The Brains of Mice and Men — and Creationists

This one comes from the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. Their post is titled Mammalian Brains Prove Evolutionary Disconnect. That title promises a lot.

ICR’s post was written by Jeffrey P. Tomkins. At the end of his article we’re told: “Dr. Tomkins is Director of Research at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his doctorate in genetics from Clemson University.” Wowie — he’s had a promotion. The last time we mentioned him he was only their Life Sciences Director. Now he’s Director of Research. Presumably that’s a step up, and we’re impressed! Here are some excerpts from Jeffrey’s new article, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

The evolutionary model of brain development predicted that the complexity of neural connectivity should have increased as brains became larger and the creatures more complex. However, a groundbreaking study has just been published showing that, across the spectrum of mammals, the levels of brain activity are equally complex. [Really?] In other words, mammalian brain connectivity and its amazing complexity appeared suddenly and fully functional across the board with no evolutionary precursor.

There’s a “groundbreaking study” which claims that all mammalian brains — like those of mice and men — are “equally complex”? This we gotta see! Ah, Jeffrey has a footnote to that claim. It leads us to this item at EurekAlert, the online news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): MRI scans of the brains of 130 mammals, including humans, indicate equal connectivity.

Wait a minute! EurekAlert‘s title says “equal connectivity.” Jeffrey is talking about equal complexity. Are they the same? Let’s see what Jeffrey says:

With regard to how this discovery upends evolutionary predictions, Assaf [Professor Yaniv Assaf, one of the study authors] confirmed that, in an effort to explain a more advanced “human animal,” many in the scientific community have argued that a human’s brain connectivity far surpasses that of other mammals. This theory is directly contradicted by the study results. [Gasp!] In other words, the alleged prediction of evolution that things should progress from simple to complex across a continuum among mammals was utterly debunked.

What’s Jeffrey saying — that a human’s brain is no more complex than the brain of a mouse? He may believe that, but the rest of us see things a bit differently. He continues:

Assaf goes on to say that the group’s research “’revealed a universal law: Conservation of Brain Connectivity….This law denotes that the efficiency of information transfer in the brain’s neural network is equal in all mammals, including humans.’”

It may well be that connectivity is the same for all mammalian brains; but human brains are large, and therefore have more connections to be made, so our brains are obviously more complex than those of other mammals. Doesn’t Jeffrey see this? Apparently not. He keeps using “connectivity” and “complexity” as if they were the same thing. Here’s the conclusion of his brilliant post:

Thus, the complexity of mammalian brain connectivity has no predictable, evolutionary pattern or precursor to its existence. [Hee hee!] Neural connectivity complexity among the different kinds of mammals appears suddenly, exactly as our mighty Creator engineered it to be — fully operational and firing on all cylinders from the beginning of creation.

That was bizarre. Does it thrill the creationist readers of ICR’s website? Who knows?

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “The Brains of Mice and Men — and Creationists

  1. So humans, mice and all mammals are of the same kind. At least as far as brain connectivity. As they are as far as eyes, ears, and, mostly, reproduction and los of other structures.

  2. “Neural connectivity complexity among the different kinds of mammals appears suddenly”.
    Well, here you got both connectivity and complexity in one sentence. I wouldn’t be surprised if a parrot brain shows a similar neuron connectivity as a mammal brain.
    Secondly, how did he jump to the “appears suddenly” conclusion? There is a continuous transition between mammals and their predecessors.

  3. Michael Fugate
    Over 100 years ago, Ramon y Cajal hypothesized that two forces played a role in the evolution of mammalian brain connectivity: minimizing wiring costs and maximizing conductivity speed. Using diffusion MRI, we reconstructed the brain connectomes of 123 mammalian species. Network analysis revealed that both connectivity and the wiring cost are conserved across mammals. We describe a conservation principle that maintains the overall connectivity: species with fewer interhemispheric connections exhibit better intrahemispheric connectivity.

    Given that they don’t compare to non-mammals. the soybean geneticist Thompkins is flailing as usual.

  4. I fail to see the difference with Susan’s “argument” that women should have evolved four arms. Indeed this account of a Tel Aviv research reveals yet another law for mammals: Conservation of the Amount of Limbs. This disproves evilution in exactly the same way as the Law of Conservation of Brain Connectivity: not at all.

  5. @FrankB
    Good catch.
    It does remind one of the Great Hippocampus Question, the debate between Huxley and Owen. They agreed that similarity of brain structure between apes and humans tended to favor common descent.

  6. chris schilling

    “The Brains of Mice and Men — and creationists.”

    In the Steinbeck novel, Lennie was the hulking, intellectually handicapped ranch hand who kept fouling things up for he and his friend George.

    There’s a metaphor for Professor Bumpkins there, somewhere.

  7. As far as I can make out – and I ask for correction – “neural connectivity” is the number of connections each cerebral (brain) neuron has to other neurons, on average. I see no particular reason why mammalian brains should not have a high average number. It would appear obvious that the more connections, the more capable the brain will be at processing and distributing stimuli from the environment; at assimilating information, in other words. Mammals seem to be selected for that trait. Why not? How does that constitute a challenge to Darwinian evolution?

    Of course this does not refer to the capacity of the brain, which is closely related to the number of neurons in it, and that can be roughly estimated from its volume. Other considerations apply, however – again, roughly, what the brain is used for. In humans, it is used to manipulate the environment, via (as the verb implies) the hands. In dolphins, which have brains as large as ours, but cannot manipulate their environment, it is used to perceive it via echolocation and sensitivity to sound that we cannot approach.

    I will throw out a suggestion that creationists might like. Dolphins have large brains, a need for hunting co-operation, the ability to perceive very subtle changes in sound underwater and to assign meaning to them, and a corresponding ability to “chirp” in subtly different patterns. There would appear to be selection pressure towards the development of language. But the occasional claim that dolphin “languages” exist has never been adequately demonstrated. Perhaps we are the only species with genuine language, with syntax, grammar and vocabulary sufficient for the communication of subtle and complex ideas. But other species would be advantaged by that trait. How does evolution explain their not having it, huh?

    “Calling Dr Doolittle, Dr Doolittle, please come to reception…”

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