Creation-Evolution Headlines
 June 2002
“I slowly realized that evolution survives as a paradigm only as long as the evidence is picked and chosen and the great pool of data that is accumulating on life is ignored.  As the breadth and depth of human knowledge increases, it washes over us a flood of evidence deep and wide, all pointing to the conclusion that life is the result of design.  Only a small subset of evidence, chosen carefully, may be used to construct a story about life evolving from non-living precursors.  Science does not work on the basis of picking and choosing data to suit a treasured theory.”
– Dr. Timothy G. Standish, biologist, In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (New Holland, 1999), pp. 103-104.
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Why Do Old Mountains Still Have Roots?   06/27/2002
Think of a lava lamp.  As a lump of lighter material rises to the surface, it might protrude for awhile, but will flatten out at the top and bottom.  It obeys Archimede’s Principle of buoyancy, also called isostasy, that the weight of overlying material must be balanced by the buoyancy of the underlying material, but if fluid, will stretch out and become thin.  Now think of mountains floating in the mantle.  As the tops of the mountains erode down to a plain over long ages, the bottom “roots” should compensate by rising up under their own buoyancy.  However, it appears that the oldest mountains still have roots.
In the
June 27 issue of Nature, David James explains the problem, and discusses a possible solution by Karen M. Fischer of Brown University in the same issue.  She proposes that old roots thicken by metamorphosis over time, becoming more dense and resisting the upward force of buoyancy.

Fischer evaluated many mountain ranges globally and included gravity data, but it appears she came up with her theory to save long ages of mountains.  It’s an example of circular reasoning: assuming the ages of the old mountains, and then tweaking the parameters to preserve the oldness of the old mountains.  She assumes that all mountains are built by similar processes, and take similar amounts of time to form.  Yet an unexpected result occurs; the oldest mountain roots should be long gone.  Could the dates be the problem?  Never.  The long ages are the given, and the other parameters are adjusted to explain away a resulting anomaly.  Is this how science should be done?
Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next headline on: Geology.
Maxwell’s Demon Does Not Violate Thermodynamics   06/27/2002
For over 130 years since
James Clerk Maxwell proposed his famous puzzle, physicists have wondered if “Maxwell’s Demon” (a thought experiment) allowed for violations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  We all know hot and cold gas molecules mix to lukewarm, but he pictured a little fellow of atomic size that might sort the molecules into hot and cold compartments by intelligence alone.  Instead of a demon (Kelvin’s term, not Maxwell’s because the latter was a “deeply religious man”), perhaps a permeable membrane or mechanical device would work as well.  Not so, says John Maddox in the June 27 issue of Nature.  Any device, demon, or machine would itself be subject to the Second Law and would add more entropy to the system than removed by the sorting.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics remains unviolated.
Maxwell’s Demon pops up often in discussions of physics, because it provides an opportunity to solve a conceptual puzzle.  We are always taught that the Second Law of Thermodynamics cannot be violated (when the whole system is taken into account), but this appeared to allow for an exception in principle, though not in reality.  Of course, Maxwell himself believed in the universality of the law, but argued that because it is statistical in nature (he was the Father of Statistical Mechanics), at least the conceptual possibility existed for exceptions.  Physicists ever since have explored whether this is possible, and in each case, even in the quantum mechanics era, have decided it’s not.  This article is entitled “Maxwell’s Demon: Slamming the Door” in a long tradition of concluding the Second Law always applies.  If it cannot be violated even in this unnatural conceptual model, it cannot be ignored in questions of evolution.
What’s also notable in this story is the praise heaped on Maxwell himself, whom Maddox calls “probably the outstanding scientist of the nineteenth century”— and that’s in great company of many others of the era.  Maxwell, a scientist par excellence (both in experiment and theory) and a jolly good fellow, also a Bible-believing Christian, natural philosopher and anti-evolutionist, is featured in our online book, The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.  We believe you will find his life and words tremendously interesting.  We also eagerly anticipate the publication of Volume III of Maxwell’s Complete Scientific Letters and Papers, due from Cambridge University Press in September.  Until then, you can enjoy the classic biography by Lewis Campbell online, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, complete with some of his anti-evolution poems.
William Dembski discusses the Maxwell Demon paradox from an information-conservation viewpoint in his recent book No Free Lunch.
Next headline on: Physics.
The New Science of Protein Sociology   06/27/2002
A news feature in
Nature June 27 explores the new science of protein complexes:  ...the classic view of many cellular processes involves proteins interacting with one another in linear pathways, coming together as they shift around in the cell's cytoplasm.  In recent years, however, biologists have realized that many important cellular functions are actually carried out by protein complexes that act as molecular ‘machines’”  The article explains that some complexes, like the ribosome, stay together for long periods, whereas others join loose fellowships for temporary tasks.  Some proteins are versatile and belong to several clubs.  In some cases, it is the complexes that are conserved between very different animals, but the individual proteins differ.  New techniques of electron microscopy are allowing scientists to visualize these protein complexes in this cutting-edge field of structural biology.
This adds another layer of complexity to the cell.  Instead of seeing one gene produce one protein, that works alone on a single task, scientists now have to take into account the complex interactions of dozens, sometimes hundreds of different proteins, that must work in concert, like players in an orchestra or workers in a factory.  Do factories and orchestras create themselves out of rocks and water?
See also our April 4 and March 8 headlines about protein complexes.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry.
Plant to Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria: Your Password is NORK   06/27/2002
The cover story of the
June 27 Nature tells about how plants communicate with their nitrogen-fixing bacteria and fungi, on which they depend to get nitrogen from the soil.  They share a “protein password” called NORK, explains Nature Science Update.  The two different organisms share the password and receptor.  The mycorrhizal fungi on the roots have a receptor called SYMRK that is the same protein as NORK.  Not only are these proteins involved in signalling, they are also involved in defense.  Animals have similar protein signals in their immune systems.
Signals, coded messages, receptors, and passwords: these all speak of intelligent design, not evolution.  The March 2002 issue of Creation Magazine has an interesting article about nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the “molecular sledgehammer” that uses tiny machinery to separate the nitrogen molecule apart, one of the toughest nuts in chemistry to crack because of its triple bond.  Animal life would not be possible without this amazing symbiosis between plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next amazing story.
How Does the Cell Route Messages?  Through Its Switchboard   06/26/2002
Another “level of complexity” has been found in the cell, according to story in
SciNews.  Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found that signal transduction, the way that cells transmit signals from the external environment to the nucleus, is not just an automatic cascade of chemical reactions, but is regulated by a “switchboard” so that the nucleus is not swamped: “It’s a wonder cells make it through the day with the barrage of cues and messages they receive and transmit to direct the most basic and necessary functions of life.”  The switching system involves first detecting messages coming through channels in the cell membrane onto receptors, then tagging them with one of two delivery signals, calcium or cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).  A whole class of proteins called PDZ proteins are now seen to be involved just in deciding which signalling molecule will be used.  The delivery tag determines how the nucleus will respond to the message.  The study by Donowitz et al. into the tagging of messages for delivery into the nucleus was published in the June 20 issue of Nature.  A related story about how the nucleus signals which genes to express is found on UniSci.
The closer we look at the cell, the more intelligently designed it appears.  The scientists found this switching system must work in its entirety, or else serious diseases can result.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Speech 06/25/2002: On June 21st, intelligent design proponent and mathematician William Dembski spoke to a hostile audience, the Fourth World Skeptics Conference in Burbank California.  He spoke on “Skepticism’s Prospects for Unseating Intelligent Design” and told them how to do it (wishing them “Good luck” at the end, in the sense of “You’ll need it”).  In the process he turned skepticism against itself.  The speech is reproduced on the Discovery Institute website.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.

Beneficial Mutations Battle for Supremacy in the Test Tube   06/25/2002
A team of biologists studied the “Fitness Effects of Fixed Beneficial Mutations in Microbial Populations,” in the June 25 issue of
Current Biology.  They identified colonies of bacteria with fixed beneficial mutations and concluded that only large, fixed beneficial mutations were likely to promote evolution in the long term: “Beneficial mutations are intuitively relevant to understanding adaptation, yet not all beneficial mutations are of consequence to the long-term evolutionary outcome of adaptation.  Many beneficial mutations—mostly those of small effect—are lost due either to (1) genetic drift or to (2) competition among clones carrying different beneficial mutations....”  They admit that “Beneficial mutations are very rare events and are thus difficult to observe.”  They also had to make some untestable assumptions: “it is tempting to suppose that fitness effects of contending mutations, or even beneficial mutations, can be directly inferred (i.e., without making a priori assumptions about the shapes of these distributions) from our fitness effect data .... Practically, however, this is a very difficult if not intractable problem. ... To make inference with respect to the underlying distributions, therefore, we had to appeal to theoretical predictions.  These predictions drastically reduce the degrees of freedom involved, thus permitting reasonable inference of the two key parameters.  Our study of advantageous mutations thus depends equally on experimental and theoretical results, and it is with this in mind that we decided to present them together.”

They thus undermined any real independent test of evolutionary theory, because they could not really predict an outcome that could be falsified.  And how did they decide what were “beneficial mutations”?  These were decided on the basis of surviving numbers: “The subpopulation that was found to increase in frequency was deemed the ‘winner.’”  Critics of evolution have long claimed that natural selection is a tautology, and here is a perfect example in practice.  Who are the most fit?  Those that survive.  And how did they survive?  Because they must have had a beneficial mutation that made them more fit.  Thus, survivors survive, and fitness makes them fit.  A rose is a rose is a rose.  Boys will be boys.  Two equals two.  True?  Yes.  Useful?  No.  This is circular reasoning that makes this paper worthless as evidence for evolution.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Playing Games in the Science Lab With Human Rats   06/25/2002
Two evolutionists from the University of Edinburgh had their students play games to study the evolution of altruism (unselfishness), explains their paper in the June 25 issue of
Current Biology.  They rigged up a game with cables, colored lights and signals that paid money for various selfish and unselfish behaviors.  When the results were in, they deduced that “indirect reciprocity” or just the general improvement to a person’s reputation for becoming known as a generous person produced benefits that would help the altruistic behavior evolve.  They explain, “Nonreciprocal altruism among non-kin is frequently observed in humans.  Such ‘generalized altruism’ could, for example, be a cultural trait, or it could have evolved because it normally provides a net fitness benefit.  Indirect reciprocity is one of the major evolutionary concepts that could explain generous behavior.”
Thus kindness is just sex.  Isn’t this what evolution reduces kindness and generosity to?  They reduce altruism to just a “fitness benefit,” i.e., some trait that helps you pass on your genes.  This is not only dumb, it’s ugly.  It sweeps away any truly unselfish actions based on morality, and colors it as purposeless survival of the fittest.  It is grunge reductionism, turning the beautiful into the raw, throwing mud on the bridal gown.  Recall how the PBS Evolution TV series portrayed evolution: over images of an Apollo rocket launch and a choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus, the narrator claimed that all human activity, however sublime, stems from our inherent urge to reproduce.  This is reductionism at its most absurd.
It’s also junk science.  The students signed up to play a game, and were getting paid!  How do their actions in this staged setting have anything to do with real life?  Do you play Monopoly the same way you operate your daily affairs?  I’ve see the gentlest preacher’s wife take great glee in loading Boardwalk with hotels and stomping her competitors out of business in Monopoly, who in real life is the kindest and most unselfish, hard working person you could know.  These scientists also failed to demonstrate that their conclusions were not Lamarckian, and that somehow the most altruistic would actually cause genetic changes, or would help the population pass on improved genes.  Evolutionists have this kinky idea that human beings are just lab rats under forces of mindless evolution with nothing but sex on their minds, and that somehow an experiment like this tells them something about how human behavior evolved.
These scientists have way too much time on their hands.  Here’s how they should learn about altruism.  They should go visit a widow in a nursing home and show genuine kindness to her, listen to her tell about her life, and meet her physical needs.  They should visit a disabled child or orphan, or adopt one from a totalitarian country, someone that has no hope of passing on his genes, and give him encouragement and love and hope of a better life.  They should join the fight against evil and suffering and unbridled lust and selfishness in the world.  Enough of this nonsense about altruism being an evolutionary game played by selfish genes.
The Epistle of James in the New Testament presents a very different, un-Darwinian view of altruism, as does all the Word of God.  Altruism is not a game played for the advantage of the individual, the group, or the genes; it is human behavior nearest to the image of Jesus Christ, the most altruistic of all, who gave His life for the very, very unfit.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Why Do Species Persist?   06/25/2002
Wild species seem to be able to keep their outward looks while inside the genes are getting mutated and scrambled.  How do they do it?  This phenomenon, called canalization has been explained in evolutionary terms as “long-term natural selection toward optimal phenotypes”; i.e., a trend toward the best-adapted mature body.  This theory was first propounded by C. H. Waddington in 1942.  But now, two Stanford biologists have developed a model that tries to explain canalization as selection toward developmental stability, without any need for considering the resulting phenotype:
We show that the developmental process, here modeled as a network of interacting transcriptional regulators, constrains the genetic system to produce canalization, even without selection toward an optimum.  The extent of canalization, measured as the insensitivity to mutation of a network’s equilibrium state, depends on the complexity of the network, such that more highly connected networks evolve to be more canalized.  We argue that canalization may be an inevitable consequence of complex developmental genetic processes and thus requires no explanation in terms of evolution to suppress phenotypic variation.
The paper by Siegal and Bergman is published in the
June 24 online preprints of the July 7 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
On August 5, a press release from Stanford University News Service described this new theory in more detail.
So where is the evolution?  It appears they have shown natural selection to be a conservative mechanism, something creationists have claimed since Edward Blyth in 1835 came up with the idea before Darwin.  If species tend toward canalization naturally, without any selection for the ideal body, this seems to undercut a major tenet of Darwinism.  These authors are picturing natural selection as tending to keep the developmental pathways at a stable equilibrium.  This paper is listed in the category Evolution, but says almost nothing about progress, the origin of new information, or speciation; it’s all about stability.  In their model, developmental equilibrium (that produces canalization as an effect) is achieved rapidly.  This would fit within a design paradigm, as a means of buffering organisms from mutations.  What’s evolution got to do with it?  It seems this paper is another in a series we’ve reported that show evolutionists undermining commonly-held notions about evolution;  here’s one recent example, and here’s another.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Tweaking the Bacterial Flagellum Motor   06/24/2002
A team of Japanese scientists publishing in the
July 7 Journal of Molecular Biology has been studying the electrical interactions of the bacterial flagellum, a molecular motor highlighted in the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life.  The researchers toyed with changes at the amino acid level in some of the key proteins in the rotor and stator to see what they would do.  They neutralized or reversed the charges of elements and thought they would get the motor to halt, but in some cases, it reversed direction or continued to work, but reduced the tumbling behavior and swarming of the bacteria.
Different species of bacteria have different types of flagellar motors.  Some run off protons (H+), and some run of sodium ions (Na+).  The sodium motors spin up to five times faster than their proton counterparts.  Earlier work had shown that mutations to a certain protein MotA in the proton motors could cause failure.  These researchers mutated the homologous protein PomA in the sodium motor and still got it to work, so apparently there are other unknown factors involved in torque generation in these varieties.
Scientists now have the ability to substitute individual letters in the genetic alphabet and the protein sequence and see what breaks.  As in language, you can substitute some letters and still get meaning; kold for cold, for instance.  Others are more damaging, like hit for hot.  Some changes can create opposites, like just adding the prefix “a” turns moral into amoral.  Similarly, protein sequences can tolerate some changes, but others bring the function to a halt.  A key research technique these days is to watch what happens with gene substitutions.  More often than not, function breaks; sometimes it continues in a weakened state or makes no difference, but never does new functionality arise.
What’s interesting in this story is the fact that these researchers have no hesitation whatsoever in calling these things motors and machines, and referring to their parts as rotors and stators.  The skeptical philosopher David Hume used to contend that you could not compare living things to artificial contrivances, like watches, to support the argument from design.  But now, molecular “machines” are all the rage in cell biology, and nanotechnologists are imitating nature in their engineering.  The bacterial flagellum is one of the amazing examples of irreducible complexity that Michael Behe brought to the limelight in his book Darwin’s Black Box.  Behe talked about the cell being made up of actual molecular machines that act just like man-made machines, only orders of magnitude smaller.  As in artificial machines, the components have to be simultaneously present and fit one another, or else there is no function.  The same is true in the bacterial flagellum, which is made up of at least 30 protein parts, including a rotor, stator, drive shaft, propeller and a complex ion-drive torque generator that is still poorly understood.
The protein these scientists thought was responsible for torque generation turns out to be more related to switching directions rather than torque.  But again, small changes to the parts are seen to cause breakdowns: in this study, decreases in swarming behavior, but not an improved motor.  It is inconceivable that this smoothly integrated system of mechanical parts could arise by small, intermediate steps, each of which would require an advantage big enough to aid survival of the whole organism.  Also, as the film referred to above emphasizes, no evolutionist ever talks about the origin of the genetic instructions to build these machines.  That is never addressed by opponents of the irreducible complexity argument, says Dr. Scott Minnich in the film.  What we observe in fact, reminds Jonathan Wells, is “irreducible complexity all the way down.”  The authors of this paper never mention evolution once, in accord with our frequent observation that evolutionary speculations are inversely proportional to the data available for analysis.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Upside Down: Family History of Brown Algae   06/24/2002
“Researcher turns brown algae phylogeny upside down,” reads the title of a press release from the
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.  The work of Stephen Draisma of Leiden University claims that “few of the currently assumed relationships between the orders are correct.  Furthermore, it transpires that some simple species arose not earlier but later than more complex species.”  The algae expert proposes classifying brown algae, which include the seaweed that washes up on beaches and the giant kelp forests off the coast of California, into 20 orders instead of the usual 13. The story was echoed on EurekAlert, the news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Maybe textbooks should proclaim a new dogma for the genomics era: “The genomes of plants and animals reveal the devolutionary history of life on earth.  Devolution is a fact.”
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Martian Grand Canyon Formed by Dam Breach   06/21/2002
Evidence for a canyon bigger than earth’s Grand Canyon has been announced in the
June 21 issue of Science.  Apparently a large lake over a million square kilometers in size overflowed its natural dam and gouged out the gorge in short order, flowing into a large crater.  For a color picture of the proposed flood scenario, see the June 27 Astronomy Picture of the Day.
They even call this an event during the “Noachian” epoch.  Creationists have been saying this is how earth’s Grand Canyon formed – catastrophically, not slowly and gradually – and earth has the water to do it, but Mars today is dry.  If on Mars, why not on the Water Planet?
Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: Geology.
Horseshoe Crabs Represent an Evolutionary Freeze-Frame   06/21/2002
National Geographic posted an article about the mysterious horseshoe crabs, that lay their eggs this time of year. 
How long horseshoe crabs live, whether they return to the beach of their birth for spawning, why their life cycles seem directed by the moon, where they disappear to for the other 10 months of the year-all these questions remain mysteries. 
Somehow, the horseshoe crab has thrived for 500 million years, and Sue Schaller wants to know why. “You’ve got an animal that predates dinosaurs by 200 million years, and it hasn’t changed much at all.  It hasn’t had to evolve,’ said Schaller, a biologist who has studied Maine’s horseshoe crabs for the past three years.
Horseshoe crabs, the article explains, are not really crabs, but chelicerates, more closely related to spiders and mites and trilobites.  Their mysterious mating ritual is timed to swoon under the new moon in June.
It hasn’t had to evolve is a subtle personification fallacy; did you catch it?  It’s ubiquitous in Darwinspeak.  Does the horseshoe crab care whether it evolves or not, or dies or not?  Does Mother Earth care?  Does the sea?  Nobody cares; it doesn’t have to do anything.  “Evolve or perish!” goes the simplistic bumper sticker, but according to naturalism, perishing is just as wonderful as surviving, because lots of species have perished, and only humans seem to give a hoot.
Horseshoe crabs are one of many living fossils.  Again we must ask, if evolution is this pervasive force that gives rise to so much diversity, why would an organism like the horseshoe crab not evolve just a little bit at least during all the time that dinosaurs went from chicken-size lizards to brachiosaurs and triceratops, and then to eagles and ostriches, and shrews went from elephants to whales and bats and kittens and people?  That’s a lot of time and mutations and natural selection, but horseshoe crabs still do their little moonlight fling, oblivious to all this change going on around them, and also to the three alleged meteorite catastrophes that wiped out 95% of life on earth.  Maybe not only horseshoe crabs are moonstruck (def: affected by or as if by the moon; mentally unbalanced; romantically sentimental; lost in fantasy or reverie).
Next headline on: Bugs and Arthropods.
Rock-Throwing Preceded Tool-Making   06/21/2002
According to
Nature Science Update, our early ancestors mastered the art of throwing stones before they realized they could make tools out of them.  Reporting on the work of Alan Cannell, who published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the thinking is that “Our instinctive feel for the ideal projectile could explain the design of hand-grenades, the collecting habits of geologists, the size of handballs and the weight of the imperial pound,...” and “could illuminate the lives of prehistoric hominids.”  Cannell found that everybody seems to prefer rocks about a half a kilogram.  “We are looking for something hardwired that recognizes the ideal mass and is involved in throwing.  This would show that throwing was, at some stage of our evolution, of vital importance.”
What, pray tell, does this have to do with evolution?  Observation: people like to throw rocks (just watch any 10-year old kid.)  Observation: people are a certain size (if people were as big as elephants, we would probably pick up bigger rocks).  Does this tell us anything about ape in our ancestry?  If a person did not already believe humans evolved from apes, would this article prove anything at all, other than people shouldn’t live in glass houses?
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next dumb story.
Comets Remain a Puzzle   06/21/2002
The “fading problem” of the Oort Cloud hypothesis (a severe deficit in the number of comets observed in short-period orbits like that of comet Halley) is addressed in a paper by Levison et al in the
June 21 Science.  They believe that based on the unexpected distribution, the majority of comets must disrupt, but that raises the question of why a body would disrupt, when only exposed to the solar wind, and also where does the mass go.  On June 28, Sky and Telescope posted a report on this story, “The case of the missing comets.”  In a Perspective piece in the same issue of Science, Mark E. Bailey leaves the problems unresolved: “At present, comets remain a puzzle: They have to be both strong and weak, and there seems to be a substantial missing mass.  Does this provide a clue to the origin of cometary material?”
Maybe, if one is open-minded enough to question the long ages of comets.  Students are taught the glib generality of the Oort Cloud hypothesis on TV programs and student astronomy books illustrated by artists, but few are ever exposed to the weaknesses of the theory.  And there are weaknesses—severe ones—as this story reveals.  Maybe comets haven’t been around for 4.5 billion years.  Bailey reveals why this explanation is not preferred: “Could the steady-state assumption be mistaken?  This would put us in the uncomfortable position of living at a special epoch, perhaps within a few million years of the start of a comet shower, with all sorts of attendant repercussions...”  but this is merely a philosophical bias.  We think students should be told the points for an against a popular theory.  It might stimulate them to go into science to explore mysteries like this.  Biblical creationists don’t have this comet problem, because they don’t accept the long ages that are spoon-fed to the public for unquestioning acceptance.  For a controversial but detailed alternative view, see the theory for the origin of comets by Dr. Walter T. Brown, and judge for yourself whether Oort or Brown can handle the data and the anomalies.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Adult Stem Cells Show Promise   06/20/2002
Researchers at the
University of Minnesota got adult bone marrow stem cells to reproduce all the tissues of the body, reports Science magazine.  Catherine Verfaillie and team may have found a universal stem cell that is not derived from embryos.  Her paper is published in the June 20 Nature.
This is wonderful news, if confirmed, that might reduce the ethically troubling practice of harvesting embryonic stem cells.  Another research the same day announced progress in treating Parkinson’s disease with stem cells in rats.  Opponents of the use of embryonic stem cells argue that it isn’t right to kill one human to save another, but if adult stem cells can do everything the embryonic stem cells seem able to do, the controversy may become moot.  But it is still too early to say one way or the other, according to this perspective article on the controversy in June 21 Science.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Politics.
Debate 06/20/2002: On the Access Research Network website, Jonathan Wells, author of the anti-Darwinist book Icons of Evolution, answers the “rave reviews” he has gotten from critics.  He responds to the charges that he is either (1) ignorant, (2) stupid, (3) wicked, or (4) all of the above.  He argues for (5) none of the above.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.

Debate 06/20/2002: On the Answers in Genesis website, Jonathan Sarfati takes on John Rennie’s article in the June 17 Scientific American, “15 answers to creationist nonsense.”  Responding with “15 ways to refute materialist bigotry: a point by point response to Scientific American,” Sarfati answers each of Rennie’s claims in turn, dealing with transitional forms, natural selection, irreducible complexity, theories in science, fossils, the second law of thermodynamics, and other subjects.  His rebuttals include links to additional articles that go into more detail.  A shorter rebuttal by Bill Hoesch can be found on the Institute for Creation Research website.
In the same issue of Scientific American, professional skeptic Michael Shermer psychoanalyzes the vox populi who question evolution, particularly those who wrote responses to his February article attacking intelligent design.  He concludes,

With no subject is this as apparent as it is with evolution; it is here we confront the ultimate question of genesis and exodus: Where did we come from and where are we going?  No matter how you answer that question, facing it with courage and intellectual honesty will bring you closer to the creation itself.
By creation he means, of course, the materialistic big bang hypothesis, and by genesis and exodus he refers not to the Bible but to the beginning and end of the universe and human existence.  By intellectual honesty he means materialistic philosophy (in his phraseology, “the advance of science”).
In his opening rebuttal, Sarfati points out the irony that the founder of Scientific American, Rufus Porter, was a creationist, who started the magazine for the glory of God, and purposed that “We shall advocate the pure Christian religion, without favouring any particular sect.”  You can read the purpose statement and Porter’s own beliefs on “Rational Religion” (i.e., daily acknowledging our “our Creator and daily Preserver” with prayer and thanks and worship, resulting in love to our fellow beings) online in the magazine’s first issue, August 28, 1845.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: Darwinism.

Book 06/20/2002: Things Come to Life: Spontaneous Generation Revisited by Henry Harris, Oxford University Press, released 06/15/2002.  Describes historical experiments by Redi, Leeuwenhoek, Spallanzani, Pasteur and others.  Reviewed in Nature June 20 by Paolo Mazzarello, who says, “Philosophy and theology are not entirely absent in this book (a brief chapter is entitled ‘Materialism, For and Against’), but its main aim is to describe the principal experiments and to judge what we can consider, in hindsight, to be right and wrong.  So this is more a book of facts than of opinions about the facts, and more of experimental evidence than of the philosophical consequences.”
Next headline on: Origin of Life.

Nature Hedges on Earliest Fossil Claim   06/20/2002
A
Nature News Feature June 20 raises doubts about Bill Schopf’s claim of finding cyanobacteria fossils in 3.5 million year old Australian rock (see March 7 headline).  Contradictory claims were made by Schopf and Martin Brasier in the March 7 issue.  The article portrays Schopf as a fighting advocate not willing to back down in the face of controversy, and dodging claims that he knew of contrary evidence early on from his own colleagues.

The astrobiology crowd appears eager to discount the claim because they cannot bear to have oxygen abundant on the early earth, but if the dating methods are based on circular reasoning, then both are wrong.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Are Animals Over-Designed?   06/19/2002
Animals appear to have built-in safety factors, or capacities beyond their normal load, such as bones being stronger than their usual needs, peak milk output of mammary glands exceeding a pup’s needs, and an enzyme’s maximum reaction rate exceeding its normal reaction rate.  Scientists at the University of California School of Medicine did an experiment to test rats’ ability to process glucose at higher than normal rates, and wrote their results in the
June 19 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They found a 220% safety factor; i.e., rats were able to consume and assimilate 2.2 times as much glucose as their body needs.
This paper by noted evolutionist Jared Diamond and colleagues is listed in the category Evolution, but does it not indicate intelligent planning?  Why would natural selection give a rat reserve capacity more than it needs to survive?  The authors say their result is at the low end of observed biological safety factors, which can be as high as 700%, and say this observation is “one of the major problems in quantitative evolutionary design” (how’s that for an oxymoron: evolutionary design).  They give some possible reasons for this apparent overdesign, but all that can be said is that this finding gives no advantage to evolutionary explanations over design explanations; if anything, it is another problem for evolutionists to puzzle over.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
All Wrong: The Classical Darwinian Doctrine of Common Descent   06/18/2002
That’s what Carl Woese of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign thinks, speaking about how the first life originated: “We cannot expect to explain cellular evolution if we stay locked in the classical Darwinian mode of thinking“ Woese said. “The time has come for biology to go beyond the Doctrine of Common Descent.”  So is Woese a creationist?  Not in the slightest; he proposes that three separate chemical processes led to the origin of life.  “His argument is built around evidence ‘from the three main cellular information processing systems’ - translation, transcription and replication - and he suggests that cellular evolution progressed in that order, with translation leading the way.”  Woese puts greater emphasis on horizontal transfer of information between living things and non-living precursors.  And where did the first information come from?  “The pivotal development in the evolution of modern protein-based cells, Woese said, was the invention of symbolic representation on the molecular level - that is, the capacity to ‘translate’ nucleic acid sequence into amino acid sequence.”  Scientific American has a summary of the paper that is published in the June 19 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Evolutionists are such cheaters.  They sneak in information in the unobservable past, when nowhere in the world is information do we see information arising from nonintelligent causes.  Woese, like all the others, personifies molecules inventing symbolic representation and translation capabilities, essentially pulling information out of the magic hat.  The value of this article is that one evolutionist is telling the others “Everything you know is wrong.”  It’s kind of fun to watch them do that to each other.
Woese is just hand-waving out of thin air.  He pictures molecules inventing all kinds of capabilities as if they were shipwreck victims landing on an island and figuring out how to work together and build a village and a government.  We need to call foul when evolutionists play these games.  In reality, this paper is very damaging to the chemical evolutionists.  Before he dives into this “murky world of cellular evolution,” as he terms it, he begins: “The evolution of modern cells is arguably the most important problem the field of Biology has ever faced.  In Darwin’s day the problem could hardly be imagined.  For much of the 20th century it was intractable.  In any case, the problem lay buried in the catch-all rubric “origin of life” where, because it is a biological not a (bio)chemical problem, it was effectively ignored.”  The problem is not solved by imposing pantheistic wish-fulfillment upon inanimate objects, in contradiction to their own naturalistic premise.  Exchanging ignorance for fantasy is not progress; ignorance is the lesser of two evils.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
Cell Journal Marvels at Complexity, but Assumes Darwinism   06/17/2002
Book reviews in scientific journals allow scientists to back off from the detail and jargon of a specific paper and comment on the big picture.  The
June 14 issue of Cell is loaded with book reviews that are a study in contrasts.  Details of cellular complexity and design are juxtaposed with simplistic evolutionary explanations.  Some examples (emphasis added):
  1. Standard Textbook:  Patrick Williamson reviews the standard text Molecular Biology of the Cell (4th ed., 2002) and refers to the “dramatic complexity of the cytoplasm” that began to be revealed with electron microscopes in the 1950's.  But in the end, he attributes it all “to natural selection in cobbling together solutions to pressing problems using the miscellaneous materials presented by gene duplication and mutation” ...
    In the past, we have sometimes spoken in deprecating tones of our scientific predecessors “stamp-collecting their way through the characterization of the phylogeny and life histories of the earth’s species.  Now, the genome projects have presented us with new sets of stamps to collect, characterize, describe, and explain.  Like our predecessors, we can’t usually reduce our insights into a few general principles because of the way organisms have evolved, but we can always anticipate growing satisfaction with the detail and clarity of our understanding of all the many instances we find.
  2. Mind Boggling Complexity:  Max Gottesman, in a review of Genes & Signals by Ptashne and Gann (2001), slaps his head over the complexity of enzyme actions:
    Recall the days of yesteryear when, for biologists, enzymes were enzymes and didn’t need any help in finding their substrates.  Alas, those simple times are long gone.  Instead we are faced with the horrible realization that proteins rarely see their ligands without being led by the nose to them.  So, for example, RNA polymerase once promptly landed on a promoter and revved up to transcribe a gene.  It turns out, in fact, that for most promoters, RNA polymerase requires additional proteins just to find the site.  And other proteins interfere with its attachment.  The number of such auxiliary factors, especially in eukaryotes, is mind boggling ... The situation is scarcely better in signal transduction.  A hormone can only relay its message to the nucleus via passage through a long series of proteins, most of which have to be spatially constrained to transmit the signal.  Even the simple matter of removing a piece of unwanted RNA from a transcript involves the assembly of a dozen or so proteins and RNAs, probably in a configuration that is highly specific.  The reason for all this is now quite clear.  Transcription cannot be ubiquitous, but is regulated by factors that respond to cellular environment, cell type, phases of the growth cycle, etc.  Similarly, transduced signals are not sprayed around the cell, but are channeled toward specific effectors, as determined by the special requirements of the cell at a particular point in time.
  3. Extreme Life:  Thomas Cavalier-Smith takes a hard look at D.A. Wharton’s Life at the Limits: Organisms in Extreme Environments (2002).  He likes the treatment of extremophiles and cryptobiotic organisms (those that can go into states of suspended animation), but criticizes his sparse treatment of the origin of life.  He believes, contrary to the author, that eubacteria–flagella and all–are our ancestors, not archaebacteria:
    The origin of biomolecules is much easier to understand if it occurred in a heterogeneous environment with geothermal activity to condense polymers and numerous small cool pools subject to freezing and drying to stabilize and concentrate them.  The breakthrough to the first organisms in which membranes, genes, and catalysts cooperated is also much easier to understand in a cool heterogeneous environment such as polar tide pools (Cavalier-Smith, J. Mol. Evol. 53, 555-595, 2001).  It seems much more likely that early proto-organisms were cryptobiotes, able to survive temporary freezing or drying, than thermophiles having to evolve the genetic code and membranes beside oceanic vents in the enormous volumes of the deep ocean, as seems currently popular in some circles.
  4. Nuclear Pores:  Amnon Harel and Douglass Forbes review Nuclear Transport (Karen Weiss, ed., 2001) and note some wonders of the nuclear pore complex:
    During the splicing process, mature mRNA, a very large cargo, appears to form a complex with a variety of distinct non-importin beta-type proteins that together mark the mRNA for export and participate in its egress from the nucleus. ...
    Indeed, it has been very difficult to confirm a specific translocation mechanism for the nuclear pore, which contains multiples of 30-50 different proteins in the final 500-1000 protein nuclear pore complex.
  5. RNA Complexity:  Martha J. Fedor reviews RNA (ed. Soll, Nishimura and Moore, 2001) and notes the bewildering complexity of RNA functions in this growing “complicated field”:
    The discovery that RNAs could catalyze biological reactions gave a clear indication that RNAs would not conform to the Central Dogma, which dictates that they exist solely to relay information between DNA genes and protein gene products.  Over the ensuing decades, RNAs have turned up unexpectedly as key players in myriad cellular activities, both fundamental and exotic. ...
    A new class of tiny noncoding RNAs (microRNAs) recently was implicated in developmental and spatial regulation of gene expression (Ambros, Cell 107, 823-826, 2001).  Really, it would be surprising if nature has stopped here in making use of this versatile macromolecule.
  6. Molecular Machines:  Ishii and Yanagida review Biology at the Single Molecule Level (ed. Leuba and Zlatanova, 2001) and show that the discovery of molecular machines is forcing a paradigm shift:
    The history of science has shown that new concepts frequently emerge and interpretations of the data become modified as more sophisticated and accurate measuring systems are developed.  New data allow us to emphasize different aspects of biological systems and to reveal aspects of those systems that had not previously been unveiled. ...
    As nanotechnologies have expanded, many researchers have realized that the laws that govern materials of nanometer size are very different to those applied to macroscopic machineries with which we are more familiar.  Nature, however, has already developed and utilized nanotech.  Life is full of nanomachines, and their functions are very different from artificial nanomachines. ... Researchers now know that protein molecules are more complex than the simple design the DNA information implies.  Studying the mechanism underlying protein functions is intriguing, and prerequisite are the techniques that allow us to monitor the dynamic structure of protein molecules and directly detect the functions of proteins.
  7. Homology and Evo-Devo  Richard R. Behringer in “Hand of man, wing of bat, fin of porpoise” reviews The Evolution of Developmental Pathways by Sunderland (2002).  He thinks Evo-Devo is the wave of the future:
    Biologists have always been fascinated by the astonishing diversity of metazoan life that has evolved on Earth.  It is now evident that extant species have evolved from common ancestors through genetic changes that are acted upon by natural selection.  In The Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin discussed the “law of embryonic resemblance.”  He and others before him had noted that plants and animals within the same great classes, though morphologically diverse in their adult forms, were remarkably similar in their embryonic forms.  For example, the limbs of vertebrates, including “the hand of a man, wing of a bat, and fin of a porpoise,” are morphologically and functionally distinct, yet they all develop from morphologically identical limb buds in their embryos.  Darwin suggested that the embryos of different species provided a glimpse of a common parent for the different classes of organisms, supporting his concept of descent with modification.  Thus was born the field of evolutionary developmental biology.
    He goes on to discuss the various controversies, questions, problems and conundrums in the field of evo-devo, but concludes it has a bright future thanks to television:
    Finally, the current movement in the Evo/Devo field suggests a bright future.  That future may be driven by those children who watched natural history programs on television and have been inspired to pursue studies and careers in biology.  I predict that these young biologists will not be satisfied studying a handful of primary model organisms.  I suspect that these enlightened individuals will have broader interests and will be naturally attracted to the Evo/Devo field to reveal the “hidden bond” described by Darwin that exists between common ancestors and current species.
  8. From Cytoplasm to Cytoskeletons  Don Ingber in “Putting the Cell Biology Establishment on the Stand” reviews Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life by Pollack (2001).  He slays the dragon of misconceptions that the cell is simply a bag of fluid:
    While our knowledge of the molecular widgets that comprise living cells has exploded beyond our wildest dream, our understanding of cell architecture and the relation between structure and function still remain rudimentary.  For example, one mainstream cell biology textbook defines the cell as “a small membrane-bounded compartment filled with a concentrated aqueous solution of chemicals,” like a balloon filled with molasses.  In fact, many biologists who work with molecules in isolation still share this view, as do virtually all lay people, including the congressmen and women who decide which science projects the government will invest in.  Pollack views this image as a dragon that must be slain and I cannot agree more.

    The living cell is a chemo-mechanical machine and it uses all forces and devices at its disposal-physical as well as chemical and electrical-to carry out its miraculous tasks.  The reality is that the cytoplasm is a molecular lattice, known as the cytoskeleton, that is permeated and insufflated by an aqueous solution.  The different molecular filaments that comprise the cytoskeleton-microfilaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments-position the cytoplasmic organelles.  But this is not a passive support system.  The same scaffolds orient many of the enzymes and substrates that mediate critical cell functions, including signal transduction, glycolysis, protein synthesis, transport, and secretion; analogous insoluble scaffolds mediate RNA processing and DNA replication within the nucleus.  This use of “solid-state” biochemistry greatly increases the efficiency of chemical reactions because they are no longer diffusion limited, and it provides a means to compartmentalize different cellular activities.  The cytoskeletal system also can dynamically grow and shrink within different microcompartments as a result of the action of specific molecular regulators. ... Indeed, it is through these varied functions of the cytoskeleton that living cells can exhibit behaviors that are far beyond anything observed in man-made materials.  The abilities of a cell to move its entire mass upstream against the flow of blood or contract against hundred pound weights are two simple examples.

    He critically examines Pollack’s attempt to pull a simpler, unifying framework out of the new complex picture of cell processes.
Two things should be clear from these examples: observational science reveals bewildering complexity and design in the cell; Darwinian stories, however, are just glittering generalities and personification fallacies.  It is a violation of their own naturalistic principles to portray Nature as a miracle-working goddess.  Give honor to whom honor is due.
For refutations of Behringer’s misguided claims about homology and embryonic similarities, see Jonathan Wells’ rebuttals of these icons of evolution.  Behringer seems to hope children watching oversimplified PBS Evolution programs will be sufficiently Darwinized early, before reading the truth about molecular machines in the journal Cell as college biology majors.  We think they would be better inspired and better educated by watching Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next amazing story.
First Life Had To Play It Cool   06/14/2002
Dr. Jeffrey Bada of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, a prominent astrobiologist, with a Mexican colleague, claims “Some Like It Hot, But Not the First Biomolecules.”  His article is in the
June 13 issue of Science.  While arguing against hydrothermal vents as likely places for life to self-organize, he scans the gamut of current thinking on the origin of life, and highlights the many problems that remain unsolved since Oparin first ventured a theory in the 1930s.  Some of the problems Bada mentions are:
  1. The formation of polymers from monomers is a “thermodynamically unfavorable process.”
  2. Organic soup molecules needed to be concentrated and localized.
  3. DNA can only last 100,000 years.
  4. RNA is much more fragile than DNA, yet RNA-world scenarios are among today’s top contenders.
  5. Proponents of non-RNA/DNA autocatalytic prebiotic reactions usually prefer hydrothermal vents, but “Various metabolic reaction schemes have been proposed and investigated, but none have been demonstrated to be autocatalytic.  Nor are there any empirical indications that this is even possible in a prebiotic context.”
  6. High-temperature scenarios for peptides are unlikely: ”... peptide bonds are also rapidly hydrolyzed at elevated temperatures.  The steady-state concentration of peptides under hydrothermal conditions is therefore problematic.”
  7. But was it too cold?  “Because of the reduced luminosity of the young Sun, Earth may indeed have been completely covered with ice during its early history.”  Yet the needed reactions proceed much more slowly in the cold.
  8. No future without accurate replication: “But regardless of its initial complexity, autocatalytic chemical-based metabolic life could not have evolved in the absence of a genetic replication mechanism ensuring the maintenance, stability, and diversification of its components.  In the absence of hereditary mechanisms, autotrophic reaction chains would have come and gone without leaving any direct descendants able to resurrect the process.”
  9. Information is required somehow: “Life as we know it consists of both chemistry and information.  If metabolic life existed on the early Earth, converting it to life as we know it would have required the emergence of some type of genetic information system.”
  10. How did prebiotic life survive the battlefield: “If the transition from abiotic chemistry to the first biochemistry on the early Earth indeed took place at low temperatures, it could have occurred during cold, quiescent periods between large, sterilizing impact events.  But regardless of how the first life arose, it may not have survived subsequent impacts.”
In conclusion, Bada rules out hot or warm environments such as hydrothermal vents.  That leaves only cold or cool environments where reactions would have been much slower, especially if the earth were icy.  But life needed to get a foothold, and somehow evolve an information system, between meteorite bombardments.  Maybe it happened, though, and more than once: “Life may have originated several times before surface conditions became tranquil enough for periods sufficiently long to permit the survival and evolution of the first living entities...”
These admissions are telling, coming from a believer in chemical evolution.  He does more to undermine the plausibility of chemical evolution than support it.  Not a shred of evidence does he present; just hope against all hope in a minefield of devastating problems.  Each one of these problems singlehandedly falsifies chemical evolution, and he didn’t even mention one of the worst: the mystery of left-handed proteins. His faith is stitched together with the words may and could have, found 15 places in the brief article, but at least he is honest about the problems.  It’s almost laughable at the end, though, when after walking past all these insurmountable hurdles, and not offering empirically plausible options, he speculates that the miracle of life originating by itself might have happened not just once, but multiple times!  For the coup de grace, read the next headline, below.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Cell’s DNA Translation Machinery Revealed in Unprecedented Detail   06/13/2002
Japanese scientists publishing in the
June 13 issue of Nature have revealed the molecular structure of the RNA polymerase holoenzyme, including its initiation factor, at 2.3 angstrom resolution (an angstrom is one ten billionth of a meter).  This enzyme is one of the most important molecular machines in the cell; “The DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RNAP) is the principal enzyme of the transcription process, and is a final target in many regulatory pathways that control gene expression in all living organisms.”  It builds all the RNA molecules: messenger RNA, transfer RNA, ribosomal RNA, and others.  Moreover, the machine consists of five subunits that “are evolutionarily conserved in sequence, structure and function from bacteria to humans.”
The color models show a complex structure shaped somewhat like a lobster claw.  It doesn’t work until the initiator named sigma (with four subunits itself), like a key, turns it on and attaches it to a promoter on the DNA molecule.  Then it ‘melts’ the DNA at that point and unwinds the section of DNA to be transcribed, and releases the promoter.  At that point, the machine undergoes a significant change in shape, and crawls along the strand, attaching RNA subunits into a chain.  Apparently, two precisely-placed magnesium ions at the active site are essential for this catalytic activity.  During the operation, the DNA appears to run through the cleft of the claw, the ‘active site’ somewhat like a zipper, with a series of alternating switch and trigger functions snapping together the ingredients and preparing the machine to move to the next step.  To get a feel for how the machine works as it moves along, here is their description, jargon and all:
Taken together, these structural data allow us to propose a possible mechanism for RNAP translocation during RNA synthesis.  At the step of ‘relaxation’ (after translocation, before the next reaction), the template base at position i+1 is paired with the substrate nucleoside triphosphate (NTP), the bridge helix is in an all -helical conformation, the Arg 1,096 bridges the i and i+2 DNA phosphates, and the flexible trigger loop is distal (rather than proximal) to the bridge -helix.  After phosphodiester bond formation, a signal induces the movement of the trigger loop towards the bridge -helix, pushing out the ‘switch’ residues.  In their flipped-out conformation, the switch residues may engage the DNA phosphate at position i+1 and bring the bridge -helix under the DNA backbone towards the i+2 nucleotide.  During this step, Arg 1,096 may also switch its interacting partner from DNA phosphates to the side chain of an acidic (polar) switch residue, thus simultaneously stabilizing the flipped-out conformation of the switch residues and facilitating the translocation of the enzyme.
The above is a description of one step along the chain, which in real life operates faster than a human hand can zip up a dress.
Update  The August 7 issue of the journal Structure has additional details about RNA polymerase, with detailed shaded models of how the DNA and RNA parts work their way through the clefts and clamps of this machine into the active site where the actual transcription occurs.
We are at an exciting time in scientific discovery when the actual molecular machinery of the cell is coming into focus with unprecedented detail.  In some ways, this time is even more exciting than 1676, when Leeuwenhoek was astonished to find millions of microscopic animals living in a drop of water.  Now we can zoom in 1000%, and what do we see?  a factory of actual machines made out of molecules, performing operations with a speed and efficiency unmatched by human engineering.  Remember that RNA polymerase does not act alone, but in concert with many other machines, such as gatekeepers, which expose the DNA strand from its carefully-guarded locked-up state, to proofreaders, which follow up the operation with quality control, and linemen, that provide disaster recovery – all under the control of regulatory factors.  If Leeuwenhoek liked the sneak preview, he should have seen the main show!
The authors note that this machinery is highly conserved (i.e., identical, unevolved) between bacteria and humans (and by inference, sharks, dinosaurs, giant Sequoias, grass, butterflies and earthworms).  It seems an insult to call anything a “lower form of life” any more.  Yet evolutionists believe humans and all these creatures evolved from bacteria, which evolved from simple molecules.  As we have seen so often, the authors of this paper merely assume evolution.  Nowhere in this paper do they explain how such a complex system came about.  The closest they come is to observe differences between a thermophile and a bacterium, and then to dismissively state, “This observation raises the possibility that these structural segments have evolved from a common ancestor.  Their structural similarity and the presence of HtH motifs suggest that the nonconserved ND1 region of [sigma, the initiator] might have served as an alternative DNA-binding site at some stage of evolution” (emphasis added)  That’s it.  No credible sequence of lucky accidents, each of which would have had to merit survival value or be eliminated, to explain how just a portion of the initiator element of this system could have evolved; just an assumption that it did evolve somehow, somewhere, somewhen.  Faith is too gentle a word for such credulity.
RNA polymerase is busily at work right now in your eyeball, liver, heart, brain, leg muscle, little finger, and every one of the trillions of cells in your body.  The remarkable action of this molecular machine is beautifully illustrated in the new film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, which we highly recommend.  Seeing RNA polymerase in action, in the context of a multitude of other complex machines coordinating their actions in a symphony of manufacture, will make you stand up and shout “Glory!”.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Evolution 2002 Film Festival Planned   06/12/2002
The
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has planned its Evolution 2002 conference for June 29 to July 2, with symposia, exhibits, public outreach and a film festivalSciNews also talks about the conference.
One of the films being shown is the episode from the 1941 Walt Disney classic Fantasia, the Rite of Spring piece that purports to give a “coldly accurate portrayal of the history of the earth.”  This, of course, is a mindless, purposeless, undirected panorama of galaxies and stars forming out of the void, an early earth pummeled by meteorites and floods, life arising spontaneously and evolving upward to dinosaurs battling in blood and gore and survival of the fittest, only to perish from a drought (this was before the meteor impact theory).  Word has it that Stravinsky, the composer, who had become a Christian, was critical of this distortion of his work.
At one point early in the story, the tableau descends into the ocean where living cells just magically appear – a classic example of the power of visualization propaganda.  Thus Disney perpetuated the pervasive myth of spontaneous generation in spite of the work of Leeuwenhoek and Pasteur.  1941 puts Fantasia after Oparin’s first tentative theories on chemical evolution, but before the heady days of Miller and Fox (early 50's), and well before the discovery that cells are factories of DNA-coded molecular machines.  Well, after all, this is Disney, where imagination is king.  Let’s hope the organizers of Evolution 2002 point out the flaws in Disney’s “coldly accurate” portrayal of earth history.
Fantasia is well named: by definition, a fantasia is “a work (as a poem or play) in which the author’s fancy roves unrestricted; something possessing grotesque, bizarre, or unreal qualities.”  The Rite of Spring episode fits perfectly with the dancing mushrooms, frolicking centaurs, waltzing hippos in tutus and partying demons in the rest of the movie, and should be viewed as such.  If Evolution 2002 organizers think Fantasia is good public outreach to present evolution, they need to move out of Fantasyland and get back on Main Street.
Next headline on: Movies.
Mutant Bacteria Battle for the Fittest   06/11/2002
A team from the University of Southern California mutated some bacteria by damaging combinations of their three transcription genes (DNA polymerase).  Then they put them in the boxing ring to see which could outcompete each other.  The mutants had varying levels of success against each other, but none of them could stand up to Mr. Wild-Type (the unmutated champ).  Then, they starved the mutant populations to see which ones could start the GASP reaction (growth advantage in stationary phase), a survival response that normally occurs after 99% of the population dies.  Some were able to GASP more or less than others.  In spite of the crippling by mutations, the authors believe that a subset of the mutations “may provide the mutational ‘raw material’ on which natural selection acts during the evolution of bacterial populations. ... replication persists, under most conditions, whether or not the mismatch repair system is functioning, allowing the propagation of missense mutations.  When the types of DNA lesions that induce the repair polymerases are encountered, replication often halts, with dire consequences for the cell. ... Given the observation that all three SOS pols can perform in both an error-prone or error-free manner, beyond the repair of DNA damage, these data support a model in which these alternative DNA polymerase enzymes are important for the generation of genetic diversity under normal physiological conditions.”  The paper is published in the
June 11 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What?  The data don’t support any such conclusion.  In the first place, all the complex transcription genes and enzymes already existed.  In the second place, none of the mutants showed any advantage over the wild type; they were all clearly less fit and unable to compete.  Imagine a boxing ring with the heavyweight champion competing against five physically disabled individuals.  As long as the champion is outside the ring, a winner may appear between the disabled ones, but once the champion is in the ring, it’s no contest.  Is this scenario supposed to demonstrate evolution?  These authors showed no evidence that any new information, function, or ability arose by random mutations.  They only showed that existing capabilities, even under stress, can sometimes limp along for awhile.  Though given a bluffing title and listed in the category Evolution, this paper provides no support whatsoever that increased fitness can arise from mutation.  You wouldn’t catch that if you just read the title and the abstract; the vacuum is found in the body of the paper.  What the facts reveal is an already-existing complex system of transcription and repair (the SOS response), that give evidence of intelligent design and robustness.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Article 06/11/2002: “Darwin would love this debate,” claim Bruce Chapman and Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute in a short piece in the Seattle Times June 10, discuss results of the recent Zogby Poll.  On WorldNetDaily June 1, Benjamin Wiker, also of Discovery, asks, “Is Science Democratic?”
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.

Do Protein Sequences Demonstrate Evolution?   06/11/2002
Three scientists writing in the
June 7 Journal of Molecular Biology explore “compensatory covariation” as a possible means to discern evolutionary trees in protein sequences.  Compensatory covariation is something like having pairs of charges that need to match; if one switches from positive to negative, its partner must switch from negative to positive for the pair to continue to match, or else the protein might suffer a drastic change.  The authors look for signs of compensatory covariation among evolutionary trees but find the signal weaker than expected: “Even given these results, and the evidence that the charge compensatory substitution signal can only become stronger as the database grows, it remains inescapable that the charge compensatory signal is weak, perhaps even weaker than expected.  What might be the scientific implications of this observation?”  They explore some possibilities, including the controversial view that functionally conserved proteins are scarce: controversial, because the majority view is neutral evolution, that similar proteins can be considered functionally identical.  They conclude with hope their method will be potentially useful in comparative genomics, although to this point its results appear ambiguous.  The paper is entitled, “Detecting Compensatory Covariation Signals in Protein Evolution Using Reconstructed Ancestral Sequences,” by Fukami-Kobayashi, Schreiber and Benner.

As shown so often in these pages, evolutionary reconstructions based on DNA and proteins are ambiguous and equivocal.  As usual, the authors end up hoping that more light will be shed in the future.  It’s more vaporware.  The title looks impressive, and a casual scan might make it appear this is another paper with evidence for molecular evolution, but where is it?  Maybe this, maybe that, maybe something else– the authors waffle on why a clear family tree is not jumping out of the data.  They make this clear admission of the flaws and circular reasoning in the software methods for constructing evolutionary trees (emphasis added):
Getting the branching correct in an evolutionary tree is a difficult problem. Part of the difficulty arises because of the trade-off between the accuracy of the tree and the cost of generating it. ... Ancestral sequences reconstructed by parsimony are well known to be sensitive to incorrect branching topology. This is the principal error associated with the choice of this inexpensive reconstruction tool.
More sophisticated methods, including maximum likelihood methods, are expected to provide better trees, at least given the first-order stochastic [i.e., random] models.  These are expected to generate ancestral reconstructions that are more robust to errors in tree topology.  They are, however, more expensive.
Even the more expensive tools do not guarantee a correct tree, of course.  In practice, the approximations made in the model (see Introduction) may create systematic error larger than fluctuation errorTo date, the only way to benchmark a tree requires knowledge of the evolutionary history of the sequences in question, or a reconstruction of a simulated evolutionary process.  The first is difficult to get for sequences emerging from natural history.  The second requires a mathematical model for evolution, which is often the same one that is used to construct the tree in the first place.
This is Finagle’s Rule #3 in action: “Draw your curves, then plot your data.”  In other words, they have to already know the evolutionary tree they want to make sure the results of the computer simulation are correct!  They offer only hope that their method may provide an independent check, but then the example they provide leads to their observation that the signal is weaker than expected.  As we have seen often with scientific papers on evolution, the lack of evidence, and the scrambling they do to explain it, is the most interesting and revealing aspect of the paper.  See the May 28 entry for another example.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Permian Volcanism in Siberia Doubles   06/10/2002
Lava flows of Permian age a million cubic kilometers in extent, twice as much as previously thought, cover much of Siberia, an area twice the size of Europe and a million times larger than the Kilauea rift on Hawaii.  The paper in the
June 7 online issue of Science says this is the largest by volume of all lava-flood deposits.  Scientists are wondering if this volcanic episode, occurring “within a relatively short period of time,” might account for the mass extinction at the end of the Permian, but Nature Science Update says, “No one knows exactly how big these effects might have been, or how they might have affected life on the planet.”
There is clear evidence for catastrophism in this report, illustrating further that uniformitarianism is dead (Lyell’s hypothesis that did much to cause Darwin to doubt the Genesis record), but the statements about mass extinction and dating are speculative, based on evolutionary assumptions.  The potassium-argon and argon-argon dating methods are unreliable for dating volcanic deposits.  This new find argues against the meteor impact hypothesis for the Permian extinction, but is not the only evidence for volcanic catastrophes.    Other large flood-lava deposits are found around the world, in the Snake River plain of Idaho, the Columbia River basin of Oregon, and the Deccan traps in India, for example.  In addition, there have been huge explosive eruptions at Yellowstone and Long Valley Caldera in California that covered vast areas of North America with volcanic ash.  These episodes, larger than anything known in human history, and their relic remains indicate that worldwide volcanism has been on the decline, consistent with a flood model within biblical chronology.  The Bible clearly states that all the fountains of the great deep burst forth on one day, causing a mass extinction of all life on earth except for those on the ark.  This account of the extinction is not based on circumstantial evidence, like the evolutionists’ story (that keeps changing), but on the Word of God.
Next headline on: Geology.
No Clear Pattern Found in Leaf Evolution   06/07/2002
A team of biologists writing in the
June 7 online issue of Science compared genes that control leaf development in a plants and did not find a clear evolutionary pattern.  They found that a gene called KNOX1 is down-regulated at the start of complex leaf formation; “However, complex primordia may mature into simple leaves.  Therefore, not all simple leaves develop similarly, and final leaf morphology may not be an adequate predictor of homology.”  They explain:
Phylogenetic analyses of leaf evolution (Fig. 2) reveal that the ancestral angiosperm had simple leaves (19, 20), and that complex leaves repeatedly arose from these simple-leaved ancestors (on average 29 "gains") and reverted (on average six "losses") to the ancestral simple form. ...  This indicates that neither all simple nor all complex leaves are homologous [similar owing to common ancestry (21)].  Complex leaves are generally assumed to be nonhomologous (22), but simple leaves are generally assumed to be homologous and, therefore, developmentally similar.  Our observations in Lepidium suggest that the latter assumption may not always be correct.
They noted that ferns have complex leaves that do not down-regulate the KNOX1 gene, and a similar developmental pattern is found in certain legumes, including peas.
As we have seen so often, there is no clear evolutionary pattern in the genes.  The variety of leaf shapes and sizes in the plant kingdom is phenomenal.  Molecular biologists long hoped that the genes would tell the family history, but as we have seen often, the picture is confused.  The authors admit that complex leaves appear to have evolved 29 times and devolved back to simple leaves six times, and that’s just from studying one set of genes at one stage in leaf development.  Remember also that the origin of flowering plants was Darwin’s “abominable mystery” that remains unsolved (see our headlines on May 3 and Jan. 30 and Apr 3, 2001 on this topic).  Observers throughout history have noticed similar structures in living things (homology) adapted for different purposes.  Darwinists attributed these similarities to common ancestry.  Unfortunately for them, the ancestral pattern they hoped to find in the genes has proved equivocal.  For background on problems with the homology argument for evolution, see this article by Jonathan Wells and Paul Nelson, Homology: A Concept in Crisis.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Human Language Evolves by Natural Selection   06/06/2002
A trio of scientists writing in the
June 6 Nature believes language should be included in evolutionary theory:
Language is our legacy.  It is the main evolutionary contribution of humans, and perhaps the most interesting trait that has emerged in the past 500 million years.  Understanding how darwinian evolution gives rise to human language requires the integration of formal language theory, learning theory and evolutionary dynamics.  Formal language theory provides a mathematical description of language and grammar.  Learning theory formalizes the task of language acquisition-it can be shown that no procedure can learn an unrestricted set of languages.  Universal grammar specifies the restricted set of languages learnable by the human brain.  Evolutionary dynamics can be formulated to describe the cultural evolution of language and the biological evolution of universal grammar.
They feel the same evolutionary rules can be applied to language as to biology, because DNA is also a language:
Biology uses generative systems.  Genomes consist of an alphabet of four nucleotides, which, together with certain rules for how to produce proteins and organize cells, generates an unlimited variety of living organisms.  For more than 3 billion years, evolution of life on Earth was restricted to using this generative system.  Only very recently another generative system emerged, which led to a new mode of evolution.  This other system is human language.  It enables us to transfer unlimited non-genetic information among individuals, and it gives rise to cultural evolution.
They propose a multidisciplinary approach to human language “to study language as a biological phenomenon, as a product of evolution.”  After discussing things like Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar (UG), and exploring aspects of language from these various approaches, they list several unanswered questions about human language, and to answer them, propose combining all approaches under the aegis of evolution:  “The study of language as a biological phenomenon will bring together people from many disciplines including linguistics, cognitive science, psychology, genetics, animal behaviour, evolutionary biology, neurobiology and computer science.  Fortunately we have language to talk to each other.”
This is evolutionism run amok.  Applying mutation and natural selection to abstract concepts like language is out of line, in spite of their impressive-looking differential equations and bluffing terminology.  Words and semantics of human speech are not carried in the germ line, nor are they going to by mutated by cosmic rays.  But these authors stretch mutation and natural selection of universal grammar into abstractions that take on a life of their own.  This is crazy; it’s like applying quantum theory to a Lakers game and explaining missed shots by the uncertainty principle (worse, because natural selection is a vacuous concept, unlike quantum theory).  You can’t do this to language.  Where are the Darwinist umpires calling foul?  Why does Nature publish illegal procedure?
This kind of thinking comes from reductionist materialism that cannot handle ideas as being fundamentally different from matter.  Language is conveyed by means of matter, via physical organs like vocal cords and brains, but it is non-material, and as such, cannot be expressed in terms of genetic mutations and natural selection.  They don’t seem to realize, also, that their premise shoots itself in the foot; if language is a product of undirected natural forces, then meaning has no ultimate validity, therefore this paper is meaningless as well.  “Fortunately we have language to talk to each other,” they say, but from an evolutionary point of view, talk is not only cheap, it’s worthless.
Look at two examples of these authors becoming intoxicated on Dar-wine:
  1. “The basic approach is similar to evolutionary game theory.  [We have dealt with the fallacy of game theory elsewhere.]  There is a population of individuals.  [Agreed.]  Each individual uses a particular language.  [OK so far.]  Individuals talk to each other.  [We’re learning a lot here.]  Successful communication results in a pay-off that contributes to fitness.”  [Come again?  Who pays whom with words that are worthless, and who decides what is fit?]  Remember, they are seeing these concepts in biological terms; the minds and personalities and ideas of the speakers are illusions.  They view humanness, with all its richness of relationship and communication, as just a product of materialistic selection.  Think about that the next time you talk to someone.

  2. “Creolization is the formation of a new language by children receiving mixed input.”  So instead of seeing bad grammar as a symptom of bad education, they see speaking Creole as the fodder for evolutionary progress.  Maybe in the cave Dad said “Grog!” but Mom said “Ugh!”, so Junior says “Grugh!” and in a few hundred thousand years we have the Iliad.  So don’t correct your kid; she’s evolving.  Are these the same people who gave us Ebonics?  Do you want your high school grad going to college to study under professors who are so evolution-minded they teach that mutated speech is a good thing, and teach the humanities as games being played by selfish memes?  (Meme: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture, evolving by natural selection.)  Try this science project: translate their paper into pig latin, jive, redneck* or moron and see if it evolves into improved communication.
In spite of their bluffing that evolution will provide the ultimate theory of language, look at the unanswered questions in their conclusion: “Some theoretical questions are: what is the interplay between the biological evolution of UG and the cultural evolution of language?  What is the mechanism for adaptation among the various languages generated by a given UG?  ... Some empirical questions are: what is the actual language learning algorithm used by humans?  What are the restrictions imposed by UG?  Can we identify genes that are crucial for linguistic or other cognitive functions?  What can we say about the evolution of those genes?“  These questions reveal that their evolutionary approach is nothing but vaporware
Reality check time.  What do the observations show?  A vast gap between ape and human communication.  Human language that is highly developed from the start; the cultures considered primitive sometimes have the most complex verbs and grammars.    Civilizations that are already using language, bookkeeping, and contracts from earliest times (look at this June 1 story from Syria for instance).  This is the real world, folks.  Don’t blame your bad grammar on beneficial mutations, or excuse your thoughts as artifacts of evolving memes.  We are personally responsible for our thoughts, and words mean things.  Communication did not evolve; in the beginning was the Word.

* Here’s the results of our in silico science project.  We translated the first paragraph of their paper into redneck.  See if the communication is evolving....

Langage is our leg, uh see.  It is th’ main evolushunry corntribushun of hoomins, an’ perhaps the dawgoned-est interestin’ trait thet has emerged in th’ past 500 millon yars.  Unnerstan’in’ how darwinian evolushun gives raz t’hoomin langage requires the integrashun of fo’mal langage theo’y, larnin’ theo’y an’ evolushun-airy dahnamics.  Fo’mal langage theo’y provahds a madematical dexcripshun of langage an’ grammah.  Larnin’ theo’y fo’malizes th’ tax of langage acquisishun–it kin be shown thet no procedure kin larn an unrestricked set o’ langages.  Unyversal grammar specifaz th’ restricked set of langages larnable by th’ hoomin brain, as enny fool kin plainly see.  Evolushunry dahnamics kin be fo’mulated t’dexcribe th’ culchul evolushun o’ langage an’ th’ biological evolushun o’ unyversal grammah, ah reckon.
For our second input, we translate it into Cockney:
Am sandwich is us legacy. It is the bloody main evolutionary contribution of ’umans, right, and peraps the most interestin’ trait that ’as emerged in the past 500 million years. Understandin’ ’ow darwinian evolution gives rise ter human ’am sandwich requires the integration of formal ’am sandwich theory, learnin’ theory and evolutionary dynamics. Formal ’am sandwich theory provides a maffematical description of ’am sandwich and grammar. Learnin’ theory formalizes the chuffin’ task of ’am sandwich acquisition-it can be shown that no procedure can learn an unrestricted set of ’am sandwichs. Universal grammar specifies the chuffin’ restricted set of ’am sandwichs learnable by the human Michael Caine. Evolutionary dynamics can be formulated ter describe the bleedin’ cultural evolution of ’am sandwich and the biological evolution of universal grammar. 
Finally, we Creolize the two, to see if these mixed inputs yield an improvement in communication:
Am san’wich is us legacy  It is th’ bloody main evolushunary corntribushun of ’umans, right, an’ peraps the most interestin’ trait thet ’as emerged in th’ past 500 million years  Unnerstan’in’ ’ow darwinian evolushun gives rise ter hoomin ’am san’wich requires th’ integrashun of fo’mal ’am san’wich theo’y, larnin’ theo’y an’ evolushunary dynamics  Fo’mal ’am san’wich theo’y provides a maffematical dexcripshun of ’am san’wich an’ grammar  Larnin’ theo’y fo’malizes th’ chuffin’ tax of ’am san’wich acquisishun-it kin be shown thet no procedure kin larn an unrestricked set of ’am san’wichs  Unyversal grammar specifies the chuffin’ restricked set of ’am san’wichs larnable by th’ hoomin Ichabod Caine  Evolushunary dynamics kin be fo’mulated ter dexcribe th’ bleedin’ cultura evolushun of ’am san’wich an’ th’ biological evolushun of unyversal grammar.
Conclusion: communication subjected to mutation appears to obey the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Fossil Diversity Tied to CO2 Levels   06/05/2002
Three American biologists claim to have found a statistically significant correlation between the diversification of marine organisms and levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere.  The more CO2, the more new species arose, they say.  The paper is in the
June 4 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled, “Documenting a significant relationship between macroevolutionary origination rates and Phanerozoic pCO2 levels.”
Both data sources are dated on the assumption of evolution, so they are correlating two circular arguments together, and they pretty much admit it: “Conceivably there are similar systematic biases in the two databases.  We propose, however, hypotheses linking macroevolution and paleoenvironment.”  Thus, they choose the category of explanation that fits their evolutionary bias.  This is the same kind of reasoning that correlates sunspots to the stock market.  But their theory generates more questions than answers.  Why would more species originate because of more carbon dioxide?  They fail to support any plausible theory, other than to speculate out of thin air, why more carbon dioxide would lead to more macroevolution.  And since “Global warming is often associated with high CO2 levels, and the two most extensive and long-lasting glaciations during the Phanerozoic occurred at times of low CO2 levels,” maybe global warming is a good thing, because it increases biodiversity.  So down with the Kyoto treaty!  And stop blaming humans for global warming, because it happened naturally in cycles over millions of years.  Are these the conclusions the authors want drawn from their paper?  Doubt it.
Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Model of Tooth Evolution Lacks Bite   06/04/2002
A pair of biologists publishing in the
June 4 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes a model for the evolution of mammal teeth, focusing on teeth because they are good subjects for comparative anatomy in living animals and fossils.  They produced a mathematical formula that incorporates known gene families, including activators and inhibitors of cell growth, that could predict, by tweaking the parameters slightly, the known cusp patterns on molars of a mouse and a vole.  Calling their model “morphodynamic,” they feel that the actual shape of the developing tooth has “a causal role in patterning,” and that “Large morphological effects frequently can be achieved by small changes.”  They admit, however, that modeling the phenotype (outward appearance) from the genotype (DNA) is challenging.  Nevertheless, they feel they have shown a potentially fruitful approach to modeling other things like the face, brain, feathers, limbs and various branching organs, where large effects may not require extensive genetic changes.  As they succinctly summarize their view, “shape during development matters.”
We struggled hard to give these scientists the benefit of the doubt that this is not a Lamarckian model based on circular reasoning, as it first appeared.  You have to respect anyone who gets into the nitty gritty details and really tries to come up with a rigorous model of how evolution works, and tries to check it against both genetics, embryology and the fossil record.  However, this paper fails to support evolutionary theory at all, we feel, for the following reasons:
  1. Initial Conditions.  They started with a fully-operational gene network of the 50 known genes involved in tooth development, and with fully-operational activator and inhibitor enzymes, epithelial and mesenchymal cells, and the works.  How could such a complex, interacting system ever evolve?
  2. Oversimplification.  Their model was tested only against one molar tooth on just two rodents.  They only explored the developmental stages before mineralization occurs.  They focused on one tiny part to the exclusion of more serious evolutionary challenges, like the root, dentine, enamel, and organization of all the teeth in the jaw, the brains to operate the teeth, and a host of other interconnected phenomena that need explaining.  They excluded many other factors, genetic and environmental, that might influence the outcome.
    They admit that “the large number of expressed genes in developing teeth may be needed to mediate the basic gene network interactions in individual molecular cascades ... or affect the basic parameters of the network to fine-tune and buffer development.  We therefore propose that although gene networks regulating development seem highly complex, the underlying principles of the network organization may be relatively simple.” Thus they sweep immensely complex challenges under the rug.
  3. Microevolution.  Their model only deals with cusp patterns on a molar.  A mouse could have a slightly different cusp pattern and still be a mouse.  Therefore, this model has little to do with speciation or evolution in the Darwinian sense.
  4. Adaptation.  They fail to explain how teeth become adapted to provide the animal a benefit large enough to aid survival and be propagated.  Their model says nothing about the adaptive value of pattern differences.  It could be argued that this is a paper about reverse engineering, not evolution.
  5. Lamarckism.  They fail to show how patterns, once established, would be propagated in the germ line.  This makes it another theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, long discredited in evolutionary circles.
  6. Teleology.  They claim that the shape of the developing tooth has a causal role in its patterning, yet the pattern is important for function.  If it were a purposeless cause, why would it produce function?  Why would it produce the observed variety of teeth: incisors, molars, bicuspids, walrus tusks, beaver gnawing teeth, and thousands more specialized teeth, all perfectly adapted?
  7. Circular Reasoning.  They assume evolution rather than prove it.  Evolution is spoken of as an already given fact, even though details are “challenging” and their own model lacks an actual mechanism for producing adaptive function from undirected natural forces.
  8. Bluffing.  In their abstract, they say “our model predicts the course of tooth-shape development in different mammalian species and also reproduces key transitions in evolution.”  It does no such thing.
  9. Extrapolation.  In spite of all the above weaknesses, they feel they have hit on an idea that could explain feathers, brains, limbs, and the whole of animal diversity – a belief unjustified by the data they present.
  10. Narrow Mindedness.  They fail to consider alternatives, like design.
Here at Creation-Evolution Headlines, we hunt for the nuts and bolts of evolutionary theory as written in the scientific journals, not just the popularizations.  The peer review process should be catching these weaknesses; instead, unsupportable theorizing passes review, simply because it is mechanistic.  Evolutionists feel that evolution is such an established fact, and that naturalism equals science, that any explanation that invokes only natural causes is permissible, even if it has severe weaknesses (the Best-In-Field Fallacy).  And they feel it is perfectly all right to theorize about one tiny aspect of evolution, like the shape of cusps on a molar tooth, even if the model is oversimplified and has problems, as long as it could plausibly fit into the big picture of evolution somehow.  But every step has problems!  The whole evolutionary edifice is a house of cards like this paper – follow our “Darwin” chain links and see for yourself if anything they claim is solid, observable, testable science.  It doesn’t have to be, you see, because they already know in their heart that it is true.  The question-begging in the evolutionary mindset is so entrenched, it seems hopeless to ever get rational scientists to see their own illogic.  This is a good time to read the quote by Dr. Standish at the top of this page.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory..
National Geographic Considers Flood Myths Worth Investigating   06/04/2002
“New finds worldwide support flood myths,” says a news report on the
National Geographic website.  The article talks about widely-separated instances of sunken cities, one off the coast of Cuba, and one in India, apparently tied to local legends of large floods sent by angry gods.  “Scientists, historians, and archaeologists view many of these enduring tales as myth, legend, or allegoric tales meant to illustrate moral principles.  Recent findings indicate that at least a few of them could be based on real floods that caused destruction on an enormous scale,” writes Brian Handwerk for NG News.  The Cuban structures are underwater as deep as 2500 feet.  The Indian site covers several square miles off the coast.  Explorer Graham Handcock’s initial reaction was disbelief: “I have argued for many years that the world’s flood myths deserve to be taken seriously–a view that most Western academics reject.  But here in Mahabalipuram we have proved the myths right and the academics wrong.”
These two finds are more recent than Noah’s flood, but Hancock’s last comment deserves reflection.
Next headline on: Geology.
Cosmic “Law of Everything” Far From Consensus   06/04/2002
The July
Astronomy Magazine is on newsstands (they come out early, you know), and editor Bonnie Bilyeu Gordon laments the fact that every time they feature a story on cosmology or theoretical astrophysics, they get a lot of mail, some of which “question the evidence for such things as string theory, membrane theory, supersymmetry, inflation, even the Big Bang.  We don’t blame you for being confused or challenged by such ideas; the evidence for many of these subjects is not always easy to understand.  And all of the theories change as they develop.”  She describes her attendance at a recent conference on “Science and the Ultimate Reality” at Princeton (March 15-18), in which “Every accepted point of view was represented, and many of the speakers contradicted one another.  At times these astrophysicists got cranky with one another.”  She explains that even the editors of Astronomy “sometimes squabble over the validity of a cosmology story (and other things)” so it’s no surprise that readers have lots of questions.
The cover story on dark energy, “Moving Right Along: The accelerating universe holds secrets to dark energy, the Big Bang, and the ultimate beauty of nature” by Mario Livio, lives up to the confusion, presenting several highly speculative and contradictory theories, and asking “Are we facing a breakdown of some of our most cherished theories of the universe?”  But the article contains a sidebar “Is There Beauty in Nature?” on p. 38 with this quote by Kepler: “Geometry, which before the origin of things was coeternal with the divine mind, supplied God with patterns for the creation of the world.”
Notice that secular cosmologists are not converging on a theory of everything.  The observations that led to a theory of dark energy a few years ago were totally unexpected, for instance, and simplistic explanations of the Big Bang have to face nasty details that get in the way like the lumpiness and flatness and entropy problems, to say nothing of philosophical criticisms about imagining multiple universes or creating everything out of a quantum fluctuation.  If the worlds’ brainiest cosmologists contradict one another and get cranky with each other, should we mere mortals just meekly accept their stories?  Maybe their whole approach is wrong, forcing the Copernican principle far beyond Copernicus, degrading the place of man in the scheme of things, and assuming that beautiful architecture is capable of building itself out of nothing.  The Greek word cosmos, remember, means beautiful, orderly design.  Made perfect sense to Kepler that there was a Designer behind it.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
The Universe Is a Giant Computer   06/03/2002
Seth Lloyd, a Cambridge physicist writing in the
June 10 Physical Review Letters has imagined the universe being like a giant computer.  Treating each change in quantum states as a kind of calculation, he figured it has the capacity to have performed 10120 operations on 1090 bits.  Nature Science Update asks if this is computing, what is the problem it is trying to solve?  “What, then, is the Universe computing?  ‘Its own dynamical evolution’, says Lloyd.  As the computation proceeds, reality unfolds.”
Pantheism.  A flawed analogy based on the fallacy of personification
Actually, this paper supports belief in a computer-Maker.  Assume that the computer-universe runs through all possible computations without an intelligent Programmer directing it.  James F. Coppedge in Evolution: Possible or Impossible? estimated the chance of getting a single protein molecule by chance, under ideal conditions (with generous concessions to make it easier to succeed), at 1 in 10161.  If there are only 10120 operations possible in our computer-universe, you would need ten thousand billion trillion quadrillion computer-universes to expect to get one lucky protein by chance.  And such a protein would not be alive; next, you have to keep running the program in 10119850 more computer-universes to get 238 additional proteins to work with it, then worry about the DNA code, etc. etc.  Now, if you were stuck in one of these computer-universes that didn’t succeed (and you are an atheist), you might want to call Tech Support but nobody would ever answer. 
Next dumb story.
(Hint: This computer-universe is infected and beyond repair.  Get the upgrade.

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Featured Creation Scientist for June

Leonhard Euler
1707 - 1783

Let’s take a look this month at a true story of a very interesting individual, one whose name will ring a bell for anyone who has studied higher mathematics, because his name is associated with dozens of theorems, proofs, algorithms, constants and laws.  Though not a scientist by training, he contributed immeasurably to science by advancing its language (mathematics) and its toolkit of operations.  According to math professor Howard Anton, he “made major contributions to virtually every branch of mathematics as well as to the theory of optics, planetary motion, electricity, magnetism, and general mechanics.”  His name was Leonhard Euler (pronounced oiler), a true genius who was also a committed Christian all his life.

Euler was so smart it’s almost scary.  In his thick textbook Calculus, Howard Anton includes brief biographies of famous mathematicians; his entry on Euler sounds like an episode from Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” –

Euler was probably the most prolific mathematician who ever lived.  It has been said that, “Euler wrote mathematics as effortlessly as most men breathe.” .... Euler’s energy and capacity for work were virtually boundless.  His collected works form about 60 to 80 quarto sized volumes and it is believed that much of his work has been lost.  What is particularly astonishing is that Euler was blind for the last 17 years of his life, and this was one of his most productive periods!  Euler’s flawless memory was phenomenal.  Early in his life he memorized the entire Aeneid by Virgil and at age 70 could not only recite the entire work, but could also state the first and last sentence on each page of the book from which he memorized the work.  His ability to solve problems in his head was beyond belief.  He worked out in his head major problems of lunar motion that baffled Isaac Newton and once did a complicated calculation in his head to settle an argument between two students whose computations differed in the fiftieth decimal place.

This gives us cause to ponder the possibilities inherent in the human brain.  It makes us wonder what initial abilities the Creator gave to man that have been degenerating since the creation, only to surface occasionally to above-average levels in rare geniuses like Euler.  It also makes us wonder how any theory of evolution could ever produce such a superabundance of potential, far more than needed for mere survival.  The ability to perform abstract, symbolic reasoning in the human mind, unknown in the animal kingdom, provides strong evidence for the special creation of man.  Nothing comes from nothing.  A mind as gifted as Euler’s could only come from a bigger Mind, one that is all-knowing and infinite in wisdom and knowledge.

Did Euler’s genius make him an aloof braggart or freakish savant?  Not at all.  He was a gracious and unselfish person, a loving father of a large family, a teacher, a diplomatic gentleman and a man of deep faith and conviction.  People loved and respected him.  He was a hard worker and a lover of the truth.  There are no indications he thought highly of himself, but that he pursued his area of expertise in the desire to advance knowledge and aid the sciences.  But when it came time to defend his faith, he was prepared, like Pascal, to take up the challenge.

Leonhard’s father was a pastor who also enjoyed mathematics.  After home- schooling the boy for his elementary years, Paul Euler sent his son to the University of Basel, Switzerland (their home town), hoping he would follow in his theological footsteps.  Though faithful to his Calvinistic upbringing all his life, Leonhard’s interest and proficiency in geometry convinced his father a change of career was warranted.  Tutored under Johann Bernoulli, Leonhard by age 16 had a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in philosophy, and by 18 was doing mathematical research and producing original work that continued unabated for the next six decades.  His career took him beyond the University of Basel to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in Russia, and for 25 years to the Berlin Academy of Sciences, then back to Russia.  In this brief biography, we are more interested in the beliefs and personal life of this amazing individual, who singlehandedly was responsible for about a third of all mathematical output of the 18th century.

Christian living was a practical reality, not a Sunday formality, to Euler.  Dan Graves, in his excellent chapter on Euler in Scientists of Faith says, “Despite his turn to math, Euler retained his firm Calvinist beliefs throughout life, holding daily prayer and worship in his home and sometimes preaching.”  Unable to find work in Switzerland, Leonhard moved to St. Petersburg, Russia where, at age 26, he met and married another Swiss emigrant, Katharina Gsell, his bride for 40 years. Graves describes their family life: “Katharina bore him thirteen children, whom he loved dearly.  He often carried on his work with children sitting on his lap or clinging to his back.”  But Dan Graves also illustrates a theme we have seen often in these biographies, that the individuals we know primarily for their intellectual achievements were real human beings who often had to overcome severe trials and misfortunes.

Not only did Euler lose sight in one eye at age 28 while straining on a particularly difficult problem, he lost sight of his other eye at age 59 in great pain, as Graves describes: “An operation to restore the better of the two was successful, but infection invaded both eyes.  After horrible agony he permanently lost his sight.  He later said that only his faith in God enabled him to bear those days of torment.”  As stated earlier, however, some of his greatest work was yet to come, fully half his lifetime output, as Euler wrote out his complex derivations on “the black slate of his mind.”  Taking this disability in stride, he said, “Now I will have less distraction.”

Additional trials came from political and philosophical enemies.  In his thirties, Euler moved from an unstable political situation in Russia, when spies were everywhere and purges were the rule, and worked under the Prussian emperor Frederick the Great.  There he served 25 years and added immensely to the prestige of the Berlin Academy of Sciences.  But his patron Frederick, an Enlightenment skeptic, sneered at the Christian faith of his niece’s tutor.  In response, Euler wrote Letters to a German Princess, in which he gently combined piety with the sciences.  The book became a best-seller in seven languages, but Frederick was not impressed.  Voltaire, the French Enlightenment anti-Christian deist, joined in mocking Euler’s Biblical world view.  Euler corresponded with apologetic works defending Christian doctrine against Voltaire, Leibniz, Wolff and other Enlightenment skeptics, until the interference and opposition by Frederick became intolerable and he had to uproot again.  At age 59, he moved back to St. Petersburg to accept a position under Catherine II (the Great).  The Russians welcomed him as a returning hero.  But that was the year, 1766, when he became totally blind.  In 1771, his house burned down and he escaped with his life and his manuscripts.  Two years later, his wife died.

Undeterred by misfortune, upheaval and disability, Euler continued his work. With only his mind’s eye, he worked through detailed algorithms and dictated them to his sons.  Dan Graves said that his work actually became clearer and more concise.  An online biography at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute states that “He was apparently able to do extensive and complex calculations in his head, remembering every step so that he could recite them for his sons to record. ... he published more than 500 books and papers during his lifetime, with another 400 appearing posthumously”.  Another online biography claims that his death in 1783 left a vast backlog of articles that the St. Petersburg Academy continued to publish for nearly 50 more years.  Dan Graves tallies his publications at 886, which he claims have only recently been brought together, and constitute the size of a large set of encyclopedias.  The Encyclopedia Britannica says the compilations began in 1911 and are still continuing!  That’s an incredible volume of writing for anyone, let alone technical writing, especially for a blind man!

What is contained in all this prodigious output?  Just about anything and everything dealing with mathematics.  Euler’s work transformed the look of homework around the world: the convention of using the letter pi for the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, the letter e for the base of the natural logarithm, the Greek letter sigma for the sum of a series of numbers, and the letter i for the unit of imaginary numbers.  The theory of infinities and continuity.  Important work on our present understanding of functions, including the highly-used f notation such as y = f(x).  Greater perfection in differential and integral calculus, including many new techniques for solving indefinite integrals and the introduction of the well-known integral sign.  More simplicity in analytical operations.  Advances in the theory of linear differential equations.  The properties of integers and the theory of numbers, leading to the foundations of pure mathematics.  Euler’s criterion.  Euler’s constant.  Euler numbers.  The list goes on.

In addition, Euler tackled numerous theoretical and practical physical problems, including work on the basic principles of mechanics, optics, acoustics and astronomy.  The Encyclopedia Britannica says,

Euler devoted considerable attention to developing a more perfect theory of lunar motion, which was particularly troublesome, since it involved the so- called three-body problem–the interactions of Sun, Moon and Earth.  (The problem is still unsolved.)  His partial solution, published in 1753, assisted the British Admiralty in calculating lunar tables, of importance then in attempting to determine longitude at sea.  One of the feats of his blind years was to perform all the elaborate calculations in his head for his second theory of lunar motion in 1772. ... Euler and Lagrange together are regarded as the greatest mathematicians of the 18th century; but Euler has never been excelled either in productivity or in the skillful and imaginative use of algorithmic devices (i.e., computational procedures) for solving problems.

Phenomenal as his intellectual achievements were, we should see beyond them the heart of a faithful Christian, strong enough to defend his faith against the most powerful skeptics of his day, yet humble enough to depend totally on the Lord for comfort in the midst of suffering.  We should see in his popular writings and textbooks for elementary schools a desire to help the young.  We should see in his Letters to a German Princess a belief in the unity of knowledge and virtue.  We should see a loving father taking time to play with his children, the fruit of such love being evidenced years later in his sons’ willingness to help transcribe his mental output during his 17 years of total blindness.  We should see an active senior working tirelessly till the day of his death at age 76.  We should be reminded that steadfast faith in the Word of God is not a hindrance, but rather a stimulus, to the advance of knowledge.  We should see that a mind in touch with its Creator, whether its physical windows are open or shut, can be a beautiful and powerful thing.

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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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