Creation-Evolution Headlines
May 2003
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After the knowledge of, and obedience to, the will of God, the next aim must be to know something of His attributes of wisdom, power and goodness as evidenced by His handiwork.... It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.
James Prescott Joule, discoverer of the law of conservation of energy, in notes for a presidential address to the British Association (1873).
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Intelligent Design Documentary Scores High in PBS Ratings   05/30/2003
When the film
Unlocking the Mystery of Life was shown in Oklahoma last week during the prime time 8:00 hour, it rated higher than Nova for that slot (4 over Nova’s usual 3), in spite of competing with American Idol.  The show generated a lot of responses.  About 55% were favorable and 45% unfavorable, with some of the unfavorable ones very hostile.  Nevertheless, tens of thousands watched the program, and PBS affiliates in more states have it on their schedule.  (See the previous April 28 headline about PBS and the film.)  A Russian translation was just completed for distribution in the former Soviet Union.  Several other countries are expected to air it on their national networks.

The statistics about viewer responses should be tempered with the understanding that unhappy customers are more likely to call in than those who are pleased.  If your local PBS station has not put Unlocking on the schedule, call them and let them know you are interested.  For southern California (KCET), the number is (323) 666-6500.
Next headline on: Movies.  • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Ginkgo Trees: No Evolution in 200 Million Years   05/30/2003
Ginkgo trees, because they have a long fossil record, are a prime candidate for studying past climates.  Since there are living trees to compare, a group of scientists measured the relationship between climate and leaf stomates (the pores plants use to breathe) both in living and fossil Ginkgo leaves.  There was not that much difference.  What they found was that “the physiology of leaf carbon uptake and regulation of water loss in Ginkgo has remained highly conserved despite the potential for evolutionary change over millions of years” (from the abstract) and “the values imply that (i) the diffusional limitation on leaf gas exchange in Ginkgo has apparently varied rather little over the past 200 million years or so, and (ii) their physiology, similar to their leaf morphology, has been highly been [sic] conserved” (from the conclusion; emphasis added in quotes).
    Their paper was published in the May 30 online preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Variation in Ginkgo biloba L. leaf characters across a climatic gradient in China,” by Sun, Dilcher, Beerling, Zhang, Yan and Kowalski.
Update  06/19/2003: Nature Science Update declares boldly, “Ginkgo is a living fossil.”  New finds of alleged 121 million year old fossil specimens show that there has been little change compared to present day trees.  “There is now little doubt that today’s Gingko is a direct descendent of forebears that provided food for the dinosaurs,” the article concludes.
Anybody see any evolution here?  Anybody see 200 million years here?  Charlie, where are you?
    Ginkgo trees are living fossils.  Like Wollemi pines and dawn redwoods, they were long assumed to have gone extinct millions of years ago, from the time of the dinosaurs.  We have fossils supposedly going back 200 million years!  What do they look like?  Just like the ones lining many city streets in America today.  But according to the major story that must be taught in all public school biology classes without competition, during all these multiplied millions of years, tiny mammals turned into horses and bears and lions, four-legged dog-sized animals turned into blue whales, bumbling feathered dinosaurs turned into bald eagles that could snatch a fish out of water during flight, and mice became men.  In this time also, their story goes, the continents underwent major rearrangements, a meteor wiped out up to two thirds of living things including the dinosaurs, the climate underwent repeated upheavals of warming and cooling, and the Grand Canyon was carved.  During all this time, the all-encompassing, all powerful current of natural selection somehow left Ginkgo trees and horseshoe crabs and dozens of other living fossils, even down to the detail of stomates on leaves, virtually untouched.  Is something wrong with this story?
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Beagle 2 Calling Beagle 1   05/30/2003
A search is on to recover H.M.S. Beagle, the ship Charles Darwin made famous by his voyage around the world as a young naturalist, reports
BBC News.  They hope to find some remains of the hull in an Essex marsh, though its location has been lost for almost a century.  The timing is linked to the European Space Agency’s upcoming launch of Mars Express, containing Britain’s lander Beagle 2, a robotic spacecraft hoping to find evidence of water (and therefore, presumably, life) on Mars this December.
    Of the original ship, Dr. Robert Prescott said, “Darwin’s experiences during that expedition critically influenced the development of his ideas about evolution, ultimately revolutionising the way science regards the story of life.  The Beagle surely qualifies as one of the most significant ships in scientific history.”
The Beagle has become the antithetical icon to Noah’s Ark.  It was a centerpiece of the opening episode of the PBS Evolution series in 2001.  Much of the story, however, has become mythical under revisionist writers.  Darwin was still a creationist on the Beagle and attended shipboard prayer meetings regularly and willingly.  Captain Fitzroy, his Christian friend, was an honorable and godly man.  Darwin did not think much of the Galápagos finches at the time he collected them and was not having doubts about the Bible till later.
    None of this may matter, anyway.  Darwin’s ship appears to moving off the radar screen (see the May 22 headline).  Charlie is still the darling of the evolutionists, but more as an aging patriarch than a trendy guy.  They like him because he liberated science from the straitjacket of observation and opened the door to storytellers.  This gave professional evolutionists job security so they can wander through biology labs as if they belong there.  But if Darwin-Lyell gradualism is falling out of vogue among adult entertainers, the old Beagle may just become a fable in children’s storybooks much like Noah’s Ark is today.  The new ship on the radar screen is the battleship H.M.S. Asteroid.  Incoming terror cannonballs from space have all the impact among today’s evolutionary storytellers.  They provide a wealth of new plot lines (and great special effects) for explaining biodiversity, complexity, and love.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Strangest Star Ever Seen   05/29/2003
The exploding star V838 Monocerotis we reported in our
Oct. 3 headline, which gained the public attention with a series of dramatic Hubble photos in March, is still puzzling astronomers, reports Space.Com, which calls it “the talk of astronomy.”  It appears to undergoing a violent outburst yet is cool enough to have water, carbon monoxide and silicates, unlike any nova or supernova.  One astronomer commented, “It represents some of the first observations of a new kind of star, or perhaps an unusually rapid and violent stage in the star’s evolution.”  Another called it “the strangest star we have ever observed.”
Where does this one fit on the neat stellar evolution charts?  Stay tuned; too early to tell, but not very well yet.  Good thing there are still surprises out there.
    Another puzzle under intense scrutiny by astronomers, also reported on Space.Com, is the mystery of the gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic explosions in the universe.
Next headline on: Stars and Astronomy.
Fish Diversify Fast in African Lake   05/29/2003
Lake Victoria in east Africa has several hundred species of cichlid fish, but scientists are not sure whether they evolved there within the last 15,000 or 100,000 years, or were seeded from other populations in the meantime.  Zoologist Thomas D. Kocher of University of New Hampshire doesn’t think it matters too much either way, because the common ancestor of all the fish in the east African lakes already had “the capacity for rapid and extensive radiation.”  His analysis of the speciation of fish in Lake Victoria can be found in the
May 29 issue of Nature.  (See also the Jan. 31 headline on a related claim regarding Lake Baikal.)
What are the data?  Just a surprising diversity of fish in a lake.  Evolutionists do not know how they diverged, when they diverged, what they diverged from, or why they diverge any more than any other group.  Kocher admits that it is hard to relate divergent genes to existing populations (emphasis added):
The very recent origin of the Lake Victoria flock poses two challenges for those wishing to reconstruct the historical relationships among species.  First, there has been little time for mutation to alter the DNA sequence of each species.  This means that there are precious few sequence characters on which to apply phylogenetic analysis.  Second, there has not been enough time for new variant genes to become fixed between instances of speciation, a problem known as 'incomplete lineage sorting'.  This means that although phylogenetic trees derived from DNA sequences accurately represent the history of genes, they do not necessarily reflect the history of the populations in which the variants are found.
The bottom line is, these fish are still fish, they are still bony fish, and they are still cichlid bony fish.  A certain level of variation is accepted by creationists and evolutionists, so these observations provide no support for the belief that fish evolved from something else.  It just shows that you can get fairly rapid variation within a certain kind of organism (remember dogs?).
    Factoid from the article: “More than half of all living species of vertebrates are 'bony' fishes.”  (That depends to a certain extent on who does the classifying, but it is notable, nonetheless.)  We take this opportunity to coin a new word: “mythoid.”  A mythoid is a succinctly-stated, plausible-sounding storyette that requires no evidence, but can be propounded confidently by a scientist and is sure to be readily accepted because a scientist said so (see Thumb’s Second Postulate).  It is usually accompanied by a little bluffing jargon to make it sound highfalutin.  Kocher inserted the following mythoid into his article:
“But in fact the capacity for rapid and extensive radiation lay already in a Haplochromis species that lived at least a million years ago, because that species was the common ancestor of both the Lake Victoria flock and the spectacular parallel radiation of Lake Malawi cichlids in the southern Rift Valley.”  Oo, aa.
Next headline on: Fish. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Early Man DNA Claims Doubtful   05/29/2003
It was widely reported last week that modern humans evolved from a different line than Neanderthals, based on DNA comparisons (see
National Geographic for instance).  But in today’s May 29 issue of Nature, Alison Abbott reports that it is nearly impossible to rule out contamination of the samples, so the reports are meaningless.  Alan Cooper, for instance, ran tests by deliberately contaminating samples of bone and could not eradicate the contamination even with extreme decontamination methods. such as application of acid or bleach.  Giorgio Bertorelle’s paper that claimed Neanderthals and Cro Magnons evolved along independent lines made the cover of the May 27 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was widely reported in newspapers.  Bertorelle claims his team used all the standard precautions to rule out contamination, but Abbott says such controls cannot definitively rule it out.  Since contamination is almost impossible to avoid, Cooper and other experts “see no way to resolve the issue and are now increasingly questioning the value of studies such as Bertorelle’s,” says Abbott.  In summary, “experts say the techniques involved, which are also used by other groups, are dogged by problems so fundamental that they can never be used to draw conclusions about the evolution of modern humans.”
It’s not just these bones that could have been contaminated.  Whole genome databases on which evolutionary speculations are built might also be full of errors, if you recall the February 19 headline.  Combine this with Tim White’s cautions in March about interpreting variability in bones, and you have way too many variables in the plot.  It is only evolutionary faith that motivates certain anthropologists to find ancestral trees that don’t exist.  Notice that the techniques involved are also used by other groups.  What other evolutionary conclusions are being based on flawed samples?
    The world press was quick to parrot Bertorelle’s claim as evidence for human evolution.  How many are willing to bet they will print a retraction, or any caveats about the data on which the conclusions were drawn?  If it was bad science to sort people by skull shape in the 1800s based on racist assumptions, it is similarly bad science to sort them today by DNA comparisons based on evolutionary assumptions.  It is inhumane to portray Brother Neanderthal as inhuman.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Nothing New Under the Sun?  Radiation Fosters First Life   05/28/2003
Under the sun, ultraviolet (UV) light is a destroyer and killer, unless blocked by Earth’s ozone layer.  The little that gets through is a leading cause of skin cancer.  Most origin of life researchers have assumed it is essential to protect incipient prebiotic chemicals from the UV radiation bath, but now three evolutionists see it as a shower of blessing.  Writing in the May 28 issue of
BioMed Central Evolutionary Biology, they build their optimism on the fact that some nitrogenous bases are able to quench UV quanta and protect the backbones of DNA and RNA from cleavage.  They readily admit that the “condensation of sugar phosphates and nitrogenous bases [building blocks of DNA and RNA] is thermodynamically unfavorable,” and therefore that “these compounds, if ever formed, should have undergone rapid hydrolysis.  Thus, formation of oligonucleotide-like structures could have happened only if and when these structures had some selective advantage over simpler compounds.”  That selective advantage might have been the UV protection afforded by the nitrogenous bases – especially if “Partial funneling of the UV energy into the condensation reactions could provide a further boost for the oligomerization” [i.e., the assembly of chains of the building blocks].  (Emphasis added in quotes.)
    The hypothesis is summarized on EurekAlert, where the authors elaborate:
It seems quite unlikely that the extremely effective UV-quenching by all major nitrogenous bases is just incidental.  We can assume that these bases were selected to perform the UV-protecting function before they became involved in the maintenance and transfer of genetic information.  In this (primordial) world the nitrogenous bases served just as protecting units.  Accordingly these units were replaceable and variable.  Exactly this variability could have paved the way to the variability of the future genomes.
In short, they turn a liability into an asset: “The suggested mechanism turns the high UV levels on primordial Earth from a perceived obstacle to the origin of life into the selective factor that, in fact, might have driven the whole process” (emphasis added). 
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” say the Navy Seals and bumper stickers, and that is correct, if you have will power and determination.  But what will power and determination do chemicals have?  It is a fallacy to attribute any such character attributes to chemicals.  Erase from your thinking any such notions, and start with a mind free of Darwinian assumptions, and this whole hypothesis falls apart just like a polypeptide hit by a UV photon.
    Notice how these dreamers admit in their waking moments that the formation of even the building blocks is thermodynamically unfavorable, and would never happen unless there were some perceived “selective advantage” to their formation.  Here they commit a cardinal sin: one cannot apply natural selection to chemicals.  How many times do we have to repeat this?  Every chemical evolutionist is supposed to learn this lesson in Astrobiology 101.  Natural selection requires reproduction, accurate reproduction.  This throws the case out of court before we even get to all the other problems with the RNA World hypothesis in which they place their faith.
    So again we see the Phoenix myth at work.  In the pantheistic world view of the evolutionist, the fires of destruction are the wombs of life.  Radiation, asteroids, collisions, and other devastating agents are our friends: they gave us the beautiful web of life we have today.  Wonder how they feel about terrorism.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
Re-Evolution of Wings: Can Evolution Explain the Impossible?   05/28/2003
In the
May 27 issue of Current Biology, Graham Stone and Vernon French take on the puzzle of the apparent re-evolution of wings in stick insects (see Jan. 16 headline).  Their dispatch, entitled “Evolution: Have Wings Come, Gone, and Come Again?” examines two possibilities: (1) the phylogenetic tree is wrong, or (2) insects really re-evolved wings multiple times.  Arriving at a consensus is important, because it has ramifications for how Darwinism would explain other complex features (emphasis added):
The evolution of wings is widely regarded as a major contributing factor in the evolutionary success of the insects [sic], providing abundant new possibilities for dispersal, prey capture and predator avoidance.  Insect wings (like eyes) are an example of the complex structures whose evolution so troubled Darwin, and which remain important foci for work on the evolution of development.  A major question for these structural adaptations -- and for other complex traits, such as sexual reproduction -- is whether lineages that lose them can ever regain them.  The prevailing view is that such re-evolution is unlikely because, after their loss, the genes required for their development should be free to accumulate mutations and so become non-functional.
First, they examine the possibility that the phylogenetic tree is wrong.  Whiting’s group used a common assumption of parsimony in constructing their tree of the stick insects (Phasmatodea): that is, evolution acts so as to minimize the number of transitions between alternative states.  If that assumption is relaxed, perhaps the tree could be explained by many more episodes of wing loss than the four episodes of wing re-evolution that Whiting et al concluded.
    On the other hand, perhaps, impossible as it seems, evolution can re-invent the wing.  If the developmental pathways for legs and wings use the same genetic toolkits, Stone and French hypothesize, maybe the genetic information to build a wing could be reconstructed under the right selective pressure.  Understanding how this could work is not easy, however (emphasis added):
Even with a shared toolkit, a problem remains, however, in explaining how the wing can be re-evolved after being lost.  Genes, including those encoding developmental tools, have independent enhancers driving their expression in different contexts, under different transcription factor control.  Shared genes will indeed remain exposed to selection in relation to their other functions, but surely their wing-specific enhancers would decay, preventing a direct return to former roles in wing development.
They suggest it would be informative to run a similar phylogenetic tree on another insect order.  In the end, they cannot decide between the possibilities (altering the phylogeny vs. re-evolution), and leave the idea of re-evolution as an intriguing thought: “We know that wing loss is common, but we cannot estimate, beyond this phylogenetic reconstruction, how easy it is to get them back again!  And if wings can be regained, what of other complex traits?  For example, is there any chance that the bdelloid rotifers may once again discover the joys of sex?”
Ladies and gentlemen, behold the phenomenon of credulity among intelligent people.  If you thought that only simpletons were credulous, you have just witnessed PhDs in biology believing in miracles despite their abhorrence of the miraculous.  You have just seen them trap themselves between a rock and a hard place of their own making, steadfastly refusing to consider the only alternative that makes sense in light of the evidence, that wings were designed, and that wing loss is evidence of the general trend toward decay and loss, not a trend toward increasing complexity.
    Both alternatives these biologists toy with are bad news to Darwinism.  If the phylogenetic tree for stick insects is wrong, it casts severe doubt on the assumption of parsimony which is central to their favorite hopeless game, trying to build imaginary ancestral trees between diverse creatures.  But if the tree cannot be questioned, then they are faced with imagining how something as complex as a wing could evolve four times in that one insect order alone.  This inserts miracles into Darwinian theory.  Remember, even if you get the miracle of a fully-formed wing to re-evolve, it is useless unless accompanied by muscles, brain software and the supporting systems to operate it (digestive tract, respiratory system, etc.).  So Darwinian theory becomes a senseless muddle of miracle upon miracle, for which there is no evidence save the assumption that Darwinian evolution must be true.  Actually, the miracle of multiple wing evolutions is not a new problem; they were already faced with four separate cases of having to explain the origin of wings in four very different groups: insects, birds, extinct reptiles (pterosaurs), and mammals (bats).  (The only observed case of wing development, human powered flight, is explained by intelligent design.)
    Stories like this and the next demonstrate how the Darwin Party is imploding.  The tension between the complexity they have to explain and the explanatory power of natural selection is either going to lead to a catastrophic collapse and repudiation of Darwinian theory, with statues of Darwin being dragged through the streets while pummeled by children’s sandals, or else Darwinism will be reinvented as a new pantheistic religion, in which the miraculous, like mortar, is freely applied to keep the tottering wall appearing impregnable.  (A moat of scientific inscrutability is usually sufficient to keep the prisoners from pushing on it to test its strength.)
Next headline on: Bugs, Insects and Arthropods. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Eye-Brain Coordination: How You Know When to Pay Attention   05/27/2003
Imagine you are staring at a non-moving background.  Something appears to move in your peripheral vision.  How does your brain decide it is important enough to turn your head and look at it?  A dispatch entitled “Cognitive Physiology: Moving the Mind’s Eye Before the Head’s Eye” in the May 27 issue of
Current Biology examines this question.  Authors Tefan Treue and Julio C. Martinez-Trujillo begin by stating that, “Under natural conditions, shifts of spatial attention are often followed by matching eye movement.”  I.e., there needs to be a connection between the part of the brain that detect a movement and the part that decides to pay attention.  At this point, they wax rhapsodic in praise of the creative power of evolution (emphasis added):
When studying the visual system of primates, one cannot avoid being awed by the beauty, complexity and shear [sic] power of this product of evolution [sic].  At the same time, the primate visual system as we know it today is a compromise between several conflicting interests and selection pressures.  At first sight the task for evolution [sic] seems to be simply to design a visual system that provides an organism with the most accurate and complete picture of its environment.  While some performance parameters of human vision -- such as its peak spatial resolution, low luminance threshold or enormous dynamic range -- demonstrate how far evolution seems to have come [sic], a second look reveals that evolution has achieved [sic] these impressive abilities only in a very selective way.  Most notably, the high spatial resolution is confined to a small fraction of the retina, the fovea.  This makes sense, as implementing the foveal resolution abilities across the whole retina would not only have been very difficult, but the resulting flood of information reaching the brain would have been impossible to accommodate in a reasonably sized skull.

    Instead, evolution has created [sic] a retinal periphery that covers a large portion of the visual environment and can monitor it for high contrast, low spatial frequency, fast changing or otherwise salient events.  Once such events have been identified, the organism can either reflexively or voluntarily foveate them for a detailed analysis.  For this purpose, a dedicated motor system has been developed.  But it is activated only when a worthwhile target for an eye movement has been identified.  Clearly this process is aimed at achieving an optimal balance between a covert searching process which is energetically inexpensive but limited in its analytical power, and an overt oculomotor process that requires the expenditure of muscle energy, briefly blinds the organism during the rapid shift in eye position and is computationally expensive, as it requires a remapping of the visual field across the image shift on the retina caused by any large eye movements.

    Nevertheless, the amount of relevant information is so small, and the corresponding need for suppressing most of the signals arriving from the eyes so large, that an elaborate and powerful attentional system has developed [sic].

The authors discuss recent work by Moore and Armstrong that “elegantly linked an area known to be a central player in the planning of eye movements to salient stimuli in the visual field to attentional modulations at sites most likely to be upcoming eye movement targets.  It appears that, in an optimized approach, the FEF [frontal eye field] first sends out scouts – automatic increases in attentional gain – to the most interesting (salient) peripheral sites before committing the oculomotor system to a course of action.”
  See also the May 22 headline about image processing done by the eye.
It would be hard to surpass their first sentence for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week, so we will take a risk and award it to Treue and Martinez-Trujillo in advance.  But then again, one cannot avoid being awed by the credulity, simplicity and sheer creativity of the evolutionists to attribute optimal engineering design to chance.
Next headline on: The Human Body. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Internal Clock Assists Monarch Butterfly’s GPS   05/23/2003
“People who need to consult maps, radio traffic reports, or the Global Positioning System to navigate from one city to another should stand in awe of monarch butterflies,” writes Elizabeth Pennisi in the
May 23 issue of Science.  “They migrate thousands of kilometers to a small winter retreat in Mexico.”  Describing the research by Reppert et al in the same issue of Science, she reports that the team found evidence of a biological clock, an “accurate internal timepiece,” that is calibrated by the sun.  Since the sun is constantly moving through the sky, this allows the fragile butterflies to maintain their position during their epic flights.  But this may just be part of the story, and more mysteries remain.  For instance, how would a species-wide standard clock work with populations scattered across North America, who must take different routes?  And since the great grandchildren of the starters are the ones who arrive in Mexico, how does the migration system persist across generations?  How does junior know where he is in the flight plan?
Yes, stand in awe of monarch butterflies, not because they could have engineered navigation systems superior to GPS that baffle our scientists, but because these awesome capabilities were put there by an awesome God.
    This entry is an enhancement on last July’s amazing story about the Monarch Butterfly Flight Simulator.  Give your kid a butterfly net and a GPS, and make it a teachable moment.
Next headline on: Bugs and Arthropods. • Next amazing story.
Treasure Found in DNA Junkyard   05/23/2003
“Not Junk After All,” says Wojciech Makalowski of so-called “junk DNA” (a term coined by the late Sozumu Ohno to describe apparently useless, repetitive sequences in the genome that do not code for genes).  Writing in the
May 23 issue of Science, he says the junkyard was really a treasure mine (emphasis added in all quotes):
Although catchy, the term “junk DNA” for many years repelled mainstream researchers from studying noncoding DNA. Who, except a small number of genomic clochards, would like to dig through genomic garbage?  However, in science as in normal life, there are some clochards who, at the risk of being ridiculed, explore unpopular territories.  Because of them, the view of junk DNA, especially repetitive elements, began to change in the early 1990s.  Now, more and more biologists regard repetitive elements as a genomic treasure.
How do the mislabeled pieces of junk shine like gems?  They apparently regulate the expression of gene-coding regions through alternative splicing.  Describing an example published by an Israeli team in the same issue of Science, Makalowski explains that the alternative splicing involves an interplay with the giant molecular machine called the spliceosome, and is finely tuned:
It is even more tricky to maintain the delicate balance of signals that cause an exon to be spliced alternatively--you make one mistake (a point mutation) and either a splicing signal becomes too strong and an exon is spliced constitutively, or the signal becomes too weak and an exon is skipped.
Makalowski thinks the additional copies of genes allow one to be preserved and the other to be a source of evolutionary novelty. 
Unfortunately, most mutations will lead to abnormal proteins and are likely to result in disease.  Yet a small number may create an evolutionary novelty, and nature’s “alternative splicing approach” guarantees that such a novelty may be tested while the original protein stays intact.
    Another way to exploit an evolutionary novelty without disturbing the function of the original protein is gene duplication (see the figure).  Gene duplication is one of the major ways in which organisms can generate new genes.  After a gene duplication, one copy maintains its original function whereas the other is free to evolve and can be used for “nature’s experiments.
He realizes he is sounding anthropomorphic, but sheepishly continues his analogy in the concluding sentences (emphasis added):
These two papers demonstrate that repetitive elements are not useless junk DNA but rather are important, integral components of eukaryotic genomes. Risking personification of biological processes, we can say that evolution is too wise [sic] to waste this valuable information.  Therefore, repetitive DNA should be called not junk DNA but a genomic scrap yard, because it is a reservoir of ready-to-use segments for nature’s evolutionary experiments.
The other paper he refers to was a study by Iwashita et al a few years ago that suggested transposable elements permit a kind of modular programming.  A cow was found to have two copies of a gene, but one copy had an inserted endonuclease module.  He concluded that this arrangement allowed it to evolve a new function while the other copy without the module maintained the cow’s original fitness.
Makalowski took the risk and lost.  He personified nature.  Foul.  That is not permitted in naturalistic philosophy.  If Nature is doing experiments, tinkering with a finely-tuned apparatus, and wise enough not to waste valuable information, she is a person, no longer just natural law and chance.  Without an intelligence to guide it, tinkering with something as complex as a genome factory will just muck up the works and bring the machinery to a grinding halt.  A materialist cannot personify the organisms, either.  Animals do not “want” to evolve, nor do they care who wins the competition.
    Notice how Ohno’s catchy “junk DNA” slogan stifled research.  Like Makalowski says, it gave a bad garbage odor to a gold mine of investigation that is now proving rich and productive, once a few brave clochards risked ridicule (Darwin’s junkyard dog) to explore the unpopular territory.
    Repetitive elements, introns, retrotransposons, and other former junk are today’s gems under the microscope.  Despite his change of heart, Makalowski still has some prejudice to overcome.  He should not keep insulting these gems as constituting a “genomic scrap yard” of “valuable information” used by a personified Nature, a bumbling goddess who only occasionally gets it right.  A better imagery is modular programming.  The exons and introns are like software modules and remote procedure calls, that can be dynamically reconfigured to respond to a dynamic environment.  This requires an even higher order of complexity at the level of epigenetic control of gene expression.
    Can we learn a lesson from Ohno’s blunder?  Give the intelligent design approach a chance at the data.  Instead of looking for the scraps left by the tinkering of a dumb idol, let’s look for purpose in the finely-tuned, delicate operations of these molecular machines, a purpose put there by intelligence.  If history is a guide, such a strategy will be much more productive in this treasure hunt called science.
    See also the May 1 headline on pseudogenes.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Darwinian Gradualism Was Just a Fad; Catastrophism Rules   05/22/2003
Darwin and Lyell don’t seem to get much respect in a book review in the
May 22 issue of Nature.  In a review of Michael Benton’s new book about the Permian extinction, When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time, Peter J. Bowler of Queen’s University in Belfast argues that catastrophism only suffered a temporary, localized hiatus.  Although “Benton wants to show us how the catastrophist perspective has re-emerged in modern geology and palaeontology,” Bowler wants us to realize it never died, at least on the continent.  Though he likes the book overall, he says (emphasis added):
My one criticism of his [Benton’s] account is that he accepts too readily the assumption that Lyell and Darwin marginalized all support for discontinuity in the Earth’s history.  There were few outright catastrophists left by around 1900, but many still believed that the history of life had been punctuated by environmental transitions far more rapid than anything observed in the recent past.

The real triumph of gradualism came with the modern darwinian synthesis of the mid-twentieth century, and even then it was confined to the English-speaking world.  Benton notes that British and US palaeontologists of the 1950s ignored the catastrophism of Otto Schindewolf.  But we need to recognize that German palaeontologists such as Schindewolf were continuing a long-standing tradition that had proved far more robust than our modern, Darwin-centred histories acknowledge.  The fact that modern catastrophists do not see a link back to that tradition tells us about the effectiveness of the neo-lyellian interlude of the mid-twentieth century.

Bowler seems vindicated that catastrophism was victorious over that far less robust idea, Darwinian-Lyellian gradualism.
Don’t tell this to Richard Dawkins.  Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Darwin’s popularity, that Nature would print this?  Is Lyell’s adage “the present is the key to the past” now a passé cliché?  To be cool, do you have to wear a catastrophist T-shirt?  You would get that impression.
    So what fad takes its place?  It’s neo, it’s retro; it’s the old Phoenix myth.  Out of the fires of violent catastrophes, new life springs up and diversifies quickly (we don’t quite know how).  Today’s popular Permian extinction theory, if you accept the dates and stratigraphical correlations, built on evolutionary assumptions, would have us believe that 90% of living things suddenly went extinct (we don’t quite know how -- asteroids are popular, but volcanism or intestinal gas might do).  Out of the carnage, evolution just took off by leaps and bounds (we don’t quite know how) to repopulate the earth until the Cretaceous extinction obliterated 50% of life again.  Those poor dicynodonts survived the first catastrophe only to be wiped out by the second.  (The third wave of mass extinction is upon us; now it’s man’s fault.)
    Notice that this is not science, but fashion.  Certain beliefs are trendy.  The pendulum has swung, and catastrophism, along with goatees and big cars, is “in” again.   Bowler’s commentary belongs in the Fashion section.  He says, “Many early catastrophists postulated the involvement of extraterrestrial agents — a comet was sometimes invoked as the cause of Noah's flood.  But such ideas went out of fashion in the mid-nineteenth century...” (emphasis added).
    If it isn’t jarring enough to realize gradualism was a passing fad, look what Benton does: his book apparently blames Darwin and Lyell for marginalizing the more robust approach.  That portrays the two Charlies not as just unfashionable nerds, but outright usurpers.  They seized power and set up a gradualist republic, making the catastrophists go into hiding and wear burqas until Operation Enduring Phoenix.
    So while the scientific journals are getting bold and feeling liberated from the stifling orthodoxy of the Charlie regime, the only remaining enclaves of gradualist fundamentalism are the public schools.  There, the drab Charlie uniforms must be worn, no matter what Nature Fashion thinks.  Eugenie Scott, the Vice Principal with the horn-rimmed glasses, will make sure of that.  Home schoolers are the most liberated bunch.  They get to wear the hottest, most avant-garde neo/retro line of all: Noah.
Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Fossils.
Photo  05/22/2003: The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft has taken a dramatic image of Earth and Jupiter as seen from Mars, the first planetary conjunction imaged from another planet.  From that distance, both the gas giant and the pale blue dot appear as tiny specks.  The press release shows them magnified so that you can see the bands of Jupiter and three of its satellites, and the American continents on Earth, along with our moon.
Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: Solar System.

Eye Does Image Processing   05/22/2003
Before the image gets to the brain, your eyes’ retinas perform sophisticated image processing automatically, explains Richard Masland in the
May 22 issue of Nature.  Reporting on a Harvard team’s paper in the same issue, he says (emphasis added), “The vertebrate eye is far more than a passive receptor for visual information.  The microcircuitry in the retina can, for instance, carry out the job of distinguishing object motion from background motion.”  He explains the task the eye needs to perform (emphasis added):

When the first light-sensitive amoeba drifted down a stream, it encountered one of the fundamental problems of vision, which is that the world doesn’t sit still.  Trees move in the breeze, grass rustles, the sun and stars drift across the sky.  The most basic use of an organism’s light-sensitivity is to orient itself to (or from) a light source.  But how, with so much moving clutter, could the amoeba have charted its position?

Fast-forward in evolutionary time [sic] to vertebrates, and things become worse yet.  The image of even a peaceful world dances in great whoops and swirls when the eye moves.  And it moves whether we command it to or not: the eyes make incessant, unconscious drifts, even when we stare fixedly at a single point.  Given this visual dance, how can we see anything except a blur?  As described on page 401 of this issue, an experiment carried out by Ölveczky et al. reveals one of the ways that the visual system does it.  The process involves a clever piece of image processing ... - remarkably, that processing occurs in the neural microcircuits of the retina.

The Harvard team studied just one of the dozen bipolar cells and 29 amacrine cells that stand between the photoreceptors and the ganglion cells that send the messages down the optic nerve to the brain.  This one type of amacrine cell is able to time the nerve impulses and determine whether the image is uniformly moving, or if an object is moving across a stationary background.  If the former, it aborts the impulse; if the latter, it sends it to the brain.  The team experimented with the eyes of rabbits and salamanders, but the findings apply to all vertebrates, including primates.
    Masland comments, “One of the surprises of the past few years has been the unsuspected complexity of the retina’s microcircuitry” (emphasis added).  The other bipolar cells and amacrine cells are apparently also involved in computational image processing – work that is performed on the image before the brain sees it, filtering out useless information that otherwise would overwhelm us.  Thus, these cells “shape and compress the raw information detected by the photoreceptors for efficient transmission to the brain.”
    Excited by this latest finding, Masland summarizes what is already known about image processing in the retina, and predicts what wonders may soon be discovered (emphasis added):
Where does this take us?  Among other things, it encourages a search for even more sophistication in the retina’s computations.  Other amacrine cells provide feedback signals for retinal gain control - a crucial function that adjusts the retina’s sensitivity to match the ambient illumination and contrast.  A single amacrine cell, the starburst cell, appears to compute the fundamental asymmetry that enables some ganglion cells to report the direction of a moving stimulus.  Another mechanism compensates for the ballistic eye movements that hurl the eyes from object to object.  There are now hints that not just movement but also the spatial pattern of the moving target affect the retina’s responses.  The great turn-of-the-century anatomists recognized the retina as one of evolution’s masterpieces [sic].  Our understanding of its signalling repertoire is finally beginning to catch up.
The Harvard team does not explain how the image processing system evolved, other than to note that the geometric peculiarities of a particular optical illusion called the Ouchi illusion, which causes the amacrine cell to signal that the object is moving against the background when it really isn’t, “are rare the natural environment, where retinal function evolved” [sic].
The proper bodily response to hearing the oxymoron “evolution’s masterpieces” is (a) gag, (b) choke, (c) guffaw, (d) spin right index finger around right ear, (e) all of the above sequentially, (f) all of the above simultaneously.  Instead of the customary [sic = thus in the original] designation, maybe we should use: [sick].
    Let’s ask Corel, Microsoft, and Adobe if their image-processing software was written by time and chance.  Let us also inquire from Sony, Canon, and Nikon if they threw various metallic ores and silicates into a volcano to manufacture high-resolution optics and microcircuitry for their digital cameras.  This is your brain.  This is your brain on Darwinism.  Any questions?
    Now that we have ruled out a category of explanation (time and chance) and strengthened the case for an alternative cause (intelligence) capable of producing sophisticated image processing hardware and software, let us stand in awe of what is happening in the rear of your eyeballs right now as you read this.  The reactions are so efficient, they are almost instantaneous.  Think of how rapidly you can process each letter in each word of a sentence while your eyes are scanning across the screen.  Think of how quickly you can scan and recognize faces in a crowd.  You can pick out a moving target against a background only because the pre-processing engine aborts repetitive, irrelevant details so that your brain can concentrate on what matters.  All the while, the image processing is automatically compensating for motion, adjusting the gain via feedback loops, enhancing the brightness and contrast, and improving overall image quality in a data set that otherwise would present to the brain a muddled blur, a torrent of unprocessed and useless detail.
    So now we find that the brain is just the post-processor.  It doesn’t have to harvest and cook the food, just digest it.  It doesn’t have to develop the film and retouch it, or toss out the bad cuts, but just enjoy the finished motion picture.  It doesn’t have to gather and graph the data, but just watch the PowerPoint presentation and make management decisions based on it.  Who would have thought that a complete set of image processing tools massages the signals coming from the rods and cones even before the optic nerve receives them?
    If Darwin got cold shudders just from contemplating what they knew about the eye in 1859, evolutionists should be in deep freeze by now.  For decades we have seen biological complexity increasing in exponential proportion to the resolution of our instruments.  It’s long overdue to end the Darwin Party filibuster and call for a vote.  Resolved: Darwinian evolution is wholly inadequate to account for biological complexity, and is effectively falsified.  All in favor say, “eye.”  All opposed, neigh.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next amazing story.
Noah’s Ark Goes Digital   05/20/2003
Endangered species are being given a place to live in cyberspace, reports the
BBC News.  Pictures and information about 6,000 animals and 33,000 plants considered in danger of extinction will be housed on ARKive, a “huge website” that floats on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, this may save the memories, but not the gene pools, of these plants and animals from the flood of human greed and exploitation.  And who are the exploiters?  Not the free world primarily, but the dictatorships (remember what Hussein did?).  The June issue of National Geographic reports that Somalia is turning its pristine forests into deserts because of the demand for charcoal.  Historically, the famed cedars of Lebanon (and the biodiversity they contained) were decimated by warring monarchies who used the timber for siege machines or crosses on which to execute prisoners.  By contrast, it’s free societies like America that are developing non-polluting hydrogen fuel cells and finding ways to turn toxic waste and garbage into oil.  The environmental records of democracies vs dictatorships would make for an interesting research project.
Note: Before characterizing the rate of species extinction, we need to remember that the definition of species often differs from one taxonomist to another.  There are lumpers and splitters – taxonomists who want to classify multiple varieties under one species name, and those who want to give every variety its own.  It’s not always clear which varieties or species are interfertile.  These facts need to be taken into consideration when sounding the alarm that “thousands of species are going extinct.”  The creation view is that the “created kind” is generally a larger category than species; but in any taxonomic scheme there will be exceptions and special cases. 
    Ending totalitarianism might be a much more productive way to save biodiversity, than relying on the UN (the United Nebuchadnezzars).  How about this for a new Earth Day slogan: “Give me liberty, or give the environment death.”  But freedom itself is no guarantee, if free peoples have no conscience and are driven only by selfish interest.  Some aborigines burned down vast forests to make it easier to hunt, and some native American tribes stampeded herds of buffalo off cliffs.  Even some evolutionists suspect that early humans drove mammoths and much of the rich Pleistocene fauna extinct.
    Along with freedom, humans need a conscience recognizing that “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24).  We are sojourners on a land that does not belong to us.  It is fair to make a living off the land, but not to obliterate living things made by Someone else, when He gave us the responsibility to be stewards.  Free people having a creation ethos might stem the tide of extinction, so that one day we don’t have to remember many of earth’s magnificent plants and animals only with nostalgic pictures on the Internet.
    The Creator loves animals and plants.  Look how many He made before bringing the first man and woman along to take care of them.  It’s interesting that so many people including evolutionary biologists keep harking back to the Biblical images of the Garden of Eden (see Eden Project and Eden Again) and Noah’s Ark.  Usually they avoid the uncomfortable details about the God who made the world and then judged it because of sin.  They like the peaceful imagery, but not the Prince of Peace who alone can bring peace on earth, good will toward men (and animals).
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Dog Does Calculus   05/20/2003
Throw a ball into a lake, and a dog will find the optimal path to fetch it.  Tim Pennings at Hope College, Michigan took his dog Elvis and was amazed at how the dog figured out the optimal route to the ball – a common problem students in calculus classes have to solve.  The story is on
SciNews.
Pennings is not saying Elvis understands calculus, but that this was “an example of the uncanny way in which nature often finds optimal solutions.”  Nature does not find optimal solutions.  Nature is not a person.  If the intelligence were not put in from the outside by Someone, nature would follow the laws of thermodynamics, and the dog would decay into dust on the shore of the lake.  That Elvis does not, and happily jumps into the water, swimming straight to the ball in spite of the current, is a tribute to the Designer who made cells, DNA, brains, muscles, nerves, and complex interconnected systems that make such tricks possible in a world that, of itself, gravitates toward equilibrium.
Note: Owls excel at math, too, and so do tennis players.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next amazing story.
Chimps Are People, Too   05/20/2003
Some
Wayne State scientists claim chimpanzees are only 0.6% different than humans in certain key genes, so they should be classified in the genus Homo along with people.  In addition, the great apes, including gorillas and orang-utans, should be classified in the human family Hominidae, reports the BBC News.
We should not insult the apes this way.
All the news media are picking up on this weird-science story (it’s really about politics and animal rights activism, not science).  They all seem to feed from the same sources and use this as an opportunity to push Darwin and the “Inherit the Wind” stereotype of the Scopes Trial.  Some are allowing critics to respond, though, such as evolutionary anthropologist Richard Sherwood of U. of Wisconsin, and even creationist Dr. Walt Brown of the Center for Scientific Creation: see MSNBC News, CNN and others that are basically parroting the same AP story line.  National Geographic, however, spins only a politically-correct story out of it, saturated with evolutionary assumptions, as expected.  What’s next, ape suffrage?  Bonzo for president, right.  You can’t compromise on government with apes, because they are monarchists.  Remember King Kong?
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Politics. • Next dumb story.
Paleontologist Questions Claims of Four-Winged DinoBird   05/19/2003
Kevin Padian, curator of the UC Berkeley museum of paleontology, is not sure what to think about the fossil of an alleged theropod with feathers on all four limbs, named Microraptor gui, announced in Nature last
January.  Writing in the May issue of Bioscience, he thinks it is potentially as important as Archaeopteryx “if the claims pan out” (which he feels are not yet convincing), but he has a number of questions about the authors’ interpretation that the creature was a four-winged flyer or glider.  Since few scientists have been able to study the fossils except to look at the pictures, it is not clear if the creature had anything to do with the lineage of birds, or was an oddball that was an evolutionary dead end.
    For one thing, Padian is not convinced that the feathers were attached to the rear legs at all, or even if they were, that they were involved in flying or gliding.  “A corollary to this point,“ he says, “is that there is no reason to assume that a gliding animal will necessarily evolve powered flight,” because no bird today, not even Archaeopteryx in the past, used hind limbs in a flight stroke (birds tuck up their feet like airplanes do with their wheels).  “So the leg feathering in Microraptor has nothing demonstrably to do with the evolution of the kind of flight that more derived birds use,” he notes.
    Other problems include the claim the hind legs were splayed out to the side, which would have dislocated the hip joint, and that the tibias were bowed, ”which would be extraordinary for any bird or theropod.”  Such an arrangement would be useless, he thinks, and hints at distortion of the fossil, because bowed tibiae “would move it farther from anything to do with the origin of birds.”
    Padian has some pointed comments about the discoverers’ claim that Microraptor supports the view that flight evolved from the trees down:
Finally, the issue of whether birds evolved flight in trees or on the ground is effectively dead, because it isn't testable.  We re not likely to find a fossilized bird in its fossilized tree, about to jump off a fossilized limb.  The central problem of the evolution of flight is how the flight stroke evolved, because without it, flapping is not effective.  (Also needed are an effective airfoil, a sophisticated neuromuscular apparatus, and an active metabolism for sustained flight.)
(italics in original).  Padian supports the alternative view that flight evolved from the ground up, and used their forelimbs originally to trap prey.
It’s kind of fun to watch storytellers argue with each other’s plots.  Padian thinks it is incredible that feathered hind limbs would provide any flight benefit to an animal if it were jumping out of trees to learn how to fly, but is it any more credible to claim, without any fossil evidence, that forelimbs used to trap prey would evolve into eagle’s wings?  There is much more involved than just limb shape, as he reminds us.  There are muscles, nerves, brain software, hollow bones, a different respiratory system, and much more.  In fact, just about every biological system would need redesign for a reptile to evolve powered flight.  This would require hundreds of Darwin’s “successive, slight modifications,” each of which would have had to provide a functional advantage enough to make the lucky mutant survive and all the others die.  Great story, if you have enough faith.
    Did you catch Padian’s admission that there is no fossil evidence whatsoever for the origin of the flight stroke in powered flight?  Did you notice Padian’s reservations about whether the hind legs had feathers at all, and his suggestion that the fossil might have been distorted?  Best of all is his rejoinder about the arboreal origin-of-flight story being untestable, because one cannot see a fossilized bird jumping out of a fossilized tree.  But the same criticism can be leveled against Padian’s own preferred story, because one cannot see a fossilized theropod using fossilized forelimbs to catch fossilized prey.  The storytelling is reminiscent of old mountain man Moses Harris, who used to amuse easterners with his tales from the far west.  Although petrified forests do exist and had been seen, Moses embellished the account to the point where he described having seen “petrified birds perched on petrified branches of petrified trees, singing petrified songs.”
    Given the highly-emotional agenda of some fossil hunters to find missing links, and the known problem of composites coming out of China, it is certainly premature to believe any claims about this fossil.  A wait-and-see attitude has proved wise in previous cases.
Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Fossils.
Springtime at Neptune Begins   05/16/2003
The
Hubble Space Telescope has taken pictures over six years that show brightening clouds in the southern hemisphere of Neptune.  This indicates that seasonal changes are occurring, which is something of a surprise, since the sun’s energy is one 900th of what the earth receives.
    Because of its 160-year orbit, Neptune’s southern hemisphere won't begin summer till 2043.
Voyager 2 discovered also that Neptune had the strongest winds of any planet, stronger even than those at larger Jupiter and Saturn that receive more solar energy and give off more internal heat.  As we reported a year ago, Uranus and Neptune do not fall neatly into theories of the origin of the solar system, nor do they appear to be as old as claimed.
Next headline on: Solar System.
How to Keep a Planet from Crashing Into Its Star   05/16/2003
Astrophysicists have their hands full keeping newly-formed planets in balance.  The problem is that a dust disk exchanges angular momentum with an accreting planet, making it lose energy and fall inward toward the star (Type I migration).  In addition, the interaction sets up spiral waves that draw the planet inward in short order.  How quickly?  In just a thousand years, a Jupiter could move 1 AU (93 million miles) on this conveyor belt headed for the furnace.  Unless the planet clears out a gap in the dust quickly, which slows down the inward pull considerably (Type II migration), the star will gobble it up (the aptly-named “Shiva scenario”).  But then again, the growing planet needs the dust disk to grow; once the gap is cleared, no more accretion occurs.
    In the online preprint edition of the upcoming May 20 issue of
Astrophysical Journal, European scientists Andrew Nelson and Willy Benz attempt to balance the competing forces.  They find, unfortunately, that planets less than 30% the mass of Jupiter cannot clear the disk in time to prevent being swallowed.  In the same issue, Winters, Balbus and Hawley from the University of Virginia struggle with how quickly a gap can form and what it means to the growing planet.  It used to be so simple, they say (emphasis added):
Understanding the process of planet formation in nascent solar systems is a long-standing goal of astrophysical theory.  The traditional picture is an orderly one in which planets slowly build up their mass, first by accreting rocky planetesimals and then (if sufficiently massive) gas from the surrounding protostellar disk.  The recent multiple detections of extrasolar planets close to the central star, a configuration once thought to be highly improbable, pose a stern challenge to this relatively simple picture of planet formation.  In the wake of these discoveries, contemporary theories emphasize the importance of the dynamical interaction between a developing planet and the ambient gaseous disk.
These new models have stern challenges of their own, as described in the preceding paragraph.  Now that models show that a a gas giant can form in hundreds of years instead of millions, it’s a race against time.  The planet has to form to sufficient size, clear a gap, and avoid the pull of the remaining dust disk or else it will be sucked into stellar oblivion like a speck spiraling down a drain.
    In their simulations, the second group had trouble getting the gap cleared of material, and there are other complications, like magnetic fields, spiral density waves, tidal interactions between planet and star, the planet’s own gravitational influence on the surrounding disk, and turbulence.  They found that small planets were unable to form a gap at all: in fact, the density of material around them increased.  It’s beginning to seem quite a puzzle not only how Jupiter-size planets have been found at vastly different radii around other stars, but how our own rocky planets, including the one we’re standing on, survived the maelstrom.
We didn’t even mention yet the problem that most dust disks are being rapidly blown away by nearby supergiant stars.  Even if a planet survives the chaos in these new naturalistic models, they show it does not require long periods of time.  These new papers are speaking of process that operate in thousands of years, not millions or billions.  That raises additional questions.  After such a quick formation, do we need billions of years?  What about all the other phenomena throughout the solar system that appear young?
Laplace claimed he did not need the god hypothesis when he formulated his famous nebular hypothesis for the origin of the solar system.  He would have choked on today’s more complicated data.  None of the current models work; just when they tie together some loose ends, it comes apart in the middle.  Remember what Nature said last month?  Don’t believe the simple illustrations any more.  The images of calm dust disks neatly condensing into planets over millions of years are out.  Now, its peas in a whirlpool.
    Since astrophysicists are having trouble getting their own models to condense out of the fog of speculation, we propose a new name for the materialistic Laplace approach: the nebulous hypothesis.
Next headline on: Solar System.
Cosmic Fudge Factor Revives Anthropic Principle   05/15/2003
A few years ago, astronomers and cosmologists were surprised that some observations pointed to an accelerating universe.  This revived Einstein’s old fudge factor, the cosmological constant, a parameter in his field equations that gave the universe an outward push so that it would not collapse.  More and more astronomers are acquiescing to the belief that this parameter, long thought to be zero, has what appears to be a non-arbitrary value.
    In “Cosmology: A just-so story” Lawrence M. Krauss in the
May 15 issue of Nature writes that the cosmological constant is reviving questions about the anthropic principle.  This principle looks at all the apparently arbitrary values of physical constants, and reasons that if they were not all finely tuned, life could not exist.  Another way of stating it is that the constants seem to have the values they do only because we exist to measure them.  Krauss admits (emphasis added),
The reason that physicists have been so reluctant to consider the anthropic principle seriously is that it goes against the grain.  Most physicists have hoped that an ultimate physical explanation of reality would explain why the Universe must look precisely the way it does, rather than why it more often than not would not.
So are the constants of physics, as diverse as the charge on the electron, the resonances within the triple-alpha process of nuclear fusion, and the gravitational constant restricted to the values they have now based on fundamental theory, or are they just lucky accidents from an infinite range of possibilities?  Are they determined, or contingent?  Krauss makes it clear that most astronomers would prefer the former, yet acceptance of the accelerating universe due to a non-zero cosmological constant has given them another fine-tuning parameter to wonder about.
    Krauss points to a recent paper by James Bjorken that makes a stab at relating the value of the cosmological constant to the de Sitter horizon.  This is the distance at which the speed of the expanding universe matches the speed of light.  Beyond this horizon, no information can come to us, and we are forever cut off from knowing anything beyond it.  Bjorken, a particle physicist, suggests that not only the cosmological constant, but all physical dimensional quantities are determined by the de Sitter horizon of the universe in which they reside.
    Krauss considers Bjorken’s proposal interesting but speculative.  “In the end,” he concludes, “as with so many anthropic arguments, it is hard to know what to make of this result, especially in the absence of any fundamental theory.”  It’s intriguing, he says, and “a possible resolution of what is otherwise the most puzzling fine-tuning problem in all of physics.”  But he makes it clear that the mystery remains (emphasis added): “As Bjorken stresses, perhaps attempts to connect concurrent problems in particle physics and cosmology in this way – even though these types of argument are very speculativemight ultimately provide some guidance for researchers as we try to understand what otherwise seems at present to be a remarkably inexplicable Universe.”
Thus Bjorken provides only a suggestion, a “just-so story,” around the problem.  Not only is this stabbing in the dark, it really is not a solution at all.  Even if the constants of physics scale to the de Sitter horizon, why is that true, so that complex life is possible?  Why is there a universe at all?  You cannot get a treasure map by chance.  If you have a naturally-produced treasure map that leads you to X marks the spot, you have to ask the follow-up question: what treasure map further up the chain provided the information the first map used?
    There appears to be no simplistic way out of the anthropic principle.  It’s a cop-out to say, “Well, if the universe were not this way, we would not be here arguing about whether its existence were possible.”  Since we are here, it demands an explanation.  Not even a fundamental theory can answer that.  Some nuisance will just come right back with, “So who designed the fundamental theory such that all these lucky constants were determined, so that life could exist?”  Warning: too much contemplation on this causes headaches, unless you can tolerate the taste of the antidote.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Do Crater Counts Indicate the Ages of Planets and Moons?   05/14/2003
Estimating past cratering rates is not for the faint of heart or for those lacking imagination.  There are so many variables and unknowns, any estimate is likely to be highly questionable.  But even when a planetary scientist arrives at a number for cratering rate for a given region of the solar system, there’s always at least one mischievous object that doesn’t fit.  For a flavor of the head-scratching and occasional frivolity in this line of work, here are a few excerpts from an updated attempt by four NASA and Southwest Research Institute scientists, published in this month’s issue of
Icarus (emphasis added):
  • Uranus’ Miranda: Of the classical moons, only Miranda and Ariel show any large areas that are obviously young.  Miranda in particular appears to be, in places, fairly young. ... The large gap in apparent ages between Elsinore and the cratered terrain, on the one hand, and [adjacent] Arden and Inverness [the famous chevron-shaped feature], on the other, is a bit puzzling if one imagines that all of Miranda's oddities are tied to a single event.
  • Neptune’s Triton: As we have discussed in detail elsewhere, one of the puzzles of the outer Solar System is how poorly we find the predicted apex-antapex asymmetry expressed on real synchronous satellites.  Triton's exaggerated apex-antapex asymmetry only makes this disagreeable state look worse.  Perhaps the meridional terrains (mostly cantaloupe) are truly younger than the rest of Triton; or impact craters may have been missed there (a possibility, as the cantaloupe terrane seems almost to have been designed as camouflage for degraded craters); or the impactors may have been mostly planetocentric bodies in prograde orbits, striking retrograde Triton more or less head on.
  • Neptune's inner satellites like those of Uranus, appear to be subject to collisional disruption on time scales shorter than the age of the Solar System. ... the innermost satellites would seem to be destined to vanish in the near future. ... [the hypothesis of] a truly collisional Kuiper Belt population--makes Naiad's prospects even worse.
  • Small moons: The more nearly collisional comet-size distributions (Case B and Case C) imply that the smaller moons have much shorter collisional lifetimes than do the larger moons.  Moreover, these lifetimes are quite short, typically much less than 1 Gyr.  The implication is that the smaller moons are vanishing to the benefit of their larger neighbors; it becomes a puzzle that so many should exist now.
  • Jupiter’s Ganymede: These ages are very uncertain; they also have a small element of circular reasoning in them, since we assumed that TBD = 1 Gyr to set one of the constraints on the jovian cratering rate.
These are just samples from a long paper that keeps both hands waving: (“on the one hand, this; but on the other hand, that”).  Three times in the paper, the authors caution that their age estimates should not be taken too seriously, because the uncertainties are huge.
Only a tiny fraction of the population would ever read a technical paper like this, with all its uncertainties.  TV producers and planetarium lecturers assume that the peasants want nice, tidy, dogmatic answers to things – glittering generalities spoken by authoritative-sounding announcers, saying, “Four and a half billion years ago, the Solar System evolved out of a swirling cloud of gas,” with glitzy artwork providing a convenient substitute for uncooperative data.  Here at Creation-Evolution Headlines, we know from feedback that our readers are smarter.  They realize that the interesting revelations usually come from the puzzles.
    Much of the puzzlement seems to come from the insistence on maintaining that seldom-questioned 4.6-billion year age for the Solar System.  In fact, the authors treat that as a given, and calibrate their cratering rates to it (another case of circular reasoning).  Yet even when they do this, there are a surprising number of surfaces they admit are clearly much younger than that, so they have to devise just-so stories for how the moon or planet was resurfaced relatively recently.
Note: They may speak of 'recent' as 10 or 100 million years ago, but even the latter is only 2% the assumed age of the Solar System – very 'young' when calibrated to that scale.  Even something claimed to be 1 Gyr [1 billion years] old represents only about one-fifth – 22% – of the assumed age of the Solar System.  What happened during the other 78%?  Did it even exist?  On Venus, for instance, some planetary scientists are puzzled that the first 90% of the planet’s history has apparently been obliterated by recent resurfacing events.  That means 90% of the planet’s unseen history is inferred by faith, to maintain their prior commitment to a 4.6 billion year age.
Curiously, while planetary scientists will readily admit this or that feature is young, none of them ever dreams of asking whether the Solar System itself could be young, even though some of them claimed recently that gas giants could form in just a few hundred years.  One possible reason is their bias toward radioactive dating methods as opposed to other methods that yield much lower ages.  A more likely reason is the need for those billions of years to accommodate Darwinian evolution.  (That’s a false hope in itself; read the Darwinism chain links and see.)
    Most of the outer planets have features that look old and young, side by side.  At Uranus, for instance, Miranda looks very young, and “Ariel and Titania also may have relatively youthful provinces, while nothing young was seen on Umbriel or Oberon.”  The designations of old or young depend on unproveable assumptions about the unobservable past, with very little in the way of present processes to provide any calibration.  If they don’t know the number of impactors, or whether their influx rate is constant, then any estimates are pure guesswork.  How do they know there was not one or a few brief episodes of bombardment?  They assume bright means young and dark means old, but if they cannot calibrate the darkening rate, those estimates are also guesswork.  For the real curve ball, what can they do when 'old' and 'young' features are sitting right next to each other, on the same moon?
    As we have stated before, it’s not that materialistic scientists are unable to concoct a story to fit the data (they are a very imaginative lot, after all).  It’s that the data require a story to fit a belief.  They might retort that a Bible believer does the same thing, because he or she must fit the data to a belief, also.  But there are two advantages with a Biblical viewpoint: (1) The observation to assumption ratio is much higher, since they are not obligated to extrapolate observed processes billions of years into the unseen past, and (2) There is credible Eyewitness testimony available, at least for the big picture.  A scientist of Christian or Jewish persuasion can also be more open to question the conventional wisdom and provide a sanity check against materialistic dogmatism.
    Keep in mind that today’s headline mentions only a few of many problems with materialistic cosmogonies – search back through the chain links on Solar System for many more problems, some much worse (try just the next three, for example).  Surely a materialist cannot claim the rational high ground in the face of this many unknowns, anomalies, and puzzles, propped up by ad hoc just-so stories rigged to maintain a belief in 4.6 billion years of undirected natural processes, a lot of matter in motion that just happened to result in our lucky planet.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Bias in Science Journals  05/13/2003:  Michael Behe wrote a short 350-word letter to Nature commenting on the recent finding of a pseudogene with a function, expressing his opinion that this is positive evidence for design instead of Darwinism’s standard negative evidence expressing what a Designer would not have done.  Nature declined to print it, citing lack of space, but did not hesitate to print a 468-word letter critical of the intelligent design movement in Germany (see April 3 headline for background).  Michael Behe is author of Darwin’s Black Box, a widely-read critique of Darwinism that presents evidence for intelligent design in the cell.  His rejected letter can be read at Discovery Institute.  In the May 9 Nature, U. Kutchera’s letter, that was printed, does not attack Behe’s evidence, or even propose any evidence supporting Darwinian evolution, but urges the journal to write more editorials attacking intelligent design.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.

Unborn Knows Mother’s Voice   05/13/2003
A study from
Queens University found that an unborn baby can distinguish its mother’s voice from other females, and “the fetus heart races when mom reads poetry,” even when played on tape.  This indicates that the foundations for language and speech recognition are laid before birth.

Yet the law still treats these most vulnerable of human beings as dispensable objects of parental convenience.  While we shudder at Hussein’s slaughter of hundreds of thousands of his own people after the Gulf War, what are we to think of the ongoing slaughter within our borders?  For years, getting a ban on just the most brutal method of murder, partial-birth abortion, in which the head is punctured and the brain sucked out, has been blocked, vetoed, or pushed to the back burner as a low priority issue.
    A child’s interaction with its environment is a continuous, ongoing experience for a baby.  Birth is merely a change in environment.  It is not a change in personhood, or in human rights.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Self-Esteem Fad Is Fading   05/12/2003
Self-esteem, that panacea for all that ails the fragile psyches of school children, is no better than snake oil, reports
Science Now.  Constance Holden sets the stage:
The self-esteem wave may have crested.  For the last couple of decades it’s been an article of faith among experts of many stripes that high self-esteem is the font from which all human goodness springs.  The movement reached a fever pitch in the 1980s when California funded a state task force on self-esteem, claiming that “many, if not most, of the major problems plaguing society have roots in ... low self-esteem.”
Experiments have not borne this out.  Roy Baumeister at Florida State examined the literature and found that self-esteem is no predictor of performance, or any other measure with the possible exception of personal happiness.  In the May issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Baumeister and Robert Bjork of UCLA put the cart behind the horse: “Self-esteem is a result, not a cause, of doing well.”  Self-esteem programs may have a downside.  The authors suggest that “indiscriminate praise might just as easily promote narcissism.”  Although self-esteem forms a “very compelling illusion,” Baumeister suggests a different formula for success: “Forget about self-esteem — concentrate on self-control.”
A power point here.  Notice how self-esteem has been a pervasive truism, a concept that everyone just intuitively knows.  But it was a compelling illusion, a fad.  People were attracted to it because we relate; we already love ourselves, and the self-esteem doctrine reinforces our own selfish tendencies.  How many expensive programs have been funded because of this flawed theory, and how many criminals were let off the hook because of tearful stories that their failures were due to low self-esteem?
    Sadly, some Christians jumped on the bandwagon, in spite of the clear Biblical teaching that we are all vile sinners in need of redemption, not poor victims of low self-esteem.  They rationalized it with Scriptures like, “Love thy neighbor as thyself means you cannot love your neighbor unless you love yourself.”  But the command is not to love ourselves; that we already do, and that is our problem!  We need to repent, and forget ourselves and learn to love God and others.
    Although we must avoid the either-or fallacy and think the opposite (criticism*) is healthy, the pendulum has gone way out of bounds to suggest that positive self-esteem is all that kids need.  Some entire Christian psychological ministries have been built on this pop-psych illusion that is now going out of style.  Why is it that secular psychologists have to bring some sense to this fiasco?  “Self-esteem is a result, not a cause, of doing well.”  Amen.  “Forget about self-esteem — concentrate on self-control.”  Preach it, brother.
*The opposite of self-esteem is not self-criticism; it is other-esteem, following the example of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his self-interest for the good of others.  Christian author Dave Hunt uses a pointed illustration to rebut the claims that we must coddle those who have “low self-esteem.”  Think of a generic teen-ager saying, “I’m so ugly – I hate myself!”  Hunt reasons, “If you really hated yourself, you would be glad you are ugly.  Your problem is that you love yourself!”  Low self-esteem is pride masquerading as humility.  It says, “I am so important, I deserve to be treated better.”  If we taught young people to get their eyes off themselves, and onto serving others and exercising self-control and doing their best as to the Lord, would not a sense of worth and satisfaction and happiness be the inevitable, yet serendipitous, result?
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Education.
Monkey-Typewriter Experiment Yields Negative Results   05/12/2003
Thomas Huxley is said to have stumped Bishop Wilberforce in a famous debate by suggesting that a million monkeys on a million typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare by chance, given enough time and materials.  Real monkeys, however, were found to pound the keyboards with rocks and pee on them, discovered a group of researchers at Plymouth University in England, reports
MSNBC News.  Through the messy experiment, six monkeys eventually produced five pages of text, mostly consisting of the letter S.  For more details on the experiment, see Vivaria.net.
Once again, experiment trumps speculation.  Huxley’s analogy is still invoked sometimes to evade the truth that a chance origin of life faces impossible odds.*  But it is not just the odds; there are other problems.  A monkey is not likely to continue typing on a keyboard it has just relieved itself on (please pardon the grossness of this illustration, because we need to make a point, and this is in fact what these monkeys did in the experiment).  In a soup of chemicals acted on by chance, similarly, there are destructive cross-reactions that interfere with “prebiotic” synthesis, essentially guaranteeing nothing interesting will happen.  But that’s not all that is wrong with this foolish analogy.
    In Huxley’s story, the typewritten letters remain on the page.  But in a soup of chemicals, the reactions are reversible; any lucky combinations would fall apart faster than they form.  Give the monkeys typewriters where the letters fall off as soon as they are typed**, and you could have a quintillion monkeys typing in a quintillion universes for a quintillion years, and one line of Shakespeare would never spontaneously form by chance.  Long before then, the typewriters would have rusted from all the urine, and the monkeys would all have gotten bored, grown old, and died.
    Wilberforce should have challenged Huxley right there on the spot to get a group of monkeys and try the experiment, just like these researchers did.  After the audience was sufficiently grossed out, Wilberforce should have argued that the analogy was irrelevant to evolution anyway, because the destruction rates vastly exceed production rates.  Because Wilberforce had no answer, the debate became a cause celebre among evolutionists, and another ridiculous evolutionary thought experiment that contradicts lab experiments became embedded in the popular culture.
*For convincing details on the impossibility of the odds, see our online book Evolution: Possible or Impossible? and the more recent technical books by William Dembski, The Design Inference and No Free Lunch.  Even the most ardent evolutionists like Richard Dawkins do not believe that chance alone could produce complex life, but they forget that their magic wand, Natural Selection, cannot act until complex life (sufficiently complex to reproduce itself accurately) already exists.
**This point was emphasized forcefully by the late Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith, organic chemist, in his lectures and books.

Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Geological Puzzles   05/09/2003
For your weekend amusement, you can pit your wits against the geologists to explain unusual features around the earth. 
EurekAlert lists newsworthy items each month from the journal Geology of the Geological Society of America.  This month’s list has some strange theories and interesting observations.  Emphasis is added in quotes, and our comments follow in green:
  1. Magnetic Field:  U. of Rochester scientists are studying crystals to try to determine the strength of the earth’s magnetic field.  “The study is also of general interest, as we seek to learn more about the present-day field, which is dropping rapidly in strength at an alarming rate.”
    How can the magnetic field be that old, if it is dropping at an alarming rate? 
  2. Another Impact Extinction Theory:  Dr. Kath Grey and an Australian team think an asteroid hitting their continent, not glaciers, led to the rapid diversification of complex life 500 million years ago.  The hypothetical Sydney-sized asteroid “played a pivotal role in this evolutionary jump.”
    Asteroids are the convenient new smart bombs to target evolutionary conundrums.
  3. Cambrian Explosion:  A petroleum geologist in the Sultanate of Oman thinks that an extinction event preceded the Cambrian explosion.  His paper “fuels the old model that flattening of ecosystems during times of stress creates opportunities for new adaptive strategies, expressed in this case as the Cambrian radiation.”
    Death brings transfiguration.  The Phoenix myth lives on.
  4. Arctic Redwoods:  Exquisitely-preserved fossilized Metasequoia tree stumps near 80 degrees N latitude indicate that a rain forest once grew here.  Two geologists hypothesize that the Eocene Arctic atmosphere must have had twice the water found in the region today, and maybe ”This water vapor contributed to a greenhouse effect that insulated the polar region during dark polar winters.”  (See also Science News 5/17/03 (163:20), p. 317.
    How did a rain forest get in the Arctic?  How could large redwoods grow with six months of arctic night per year?  How did a local greenhouse effect protect redwoods up there without affecting climate worldwide?
  5. Sedimentary Diamonds:  Let these Chinese geologists explain the problem and their solution:
    One of the most remarkable geological discoveries in recent years was the presence of diamonds in metasedimentary rocks in old mountain belts.  Because the rocks are metasedimentary we know they formed at the surface of Earth; because they contain diamonds we know that they have been taken to depths in excess of 100 km, to produce the enormous pressures required to create diamonds; and now we find these rocks back at the surface of Earth.  This geological yo-yo defies the predictions of the conventional plate tectonic cycle, which provides an easy mechanism for deep burial of the rocks ("subduction") to produce the diamonds, but lacks a simple explanation of the subsequent uplift.  These ultrahigh-pressure rocks are best known from a region of eastern China.  Our paper describes new geophysical data from this region that provide a convincing image of the subsurface, and show a narrow channel beneath the center of the old mountain belt through which the ultrahigh-pressure rocks must have returned to the surface.
    Welcome to the yo-yo theory of diamond placement.  Nothing ad hoc about this.  Too bad nobody shot a time-lapse video of it.
It should be clear that geology is often a storytelling art, tasked to work its way around evidence while preserving the geologic time scale, indispensable to Darwinism, at all cost.
Next headline on: Geology.
Mars Heat Signature Amazes Scientists   05/08/2003
Exclusive  A packed auditorium at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory today heard about latest findings from the
Mars 2001 Odyssey Spacecraft that began its science mission in February last year.  One of Odyssey’s specialties is thermal mapping of the surface with THEMIS (thermal emission imaging system), a set of infrared instruments capable of detecting soil and rock minerals via their temperature changes during day-night cycles.  THEMIS principal investigator Phil Christensen (Arizona State) showed images so detailed, it was like zooming in on a country from orbit to view the structure of a city.  Craters, canyons, layered terrain, sand dunes, rocky and dusty areas are all coming into sharper focus and yielding exciting new data and many surprises, along with a “wonderful array of surface properties we don’t yet understand.”
    One of the surprises that flabbergasted Christensen was the bewildering amount of complexity in the night time temperature maps.  He expected to find a bland surface with a few hot spots, but in many areas there is a complex mosaic of temperature differences, indicating mixed terrains with everything from large rocks (which retain heat better) to fine dust (which does not).  Areas of exposed bedrock extending many square kilometers were found, another surprise.  One outcrop, Nili Patera, had sand dunes composed of millimeter-sized grains marching into it from the edge.  Ganges Chasma has outcrops of olivine which rapidly decays into clay, which argues against the presence of water.  Some of the lava flows have large areas of hematite instead of basalt.  Christensen interpreted some of the widely-publicized crater gullies as due to erosion by meltwater under dust-covered snow banks rather than by leakage from underground aquifers.  The layered terrain, he thinks, is predominantly aeolian (wind-borne), as if from periodic volcanic ash deposits, although he grants some might have been laid down by water or some other rhythmic deposition process.  The ejecta blankets of some craters are very fresh-looking, composed of fine dust that has not blown away; others show an annulus of coarse material.
Snow may be a bigger agent of change than previously realized, Christensen explained.  It appears that ice sublimates from the polar caps and precipitates out as far as 30 degrees latitude, contributing to the geological changes.  Being covered by fine dust, the snow was not always evident from visible images, but shows up better in the infrared.  Christensen ended with an oblique rendering of Gusev Crater, a heavily-eroded, olivine-rich crater where one of the Mars Exploration Rovers is targeted to soft land in January 2005 and explore it on wheels.
    In the current issue of the Caltech magazine Engineering and Science (LXVI:1, 2003, pp. 6-7), a news item points out that the previous assumption that Mars’ south polar cap is composed of dry ice is wrong.  Carbon dioxide only forms a thin veneer on an ice cap composed mostly of water ice.  The impact of this discovery, made largely from THEMIS data, is that carbon dioxide is much less prevalent than formerly assumed.  This makes it harder to believe a greenhouse effect in past ages permitted the existence of liquid water on the surface.  Also, scientists had assumed the inner planets were similar in their total carbon dioxide content, but the new estimated quantity on Mars amounts to just a tiny fraction of that on Earth and Venus.
   The red planet is poised to make big news over the next eight months.  In addition to the Mars Exploration Rovers just mentioned, the European Space Agency is launching Mars Express with its Beagle 2 lander in June for a December orbit, and the Japanese are launching their Mars orbiter Nozomi.  For those who want to experience a more first-hand experience, the planet Mars this August will be closer to Earth than at any time in recorded history.  Make plans to visit a star party or observatory for this unprecedented occasion.
So earth-like and yet so very different, Mars is sure to provide surprises for years to come.  Most of the old conventional wisdom is already obsolete.  Get ready for more textbook truths to be swept away under the flood of new data that is coming in faster than geologists can analyze it.
    The Odyssey team quickly posts all their new images on the Mars 2001 Odyssey website.  If that’s not enough, you can browse the 123,800 visible-light images the Mars Global Surveyor has taken over the last six years.  Percival Lowell would have died to get images like these in 1908, and now they are ours.  (He also probably would have died to learn that the fabled Martian canals were non-existent.)
Next headline on: Mars.
Automatic Bandages in 10 Seconds   05/08/2003
The gym class may have a first aid kit with Ace bandages, gauze and adhesive pads, but at the cellular scale, the first aid is automatic.  In the
May 8 issue of Nature, Juliet A. Ellis from King’s College, London, describes how your body has a fast-acting, automatic bandaging system:
Cell membranes in tissues such as skin, gut and muscle are routinely exposed to mechanical damage, which can produce holes in them.  When that damage is not repaired, the consequences can be severe - often resulting in cell death - and may contribute to the development of the muscle degenerative diseases termed muscular dystrophies.  From a combination of observations on human muscular dystrophy patients and experiments with mice, Bansal et al. (page 168 of this issue) now report that a protein called dysferlin is a component of the mechanism for resealing the holes, and thus healing the muscle membrane.

Membrane resealing is generally carried out by a mechanism that resembles the calcium-regulated release of vesicles from a cell (exocytosis).  The repair pathway is initiated by an influx of calcium through a wound, resulting in an increase in calcium levels at the site of injury.  This, in turn, triggers the accumulation of vesicles, which fuse with one another and then with the plasma membrane, within the injury.  A 'patch' is thereby added across the wounded area, resealing the plasma membrane.  The entire process - which remains largely mysterious - takes between ten and thirty seconds.

For this to work, the cell needs several coordinated mechanisms: a way to sense the damage, a way to signal the repair team, the materials available to make the patch, and procedures for applying the patch and closing out the alarm.
Since most of this process “remains largely mysterious,” you can be sure it is even more sophisticated than described.  Ellis concludes, “Evidently, there may be yet more pathways to be discovered that, when disrupted in some way, ultimately lead to sarcolemma fragility” (i.e., muscle plasma membrane vulnerability).  When you work out, your body is doing most of the body building.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
Superheroes By Mutation   05/08/2003
With X-Men 2 all the rage, people are thinking about mutations, including Adam Rutherford in the
May 8 issue of Nature.  The movie shows the actors gaining superhuman powers.  Rutherford, the web editor for Nature, explains: “The X-Men are a band of superheroes (Homo sapiens superior) who possess a mutated X gene, which has an extraordinarily variable phenotype, allowing some mutants to walk through walls, some to shoot ice from their fingers, and some to perform Moses-like acts of water telekinesis.  (The X gene’s normal function is not revealed.)”  Rutherford does not criticize the movie on scientific grounds.  In fact, he verily praises it: “Science fact is the loose basis for the fantasy in the current spate of movies based on comic-book characters,” he says, noting the similar theme of mutation-induced power in Spider-Man.  He calls X-Men 2 a “flowery but accurate description of evolution by punctuated equilibrium.”
What?  Can you believe this?  No mutation has ever been shown to be truly beneficial, yet he thinks a movie that shows humans gaining supernatural, godlike powers instantly by mistake as “flowery but accurate” and loosely based on science fact!  Incredible.  Here was a golden opportunity for a scientist to correct misleading impressions and bring some scientific reality to the public, but look what he does!
    This leads to a new hypothesis that should be tested, the addiction of evolutionists to comic books and science fiction movies.  Let the control group keep their Spider-Man and X-Men comics and go to the movies, but forbid these to the test group, and force them instead to work on real lab experiments with real mutations.  Then check after a year to see which group still believes in punctuated equilibria.
Next headline on: Movies. • Next dumb story.
How a Mosquito Became Insecticide Resistant   05/08/2003
A French team publishing in the
May 8 issue of Nature studied why disease-carrying mosquitoes became resistant to insecticides.  It was due to “a loss of sensitivity of the insect’s acetylcholinesterase enzyme to organophosphates and carbamates” that are ingredients of the pesticides.  In some cases a single point mutation conferred the resistance.
This is not evolution in the Darwinian sense, nor do the authors claim it is.  What they have described is a loss of information.  Lee Spetner explains this point in his book Not By Chance.  Just like a man who has lost his arms becomes resistant to handcuffs, these enzymes lost a sensitivity they once had.  The pesticide used to fit like a key in a lock in the enzyme; a small change in the tumblers, and now the key no longer fits.  Has any new information been gained, or any new functionality that leads to higher levels of complexity?  Not at all.  Other studies on resistance show similar loss of information, and furthermore, show that the resistant strains are less able to survive when having to compete with the wild type.  For examples, see the film and the book Icons of Evolution.  Even the PBS Evolution series conceded that HIV strains resistant to medicines revert to wild type after the medical pressure is removed.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Computer Speeds Up Evolution, Produces Complexity   05/08/2003
What takes biological evolution millions of years can take just minutes in a computer, thinks a team of four publishing in the
May 8 issue of Nature.  Richard Lenski, Charles Ofria, Robert T. Pennock and Chris Adami used a program called Avida and watched it generate logic and complexity among “digital organisms.”  Their model followed the guidelines of Daniel Dennett: “evolution will occur whenever and wherever three conditions are met: replication, variation (mutation), and differential fitness (competition).”
    MSNBC was quick to highlight this story, claiming “Cyber-life obeys Darwinian theory.”  New Scientist was not far behind.  Neither gave voice to any critics of the simulation, while Space.Com claimed the experiment proved Darwin was right.
Here they go again.  This is so disconnected from the real world, why does Nature print it?  It belongs in the Playstation Journal, not NatureOf course they are going to get Darwinism to look good, because they programmed success into their code.  They defined this nebulous quantity called “fitness” (equivalent to Skinner’s Constant) as success at reproducing.  So whatever reproduces is fit, and whatever is fit, reproduces.  They say some of the organisms generated logic functions, but they rewarded those that did.  As such, they played the role of Mother Nature, the smiling goddess looking down and encouraging the little digital children that meet her expectations.  This was an experiment in intelligent design, not Darwinian evolution.  In Darwinian evolution, one cannot sneak information in the back door.
   Listen to how they begin their paper by whining about the lack of biological evidence for evolution, that supposedly justifies their silly SimDarwin computer game.  If you are a regular reader, you should be skilled now in detecting where the contraband information was snuck in (emphasis added):
A long-standing challenge to evolutionary theory has been whether it can explain the origin of complex organismal features.  We examined this issue using digital organisms — computer programs that self-replicate, mutate, compete and evolve.  Populations of digital organisms often evolved the ability to perform complex logic functions requiring the coordinated execution of many genomic instructions.  Complex functions evolved by building on simpler functions that had evolved earlier, provided that these were also selectively favoured.  However, no particular intermediate stage was essential for evolving complex functions.  The first genotypes able to perform complex functions differed from their non-performing parents by only one or two mutations, but differed from the ancestor by many mutations that were also crucial to the new functions.  In some cases, mutations that were deleterious when they appeared served as stepping-stones in the evolution of complex features.  These findings show how complex functions can originate by random mutation and natural selection.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, including its intertwined hypotheses of descent with modification and adaptation by natural selection, is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time.  From the outset, Darwin realized that "organs of extreme perfection and complication", such as the eye, posed a difficulty for his theory.  Such features are much too complex to appear de novo, and he reasoned that they must evolve by incremental transitions through many intermediate states, sometimes undergoing changes in function.  There now exists substantial evidence concerning the evolution of complex features that supports Darwin’s general model (2-16).  Nonetheless, it is difficult to provide a complete account of the origin of any complex feature owing to the extinction of intermediate forms, imperfection of the fossil record, and incomplete knowledge of the genetic and developmental mechanisms that produce such features.

So presumably they overcome these difficulties in their computer games.  First off, notice two blatant cases of bluffing:
  1. “Darwin’s theory is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time.”  This is pure subjective opinion.  Other secular scientists have called it the biggest myth of all time, and a fairy tale for grownups.  The authors’ opinion about Darwin’s idea carries no weight; it is pure bandwagon.
  2. After their bluff that “there now exists substantial evidence concerning the evolution of complex features” they supply 15 references, which looks impressive, because few are likely to read them.  But scan the list, and you find highly biased books like Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, atheist Richard DawkinsThe Blind Watchmaker.  Various other papers are listed that make a stab at explaining eyes, proteins and other biological functions.  We have a pretty good track record here at Creation-Evolution Headlines at finding the baloney in such claims.  If the evolution of complexity is so clear, why do the authors admit up front that it is difficult to detect?  And why do we need their computer game?
Now onto their main thesis.  To understand the problems, you must think in consistent evolutionary terms.  That means ridding your mind of all purpose, all hope, all wishing, all direction, all success, and caring not one whit whether anything happens or not.  They start with a population of organisms, so fine; let’s start with a sea of one species of “primitive” bacteria (a major concession), and see if it will evolve enough complexity to warrant faith that in a few hundred million years you will get giraffes and orchids and people by the same process.  Ready?  Compare their algorithm with the real world.  We’re going to hit the buzzer [BUZZ] whenever they cheat or commit a logical fallacy.
    According to Dennett, all you need is “replication [BUZZ], variation (mutation), and differential fitness (competition) [BUZZ].”  Foul!  First, if you have a replicating organism, you already have intelligent design on a high level.  Unless you can explain how random non-living molecules achieved accurate self-replication without the help of natural selection, it is cheating to start there.  Second, if you define success as “differential fitness (competition)” you have committed two logical fallacies: equivocation and tautology.  Since we have explained this elsewhere, see our Oct 29, 2002 headline about what a nebulous, meaningless term fitness is, and why it is a tautology if you define fitness in terms of reproductive success.  That is exactly what Lenski, Adami and this team has done here.  Our editor recently asked Adami point-blank after a demo of his computer program why it was not a tautology for him to define fitness in terms of reproductive success.  He bluffed for awhile, but when that was not effective, he got mad, saying (paraphrasing as close as possible from recollection), “That’s a claim only a creationist would make!  It’s b***s****!” and he stormed away.  In this paper here, you will look in vain for proof their definition of fitness is not a tautology.
    They elaborate.  They claim “fitness” has two components, “replication efficiency [BUZZ] and computational merit [BUZZ].”  The latter is invalid because it imposes the authors’ values on the subject: what is “merit” if a human being is not doing the grading?  The former is the tautology.  They arbitrarily define “replication efficiency“ as “the ratio of an organism’s genome length to the SIPs [single instruction processing units] used during its life cycle,”  which means how good it is at leaving offspring given the resources available.  Computational merit is defined as “the total reward [BUZZ] obtained over an organism’s lifetime for performing logic [BUZZ] functions.”  What is reward if a human being is not doing the rewarding?  What is logic if a human being has not defined what is logical?  The digital organism surely doesn’t care about math.  Like the horse at the circus that can answer math problems, it just follows the cues provided by its trainer so that it gets a carrot.  Grownups do not assume that because the horse can paw out the answer to 7 + 5 that it really understands arithmetic.  Now look at their bottom line definition of fitness: “Each genotype’s expected replication rate, or fitness, [BUZZ] equals the product of these quantities (emphasis added).”  There you have it – they have defined fitness in terms of reproductive success, which is a tautology, and have arbitrarily graded computational merit based on their own human value system.  “Fitness,” therefore, is a meaningless term irrelevant to the real world.  This undermines their entire thesis.  For instance, they claim that “Most mutations in Avida are deleterious or neutral, but a small fraction increases fitness” [BUZZ].  If fitness has already been defined in tautological terms based on human arbitrary values, they have no independent criterion for judging which mutation is deleterious or beneficial.
    The team insists that their little digital organisms developed all kinds of logical skills and complexity on their own.  They just set them loose, and let them evolve without help.  But the game was rigged: if an organism satisfies a pre-established criterion of success (a preselected fitness function), it is rewarded with more energy [BUZZ].  Outside reward or guidance is prohibited in Darwinian evolution.  They must close all the back doors and dumbwaiters where stage hands are sneaking in the information.  Make them get their organisms to evolve without outside intelligence, and everything will randomize and decay.  The No Free Lunch algorithms explained in Dembski’s book of the same name prove mathematically that no fitness function from a non-intelligent source is superior to blind search.  Therefore, this team must use blind search, really blind search, to simulate the real world.  An analogy would be a blind man working a Rubik’s cube without external help.  An even better analogy is to have him care nothing whether he succeeds or not, because “success” is a meaningless term.  Only a human thinks a solved cube is beautiful; to random processes, any arrangement of the cube is as valid as any other.  Nature might subject the cube to wind, an earthquake, rain or fire, but the cube will eventually decay and nobody would be there to care.
    They claim their computer game confirms Darwin’s hypothesis that “complex features generally evolve by modifying existing structures and functions,”  but then they try to pre-dispose of an objection (guilty conscience?): “Some readers might suggest that we 'stacked the deck' by studying the evolution of a complex feature that could be built on simpler functions that were also useful.  However, that is precisely what evolutionary theory requires, and indeed, our experiments showed that the complex feature never evolved when simpler functions were not rewarded.  [BUZZ]  Well, so there!  Thanks for making the point.
    Their concluding paragraph states, “Of course, digital organisms differ from organic life in their genetic constitution, metabolic activities and physical environments.  However, digital organisms undergo the same processes [BUZZ] of reproduction, mutation, inheritance, and competition that allow evolution and adaptation by natural selection in organic forms” [BUZZ]  They admit these digital organisms are not real-world.  They mistakenly assume the processes are the same.  To understand why they are not, see Steven Benner’s comment about digital organisms in our January 9 headline.
    Now notice the last sentence and its damaging admission: “In closing, digital organisms provide opportunities to address important issues in evolutionary biology [BUZZ].  They are particularly well suited [BUZZ] to problems that are difficult to study with organic forms owing to incomplete information, insufficient time and the impracticality of experiments” (emphasis added).
    Conclusions: (1) Their experiments are irrelevant to Darwinian evolution.  They are mere computer games, imaginary simulations of fantasyland, rigged to produce outcomes that give them warm fuzzies about their beliefs.  Get real.  (2) But they cannot get real because of the difficulties they just stated.  That means Darwinian evolutionary theory relies on incomplete information, cannot be observed due to insufficient time, and cannot be tested because of the impracticality of experiments.  And this is one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time?  God help us.
    For a more realistic computer simulation, read our Aug. 23 headline about Weasel.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Shock and Awe at Fruit Fly Ears   05/07/2003
Fruit flies have ears, too, and they possess some high-tech acoustical properties similar to those in humans.  One amazing ability known to exist in the mammalian ear resides in the hair cells of the cochlea.  These tiny cilia-projections have
molecular motors that can amplify weak signals and suppress strong ones, providing a non-linear acoustic response.  This means you can hear very faint sounds but not be rattled to deafness by loud ones.  Lo and behold, fruit flies have similar non-linear response in their ears, too.  In a recent Commentary, Richard G. Walker of Oregon Hearing Research Center talks about this, and concludes, (emphasis added):
The list of improbable similarities between vertebrate hair cells and Drosophila mechanoreceptors continues to expand.  In addition to several developmental paradigms and physiological properties that hint at a conserved [i.e., unevolved] relationship, a nonlinear active process to amplify incoming sound as well as spontaneous acoustic emissions are now characteristics that appear to be intrinsic to the process of sensing a mechanical stimulus like sound.  As scientists, we should not necessarily be shocked by the similarities in the hearing of such disparate creatures as dipterans and mammals, but we should certainly be awed.
Walker’s comments are in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online preprints for May 5.
Fruit flies are like specks in the air, yet they possess muscles, wings, circulatory systems, legs, mouths, digestive systems, and ears.  How did a tiny fly learn how to evolve non-linear acoustic response?  When you ask them for details, the silence of the evolutionists is deafening.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next amazing story.
Enzyme Speeds Up Slow Reaction by 1021   05/06/2003
The slowest known biological reaction would take a trillion years on its own, but an enzyme does it in 10 thousandths of a second.  Richard Wolfenden of the University of North Carolina discovered this amazing fact by studying the reaction time of phosphate monoesters that are commonly used in cell signaling.  The earlier record he had published in 1998 was 78 million years for an uncatalyzed biological transformation that is “absolutely essential” for creating the building blocks of DNA and RNA.  This new record means that you could only expect the reaction to occur once in 100 times the assumed lifetime of the universe without the help of the enzyme.  Paraphrasing Wolfenden, “that information would allow biologists to appreciate what natural selection has accomplished over the millennia in the evolution of enzymes as prolific catalysts,” says
EurekAlert where this story can be found.
One cannot “appreciate the accomplishments” of the impersonal.  This article illustrates again that evolutionists are pantheists.  They personify Mother Nature as a good witch, waving her wand named Natural Selection to accomplish any miracle required to explain the phenomenon under investigation.  If Mother Nature would have taken 78 million years just to have one chance to create the building blocks of RNA (which is one of the “absolutely essential” steps in the evolution of life, and without which there is no hope at all of using the Magic Wand of Natural Selection), how could she get by without cell signaling for another trillion years?  There are thousands of enzymes, made by DNA, many of which are essential for DNA to make enzymes.  The reaction rates for all these without enzymatic help are similarly slower and more at risk than a snail crossing a gravel freeway in rush hour.  It is an impossible, foolish hope to expect Mother Nature to build even a fraction of a working cell in the time available with the tools available to “her,” even if “she” wanted to.  We are in the strange position of categorizing this story as both Amazing and Dumb; amazing for what enzymes do, dumb for the evolutionary comment about natural selection’s accomplishments.
    And yet consider the unmitigated gall some evolutionists have to hold themselves up as paragons of scientific objectivity.  Read this editorial at Arizona State with its angry tirade about the evils of those sneaky, rabid creationists (just look at the cartoons for a flavor of Caitlin Hall’s rhetoric; anyone who has met Dr. Gish knows he is the friendliest, most unselfish gentleman one could ever hope to meet; the cartoon gives him a face like Jaws).  See if you can find any actual evidence for evolution mentioned anywhere in the thicket of bluffing and ridicule.  Then, read the next two headlines, below.  Continue clicking through the Chain Links on Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory for over 200 similar recent examples from scientific journals.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next amazing story. • Next dumb story.
Army Ants Haven’t Evolved for 100 Million Years   05/06/2003
Sean Brady at Cornell has studied army ants on two continents and concluded that “they pay no attention to the conventional wisdom for evolutionary biologists,” says a press release at
Cornell News.  “The common scientific belief has been that army ants originated separately on several continents over millions of years.  Now it is found there was no evolution, says the article (emphasis added).  “Using fossil data and the tools of a genetics detective, a Cornell University entomologist has discovered that these ants come from the same point of origin, because since the reign of the dinosaurs, about 100 million years ago, army ants in essence have not changed a bit.”  Brady found that genetically, both old-world and new-world army ants all have the same pattern of mutations.  “If they share those mutations, we can infer they evolved from the same source,” he says.
We’ll just let the evolutionists assume the posture of Rodin’s Thinker and mull on this one for awhile.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Protein Has Its Own Private Dressing Room   05/05/2003
Any star of stage and screen has her own private dressing room, and so does the star of cellular activity, the protein.  But the protein’s dressing room would make the actress envious; it has a powered double door.
    In the
May 2 issue of Cell, a team of Stanford scientists studied the ATP-powered lid on one of these dressing rooms, called chaperonins, or chaperones from their role as supervisors of protein folding.  Chaperonins are large, complex proteins shaped somewhat like a barrel with a lid.  When a newly-joined chain of amino acids comes off the ribosome assembly line, it is subject to damage from the beehive of activity going on in the cytoplasm.  It needs a quiet place to fold.  The chaperone lid opens, the polypeptide enters, the lid closes, and safe inside, the chain collapses into its precise shape it needs to function.  Then the lid opens and the protein exits, ready to go on-stage.
    Any action in the cell needs power.  The lid on the chaperone is powered by ATP, the common energy currency in the cell.  But ATP alone was not enough; As near as these scientists could tell, the camshaft (gamma subunit) on the ATP synthase motor is what triggers the lid to close.  The Stanford team found that prokaryotic chaperones have lids that snap on from the outside, but eukaryotic chaperones have a built-in lid.  In either case, the lid closing encapsulates the protein chain inside, and is essential for the chain to complete its folding operation; chaperones without lids could not produce folded proteins.  Instead, like an actor getting the hook, a guard named protease takes the misfolded protein to the unemployment desk.
    Some proteins, like actin, require the help of this secure room to fold; others fold spontaneously inside.  The next turn of the cycle opens the door, and out pops the protein for the production, complete with hook resistance.
The authors use the word striking or strikingly three times, and interesting or interestingly four times.  This really is interesting and striking information.  Here you have a sophisticated, secure electronic shelter with power doors where a fragile, delicate polypeptide chain can safely fold into a molecular actor, ready to play its part in the cellular production.  The power doors, if operated in tandem with ATP synthase, are cooler than any prop in a Star Trek movie.
    If you have seen the movie Unlocking the Mystery of Life, you saw a very simplified computer animation of the chaperone, which looked like it was floating in mid-air.  Actually, all the machinery of protein synthesis is safely tethered together in a factory-like assembly line, so that the protein is never left unprotected from its initial assembly deep within the safety of the ribosome to its final destination, which might require shipping down the intracellular railroad clear across the cellular city.  The scientists do not mention the speed at which this all happens, but most likely it is all very fast, since some proteins can fold in microseconds.  This only underscores the point of the film, that such complexity is the signature of intelligent design.  What a great show!  Give a standing ovation to the Designer!
    Of course, some think the props got together and created their own show without help.  The authors provide no scenario how this might happen.  They just say it did, somehow.  Here are the two obligatory references to evolution (emphasis added):
  1. “Understanding the distinct mechanisms governing eukaryotic and bacterial chaperonin function may reveal how TRiC [one of the eukaryotic chaperones] has evolved to fold specific eukaryotic proteins.” 
  2. “Notably, folding of several eukaryotic proteins, such as actin, exhibits a strict requirement for TRiC/CCT, which cannot be substituted by the bacterial chaperonin [references provided].  This suggests that TRiC/CCT has distinct features that allowed the evolution of novel eukaryotic proteins.” 
Let’s translate that into our theater analogy.  David Copperfield needs special stage lighting, trap doors and electrical power requirements for his show, so he can’t do it at the smaller theater on 2nd Street.  Conclusion: if we study these requirements, we will figure out how no planning was required to put the production together.  If we continue our reasoning, we hope to explain how Copperfield, the white tiger, the stage hands and technicians and props and the theater itself all arose spontaneously out of slime.
    Now you tell me who really believes in magic.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Variable Constants Update   05/05/2003:  Two articles on whether constants vary over time have appeared recently:
    According to
Nature Science Update, “If the fundamental constants of physics change, they do so too slowly for us to detect.”  This claim is based on work by Marion et al Marion et al and Bergquist et al published in the current Physical Review Letters.  Using atomic clocks, they claim to have ruled out any change greater than 7x10-15 per year.
    In the June issue of Astronomy (p. 94), Michael Turner (U. Chicago) reviews Faster Than the Speed of Light by Joao Magueijo (Imperial College, London), whose “risky and bold” theory that the speed of light was faster in the past is a “paradigm-challenging idea” yet, Turner feels, has not been sufficiently developed to make sharp predictions.  Is Magueijo the heir apparent of Einstein, or a young iconoclast with a crazy new idea?  Turner apparently leans toward the latter, but grants him some hearing; “VSL [variable speed of light] is risky and bold; time will tell if it is correct.” 
Regarding the Physical Review Letters papers, someone needs to check whether there is circularity in the argument: i.e., would changing constants also change the tools they are using to measure the effects?
    Michael Turner’s review has some choice comments about science.  You may want to skip this if you are a positivist or member of the L.A. Skeptics Society, or at least take some aspirin.  Here are some excerpts (emphasis added):
But then, crazy new ideas – and iconoclastic individuals – are needed when confronting the toughest puzzles in science. ... The leaders of the field are, more often than not, too skeptical, having seen so many ideas fail, while newcomers are blinded by their own enthusiasm.  Even mathematical beauty often invoked as a guide, is faulty: The rubbish heap of ideas is piled high with beautiful theories killed by ugly facts (take, for example, Fred Hoyle’s steady-state cosmology).
    The motivation behind the theory is to find an alternative to inflation for why we live in such an orderly universe. ... just as striking and more puzzling is the CMB’s [cosmic microwave background’s] remarkable evenness – it is uniform to 99.9999 percent.  That’s like finding a pebble smooth to ball-bearing curvature, and it raises a deep question – why is our universe so uniform? ...
    In theoretical physics, as in other realms, risk and reward are related – to solve big problems you need bold ideas.
Turner describes how inflation theory was invented to circumvent this difficulty (the horizon problem).  He claims inflation also makes predictions that VSL does not.  But he does grant a small piece of evidence that the fine structure constant might have been smaller in the past.  If true, this might be a smoking gun for VSL theory, because “If the speed of light varies with time, it is likely that some of nature’s constants do, too.”
    It seems like the jury is still out on varying constants.  Some creationists have postulated that a faster speed of light in the past may explain how light from distant galaxies arrived on earth in a much shorter time.  Notice they are not the only ones proposing VSL to solve a problem.  Whatever the merits or faults of the idea, it cannot be considered any crazier than inflation, which was invented by materialists purely out of the need to explain the smoothness of the universe from a random, chaotic explosion.  A ball bearing on the beach by chance; yeah, right.  Crack it open and find an encyclopedia inside; tell me about it.
Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next headline on: Physics.
Scientists Understand the Moon – Not   05/04/2003
One would think our nearest planetary neighbor would be the best understood.  But then one would read in the
May 2 issue of Science,
Telescopes have been trained on it since Galileo’s day, and dozens of spacecraft have flown by it, orbited around it, and landed on it.  And a dozen humans--including one geologist--have walked on the surface and brought back soil and rocks. So the moon must be the best understood of all places beyond Earth, right?

Wrong.  "That's an illusion," says Carlé Pieters, a planetary geologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  "We're doing lunar exploration backwards--we have a wonderful set of samples, but a poor foundation for a global assessment."  Despite a wealth of data, critical questions remain about the moon's formation, the massive early impacts on its surface, and its chemical composition.  "Thirty-five years after Apollo, our knowledge about the moon is still surprisingly incomplete," adds Bernard Foing, project scientist for the European Space Agency's SMART-1 mission to be launched this summer.

And yet, the moon matters.  Understanding its geology is critical for understanding the formation of the terrestrial planets and the solar system--as well as the Earth-moon system.

Andrew Lawler and Govert Schilling make the comments as part of a discussion about upcoming moon missions.
We think readers should be aware from time to time of how little data supports the grand pronouncements of scientists who try to explain the origins of things.
Next headline on: Solar System.
Miller and Frankenstein: A 50-Year Old Icon Revisited   05/02/2003
Prebiotic soup, spark-discharge flasks – who has not seen these ubiquitous terms and images depicting the origin of life from simple chemicals?  50 years ago this month, on May 15, 1953, shortly after Watson and Crick published their famous paper on the structure of DNA, Stanley Miller (student of Harold Urey) published in Science his work on the formation of a few amino acids with his now familiar spark apparatus.  It caught the public imagination.  Almost every biology textbook has the obligate diagram of Miller’s experiment, and the concept of a chemical soup zapped by lightning continues to show up in popular culture, even in cartoons: drawings of Campbell’s Primordial Soup or a modern Frankenstein creating life with electricity.
    In the
May 2 issue of Science, Dr. Jeffrey Bada (an active origin-of-life researcher in the Miller tradition) looks back at the impact the Miller experiment has had for five decades (see also the press release at the Scripps Institute website).  Even though scientists no longer believe the atmosphere contained the reducing chemicals Miller used, “it was the Miller experiment, placed in the Darwinian perspective provided by Oparin’s ideas and deeply rooted in the 19th-century tradition of synthetic organic chemistry, that almost overnight transformed the study of the origin of life into a respectable field of inquiry.”
    Bada feels that the reactions may have occurred in localized reducing environments on the primitive earth, “especially near volcanic plumes, where electric discharges may have driven prebiotic synthesis,” rather than in a lightning-zapped atmosphere as Miller and Urey supposed (and numerous artists have portrayed).  An elaboration on this new proposal was a featured story in the recent Science News (163:17, April 26, 2003).  Michael J. Russell and William Martin presented their new hypothesis in the January issue of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions B.  It proposes that honeycomb-shape pockets in the rocky walls of hydrothermal vents served as temporary surrogates for cell membranes.  These compartments presumably overcome the dilution problem, allowing favorable chemicals to incubate till true membranes could evolve out of lipid molecules.  Furthermore, differences in ionic concentration across the walls might have created an electrical potential, supplying energy for chemical reactions that otherwise would go the wrong way.  Do they feel they are onto something better than Miller’s scenario?  “All you need is rocks and water, and everything else happens by itself,” boasts Martin.  “There’s no magic here.”
We’ve all seen magicians do something natural and claim it is magic.  That’s entertainment.  But what do you call a scientist claiming to be able to do something natural, that if true, would require real magic?  That’s entertainment, too.  Despite their disclaimer, there is magic here: it’s getting information out of chemicals.  Since we have dealt with this subject numerous times before, we refer the reader to the chain links on Origin of Life for detailed reasons why this cannot happen, rocky cubicles or not.  Start here, or if short of time, read this headline and especially this definition of life.  On to another lesson from today’s articles.
    Jeffrey Bada, an advocate of chemical evolution with the passion of an evangelist, reveals an embarrassing fact about the Miller scenario: it’s not true, but it’s useful.  Nobody in the know believes the Miller myth any more, not even Bada.  Earth’s atmosphere was not reducing, Miller ignored the destructive cross-reactions and harmful salts, and the oceans would have been far too dilute for any hope of corralling the highly improbable ingredients together so they could interact.  It doesn’t matter that any of the other scenarios have similar problems, or that recent findings have made origin-of-life speculations extremely more difficult today than they were in 1953 (now that we know much more about the complexity of DNA and proteins).  What matters is that the Miller experiment made chemical Darwinism “a respectable field of inquiry.”  A chemical evolutionist no longer has to sheepishly apologize when asked at the party what he does for a living; he can hold up a diagram of the Miller spark-discharge glassware and say, “Why thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Refined-Society, I am involved in research on synthesis of organic compounds relevant to life’s origin,” and he will get a polite nod and friendly conversation, instead of being looked at as if he were a crackpot.  Dr. Frankenstein is a respectable scientist now; he can put his Jacob’s Ladder right up alongside Pasteur’s swan-necked flask in the chemistry lab.
    The Useful Lie Strategy is the way Darwinists gain membership in scientific societies.  It’s identity theft.  The demons of Darwinism come alongside scientists with the proper credentials, and tell the guard, “I’m with them.”  If an alert guard asks, “Where’s your badge?”, the demon just holds up a picture of the icon and bamboozles him with jargon, so the flummoxed guard lets him pass, thinking “He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.”  It just takes a little adroit misdirection, a little faked evidence, a little extrapolation (finch beaks, peppered moths, etc.) and pretty soon the demons are mixing with scientific society, and there will no one checking their ID, because the guards are in cahoots with the scam.
    Astrobiology was born out of a Useful Lie, the Martian meteorite.  Hardly anybody still believes that rock ever had fossils in it, but it served its purpose, because now Astrobiology has gained the status of respectable science (almost)Astrobiology conferences are held around the world, there is a journal of astrobiology, there are Congressional hearings, there are graduate programs in astrobiology, there are astrobiology websites, and NASA artists can again be gainfully employed drawing DNA spiraling out of spiral galaxies.
   Thumb’s Second Postulate states, “An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.”  The follow-up question is, “Useful to whom?”
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
The New Science of Gastrophysics   05/02/2003
Never heard of gastrophysics?  It’s a new subset of cosmology defined by Max Tegmark (U. of Pennsylvania) as “A stomach-churning realm in which tiny errors that were once too small to matter suddenly gain the power to make or break a theory.”  Charles Seife relays the joke in his Cosmology perspective in the
May 2 issue of Science.  The gastric pain is partly due to results from WMAP survey that pose trouble for “hundreds of rival models” of inflation theory, that “bulwark of modern cosmology” that “posits that the tiny universe expanded extremely rapidly for a tiny fraction of a second after the big bang.”  If the analysis of WMAP results by Uros Seljak of Princeton is correct, “almost all inflationary theories can be ruled out right away.”  Others, of course, are skeptical and want to use different assumptions to preserve their models.  But the new observations are causing alarm; “People are seriously worrying whether inflation theories are making sense or not,” says Tegmark.
    Other data generating ulcers include the rapid dissipation of the neutral hydrogen fog assumed to predate the first stars until it was absorbed by the cosmic microwave background (CMB).  “To their surprise, their calculations showed that the fog began to burn off when the universe was a mere 200 million years old and then lifted rapidly,” says Seife.  “That implies that stars and galaxies must have been forming hundreds of millions of years earlier than most astronomers thought.”  If so, then “star formation in the early universe must have been radically different from what it is today.”  Some propose the earliest stars were much more massive and hotter; others like Lam Hui of Fermilab propose two periods of re-ionization.  Neither proposal has observational support.
    While cosmologists wait for more data to resolve controversies, many are impatient to interpret the data available.  Tegmark thinks “cosmology is becoming more and more fun,” but the fun may be inversely proportional to the gastric juice concentration as the cosmological stomach churns.  Seife ends his story describing a session at Davis where Princeton cosmologist David Spergel was yanking the reins on his frenzied colleagues, warning them not to overinterpret his proposal.  “Don’t obsess on this.  Don’t obsess on this.  Don’t obsess on this,” he warned.  Seife adds, “It remains to be seen whether anyone was paying attention.”
Remember this story the next time you watch so-called educational TV showing a big bang illustration, with all the fragments neatly falling into spiral galaxies and brilliant stars.  Cosmologists have been proposing the ad hoc, counterintuitive, bizarre belief in inflation for two decades to get around the evidence of the flatness problem.  Were you told there were hundreds of competing models?  That’s like having hundreds of versions of Alice in Wonderland.  Now the WMAP survey, hyped to the public as dramatic confirmation of big bang theory, is undermining this “bulwark of modern cosmology” by showing the universe is more scale invariant than inflation demands.  Then there is the problem of early star formation (the lumpiness problem).  Cosmologists are gulping cupfuls of metaphysical Pepto-Bismol to get relief for those lumps in their gastrophysical tracts.
    Certain Christians think the big bang is the scientific explanation for the Creation Event.  They seem to feel that embracing big bang theory will earn them the respect of unbelieving cosmologists (i.e., the Alice in Wonderland Storytellers Guild).  Based on today’s report in Science, we prescribe preventive medicine for avoiding gastrophysical discomfort: “Don’t obsess on this.”  Suggested dosage: 3 servings.

    Click here for a new critique of Big Bang theory by Bert Thompson and Brad Harrub.  Also, did you know that the co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation, Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, believes in a divine creation of the universe instead of the big bang singularity?  Learn about it an article by Jerry Bergman at the American Scientific Affiliation website.  Chuck Colson highlighted this in a recent BreakPoint commentary.
Next headline on: Cosmology.

After Saddam, Eden Again?   05/01/2003
Saddam Hussein’s destructive environmental actions received little reporting during the war, but they rank with the burning of Amazon rain forests, says
National Geographic News.  In particular, he destroyed 93% of southern wetlands through a campaign of terror, burning villages, executing civilians, and diverting rivers, leaving a dry, salt-encrusted wasteland behind in a 7700 square mile region of prime wetland that historically has supported an abundance of birds, fish, mammals and human beings.  The Ma'adan, or Marsh Arabs who call this land home, have been devastated.  Many are refugees, and native species of plants and animals are near extinction.
    Even before the war, environmentalists and scientists were alarmed at the “horrific evidence” of Saddam’s “destructive sophistication,” calling this a “crime against humanity.”  Noting that the Tigris-Euphrates region is traditionally considered the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden, a group calling itself “Eden Again” is trying to start a restoration project.  Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi exile trained in civil engineering at USC, and his wife are attempting to pull together relief agencies, governments, UN departments and the indigenous people to at least attempt to start reclamation of some of this vast region that exceeds the area of the Everglades.
Remember also that Saddam Hussein set fire to hundreds of oil wells in and around Kuwait at the end of the Gulf War, and at the time, that was considered one of the worst environmental disasters in history.  In spite of this and all his other crimes against humanity, many opposed the recent Iraq war for liberation.  Should such crimes have been allowed to go unpunished, and without remedy?  Where was the outcry about this, from those who thought a few weapons inspectors were all that was needed?  Totalitarian regimes have a horrendous environmental track record.  Because of evil leaders and sinful nations, “the earth mourns and languishes” (Isaiah 33).
    Today is the National Day of Prayer.  Its theme is: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”  Need an illustration?  Look at Iraq.  Sin has made this cradle of civilization the reproach of the world.  The converse is that righteousness (not the UN) will be the key to restoring the vitality of Iraq and its people.  God loves wetlands, and righteousness brings them back: Isaiah continues, “But there the majestic LORD will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams, ... for the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our king.”  Unfortunately, that spirit is far from the heart of many in free societies, who, though appalled by Hussein’s atrocities, rely on themselves, their governments, their science, or some other god or king.  President George Bush has called on Americans not to be smug, but to pray lest a worse fate come upon us.  For those who humble themselves and pray, God can heal their land (I Chronicles 14:14).
    While relief efforts are vital in this catastrophe, man will never bring back “Eden again.”  That paradise was lost forever in this era of earth history because of sin, which led to a world God judged because it became filled with violence.  And no human effort will forestall the final judgment, which will come suddenly, as it did in the days of Noah.  As before, there is an ark of safety, this time in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who call on Him in repentance and faith will inherit the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
    Incidentally, the original Garden of Eden cannot be located in the present Tigris-Euphrates valley.  It inhabited a different world before the Flood.  All traces are buried beneath miles of sediment.  Any similarity in place names given in the Genesis account were probably carried by oral tradition into the postdiluvian world by Noah’s descendants.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics. • Next headline on: The Bible.
Book  05/01/2003: The National Academies Press has released a new book from the Space Sciences Board and the Board on Life Sciences, entitled Life in the Universe: An Assessment of U.S. and International Programs in Astrobiology (2003).  The entire book is available online and includes a chapter comparing astrobiology with SETI.
Next headline on: SETI.

Not All Pseudogenes are Pseudo Genes   05/01/2003
At least one pseudogene has a function, claims a team scientists from Japan and UC San Diego (see
UCSD Health Science News).  Long assumed to be dead copies of true genes that are devolving into useless relics, pseudogenes, which are common in eukaryotic DNA, may not be so useless after all.  The team found a pseudogene that, while not coding for a protein, affects the expression of the true gene.  The pseudogene apparently stabilizes the expression of a similar protein-coding gene on another chromosome.  Without the pseudogene, lab mice developed abnormal kidneys and bones.  The team discovered the function of the pseudogene by accident, reports SciNews, as they were preparing the mice for a different experiment.  They suspect similar mechanisms may be at work in most other pseudogenes, and “hope to show that pseudogene-gene interaction is a general mechanism taking place in many cellular interactions.”  Their technical paper is published in the May 1 issue of NatureScience Now explains that pseudogenes may help keep normal copies functioning.

This is one more step in debunking the “junk DNA” myth.  Evolution gave us the concept of vestigial organs; now, most of them are known to be vital.  Evolution gave us the notion that glia cells in the brain were just space-filling junk; now we know that they may be just as important as the neurons, or even more so.  Evolution gave us the concept of pseudogenes.  Is there a pattern here?
    Evolutionists criticize creationists for just “giving up” investigation by claiming “God did it,” but the Darwinian mindset has actually hindered investigation in these three cases, sometimes to the detriment of human health, by assuming parts we don’t understand are just useless relics of evolution.
    Never rule out design just because you can’t see it yet.  Think about those 3-D artworks that were popular a few years ago.  Sometimes you have to stare long and hard before the design becomes apparent.  Some never see it, no matter how hard they try, and just give up.  But when it registers, the viewer typically expresses amazement and satisfaction at the thrill of discovering something that before looked random and purposeless, but now makes perfect sense.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Are Germs Good Bugs Gone Bad?  The Case of Anthrax   05/01/2003
Now that the anthrax genome has been decoded, scientists are surprised that most of it looks like another milder bacterium, Bacillus cereus.  Only about 3% of their genomes are significantly different.  In addition, the pathogenic genes are not in the nucleus, but in plasmids (smaller, circular strands of DNA in the cytoplasm).  They give the appearance of having been imported by horizontal gene transfer.  One of the papers in Nature suggests that both bacteria acquired toxic elements from soil bacteria in this manner, and “Other major differences between B. anthracis and B. cereus may have been effected through altered gene expression rather than loss or gain of genes.”  Some are wondering if anthrax acquired its toxicity recently.  One team asks, “Findings from this genome sequence analysis raise further questions about the biology of B. anthracis; for instance, what are the roles of putative ‘virulence’ genes in close relatives of B. anthracis that do not cause anthrax, and do they actually contribute to virulence in B. anthracis?
   
EurekAlert summarizes two papers in the May 1 issue of Nature that report the decoding of the anthrax genome.
This raises some interesting questions about the origin of disease germs, and puzzles on both sides of the creation-evolution debate.  It is not even clear if there is a gene for virulence, or if virulence is a result of good genes run amok in the way they are expressed.  Perhaps in a soil environment the genes would be beneficial, but are harmful once inside a mammalian body.  No one knows, but the data so far seem consistent with a Biblical view that there was an original good creation that has gone awry, either directly from God as judgment from the curse because of sin, or indirectly from mutations mucking up the regulation of otherwise beneficial functions.  An evolutionist can claim anthrax got its virulence genes by horizontal transfer, but then where did those come from?  It’s too early to understand what these genomes are revealing, and there are some things science can never tell us.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Your Body Has Transistors Superior to Intel’s   05/01/2003
Roderick MacKinnon’s team has done it again.  The headline at Rockefeller University proclaims, “Voltage-dependent channel structure reveals masterpiece responsible for all nerve, muscle activity.”  Building on the art metaphor, the news release begins, “Scientists studying the tiny devices — called voltage-dependent ion channels — that are responsible for all nerve and muscle signals in living organisms for 50 years have been working like a bunch of blindfolded art critics. ... Rockefeller’s Roderick MacKinnon, M.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Youxing Jiang, Ph.D., and their colleagues have removed the blindfold to reveal a masterpiece of nature’s engineering” (emphasis added). 
    The masterpiece is an exquisite voltage-regulated pore in the cell membrane that attracts and transmits potassium ions, maintaining an electrical potential with performance specs superior to man-made transistors.  The team found that the channel operates with four charge-sensitive protein paddles around the periphery of the channel.  They open to permit the correct ions through, and close to adjust the voltage.  Proper voltage is maintained via a feedback loop that is sensitive to changing conditions in the environment.  Their experimental results made the cover story of the May 1 issue of Nature.
    Potassium channels are vital to muscle and nerve activity, and are highly conserved in all organisms, from the Archaea living around hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, to the human gymnast on the high bar.  The importance of these molecule-size gates is summed up in the news release: “The entire sequence of events takes only a few milliseconds, and occurs tens of thousands of times every day in human beings and organisms of all varieties.  Without this hair trigger electrical system, life would be more than calm.  There would be scant possibility of thinking, breathing or movement.”
It’s nice when other reporters do the thinking for us.  No evolution, just intelligent design that flabbergasts the investigators.  But like the obligatory pinch of incense to the emperor, evolution is mentioned in passing.  The article states that “voltage-dependent potassium channels are extremely similar throughout every branch of the evolutionary tree.”  Uh, pardon me... what tree?  I thought we were at an art show.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
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Featured Creation Scientist for May

Robert Boyle
1627 - 1691

In this roster of great scientists who were Christians and creationists, occasionally one stands out as worthy of a gold medal.  The requirements are stringent.  The person needs to have performed exceptional scientific work, that produced some fundamental discovery, or advanced the scientific enterprise in a highly significant way; perhaps to be known as the father of a branch of science or the discoverer of a fundamental law of nature.  Simultaneously, the person needs to have been a devout Christian whose personal life and character was befitting the honor (this eliminates Newton).  Yet some who fulfilled both these qualifications did little to relate their Christian faith to their scientific work; they were Sunday Christians and weekday secular scientists.  The third qualification involves advancing philosophical understanding of the relationship between science and Biblical Christianity, or for combatting unbelief and skepticism.  All these requirements were met with room to spare in the next honoree of this series, Robert Boyle.  He not only can be considered a pillar of modern science – and one of its most eminent practitioners – but he also left the world a profound legacy of rich literature explaining the Christian foundation for science.  The title of one of his many books was The Christian Virtuoso (i.e., Bible-believing scientist), and to historians, he was one of the best examples.

Like most in this series, Boyle’s life and adventures make for a good story, but let’s consider first some of the impacts he made on the practice of science: (1) An emphasis on experiment instead of reason. (2) Publication of experimental results. (3) Popularization of scientific discoveries. (4) Collaboration of scientists in professional societies. (5) Mathematical formulations of laws.  (6) Putting all claims about nature, no matter the reputation of the authority, to the test of experiment.  Of course, no one works in a vacuum (no pun intended, as we will see); Boyle was not the only one to advance these ideals.  Boyle was influenced by Bacon, Galileo and Kepler before him, and there were contemporaries who also practiced one or more of these principles.  But among his peers, Boyle was an eminent leader with all of them.  He took the initiative where others stuck to old habits, and he led by example.  He is the considered the father of physical chemistry and a law was named in his honor.  The world’s first and oldest professional scientific society with the longest record of continuous publication, the Royal Society, is due largely to Robert Boyle and the colleagues he attracted with his energy, drive, and enthusiasm for science.  That enthusiasm came directly out of his Christian faith.  To Boyle, love of God came first, and everything else second.  Science was a means to a higher end: loving God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind.  He stated succinctly a theme that would be reiterated through centuries by all great Christian practitioners of science: “From a knowledge of His work, we shall know Him.”

Because Boyle’s philosophical thought will be our emphasis, we will give an abbreviated version of his life story and refer the interested reader to the account by John Hudson Tiner in the Sowers Series, Robert Boyle, Trailblazer of Science, for more biographical details.  Despite being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the privileged son of a rich and prestigious landowner and friend of the king, Robert Boyle would know before long the meaning of hardship.  As seventh son of the great Earl of Cork in Ireland, young Robyn had no lack of any material thing.  Yet his wise father knew the values of self-discipline, education and hard work, and ensured his children were not idle but given the best training for honorable life.  In those days, however, Aristotle still held sway over almost every field of natural knowledge, and education consisted largely of memorizing what authorities had said.  Some schools actually prohibited original thinking.  If Aristotle said a vacuum cannot exist, then that was that; memorize it and regurgitate it on the test.  But early in his education, Robyn learned to question the opinions of mere men.  He was introduced by a teacher to the “experimental method” of learning.  Young Boyle also had a bright mind that asked questions, that was unsatisfied by rote answers from experts.  He wanted to know how the authorities knew what they claimed, and why it was necessary to follow them.  After all, who had been their authorities?

At age 15 Boyle’s life took a dramatic turn.  Though certainly not a spoiled rich child, he was suddenly transferred to the school of hard knocks.  While Robert and his brother Frank were on an extended, all-expense-paid educational tour of Europe, war broke out in Ireland.  Oblivious to the crisis at home, Robert visited leading scientists.  He almost got to see Galileo, missing the opportunity by a few months due to the great astronomer’s death.  Paris, Rome, the great centers of learning had been on their itinerary when the word reached them from their desperate father that the war had hit home.  King Charles, occupied with other conflicts, had been unable to aid the Irish landowners against the popular uprising, and the Earl of Cork had to spend every resource to protect his estate.  Reduced to penury, his father wrote to the sons that no more money could be forthcoming.  To the boys’ tutor, he wrote, “For with inward grief of soul I write this truth unto you that I am no longer able to supply them beyond this last payment.  But if they serve God and be careful and discreet in their carriage [i.e., lifestyle], God will bless them and provide for them as hitherto He has done for me.”

Frank rushed back home to help, but Robyn had been too ill to be of military assistance, and remained back in Geneva with the tutor.  It was no use.  Lewis, a brother, died in battle.  Lord Barrymore, the Great Earl’s favorite son-in-law, died in battle; and the grief-stricken father died the day the truce was signed – not only had the rebels destroyed his property and foundries, scattered his family and stolen all his possessions, but as part of the peace treaty, the king sacrificed all the Earl’s land to the rebels.  Now orphaned, Robyn stayed two years in Geneva with the tutor, until he could no longer bear burdening his host.  Selling the last remaining valuables, he boarded a ship for London.  He was 17 years old.  Tiner describes the setting: “Robyn had begun his travels from this city.  When he left he’d enjoyed every possible advantage.  His future seemed secure.  He could look forward to wealth, an estate in the country, and perhaps with a family with Lady Ann Howard as his wife.  Now, five years later, Robyn walked the streets of London penniless and alone.”

A famous gospel preacher once said, “The test of a man’s character is what it takes to stop him.”  Young Robert Boyle’s character now faced the acid test.  Come back soon for the happy ending!


If you enjoyed this episode, learn more about great Christians in science by reading our online book-in-progress:
The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also available from our online store.

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 according 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).

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