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Apologetics Press :: Decisive Designs

Nanotechnology in Spores?
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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Charles Darwin had no way of comprehending the infinitesimal complexity that surrounded him on a microscopic level. Odds are, Darwin never would have postulated that all living creatures descended from a common ancestor had he known about the intricate, minuscule components that make up the living cell or the molecular structure of DNA. These structures reveal architecture and organization that rival many major cities in complexity. When one considers that this complexity is composed of tiny proteins that are purposefully assembled in a living cell, it becomes apparent just how unrealistic it is for all living matter to have evolved from non-living matter.

Even some of the smallest particles are now demonstrating design that argues strongly against the possibility of their originating by mere chance. For instance, recent discoveries have scientists giving a lot more thought to spores. Spores—unlike sexual reproduction involving sperm and eggs—are small, usually single-celled reproductive bodies that are highly resistant to desiccation and heat, and are capable of growing into new organisms. Most people can recall stepping on puff-ball fungi, sending thousands of spores into the air, or studying the way ferns utilize spores for reproduction. But scientists at the University of Michigan have discovered that spores are “microactuators”—tiny motors that are powered by evaporation (see “Ferns Provide...,” 2006). The report noted:

Scientists looked to ferns to create a novel energy scavenging device that uses the power of evaporation to move itself—materials that could provide a method for powering micro and nano devices with just water or heat. “We’ve shown that this idea works,” said Michel Maharbiz, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and principal investigator in the group that built the device. “If you build these things they will move. The key is to show that you can generate electricity from this” (2006, emp. added).

This definitely sounds like purposeful action. Scientists now recognize that spores do not just release haphazardly, but rather they have a built-in delivery mechanism that is linked to specific levels of water and heat.

As is the case in many scientific discoveries, this one was made serendipitously. A doctoral student at the University of Michigan was actually interested in mimicking biological machines when she came across the release mechanism for spores. Commenting on the discovery, the news release affirmed:

It’s essentially a microactuator,” said Maharbiz, meaning that the fern sporangium transforms one form of energy, in this case heat via the evaporation of water, into motion. When the cells in the outer wall of the sporangium were water logged, the sporangium remained closed like a fist, storing the spores safely inside. But when the water in the outer wall evaporated, it caused the sporangium to unfurl and eject the spores into the environment (“Ferns Provide...,” 2006, emp. added).

This is an amazing discovery, especially when one considers the age that evolutionists commonly assign to spore bearing plants. For instance, Science staff writer Elizabeth Pennisi observed: “As for higher land plants, the first fossils—represented by spores—are 520 million years old” (2001, 293:1027). According to the United States Geological Survey:

The earliest occurrences of spores apparently produced by land plants in the fossil record are in Lower Silurian rocks (allegedly 425 million years ago—BH), slightly preceding the appearance of the first vascular plant megafossils (Cooksonia). Pollen first occurs in the Upper Devonian rocks (allegedly 412 million years ago—BH), corresponding to the occurrence of the earliest fossils seeds (Archeosperma) in North America. Both spores and pollen have very resistant walls composed of a substance known as sporopollenin, and the resistance and inert nature of this wall allows preservation of pollen and spores in sediments under a variety of conditions (“Spores and Pollen,” 2003).

But consider the position in which Darwinians find themselves with these vast ages. Are we to believe that 400 million years ago, spores were purposefully constructing specific proteins as a mechanical method for release, under certain environmental conditions? Four hundred million years ago plants were manufacturing tiny motors in order to reproduce? Maharbiz called them “microactuators”—which denotes a small actuator with physical dimensions in the submicrometer to millimeter range. These are the same components that are commonly batch-fabricated from silicon wafers in order to activate mechanical devices such as computers! And we are to believe this purposeful design was occurring 400 million years ago?

But the complexity does not end there. Scientists also have discovered that spores require a special compaction pathway in order to package genetic material in the smallest form. Consider what was discovered at the world-famous Wistar Institute:

In some single-celled organisms, such as yeast, the genes can be passed to the next generation in spores. In both reproductive strategies, major physical changes occur in the genetic material after it has been duplicated and then halved on the way to the production of mature gametes or spores. Near the end of the process, the material—called chromatin, the substructure of chromosomes—becomes dramatically compacted, reduced in volume to as little as five percent of its original volume (see “Single Molecular...,” 2006, emp. added).

Spores require DNA for future generations, but great care must be given to the way that DNA is folded and passed on. It now appears spores have a special substance that allows the genetic material to be compacted and passed on. The report went on to observe: “Berger speculates that compaction might answer a number of important biological purposes. ‘During the formation of the gametes, the DNA is much more susceptible to breaks and mutations,’ she says. ‘Compaction may keep the genome resistant to damage of all kinds’” (“Single Molecular,” 2006).

Not only is this molecule useful in compacting genetic material—scientists know today it is required for proper compaction. This begs the question, how did spore forming plants reproduce before this molecule “evolved?” Since it is known that this molecule (H4Ser1ph) is necessary in order for genetic material to be passed on to future generations, the question remains: How did spores reproduce without it? Do evolutionists expect us to believe that the formation of spore-forming plants occurred simultaneously with the formation of this mandatory molecule? As Kristy Wendt and Ali Shilatifard observed:

Researchers at The Wistar Institute, studying the mechanisms that control how the genetic material is managed during gamete production, have now identified a single molecule whose presence is required for genome compaction. Their experiments showed that the molecule “marks” the chromatin just prior to compaction and that its presence is mandatory for successful compaction. In this issue of Genes and Development, Krishnamoorthy, et al. (2006) re-examined the function of the previously described phosphorylation of S1 of histone H4 in chromatin compaction during sporulation. They found H4Ser1ph to be required for proper chromatin compaction during sporulation, and also for gametogenesis (Wendt and Shilatifard, 2006, 20:2487, emp. added).

Even in the microscopic world of spores, one finds intricate complexity and amazing engineering. One wonders how many additional microscopic wonders exist that we have yet to uncover. As science continues to peel back the layers of nature, purposeful arrangement and design become even more evident. Surely the pendulum will begin to swing back, away from the concept of “factual evolution,” as researchers continually discover the handiwork of God.

REFERENCES

“Ferns Provide Model for Tiny Motors Powered by Evaporation” (2006), University of Michigan News Service, September 14, [On-line], URL: http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2006/Sep06/r091406c.

Krishnamoorthy, Thanuja, Xin Chen, Jerome Govin, et al., (2006), “Phosphorylation of Histone H4 Ser1 Regulates Sporulation in Yeast and is Conserved in Fly and Mouse Spermatogensis,” Genes & Development, 20[18]:2580-2592, September 15.

Pennisi, Elizabeth (2001), “A Molecular Approach to Mushroom Hunting,” Science, 293:1027-1028, August 10.

“Single Molecular ‘Mark’ Seen as Pivotal for Genome Compaction in Spores and Sperm: Evolutionarily Conserved Effect Seen in Yeast, Flies, and Mice” (2006), Wistar Institute, September 15, [On-line], URL: http://www.wistar.org/news_info/pressreleases/pr_09.15.06.html.

“Spores and Pollen” (2003), United States Geological Survey, February 7, [On-line], URL: http://geology.er.usgs.gov/paleo/sporepollen.shtml.

Wendt, Kristy D. and Ali Shilatifard (2006), “Packing for the Germy: The Role of Histone H4 Ser1 Phosphorylation in Chromatin Compaction and Germ Cell Development,” Genes & Development, 20[18]:2487-2491, September 15.



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