those missing facts are explained in earlier posts during the three years of this blog.

How I Found Those Facts

Finding new facts of evolution 

The reasons had nothing to do with sheer brilliance.  It might seem like serendipity, since very little of it was planned by me.  Things that I now see as part of the reason I see and understand seem to parallel things of the spiritual realm identified in both Old Testament and New Testament words as seeing but not seeing or hearing but not hearing among those not believing.

When Jesus said no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son has revealed Him, it may explain why many fail to see God as the Creator and evolution as part of God’s work of creation.  So how does one as unworthy as myself manage to see those things?
Perhaps it began with my youthful amazement at the extent of creation when looking at the night sky and reflecting on the near infinite distance and numbers of the stars as described by astronomers of the time.


My post retirement reflections show a number of events in my life that make serendipity an unlikely explanation for my blundering into an evolutionary understanding others have not yet been able to see, especially the role of pogonophorans explaining puzzles of molecular biology and chordate origin.

1.  It started early with a family that valued education and many other important values.  I was born into it and in childhood had my physical activity periodically impeded by bouts of asthma; consequently, at times all I could do was think.  My verbal skills were not up to explaining my reasoning to my older brother who insisted that you didn’t know it if you couldn’t say it.  Years later I realized my right-brain thinking did not yet readily transfer to the left-brain for verbalization.  But the sibling conflict helped make me look for alternative explanations with very productive results in later analysis of science research of both myself and others.  Score that as a benefit of having had asthma.

2.  At the same time my skin, especially on my hands was very scaly with what was variously diagnosed as eczema, ichthyosis, and eventually psoriasis.  Concerns about my medical state made me exclude careers in medicine and the ministry from consideration, question whether I had a right to marry and bring children into the world, and a partial withdrawal from developing my social life.
Such concerns receded during high school and were mostly gone by the time I was drafted following college graduation.  Two years in close association with army friends made me realize I was reasonably normal (eccentricities seem to be part of being normal).

3.  I loved science and nature but only moved into biology as a sophomore in college when a biology course, to meet part of the liberal arts requirements and was taught by a very inspirational teacher, lured me in to biology.  I minored in English and got a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Biology.  I would have needed more of other sciences to get a Bachelor of Science with a Biology major.  Invertebrate zoology was one of my favorite biology courses.  Biology was largely a mix of interesting disconnected facts to be memorized until a class in genetics and a class in evolution finally helped me to see the sense and connections in the diversity of life.  Once that step is made, ecology, physiology, and other specialties in biology also made sense.  Perhaps others reach the same result via many roads.

After the army I spent a little over a year in tool and die work that made me consider engineering.  But when I checked into the engineering program at Michigan State I found that I would get no credit from my biology degree toward a Bachelor’s of engineering.  So I went to the Zoology Department and expressed possible interest.  A week later they called and offered me a part-time instructorship, replacing someone with one on a grant that had resigned, beginning immediately in the spring term.  It was essentially a graduate assistantship, but with the perk of a faculty parking sticker for my car.

Two years later I was finishing my Master’s degree after a thesis research project studying protozoan cytochemistry.  I applied for a Fulbright award for studying in Australia because I thought there would be less competition than for one in England.  I didn’t speak any other languages than English, that limited my ability to apply elsewhere.  I did not foresee that Tasmania would be an entry into studies leading to my evolutionary findings.

About seven years later I finished my doctoral thesis after three years teaching full-time at Western Michigan University.  Then, at a summer, 1963, biological conference I contacted the Macmillan Publishing Company representative about possibly revising their Invertebrate Zoology authored by the deceased Robert Hegner.  I had used it as a student 15 years earlier, but was using one of the more recent books, none of which were as student friendly as Hegner’s book.  At a subsequent meeting, after he talked to Dr. Stiles (author of their best-selling college zoology text), Zoology Chair at Michigan State University and a fan of mine, he quickly arranged a contract to revise their book.  I would have been very unlikely to be writing this blog without the experience of adding the new group, the Pogonophora, to the text revision for Macmillan.

4.  After 23 years teaching invertebrate zoology, marine biology, introductory zoology and numerous other courses at WMU I read the 1983 paper by Gans and Nortcutt that gave me the cognitive dissonance experience yielding the eureka moment of seeing the connecting link role of the Pogonophora.  It is impossible for me to define all the inputs giving rise to the moment.

5.  In the 1960’s I had developed the idea of extreme age among abyssal Pogonophora.  In 1983 their extreme longevity and intermediate blend of features made me aware of their evolutionary role.
6.  Failure to get acceptance of manuscripts over the years may have been due to my poor writing.  I prefer to think it was due to reviewers having inadequate background, as well as their accepting flawed research that had been published, had more to do with the rejections.

The above recitation of factors shaping the somewhat random direction of my life leading to my unique view of evolution may have other meaning.  It may be that diverse life experience can be the grist for creative thinking.  Moreover, many failures, not listed, including inventions, grant and publication rejections, and other events that might have absorbed my attention with otherwise narrowly focused activity inhibiting global thinking.  An example is shown in the two posts about a Puttmeter.  I think it would have been a successful product if I had been willing to put the effort into developing and marketing it.  Proper packaging, marketing and advertising has made commercial success of many other simple things.


The accumulation of the eclectic research and writing projects were originally began to be viewed late in my career as something so disconnected that it might fit collectively into a volume called “Animal Evolution: A Serial Symposium”.  As time went on, I thought there were only a few things of great importance.  They were primarily the two things my peers did not recognize or accept – extreme age of abyssal pogonophorans and their role as a major evolutionary link.  I seemed to be the only one that knew that.  Two other views I share with others so it is not so dependent on my proclaiming them are the role of God as both creator of evolution and the reason the creation/evolution debate is meaningless. 

Other of my evolutionary insights that simplify understanding of animal diversity and function are of value but not critically so.  Fortunately, some of those older posts about them are among those still attracting numerous viewers.

For about 20 years, extending from before retirement in 1996 until I was diagnosed with MDS in 2007, I played with various approaches to an evolution book.  My concern then was that I better pick up the pace of writing if I was serious about doing it.  I thought I had about six months to two years to complete it.  So not realizing it was a mild version of MDS, I finally finished a first draft of Evolution Insights in 2009.  In early 2010 I completed the last revision and realized after minimal efforts to find a publisher that the market for book manuscripts from someone like me was practically non-existent.

The publicity to attract a publisher might come from a successful blog or website.  Setting up a website turned out to be beyond my capabilities.  But somehow I found Google’s Blogger program and was able to start this blog even though the things that would make it a more professional project still escape me.


I think that God is more active in our lives than we realize.  I now see that the early childhood difficulties were a blessing in disguise, enabling me to develop as I did.  God is usually like the tiny breeze encountered by the Old Testament writer.  But he is constantly with us if we accept him.  The first suspicion I had that it was truer than we think was when I started reading random selections from the Bible and found they very frequently gave me insights on current problems or concerns.

I doubt that I would have started blogging if I had not developed MDS.  But between writing the manuscript it is based on, and starting the blog, a more direct event moved me to finally find Google’s Blogger and blogspot blogs.  I had been trying to educate myself on blogs by using publications designed for that purpose   Perhaps the distraction of a series of health issues and the reduced energy often associated with increased age made the infrequent forays into self-help books such that each attempt seemed to start from square one.

That was the situation in early 2013 when a more pronounced reoccurrence of blood flow from my urinary system made me stop and reflect.  In my mind I was telling Jesus that I had a life I was happy with and was ready any time God wanted to take me.  If I recovered I would take it as a sign that I should renew my efforts to develop a blog.  After that talk the bleeding stopped and has not repeated in that location.  Within about a month of the event was an accomplished fact.

Other people can do what I have been trying to do.  I feel so strongly that God has made the numerous events occur in my life so that I do not deserve credit of any of my evolution observations that turn out to be of value.  I should pass them on freely to others.  And if any profit is derived from my writing that, rather than the biblical tithe of 10% to charity, 90% or some other substantial sum should be given.  It is the basis for my encouraging readers who want to use my writing in not for profit ways to do so, hopefully with a credit to the source.

Joseph G. Engemann      Kalamazoo, Michigan    July 23, 2016