Do mushrooms "scheme?"

Do mushrooms "scheme?"

Well, the obvious answer is "no" ... right? Mushrooms aren't sentient. They don't have brains. How could they scheme?

The more I get to know mushrooms, the more I'm confronted by some of life's greatest anomalies. Evolutionists tell us that mushrooms evolved not from plants, but from animals. And they do indeed exhibit some very animal-like characteristics.

A microscopic view of Pleurotus (Oyster mushroom) mycelium, exhibiting the "hyphae" blobs which attract, immobilize and invade nematodes, enabling the mushroom to both avoid predation and find the nitrogen it needs to survive in hardwood.For instance, we've been talking a lot about Oyster Mushrooms. Some time ago I learned something amazing about Oyster Mushrooms which I really can't explain, at least by appealing to evolution. Here it is, hopefully in a nutshell ...

Oyster mushrooms, like many other specific types of mushrooms, propagate not out of the soil, but in decaying wood, right? I have a number of oyster mushroom "logs" in my back yard. I drilled 50 holes each in some 3-foot-long sections of maple which had fallen in the forest behind my house (each is about 6 or 8 inches in diameter), and inserted Ostreatus pleurotus (Oyster mushroom) mycelium-infested wooden dowels into the holes, then sealed these with wax. After a few months, the mycelium (the little hairlike "roots" of the mushroom which actually comprise the majority of its hidden fungal lifeform, the portions we call "mushrooms" actually being only the fruiting body which the organism uses for propagation) propagate themselves all throughout the hardwood. Eventually, when the organism feels the need to reproduce, it shoots out the fruiting bodies to spread its billions of unseen microscopic spores aloft. (And we humans then remove the fruiting bodies and enjoy them with steak and eggs!)

So, here's the rub. Ostreatus only grows in hardwood. But it needs nitrogen to survive. Plants themselves (hardwoods included) produce precious little nitrogen. That's something that comes from the decaying bodies of the animal side of the spectrum.

However, decaying hardwood is also filled with millions of microscopic little worm-like nematodes, merrily eating their way through the wood. The mycelium seeks out the little worms, but it literally first has to trap them, and then kill them, in order to harvest their nitrogen for its survival. And the fact is that even though nematodes are microscopic, they are much larger (and stronger) than the mycelium.

So, how does the Oyster Mushroom do this? A great summary of the process can be found on the Northern Woodlands website, in an article cleverly entitled "When Mushrooms Attack." First, the mycelium has to lure the hapless nematode to its doom. The mycelium achieves this by emitting a substance which attracts the nematodes (the article says it "smells like dinner").

Next, the Oyster mushroom has to immobilize the nematode. To to this it sends out little extensions with a sticky blob that attaches itself to the nematode's body. (I've read in alternate sources that these are either blob-like, or sometimes like little loops that can constrict around the nematode. I'm not sure which is accurate, or perhaps both, but in either case it's amazing!

Like a spider preying on a fly, the mycelium then inject a paralyzing substance into the body of the nematode. Under a microscope, the worm can be seen to struggle, but in its weakened state it is a futile battle. The mushroom then slowly invades the body of the nematode (through its mouth), and extracts nitrogen from its poor, dying prey.

Here's something else interesting: Nematodes themselves are also potential predators of Oyster mushrooms, as they seek to eat anything animal, vegetable or fungal living in the hardwood. This website says that the Pleurotus developed the "hyphae" (the little extensions which first attract, then immobilize the nematodes) as a defense mechanism!

When I first learned of this, I was astounded. I struggled and struggled to understand how the theory of evolution could account for such behavior in a fungus. As you are probably aware, the theory (nicknamed "survival of the fittest") says that species evolve into higher forms by "accidentally" developing a characteristic which improves its prospects for survival. Since its prospects are improved, organisms which exhibit the accidental modification then are more likely to survive than those which don't.

Sounds great, right? There's only one (or perhaps more than one) logical problem with this theory, and it becomes evident when you think about the Oyster mushroom.

Oyster mushrooms can only survive and propagate in hardwood. But hardwood doesn't have what they need to survive and propagate. In order to get it, They would have had to "accidentally" evolve the substance which attracts the nematodes, AND simultaneously "accidentally" evolve the sticky little blob extensions, or loops, or whatever; AND simultaneously "accidentally" evolve the substance which paralyzes the nematodes so that the mycelium can invade and harvest the nitrogen ... all before they could successfully infest and survive in hardwood.

Seems like way too many "accidents" to occur simultaneously in order for a fungus to successfully adapt to the hardwood environment.

And this problem is very similar to a key problem which occurs in all living organisms at the cellular level. Scientists tell us there are 26 separate factors, structurally and chemically speaking, which need to be functioning in any living cell in order for that cell to survive and propagate. Remove any one of the 26, and the cell dies.

So, would someone please tell me how ALL 26 of these factors came to be in place in the very first cell when it "accidentally" evolved from something not-cellular, such as some sort of amino acids being spewed out of a volcanic vent in the ocean somewhere? Once again, too many accidents. You can't account for this by appealing to "adaptation."

There's a scientific principle called "Occam's Razor" which basically says that the simplest and most straightforward explanation of a phenomenon is most likely to be the right one. And it seems to me the simplest and most straightforward explanation of the Oyster Mushroom's survival behavior is not that it was a complex "accidental" adaption, but that it was instead "designed."

But, designed by who?

This problem for evolutionary theory, the delicate balance of life and the appearance of design that occurs all throughout nature (not simply in the mushroom world!), has given rise to a number of wild possible explanations. A master race of aliens seeded the galaxy with life, for example. But the problem for such theories always circles back to the beginning: Who created the master race of aliens, who must themselves be (necessarily) sufficiently complex to create such life of amazing complexity?

The only solution to this Occam's Razor problem, that I can see, is the one that's been staring us, as a relatively "intelligent" species, in the face for more than 4,000 years. There is a record of revelation that clearly points us to a Creative Intelligence. It's internally consistent, it's compelling, and it makes a lot of sense. Why then do we seem so reluctant to believe that the God who must have created the universe, created mushrooms, and created us, is the God who also invites us to be in relationship with Him?

I promised elsewhere on this website to talk about how something as simple and funny as "wolf farts" (Lycoperdon puffball mushrooms) also demonstrate creative intelligence, and I'll do that in my next blog, so stay tuned! And please, let me know YOUR thoughts on this topic.

1 comment

  • Hi

    Great article right until you got up to intelligent design. Then it’s like a slap in the face. The most likely truth is that we simply haven’t figured out the catalyst to the evolutionary mechanism that created the mycelium traps. That is Occam’s razor. No scientific findings have ever given credit to intelligent design.

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