Monday, 17 July 2017

Unintelligent Design - A Purposeless Driven Life

Escarpia laminata.

Image Credit: Chemo III project, BOEM and NOAA OER
Is this Gulf of Mexico tubeworm the longest living animal in the world?

The thing about something well-designed is that it is as simple as can be and fit for purpose. The hallmarks of good design are minimal complexity and fitness for purpose.

Now, you would expect the Intelligent (sic) Designer to at least be good at one of those things wouldn't you! You would expect to be able to look at any of its designs and see an elegantly design, beautiful for it's simplicity, and a fitness for purpose so obvious that this purpose positively leaps out at you.

You should be able to look at anything designed by the creationism industries' Intelligent (sic) Designer and be immediately struck by the beautiful simplicity of it and how perfectly it does what it was obviously designed to do.

The problem is, this is never what we see. Instead, we see immensely complex things which apparently do nothing very much and for which any real purpose is difficult to discern other than making more copies of itself, apparently for no other reason than to make more copies of itself... and so ad infinitum.

With this polychete, vestimentiferan tubeworm found living around cold seepers in the Gulf of Mexico, this putative Intelligent (sic) Designer seems to have excelled itself for sheer purposelessness and hugely unnecessary complexity - the very antithesis of intelligent design. It has apparently designed something that lives for up to 300 years in a hard tube and which does nothing at all other than producing more tubeworms. It doesn't even catch and process its own food and nothing much eats it!

The tubeworm, Escarpia laminata, is described in a paper published today in The Science of Nature, by Alanna Durkin, et al, of Temple University, USA.

The deep sea is home to many species that have longer life spans than their shallow-water counterparts. This trend is primarily related to the decline in metabolic rates with temperature as depth increases. However, at bathyal depths, the cold-seep vestimentiferan tubeworm species Lamellibrachia luymesi and Seepiophila jonesi reach extremely old ages beyond what is predicted by the simple scaling of life span with body size and temperature. Here, we use individual-based models based on in situ growth rates to show that another species of cold-seep tubeworm found in the Gulf of Mexico, Escarpia laminata, also has an extraordinarily long life span, regularly achieving ages of 100–200 years with some individuals older than 300 years. The distribution of results from individual simulations as well as whole population simulations involving mortality and recruitment rates support these age estimates. The low 0.67% mortality rate measurements from collected populations of E. laminata are similar to mortality rates in L. luymesi and S. jonesi and play a role in evolution of the long life span of cold-seep tubeworms. These results support longevity theory, which states that in the absence of extrinsic mortality threats, natural selection will select for individuals that senesce slower and reproduce continually into their old age.

These tubeworms live in water rich in hydrogen sulphide, methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluids which seep up from the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico. This water provides the energy needs of chemosynthetic bacteria and arcae which form the base of the food chain. Just as with their giant deep ocean counterparts living round the hydrothermal vents in the Pacific, these Gulf of Mexico cold seeper tubeworms don't even need to bother catching these bacteria and eating them like other creatures do. Instead, they have them living symbiotically inside their bodies. The tubeworms keep a supply of nutrient-rich water washing over themselves and the bacteria excrete their surplus synthesised chemicals for the tubeworms to use.

The tubeworms live in hard, solid tubes and have few if any predators. They also retain the ability to reproduce throughout their lives. Reproduction involves the 'ripe' females releasing a pheromone which stimulates the males to shed sperm into the water. The presence of this sperm in turn stimulates the females to release eggs. Fertilised eggs then develop into free-swimming plankton which settle eventually around a cold seeper again and so the life-cycle goes on, one generation producing the next... generation after generation, after generation...

Because they have so few predators there is a very low mortality rate (0.67% per year). That means, of every 100 individual tubeworms which reach adulthood in any one year, after 100 years, only 67 will be dead. This means that selection pressures which favour longevity actually get a chance to be selected for. In a short-lived species with a high mortality rate, individuals don't live long enough for any longevity genes to be selected for. They will long ago have been eaten by a predator. With these tubeworms, even when 100 years old or more, they will still be pumping out eggs and sperms, complete with the genes that enabled them to live that long.

So, the tubeworm is a hugely complex, organism, forming a symbiotic dependency on another species for food and not even providing food for another species apart from its surplus eggs, sperm and planktonic lavae, so it does nothing but produce more tubeworms - for up to 300 years. A hugely complex 'design' with little or no discernible purpose - the antithesis of intelligent design.

Creationists worship the vast intelligence of this putative designer!

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