Creation-Evolution Headlines
 January 2002
“Science is the best system devised by man to give us information about nature.  However, the conclusions of science are not final.  Science repeatedly revises and even reverses its conclusions.  Science is more reliable in the experimental realm than when dealing with the past, especially when that past cannot be experimentally repeated.  When it comes to answering the great questions of origins, meaning and destiny, science has lost its credentials.”
–Dr. Ariel Roth, biologist, In Six Days: Why Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (New Holland Publishers, 1999), p. 87.

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How Life Defends Against Harmful Mutations   01/31/2002
Different populations have different ways of defending themselves against the destructive effects of harmful mutations, say David C. Krakauer of the Sante Fe Institute and Joshua B. Plotkin of Princeton, in a paper “Redundancy, antiredundancy, and the robustness of genomes” in the Jan 29
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Although presuming genetic mutations are a source of evolutionary novelty, they explain that damage must be guarded against. 
The authors propose that small populations of large organisms (like mammals) use redundancy to maintain fitness: i.e., copies of genes and backup systems.  But large populations of small organisms, like bacteria, appear to employ antiredundancy strategies: i.e., they are hypersensitive to mutation, but employ methods of removing harmful mutants:

Assuming a cost of redundancy, we find that large populations will evolve antiredundant mechanisms for removing mutants and thereby bolster the robustness of wild-type genomes; whereas small populations will evolve redundancy to ensure that all individuals have a high chance of survival.  We propose that antiredundancy is as important for developmental robustness as redundancy, and is an essential mechanism for ensuring tissue-level stability in complex multicellular organisms.  We suggest that antiredundancy deserves greater attention in relation to cancer, mitochondrial disease, and virus infection.
The authors propose a mathematical model for explaining the dynamics of redundancy and antiredundancy in differing populations.  Populations exhibiting redundancy have hilly fitness landscapes with steep, narrow peaks.  Antiredundant populations have a flat fitness landscape with small peaks, forming a “quasispecies” of mutants with similar fitness. 
Although this paper is listed in the category “Evolution,” it is hard to see how it helps evolutionary theory.  Whether a population is large or small, it works to shield itself from mutations and achieve stability.  The fitness peak concept comes from graphing fitness as the vertical axis on a 3D plot of a population.  Evolutionists have been realizing that fitness is not a progressive slope of “onward and upward” improvement, but an undulating landscape with peaks and valleys.  A population on a peak is stable, and would actually have to devolve to get off its peak and onto a higher one.  This is not evolution in the Darwinian sense.  It fits in better with the view that natural selection is a conservative process, allowing enough variation to compensate for contingencies (like mutations) that would otherwise destroy the population.  The authors do not describe how “evolutionary novelty” can become established, nor do they provide any example of a beneficial mutation.  It appears, therefore, that this paper is promoting a view of life being in a state of dynamic equilibrium, not upward evolution.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Technology Imitates Nature Dept. 01/30/2002: Science News Jan 26, 2002 has a story about how designers are imitating biological cilia, the little beating hairlike projections on many types of cells, to coax micro-spacecraft into position.  Unlike the complex biological cilia, the artificial ones are made of silica and powered by electric heaters to make them vibrate at about 60 Hz.

Talk of the Walk of Dinosaurs   01/30/2002
The
Jan 31 Nature has two dinosaur articles.  A brief communication by four UK scientists determines the gait of theropod dinosaurs from the extensive Oxfordshire trackways.  They conclude that the large beasts were able to run and walk, and used different gaits for each, but additional questions are left unanswered:

Furthermore, the anatomical correlations between leg and hip anatomy associated with the adoption of wide- and narrow-gauge gaits are not yet known and we are therefore unable to determine the phylogenetic distribution of these locomotor styles.  Nevertheless, the Ardley trackways offer new insight into dinosaur locomotor capacity and will stimulate enquiry into the evolution and biomechanics of large theropod dinosaurs.
Brian Maurer discusses the work of Burness on the size of animals related to land area, asking why dinosaurs grew to be so big:
Dinosaurs present us with a puzzle.  In many respects they seemed to be constructed like warm-blooded animals.  Their posture indicated they were more active than living cold-blooded vertebrates.  They apparently had extended parental care and complex mating rituals.  Yet, ecologically, they filled continents as if they were cold-blooded.  So what on the surface appears to be a case of convergent evolution between dinosaurs and modern vertebrates may in fact be the result of unique evolutionary events occurring in different ways at different times.  Dinosaurs lived in a very different world from any modern animal, and may have interacted with their environment in ways that have no clear parallels among living land vertebrates.  The more we study them, the more we get a glimpse into the complex workings of the evolutionary engine.
The references to evolution seem forced.  What scientists observe and what they speculate on about family trees and evolution have no necessary connection.  Maurer’s comment about the “complex workings of the evolutionary engine” could qualify for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  Evolution is a rusting hulk, not an engine.
Next headline on: Dinosaurs.
Water Lilies: the Missing Link?   01/30/2002
A press release by the
National Science Foundation argues that water lilies may be a missing link.  The origin of flowering plants, Darwin’s “abominable mystery,” has long been a problem.  Since all angiosperms have triploid endosperm but water lily endosperm is diploid, it may be represent a precursor to the divergence of angiosperms from gymnosperms.  This is the theory of two Colorado biologists writing in the Jan. 31 Nature, who admit (emphasis added):
Recent phylogenetic hypotheses suggest far greater evolutionary distances between flowering plants and all other extant seed plants than had previously been imagined.  Thus, the task of determining the homologies and evolutionary histories of defining angiosperm characters, in essence solving Darwin's “abominable mystery”, appears as daunting as ever.  If diploid endosperm represents the ancestral condition for flowering plants, a key intermediate condition in the early evolutionary history of angiosperms has been revealed. ... The presence of diploid endosperm in an early angiosperm lineage brings us one step closer to bridging the substantial gap between flowering plants and their seed plant ancestors.
There is no way to prove this is a transitional form.  Water lilies are doing just fine today with their diploid endosperm.  The NSF project officer gloats that “This is a significant first-time discovery because now we are a big step closer to understanding the evolution of flowering plants.”  Notice his bluffing exaggeration (“a big step closer to understanding the evolution”) compared to the measured optimism of the authors (“one step close to bridging the substantial gap”).  In actuality, due to other major problems with evolutionary theories about the origin of plants that keep mounting in biochemistry, they are taking only small steps north on an iceberg speeding south.
Next headline on: Plants.
Birds Evolved Flight Out of Love   01/29/2002
A UC Davis biologist, discontent with both leading theories of the origin of bird flight, presented his own: parental care. 
EurekAlert says that James Carey finds flaws with the two leading theories: (1) the top-down theory (that wings grew as lizards jumped out of trees) would predict wings between front and hind legs.  (2) The bottom-up theory (that wings started out as insulation or insect swatters) would predict that each stage must be advantageous, but no intermediates are found.  So he presents a new theory: that reptiles, tenderly caring for their eggs, found the trees a safer place.  The report summarizes:
In time, these early ancestors of birds developed more advanced techniques for caring for their young.  They started to feed their young in the nest, pumping liquid food or placing small food items in their mouths.  They also began to produce fewer and more dependent offspring and smaller eggs, and began nesting in bushes and then small trees to better protect their offspring from predators.
Gradually the forelimbs of these creatures became feathered and even more elongated, enabling them to better manipulate their eggs and to “parachute” from their tree nests to a soft landing.  Later they would develop the ability to glide and eventually fly by flapping their wings.
Writing in the German journal Archaeopteryx, Carey “also discusses why flying dinosaurs with nonfeathered membrane-like wings, such as the pterosaurs, became extinct.  He suggests that they perished, not because they were out-competed by birds but because they lacked the sophisticated parenting skills needed to cope with a changing environment.”
Did you know there was a whole journal dedicated to Archaeopteryx, the discredited link between reptiles and birds?  We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: evolution is not a scientific theory, but a game for storytellers who amuse themselves by competing for who can tell the biggest whopper.  The only thing worth noting in Carey’s ridiculous speculation is how he trashes the other two leading theories for the origin of bird flight.
Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next headline on: Birds. • Next dumb story.
Briefly Noted  01/29/2002
Gleanings from the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan 29 online preprints (emphasis added in quotations):
  • Biochemistry: A team describes a Human Elongator Complex that helps in the DNA transcription operation.  The introduction states, “The formation of a transcription initiation complex at a particular promoter is a complicated and highly regulated process.  However, the establishment of a transcription initiation complex seems much simpler than the process of transcription elongation with respect to the chromatin impediment, where the elongating polymerase has to traverse a nucleosome approximately every 200 base pairs.”  They describe how human Elongator performs just this function.
  • Biochemistry: A team from the Netherlands describes a second endonuclease enzyme that aids in DNA excision repair (see our Jan 4 headline on DNA Damage Response).  This enzyme they named Cho is even more effective than UvrC and appears to come into play when the other repair enzymes are unable to complete the job: “If, however, a specific lesion remains because UvrC is not able to induce 3' incision as argued above, a replication block at this damage to which UvrB will probably remain bound will trigger the SOS response, resulting in expression of the Cho protein.  The Cho protein in its turn will attempt to incise the preincision complex.  When this incision is successful the UvrC protein will induce the second incision and the repair process can be completed. ... Taken together, the combined action of UvrC and Cho broadens the substrate range of nucleotide excision repair in E. coli. ”  E. coli, is, of course, a lowly bacterium, mindless of these fail-safe mechanisms taking place within its interior.
  • Fossils: Symbiotic bacteria and protozoa have been found in the gut of a remarkably preserved termite preserved in Miocene amber presumed 20 million years old.  The organisms “markedly resemble” those in living termites.
  • Evolution: A team of geneticists writes that “mtDNA from fossils reveals a radiation of Hawaiian geese recently derived from the Canada goose.”  The surprising and unexpected results lead them to postulate a case of convergent evolution.
  • Evolution: Biologists from Utah have found a gene for gamma-carboxylation, long thought to be a vertebrate specialty involved in blood clotting, in a marine mollusc Conus.  The gene had remarkable similarity to its human counterpart, and to a gene in Drosophila (fruit fly) whose function is unknown:
    The unexpected conclusion that emerges from our study of the Conus gamma-carboxylase gene is that all eight introns in the human gene, corresponding to the Conus genomic interval analyzed, are evolutionarily ancient, older than the Cambrian explosion (~540 million years ago) when the molluscs and chordates are first detected in the fossil record.  This finding raises the intriguing question of whether most introns in other human genes have a similarly ancient lineage.  Our results suggest that Drosophila (and perhaps, other insects) may not be the appropriate invertebrate standard for evaluating whether vertebrate introns are likely to be relatively recent or more ancient than the Cambrian explosion.
Surprises, always surprises, for those who think evolution explains everything.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Fossils.

Compound Eyes Evolved Multiple Times   01/29/2002
The molecular phylogeny wars are heating up again.  Todd Oakley, biologist at Duke university, writing in the Jan 29 preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains three reasons biologists have assumed that compound eyes had a single origin: (1) detailed similarities appear between diverse groups, even at the gene level; (2) the number and arrangement of cells in the eyes of diverse groups are similar; and (3) the neural circuitry is the same (conserved) across diverse groups of arthropods.  These would seem conclusive, but Oakley argues based on molecular evidence that compound eyes evolved multiple times separately.  The abstract states (emphasis added):
Eyes often take a central role in discussions of evolution, with debate focused on how often such complex organs might have evolved.  One such debate is whether arthropod compound eyes are the product of single or multiple origins.  Here we use molecular phylogeny to address this long-standing debate and find results favoring the multiple-origins hypothesis.  Our analyses of DNA sequences encoding rRNA unequivocally indicate that myodocopidsthe only Ostracoda (Crustacea) with compound eyes are nested phylogenetically within several groups that lack compound eyes.  With our well-supported phylogeny, standard maximum likelihood (ML) character reconstruction methods significantly reconstruct ancestral ostracods as lacking compound eyes.  We also introduce a likelihood sensitivity analysis, and show that the single-origin hypothesis is not significantly favored unless we assume a highly asymmetric model of evolution (one favoring eye loss more than 30:1 over gain).  These results illustrate exactly why arthropod compound eye evolution has remained controversial, because one of two seemingly very unlikely evolutionary histories must be true. Either compound eyes with detailed similarities evolved multiple times in different arthropod groups or compound eyes have been lost in a seemingly inordinate number of arthropod lineages.
If his multiple-origin hypothesis is true (and he sounds confident it is), then other ways of inferring evolution are all wet: “Our molecular phylogeny clearly indicates that myodocopids are monophyletic and are nested within several groups lacking compound eyes.  Based on this phylogeny, methods of character reconstruction significantly favor the independent origin of myodocopid compound eyes, constituting the strongest phylogenetic evidence to date for multiple origins of arthropod eyes.  If this is not an independent origin, and compound eyes were actually lost many times, then this is a case where commonly used methods of historical inference are positively and significantly misleading.” (Emphasis added).
The gullibility of evolutionists is positively and significantly astounding.  Of course eyes are more easily lost than formed.  Why is that hypothesis hard to believe, unless it fits in with creationist principles?  Instead, in order to rescue evolution at all costs, he is more willing to believe that organs that gave Darwin “cold shudders” evolved multiple times.  Read Michael Behe’s description of vision, then realize that Oakley assumes that a naturalistic miracle occurred not just once, but numerous times, resulting in structures that are nearly identical! 
This story illustrates two things: (1) the growing tension between molecular phylogenies and morphological phylogenies (genes vs looks), and (2) the dogma of Darwinism.  Evolution is a fixed parameter that must not be challenged, questioned, or doubted, no matter the evidence.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
The Mathematical Equations of Political Corruption   01/28/2002
A Polish team of physicists and economists has concluded that political corruption, resulting in wealth accumulating in the hands of the super-rich, follows the same power laws that polymer molecules obey. 
Nature Science Update comments on the theory in Physical Review, “Wealth condensation in Pareto macroeconomies.”
How can this theory have any validity when they left out the primary factors: sin, greed and personal responsibility?  This is scientism run amok.  Some scientists think you can analyze anything according to mathematical equations, even the fortunes of evil dictators.  Let’s see them apply the same methodology on themselves; how about a paper on “The dynamics of implosive logic collapse in naturalistic hypotheses.”
Next headline on: Politics. • Next dumb story.
How Did Jellyfish Fossilize in Wisconsin?   01/25/2002
The February issue of
Geology, Vol 30. No. 2, has a paper attempting to explain a rare fossil deposit of Cambrian jellyfish.  Commenting on the paper, EurekAlert asks, “What are those big jellyfish fossils doing in Wisconsin?  It’s rare to find a jellyfish fossil–not having a skeleton, they easily decay.  So why is an entire horde of them preserved in central Wisconsin?”  The theory of Whitey Hagadorn of Caltech and his research team is summarized: “They believe that the jellyfish were preserved because of a lack of erosion from sea water and wind, the lack of scavengers, and the lack of any significant sediment disturbance by other organisms after the jellyfish were stranded in the sand.”  These Cambrian jellyfish are the largest known in the entire fossil record, about four inches in diameter, but some up to 20 inches.  Apparently they were deposited when Wisconsin had a tropical environment.  The summary in New Scientist has pictures of the fossil impressions.  See also the Jan 30 entry in Nature Science Update which quotes another paleontologist saying, “They must have been buried extremely quickly.”
What stranded hundreds of jellyfish in the sand?  We see stranded jellyfish on the beach occasionally today, but they are not being fossilized.  It would seem any slow, gradual process would not explain the fossilization of such soft-bodied organisms, because they would decay quickly.  The abstract begins, “Fossilized impressions of soft-bodied organisms are exceptionally rare in coarse-grained strata.  Fossilized mass-stranding events of soft-bodied organisms are even rarer.”  This is only one of two such deposits known.  The authors have to postulate several improbable settings (lack of scavengers, no erosion for hundreds of millions of years) to account for the deposit.  Is it possible these medusae were quickly buried by deep flood sediments?  The fact is, no one was there to know.  All one can do after the fact is postulate a scenario that is consistent with the present evidence.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Horsehead Nebula Unveiled in New Detail   01/25/2002
Images of the famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion photographed by the
European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope (VLT) have been released.  They show impressive color and detail comparable to those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.  The caption says that the nebula’s “structures are only temporary as they are being constantly eroded by the expanding region of ionized gas and are destroyed on timescales of typically a few thousand years.  The Horsehead as we see it today will therefore not last forever and minute changes will become observable as the time passes.”
Truly stunning photographs, not considered possible from a ground-based telescope just a few years ago.  Notice that the Horsehead is an eroding feature, not an evolving one, and eroding quickly at that.
Next headline on: Stars.
Scientists Get Seals-Eye View of the Ocean   01/24/2002
Researchers have obtained footage of ocean life the way seals see it.  According to
National Geographic, scientists have put video headgear onto Weddell seals and sent them as cameramen into the cold, dark waters of the Antarctic ocean.  The footage is showing not only the surprising hunting skill of the seals, but details about the lives of fish they prey on.  Scientists are amazed at the ability of the seals to find food.  One remarked, “It’s cold and dark.  The animals dive four to five hundred meters down while holding their breath, and are still efficient at finding food.”  They like to eat six-inch silverfish, gulping them down like popcorn.
This story was also featured on Nature Science Update, which has a couple of sample video clips.  The original paper was published this month in Marine Biology
Neat idea!  Think about what an amazing submarine a seal is.  Its rapid and graceful turns are poetry in motion.  How do seals dive so deep and rise so fast without getting the bends?  How many dogs had to die evolving this amazing scuba gear?  These are wonderfully designed creatures having fun in dark, freezing environments that would kill an exposed human in minutes.  What a lark it must be to watch these new “seal cam” films (as long as you take Dramamine first).
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next amazing story.
Adult Stem Cells Found   01/24/2002
Adult stem cells have apparently been discovered in bone marrow that are just as potent as embryonic stem cells, claims
New Scientist, which claims it might turn out to be the most important cell ever discovered.  The finding may also render moot arguments for embryonic stem cell research.
This is good news and an important story to follow.  It may obviate any push to continue research on human embryos, which is laden with moral and ethical concerns.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics. •
Muslims Use Scientists as Unwitting Defenders of Quran   01/23/2002
According to an article in
MSNBC, Western scientists are sometimes being quoted out of context to support claims that the Quran must be from God because it is historically and scientifically accurate in every detail.  For instance, Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, a Presbyterian, made some comments in the 1980’s at a conference that he now says sound silly and embarrassing taken out of context about the Quran and embryology, but he is being quoted as a champion of the book. 
Simpson is just one of several non-Muslim scientists who have found themselves caught up in the publicity machine of a fast-growing branch of Islamic fundamentalism.
Dubbed “Bucailleism,” after the French surgeon Maurice Bucaille, who articulated it in an influential 1976 book, the doctrine is in some ways the Muslim counterpart to Christian creationism.  But while creationism rejects much of modern science, Bucailleism embraces it.  It holds that the Quran prophesied the Big Bang theory, space travel and other contemporary scientific breakthroughs.  By the same token, it argues, the Bible makes lots of scientific errors, and so is less reliable as the word of God.
The article discusses how one of the most ardent advocates of Bucailleism is Sheikh Abdul Majeed Zindani of Yemen, who happens to also be a “friend and mentor to another Bucailleism devotee of Yemeni descent: Osama bin Laden.”
Our Baloney Detector is flashing many colors on this story.  Read the article and then see if any of these fallacies rear their heads, either from the Muslim apologists or the comments by MSNBC columnist Daniel Golden: half truth, guilt by association, card stacking, analogy, glittering generalities, post hoc, either-or, authority, and bluffing.  The remark about creationism rejecting much of modern science is close to a Big Lie, and assumes the myth that evolutionary storytelling is science.  Check out this Answering Islam site to see if the muslims are being fair in their use of science to support the Quran.  And decide if any of the Quran quotes they claim are scientifically accurate are really that crystal clear, instead of being vague, far-fetched interpretations (“Allah made man as a leech” supports embryology?).  Compare these with Biblical examples of scientific accuracy.  See who wants you to think, compare, research and study, and who wants you to just take their word for it.  True apologetics wants you to think and believe; propaganda wants you to believe without thinking.
Next headline on: Bible. • Next dumb story.
Debate 01/23/2002: As promotion for his book Icons of Evolution, Jonathan Wells posted “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution”.  In November, the NCSE, an anti-creationist activist organization, posted their “Responses to Jonathan Wells’s Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher.”  Now in January 2002, Dr. Wells has provided a detailed rebuttal on the Discovery Institute website with, “Inherit The Spin: Darwinists Answer ‘Ten Questions’ with Evasions and Falsehoods.”
This is a lively and interesting interchange.  Who do you think is winning?
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Bats Upset the Taxonomy Belfry   01/23/2002
A paper by six taxonomists in the Jan 22
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tries to untangle the confusing family tree of bats.  Stating that “The recent history of bat systematics is rife with controversies,” the authors admit that “Morphological evidence does not agree with molecular evidence,” i.e., family trees based on looks do not agree with those based on DNA.  After discussing the pros and cons of conflicting schemes for grouping microbats (little bats) with megabats (large bats) from the new and old worlds into larger groups of mammals, these authors decide from their molecular evidence that some characteristics such as echolocation through the nose evolved independently by convergent evolution.  They also acknowledge that the oldest known fossil bat is a microbat.  Their proposed solution, they grant, is “in striking contrast to traditional taxonomy,” and that “features of the chiropteran skull associated with the nasal emission of echolocation have more complex evolutionary histories than previously believed.”  See also this summary on Science Now posted the day after we reported this story.  It states, “But evolutionary biologists are quick to note that the work will likely fuel an already fierce classification controversy in the bat world.”
The evidence is a welter of conflicting characteristics that do not fit naturally into an evolutionary tree.  Notice that the oldest known bat is already fully developed as a bat.  These authors debunk the hypothesis that bats evolved from flying lemurs, but lump them in with moles, anteaters and carnivores!  Yet associating bats with any other mammal group is pure fiction.  And again, as we have reported here repeatedly, the molecular and morphological phylogenies don’t match.  And trying to explain complex features by “convergent evolution” is pure hand waving, expecting us to believe that unlikely events occurred more than once.  It’s not just the mouth or nose that are adapted to the bat’s amazing ability to use sonar, but the ears, the brain, and the whole body.  Have you watched the olympic-level aerobatics these animals perform as they pinpoint the location, size and direction of an insect that is darting about, and scoop it up in flight in total darkness?  Now the evolutionists expect us to believe this incredible suite of interrelated hardware and software evolved twice, without a programmer.  Let’s get real.  The evidence shows, as is the rule, that complex abilities like bat sonar are already fully developed or have degenerated (if some bats lost this ability), but are not seen getting better.  Nothing in living or fossil forms supports the notion that unique bat characteristics like this evolved through gradual steps.  There are no transitional forms.  That is the observational evidence; evolutionary ancestry theories are forced on uncooperative data, something like gathering pieces from a thousand unconnected puzzles (that’s how many species of bats there are) and trying to fit them into another imaginary picture none of them match.  If the preconceived image is wrong, partial success is not progress.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
How Similar Are Modern Humans to Archaic Humans?   01/22/2002
Three anthropologists have tried to figure out what skull characteristics distinguish modern humans from archaic forms like Homo neanderthalensis.  Writing in the Jan 22 preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they have settled on the retraction of the face and the roundness of the skull (neurocranial globularity) as markers, after comparing 100 modern individuals with bones in the National Museum of Natural History.  Their paper, however, contains a number of serious admissions of doubt (emphasis added):
  • Despite much data, there is no unanimity over how to define Homo sapiens in the fossil record.
  • Paradoxically, our own species, Homo sapiens, is one of the most poorly defined species of hominids.  The recent human fossil record has a confusing pattern of variation, with numerous vaguely defined taxa (e.g., “archaic” H. sapiens, “modern” H. sapiens, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo helmei, Homo rhodesiensis), most of which are not widely accepted.
  • ...an increasingly popular view is that AMHS [anatomically modern Homo sapiens] is a distinct species [based on genetic evidence]. ... Testing this hypothesis by using cranial features, however, is a challenge because of the substantial integration that occurs among the various semi-independent units of the cranium.
  • ...further analyses are necessary to test whether and how growth differences explain these contrasting patterns, especially in terms of facial retraction and neurocranial globularity.
  • [on whether moderns and Neanderthals might have had different growth patterns.]  However, the available sample of infant AH [archaic human] crania is too small and insufficiently complete, particularly in the basicranium, to test directly the effects of facial size, cranial base flexion, anterior cranial base length, and middle and anterior cranial fossae size on cranial ontogeny.  In addition, there are no well-preserved fossil Neanderthal crania with undistorted or complete cranial bases, and none younger than 2.2 postnatal years, by which time most cranial base growth (e.g., flexion) is complete.
  • Although a universally acceptable definition of the species unit is a quixotic endeavor, both phylogenetic and evolutionary species concepts agree that species should be monophyletic lineages, evolving separately from other lineages... [thus modern humans appear to be a distinct species from Neanderthals].
  • We have much to learn about the complex processes of cranial growth and integration, but the above results highlight how efforts to tease apart these processes have the potential to yield better characters for testing systematic hypotheses, and to identify possible targets of selection during speciation.
In spite of the fragmentary data, the authors speculate on which features appear early in development and which are influenced by environment, such as heavier brow ridges due to heavier chewing.  They conclude on an optimistic note: “It is exciting to consider that only a few small shifts in growth, probably in the brain and possibly in the cranial base, may be responsible for most aspects of the evolution of modern human cranial form.  Viewed in this light, the origin of modern human cranial form is more likely a result of relatively minor morphogenetic ‘tinkering’ than a major shift in developmental processes.”
There’s that word tinkering again; who is the tinkerer, we ask?  As usual, the admissions in this paper are more interesting than the details of bone measurements.  The quotations above demonstrate how much is pure inference and speculation, how much disagreement there is between anthropologists, how little is actually known, and how fragmentary the evidence is.  This is how it is written up in the scientific papers, but a very different tale is told on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and your local museum, where artistic license trumps scientific integrity as you watch actors or mannequins dressed as hairy apemen hunched over in their caves.  An image of positive proof is portrayed to the masses who will watch a TV show, but cannot afford a subscription to PNAS and would get lost in the jargon jungle wherein the most damaging admissions are communicated.  That’s why we’re here.  Scientific journal notwithstanding, we show that these evolutionists have presented nothing that would convince a skeptic who does not already believe man evolved from an ape-like ancestor, but instead admit numerous problems that undermine their case.  All the nit-picking over what bone angle and density means to your past sounds no more convincing than what the folds in a goat liver mean to your future.
Next headline on: Early Man.
India Fossils Too Old for Evolution   01/22/2002
If the rocks in central India are as old as new uranium-lead dates indicate (1.6 billion years), evolutionists have a problem.  The rocks contain apparent worm burrow markings, which would put complex life before the Cambrian explosion.  These rocks had been claimed to be ~1 billion years old, and therefore the oldest fossil evidence for life, but others have contended the rocks are only 540 million years old.  The new date is published in the
Feb 2002 Geology, with “Possible implications for early evolution of animals” in the title.  The abstract states, “given the doubts expressed about the origin of the bedding-plane structures, as well as the surprisingly ‘old’ age of the host rocks, further studies are urgently required to provide supportive evidence.” (Emphasis added.)
Update 02/15/2002: Richard Kerr in Science Magazine makes the claim they are not fossils, but just mud cracks. Another paper in the same issue of Geology arrives at similar range dates for these Vindhyan Supergroup rocks, which calls into question the identification of fossils found within them.  The authors are not sure who is wrong; “These findings are in conflict with the report of Cambrian small shelly fossils and fossils of articulate brachiopods in the Rohtasgarh Limestone and argue for a Mesoproterozoic age for the formation that contains the alleged trace fossils.  Reports of an Ediacaran fossil Spriggina(?) from the Lower Vindhyan Supergroup from the northern margin of the Vindhyan Basin suggest either incorrect stratigraphic correlation of units or misidentification of this fossil.”
Update 02/11/2002: Science news headlines talks about this report, sharing some of the consternation it is causing evolutionists.
Stick up for your right to doubt the dates alleged by geologists.  Did you notice that the dates disputed by geologists differ by 1 billion years, the size of the average?  That’s 100% error.  Then why feel shy about asserting these formations as only a few thousand years old?  With error bars this large, it would appear any date you want is on the table.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Impact Dust Didn’t Kill the Dinosaurs   01/22/2002
The Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan, considered by many to be the smoking gun of the impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, apparently wasn’t loaded with enough gunpowder to do the job.  In a paper in the
Feb 2002 Geology, Kevin Pope examined impact ejecta at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary layer and estimates there was far too little fine dust lofted by the impact to affect the climate.  In the abstract, he states: “These findings indicate that the original K-T impact extinction hypothesis–the shutdown of photosynthesis by submicrometer-size dust–is not valid, because it requires more than two orders of magnitude more fine dust than is estimated here.  Furthermore, estimates of future impact hazards, which rely upon inaccurate impact-dust loadings, are greatly overstated.”  See additional comments by Pope in the summary on EurekAlert posted the day after we reported this story.
Better go back and revise all the Discovery Channel documentaries, especially the last episode of Walking with Dinosaurs, unless you enjoyed it as pure science fiction.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dinosaurs.
Ohio School Board Fights Over Softening Darwinism, Teaching Design  01/18/2002
Another Kansas-style revolt against evolutionary dogmatism is heating up in Ohio, according to Phillip Johnson in his
Weekly Wedge Update.  Some board members want the science curriculum for K-12 to present evolution as “assumption, not fact” and allow freedom to teach the alternative intelligent design viewpoint, but other board members are afraid of lawsuits and criticism from science education organizations.
Johnson has promised an update on this developing story when he returns from a speaking engagement.  Expect the usual rhetoric from the Darwinists about stealth creationism and separation of church and state.  Will light emerge from the heat this time?
Next headline on: Schools.
Small Wonder Dept.  01/18/2002: How fast does your intracellular railroad run?  A research paper in the Jan 18 Science analyzes the components that label, load, dock, and ship cargo from the cell into the nucleus via tunnels (the nuclear pore complex), and estimates the speed of the operation at 520 molecules per second. 
That’s the equivalent of about 175 Lucille Balls packaging chocolates on a sped-up conveyor belt. Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
Army Spins Spider Web   01/18/2002
“Spider silk has long been admired by material scientists for its unique combination of high-performance properties including toughness, strength, lightness and biodegradability,” says a report on
EurekAlert about a joint project by the US Army and Nexia, a biotechnology firm, that have just announced success in producing fibers of recombinant spider web silk.  The report is published in the Jan 18 Science.  The new fibers, named BioSteel, may show up some day in biodegradable fishing line, soft body armor, medical sutures and many other environmentally friendly products.  To mass-produce BioSteel, Nexia is raising genetically modified goats that produce milk containing the protein for its patented process, ten years in the making during an “agonizingly slow” research program.  (No one has been able to herd spiders – or find neighbors that would want to live next to a spider ranch.) 
Spider silk is five times stronger, by weight, than steel, yet is flexible and non polluting, both in its manufacture and degradation.  Spiders can create different weights of dragline with different amounts of stickiness.  Nexia has finally achieved the “holy grail” of materials science by getting the proteins to form fibers without clumping; and while they are flexible and strong, they still are not the equal of the natural stuff.  Dr. Jeffrey Turner, CEO of Nexia, praised the lowly spider:
It’s incredible that a tiny animal found literally in your backyard can create such an amazing material by using only amino acids, the same building blocks that are used to make skin and hair.  Spider silk is a material science wonder - a self-assembling, biodegradable, high-performance, nanofiber structure one-tenth the width of a human hair that can stop a bee traveling at 20 miles per hour without breaking.  Spider silk has dwarfed Man’s achievements in material science to date.
He described the spider’s method of producing this remarkable substance as “a process that has been perfected through 400 million years of evolution.”
That last line spoils the story.  It’s like the punch line of a bad joke, or finding a fly in a delicious soup.  How can these scientists wax eloquent in their praise of nature’s wonders, then ascribe it all to mindless, purposeless, undirected, unintelligent forces acting over millions of years?  There is no intelligence or power in mutations or natural selection to organize thousands of left-handed amino acids in the precise order required to produce biological steel, let alone to create a tiny robot able to secrete it and arrange it into a geometrical web.  Some day, some day these naive statements by evolutionists are going to be laughed at by incredulous readers as the bad jokes they are.
See also our July 26 and March 28 headlines on spider web silk.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next amazing story; also prior headline.
Why Does Titan Still Have an Atmosphere?   01/17/2002
Exclusive The world’s leading planetary scientists, gathered for a quarterly planning session at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the
Cassini Mission to Saturn and Titan, discuss many topics.  This reporter was conversing over lunch with a leading atmospheric scientist about the nature of Titan, target of the Huygens Probe riding along Cassini, which (hopefully) will make a soft landing on the surface in January 2005.  This individual, a key instigator and principal investigator of Galileo’s probe that parachuted into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995, explained that the evolution of Titan’s atmosphere is a problem; it should be long gone by now.  Methane in Titan’s thick atmosphere provides enough greenhouse effect to sustain the nitrogen and other ingredients which rain down ethane, acetylene and other hydrocarbons onto the surface continually, forming a fluffy snow possibly a hundred meters thick or more.  But unlike earth, Titan has no cycle to recirculate these ingredients, so why is the process continuing today?
Furthermore, solar radiation is eroding the methane space blanket.  When enough methane has been depleted, the atmosphere will collapse, because the temperature will fall enough to condense out the nitrogen, carrying it and all the other ingredients down to the surface.  Dr. Atreya put 100 million years as an upper limit on the sustainability of Titan’s atmosphere – only about one fiftieth of the assumed age of the solar system.  He had no explanation for why Titan has such a dense atmosphere today, other than perhaps it formed recently by some unknown mechanism, and we are lucky to see it.  When the reporter remarked that such an answer sounded like the same one the ring scientists give for why we see Saturn’s rings (which are also very short lived), he agreed, with a grin of chagrin.
100 million years is the upper limit; it could be far less.  Whenever you are told the earth and universe are billions of years old, don’t just swallow it: ask questions.  That “the earth is 4.5 billion years old” is one of those truisms that everybody knows because the Discovery Channel says so, but what is the evidence?  Here is another case of a phenomenon that doesn’t fit.  It’s not that scientists can’t find a way to fit anomalies into the timeline; the important lesson is that the timeline does not come from the data, but from the assumptions.  Be bold and question the assumptions.  Continue clicking the Dating Methods chain links for other examples of anomalies that cause difficulties for the evolutionary time scale. 
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Darwinists Question Bateman’s Principle of Sexual Selection   01/17/2002
A news feature in the Jan 17
Nature, “Sexual Stereotypes,” discusses the rethinking of ideas about behavioral biology and sex.  In 1948, Angus John Bateman formalized a hunch of Darwin’s that evolution progresses by producing males that are aggressive and profligate while producing females are coy and choosy.  Bateman studied fruit flies and concluded that promiscuity is more advantageous for males than females.  Bateman’s principle was extended to the entire animal kingdom, even humans, and became accepted as a truism.  Since the 1970s, however, dissenting voices have arisen.  Now, even if agreeing with the principle in part, scientists see the idea as simplistic: “Today, behavioural biologists are finding evidence that the world of sex is more complicated than Bateman thought.  It’s not that his principle is invalid, they say, but rather that it has been used to extend dated preconceptions about human sexual behaviour to the entire animal kingdom, sometimes to the detriment of scientific knowledge. ... another example, perhaps, of the truth being obscured by nineteenth-century sexual stereotypes.”
Our Baloney Detector is beeping on analogy, extrapolation, personification, and glittering generalities.  How many other Darwinian ideas could be described as simplistic, projections of human stereotypes on the animal kingdom, and detrimental to scientific knowledge?  Even today, Darwinian “truisms” have provided a pseudo-scientific rationalization for all kinds of immoral human sexual practices (see the PBS Evolution TV series episode five, Why Sex? for a recent example).  Science cannot provide justification for promiscuity.  Which animal model should man follow, the birds that mate for life or the bonobos that have group sex?  Any sexual fantasy can find a counterpart in nature that either supports it or argues against it.  Science can only observe, not command; it has nothing to say to our human moral and ethical requirements.  We are persons made in the image of God, not fruit flies.  What God designs or allows for animals is His prerogative, but for humans, He commanded, Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Consider whether that command is trustworthy before rationalizing your life choices on a Darwinian principle that tomorrow may be dismissed as a myth.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Wonders of the Salt Gate   01/17/2002
A paper in
Nature 1/17/01 describes for the first time a detailed description of one of the cell’s chloride channels, complex pores in the cell membrane that allow negative ions like Cl- from table salt to pass through, but restrict others.  (For a good layman’s summary and illustration, see this news release on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute website.)  Thomas Jentsch describes this as another “spectacular breakthrough” by Roderick MacKinnon’s team.  He opens with an explanation: “Ion channels are proteins with a seemingly simple task - to allow the passive flow of ions across biological membranes.  But this process requires more sophistication than one would imagine. ”  The full text of the paper reveals these channels to be “amazingly different” than cation channels (those that allow positively charged ions), and are shown to be exquisite protein complexes with gates composed of negatively-charged tips (that would normally repulse chloride ions) that apparently swing out of the way to let the desired molecules in.  The authors explain the importance of these chloride channels:
Potassium, sodium, calcium and chloride ions are used ingeniously by living systems in the performance of fundamental cellular tasks.  Through the action of ion pumps, a large fraction of a cell’s metabolic energy is spent establishing transmembrane ion gradients.  These gradients, through the action of ion channels, are used to produce electrical signals, activate signal transduction pathways, regulate cell volume, and mediate fluid and electrolyte transport.  To carry out these tasks, an ion channel has to be selective, that is, permit only certain ionic species to flow through its pore.
The precise placement of charged ends of amino acids along the pore attracts the chloride ions down the channel, without being so attractive that the ions would bind to them and get stuck.  Failure of these channels is implicated in some serious muscle and kidney diseases.  Some animals have such a multitude of these effective ion pumps, they can generate a powerful electric shock.  Says Jentsch: “On the basis of elegant biophysical studies by Miller and White, who showed that the electric ray Torpedo contains large amounts of a peculiar anion channel, the first voltage-gated Cl- channel was cloned by my group in 1990.  We named it ClC-0, as we assumed that it would found a family of Cl- channels.  This turned out to be true: CLC channels are found in all kingdoms of life, with humans alone having nine different CLC genes.” 
The electric ray can generate 200 volts.  On another related front, EurekAlert reported the next day that the UMass scientists have found microbes on the bottom of the sea that generate electricity, and the Navy is interested in harvesting these microorganisms to create living batteries.  See the original paper in the Jan 18 Science.
Speaking of protein families, two creationists writing in the TJ Technical Journal 2001 #3 (posted on AIG 16-Jan-02) illustrate how they make a powerful case for design and argue against a naturalistic origin.
Update 03/04/2002: Scientific American posted an interview with MacKinnon about how his team made its discovery, and how the potassium channel works.  In passing, he comments, “...the cavity and these helices were just a marvelous arrangement that Mother Nature used to solve this problem, you know, as if a very brilliant engineer did it all.  I think that was very satisfying to see.”
Update 12/30/2002: In a new paper in the 12/27/02 issue of Cell, MacKinnon describes how another type of potassium channel acts as a sensitive biological rectifier.
All the statements we made about the wonders of the Water Gate on Dec. 20 apply here, and then some.  The cell membrane is covered with these specialized pores that have “selectivity filters” and gates to attract and conduct desired molecules in, but keep unwanted invaders out.  All life has them, they are all extremely complex, and without them life could not exist.
Compare the above empirical facts with the stories evolutionists tell about the origin of a living cell.  They usually describe some lipid membrane spontaneously assembling through electrostatic or hydrophilic attraction into a seamless bag.  Inside are a few RNA nucleotides, amino acids, sugars, and other “building blocks of life” (hopefully without nasty oxygen or killer tar molecules doing their worst).  But if the membrane is sealed, without the ability to perform active transport of needed ingredients to the inside or remove unwanted toxins to the outside, the primitive cell becomes a death trap.  The molecules inside are all that evolution has to work on, like those old jokes about being trapped in a locked room with Hitler, Stalin, a lawyer and only two bullets.  The situation is not going to improve.  Even if by some inconceivable magical miracle something wonderful happened inside this infinitesimal subset of primordial soup, it would still be a death trap.  Unless the protocell could divide into two identical copies, natural selection, that magic wand of Darwinism, would be powerless. 
On the other hand, if the membrane were leaky, osmosis would dictate mindlessly that the leakage would go from higher concentration to lower concentration, the opposite of what a living cell needs.  For instance, a cell needs to be able to import precious water when the environment around it is drying up, but osmosis would guarantee the reverse, desiccating the poor cell.  For these reasons, the simplistic evolutionary models of primitive membrane formation by spontaneous attraction of molecules are unrealistic.  The observations show that all living things, even the most primitive, already have entire families of these sophisticated gates to control what goes in and out of the cell.  There are no simple-to-complex intermediates known, and it is unlikely any could even be conceived that would give rise to working active transport without a host of genes and proteins controlling the construction and operation of these highly specialized and effective mechanisms.
MacKinnon’s paper only mentions evolution twice.  For example, “Thus, it would appear that evolution of the channel has resulted in partial charges to stabilize a Cl- ion and still permit rapid ionic diffusion rates.”  Yet he fails to provide any plausible story how this could have happened by mindless processes; he basically just admits that it is an elegant arrangement.  So how would the Intelligent Design (ID) approach explain it?  Evolutionists sometimes complain that ID or creationism simply gives up and says “God did it,”  but that is a caricature.  It is sufficient for science to describe the phenomenon including its information content (including the DNA software and protein construction toolkit) without specifying “who done it” (to use Eugenie Scott’s favorite vulgarism).  Strictly speaking, empirical science cannot address the Who question, and for the purposes of a scientific paper like this, it is not necessary to concoct a story of how it evolved, nor stuff the facts into a naturalistic tale of origins.  Science did not “grind to a halt” just because these authors omitted an explanation for the origin of chloride channels.  On the contrary, it is the belief that there is design (information adapted to function) in the world that has propelled science forward, and continues to do so today.  That is why Intelligent Design is good for science.  Scientists do well when just uncovering amazing examples of intelligent design like this one.  Evolutionary storytelling is forced, incredible, superfluous.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next amazing story.
Public School Enforces Mandatory Islam Course; Casts Christianity in Negative Light  01/15/2002
Many news sources have been reporting the Byron, California school district that started requiring 7th graders to take a three-week course in Islam, including reading the Koran, studying the important figures of the faith, wearing a robe, adopting a Muslim name and role-playing their own Jihad.  The textbook for the course, adopted by the California school system, presents Islam in a very positive light, omitting any references to its massacres and mistreatment of women, but casts Christianity in a negative light, highlighting Salem witch trials, crusades and inquisitions in bold type.  According to the ASSIST News Service echoed on the
American Center for Law and Justice site, a Christian teacher in the district complained that “We could never teach Christianity like this ... We can’t even mention the name of Jesus in the public schools, but ... they teach Islam as the true religion, and students are taught about Islam and how to pray to Allah.”  She was dumbfounded to see that Islam is ‘in’ at the same time the school system requires that she teach evolution in her science class with no reference to creationism or any contrasting viewpoint to Darwin’s theory.  The American Center for Law and Justice has written a letter to the California school district demanding they allow students to opt out of the mandatory course.  See also the write-ups in the Washington Times and at Pacific Justic Institute.  January 16, WorldNetDaily dug up more detail about the Islam curriculum, the angry reaction of some parents, the school’s rebuttals, and the textbook contents, and claims the Byron school incident is nothing unique.
OK, ACLU and People for the American Way, show your honesty, integrity and impartiality.  Here is a clear violation of separation of church and state.  Show us the same zeal with which you go after Christians who want to pray at a football game or mention creation in a science class.  We can’t hear you . . . .
Learning about Islam would be fine, but this course advocates the religion behind the September 11 attacks while denigrating the faith of America’s founding fathers.  Just when you thought you heard everything . . .   According to Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ (not to be confused with the ACLU), “the class requires students to pray ‘in the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful,‘ to chant ‘Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation,’ to ‘pretend’ they are Muslims, wear Muslim clothing to school, stage their own Jihad, and select a Muslim name from a list to ‘replace’ their own name.”  Won’t junior high students love practicing jihad on one another.  What are we trying to do, raise a whole generation of John Walkers, to destroy our country with our own crop of terrorists?  Come on, National Center for Science Education, to the rescue!  They uttered that horrid phrase “Lord of Creation”!  Come on, Americans United for Separation of Church and State: let’s see some consistency here!  Come on, ACLU, PAW, NCSE, and all: people might start suspecting your hostility is directed only at Bible-believing Christians, and blow your cover!
If any reader has doubted that there is a massive war of worldviews in our culture, this story should clinch it.  We already have the gay activists with free reign, teachers passing out condoms and counseling abortion without parental knowledge, and witches in the schools.  What’s next, a class on compassionate cannibalism, complete with an assignment to roast and eat your own arm (or that of a fellow student), or a required course in suicide with homework to kill yourself, or a required course in terrorism with an assignment to blow up a building?  What will it take to get Americans up in arms enough to stop this out-of-control education establishment, to realize that all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing?
Next headline on: Schools.
Microbes Fight Each Other in Perpetual Chemical Warfare Games   01/15/2002
A paper on theoretical biology in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tries to figure out why there are so many different kinds of one-celled organisms.  If the environment they live in is the same, why so much diversity?  This is called the “paradox of the plankton,” which seems to defy evolutionary logic.  Should not the most diverse environments give rise to the most diversity of species?
To study this paradox, three European geneticists used a computer model and game theory to postulate that a modified scissors-paper-rock game (“a spatially explicit game theoretical model with multiply cyclic dominance structures”), seems to suggest that “antibiotic interactions within microbial communities may be very effective in maintaining diversity.”  In other words, there is a constant state of chemical warfare going on; one species will invent a toxin that kills off rivals, but finds itself bankrupt from the cost of production, giving an immune species a chance to grow.  Meanwhile, a fast-reproducing but not immune species swamps the population by sheer numbers, only to be decimated by the next chemical bomb.  Or something like that.
Cute theory, but let’s think this through.  Obviously the microbes are not consciously playing war games.  The only way “game theory” applies is by coincidence of effects.  If kids playing games in the playground generate the same sound waveform as a flock of ducks, then you could claim the two causes are analogous in some way; but if you really believe the ducks are playing dodgeball you’re carrying it too far.  The authors observe that many microorganisms give off toxins, and that biodiversity among microorganisms is high, and yet populations are dynamically stable.  So they invent a computer “game” model that produces the same effects between K (killers) R (resistant strains) and S (sensitive strains with high birth rates).  They tweak how fast new toxins arise, how much species can share their immunity genes, how resistant the enemy is, and all kinds of parameters: “Depending on the rates of the evolution of novel toxin, resistance systems, and of their transmission between strains relative to the rates of genetic diversification in other traits and of speciation, different interpretations of the model strains are possible.”  It sounds kind of like a game of Calvinball.  Putting in generous evolutionary assumptions and preventing any one group from declaring Winner take all!, of course they get their model to work.  They wouldn’t publish in PNAS if it were a dismal failure.  Does it indicate anything about real life?  Does it advance the theory of evolution?   You decide.
Next headline on: The Cell.
How Fast Do Genes Mutate?   01/15/2002
Two Arizona State biologists examined a large number of genes from many different mammals to estimate how fast genes mutate.  Writing in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they came up with a result of 2.2 x 10-9 mutations per base pair per year (i.e., a probability of about two mutations per billion years at a given spot on the gene), much smaller than earlier estimates.  Also, contradicting a widely held notion, they conclude that mutation rate is largely independent of generation time (number of years between generations), implying that humans and mice genes mutate at the same rate even though mice give birth earlier and more often.
This paper is an example of why you cannot just accept the conclusions without studying how they arrived at them.  In the paper, they assume evolution, and employ their assumptions of how long ago different lineages separated as part of their calculations.  They also make judgment calls about which genes are best to compare and which are not.  They arrive at conclusions that differ with their other evolutionary colleagues.  Looking at the size of the tweak space, it’s hard to feel satisfied that anything real has been discovered in their analysis
Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next headline on: Mammals.
Poll: 83% of Public School Students Want Creation Taught: Click Here.

Evolution Advocacy Group Targets Churches   01/14/2002
In an effort to help churches understand that evolution isn’t such a bad thing, the
National Center for Science Education, an organization whose sole purpose is to “to keep evolution in the science classroom and ‘scientific creationism’ out,” has prepared a Congregational Study Guide for Evolution, based on the PBS TV series Evolution which aired last September across the country.  The study guide tries to help pastors and congregations think about each episode with questions like, “Consider some of your favorite hymns and prayers that speak of creation.  How might they better reflect an understanding that is informed by, not opposed to, evolution?”

It’s not enough that NCSE has to fight creation science tooth and nail alongside the ACLU in every public school where criticism of Darwin raises its meek head, now they have to send their smart bombs right into the church doors in a pre-emptive strike.  The quote above is from Episode Five, the infamous Why Sex? episode that basically taught that any and every sexual escapade you want to commit is justified by evolution.  The misnamed National Center for Science Education is not a scientific organization, nor does it care about the quality of science education; it is an advocacy group committed to fighting its declared enemy– Bible believers.  (Other “religious” people are no threat to their power base; see Episode Seven What About God?).  NCSE has all the trappings of a political action committee.
Here at Creation-Evolution Headlines we scour the top scientific journals for the best possible sources, searching in vain for real evidence for evolution, and reporting their anomalies in their own words, with links to the original papers so you can check the facts for yourself.  NCSE and PBS, however, were very selective about their spokesmen on the TV series.  They generously quoted Kenneth Miller, who has no problem compartmentalizing his brain into mutually exclusive halves, with mindless, purposeless evolution on one side and divine design on the other, but would not allow one word from critics of evolution, many of whom are not even Christians or religious at all.  On top of that, they put happy faces on some of the worst Christian-bashers and creation-bashers, making sure they did not say what they really believe on camera.  They ignored the worst criticisms of evolution and the weakest areas of the theory, focusing instead on tales woven out of miniscule data, glued together with computer graphics.  Phillip Johnson, speaking of similar “deliberate deception” on the part of the National Academy of Sciences about the real impact of evolution on religion, explains the strategy:
The National Academy’s way of dealing with the religious implications of evolution is akin to the two-platoon system in American football.  When the leading figures of evolutionary science feel free to say what they really believe, writers such as Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Carl Sagan, Steven Pinker, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin and others state the “God is dead” thesis aggressively, invoking the authority of science to silence any theistic protest.  That is the offensive platoon, and the National Academy never raises any objection to its promoting this worldview.
At other times, however, the scientific elite has to protect the teaching of the “fact of evolution” from objections by religious conservatives who know what the offensive platoon is saying and who argue that the science educators are insinuating a worldview that goes far beyond the data.  When the objectors are too numerous or influential to be ignored, the defensive platoon takes the field.  That is when we read those spin-doctored reassurances saying that many scientists are religious (in some sense), that science does not claim to have proved that God does not exist (but merely that he does not affect the natural world), and that science and religion are separate realms which should never be mixed (unless it is the materialists who are doing the mixing).  Once the defensive platoon has done its job it leaves the field, and the offensive platoon goes right back to telling the public that science has shown that “God” is permanently out of business.
(The Wedge of Truth, IVP 2000, pp. 88-89).
So don’t believe for a minute this slick hype put out with the blessing of an avowed atheist, NCSE head Eugenie Scott, that evolution has a “wonderful consistency” with Christianity.  Listen instead one of her spokesmen on Evolution, Daniel Dennett, who described the theory of evolution as a “universal acid” that eats through all traditional beliefs.  Pastors, be on your guard!  You are being handed a corrosive potion with a sweet smile and instructions, “Here, drink this...it’s good for you.”  Did Paul warn the churches in Acts 20 and I Timothy 4 for naught?
Next headline on: Darwinism.
The Color of Life on Europa?   01/14/2002
NASA’s
Astrobiology Institute is holding out tentative hope that life could exist on or near the surface of Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter thought to have an ocean deep under the crust.  They base this on spectra taken by the Galileo Spacecraft that seem to match the biological signature of extremophiles on earth.  “...it could be that any number of possible microorganisms that may have evolved on Europa also produce the same sort of IR signature” as bacteria on earth, hopes Brad Dalton who studied the spectra.  “I’m as surprised as anyone, and I’m trying very hard to be skeptical,” he adds.  “ I am not claiming to have found life on Europa.  More work needs to be done.”
So eager are astrobiologists to prove we are not alone, that they will go to great lengths to draw hope out of the meagerest data.  Remember when all it took to start speculation that Venus had dinosaurs was the presence of a dense cloud cover (hence tropical climate, hence swamps, hence dinosaurs)?  Deja vu.  Try a little harder to be skeptical.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Another Finch Story   01/14/2002
National Geographic is excited about a finding that pet finches released in Montana and Alabama have adapted to their new environments with changes in body size in just 30 years, showing “evolution on fast forward.”  (It was the Galápagos finches that became an icon of evolution in Darwin’s theory. )
Most people think of evolution as a process that takes millions of years, said evolutionary biologist Alexander Badyaev of Auburn University in Alabama, who led the study.  But here is an example of real-time evolution in which two populations of finches developed characteristics to match their new environments in just a few decades, he added.
The original paper is in the Jan 11 issue of Science, which also contains this summary by Elizabeth Pennisi.
This classic case of equivocation tries to associate variation (which evolutionists and creationists both accept) with evolution (which only Darwinists accept).  Everybody knows there is a lot of variation built into living things: just look at dogs!  Finch body size, beak size, egg size etc. are not evolution in the usual Darwinian sense of molecules to man.  These are still the same species of finch.  When we watch them evolve into mammals, then we will be impressed.  Actually, the speed of this adaptation should alarm evolutionists; if “evolution” takes place this quickly (decades instead of millions of years), then where are the billions of transitional forms that we should see in the fossil record?
The authors state, “Thus, the proximate mechanisms that allowed house finch populations to become established in two distinct environments and to respond so rapidly to local selection are not known.”  They theorize that females might be able to control hatching order and egg size, but they aren’t sure about that either, and how could a dumb bird care?  All this crowing about evolution in the headlines is hardly a feeble chirp in the text of the paper.
Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
Etched Lines in Rocks Show Early Man Used Abstract Reasoning   01/11/2002
SciNews says “Modern Behavior Emerged Earlier Than Previously Thought” based on the finding in a South African cave of regular etched lines in rocks thought to be 77,000 years old, written in ochre by early modern humans.  This more than doubles the previously believed piece of evidence suggesting abstract thought, which is estimated at 35,000 years old.  According to Nature Science Update, these could be considered the oldest works of art.
The evolutionary anthropologists’ timeline stretches credibility.  If anatomically modern humans have existed for 100,000 years or more, fifteen times longer than all recorded history, why did they not develop language and art, cultivate crops, ride horses and build cities in all that time?  Instead, human civilization just bursts on the scene fully formed in the Fertile Crescent, with commerce and language and mathematics already established from the beginning.  And why didn’t the population bomb hit 90,000 years ago?  Something is drastically wrong with the dating methods.  Throughout history there have been recluses who lived in caves and made markings; there are some today (hippies).  All these findings could be dated more recently using different assumptions.  It is only the Darwinist mentality that has to force observations into a primitive-to-complex sequence; the actual evidence suggests the abrupt appearance of human abstract thought and culture.  Whether the universe, stars, planets, life, plants, animals, or humans, we see abrupt appearance everywhere.  This is not evolution.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Radio Message 01/11/2002: “Teaching the Controversy.”  In his weekly broadcast In the Public Square, Phillip Johnson comments on the Education Bill recently passed by Congress:
The most important thing about the Education bill that President Bush recently signed may be something the newspapers aren’t telling you.  The Committee Report on the bill contains the substance of an amendment introduced Senator Rick Santorum and passed in the Senate by a bipartisan 91 to 8 majority.  The Report says that where controversial subjects such as biological evolution are taught, “the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.”  Despite the panicky efforts of Darwinist science educators to remove this language, the full Congress has said that students should learn both sides of the controversy.  The Congress and the President have done their part, so it is up to us to make sure that this new freedom to “teach the controversy” becomes a reality in the classroom.
Next headline on: Schools.

Galaxies Continue to Puzzle Theorists   01/11/2002
Writing in the Jan 11
Science, Italian astronomer Francesco Bertola gives the current State of the Universe Address, based on a discussions at a recent workshop by the European Space Agency.    There are still tensions between dark matter theory and observed distribution of unseen material inferred from the motions of galaxies.  Another ongoing “lively debate” among cosmologists is whether galaxies formed in a “monolithic collapse” soon after the big bang, and have been aging peacefully ever since, or whether they formed from “hierarchical merging” of smaller galaxies throughout the lifetime of the universe (i.e., top-down vs bottom-up).  A third controversy concerns the Tully-Fisher relation, which relates galaxy brightness to maximum velocity of rotation.  Plots for distant and nearby galaxies have different slopes, and intersect for the most massive galaxies.  According to Bertola, “This observation may indicate that the most massive galaxies evolved little during the past 10 billion years.  In contrast, the less massive ones seem to have undergone a remarkable loss of luminosity during the same period.  Explaining this result constitutes a challenge for different models of galaxy evolution.”

When Edwin Hubble made his famous tuning-fork diagram of galaxies in the 1920’s, astronomers disagreed about which direction on the fork galaxies evolved.  Now, 75 years later, with the Hubble Space Telescope and a golden age of instruments, they are still asking the same question.  The recent claim by NASA (see the January 8 headline) of a gigantic burst of starbirth and galaxy formation in the early universe lends credibility to the model that they were fully formed at the start, and have been aging ever since, with a few collisions and mergers along the way.
We have been reporting stories that dispute the concept of dark matter, but cosmologists depend on the unknown, invisible stuff, whatever it is.  For evolutionists, dark matter plays the role of Skinner’s Constant – that quantity which, when added to, subtracted from, multiplied or divided by the answer you got, gives you the answer you should have gotten.
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
Cosmogenic Radionuclide Dating Finds Surprises   01/11/2002
Science magazine Jan 11 has a status report on the progress in cosmogenic radionuclide dating.  The method takes advantage of the fact that cosmic rays only penetrate about a meter into the rocks, and when they do, some collide with nuclei to produce rare radioactive isotopes.  More of these isotopes should accumulate on the surface than at depth.  As mountains erode, it should be possible to infer the erosion rate.  This technique is in its youth, but has already uncovered some surprises:
  • Estimates of erosion rates in some Idaho mountains were 17 times higher than expected (see our June 26 headline) implying that catastrophic events occasionally swamp uniformitarian observations.
  • An ice sheet in Kentucky arrived 700,000 years earlier than previously thought.
  • Climate appears to have no effect on erosion rates, which is odd, because the process is called “weathering.”
  • Cultivation of land appears to increase erosion up to 100-fold.
The technique requires choosing sample sites carefully, and because of the cost, “You don’t have the luxury of trying to test alternative interpretations rigorously,” one researcher says.
Like every other method of dating the unobservable past, this one requires faith in untestable assumptions.  You can measure how deep an average cosmic ray can penetrate today, and you can measure the radioactive decay rate of a radionuclide today, and you can measure the amounts of these nuclides in selected sample sites: that’s it – the rest is all inference.  No one knows if the cosmic ray flux is constant (see yesterday’s headline about supernovas, which suggests periods of intense bombardment).  No one knows the rate of catastrophic events.  Even the selection of sites depends on assumptions about which sites are better than others.  When they get differences of 1700% between theory and observation, and other surprises, it’s hard to have any confidence at all in any of the other claims.
Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Supernovas May Have Blasted Life to Extinction, and Helped Life Evolve   01/10/2002
Three astronomers speaking at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society believe the earth was nearly sterilized by supernova blasts from the past.  According to the
University of Texas at Austin (alma mater of one of the researchers), the solar system has been subjected to several nearby supernova explosions.  (Johns Hopkins astronomers think they have found a candidate that exploded close to our sun two million years ago.)  Mars, with its thinner atmosphere (at least recently) would be unprotected from the sterilizing influence of the blast.  Supernovas and strong solar flares could bathe the earth and Mars in gamma rays for extended periods, causing high mutation rates and massive die-offs, but also ... “the challenging mutational radiation environment would accelerate the evolution of life.”
Once upon a time, a large army found itself surrounded by enemies with machine guns.  The machine gunners mounted a sustained and relentless attack, killing off 99% of the hapless victims.  But just by chance, one soldier was hit in a one in a million spot that jolted his genes just so, that when he got married, his wife gave birth to Superbaby.  Send us your vote on which tale you like better.
Next headline on: Darwinism and evolutionary theory. • Next dumb story.
Incidentally, what would a nearby supernova do to all the radiometric clocks?
Is It Against the Law to Find Flaws in Evolution?   01/09/2002
The
Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of high school biology teacher and coach Rod LeVake, who was reassigned from teaching biology for saying that he had problems teaching evolution as fact.  He did not want to teach creationism or religion in class, but only wanted to mention flaws in the theory of evolution.  The ACLJ attorney said, “We’re disappointed. ... I don’t think either of the lower courts really understood the case; the district turned it into something it never really was.  [LeVake] didn’t want to do much beyond saying there are scientists out there that criticize evolution on scientific grounds, and nothing more.  I think the district decided he was a stealth creationist.”
Update 01/15/2001: Answers in Genesis reports that according to a new poll, public school students still want creation taught.  In response to the LeVake story, Channel One polled students on which views they wanted taught in science.  Just 17% wanted evolution only, 31% wanted creation, and 52% wanted both views taught.  That adds up to 83% of public school students wanting creation included in the science classroom.
Stealth creationist – how’s that for loaded words and fear mongering?  Are you shocked at this?  Teachers in Russia have more freedom to criticize Darwinism now than they do in America.  LeVake did not want to bring religion into the science class; he just wanted to present scientific facts that don’t support Darwinism.  Such evidence is being published in science journals all the time; read about it here on these pages.  Besides, the Congress just passed an education bill that encourages schools to present a diversity of views on controversial subjects like evolution, and LeVake is trying to be obedient.  But so paranoid are the Darwinists, they cannot allow a calm discussion of the evidence, they have to invoke scare tactics and use raw power to force indoctrination of their view of origins, even when the evidence is against it.  “Stealth creationist” – good grief, as if he snuck in from Afghanistan.  Sooner or later people are going to realize that if evolution has to be force-fed to students it must be bad medicine.  We can only hope Phillip Johnson is right: “If the situation is as I have described it, the intellectual bankruptcy of Darwinism cannot be concealed for very much longer.  The Darwinists may delay the day of reckoning for a while by wielding the weapons of power, but more and more people are learning to press the right questions and to refuse to take bluff or evasion for an answer.” (The Wedge of Truth, Inter-Varsity Press 2000, p. 150).
Next headline on: Schools. See also our Aug. 19 headline on this story.
Biology of the Future: Molecular Machines   01/09/2002
With the Human Genome Project a recent memory, the cutting edge now is the Human Proteome: the map of all the proteins and enzymes in the cell, how they fold, how they work, and how they interact.  Two large teams of European scientists publishing in
Nature have sequenced a third of the proteome of baker’s yeast, which they claim is on the same evolutionary branch as humans.  Out of 20,000 proteins they sorted through, they were able to identify 17,000.  Most of these have functions that are unknown, and there were many duplicates.  So far, they were able to map the interactions of 1400 proteins, and found that proteins are very sociable and interact in many and complex ways.  They also discovered 232 multi-protein complexes and 134 new molecular machines, 98 of which were previously unknown.  It appears that simpler machines can combine into more complex ones, and be dismantled for other uses.  Said one researcher, “It was a big surprise how social these proteins are ... The whole cell is organized in a way we were not prepared for.”  Another commented, “It defies the imagination.”  The human proteome is estimated to contain at least 30,000 proteins.  For the full paper in the Jan 10 Nature, click here (subscription required).  See also this summary of their work in EurekAlert
Another article in the same issue discusses the ongoing investigation of how myosin, a molecular motor, moves.  Full text of original paper.
The summary uses the word machine 17 times, yet ascribes all this engineering to evolution.  How much longer must we be subjected to an outworn paradigm that is insufficient to produce the effects?  Machines do not arise from randomness, especially thousands of them in a brainless yeast cell.  Evolutionary theory extrapolates minor observed changes into major engineering feats it is profoundly ill equipped to handle.  Some of the most advanced molecular machines are found in the simplest, supposedly most primitive, one-celled organisms.  When you ask them how a cell could invent machines without intelligent design, they give evasive answers that they hope to figure it out some day.  If they were to be held as accountable as your financial adviser, you would fire them for such lame answers.
For a fascinating yet frustrating look at the “new biology” of molecular machines, read Bruce Alberts“ 1998 paper in Cell, “The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines: Preparing the Next Generation of Molecular Biologists,” in which he stands in awe of the complexity of protein machines but then ascribes it all to chance (evolution).  Alberts, the President of the National Academy of Sciences, begins by saying, “We have always underestimated cells,” and talks about how simple the cell seemed when he was a naive graduate student.  Now, he says:
But, as it turns out, we can walk and we can talk because the chemistry that makes life possible is much more elaborate and sophisticated than anything we students had ever considered.  Proteins make up most of the dry mass of a cell.  But instead of a cell dominated by randomly colliding individual protein molecules, we now know that nearly every major process in a cell is carried out by assemblies of 10 or more protein molecules.  And, as it carries out its biological functions, each of these protein assemblies interacts with several other large complexes of proteins.  Indeed, the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines.
He describes proteins that act like motors, assemblers, proofreaders and clocks, and waxes eloquent about the elegance and efficiency of these vanishingly tiny machines: “We have also come to realize that protein assemblies can be enormously complex. ... [describing one example, the spliceosome] As the example of the spliceosome should make clear, the cartoons thus far used to depict protein machines (e.g., Figure 1) vastly underestimate the sophistication of many of these remarkable devices.” Then he proceeds to speculate on how they might have evolved, thinking DNA transcription seems to be more primitive than replication, but refers to evidence that undercuts his speculation: “However, the argument has certainly been weakened by the unexpected complexity of DNA transcription processes in eukaryotes, which I would have predicted to mimic DNA replication in their elegance and their simplicity.”  Alberts concludes that we have a lot to learn and that the future of biology rests in understanding proteins as molecular machines. 
So if you want to be on the cutting edge, you need to know this: no longer is the cell to be considered a squishy soup of funny-looking stuff.  It is the most complex, efficient, organized automated factory we have ever seen, composed of systems and subsystems and interchangeable parts, working at lightning speed, rarely making an error, its cargo zip-coded and transported on bullet trains, building and recycling thousands of structures continually, powered by proton generators, mastered by a central blueprint library, more complex than a city – yet all this in a package so small, it is invisible to the human eye.  Stand amazed and wonder.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Biomimetics Looks to the Crayfish for Robot Ideas   01/09/2002
The science of biomimetics, or the imitation of nature’s designs, has some
University of Melbourne scientists studying an Australian crayfish for ideas for new Martian robot rovers.  Though impressed with the motion and sensing capabilities of the little animals, especially their “parsimony, that ability to control complex behaviours with an amazingly small amount of brain power.”  Biomimetic engineers hope to reverse-engineer some of these capabilities, such as the crayfish’s “feedback system for controlling complex movements that would delight any engineer.”  But he attributes these engineering feats to time and chance:
Evolution doesn’t always come up with the best solution from an engineer’s perspective. ... Evolution does not necessarily produce an engineer’s solution to an animal’s problem.  It simply produces one that works, one that is selected because its features give the individual an edge - even a slight one - over its competitors in the game of survival.  Biomimetic researchers also need to be aware that animals carry design features that reflect their evolutionary history as well as responses to their present situation.  When we dissect them we may find features and solutions that appear inefficient or counter intuitive.  The human appendix is one example of this.
Hey now, let’s think this through.  You are impressed enough with this technology to reverse engineer it, yet you attribute it to blind, impersonal, unintelligent forces?  Then why not use blind, intelligent forces in your engineering and see if you can improve on it, or come up with something so compact, lightweight, efficient and functional from scratch?  And how can you use the phrase “design features” when evolutionists reject the inclusion of intelligent design as a cause?  Stick to your own vocabulary: purposeless, undirected, random, pointless.  See our Aug. 8 2001 headline for a response to whether the human appendix is an inefficient or counter intuitive device.
Next headline on: Bugs and Arthropods.
Photo 01/09/2002: The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the X-ray counterpart of the Hubble Space Telescope, released a colorful composite image of the center of the Milky Way in X-rays.  For the full image, click here.  The false colors indicate energy levels.  Also mentioned on Jan 10 Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Next headline on: Stars.

Take a Deep Breath: Early Atmosphere Had Abundant Oxygen   01/09/2002
Three geologists claim to have found evidence for the presence of atmospheric oxygen in rocks 2.7 to 3.5 billion years old, claims the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia.  They have found pisoliths and sulphates that could not have formed without an oxygen-rich atmosphere.  If true, this pushes the appearance of oxygen back to the very beginning of earth’s atmosphere; “Their theory challenges long-held ideas about when the Earth’s atmosphere became enriched with oxygen, and pushes the likely date for formation of an atmosphere resembling today’s far back into the early history of the planet.  It may also revolutionise [sic] the worldwide search for gold and other minerals, and raises new questions about when and how life could have arisen.”  Their paper is published by the Society for Economic Geology.

They claim that the primordial air may have been ’breathable.”  Note that this is before life evolved, contrary to conventional wisdom that it was life that gave rise to atmospheric oxygen.  If this new claim hold up, it’s all over for chemical evolution.  Oxygen is poison to the alleged “building blocks of life.”  We do not accept the dates, but just point out that claims made within the evolutionary paradigm are self-incriminating.  If the earth always had atmospheric oxygen, as more and more geologists admit, then all the Miller-experiment pictures and primordial soup scenarios you’ve seen in textbooks have been falsified. 
Parents: print the news story out, hold it side by side with your child’s science textbook next to the diagram of the Miller experiment, and demand that this kind of contrary evidence gets mentioned.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Universe Began with Fireworks Grand Finale   01/08/2002
At a
NASA press conference January 8, a bombshell announcement was made that could have numerous ramifications across all of astronomy: “the grand finale came first.”  A huge burst of starbirth occurred early in the universe, just a few hundred million years after the big bang.  From the very beginning, things were faster and brighter, judging from infrared studies of the deepest galaxies studied by the Hubble Space Telescope.  Lead astronomer Ken Lanzetta of State University of New York deduced the early starburst by inferring a 3D map of the Hubble Deep Field, the famous 1996 image of the farthest and faintest galaxies.  He inferred distances from the color, assuming redshifts as distance indicators and taking into account absorption by intergalactic hydrogen, the expansion of space-time and other factors.  Lanzetta concludes that 90% of the light from the early universe (mostly ultraviolet) is missing.  The idea that “the fireworks ran backwards,” according to Dr. Bruce Margon of the Space Telescope Science Institute, “is not at all intuitively what one would have predicted.”
Although they are still married to the big bang theory and its attendant timescales, their announcement has to be grievous for naturalistic cosmology.  It seems to compound the lumpiness problem many-fold.  They are pushing the formation of stars and galaxies into the first 5-8% of the assumed age of the universe, and saying everything was fully formed as far back as it was possible to imagine, and that there were 10 times as many stars forming in the distant early universe as there are today.  Compounding the problem is that all known stars have heavy elements, implying they are second- or third-generation stars.  This announcement is bound to have a ripple effect on theories of dark matter, galaxy formation, star formation, planet formation – practically everything else in astronomy. 
Of course it must be remembered that their measurements are at the bleeding edge of the possible, and built on many questionable assumptions.  The point of this story is that here, again, is a major upset to conventional wisdom about cosmology.  Even within their own community, things are in turmoil as a result of this announcement.  Is it reasonable to expect that our knowledge is improving, or instead, needs a major paradigm turnover?  How long must we trust the people who keep coming to us and saying, “Everything you know is wrong”?  Is this progress, or are we being led down the primrose path from mirage to mirage, like Coronado, whose Indian guide kept telling him the Seven Cities of Cibola are just over the next hill, then the next, ad infinitum?
Dr. Margon admitted emphatically that the Holy Grail of astronomy, finding pure hydrogen-helium stars, has still not been found, even though they have been saying for a century that the solution is just 3 to 4 years away.  There are “no good candidates” “and maybe there aren’t any.”  It is a theory without evidence.  The only explanation they could suggest was that all the first stars were high-mass and went supernova quickly, seeding the second generation of stars with elements heavier than the hydrogen and helium produced by the big bang.  Or, Dr. Margon jokingly admitted, if one wanted to be a “mischief maker” he could just claim our whole theory is wrong.  Stand up for your right to be a mischief maker and “not take bluff or evasion for an answer” (as Phillip Johnson encouraged).
Also, Dr. Lanzetta admitted that star formation is so poorly understood, it is always an ad hoc assumption that has to be adjusted in any model of cosmology.  (Whoa!  We used to be told that star formation was the best-understood thing in astronomy!)
They claim that this finding shows there was no slow, gradual, childhood-through-adolescence evolution of stars and galaxies, but that the universe looked mature as far back as we can see.  That sounds remarkably like what creationists believe; God formed a fully-functioning, mature universe in the beginning.  With news of this type, however, don’t be surprised if other astronomers argue that Lanzetta’s findings are all wet.  Or, they can just re-tweak all their variables and claim it’s not a problem, or invoke Finagle’s Second Law.  And even these astronomers hedge their bets with the idea that the only we can know for sure is with bigger and better telescopes ($$$).  If nothing else, we learn from this announcement to have a healthy skepticism about the ability of naturalistic astronomers really know what is going on out there, and to take popular TV documentaries and their computer animations with a grain of salt.  One of the panelists recalled a popular university joke, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
Ancient Cells Proofread Better   01/08/2002
Four biochemists from Stratagene in California, writing in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have identified a complex “proofreading” enzyme that improves DNA copying accuracy up to 100-fold.  The enzyme is composed of multiple protein chains and can survive high temperatures (around 200oF).  Although with this proofreading enzyme copying is slowed down (550 nucleotides per minute instead of 2,800 without the proofreading), the fidelity is greatly increased.  It apparently works by breaking down a product called dUTP produced by other construction pathways.  dUTP can poison a replicating DNA chain by substituting uracil.  All living things contain a suite of proofreading enzymes, including members of this family of enzymes (dUTPases) that “read ahead” and find dUTP to cut it out of the growing DNA strand.  But this one is not only highly effective, it works at high temperatures.  The surprise is that this bulky, complex enzyme was found in a single-celled organism of the kingdom Archaea (“ancient ones”) which includes bacteria that thrive in hot springs. 
This paper demonstrates that it is a serious injustice to label one-celled organisms primitive.  They may be small and unicellular, but they are not primitive.  In fact, they appear to have superior engineering in many ways (notice that this enzyme works a lot faster than a human typist!).  Astrobiologists frequently talk about extremophiles (organisms that can tolerate extreme environments like hot springs, high salt, cold Antarctic ice and deep sea vents), as if they demonstrate that life is easy to evolve on other planets.  Their name Archaea imply that they are ancient, primitive organisms.  A better paradigm is to view these organisms as over-engineered so that they can adapt to special situations, similar to how a race car engine, designed to “push the envelope” at higher speeds and temperatures, is superior to your sedan.
Just think for a moment about the amazing fact (discovered in our lifetime) that living things have editors and proofreaders!  Many word processors today include automatic spell checkers; would anyone believe for a moment that Microsoft Word XP was a result of impersonal trial and error?  Now that we observe superior hardware and software engineering in the living cell, the time is come for scientists to abandon their allegiance to the untenable philosophy of naturalism, and face the music: intelligence is an indispensable causative factor in the life sciences.
Note: Several other papers on DNA proofreading can be found in the January 8 preprints of PNAS, each equally interesting and amazing, such as this paper by biochemists at the University of Washington on nucleotide excision repair (NER), the ability of enzymes to repair breaks in DNA caused by ultraviolet light damage.  (They studied this in yeast; how did yeast hire linemen?)
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry.
The Lion Shall Lay Down With the Oryx   01/07/2002
This cat played with its food but didn’t eat it: the
BBC News reports that a lioness in Kenya apparently adopted a baby oryx, a kind of antelope normally worn on the inside, and protected it for two weeks before a male lion snuck in while she slept and did what comes naturally.  The lioness was very angry when she woke up.  A local observer said, “This is either an extraordinary case of maternal instinct or simply the eighth wonder of the world.”
We won’t draw any forced interpretations based on Isaiah’s prophecies, but this is certainly unusual and interesting.  Maybe it wouldn’t take much of a tweak for the Designer to change vicious beasts into cute and cuddly pets.  Why, after a little psychotherapy, a lion would look nice in the backyard with the kids.
Next headline on: Mammals.
Jawless Fish Not Evolving Teeth   01/07/2002
A UK paleontologist has examined the mouths of ancient jawless fish called heterostracans, and found they were filter-feeders.  According to
Science Now, this “takes a bite out of a widespread idea” that jawless fish had primitive teeth and were in the process of developing jaws.
Whether you look at living animals or extinct ones in the fossil record, you find animals adapted to their environment and doing just fine, not evolving into something else.  Evolutionary stories come from the imaginations of scientists, not from the data.
Next headline on: Fish.
Op-Ed Article 01/06/2002:  John West, writing in World Net Daily, claims Darwinists are learning the art of spin control.  He describes how Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education (an organization devoted “to keep evolution in the science classroom and ‘scientific creationism’ out”– their words; also deeply involved with the September PBS TV series Evolution) did an about face after Congress passed a resolution on science education policy.  The resolution, which called on schools to allow a diversity of viewpoints on controversial issues like evolution, was first strenuously opposed by the NCSE when the Senate passed the Santorum Resolution last June.  But now that the full house overwhelmingly passed similar language in December, Scott is proclaiming it as a victory for their side.  West, a fellow of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute think tank, says, “While they claim devotion to the scientific method, their defense of evolution has all the trappings of a political campaign.”
In another World Net Daily commentary, Dr. Duane Schmidt, author of an upcoming book, First They Want Our Children: How Darwinism Seeks to Rule Our Schools, discusses the improbability of Darwinian origin-of-life scenarios.
Next headline on: Politics.

DNA Damage Response Team to the Rescue   01/04/2002
Americans proudly hail the firefighters and cops that go to work when terror strikes, but did you know your body has an even more heroic team that flies into action when DNA gets damaged?  It’s called the DDR - DNA Damage Response team.  The hearty band of specialized enzymes can handle any contingency: broken strands, loose ends, typos, kinks, twists and numerous other emergencies.  During complex operations like duplication and translation, the DDR team has its P&P (policies and procedures) down pat, including checkpoints and feedback mechanisms to ensure repairs are made quickly, or that irreparable damage triggers the appropriate salvage and disposal operations.  Writing in the
Jan 4 issue of Science, a team of seven geneticists, biochemists and biologists have determined that no less than 23 separate genes code for the DDR (and there are probably more).  In addition, they noted an “extraordinary level of conservation of molecular mechanisms in DDR pathways” in all living things, from the worms they studied to man.  Many kinds of cancer can be traced to defects or mutations in these genes, that leave the cell like a city without a fire department.

You have to feel sorry for poor evolutionists having to deal with of discoveries like this day after day.  Dr. Lee Spetner described the DNA repair mechanisms as so effective, they can reduce the error rate to one in 100 billion, the equivalent of one typo in 50 million pages of text, the lifetime output of 100 professional typists! (Lee Spetner, Not By Chance!, p. 39).
Don’t let the Discovery Channel, PBS, or any other slick Darwin agent pull the wool over your eyes about the origin of life from nonliving chemicals, when evolutionary theory has to deal with such monstrous leaps of faith.  Instead, be surprised and thankful that your DDR works so well, so much of the time.  These systems, so vital and proficient, eventually cease when we return to the dust from which we came.  But dust without intelligent design is insufficient to produce such marvels.  If you are an evolutionist, won’t you consider Creation?
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Visualize Martian Seas   01/04/2002
Dutch artist Kees Veenenbos has taken images from the Mars Global Surveyor and rendered them with rivers and crater-shaped lakes, according to
Space.Com, (see the website’s slide show of the renderings).  In some of the pictures he adds colors suggestive of life.  Of course no one yet knows whether liquid water ever existed on the surface (these days it would freeze or vaporize), but the article postulates that “Mars, if wet, was probably also rather violent.  Scientists have suggested that floods likely came in chaotic episodes separated by thousands of years of relative quietude.”
In a related story, the venerable Griffith Observatory of Los Angeles, closing Jan 7 for a three-year renovation, gave its closing planetarium show to record crowds Sunday on the subject “The Oceans of Mars.”  While the show presented both sides of the debate on whether water ever flowed on the Martian surface, it included picturesque artists’ renditions of balmy, beachfront property on the now dry, windswept planet, and described astronomers’ search for water around the rest of the solar system and around other stars with the teaser that if water is found, life might not be far behind.
Fantasy works overtime in the absence of proof.  Let’s wait and see what the newly-arrived Mars Odyssey discovers; but water or not, life is a giant leap for landkind.
Next headline on: Mars.
First Star I See Tonight   01/04/2002
In the Jan 4 issue of Science, Tom Abel and colleagues try to model “The Formation of the First Star in the Universe.”  Since the Big Bang could not produce the higher elements (called “metals” by astronomers), it would have had to be a nearly pure hydrogen star; however, no hydrogen stars have been observed.  The authors begin:
Chemical elements heavier than lithium are synthesized in stars.  Such "metals" are observed at times when the Universe was only ~ <10% of its current age in the intergalactic medium (IGM) as absorption lines in quasar spectra. ... Hence, these heavy elements not only had to be synthesized but also released and distributed in the IGM within the first billion years.  Only supernovae of sufficiently short-lived massive stars are known to provide such an enrichment mechanism. This leads to the prediction that the first generation of cosmic structures formed massive stars (although not necessarily only massive stars).

In the past 30 years, it has been argued that the first cosmological objects formed globular clusters, supermassive black holes, or even low-mass stars.  This disagreement of theoretical studies might at first seem surprising. However, the first objects formed via the gravitational collapse of a thermally unstable reactive medium, which inhibits conclusive analytical calculations. The problem is particularly acute because the evolution of all other cosmological objects (and in particular the larger galaxies that follow) depends on the evolution of the first stars.

Lacking observational evidence, the authors turn to their computers.  Although previous simulations show gas clouds fragmenting too quickly to allow collapse into stars, these authors simulate conditions (assuming a flat cold dark matter cosmology) that produce a massive stars in isolation fairly rapidly (within 10,000 years), starting 100 million years after the Big Bang.  They discuss a number of problems and unknowns regarding such parameters as magnetic fields, accretion rates, and angular momentum. In their simulation, only one atom in a thousand makes it into the first stars.  In the same issue,
Martin Rees gives his perspective on the problem and proposed solution.
The first stars are a problem for cosmologists, comparable to the first life for biologists: according to currently-accepted theories of the origin of life, life emerged quickly – too quickly for comfort.  A similar problem exists for the first stars and galaxies, called the “lumpiness problem” – too much structure too soon.  In a universe of particles flying apart, how could they combine into a dense object like a star?  Readers may find this model more or less believable, but it should be apparent that with enough parameters to tweak, you can weave any story.  Necessity is the mother of simulation.
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
How Butterfly Wings Shine   01/04/2002
Three scientists writing for the Jan 7
Biological Proceedings B of the Royal Society have studied the way butterflies can flash a lot of color with just a little flick of the wing.  Their abstract has pictures that reveal how “this and other optical effects are produced from remarkable nano-scale architecture on the wing scales of the butterfly, affording colour through a combination of interference and diffraction; mechanisms responsible for colour in soap films and on compact disks.  As a result the butterfly signals with remarkably strong colour flicker using very minimal wing movement.”
The same property exists in pheasant and peacock feathers.  How did these creatures figure out the optics, let alone the aesthetics, of their brilliant colors?  Remember, for natural selection to explain it, every member of the population that did not have the optical engineering would have to die (cost of selection).  Yet coloration is not vital to the organism’s fitness; after all, some butterflies are dull in color.  Design is a more viable alternative.
Next headline on: Bugs.   Next amazing story.
Eagle Nebula Pillars Unveiled   01/04/2002
Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan 3 and Jan 4 features two images from the European Space Agency’s VLT-8.2m-Antu Telescope in Chile.  The Very Large Telescope (VLT), equipped with an Infrared Spectrometer and Array Camera ISAAC, re-imaged the M16 Eagle Nebula “Pillars of Creation” made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995.  Now, viewing the pillars at longer wavelengths, astronomers were able to look deeper into the small dark stems of gas which were dubbed Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGs), assumed to birthplaces of stars.  Of the 73 EGGs, ESO found only 11 of them contained stars in this survey, but more may lie undetected in dense gas impenetrable by the near-infrared wavelength used by the instrument.  It is also not clear which came first, the stars or the EGGs.  If stars are truly being born in the gas pillars, the ultraviolet pressure from bright stars in nearby cluster NGC 6611 is eroding and evaporating the gas, depriving the stars (and any emerging planetary systems) of material.
Note: the Jan 4 issue of Science is devoted to theories of star formation; it contains a web supplement.
As interesting and beautiful as these images are, it is important to distinguish between the observations and the interpretations.  Astronomers and newscasters frequently use phrases like stellar nursery, newborn stars, a star is born and the like, when all they are really seeing is existing stars and gas being eroded in a destructive process.  They admit that they are not sure the stars were already present or formed because of compression of the gas by the cluster.  And despite their optimism, (“The new VLT infrared image shows that there is now firm evidence for the recent birth of stars in the Eagle Nebula and that at least some of the Eagle’s EGGs are fertile, not sterile!” - emphasis theirs), the ESO astronomers seemed a little disappointed that only one in seven EGGs had an embedded star (so far).  We might also ask, what about all the other stars in the image that have no gas nursery near them, and how do bright stars form near each other if they blow each other’s gas envelopes away?  The NASA Astrobiology Institute, nevertheless, calls these “Young Stars in the ‘Pillars of creation’” in support of their quest to explain the origin of stars and planets.  There is just too much we don’t know to be so overconfident.  Whether stars are being born is theory, but that stars are dying (e.g., novas, supernovas, erosion and depletion of material) is observable fact.
Next headline on: Stars.
Stark Black Clouds Stand Out in New Hubble Image   01/03/2002
A new
Hubble Space Telescope image released today shows mysterious dark clouds standing out in bold relief against a red starry background.  Known as Thackeray’s Globules in the nebula IC 2944, “astronomers still know very little about their origin and nature” except that they are associated with dense clouds of doubly ionized hydrogen, assumed to be active star-forming regions.
In another Hubble teaser, the press has been alerted to an upcoming announcement for Monday: “New findings about starbirth in the early universe – findings that could overturn current theories if verified – will be presented in a Space Science Update at 2:00 p.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 8.”
No comment yet; not enough info.
Next headline on: Stars.
Astrobiology: The Next Generation    01/03/2002
A new report Signs of Life produced by a multidisciplinary group of scientists has been released, according to
Space.Com.  The report is a compendium of findings and conclusions by the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life of the National Research Council.  At a kickoff workshop in Washington DC in April 2000, the group of astrobiologists had a vigorous discussion about tools for detecting life, policies for protecting from contamination, and models for planetary environments that might harbor life.  Committee Chair Jonathan Lunine of the University of Arizona at Tucson feels it is a whole new ball game from that of the Viking missions to Mars in 1976; new findings of life in extreme environments are encouraging scientists that life might be more adaptable than previously imagined (although the search is still focused on life based on carbon and water).  Additionally, the technologies to detect life have improved greatly since the Viking era.
Ames Research Center will be hosting a big Astrobiology Conference in April with Lunine and other principal players.  But in an article Jan 4 on Science Daily, Andrew Lawler describes how other planetary scientists are upset at all the attention astrobiology is getting:
But astrobiology gets little respect from many traditional planetary scientists, who see it more as a creation of Washington politicians than as a legitimate research area. ... The complaint against astrobiology is that the field is heavy on hype and light on results.  “Are we selling packaging or content?" asks Sykes.  Briefings to lawmakers about the Europa mission, he says, “leave them with the impression that [the spacecraft] will capture caribou walking across the ice.” He warns that overselling astrobiology could be disastrous.
Nevertheless, astrobiology seems to be NASA’s shining star.  Space.Com describes Lunine as feeling that “the key to success in life detection in the field is to try a range of techniques that vary in their specificity and need for prior assumptions about the nature of life.”
Thus they guarantee job security for years.  In their optimistic discussions, one thing is sadly lacking: a serious attempt to explain the origin of information.  Instead, they pounce on the logical fallacy that life in extreme environments is evidence that life can evolve anywhere.  On the contrary, extremophiles possess superior engineering compared to other forms of life, that allow them to live where they do.  Until and unless astrobiologists can explain how the high degree of order and information in living systems could arise without intelligent design, they are just chasing mirages.
Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Evolution Has a Speed Limit   01/03/2002
James W. Kirchner, geologist at Berkeley, thinks he has found a speed limit to evolutionary diversification after extinction events.  In a
letter to Nature (03 Jan 2002), “Evolutionary speed limits inferred from the fossil record,” he applied Fourier analysis to timelines of extinction and speciation based on the fossil record of marine invertebrates.  Although extinction appeared random, the ability of ecosystems to recover and diversify appeared to be constrained over short time scales (25Myr or less).  “These results imply that evolutionary responses to extinction events are constrained by intrinsic speed limits,” says Kirchner.  “It has been shown previously that evolutionary responses to extinction events are delayed in time; the current analysis shows that they are also strongly damped in amplitude.”  He feels his results indicate that human-caused extinctions could be long-lasting: “If the continuing anthropogenic extinction episode turns out to be comparable to those in the fossil record (which is not yet clear), my analysis shows that diversification rates are unlikely to accelerate enough to keep pace with it.  Thus, widespread depletion of biodiversity would probably be permanent on multimillion-year timescales.”
Science Now reported the thesis favorably, but gave the last word to Smithsonian curator Douglas Erwin, who says, “I’m not sure that the analysis is sufficiently robust to support the conclusions.”
This is absurd.  Kirchner is applying physics to the history of life, as if biodiversity has a wavelength or the fossil record has a spectrum.  His whole approach assumes evolution is true and assumes the geologic timescale is reliable.  But the geologic timescale is a classic case of circular reasoning, pieced together and calibrated on the assumption of evolution.  All the jargon (Lomb-Scargle Fourier transform, Nyquist frequency, etc.) is sheer bluff if his starting assumptions are wrong.  This is as crazy as finding patterns in the snow on a disconnected TV.  He partially admits it (at least for extinctions), saying, “Whereas the power spectra of extinction rates generally lie within the confidence limits for random white noise, the power spectra of origination rates generally lie well outside those confidence limits at wavelengths [sic!] shorter than about 25 Myr.”  But there is no confidence in his confidence limits if the calibration of dating is off and the assumption of evolution is wrong.  It is amazing this kind of thinking gets published.  It is no more valid than the detailed horoscopes of astrologers (who, incidentally, have better source data).
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Liar, Liar, Face on Fire   01/02/2002
In a brief communication to
Nature 03 Jan 2002, scientists from the Mayo Clinic have developed a new non-invasive tool to fight terrorism at airports.  They developed a heat-sensing machine that distinguishes deceit in facial heat patterns.  “The new high definition technology involves the measurement of the heat patterns created by the face; these heat patterns change dramatically with lying,” especially around the eyes.  For a summary, see this entry on EurekAlert.
Mark Twain used to quip that “Man is the only animal that blushes.  Or needs to.”  Blushing is the external manifestation of conscience, a spiritual aspect of man, who is more than an animal by virtue of this and other attributes.  Those who ignore their conscience long enough, however, lose all sensitivity to it.  The scientists claim their device works on 80% of liars tested.  The other 20% must be so far gone, they don’t even know how to blush.
Next headline on: Human Body.
What to Watch For in 2002   01/02/2002
Science Now posted its “crystal ball” list of research areas to keep an eye on in 2002.  Stem cell research, with its political and ethical overtones, heads the list.  Also hot is research into the human proteome, the protein counterpart to the genome.  New giant telescopes on the ground should see as well as the Hubble, and a networked data avalanche is coming.  The editors also expect more precision tests of the constants of nature using new optical clocks.  Finally, better imaging technologies may allow biologists to watch cellular processes and signaling in real time.
One didn’t have to wait long for the Wonders of Creation show to begin.  The same day, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences contained several papers highlighting the near-miracles occurring in the cell:
  • Biophysicists armed with new techniques watched an enzyme named cytochrome c fold into its complex shape in three distinct stages, all within 16 thousandths of a second.  (Read our May 3 headline to get an idea of what a trick that is.) 
  • Another paper in the same issue found that the organization of the retina of the eye depends heavily on a complex nuclear receptor enzyme; mutations in this molecule can cause blindness.  It begins with the statement, “Normal human retinal development involves orderly generation of rods and cones by complex mechanisms.”
  • Two cellular biologists found that dendritic cells regulate the body’s powerful T cells (soldiers in the immune system), preventing them from action until they learn to recognize the enemy.  Thus they prevent “friendly fire” accidents (autoimmune disorders), but sound the charge when an invasion begins.
As the cell continues to reveal its machinery, watch for more evolutionists straining to fathom how all this complexity could have evolved.  The article mentions that there are at least 35,000 genes, but “there might be millions of proteins” – each a finely-crafted, intricate tool in a symphony of coordinated interactions that make even the simplest life possible.  Creationists can expect to see continued reasons to stand in awe of God for the new wonders just now coming into view.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
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Scientist of the Month
Guide to Evolutionary Theory
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A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

You can observe a lot by just watching.
– Yogi Berra

First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
Corollaries:
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.

Darwin’s Law
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
Bloch’s Extension
So will Darwinists.

Finagle’s Creed
Science is true.  Don’t be misled by facts.

Finagle’s 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it happened to his own pet theory.

Finagle’s Rules
3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
6. Do not believe in miracles – rely on them.

Murphy’s Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.

Maier’s Law
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
Corollaries:
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50% of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence with the theory.

Eddington’s Theory
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.

Young’s Law
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
Corollary
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

Peer’s Law
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.

Peter’s Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.

Weinberg’s Corollary
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

Cohen’s Law
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts – not the facts themselves.

Harrison’s Postulate
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

Thumb’s Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.

Ruckert’s Law
There is nothing so small that it can’t be blown out of proportion

Hawkins’ Theory of Progress
Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right.  It consists in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.

Macbeth’s Law
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.

Disraeli’s Dictum
Error is often more earnest than truth.

Advice from Paul

Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

O Lord, how manifold are Your works!  In wisdom You have made them all.  The earth is full of Your possessions . . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever.  May the Lord rejoice in His works . . . . I will sing to the Lord s long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.  May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.  May sinners be consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more.  Bless the Lord, O my soul!  Praise the Lord!

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

Through the creatures Thou hast made
Show the brightness of Thy glory.
Be eternal truth displayed
In their substance transitory.
Till green earth and ocean hoary,
Massy rock and tender blade,
Tell the same unending story:
We are truth in form arrayed.

Teach me thus Thy works to read,
That my faith,– new strength accruing–
May from world to world proceed,
Wisdom’s fruitful search pursuing
Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
I proclaim the eternal Creed –
Oft the glorious theme renewing,
God our Lord is God indeed.

James Clerk Maxwell
One of the greatest physicists
of all time (a creationist).

 
Featured Creation Scientist for January
Robert Grosseteste
1168 - 1253

Our Scientist of the Month is extremely important to the development of modern science, yet sure to be almost unknown to most readers.  This medieval pastor, however, exemplifies the theme of our series, that it was Christian beliefs that motivated science, and it was great Christians who started the scientific revolution.

When studying any historical biography, we have to understand the tenor of the times.  The conditions in medieval Europe, totally dominated by the Catholic church, often corrupted by its own power, were often far from Christlike.  We would hasten to distance ourselves from the abuses that were all too pervasive: bloody Crusades, immoral popes, dogma and human tradition exalted above Scripture.  As mentioned in the Introduction, however, many of the abuses were done by the rulers, not the monks, pastors, and common people, except to the extent they believed and obeyed false doctrines.  Those nearest to the teachings of Jesus were the monks and pastors who knew the ancient languages, copied the Scriptures and had dedicated their lives to the gospel as they understood it (this can be illustrated by the fact that Jon Hus, Martin Luther and other later reformers often came from the ranks of monks).  Corrupted as church doctrine had become with works and extra-biblical traditions, there still remained a Christian outlook on the world of nature, though compromised at times by Greek philosophy (particularly of Aristotle).  It was the Christian worldview, in contrast to the mythologies of pagan empires, that was to be the seedbed of the scientific revolution.  (See our section on worldviews in the Introduction).

Robert Grosseteste was a seminal figure in the history of science; some have even characterized him as an early practitioner of the scientific method.  Although a theologian and bishop by profession, he took great interest in the natural world.  What drove this interest?  That is the question we want to explore.  Certainly most of his attention was devoted to the pastorate and the training of pastors, of which the Grosseteste website says, “During his eighteen years as a bishop, Grosseteste became known as a brilliant, but highly demanding, church leader.  He insisted that all his clergy be literate and receive some training in theology.” His insistence on high moral and intellectual standards even led him, on several occasions, to rebuke the church leadership.  He did not hesitate to lecture the pope on practices he felt were intolerable and unscriptural, such as corruption and political favoritism.  The InfoPlease online encyclopedia says, “Some historians see in Grosseteste’s protests against Rome an influence upon Wyclif and a foreshadowing of the Reformation.”  In particular, out of outrage for the corruption with which papal appointees were collecting church revenues, he resisted Pope Innocent IV to his face.  The portrayal of Grosseteste as a proto-Protestant is probably a beyond what history warrants, but even the Catholic Encyclopedia, which argues he never doubted the authority of the pope, admits:

What he did maintain was that the power of the Holy See was “for edification and not for destruction”, that the commands of the pope could never transgress the limits laid down by the law of God, and that it was his duty, as bishop, to resist an order that was “for manifest destruction”.  In such a case “out of filial reverence and obedience I disobey, resist, and rebel.” [a quote from a letter to the pope’s secretary.]

This admission is telling.  Papist or not, it shows that Robert Grosseteste had a high regard for Scripture and was a man of integrity and moral courage.  In fact, he strongly and sternly argued into his old age about the abuses of the Curia which amounted to extortion and political favoritism.  Such righteous indignation was dangerous in those days, but Grosseteste was held in such high regard, even the Pope respected his reproofs: in his mid-seventies, Grosseteste “read out in the presence of the pope an impressive recital of the evils of the time and a protest against the abuses of the Curia, ‘the cause and origin of all this.’ ; Innocent listened without interruption....” (Catholic Encyclopedia). He even resisted a nepotistic appointment by the pope under threat of excommunication, but was later vindicated.

In addition, Grosseteste steadfastly fought political corruption in his diocese and attempts to weaken the mandates of the Magna Carta.  It is easy to see in Robert Grosseteste an example of courage and integrity that set an example for later reformers who, either within or eventually outside the church, could not bear to see the purity of Scriptural teaching corrupted by personal greed.  With this background of his virtuous character, let us now turn to the subject of what made him a pivotal individual in the history of science.

Grosseteste’s love of learning was the equal of his intolerance for evil.  Though born in a poor family, he became one of the most learned men of the Middle Ages, mastering Greek and Hebrew.  He contributed influential translations of the writings of church fathers and Greek philosophers to the corpus of medieval literature.  He became Bishop of Lincoln, which included Oxford, of which he was head for a time.  He was closely associated with the young university, from which he may have graduated as a youth.  A lifelong lover of knowledge, Grosseteste both absorbed and influenced the best scholarship of the early 13th century.  The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

It is not easy to define exactly Grosseteste’s position in the history of thirteenth century thought.  Though he was from many points of view a schoolman [i.e., scholastic philosopher], his interests lay rather in moral questions than in logical or metaphysical.  In his lectures he laid more stress on the study of the Scripture than on intellectual speculation.  His real originality lay in his effort to get at the original authorities, and in his insistence on experiment in science.  It was this which drew from Roger Bacon [one of his students] the many expressions of enthusiastic admiration which are to be found in his [Bacon’s] works.  In the “Opus Tertium” he says: “No one really knew the sciences, except the Lord Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, by reason of his length of life and experience, as well as of his studiousness and zeal.  He knew mathematics and perspective, and there was nothing which he was unable to know, and at the same time he was sufficiently acquainted with languages to be able to understand the saints and the philosophers and the wise men of antiquity.”

This brings us to the scientific side of this amazing individual.  The encyclopedia goes on to describe the tremendous breadth of his knowledge and interest, from liberal arts to music to husbandry to finance to classical literature: “Besides being learned in the liberal arts, Grosseteste had an unusual interest in mathematical and scientific questions.  He wrote a commentary on the ‘Physics’ of Aristotle; and his own scientific works included studies in meteorology, light, colour and optics.  Amongst his mathematical works was a criticism of the Julian calendar, in which he pointed out the necessity for the changes introduced in the Gregorian.  He attempted a classification of the various forms of knowledge; and few indeed, among his contemporaries, can have had a more encyclopedic range.”  Why would a bishop be interested in science?  The Grosseteste website explains,

During his lifetime, Grosseteste was an avid participant in European intellectual life.  His early education had given him a taste for natural philosophy.  He began producing texts on the liberal arts, and mainly on astronomy and cosmology.  His most famous scientific text, De luce (Concerning Light), argued that light was the basis of all matter, and his account of creation devotes a great deal of space to the biblical text of God’s command, ‘Let there be light.’  Light also played a significant role his [sic] epistemology, as he followed the teachings of St. Augustine that the human intellect comes to know truth through illumination by divine light.  Grosseteste’s interest in the natural world was further developed by his study of geometry, and he is one of the first western thinkers to argue that natural phenomenon [sic] can be described mathematically.

Notice how Genesis gave him the inspiration to pursue a mathematical analysis of light.  Robert Grosseteste is a prime example of how a Biblical worldview stimulated science.  In more than one case, an actual Bible verse was the stimulus.  This counters the criticism of naturalistic scientists that presume scientific research comes to a halt when the answer is “God did it.”  On the contrary, the question How did God do it? often spurred great thinkers to uncover the laws that they believed the great Lawgiver had designed.

Grosseteste is memorable not only for his own scientific pursuits, but also for the fact that he was mentor to Roger Bacon, who caught the spark and envisioned even greater possibilities for the experimental method.  Be sure to continue our study on the life of Roger Bacon.

While in hindsight we might not endorse everything Robert Grosseteste believed and taught (such as papal supremacy and other extra-biblical doctrines), he exemplified a Christian attitude toward the natural world that almost ignited a scientific revolution hundreds of years before Galileo and Newton.  On top of that, he had a tremendous love of the truth, high standards of integrity, an exceptional inquisitiveness into nature, and a huge measure of godliness and compassion that alone would make his life worth noting.  Dan Graves says of him, “Devoted pastor, dedicated church reformer, groundbreaking scientist, renowned educator, careful historian, and meticulous translator–in each field, Robert Grosseteste raised the standard for God-fearing academics to follow for generations” (Scientists of Faith, p. 23).

For more information on Robert Grosseteste and other great Christians in science, see our online book:
The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from 1000 to 2000 A.D.
Copies are also available from our online store.