NH Notes: Todd Wood on Creationism and the Origin of Species

If you have followed my blog for the past six months you know that I have been discussing the feasibility of the young-earth creationist’ (YEC) rapid-speciation model which proposes that hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals have been formed by natural selection in just the past couple thousand years (YEC Hyper-evolution article archive).  More recently, I wondered when and how YECs had come to accept that new species can be generated by natural selection (The Origin of the YEC Hyper-speciation Model of Biological Diversity).

Since writing this last post I was made aware of a paper that I had overlooked that sheds much more light on the history of YEC views of the origin of species.  That paper was written by Dr. Todd Wood and is titled: Species Variability and Creationism.  Although I possess a fairly extensive library of older YEC published material I did not have or missed many interesting documents that Dr. Wood was able to track-down and inspect himself. This well-researched history of YEC thought on what constitutes a biblical “kind” helped me better understand the YEC view of how much speciation has occurred.  I believe Dr. Wood makes a compelling argument that YEC leaders have accepted some degree of speciation for earlier than I had reported.

Dr. Wood works outside of the larger YEC organizations (eg. AiG, ICR and CMI) but has written some of the most articulate and scientifically literate articles that are found in the young earth creation literature. You might take that as a positive assessment of Dr. Wood or an indictment of the quality of most YEC literature.  He is one of a very short list of creationists with authentic biology credentials who are actively thinking about what constitutes biblical kinds and the proposed mechanisms of rapid-speciation.

This week, Dr. Wood updated his followers on is current research on defining biblical kinds.  In that update he shared a video he made earlier this year that explains his conception of how a “kind” might be defined and tested.  I think this video is an excellent summary of the current state of the YEC model of the origins of species.   I have linked to that video below for those that are interested in hearing Dr. Wood describe what a “kind” is and explain why he thinks that rapid speciation is not evolution.  I would disagree with some of his conclusions but I commend him for taking a data-driven approach to addressing the questions he is interested in.  The rest of the YEC community would be well-served, as I have noted in the past, to follow his research closely and model his approach to scientific inquiry.

 

Comments

  1. Tony Jelsma says:

    Joel, do you think YECs argue that rapid post-Flood speciation occurred by natural selection? I would have thought that the absence of selection might be more conducive to rapid speciation.

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    • I do think they think selection is the primary mechanism. I’ve watched Jeanson, Ham and Purdom all employ natural selection as the “sorter” of genetic variation that results in species forming which are genetic units adapted to particular niches. But your question does make me wonder if they understand that natural selection is not as powerful in smaller populations as it is in larger populations. After the Flood population sizes would have be very small and genetic drift would seem to a strong contender for explaining difference in populations. They don’t deny genetic drift happens but I think that selection seems to intuitive and easy to explain that they gravitate to using it as the default explanation for genetic variation between populations.

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      • I honestly don’t think that ‘understand’ is the word here. What the YEC(k) crowd ‘understands’ is that they have to constantly come up with lofty-sounding scenarios to patch their threadbare interpretation of Scripture. They know their basic audience does not look deeply into nature.
        It’s simply forcing a path to a pre-selected conclusion.

        Liked by 3 people

      • To justify this rapid speciation they often cite some extreme form of heterozygosity (but how extreme can it be with a breeding pair), “front loading” the animals with genetic diversity that, when crossed, allowed for rapid adaptation and speciation.

        But as you said, Joel, in smaller populations genetic drift tends to dominate. I have always thought that in population bottlenecks animals can become crippled from homozygosity resulting from genetic drift. So wouldn’t any genetic diversity post Ark quickly be wiped out by genetic drift to give nearly homozygous populations within a few generations?

        It seems like this crazy speciation is reliant upon a magical amount of genetic diversity, but that wouldn’t even work because that genetic diversity would quickly be gone.

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    • Despite previous material on the AiG website affirming natural selection, this 2016 article by Jeanson appears to be rowing AWAY from natural selection (and not really answering the question in the article’s title with a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ though my guess is that he means ‘no’):
      https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/speciation/did-natural-selection-play-a-role-in-speciation/
      “Once God created kinds with enormous genetic variety from the start, reproduction and migration were virtually all that were needed to produce a huge number of species.”
      “When God created the kinds heterozygous, He virtually guaranteed the formation of new species. The statistics of reproduction ensure the appearance of new traits in one or a few generations, and simple population growth curves indicate that these offspring can found new populations in short order. As these populations moved away from one another geographically, new species could form.”
      He of course ignores fossil evidence and attempts a genetic ‘explanation’ to account for alleged hyper fast post-flood speciation (namely created the heterozygosity that he and Lisle proposed/insisted must be true in their article on the AiG website dated 20 April 2016.)

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      • That article by Jeason asking “Did Natural Selection Play a Role in Speciation” is precious, since no where in the article does he directly answer the question or even use the term “natural selection.” However, from what I can make out from his rambling generalizations, he certainly seems to imply that natural selection had little or no role, even though in his long article at
        https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/speciation/on-the-origin-of-eukaryotic-species-genotypic-and-phenotypic-diversity/
        he repeatedly cites natural selection and mutations as factors in rapid post-Flood speciation.
        Adding to the confusion, he claims that new species are appearing all around us all the time (I am paraphrasing), yet all he can cite are a couple examples subspecies (breeds and races) forming, and other YECs like Walk Brown claim there is no evidence that speciation is happening today.
        The overall irony of all of this is that many YECs have been claiming that significant evolutionary changed can’t happen even over millions of years, yet now Jeanson and others claim that that tens of thousands of new species to sprang into existence within a few hundred years after the Flood, despite the devastated environments and sever genetic bottlenecks that would have faced all the animals debarking the Ark. Or would they be de-arking?
        By the way, Jeanson’s long article, which he often chides others for not reading, is horrendously rambling and jargon ridden — a classic case of talking a lot while saying little. In it he shows numerous charts and graphs on mutation rates, which are meaningless unless he can show what % of the mutations would be beneficial, selected and inherited (which he does not do). In fact, he needs an astoundingly high % to be beneficial and selected, but this would run directly counter to that other YECs have been saying for about mutations. Indeed, other YECs talk about “genetic entropy” and how genomes only degrade with time. Yet he needs to explain the formation of millions of new alleles in thousand of species in only centuries of time! Interesting, to the extent I can discern what Jeason is saying about the genetic basis of hyperspeciation, he seems to contradict the proposed mechanisms that Wood proposed in his articles. Indeed, both are long on speculation and short on empirical evidence, while conflicting lots of fossil and biological evidence. If all modern species genetically and geographically expanded from a small number of species that left the Ark after it landed in the middle east a few thousands years ago, we should see fossil evidence of this (as well as of the Flood itself), and we don’t. Of course, Jeason doesn’t even get into the fossil and geologic evidence, or adequately deal with the evidence for the devastating and long-lasting nature of sever genetic bottlenecks. For example, the cheetah’s are still suffering from the effects of a genetic bottleneck that evidently occurred about 10,000 years ago. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC46261/
        Joel Andersen hits the nail on the head, noting that Jeanson and Lisle get all “scientificy” in their long AIG article, as they evidently try to wow lay readers with confusing charts and technical-sounding jargon, without making anything close to a coherent scientific argument. See:
        http://www.joeledmundanderson.com/?p=1358
        http://www.joeledmundanderson.com/?p=1364
        In short, YEC claims on “rapid speciation” is a pile vague and confusing claims, which often conflict with each other as well as extensive evidence from genetics, population biology, and the fossil record.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What I keep struggling to understand is how any of this can rightly be called “science.” I respect the position that says, “I believe the Bible teaches X, therefore I believe X.” But if a scientist has to give up the uniformity of historical natural processes and insert all sorts of unrepeatable, unobserved miraculous points of intervention, is that really science? It may be that Todd Wood is correct that God did it the way he says, but what is the point of bringing science in to the equation. You don’t need it. YECism seems to be an alternative to science, not science.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tony Jelsma says:

      So are you saying that science can only be methodological naturalism? If something miraculous occurs, is science unable to detect that it occurred, even if it can’t study how it occurred?

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      • I think what your are asking is whether biblical-recorded miraculous events could be measured and/or sensed by a spectator of the events when they happened. If that is your question, then of course, “science” would have detected a miracle.

        But YEC is not talking about miracles recorded in the Bible, they are talking about theoretical miracles that the biblical authors said nothing about – specifically here, hyper-speciation. This theory has never been observed presently or recorded in any historical observation, not even in the Bible. Neither has it been reproduced in a lab.

        In my view, hyper-speciation is a far more radical solution to the interpretive difficulties of Genesis 6-9 than simply reading the Noah story in its ancient Near Eastern context where hyperbolic language is common in such historical accounts. Young Earth Creationists are solving for a problem that does not exist.

        Retreating to the concept of extra-biblical, theoretical miracles every time one comes to a piece of scientific data that is inconvenient to one’s interpretation of the Bible is fair to neither science nor biblical studies. Let’s remember that God is the author of both “books,” and humans are fallible interpreters of both.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Tony Jelsma says:

          I agree with you. The AiG crowd have painted themselves into a corner by insisting on a young earth and global Flood. Their only option now is to postulate rapid speciation when there is no evidence for it.
          I was just concerned that you were equating science with naturalism.

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  3. vastergotland1 says:

    Who else is on the short list you mentioned above?

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    • I have another post almost ready that asks just how many people are Ken Ham another others relying on to develop an entirely new understanding of genetics and then lists the YEBs (Young earth biologists). I am hoping to have that ready to go withing a week. My list includes 10 individuals.

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      • Joel, when you say your list includes 10 individuals, do you mean 10 YECs? Do you mean biologist YECs who are still working or still alive? I get the impression that only a handful of YECs at most are actively working on the subject now, with even fewer having biology credentials or expertise. This may overlap what you’ve found, but for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve gleaned:
        Todd Wood and Kurt Wise have written quite a bit on the subject, but Wise is a paleontologist. Plus they say things contrary to Jeanson, and Wood accepts feathered dinosaurs, so I don’t think Ham relies much on them these days.
        David Cavanaugh, T F Cox, C A Cox, and D Robinson did some work with Wood and Wise in the 1990’s and early 2000s, but I don’t know if they’ve written anything on the subject, or what their backgrounds are. Same for R Sanders and N Doran who Wood write a 2003 paper with, and M J Murray who Wood wrote a book with entitled Understanding the Pattern of Life, which is out of print.
        John Woodmorappe discussed speciation and baraminology in connection with his Ark Feasibility study, but I don’t think he has any biology credentials, or that Ham considers him a major source on the subject. Jason Lisle coauthored Jeanson’s long article but calls himself an astrophysicist.
        Wood’s articles are listed at: https://www.baraminology.net/references/wood/
        and his contact info is listed on YEC websites, so I guess he’s fine with people contacting him on questions like this: http://creationwiki.org/Todd_Wood
        As you probably know, Wood founded the so-called “Baraminology Study Group” sometimes called the “Creation Biology Study Group” whose website is here: http://www.creationbiology.org/
        It includes a “Who are we?” page that talks about their ‘mission’ but doesn’t list specific members. This site indicates that several BSG conferences have been held on the subject, and the proceedings are linked here: http://www.creationbiology.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=201240&module_id=36812
        Todd Elder runs the Baraminology.net website and developed the “Elder Model” and says he has a BS in “science”, but Jeanson doesn’t even cite him. Other than the people listed above, most of the YECs Jeanson and Ham cite on the subject seem to be deceased or no longer working.
        If others have done much lately, it’s odd that Jeanson did not cite them. Most of his references are to mainstream authors that don’t even support his claims, and a handful of other YECs whose writings are only peripheral to the subject. In short, I get the impression that Ham sees Jeanson as his main authority on the subject now, however misguided that may be. Of course, all of these YECs contradict what >99.99% of mainstream biologists and paleontologist hold.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Glen, yes I was thinking of 10 YECs. I thought I had published that post but now I can’t find it. I’ve written so much I no longer can remember what I’ve done. I know I worked on a list along with their credentials. It was going to be a look at just who are the one that are creating the YEC talking points that we will be dealing with for the next decade. You are right that the list doesn’t include many with real credentials. I follow the baraminology group and I’ve checked out Elders stuff. Your are right that they don’t interact with each other much. Jeanson almost manages not to reference Todd Wood in his entire recent book. The only references is not too any of Woods more important papers. With so few YECs thinking about speciation one would think they should at least be joining forces to some degree. However, I think it reflects the fact that every YEC that looks at speciation sees different problems and the mostly ad hoc solutions they derive are bound to contradict the solutions that another YEC comes up with as they are trying to solve a different problem. There is really no chance that they are going to agree on a single model just like flood geologists can’t agree on where the Flood/Post-flood boundary is in the geological record.

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          • Glenn, I searched my computer and found a mostly complete article that I never posted on my blog. Here is the list of relatively active YEBs who have speculated about speciation at some point that I had compiled at that time:
            LIST OF YEBs (Young-earth biologist)
            Dr. John Sanford – PhD (1980) U of Wisconsin – Plant breeding/plant genetics
            Dr. Robert W. Carter – PhD (2003) University of Miami – Marine Biology (Full-time employee of Creation Ministries International)
            Dr. Jean Lightner – D.V.M (Before 1985) The Ohio State University – Veterinary medicine
            Dr. Jerry Bergman – PhD (1992) Columbia Pacific University – Human Biology
            Dr. Nathanial Jeanson – PhD (2009?) Harvard University – Cell and Developmental Biology (Full-time employee of Answers in Genesis)
            Dr. Georgia Purdom – PhD (2000) The Ohio State University – Molecular Genetics (Full-time employee of Answers in Genesis)
            Dr. Randy Guliuzza – M.D. (Before 1990) University of Minnesota Medical School – Preventive Medicine Physician (Employee of Institute for Creation Research)
            Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins – PhD (1996) University of Georgia – Genetics (Full-time employee of the Institute for Creation Research)
            Dr. Todd Wood – PhD (1999) University of Virginia – Biochemistry
            Dr. Jonathan Sarfati – PhD (1980s) Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) – Chemistry
            Dr. Kevin Anderson – PhD (Before 1990) Kansas State University – Microbiology. Creation Research Society
            None of these biologists have degrees in evolutionary biology or from evolutionary biology programs. Of these, two (Tomkins and Sanford) probably were required to take formal courses in evolutionary theory as undergraduates.

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  4. I’m kind of disappointed in this. There doesn’t seem to be any thought towards comparing evolution as an explanation for diversity with his “created kinds” hypothesis. Instead it’s just written off as an option, which isn’t really scientific thinking. Wood has been pretty honest of the weakness of creationist explanations in the past, so maybe this video is just too short/not meant for that type of thoughtful discussion. Real hypothesis testing is good to see, though.

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    • Yes, very fair point. This video is very simple and doesn’t provide mechanisms at all. I do think that Wood is interested in mechanisms. He has suggested some in the past that don’t make any sense but he is fairly willing to consider the evidence and he is trying to think of ways to test his own ideas which is pretty novel among YECs.

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  5. WHAT hypothesis testing? There is absolutely none. He just arbitrarily decrees that post Flood changes happened in “decades” rather than in centuries, as (he says) evolution would require, therefore his changes would be much faster than evolution. (Evolution in centuries, really?) He also just asserts that evolution is “random” whereas his changes (arctic hares turning white) are neatly “designed” to the environment. Does he even understand “adaptation to the environment?”
    There is no testing here at all, just a cartoon version of the standard creationist line, completely uniformed by any contact with biology, geology (overwhelming evidence against the Flood) or even reality. To his credit, Wood never said there would be any of that, it is you who seem to be projecting that onto his video.

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    • I am being charitable but I’m thinking more of his work with human ancestors. He certainly starts from the a particular presupposition of “kinds” but he is at least willing to let some data inform him about the boundaries of kinds rather than the AIG approach which just arbitrarily pontificates on the topics. Woods video is very simple and I didn’t meant to sound like that is his testing but it does lay out the presuppositions of the YEC view more clearly than I have seen elsewhere.

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      • Oh, I see what you are getting at. If Wood uses his statistical method for counting “kinds,” he might well come up with a number too large to fit in the Ark. That would cause ructions!

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      • Even Todd’s article on the “Baraminological Analysis” of hominids in the Answers Research Journal (an AIG publication) at the URL below looks at cranial features (his results would likely be quite different if he included post-cranial features).
        https://assets.answersingenesis.org/doc/articles/pdf-versions/arj/v3/hominid-baraminology.pdf

        Wood several 2D and 3D graphs, but they are ambiguous and confusing. In the 2D graphs the X-axis is not labeled, and in the 3D graphs none of the axes are labeled or marked with units, plus many of the data points are unidentified. Things like this would never pass peer review in a conventional scientific journal. He ends up concluding that H sapiens, H neanderthalensis, H Heidelbergensis, H erectus, H ergaster, H habilis, H rudolfensis, and Au sediba all belong to the same “baramin,” even though most of these taxa show significant cranial and post-cranial differences from modern humans, and even though Wood acknowledges that they show a variety of intermediate or apparently sub-human features. Because of this, many other YECS insist that one or more of these taxa are “just apes.” All these contradictions and ambiguities are the result of the misguided need of YECs to pigeon hole all hominids as “ape” or “human” no matter characters they show, or where they occur geologically. Indeed, Wood’s article largely neglects the last matter, which is not a trivial thing. In general, the most advanced hominids are less and less like us the farther down they are stratigraphically, which is exactly what you would expect with evolution, but which makes no sense in the YEC/Flood Geology model (where they should be all mixed up). Wood makes comments such as “The diversity of humans could represent a post-Babel event…” which are not only highly speculative, but also presume that the reader shares his Biblical literalism view, which even many theists would consider improper in a scientific paper.

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    • Based on his own blog post about the video, the hypothesis he is testing is whether or not mammals can be categorized as discrete groups with statistical significance. It certainly isn’t a very useful hypothesis for testing the validity of his created kinds idea vs. common descent via evolution, and the experiment doesn’t seem to have any real implications for the internal validity of the “created kind” concept. Any set of species that isn’t statistically different can just be arbitrarily called a created kind, and the concept of created kinds is just assumed. It’s definitely a hypothesis couched in an awful lot of handwaving away evolution, but it is a hypothesis, and is being tested for what (little) it’s worth.

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      • As with his analysis of hominids, when evaluating other “baramins” he largely neglects the question of where they occur in terms of geologic horizons and geographic locations, even though those are very relevant issues.

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  6. I have heard good things about Todd Wood, but I am also disappointed. I got the impression (perhaps erroneously) that in the arctic, bunnies are white, not because they adapted through natural selection, but because God put the white bunnies there (and made them white). OTOH, i think I have seen NS referred to by Ham and others. Can you clarify?

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    • Hmm, hard to clarify things that aren’t clear:-) Terms are thrown around so freely with YECs that it is hard to know what they mean at times. In the case of bunnies, I am sure that Wood would say that there was lots of allelic variation in preserved pair of bunnies on the Ark. When they reproduced that would would have resulted in many different variations of bunnies. Depending on where the bunnies lived those variations either be beneficial or harmful and thus strongly selected for or against. Thus there was a quick sorting of all the variation into discreet gene pools which he would label as species like the arctic bunnies. So yes, I think he would say this is natural selection in action. What I find interesting is that he thinks this sorting happened very quickly after the Flood because he admits that populations in the present are NOT changing very rapidly. This is contrary to Dr. Jeanson at AiG who thinks that specieation is still happening in the present at a pace similar to that in the past. I suppose they must have very different views of the strength of natural selection but I suspect they just both having really thought it through and have a good grasp of population genetics.

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      • Joel, you wrote: “I am sure that Wood would say that there was lots of allelic variation in preserved pair of bunnies on the Ark.” Jeanson often seems to imply the same thing. The problem is, if there were only a pair of bunnies on the Ark, there could only be at most 4 alleles for each trait or gene. Yet bunnies and most other species have far more than 4 alleles for each gene (two from each parent). Even aside from the devastated environments the de-arking animals would have to contend with, the genetic bottlenecks would have been horrendous, and not lead to rapid speciation, but in most casts, low diversity and extinction. Only with a lot of time, mutations, and natural selection, could lots more alleles be formed, which is macroevolution and “new information” by any reasonable definition. Yet they still insist that neither occurs.
        Sometimes Jeanson refers to the “front-loading” variations at Creation, evidently forgetting (or hoping that readers will forget) even if that were true, it would be largely irrelevant to the small amount of variation left after the Flood, and the time it would take for the variations to be expressed by natural selection. Even at Creation, unless far more than one pair of each “kind” were created (and the Bible and most YECs seem to indicate otherwise), there would still be at most 4 alleles for each “kind.” Even single species have far more than that for most traits, let alone taxonomic families, which Jeanson and other YECs claim are approx. equivalent to a Genesis kind.
        In short, YECs have a big “allele problem.” After all, they used to insist that “new genetic information” could never be naturally formed even over tens of millions of years, now they want to imply it would be “easy” (Jeanson’s term) in a tiny fraction of that time? It’s downright loopy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Great observations in your comments here and elsewhere. Just letting you know that I’ll respond over the weekend when I get a chance.

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        • Jeanson is a pretty entertaining read because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know but he is very willing to assure us that all these things he suggest are “easy” as you say. I’ve also said the same thing about the original variation and the obvious bottleneck but I do think that he has something else in mind not that it really helps that much. Rather than just four alleles I think what Jeanson is imagining is that in an ark kind you would have 4 copies of each gene. Each would be different and so we could call them different alleles but these alleles would not differ at a single point in the gene sequence. Rather there might be 30 different basepair differences between each of the four copies of the gene scattered along the coding strand. With respect to the the morphology that those four genes sequences produce it would be 4 traits and we would all these four alleles. But Jeanson is counting on crossing-over during meiosis to recombine the 30 different base pair differences to created a new combination of genes sequences. In his mind this would produce new phenotypes/morphololgies simply by creating new combinations of the differences that already existed. You see this way no base substitution mutations just recombination which for some reason YECs don’t consider a form of mutation or change. So he is going to say that God preserved really different alleles in the ark kind which them recombined to produce 30 new combinations each of which is a different trait/allele. Those in term would be selected for in different groups of descendants to produce different species.
          Theoretically this does give him more variation available at the start than his critics often claim. That said, this really doesn’t do a whole lot for him in the long run and he doesn’t understand natural selection and the dynamic of population size effects on genetic drift etc… He provides to model to show how this really works nor how much variation is needed or how it would survive the Ark bottleneck.

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