Creation-Evolution Headlines
 July 2002
“The burden of evolution is to explain everything, including the mathematics, the logic and the thinking processes involved. This is a burden that increases in size as knowledge continues to grow. It is a burden that takes away our firm foundations for thought and scientific explanation.”
– Dr. John R. Rankin, mathematical physicist, In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (New Holland, 1999), pp. 109.
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Major Fossil Find in Australian Cave   07/31/2002
A “find of a lifetime” – perfectly preserved Pleistocene mammal skeletons, including those of marsupial “lions” – has been made in a cave in western Australia, reports
National Geographic.  The article says, “The bones are in such good condition that [paleontologist John] Long collected DNA samples from several specimens, which he hopes to use to accurately date the remains.  The DNA will also be used to establish evolutionary links to modern marsupials in Australia today.”

Very fascinating discovery, but what’s evolution got to do with it?  This is extinction, not evolution.  The modern world is impoverished of larger and more diverse species that lived in the past.  And if DNA can be extracted for dating, what will this reveal about the true age of these bones, not just their assumed age based on the geologic column?  It would seem DNA would degrade in much less time than Pleistocene age estimates would permit.
Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Mammals.
Protein Evolution Recipe: Add a Pinch of Mutation and Stir   07/31/2002
In protein evolution, a lot of recombination mixed in with a little mutation provides the best results, say two scientists publishing in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Proteins, made of long chains of amino acids, have an uncanny ability to fold into just the right stable structure out of an enormous field of possible folds.  How do they do it?  How do proteins change through time and keep stable thermodynamically?  For their mathematical model, Xia and Levitt simplified a three-dimensional problem down to two dimensions, and ignored population size and evolutionary time.  They also used just short sequences – just 25 elements instead of the hundreds in most proteins.  By adjusting the ratio of mutation to recombination, they were able to get sequences to converge on the “prototype sequence” (i.e., the largest set of sequences that folded into the same basic structure).  This, they feel, may provide a solution to the “Levinthal Paradox” – “given the exponential size of the sequence space, how does evolution find the optimal sequence in a reasonable amount of time when the fitness landscape is flat?”  They compare the ratio of recombination and mutation to temperature, and conclude: “Nature is able to adjust the ‘temperature’ of evolution by tuning the relative rates of recombination and mutation.”
There are three major fallacies in this paper that destroy its whole premise. 
  1. Personification.  You just saw them personify Nature as a purposeful, intelligent being, working to solve the problem of protein optimization by adjusting the controls.  This is the fallacy of personification, a technical foul that throws them out of the game.  Personalities, allegorical or not, are disallowed in evolutionary thinking. 
  2. Oversimplification.  They deal with short chains in only two dimensions, which is simplistic enough (because the complexity increases exponentially if they approach real-world protein dynamics), but they also put no requirement for function on their sequences.  They get sequences to converge on an arbitrary shape, but what good is it?  What does it do?  If it has no function, it is a worthless blob of stuff.  Here we have the twin fallacies of glittering generalities and extrapolation.
  3. Voodoo Economics.  They pull information out of recombination and mutation (see a similar theory reported here July 9).  They admit that the vast majority of mutations are lethal, harmful or (at best) neutral, but fail to give one example of a mutation that, even with recombination, generates anything that is useful or even interesting.  They admit that “Mutation alone results in native sequences that are far from optimal,” but the word optimal (used often in the paper) implies information (think about it).  You cannot get information out of nothing. 
William Dembski could say after reading this paper, “The Lord hath delivered mine enemy into my hands.”  A major point of his recent book No Free Lunch is that you cannot get complex specified information without intelligence; neither chance nor natural laws nor any combination of the two can produce it.  Invariably, in evolutionary models and algorithms like this one (and Dembski proves it mathematically and illustrates it profusely), evolutionists sneak in pre-existing information, and, like magicians pulling items out of a sleeve or a magic hat while distracting the viewer, lead the reader, dazzled with the graphs and equations and technical jargon, to think he generated complex specified information de novo ex nihilo.  You just saw it right here, and we exposed the trick: they just overcame Levinthal’s Paradox by treating recombination and mutation under the guidance of Mother Nature as sources of new information.
Dembski proves this is as impossible as creating a perpetual motion machine.  If you do the bookkeeping, no evolutionary algorithm is any better than random search.  If it appears to locate a target, even an unplanned one that improves “fitness” or whatever, in any generalized phase space, it relies for its success on another phase space of algorithms that must also be searched for a proper target algorithm, because the phase space of algorithms also includes blind search.  An illustration he uses is that you can find a treasure (fitness) with a treasure map (evolutionary algorithm), but without prior input of information (which map is the right one), you have so many possible treasure maps to search through that you are no better off than if you randomly searched the island for the treasure with a shovel.  This principle applies generally, and is guaranteed by the recently-proved No Free Lunch Theorems.  Without prior information that can restrict the number of maps to a subset that has reasonable chance of success in the time allowed, you are stuck with random walk.
Proteins contain complex specified information, because the sequences they contain and the precise fold they achieve are tiny subsets of the vast sea of possible sequences and folds, and they provide useful functions for life.  These scientists snuck in the information that gave their model proteins the necessary hints to help them converge on the target.  This is cheating.  There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  The only acceptable algorithm, when playing by naturalistic rules (i.e., no sneaking in prior information), is blind search.  With that constraint, the probability of a usable protein by chance is so low, it would never happen in trillions times quintillions of universes.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Living Network Keeps Vision Sharp   07/30/2002
Nature Science Update reports on a paper in the Aug. 15 issue of Development about how your eye’s retina keeps a sharp focal plane.  A team of Italian scientists found that the rod and cone cells interact to form a living web, keeping them equally spaced in a thin monolayer.  The web is composed of microtubules in dendrite “arms” that grab their neighbors and pull, keeping the cells at arm’s length like a group of children holding hands and pulling outward into a tight circle.
Cells in the retina are exquisitely ordered into horizontal layers and vertical columns that help them process an image. ... Like a troop of identical soldiers with boots, coats and caps aligned, cells that detect light lie in one layer while those that send connections to the brain lie in another.  This ensures that light landing on a receptor is carried directly down a column of cells and on to the brain.
Cells also lie at fixed distances from one another.  They are packed most closely at the centre of the eye, where our vision is sharpest.
The researchers were able to disrupt the network with a drug, turning the dissected retina into a tangled mass.  When the drug was removed, the network reformed and became taut again.  By pulling each other’s strings to form this thin, tight layer, the eye achieves optimum focus and sharpness.  Nature says, “This helps to build the exquisite architecture of the retina that discerns fine details.”
Now, wait a minute... evolutionists have been telling us for years that the vertebrate eye is a bad design (dysteleology), because the photoreceptors are behind the nerves, making the light have to go past a thicket of nerve cells before hitting the receptors.  So is the human eye an example of “exquisite architecture” or not?  Your eyeball has 120 megapixel resolution.  It performs with arguably the best of all possible optics.  Is that good enough to qualify as exquisite?  Human engineering is crude compared to the design that is staring us in the face.  No eyes are so blind as those that will not see.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
Chickens and Turtles Are Sisters   07/30/2002
Chickens and turtles belong to sister groups, according to a new phylogenetic study by two Glasgow evolutionists published in the
Royal Society Biological Proceedings Aug. 7 issue.  In “Going nuclear: gene family evolution and vertebrate phylogeny reconciled,” Cotton and Page got a database of 118 vertebrate gene families to match the standard textbook family tree (more or less).  Recognizing all the things that can happen to genes over time, they admit “it can be very difficult to reconstruct potential evolutionary scenarios.”  Tree-builders haven’t had much luck lately, they say:
Given the great deal of support for much of the current pattern of vertebrate relationships, it is surprising how poorly molecular methods have fared in reconstructing the broad outline of vertebrate evolution.  This is particularly worrying in the case of mitochondrial genome sequences, which are relatively large markers that have been thought of as ideal for phylogenetic work and are certainly very commonly used.
They show two example trees built from molecular evidence that differ markedly, and put strange bedfellows on the same branches, like wallaroos with cows, snakes with hagfish, or humans with blue whales.  To throw their entry into the ring, these researchers used a technique called “gene tree parsimony” that assumes a certain rate of gene duplication and loss, and assumes the gene tree is known without error.  Noting certain other assumptions and potential problems, they came up with a “reconciled tree” for vertebrates that roughly matches trees inferred from fossils and external appearances of animals, but admit there are important unknowns:
Finally, our method assumes that gene duplication and gene loss are the only processes introducing disparity between gene and species trees.  Gene duplications have clearly been important in vertebrates, as shown by the existence of many complex gene families in vertebrate genomes ... but we cannot rule out that other processes might introduce incongruence between gene and species trees.
Their resulting “reconciled tree” is then revealed, with caveats: “In contrast to evidence from mitochondrial sequences, our results largely agree with traditional views on vertebrate phylogeny, but add new evidence to support some controversial ideas ...”  One example of controversy is putting the coelacanth fish near the tetrapods (four-footed animals): “the discovery of the extant coelacanth Latimeria revealed many untetrapod-like features ... casting doubt on how conclusive the morphological data really are.”  Another controversial result dealt with where birds and reptiles fit on the tree: “The results of our analysis are unconventional in placing turtles as the closest relative of birds....”
Molecular phylogeny is a computer game played by evolutionists.  The object of the game is to force-fit puzzle pieces into a huge imaginary picture of common ancestry.  Look at the tweaking and assuming and omitting and rigging they had to do to get their data to fit their target tree, and still some strange results popped up.  (Ask your parakeet if it is the sister of your pet turtle.)  We have been told with aplomb that birds came from dinosaurs, and that story has been enshrined in Jurassic Park; now are we to believe that turtles are the closest relatives to our feathered friends?
If you had read just the bluffing title or abstract of this paper, you would have been led to believe evolutionists have solved their problems and can celebrate victory: “gene family evolution and vertebrate phylogeny reconciled.” Hurrah!  Let the party begin!  It is only to the skeptical inquirer (if you will pardon the expression) that the damaging admissions come to light.  We hate being a party pooper at the Royal Society ball, but someone needs to call “fowl” here if the chicken-turtle soup will make you ill.
Related story: Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
SETI Turns Up Anomalous Signal   07/29/2002
Astronomy Picture of the Day for July 28 shows what an anomalous signal from the SETI project looks like.  Scanning the skies for signals of extra-terrestrial intelligence, once in awhile a signal of unknown origin arouses interest and hope, but usually there is a terrestrial explanation.  Scientists must rule out all human explanations before inferring the possibility of a signal from aliens.  This one is probably coming from a GPS satellite.
The SETI project underscores the validity of the main intelligent design arguments.  Even though most SETI researchers are evolutionists, they know that a radio transmission through space can be an indicator of intelligent design.  In the movie Contact based on the novel by the avid SETI enthusiast Carl Sagan, radio astronomers detected a series of 100 prime numbers and knew such a signal could have no natural cause.  William Dembski has elaborated on this and many other indicators of intelligent causes in his recent book No Free Lunch.  He provides a mathematical proof that information of sufficient complexity that conforms to an independent specification is a reliable indicator of intelligence, and that such “complex specified information” can never arise by natural causes, chance, or any combination of the two.  In practice, this is what SETI researchers believe, yet evolutionists have summarily denounced Dembski’s book because it rules out the naturalistic origin and evolution of life.  So then why is SETI operating by the same principle, that complex specified information indicates intelligence?
Some evolutionists respond that any signal detected by SETI would be coming from other beings like us, that evolved by mutation and natural selection.  But they cannot prove that.  There would be no way for them to know the transmitters were not angels or demons.  Intelligent agents can be notoriously sneaky; demons could be liars, impersonating aliens that claim to have evolved.  Remember the old Twilight Zone episode “How to serve man”?  The aliens’ manual seemed so thoughtful, till the human victims realized it was a cookbook.  An entire TV series “V” was once built on this plot, that “the alien visitors - our friends,” though outwardly kind and compassionate, were really devious monsters intent on farming humans for food.  The Bible predicts that the “father of lies,” Satan, will deceive many in the last days with signs and lying wonders.  Wouldn’t SETI be the ideal platform for a world-wide deception!  Even in Contact, it was hard to tell whether the shape-shifted alien talking to Jodi Foster was a carbon unit or some kind of spirit-being.  The point is, if SETI does turn up an intelligent signal some day, it will provide no support for evolution, because we will be unable to validate the true nature, and integrity, of the senders.  But one thing we will know for certain; the message came from a mind, and that is what illustrates Dembski’s point so well.  Evolutionists just hate it when somebody uses their own logic against them.
Next headline on: SETI. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Smile Your Way to Long Life   07/29/2002
Your attitude about aging can give you a new lease on life, or drive you to the grave, says the American Psychological Association in a report summarized on
EurekAlert.  A longitudinal study of 660 Ohio residents showed that a positive outlook could increase life span by 7.5 years on the average.
There are many factors in these kinds of studies; diet and exercise play their part, as do genetics and the environment.  But it makes sense that attitude is an important factor for health.  These researchers should have just read the words of the wise king Solomon, who said long ago, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”  This illustrates what the eminent British astronomer John Herschel said, “All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths that come on high and are contained in the sacred writings.”
Two great scientists of faith featured in our online book The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists knew how to age gracefully.  Samuel F. B. Morse said late in life, “The nearer I approach the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible, the grandeur and sublimity of God's remedy for fallen man are more appreciated, and the future is illumined with hope and joy.”  Michael Faraday as an elderly man was asked if he had any speculations about the afterlife.  He responded, “Speculations?  Man, I have none.  I am resting on certainties.”  Then he quoted II Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
For those, like Morse and Faraday, who trust God’s promises revealed in his word, old age is a blessing from God and a reason for hope and joy.  If God is with us to the very end of our lives, and death is graduation to heaven, what is there to fear?  Moses said, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.•  And for the young who are too busy with fun and adventure to even think about the distant horizon of old age, Solomon advised, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” well before the bodily aches and pains of old age set in.  Good attitudes must start early, especially the fear of the Lord which leads to life.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Bible.
When Your Emergency Response Team Fails, Cancer Can Result   07/26/2002
Each cell in your body has a team of enzymes called
DNA Damage Response.  Like a skilled repair team, they know exactly how to fix all kinds of DNA emergencies: double-stranded breaks, broken tips, unraveled ends, and dozens of other potential problems.  Many cancer cells exhibit unrepaired DNA and instability in the chromosomes.  In a special section on genome stability in the July 26 issue of Science, Paula Kiberstis and Jean Marx explain that “For a cell, maintaining the integrity of its genome is of paramount importance.  If it fails in this task and manages to divide anyway, both of its daughter cells may inherit an abnormal chromosome complement, with potentially dire consequences.”  A current debate among biochemists revolves around whether the damage causes cancer, or the cancer causes the damage.  They introduce three papers that deal with evidence that failures in DNA damage repair are implicated in many types of cancer, and conclude, “Whatever the outcome of these debates, the quest for answers has certainly produced many fascinating insights into the molecular weaponry that enables a cell to defend the integrity of its genome.”
Do you hear the language of intelligent design in these statements?  Molecular weaponry, integrity, damage response – find a rock or body of liquid that takes this kind of care of itself.  The moon hasn’t repaired its craters, but your body flies into action to clot its cuts and heal its wounds.  Now we realize that on the molecular level of the cell, a large team of programmed tools and processes are present to handle every contingency.  It is only on the very rare occasions when the DDR team is overwhelmed that an error slips through, but even then, backup systems often go into action.  Most of the time we don’t even know that something went wrong and got fixed, silently and without fanfare, to keep us on our feet.  If we knew how many times the DDR team had a big problem to solve just under our skin, and cancer got arrested just in the nick of time, would probably go into shock.  When and why it fails sometimes, to some people and not others (and to all of us eventually), are questions for theologians.  Meanwhile, if you are healthy right now, thank God for the DDR, your unsung heroes, working tirelessly 24x7 without ever getting an award.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
The Hopeless Task of Building Evolutionary Trees   07/25/2002
A paper posted in the online early addition July 25 of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences starts out with an optimistic subtitle: “An efficient solution for the problem of large phylogeny estimation,” but then opens with a tone of despair:
Optimality criterion-based phylogeny inference is a notoriously difficult endeavor because the number of solutions increases explosively with the number of taxa.  Indeed, the total number of possible unrooted, bifurcating tree topologies among T-terminal taxa ... [corresponds] to nearly 32 billion different trees for 14 taxa and 3 X 1084 trees (i.e., more than the number of atoms in the known universe) for 55 taxa. ... As most mathematicians expect that no such algorithm [i.e., polynomial time solution] exists, one is forced to admit that no future civilization will ever build a computer capable of solving the problem while guaranteeing that the optimal solution has been found.
Instead of number-crunching the impossible, the authors propose a heuristic approach.  Heuristic approaches sacrifice the goal of getting an optimal tree in hopes of getting one faster that has maximum likelihood (ML).  Lemmon and Milinkovitch wrote a computer program that converges quicker on an ML model with larger number of taxa.  They call theirs the “metapopulation genetic algorithm.”  It is a quasi-Darwinian model that tries to optimize trees based on mutations and selection, and it can incorporate rate heterogeneity estimates into the model.  The authors try their program on real and imaginary populations and compare their results with other heuristic methods.
Were you ever told in biology class that generating a phylogenetic tree from the raw data was mathematically impossible, and that no future civilization would ever overcome this barrier?  Probably not, yet textbooks are replete with neat, authoritative-looking phylogenetic trees.  So how do they determine them?  By heuristic methods, which by translation, means guesswork, inference, trial-and-error, hunches and hope.  Their model incorporates a number of optimization parameters, such as rate heterogeneity, which means that not all genes mutate at the same rate, and branch length, the presumed evolutionary distance between taxa.  The tweak space is enormous, and they already have a mental picture of what they want, so this whole approach is based on circular reasoning.  If the program outputs a tree that agrees with the evolutionary assumptions, is scores high; otherwise, it is rejected.  Does this provide any confidence that evolution is being confirmed empirically?  Is this how scientists in our universities should be spending their time, playing Darwinian computer games?
Instead of explaining how mutation and natural selection could produce a Monarch butterfly or a finch or a peppered moth in the first place, scientific papers on evolution seem obsessed with trying to uncover phylogenetic relationships that are impossible to calculate objectively or verify independently without begging the question whether common ancestry is even true.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
What Does a Fossil Bird Eat?  Fossil Seeds!   07/24/2002
A new species of fossil bird, Jeholornis prima, has been discovered in China, reports
CNN, that provides “important clues about how animals lived and evolved.”  What clues?  Well, the article states, “Scientists said the skeletal structure shows that this bird was capable of powerful flight, but was also built to sit in trees.  Those discoveries provide a further relationship between birds and some theropods, the carnivorous dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods that walked on two legs and had small, grasping forelimbs.”  Anything else?  It had a long tail, resembling Dromeosaurs, which are presumed related to birds.  And it ate seeds.  What does that imply?  According to Thomas Holz, paleontologist at the University of Maryland, “The other birds we know of at this time were probably meat eaters, fish, or insect eaters, based on their teeth.  This guy was sort of a pioneer, giving us the oldest evidence so far that birds ate plants.”  The discovery is announced in the July 25 issue of Nature.
Let us ask again, looking at just the raw data, what’s evolution got to do with it?  Here we have a specimen that was 100% bird.  It had large wings and was probably a strong flyer, it perched in trees, and ate seeds.  So do many birds today.  It had a gizzard.  So do birds today.  It had a long tail.  So do some birds today.  It is extinct.  So are some birds today.  From the reconstruction, it looks like Jeholornis was a pretty handsome bird, not a transitional form.  Put it in a zoo and nobody would think it was evolving out of Dinotopia.  Where is the evolution, we ask, if not in the imagination of the evolutionists, who seem compelled to perch all their birds in ancestral trees?
Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Fossils.
Evolution, the Cover Story of U.S. News   07/23/2002
The July 29 issue of
US News and World Report is devoted to “The New Reality of Evolution” with four articles:
  1. How evolution works, and why it matters more than ever by Thomas Hayden.
  2. Species, life’s mystery packages by Jessica Ruvinsky.
  3. Evolution timeline: an idea’s brilliant career.
  4. Life’s Grand Design: a new breed of anti-evolutionists credits it to an unnamed intelligence by Holly J. Morris.
That last article, about the Intelligent Design movement and its critics, is one of the longest in the series and forms the last word.  Presenting both sides of the controversy, it mentions the debate going on in Ohio about whether the school board should allow alternatives to Darwinism.
On July 30, Don Batten of Answers in Genesis wrote a critique of the series.
If you can just get your logical mind past the smokescreen that says “evolution is science, creation is religion,” you are ready to enter graduate school in baloney detecting.  Evolutionists cannot, for the life of them, get that through their skulls that naturalism is atheistic philosophy masquerading as science.  Atheism is just as “religious” as any religion or philosophy, and creation is just as “scientific” as evolution in terms of defining an interpretive framework for the data (which are accessible to both sides).  Evolution extends far beyond anything that can be observed or tested.  The minor changes observed in genes and bacteria do not justify an interpretive framework that wants to explain giant Sequoias from algae, or blue whales from (ultimately) hydrogen.
The scientific method was brought into being by Christians and creationists who believed, without reservation, in intelligent design.  It was the belief in design, regularity, and natural law that motivated them to explore the wonders of nature that had been designed by a transcendent, omnipresent God, specifically the God of Scripture.  Yes, nature obeys natural law, but natural laws did not bring nature into being; that demanded intelligent design.
While frustrating to see US News call evolution reality on its cover, and repeat so many of the evolutionists’ favorite disfactoids, it is heartening to see the news media give prominent place to the case for intelligent design.  Even in the pro-evolution articles, they do mention some prominent questions that anti-evolutionists have raised.  But reporters, like most lay people, tend to stand in awe of scientists and accept as truth whatever they are told.  They cannot be expected to discern truth from error when told whoppers like “Scientists have confirmed virtually all of Darwin’s postulates” or that evolution is helping us understand modern medicine.  If the reporters had been regular readers of Creation-Evolution Headlines, they would know better.  There is not one postulate of evolution that we have not shown, from the best evolutionary sources themselves, to be other than vaporware or tall-tale telling, when examined in detail under the baloney detector.  Need examples?  Try this, or this one (compare our report with the first paragraph of their first article).  Need more?  Try this one, or this or this among many others (work your way through the Chain Links on Darwinism for a lot more).  Everything you have been taught about evolution is wrong, and they admit it, one detail at a time, until you step back and notice that all the details add up to a different picture entirely.  Meanwhile, discoveries about the complexity of life are choking evolutionary theory all shades of blue and purple.
Suggestion: switch the science reporters with the Capitol Hill reporters.  Get the political reporters to ask the same kinds of hard-hitting questions to the scientists, where like Phillip Johnson suggests, they refuse to take bluff or evasion for an answer.  Now that would be freedom of the press.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: Education.
Gene Expression More Complicated Than Thought   07/22/2002
Scientists used to think one gene produced one protein, and that a gene was an uninterrupted sequence of DNA code.  No longer.  Genes actually have coded regions, called exons, interspersed by non-coding regions called introns.  There may be many introns per gene, and somehow the cell knows how to cut them out before making messenger RNA, which then delivers the code to the ribosome, where proteins are made.  Are the introns just junk, then, destined for the cutting-room floor?  Apparently not.  The introns are involved in helping determine which exons get joined together, and by “alternative splicing,” the cell can get more mileage out of the gene.  Some genes can code for several forms of a protein, depending on the order in which the exons are spliced together.  Scientists at the
University of California, Santa Cruz have developed new techniques to try to understand how cells make sense of all the pieces.  Manuel Ares explains (emphasis added):
The coding sequences of our genes are all broken up and spread out, and there is a whole cellular machinery involved in patching it together so that the code makes sense.  This splicing process gives the cell the ability to try new combinatorial arrangements of information.  You have all this information in the genome, but then the cell can interpret it in different ways.
The press release says that genes are turning out to be much more complicated than originally thought.  “Differences in the editing of genetic information may, in fact, be a significant source of genetic variability.  Researchers ... have now taken a big step toward understanding how this editing process (known as splicing) is regulated.”
Think of letters being organized into words: that is like the DNA code, which has a suite of spell checkers and proofreaders to be sure the words are spelled correctly.  But the words need to be organized into sentences and paragraphs.  At this level, too, something is controlling the sentences and paragraphs of DNA words so that the result “makes sense,” as the article states.  And just as words can be reorganized into many different sentences, and sentences into different paragraphs, cells can organize the coded information in numerous ways.  All this is made possible by another regulatory layer made up of protein machines and systems that cut, splice, arrange, restore, and proofread the sentences and paragraphs before the blueprint goes out to the ribosome factory.  It’s incredible.  This area of gene expression, with the possibility of epigenetic factors (i.e., above-gene) regulating how genes are cut and spliced under different circumstances and within different cells, is one of the hottest new areas in cell biology.  It adds a whole new level of complexity to a system (gene transcription) that was already astonishing in its complexity and elegance.  The cell almost seems designed to resist evolutionary explanations; there is nothing in the elemental properties of molecules that would make them want to do these things — without programming.
Notice how Dr. Ares emphasized the word information.  Information is a massless, colorless, odorless entity that can turn collections of letters into books, keystrokes into software, and metal into robots.  Information never arises without intelligence, but with intelligent design, the possibilities for information and function are boundless.  Nature can produce letters, but only Shakespeare can organize them into Hamlet.  Nature can produce notes, but only Beethoven can mold them into a Pastoral Symphony.  Nature can produce chemicals, but only God can make a tree.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next amazing story.
Grand Canyon Young, Carved Quickly   07/22/2002
The signs are going to have to change at Grand Canyon viewpoint displays, if new theories of its formation described on
EurekAlert become the new standard.  No longer will visitors be told that slow, gradual erosion over millions of years carved this classic example of uniformitarian processes.  The new paradigm might well describe how massive dam breaks scoured out major portions of the canyon, including Marble Canyon and the inner gorge, within days or even hours — and not millions of years ago, but 700,000 or less.  “Grand Canyon Geologic Infant” reads the headline.  Evidence is mounting that much more water flowed down the Colorado River in the recent past.  Some geologists have found evidence of Pleistocene flows 37 times higher than the largest known Mississippi flood.  The article states, “USGS scientist and University of Arizona graduate Jim O’Connor, along with UA hydrologist Victor Baker and others, also has found evidence of a 400,000 cfs [cubic feet per second] flow that occurred about 4,000 years ago.  The only flow that is comparable to Pleistocene flows would be if Glen Canyon Dam failed.” Some flow estimates go higher than a million cubic feet per second.
On the western end, a series of volcanic lava flows dammed the canyon several times, forming lakes that filled quickly and broke catastrophically, “almost instantaneously.”  Using the cosmogenic radionuclide method, they dated one of the lava flows at only 1300 years old.  The steep nature of Marble Canyon and the Inner Gorge, like slot canyons, are indicative of rapid downcutting, the geologists say.  The latest issue of the journal Geology also has a paper on Grand Canyon.
“Did it take a little water a lot of time, or a lot of water a little time?” is a riddle posed often by creation geologists.  This year’s official Grand Canyon newsletter, handed out to visitors at the entrance stations, is already mentioning the latter as gaining acceptance by geologists.  Each year at the canyon rim, ICR scientists have made the case that the canyon shows evidence of rapid erosion.  There is a major paradigm shift taking place among uniformitarian geologists, based on what — religious bias or Biblical literalism?  No — the evidence.  Why not turn the claim of bias around and say that the millions of years story was based on uniformitarian bias?  Increasingly, uniformitarianism, championed by Charles Lyell in the 1800s and taken for granted for 150 years, has been seen to be just that, a bias that colored the interpretation of geological formations and stretched them falsely into millions of years of gradual processes.  If Grand Canyon, the textbook example, has been shown to be a youthful feature formed quickly, then what of the others?
Actually, this story needs further revision.  There is also evidence that the layers themselves formed quickly; huge boulders of Shinumo quartzite in the Tapeats sandstone; no evidence of multimillion-year time gaps between the Muav and Temple Butte formations, between the Hermit and Coconino layers, and between the Kaibab and Toroweap limestones; the vast extent of uniform strata, such as the highly-crossbedded Coconino sandstone, are examples.  Other evidence indicates the upper parts of the canyon were also carved quickly.  The Redwall limestone’s amphitheater-shaped side canyons appear to have been formed by sapping, and higher-elevation structures along the rim such as Cedar Mountain and Red Butte appear to be remnants of an episode of sheet erosion on a gigantic scale.  In addition, the million-year radioactive dates commonly attributed to Grand Canyon lava flows have been called into question by creation geologists doing independent research.  These and many other evidences are discussed in ICR’s excellent book Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe.  You will never look at Grand Canyon the same.
Now that secular geologists are coming up with interpretations that are increasingly similar to those of creationists, let this be a lesson from history.  Generations of tourists have been fed a flawed story based on philosophical presuppositions.  They were not given alternatives.  The story was presented with all the authority of establishment science, and undoubtedly caused many unprepared tourists to doubt the Genesis record.  Now, in our time, we have watched a startling reversal of a story that seemed etched in stone.  What other uniformitarian stories, like dams with cracks, are posed for a monumental collapse?  We have numerous candidates right here; check through our Chain Links on Geology and Dating Methods for examples.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
DVD of Intelligent Design Documentary Released   07/19/2002
The recent film on Intelligent Design,
Unlocking the Mystery of Life (March 2002), has just come out on DVD.  The DVD version contains over 45 minutes of additional resources, including lists of references, original footage from the Galápagos Islands, and 14 frequently asked questions answered by the scientists in the film (Behe, Meyer, Johnson, Dembski, Nelson, Wells, Minnich and Kenyon): questions such as, What are the limits of natural selection?  How complex is a cell?  What is the information content of the human genome?  What is the most striking aspect of the bacterial flagellum?  Is Intelligent Design a means of inserting religion into science?  What is irreducible complexity?  How did Darwin propose a test that could falsify his theory?  What is the status and future of intelligent design?  The DVD is available here and from Illustra Media.
Next headline on: Movies. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Cheating Scientists Arouse Concern, Stimulate Policy Changes    07/19/2002
Plagiarism, falsifying data, lying about discoveries, stealing secrets – these and other dishonest practices among university researchers are on the increase and causing concern in the scientific community.  Recently, for instance, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory fired a physicist for lying about the alleged discovery of two new atomic elements (
Nature Science Update, July 18).  According to Science July 19, the Department of Health and Human Services is asking for feedback on its new report Integrity and Scientific Research, which it figures will arouse disagreement on both definitions and enforcement.  Last week (June 11), Nature printed several stories about scientific misconduct, urging scientific organizations to wise up and clean up their act.
How did integrity evolve?  Was it like the evolution of altruism, another case of game theory among the selfish genes?  From an impersonal beginning devoid of moral content, where did humans gain an intrinsic feel for the correctness of “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet”?  Can something come from nothing?
Next headline on: Politics.
Quasar Packs Iron Punch   07/19/2002
A young quasar has too much iron – nearly three times what our Solar System has.  This is surprising, because conventional wisdom would say iron takes a long time to be created out of old supernovas to be so abundant in a young quasar.  Astronomers at the
Max Planck Society explain the conundrum:
Where does iron come from?  According to astrophysicists, iron, like all other heavy elements, is created in the center of massive stars and is expelled into space once these stars explode as supernovae at the end of their lives.  The material then mixes with the interstellar matter and may form new stars and planetary systems.  Our solar system was formed after several generations of stars and therefore contains enough heavy elements like iron, oxygen etc. to form Earth-like planets which can sustain life. ... We observe the quasar at a time when the universe was only about 1.5 billion years old; in contrast, our sun was formed 9 billion years after the Big Bang.  This is significant in that the center of this young quasar already contains a larger fraction of iron than our much older solar system.  Either there is a previously unknown much more efficient way of producing iron, or, at the time when the quasar emitted its light, the universe was already older than expected. ...

The iron abundance is of such significance because iron represents a kind of “cosmic clock”: all heavy elements were produced after the Big Bang in the interior of stars by the processes described previously.  The creation of iron took considerable time: at least 1.5 billion years to produce the metal abundances of our sun.  It is therefore highly surprising that an object as young as the quasar AMP 08279+5255 already contained a larger fraction of iron than our sun which is much older.  Either there is a more efficient way of producing iron - some kind of “iron factory” - or the universe, at a redshift of 4, is already older than previously expected. ...

Even a very high rate of type-I supernovae can only partly explain the observations of large amounts of iron, they say.  They choose to believe instead that the universe must be older than assumed, perhaps due to the recently-claimed cosmological constant (dark energy) that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.
What do you do with anomalies?  Scientific theories are rarely neat and clean; there are usually irritating pieces of data that don’t fit.  Sometimes it is the irritating piece that yields the fundamental new insight or overturns the paradigm.  These scientists have chosen not to question the Big Bang paradigm and conventional theories of nucleosynthesis, but to rescue them by positing the universe must be older than expected, due to some kind of mysterious dark energy, where “dark” means undetectable, unobservable, inferred, hypothetical, or imaginary.
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
Odd Crested Pterosaur Discovered   07/19/2002
Two Brazilian paleontologists report the discovery of a new kind of pterosaur, Thallasodromeus sethi, that had a large, thin bony crest.  The crest appears to have been filled with blood vessels and may have functioned as a heat exchanger.  The shape of its long beak suggests it skimmed over the water to scoop up fish.  The paper is published in the
July 19 issue of Science.  A popular account with artist’s reconstruction can be found on
There do not appear to be any transitional forms leading up to this creature.  Like most dinosaurs, it appears abruptly in the record, fully formed, fully adapted, without gradual precursors.
Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Fossils.
Debate 07/19/2002: Some of the most vocal advocates for and against the intelligent design movement square off on Research News in Science and Theology Online, and the sparks really fly.  Defending I.D. are Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe and William Dembski; opposing it are Michael Ruse, Robert Pennock and Eugenie Scott.
We applaud these rare opportunities for both sides to be heard.  One thing should be clear; human emotions run high even in intellectual circles.  You’ll need a good Baloney Detector to dissipate the heat from the light.  There’s plenty of ridicule, loaded words, second-guessing, irrelevant analogies, bandwagon, authority and circular reasoning to dodge in your hunt for arguments of merit (when reading Scott, notice the best-in-field fallacy and shifting the burden of proof).  The moderator, while recognizing the need for honest presentation on both sides of important issues, so impugns scientific creationism that he considers it his duty to move readers away from that position.  To him, the truth of evolution is so well established beyond any question that the Bible cannot have any credibility or authority in matters of natural science or prehistory.  He treats this as a truism so intuitively obvious as to make him seem embarrassed to even have to bring it up.  Defenders of Biblical creationism are, by his fiat, not permitted to respond.  If he would read just a few months of Creation-Evolution Headlines, he would quickly find that the edifice of evolution in which he trusts is a house of cards, and a vast interlocking program of vaporware (Eugenie Scott applies this term to I.D., but we supply ample references, where she asks you to just accept her verdict on her authority.)  The moderator needs to recollect the Murphyism known as Finagle’s Third Law: “In any collection of data, the figure most obviously correct1, beyond all need of checking, is the mistake.  Corollaries: (1).  No one whom you ask for help2 will see it.  (2) Everyone who stops by with unsought advice3 will see it immediately.”
2Ruse, Pennock, Scott.
3Wells, Behe, Dembski.
Now go watch the movie.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Evolution by Competition – or Cooperation?   07/18/2002
July 18 issue of Nature contains a review of a new book that challenges some fundamental concepts of Darwinism.  The book, Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species by Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan, views evolutionary history not as competition, but cooperation.  Instead of nature consisting of competing species fighting one another for limited resources in a Malthusian manner, Margulis sees the opposite, cooperation and sharing, as the driving force for speciation and evolution.  Since earliest times, she believes, bacteria have shared their genomes such that any evolutionary tree of life is now hopelessly muddled and indistinct.  Margulis is well known for having advanced the theory, now widely accepted, that chloroplasts and mitochondria were once free-living organisms that became incorporated by symbiosis into eukaryotic cells.  In this book, the authors view symbiosis as central to evolutionary history.
Axel Meyer, in his review, praises Margulis and Sagan for their visionary proposals, but thinks they go too far.  He accepts the reality of lateral gene transfer, symbiosis and genome sharing, but thinks they account for rare speciation events that are exceptions to the old-fashioned Darwinian rule.  While calling the book stimulating and provocative, Meyer holds to the conviction that the evolutionary history of life can still be read in the genes.
It’s interesting to compare this book review with last week’s review in Nature of the Dembski’s book No Free Lunch.  Both books seriously undermine Darwinian theory, but Dembski was trashed and Margulis is praised.  Why?  Margulis, despite her radical ideas that threaten to undermine 140 years of Darwinian dogma, is a materialist; Dembski is a theist.  Margulis proposes a new theory of speciation that works within the principles of methodological naturalism, but Dembski advocates Intelligent Design.  Understanding this difference is crucial.  It is not that classical Darwinism or Margulis’ new paradigm are any more supportable by empirical evidence than Intelligent Design; in fact, as we have repeatedly demonstrated for nearly two years in Creation-Evolution Headlines from their own best sources, the current of evidence is strongly against both naturalistic theories.  The source of animosity against Intelligent Design is philosophical.
The evolutionists have chosen in advance that God, intelligence, design, or any manifestation of these concepts is disallowed in science, no matter how strongly the evidence supports them.  All evidence must be filtered through the grid of naturalism to be called scientific, whether or not design is staring the investigator in the face.  Any just-so story or ad-hoc myth is preferable to design!  That is why Margulis gets away with just a slap on the wrist, even though she undermines neo-Darwinism, but William Dembski is portrayed as a villain who wants to return us to the dark ages, even though his book presents a rigorous mathematical and logical schema for sorting out chance, necessity and design.  One would think that science should be an open-ended search for the truth about nature, and should not rule out a whole class of causes that could be fruitful in explaining phenomena, but no: the scientific elite have pontificated that intelligent causes are disallowed in biology, even though they are routinely used in cryptography, archaeology, forensic science and SETI already.  Step over that line and doubt atheism, and you’re the enemy.
With that in mind, it is interesting to note just how radical Margulis’ new paradigm is against neo-Darwinism.  Instead of ruthless competition, we have cooperation.  We have a nicer, kinder, gentler view of the world, where living things help one another for the common good.  Instead of the WWF, we have the grandmotherly kindergarten teacher smiling over the children who are learning how to share their toys.  What does this do to Nazism and communism, which were built on the belief that only the fittest survive, and the weak should be exterminated to advance the race?  Will a Margulian world lead to a utopian society, friendly to the environment, free of war and bloodshed?  Don’t count on it.  If individualism is frowned on, and individuals must give up their rights for the good of the whole, whoever does not comply becomes the enemy of the state just as surely as in Stalinism.  “Building toward consensus,” a revised form of the Hegelian dialectic, is already a popular phrase that depicts this attitude.  No one must claim ownership of the truth; we must all be tolerant, learn from one another, and share our resources.  This could become as totalitarian as Stalinism, or worse, because its naked intolerance of independent thought would be masked by smiling faces that coerce individuals into acquiescence, because the elite, the Ministry of Love, knows what is good for them.  It’s the law of nature, isn’t it?  Sound familiar?  Spencer has been reincarnated in a new guise.  Some historians have noted that scientific paradigms seem linked to the favored political philosophies of their era.  Darwinism seemed just the thing for both communism and laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th and 20th centuries; but now, evolution by symbiosis and cooperation is sweet music for the age of tolerance and multiculturalism.
Margulis, though respected, is still considered borderline fringe by most evolutionary scientists, however, though most accept her endosymbiont hypothesis.  For a rebuttal to the idea that mitochondria and chloroplasts were acquired by the cell early in eukaryote evolution, see this response by Don Batten.  The Gaia Hypothesis advanced by Margulis and Lovelock (the idea that life molded the earth for its own existence, or that earth and life are symbiotic) is a little too New-Age for most evolutionists.  It smells of the personification fallacy, and doesn’t seem naturalistic enough; it has also been eagerly snatched up as a prop for New Age groups.  Still, it has made an impact on the thinking of evolutionists, who tend these days to view nature at least a little more in terms of cooperation than ruthless competition.  Would that Marx, Nietzsche, Spencer, Haeckel, Carnegie, Hitler, Lenin and the other social Darwinists could have seen what future scientists would think of their “undeniable truth” – the belief that nature, red in tooth and claw, favors the strong over the weak.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Violations of Second Law Observed at Micro Scale   07/17/2002
Australian physicists obtained experimental evidence that micron-sized particles can violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics for up to two seconds.  They observed a bead in motion that was just as likely to extract energy from the environment as dissipate energy to the environment.  This provides confirmation for the Fluctuation Theorem of Evans (1993) and, they feel, might have impact on nanotechnology and the understanding of life processes:
That entropy-consuming trajectories can be discerned for micron-sized particles over time scales on the order of seconds is particularly important to applications of nano-machines and to the understanding of protein motors.  The fluctuation theorem points out that as these thermodynamic engines are made smaller and as the time of operation is made shorter, these engines are not simple scaled-down versions of their larger counterparts.  As they become smaller, the probability that they will run thermodynamically in reverse inescapably becomes greater.  Consequently, these results imply that the fluctuation theorem has important ramifications for nanotechnology and indeed for how life itself functions.
The paper, published in
Physical Review Letters for July 29, 2002 is summarized in Physics News Update.  On July 23, Nature Science Update posted an article on this finding, but recalls that James Clerk Maxwell knew this way back in 1878, writing in Nature then, “The truth of the second law is ... a statistical, not a mathematical, truth, for it depends on the fact that the bodies we deal with consist of millions of molecules... Hence the second law of thermodynamics is continually being violated, and that to a considerable extent, in any sufficiently small group of molecules belonging to a real body.”  Nature Science Update concludes, “For larger systems over normal periods of time, however, the second law of thermodynamics is absolutely rock solid.”
We have known also since the 1930s that weird behaviors can occur at quantum levels.  These are quickly swamped by normal Newtonian behavior at larger scales with larger numbers of particles and longer time samples.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics, one of the best-established laws in all of science, is primarily a statistical generalization about phenomena at macro scales involving many particles.  At quantum levels and microscopic scales, violations are statistically possible, even certain, as Maxwell said.  What does this mean for our understanding of cellular processes?  Not much; since the probability is equal for increasing or decreasing entropy at some level, and only for two seconds maximum, it might just mean that molecules might not need to expend as much energy in their motions on occasion.  It might be like getting a tailwind as often as in a headwind in a plane, but has no bearing on the direction chosen by the pilot.  What does this mean for the origin of life?  Nothing.  This is a physical effect that has nothing to do with the origin of complex specified information.
Nanotechnologists might have to take this effect into account when building microscopic machines, and it might become a factor when analyzing molecular motions in the cell.  But it would be an unwarranted extrapolation to rush to judgment that since the Second Law of Thermodynamics can be violated at the molecular level in special circumstances, the Second Law is no longer a problem for evolution.  That would be like claiming that since a ball might bounce higher than it fell once in awhile, we have a possible way to explain the origin of an encyclopedia by chance.
See also the June 27 headline on Maxwell’s Demon.
Next headline on: Physics.
Humans Evolved Long Life to Finance Teenagerism   07/17/2002
Teenagers consume more than they produce, so humans evolved a longer life span to make sure they pay it back, according to a new theory by Kaplan and Robson in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (online preprints, July 16).  Noting the disparity between chimp and human lifespans, they apply economic theory to human evolution to explain the coevolution of bigger brains and longer lifespans.  New Scientist summarizes the report, and quotes Michael Rose of the UC Irvine as thinking it’s the best paper on the evolution of teenagers he’s ever read.  But he cautions, “If you’re a good applied mathematician, you can come up with a model to give you any conclusion you want.”
If you purged evolutionary theory of the personification fallacy, you would have little left.  This is a foolish application of economic theory where it doesn’t belong.  Who is the investor, where is the bank, and where is the SEC to enforce the law?  Did chimps figure out this investment strategy?  Did they care once they got their ROI?  Were teenagers worth the trouble?
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next dumb story.
How Your Electric Motors Work   07/16/2002
Did you know your body, and the bodies of everything from bacteria to giant Sequoia trees, run on electric motors?  No kidding.  We’ve reported on the amazing little protein motor
ATP synthase several times before.  It runs at 6000 rpm and generates ATP, which your body needs for every chemical reaction, every muscle movement, and every blink of an eye.  Now, in the July issue of the journal Structure, an international team of biochemists, including one of the winners of the Nobel Prize (Dr. John E. Walker), has examined the action of this amazing molecular machine in more detail than ever before.  They have analyzed just one third of the rotational cycle of the top part of the motor, called F1-ATPase.  The bottom part of this two-part motor, the F0 unit, is composed of a dozen parts that turn like a merry-go-round in response to proton fuel.  Attached to the center is the gamma subunit that looks like a camshaft.  It has a stalk and a protruding section that rotates with the F0 ring.  In contact with the cam is the non-rotating F1 machine, composed of six lobes, the alpha and beta subunits, alternately arranged like slices of an orange around the central stalk.  As the cam turns, it forces changes in shape of the alpha and beta lobes, mostly the beta lobes.  Arranged in pairs, the six lobes provide a three-stage manufacturing plant for ATP; while one is loading the two ingredients, another is squeezing them together, and a third is simultaneously ejecting the finished product.
In this paper, the scientists carefully analyzed what happens to the alpha and beta subunits during one-third of the rotation.  They found that the positive charges on the gamma protrusion (the cam) create an “ionic track”.  Corresponding negatively-charged amino acids on the lobes, like motor brushes, respond to the ionic track by causing changes of shape in the lobes, making them move in, out, up or down appropriate to the stage of manufacture of ATP.  Though the gamma shaft appears to turn smoothly, the lobes seem to snap open and shut very quickly, within nanoseconds.  These “conformational changes” (i.e., moving parts) are involved in the efficient manufacture and release of ATP molecules; exactly how they do it is an area still under study.  They do know, though, that the precise placement of certain electrically-charged amino acids in the various protein subunits stimulates the motions along the ionic track, so the cam involves both electrical and spatial (steric) interactions, something like a rotor in a car’s engine.  The entire assembly operates at submillisecond rates, and is reversible – it can burn ATP to generate protons.  The diagrams show that the motor parts look like coils, chains and complex tangles of molecules, not like the hard metal cylinders and pistons with which we are familiar, but they perform analogous functions at this submicroscopic scale.  Even though the coiled amino acid chains twist and turn and stretch, the machine is stable, fast and highly efficient,  The authors refer to it as a “finely tuned machine.”
This paper reads almost like a description of a gasoline powered piston engine.  Imagine being in auto shop and listening to the teacher lecture about how the spark forces the piston down and how it turns the crankshaft, etc., with all the moving parts and valves interacting in a coordinated cycle, and you get a rough analogy to what these scientists are saying about this biological motor.  ATP synthase is so small you could fit 120,000 of them on the head of a pin!  The entire assembly is only 10 nanometers wide and about 12 nanometers high.  The discovery of true rotary motors made out of protein molecules was so astonishing, its discoverers won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1997.  These are not just simple spinning widgets, but finely-tuned engines made up of multiple parts that interact in highly specific ways.  Just one wrong amino acid at some of the active sites can bring it to a halt.  The article contains detailed diagrams of how the parts look and how they work together.  You can almost sense their excitement as they describe this molecular machine, which someone has called the most important protein in the universe.  You will also notice that evolution is not even mentioned once in the paper, nor any hint of a speculation on how this machine evolved; this accords with our frequent observation that evolutionary speculation is inversely proportional to the facts available for study.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll go to the filling station and fill up with protons.  Pizza sounds good...
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
Astrobiology Then and Now: Still Dry   07/15/2002
Space.Com has an online debate about whether or not life is rare in the universe.  (The same articles are also posted on Astrobiology Magazine, with additional illustrations.)  The discussion was stimulated by Ward and Brownlee’s book Rare Earth, which propounded the opinion that the lucky accidents required for advanced life to evolve on a planet were too improbable to produce many civilizations like ours.  You can read various experts’ opinions about this question which, being a topic utterly devoid of evidence, is an open field for speculation.  David Grinspoon, in his first entry, tries to insert a note of caution:
It is always shaky when we generalize from experiments with a sample size of one.  So we have to be a bit cautious when we fill the cosmos with creatures based on the time scales of Earth history (it happened so fast here, therefore it must be easy) and the resourcefulness of Earth life (they are everywhere where there is water).

This is one history, and one example of life.  When our arguments rest on such shaky grounds, balancing a house of cards on a one-card foundation, we are in danger of erecting structures formed more by our desires than the “evidence.”

In the third installment, Brownlee echoes the caution:
As is the case in the solar system, animal-like life is probably uncommon in the cosmos.  This might even be the case for microbes: how can scientists agree that microbial life is common in our celestial neighborhood when there is no data? Even the simplest life is extraordinarily complicated and until we find solid evidence for life elsewhere, the frequency of life will unfortunately be guesswork.  We can predict that some planetary bodies will provide life-supporting conditions, but no one can predict that life will form.
The entire debate series about extra-terrestrial life can be read on Astrobiology Magazine as of July 29, and also on Space.Com:
  1. The Hostile Universe: Are life-nourishing environments rare in the universe?
  2. Alien Proximity: How near might the nearest extraterrestrial lifeforms be?
  3. Complex Life: What are the odds for complex life, and what are the conditions necessary?
  4. Avoiding Doom: Is our own predicted demise a fate due any aliens that might be out there?
  5. Elusive ET: If extraterrestrials are common in the universe, why haven’t we detected them yet?
On a related topic, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory began showing historical NASA films as part of a monthly series.  Today’s entry was “Who’s Out There?” (1975) narrated by Orson Welles.  Recalling his own infamous 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast that panicked the nation, he reviewed the disappointing Mariner missions that dashed hopes of Martian cities and canals.  But he expressed the contemporary hope that microbial life could exist there, given that H2O was found to be present in the Martian clouds and ice caps, and probably produced the apparent river channels seen from orbit.  Welles prophesied that the discovery of one bacterium on Mars, maybe by the upcoming Viking spacecraft (1976), would demonstrate that life was the rule rather than the exception, another instance in the story of the evolution of evolutions going on on planets around billions of stars.  The scratchy, discolored old movie also featured a panel of prominent scientist-philosophers of the day, including Philip Morrison, George Wald, and a young Carl Sagan, expressing their confidence that a million civilizations could exist in the Milky Way galaxy alone, probably communicating in a network of advanced societies that would surely view our civilization as primitive.
That was then, this is now.  The enthusiasm about finding life in the universe has not waned among astrobiologists, but a big dose of reality has set in.  Only selective reporting would give the impression we are closer to finding life out there.  In most respects, the situation is worse for the true believers.  Certainly life has not yet been detected anywhere beyond earth, by SETI or any spacecraft.  Conditions on the early earth are not like the gases of Jupiter, as once supposed.  Evidence for a non-reducing atmosphere, and probably the existence of oxygen, have made belief in life emerging from a primordial soup less plausible by orders of magnitude.  Worse, the discoveries in biochemistry that cells are made up of molecular machines and factories has made it more difficult to imagine that simple molecules could self-organize into life.  Viking did not find life, Pathfinder did not find life, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey have not found life, and most scientists downplay the alleged Martian meteorite as a dead-end trail.  In addition, increased understanding about the anthropic coincidences of earth and the universe are casting doubt on the assumption that life must be a natural by-product of stellar and planetary evolution.  The book Rare Earth represents a growing belief that conditions on our planet were too special to expect to find life to be commonplace.  This Space.Com debate series contains interspersed expressions of hope, but clearly reveals that realism puts severe constraints on the existence of life, its longevity, and its ultimate fate.
The debate also illustrates the amount of faith operating in the religion of materialism.  Nowhere in this debate do the participants even hint at the possibility that there might be a God, who created life and sustains it, even though the majority of people on this planet believe that.  Instead, chemical and biological evolution are taken for granted as facts for which no further proof is needed.  (Browse through our Chain Links on Life and Darwinism to see how bankrupt those beliefs are.)  But the philosophical position of materialism puts them in all kinds of speculative dilemmas, out of which they weave the most exotic tales out of their own imaginations (such as alien societies finding ways to stir the hydrogen in their stars to make them last longer).  If theists spun such yarns they would be laughed to scorn.  The premise of naturalism forces these scientists to hope for discovering more life in space, even though ours is the one and only example so far.
Because it is impossible to prove a universal negative, however, astrobiologists are sure to continue indefinitely in their search.  Regardless of one’s beliefs about the prospects for finding life in the universe and what it would mean, astrobiology at this point is still based only on undying faith, hope, and love for one’s own imagination – an imagination that, rejecting revelation from a Creator God, hopes to relieve its loneliness by discovering fellow complex assemblages of matter emerging out of the cosmic hydrogen.  Maybe the aliens will be more friendly than the invading monsters portrayed in War of the Worlds.  But if their lives are just as purposeless and meaningless as ours, how much comfort will that be?  At best, it would provide some companionship during the brief merry-go-round ride before the heat death of the universe shuts down the carnival forever.  There is an alternative hope, one in which the springs of living water never run dry.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Astronomy. • Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: SETI. •
Unlucky in the Sky Without Diamonds   07/12/2002
A team led by a researcher at
Lawrence Livermore Labs has found microscopic diamonds in interplanetary dust particles, but not enough for current theories.  The common belief is that nanodiamonds formed early in the solar nebula before the sun turned on, and should be most common in the outer reaches of the solar system, but the counts don’t seem to add up.  “We presumed that if we studied (micro) meteorites (also known as interplanetary dust particles) from comets further out in our solar system, we would find more nanodiamonds,” said John Bradley, team leader.  “But we’re just not seeing them.  One theory is that some, perhaps most, nanodiamonds formed within the inner solar system and are not presolar at all.”  According to Bradley, “This raises all sorts of questions about the origins of the solar system.”  Bradley explains in his paper in the July 11 Nature (emphasis added):
We have identified a class of meteoritic materials in which nanodiamonds are either depleted or absent.  Assuming that this trend continues as more IDPs [interplanetary dust particles] are examined, and regardless of whether these particles are from comets or ‘comet-like’ outer asteroids, the discovery of a class of cosmically primitive, carbon-rich IDPs deficient in nanodiamonds is unexpected.  The simplest explanation is that at least some meteoritic nanodiamonds formed in the inner solar nebula, and not in a presolar environment.  But there is evidence that meteoritic nanodiamonds formed under reducing conditions, and conditions in the solar nebula are believed to have been oxidizing, although nanodiamonds can also form under oxidizing conditions.  An alternative explanation is that nanodiamonds are indeed presolar, but that their abundance decreases with heliocentric distance.  In this model, much of the solid matter of the outer Solar System is processed inner Solar System material that was circulated through the accretion disk and then transported outwards.  Perhaps nanodiamonds are not uniformly distributed among carbon-rich non-cluster IDPs, or their (cometary or asteroidal) parent bodies are not as primitive as we have assumed.  Any one of these explanations has profound implications concerning our understanding of the early Solar System.
Dust and ice from the outer solar system has long been assumed to be primordial, but if indeed it has been processed by the inner solar system and transported outwards, all bets are off about dating the particles.
Meteorite ages have been the standard by which solar system dates have been judged, but what if meteorites have been subject to melting and refreezing, rather than being primordial remnants of an assumed solar nebula?  Would that not affect parent and daughter product ratios, and render their dates unreliable?  Put this possibility in context with this other recent story about anomalous short-lived radionuclides, and other Solar System headlines about apparently young objects like Saturn’s rings, serious questions arise.  If the meteorite dating that was seemingly so solid is cast into doubt, the potential for error in the commonly-accepted age of 4.6 billion years is enormous.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating.
Did Life Begin in an RNA World?   07/11/2002
July 11 issue of Nature contains an Insight feature on RNA, with seven articles on this versatile molecule, until recently considered the little servant to the more important DNA.  RNA is a rising star in astrobiology circles, because it has been shown to possess some enzymatic activity and take part in gene regulation and expression, and in many more roles beyond just translating DNA.  Could life have started on an RNA platform before DNA and proteins took the limelight?  One of the chief architects of the RNA World hypothesis, Gerald Joyce of Scripps Institute, examines the current thinking in some detail, and though optimistic, notes some serious difficulties (emphasis added):
  1. It seems likely that RNA has the capability to support life based on RNA genomes that are copied and maintained through the catalytic function of RNA.  There are substantial gaps, however, in scientific understanding concerning how the RNA world arose, the degree of metabolic complexity that it attained, and the way that it led to DNA genomes and protein enzymes.
  2. Depending on the nature of the prebiotic environment, available building blocks may have included amino acids, hydroxy acids, sugars, purines, pyrimidines and fatty acids.  These could have combined to form polymers of largely random sequence and mixed stereochemistry (handedness).  Some of the polymers may have had special properties, such as adherence to a particular mineral surface, unusual resistance to degradation, or the propensity to form supramolecular aggregates.  Eventually every polymer, no matter how stable, would have succumbed to degradation.
  3. When the environment is altered, the special properties associated with a particular polymer may no longer apply and the capacity for self-replication may be lost.  Persistence in a changing environment requires a more general mechanism for self-replication that allows the polymer sequence to change somewhat over time, but retain its heritage in most of the sequence that is unchanged.
  4. If the building blocks of RNA were available in the prebiotic environment, if these combined to form polynucleotides, and if some of the polynucleotides began to self-replicate, then the RNA world may have emerged as the first form of life on Earth.  But based on current knowledge of prebiotic chemistry, this is unlikely to have been the case.  Ribose, phosphate, purines and pyrimidines all may have been available, although the case for pyrimidines is less compelling.
  5. It is difficult to visualize a mechanism for self-replication that either would be impartial to these compositional differences or would treat them as sequence information in a broader sense and maintain them as heritable features.
  6. The chief obstacle to understanding the origin of RNA-based life is identifying a plausible mechanism for overcoming the clutter wrought by prebiotic chemistry.
  7. Another approach is to hypothesize that life did not begin with RNA; some other genetic system preceded RNA, just as it preceded DNA and protein.  This approach has met with substantial progress in recent years, despite the lack of guidance from known metabolic pathways in biology regarding the chemical nature of a precursor to RNA.
  8. It is also possible that RNA-based life was preceded by a replicating, evolving polymer that bore no resemblance to nucleic acids.  Self-replication without darwinian evolution has been demonstrated for certain peptides and even small organic compounds.  Why not cast the net broadly and consider any polymer that is capable of self-replication?  A critical issue then becomes whether there is a sufficient diversity of polymer sequences that can be replicated faithfully to provide the basis for darwinian evolution.
  9. The catalytic potential of TNA, PNA and other proposed precursors to RNA has not yet been explored, but any cogent hypothesis regarding pre-RNA life must consider whether that prior genetic system could have facilitated the appearance of RNA.
  10. There is no known ribozyme in biology that catalyses the template-directed polymerization of NTPs [nucleoside 5'-triphosphates, a putative building block for RNA], but such molecules have been obtained using test-tube evolution.  Like the evolution of organisms in nature, evolution of RNA in the laboratory involves repeated rounds of selective amplification, linking the survival of an RNA species to its fitness.  In the laboratory, fitness is defined by the experimenter, for example, based on the ability of RNA to catalyse a particular chemical reaction.
  11. A pool of one copy each of all possible 40mers [RNA chains of 40 nucleotides], with a mass of 26 kg, just might be achievable, but it is not clear if 40 nucleotides are sufficient to provide robust RNA polymerase activity. ... As a rule of thumb, the error rate of replication per nucleotide must be no more than about the inverse of genome length, corresponding to 99% fidelity for replication of a 100mer and 97.5% fidelity for replication of a 40mer.  There may be polymerase ribozymes that meet these requirements, although such molecules have not yet been demonstrated.
  12. The above discussion ignores other obstacles to RNA-catalysed RNA replication, such as maintaining a supply of activated mononucleotides, ensuring that the ribozyme will recognize its corresponding genomic RNA while ignoring other RNAs in the environment, overcoming stable self-structure within the template strand, separating the template and product strands, and operating in a similar manner on the product strand to generate new copies of the template.  Additional genetic information might be required to overcome these obstacles, but a longer genome would necessitate an even higher fidelity of replication.
  13. Although the central process of the RNA world was the replication of RNA genomes, some form of metabolism must have supported the process.  In keeping with the second law of thermodynamics, the increase in order that occurs in a genetic system is achieved through the expenditure of high-energy starting materials that are converted to lower-energy products.
  14. There are several important reactions in nucleotide synthesis that have not yet been carried out with a ribozyme. ... The possibility of a more complex RNA-based metabolism is purely conjectural.
  15. Other RNA-based functions for which there is no evidence in biology, such as nucleotide synthesis and RNA polymerization, are assumed to have existed in the RNA world based on first principles, but it is important to recognize that this assumption is not supported by available historical evidence.
  16. It is often said, again based on first principles rather than historical evidence, that RNA-based life must have entailed some form of cellular compartmentalization.
  17. Although RNA is well suited as a genetic molecule and can evolve to perform a broad range of catalytic tasks, it has limited chemical functionality and thus may not be equipped to meet certain challenges and opportunities that arise in the environment.  An important innovation of life on Earth was the development of a separate macromolecule that would be responsible for most catalytic functions, even though that molecule contained subunits that were poorly suited for replication.  The invention of protein synthesis, instructed and catalysed by RNA, was the crowning achievement of the RNA world, but also began its demise.
  18. It is not known whether the invention of protein synthesis preceded or followed the invention of DNA genomes.  The primary advantage of DNA over RNA as a genetic material is the greater chemical stability of DNA, allowing much larger genomes based on DNA.  Protein synthesis may require more genetic information than can be maintained by RNA.
  19. A largely open question concerns the origin of the genetic code.  The aminoacylation of RNA initially must have provided some selective advantage unrelated to the eventual development of a translation machinery.
  20. The next step towards the origin of the genetic code was the formation of peptide bonds between amino acids that were attached to RNA.  The products of this reaction must have conferred some selective advantage, even though the peptides probably would have been too small and too heterogeneous in sequence to function as catalysts. ... It is not clear, however, how the detailed assignments of the genetic code were made.
  21. Insight into the origin and operation of the RNA world is largely inferential, based on the known chemical and biochemical properties of RNA.  In the best of circumstances those inferences are supported by examining the role of RNA in contemporary biology.  Without that support one must be careful not to draw detailed conclusions regarding these historical events.
In another paper in the RNA series, Moore and Steitz provide a detailed look at the latest findings on the workings of the ribosome, and how the messenger and transfer RNAs come together in close quarters to synthesize proteins with high fidelity.  Because the inner workings of ribosomes are composed almost solely of RNA, they also surmise the ribosome started in an RNA World: “it is almost certainly true that the overall abundance of RNA in the modern ribosome reflects an evolutionary history that started with an all-RNA particle.”  Most of the article is composed of detailed step-by-step process descriptions, with diagrams, of all the working parts and the “conformational changes” they undergo (i.e., moving parts).  Nevertheless, they take a paragraph to speculate on how this elaborate machinery evolved, beginning: “It has often been emphasized that no enzyme as complex as the modern ribosome could possibly have emerged from the primordial soup in a single step.” 
The ‘proto-ribosome’ might have been a one-subunit object that catalysed peptide bond formation in an uncoded, non-processive way, and thus made small oligopeptides of random sequence that were not proteins in the modern sense, and may have had some other purpose.  It probably gained its decoding function, and the small subunit with which that function is associated, later, in parallel with the evolution of the genome and of tRNA.
Thus, the bulk of the article deals with observable mechanics of this highly-coordinated system, but the evolutionary speculation, as in Joyce’s article, is almost entirely devoid of experimental support.
How many show-stoppers does it take to stop a show?  Every one of Joyce’s listed problems (and there are others), is serious enough to forbid progress toward life.  It’s a tale only an atheist could love, but here it is prominently featured in Nature.  Notice that we are not picking on straw men, but the best champions the Darwin Party has to offer.  Gerald Joyce, Mr. RNA World himself, lays out the latest and greatest story in the world’s most prestigious science journal.  Are you impressed?
It has been said that those who like sausage and respect the law should not watch either being made.  By the time this RNA-World tale gets sanitized and stripped of the critical details and packaged for student heads that can’t even spell DNA, it will look neat and clean and delicious.  Well, we just took you on a tour into the sausage factory and held up the baloney for your gaze, so you could decide whether to smack your lips or puke.
Why take so much space on this story?  Because in a real sense, this story is foundational to all the evolutionary tales that follow: all the ape-man fossils, all the finch beaks and peppered moths and phylogenetic trees that the evolutionists feel much more comfortable showcasing.  Here, at the very root, the situation is hopeless.  It’s the minnow trying to jump Niagara Falls.  Everything is against them, yet hoping against hope, all they can do is imagine the impossible.
As usual, you can find the personification fallacy and circular reasoning pervading their hypothetical fantasylands.  Joyce mentions information 16 times, but never explains where it comes from; he just pulls it right out of the magic hat.  He acknowledges that DNA and RNA can store it, and that polypeptide chains without it are useless, but totally glosses over this most serious difficulty.  With an imagination that would make Lewis Carroll envious, he pictures RNA yielding its genetic information that it gained by chance or magic to DNA, and then taking on a translation role to pass it to proteins.  He glosses over the chirality problem, merely imagining that clay surfaces or the RNA backbone might somehow overcome it.  Gaps are partly filled in with test-tube evolution (how’s that for an oxymoron).  If relevant to anything at all, test-tube evolution is intelligent design!  It is investigator interference in nature, substituting unrealistic conditions and isolating products to force a result that would never happen spontaneously.  He admits that accurate replication, up to 97% or higher, is a must.  He admits that short chains are useless, but ignores the fact that the longer the chain, the lower the probability it will be useful or single-handed, to the point of being too improbable to occur anywhere in the universe.  At every step he is like a man in a helicopter above Niagara Falls pulling the little minnow in a wire cage up through the torrent, when nature would never do the things he requires without lots of intelligent help.
Why do evolutionists get away with this? It is because of a prior commitment to naturalism that evolutionary tales like the RNA World Hypothesis survive in spite of overwhelming problems.  To them, only natural causes are allowed in science, so if they can invent what they think is a marginally plausible tale by which it might have happened, it is acceptable (see the best-in-field fallacy).  By excluding intelligent design from the very definition of science, they have thrown away the key to understanding nature, and have made imagination their idol.  This has been stated very potently by Richard Lewontin in a classic quote you should read in our Baloney Detector under the section on subjectivity.  It also makes them hate and vilify anyone who disagrees with their naturalistic philosophy (see next headline, for example).  As the Apostle Paul put it, they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.
For relief from the fantasyland of Joyce’s article, read Moore and Steitz’s description of the ribosome in all its glory.  The intricate fit and precision of this molecular machine will make you stand in awe.  This is the empirical evidence; it shouts out intelligent design.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Book Review 07/11/2002: William Dembski’s latest book No Free Lunch is reviewed by Brian Charlesworth in the July 11 Nature.  As expected, it is patronizing and ruthlessly critical: Dembski is described as a reactionary, wanting to want to turn the clock back to a time when people appealed to gods and goblins to explain natural phenomena, (presumably like Newton, who is Charlesworth’s first citation).  But instead of dealing with the mathematical theorems on which the book is based (it sounds like he didn’t even read it), Charlesworth instead focuses on the character of God who would create “nasty” things like tigers and tapeworms.  He also argues that evolutionary studies are, while incomplete, filling in gaps gradually: “Human evolution provides an excellent example of this, with the fossil discoveries of the twentieth century providing a resounding confirmation of Darwin’s hypothesis of an African origin of modern humans.”  (Now read the next headline story, below).
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.

New Hominid Fossil Shakes the Human Family Tree (Again)   07/11/2002
Everything you learned in school about human evolution is wrong, if a new skull fragment found in Chad by
Michel Brunet maintains its place in the family tree.  Named Sahelanthropus tchadensis or “Toumaï” for short, it is shaking up ideas about mankind’s evolution.  The BBC calls it “astonishing” and “the most important anthropological find in living memory,” but doubters are not convinced it is more than just a small gorilla or proto-gorilla skull, or something else unrelated to human evolution.  Nature Science Update calls the small 6-7 million year old skull the oldest hominid fossil, but it already had features more advanced than later Australopithecines, some claim.  Bernard Wood of George Washington University laments the sad state of human paleontology:

“When I went to medical school in 1963, human evolution looked like a ladder,” he says.  The ladder stepped from monkey to man through a progression of intermediates, each slightly less ape-like than the last.  Now human evolution looks like a bush.  We have a menagerie of fossil hominids - the group containing everything thought more closely related to humans than chimps.  How they are related to each other and which, if any of them, are human forebears is still debated.
Wood chooses to believe it was just an animal alive at the time humans were evolving, but others claim it has hominid features, like smaller canines, thicker tooth enamel and a point on the back of the skull that some feel hints it might have walked upright.  Nature blames the paucity of fossils of the period on the lifestyle habits of the creatures, and interestingly, notes that “The forests favoured by chimps, and apparently by early hominids, are not conducive to fossil formation.  Chimps, for example, have no fossil record.”
In a related story on Nature Science Update, Henry Gee puts the new fossil in historical perspective of earlier claims of human fossils, particularly John Dart’s discovery of Australopithecus.  The full comments by Bernard Wood are in the cover story of the July 11 Nature, with links to the two scientific papers presenting Toumaï to the world by Michel Brunet et al.
What are we to think when every new hominid discovery “blows the socks off” (their words) the story of human evolution?  Let’s understand something important here: if you have a branching bush, you do not have any proof of evolution.  The branches are all inferred; the only data are the leaves.  Now mentally erase the branches, and picture leaves hanging in mid air at random; this is the modern data about the human lineage.  Anybody see evolution here?  Add to that the fact that the dating methods are all highly suspect, and that you have rival teams competing for their place in the history books (see this July 12 BBC story, for instance), then tell us if you think paleoanthropology has any claim to being legitimate science.  Remember all that hand-wringing that went on just five months ago?  Existing ideas were tossed into the trash, and nobody could even define what it meant to be a hominid.  It’s deja vu all over again.
Don’t forget that fossils exist in the present.  The stories about how they got the way they are and how they evolved from one to another are just that: stories made up by people alive today.  This applies not only to human fossils, but to the whole fossil record.  Bernard Wood says, “Here we have compelling evidence that our own origins are as complex and as difficult to trace as those of any other group of organisms.”  If human paleontology is this bad, what did he just say about the rest of the fossil record of evolution?
On July 12, Answers in Genesis posted their response to this fossil find.  On July 18, Mark Hartwig took a cynical sneer at the find on his Weekly Wedge Update.  Meanwhile, National Geographic (long time promoter of human evolution propaganda) chimed in that “one of most important things this skull tells us is how much we don’t know.”  So will they publish any retractions for decades of stories about the Leakeys that now seem old hat or irrelevant?  No way.  To an evolutionist, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, so as long as you are working by the rules of methodological naturalism.  So it’s perfectly acceptable to hop from one false lead to another indefinitely; someday, we may get nowhere.  Doesn’t this way just feel so much better than merely accepting the Creator’s word for how it happened?  This is a good time to review our Concise Guide to Evolutionary Theory.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next dumb story.
Church Attendance Increases Marriage Rate   07/10/2002
Penn State study shows that increased church attendance correlates with higher rates of marriage, particularly for minority women.  Presumably the reasons include the promulgation of higher values and virtues for marriage and more role models to observe.  Church attendance was seen to be about equal to socioeconomic status as a predicter of marriage.
Let’s try to interpret this in evolutionary terms, since the Richard Dawkins & Eugenie Scott crowd would not grant any real validity to a Genesis foundation for marriage or a real God who created the institution of marriage.  We must see church attendance as a sociological phenomenon that evolved as a defense against wandering males.  Women evolved church as a sexual strategy to force males into longer-term relationships in which the scrutiny of the group could act as a check on male promiscuity.  All the accoutrements, like singing Amazing Grace, are opportunities for the males and females to evaluate one another’s fitness by their vocalizations.  Thus church is a memetic strategy for bringing the fittest individuals into close contact for the propagation of their genes.  Are you choking yet?
It’s good that church attendance is correlated to marriage, because cyclic single parenthood (children having children) is a very serious problem among minority women.  It could be argued that it is the decline of moral values in part because of a culture that treats humans as mere animals that leads to unbridled sexual activity without responsibility.  Evolution has no moral code, and provides a good excuse for anyone who wants to have sex whenever and with whomever he wants to rationalize it with a veneer of scientific respectability.  If this sounds unfair, just look at what the PBS Evolution TV series taught in Episode 5, Why Sex?, picturing apes having sex orgies with the implication that if animals do it, why not people, too.  How’s that for pouring gasoline on the fire of lust, producing even more unwed mothers and illegitimate children growing up in fatherless homes?  What a contrast to Biblical morality!  A good church that teaches the Bible elevates marriage and reminds us lustful and selfish beings of the words of God thundered from Mt. Sinai and written with the finger of God on tablets of stone, Thou shalt not commit adultery.  It shows the divine purpose of marriage as the union of two souls created in the image of God.
Some balancing points are in order regarding this article.  (1) One’s motives for going to church should be purer than just to find a marriage partner.  (2) Not all churches are created equal in terms of helpfulness for marriage (some advance the homosexual agenda and teach unbiblical doctrines).  (3) Some otherwise good churches need to do more to bring singles together and see this as a good and healthy role for their ministry.  Many singles feel that churches cater mostly to married couples and kids, but treat them as second class citizens.  For a recent essay on their frustration, see this Breakpoint article by Julia Duin.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Bible.
Repetition, Not Randomness, Builds Genes   07/09/2002
Three Japanese scientists writing in the
July 17 Journal of Molecular Biology propose that genes and proteins began not by purely random sequences of building blocks, but by chains of repeating structures.  Noting that the human genome contains nearly 50% repetitive sequences, they see this as the seed bed for new proteins and genes.  In a lab experiment, they built six “microgenes” of arbitrary sequence (some based on parts of actual genes), and cloned them into chains of various lengths.  They found some of them would be expressed in a bacterial cell and accumulate, and a few would have some secondary structure like alpha-helices and beta-sheets.  This, they believe, provides experimental support for Susumu Ohno’s hypothesis that the first proteins arose from repeating sequences of short oligonucleotides:
He proposed that oligomeric repeats should easily arise from unequally primed replication processes, and that such repeats should give birth to new coding frames.  Attractive features of this hypothesis are: (1) large open reading frames readily emerge from repeats of a shorter sequence, provided it is devoid of termination codons; (2) the resultant genes are tolerant to insertions and deletions; and (3) the translation products of such periodic genes have a greater propensity to form higher structure.
From chains with a lot of repeating units but a few random inserts and deletions, they feel Darwinian selection could originate new genes and proteins.
Baloney detecting is an art.  When confronted with esoteric papers filled with technical jargon in prestigious scientific journals, it’s very easy to get intimidated into just accepting whatever they say.  But if you grasp a few basic principles, the baloney stands out clearly in the fog of bluff.  These scientists are basically saying you can get language out of repetition, like getting new words out of abcabcabcabcabcabcabc kqtkqtkqtkqtkq pwgjpwgjpwgjpwgjpwgjpwjg and stringing them together with a few mistakes thrown in for fun.  Will it work?  They demonstrated it in a test tube, didn’t they?  Consider the following:
  1. Starting materials: They kicked off from the 99-yard line, by using already-built parts of genes and translating them through an already-working translation apparatus.  They used already available single-handed building blocks.
  2. Investigator interference: At every step, they made the molecules do what they naturally don’t do.  They admit that random sequences have a short half life, and that they had to keep termination codons out of their microgenes.
  3. Translation: They never explain how a translation mechanism would ever arise that would have the same language convention as the gene.  Without it, amino acids would never join together by themselves, and even if they could, the gene would never produce the same polypeptide that could make them evolve together.  Modern cells do this with an elaborate error-correcting sequence of messenger RNA and transfer RNA molecules using a ribosome, a precision molecular machine.
  4. Structure: They hint that a few of their products developed some “secondary structure” but never specify whether it had any usefulness, and admit it is not like the tight folding of real proteins.
  5. Function: They never intimate that the products were good for anything or accomplished any work in the cell; only that they were unique, not found in any catalogs of known proteins.  So what?  You won’t find this word in the dictionary – abcabcabcabcabcpwgjpwgjpwgjpwcxqtkqtkqiabcabcabcab – but is it good for anything?
  6. Inappropriate Appeals to Natural Selection: You cannot invoke natural selection without replication, and they’re trying to sneak it in here again.  We must continue to call foul when evolutionists do this.
  7. Oversimplification: Living cells, even the simplest, are far more complex than given credit for in this paper.  The molecular machinery that goes into just unwinding the DNA and getting it ready to be translated is mind-boggling, let alone what transcribes it and proofreads it and sends it to the ribosome.  Every part of a cell, the Golgi apparatus, the cytoskeleton, the membrane pores, numerous organelles etc. and all the processes like mitosis and signalling and locomotion involve literally thousands of parts working in both spatial and temporal coordination.
Each step of protein formation is incredibly complex, and there is an entirely different level of complexity above, in the protein complexes that work together like a symphony orchestra.  Speaking of orchestras, much fine music involves repetition – just listen to Bach or Mozart – but if it’s all repetition, you get Philip Glass or drum-machine rock, which are degenerative products, not the building blocks from which great composers get their inspiration (and apply intelligent design).  The genius of Bach was in using repetition creatively, taking a motif and inverting, modifying and transforming it within a complex yet unified whole.  The motif is often the easy part; it is the convolutions and transitions that reveal the genius of a great composer.  True, there are repetitive sequences in DNA, the functions of which are still under study, but genes are not repetitive nor built up from repetitive sequences.  Genes are a code, which employ a language convention.  Chain saws have repetition (the teeth on the chain), but you would never claim that the repetitive parts built the chain saw.  It is the height of folly to claim that a cell, as complex and coordinated as a city, could arise by blindly joining together repetitive building blocks without guidance and purpose.  What this paper demonstrates is the desperation with which evolutionists wish to distance themselves from chance.  They know that randomness alone as an explanation for life is futility.  But isn’t their proposal just glorified randomness?  Is a random chain of repeating units really any less random than a random chain of individual units?  Isn’t it just like throwing dice with Rubik’s cubes and hoping it will improve your odds?  You can’t get information out of repetition; there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Their theory also assumes natural selection can do more magic tricks than it knows.  For other problems with this theory, read our “bridge and helicopter” analogy in the commentary on a previous test-tube evolution story, May 22.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
The Monarch Butterflies in the Flight Simulator   07/09/2002
With a contraption reminiscent of a high-school science project with plastic bottles, drinking straws, wires and parts from a Microsoft mouse, two Canadian psychologists made their own Monarch Butterfly Flight Simulator and watched the little wonderbugs perform for hours.  Their goal was to determine whether the butterflies orient their flight path with respect to the sun or to the earth’s magnetic field.  Previous experiments were restricted to short hops and produced equivocal results.  The challenge facing these investigators was how to tether the lightweight bugs to the equipment so that they could fly freely and not be influenced by any of the equipment except for the direction of the light.  They succeeded by gluing a thin tungsten wire with beeswax to the butterfly, which was connected to optical sensors and a computer.  A large plastic bottle was used for the housing, and a fan blowing gently through hundreds of drinking straws at the bottom provided a gentle air current to induce the butterflies to start flapping, without biasing which direction to go.  By testing the equipment in all orientations and configurations, they were able to make sure only the direction of the light was influencing the bugs.  To test magnetic fields, they flew the bugs in a boathouse with a big coil that they could rotate left and right by 120o.  59 fat Monarchs were collected for the experiment, loaded with sugar and ready to migrate. The scientists collected many hours worth of data on sustained flapping flight.  The result?  Butterflies orient by the sun.  Magnetic field direction appeared to have no effect on the little aviators.  The paper was published online July 9 in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Virtual migration in tethered flying monarch butterflies reveals their orientation mechanisms,” by Henrik Mouritzen and Barrie J. Frost of the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  Along with the paper are two short movie clips of the experiment, showing the butterflies in the simulator responding to the different directions of light.  Science Now also has a short story about it.  On August 7, Current Biology wrote about the report, mentioning that “While this may provide an insight into the butterflies’ international travel, it remains unclear how, arriving on their compass bearing to Mexico, they are then able to find the specific roosting trees of their ancestors.”
So many scientific papers are filled with abstruse math and highfalutin technology these days, it was fun to read this paper about good ol’ empirical science done with makeshift materials.  The researchers appeared to be conscientious about avoiding bias; at least they described their apparatus in detail so the experiment could be repeatable, maybe even by creative high school students.  The main conclusion, not to be forgotten among all the glue and wires and plastic bottles, is that Monarch butterflies are really remarkable critters.  They can fly for 3500 kilometers, from Eastern Canada to Mexico, to the precise spot in a remote mountain forest where their ancestors wintered, flying for hours at a time unerringly even over trackless ocean, without having ever seen the destination before.  Figuring out how they do this will take a great deal of additional experimentation.
Next headline on: Bugs and Insects. • Next amazing story.
No Place Like GHZ (Galactic Habitable Zone)   07/08/2002
The August issue of
Astronomy Magazine has an article by Mark A. Garlick that should make us glad we live in the ’burbs.  The center of our galaxy might be bright and busy, but it’s no place for creatures who want stability.  Nearby stars create “serious impact hazards” and downtown “invites danger in the form of radiation from stellar winds, supernovae, or anti-matter and gamma-ray bursts emitted by the supermassive black hole residing in the Milky Way’s nucleus.”  On the other hand, the farther out a star, the fewer the materials with which to build a solar system.  Earth’s position also coincides with the rotation of the spiral arms.  A consequence of this is that the earth doesn’t cross a spiral arm often, which might trigger close calls with other stars that could send comets careening toward earth.  These considerations are making some astronomers extend the old idea of the “habitable zone.”  Once defined as a “Goldilocks” distance from the sun in which a planet would be neither too hot or cold, some astronomers are now extending it to a zone around the entire Galaxy.  Shaped like a flat donut, it represents the safest place to have a planetary system with life.  Garlick thinks the SETI people would be wise to concentrate their searches in this zone, but venerable SETI theorist Frank Drake feels the idea is too parochial: “Even though we use Earth as a paradigm for the blueprints of life, we must not allow it to narrow our vision of what might exist in environments radically different to our own planet.”
While open-minded, Drake’s comment is not very realistic.  If the GHZ concept holds up, it drastically narrows the suitable habitats for life in the universe.  Some of Garlick’s supporting arguments depend on unreliable beliefs about the Oort Cloud hypothesis, planetary formation and the evolution of life, but the general idea makes sense that there are hazards we don’t have to worry about at our location in the great spiral.  The Anthropic Principle (the combination of lucky accidents of physics and astronomy that work together for our benefit), discussed by theists and skeptics alike with great interest, now has this added situation to explain.  Why not design?
Looking toward the Milky Way’s center in Sagittarius on a clear night, maybe you have felt like a country kid dreaming about life in the big city.  But be glad with the home God in his wisdom gave us; it’s mighty fine out here under the stars.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: SETI.
Origami With RNA Requires Protein Chaperones   07/08/2002
RNA, like DNA, can easily form helical structures, and can also easily collapse into a muddled knot that is hard to untangle.  For it to fold into useful structures, a group of proteins called chaperones are needed.  The chaperones prevent the molecules from falling into “kinetic traps” that would be hard to unfold, and make sure they fold into the “native state”, the conformation that can perform the needed function in the cell.  That’s the gist of a minireview in the
June 28 issue of Cell.  The article discusses several new findings, “a vindication of more than two decades of work on putative RNA chaperones and will almost certainly open productive new avenues for studying the management of RNA structure formation and processing in vivo. ‘That’s, like, so cool!’”
It is important to note how this argues against the old biological predestination idea.  Dean Kenyon, who co-authored a book by that name, used to believe that the inherent attractions of molecules would lead them to form living molecules, but he abandoned the idea when confronted by lab evidence that protein building blocks do not spontaneously join and fold by themselves.  Here we see that special molecules are needed to prevent RNA molecules from doing what comes naturally (fold into tangled knots), and instead guide them to fold into useful structures, based on genetic instructions from DNA.  But evolutionists want us to believe that life began in an RNA world, with no proteins to help fold them properly, and no genetic instructions.  Just the concept of chaperones guiding RNA into an elegant fold is a wondrous thought.  It shouts for intelligent engineering.  See also our stories on chaperone proteins from 01/27/01 and 02/20/01.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
What Are Young Stars Doing in an Old Galaxy?   07/08/2002
The textbook explanation of elliptical galaxies is that they are composed of aging red giants in their senior years, and are depleted of the gas and dust needed to form new stars.  So why does NGC 4365 have young blue adolescents?  “Young stars challenge old ideas” is the title of the story on
PhysicsWeb.  Astronomers using combined images from the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Hubble Space Telescope found the surprising result.  The reporter says, “Astronomers must now try to accommodate the discovery of young stars in old galaxies into theories of galaxy formation and the evolution of the Universe.”
Maybe the most important thing students should learn in science classrooms is the First Law of Scientific Progress.
Next headline on: Astronomy. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
New Evidence for Humanness at Conception   07/08/2002
A feature story in
Nature Science Update gives new evidence that the human body plan is being laid out immediately at conception, perhaps even influenced by the point where the sperm enters the egg.  Helen Pearson says this idea would have been considered heresy among embryologists just five years ago.  No longer can they claim the zygote is an undifferentiated blob until implantation.  There is patterning in the fertilized egg that starts the chain reaction leading to the adult body from day one.
Another article on Nature Science Update July 4 explains how embryologists have discovered that hair-like cilia help control the placement of newly emerging organs during development.
Those opposed to abortion should study this evidence for its implications on the humanness of a fertilized embryo.  It is not a blob of cells evolving through other evolutionary stages, as some have used as a moral salve to young women in abortion clinics.  From the moment of conception, a pattern is set that leads to the mature body in an unbroken developmental path.  Where could anyone draw a line that differentiates human from non-human, except at the moment of conception?
Next headline on: Politics. • Next headline on: Human Body.
Peppered Moth Experiment: A Fraud, or Not?   07/05/2002
In the
July 4 Nature, Jerry A. Coyne reviews Judith Hooper’s upcoming book Of Moths and Men: An Evolutionary Tale, which portrays Kettlewell’s famous peppered moth experiment in colors of fraud and conspiracy.  The peppered moth Biston betularia is an icon of evolution, decorating nearly every high school biology textbook as a classic case of natural selection.  Coyne (staunchly pro-evolutionist) admits that Kettlewell’s work was sloppy, but denies it was fraudulent.  He admits that even today the experiment leaves questions about the mechanism of selection, but claims that it remains a “splendid example of evolution in action.”  But the controversy is getting more notice; the New York Times on June 18 also had a story about it.  But Coyne takes Hooper to task: “This issue matters, at least in the United States, because creationists have promoted the problems with Biston as a refutation of evolution itself.  Even my own brief critique of the story (Nature 396, 35-36; 1998) has become grist for the creationists’ mill.  By peddling innuendo and failing to distinguish clearly the undeniable fact of selection from the contested agent of selection, Hooper has done the scientific community a disservice.”
Update 08/09/2002: In the August 9 issue of Science, Bruce Grant also reviewed Hooper’s book and came to a similar conclusion.
Update 09/25/2002: Jonathan Wells has a review of Hooper’s book in Christianity Today’s Books & Culture: A Christian Review for Sept-Oct 2002.
Update 10/02/2002: Jonathan Wells again enters the fray at the Discovery Institute, this time specifically answering claims in Bruce Grant’s critical review of Hooper’s book.
Take note!  Go back and read Coyne’s 1998 article, where he himself stated that Kettlewell’s experiments were flawed and never replicated:  “From time to time, evolutionists re-examine a classic experimental study and find, to their horror, that it is flawed or downright wrong.”  He compared his disappointment at the details of the story to his discovery as a kid that Santa Claus was really his dad.  Back then, he rendered a judgment that Kettlewell’s proof of natural selection was invalid: “First, for the time being we must discard Biston as a well-understood example of natural selection in action, although it is clearly a case of evolution.”
But what kind of schizophrenia is that?  How can it clearly be a case of evolution, when the scientific investigation was flawed and sloppy?  Kettlewell started and ended with peppered moths, just two colored varieties of the same species.  The only thing observed was (possibly) fluctuating counts of the varieties.  Where, O where, is the evolution?  Only in the imaginations of the faithful!
Now four years later, after Jonathan Wells (Icons of Evolution) and other anti-Darwinists have made a stink out of the peppered moth fallacy, Jerry Coyne is back-pedaling faster than a 1967 Egyptian tank.  He realizes that his writing and this new book are grist for the creationists’ mill, and Horrors!  Anything but that!
So Coyne now bluffs about how clearly there is the undeniable fact of selection, when the peppered moth story, arguably the best textbook example of it, turns out to be a myth.  (Interestingly, his 1998 paper pointed to the Grants’ finch-beak study as a better example, which we recently showed was also equivocal: see our April 26 headline about it.)  So despite the evidence, Coyne seems to say, evolution is a fact, not a dogma.  We do not brainwash, do you understand?  We do not brainwash!  Repeat after me: we do not brainwash, evolution is a fact, we do not brainwash, evolution is a fact, we do not brainwash, evolution is a fact, you are getting sleepy, verrryyy sleeeeeeeepy...
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Root of Eukaryote Evolution: Found at Last?   07/05/2002
Stechmann and Cavalier-Smith writing in the
July 5 Science claim to have rooted the evolutionary tree of eukaryotes (organisms with nuclei) more precisely.  They investigated nine sample organisms for a rare gene-fusion event that they feel is almost certainly derived.  Their hypothesis puts the root below bikonts (organisms with two cilia) and opisthokonts (animals, fungi and people).  Admitting that “One of the most challenging evolutionary problems is locating the root of the eukaryote tree,” the authors feel their rooting point is more clearly indicated by this gene-fusion event, but they admit the location of the Amoebaezoa is uncertain, and they have to assume several lateral-transfer events to make it work.  Surprisingly, the Archezoa, long considered primitive eukaryotes, are farther up the tree: “Archezoa (Parabasalia and metamonads) were formerly considered possible primitive eukaryotes because of absence of mitochondria and deep branching in sequence trees,” they say, but “The complex tetrakont ciliary apparatus of Archezoa and Percolozoa was long an obstacle to considering them the most primitive eukaryotes; more likely, they evolved from simpler biciliate eukaryotes.”
Despite the bluffing, there is quite a bit of hand-waving to make this tree work.  If lateral transfer is really occurring, the potential for really scrambling any putative phylogenetic tree cannot be ignored.  Our previous headlines show many problems with genetic phylogenies (browse through the Chain Links on Darwin and see), so subsequent stories are bound to uncover further controversies, anomalies and doubts (see Finagle’s Second Law).
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
In Early Man Gray Matter, It Was Quality, Not Quantity   07/04/2002
Evolutionary anthropologists have to give up their assumption that bigger brains were an important factor driving humans to migrate, according to
EurekAlert.  A small-skulled Homo erectus (600cc brain capacity) has been found in Georgia, Russia, challenging the theory that an increase in brain size caused humans to migrate out of Africa.  The original report is published in the July 5 Science.  The summary by Ann Gibbons says this throws a monkey wrench into many people’s ideas about human migration out of Africa, and warns, “Such a primitive traveler also raises the heretical possibility that H. erectus itself evolved outside Africa, long considered the cradle of human evolution, notes Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley.”
The state of thinking about human evolution is in such disarray (just wander through our Chain Links on Early Man and see), that this story is another ho-hum.  Each new announcement says everything you previously believed is wrong, and there are more monkey wrenches than monkeys.  The only thing notable is this admission: “While we take it for granted that modern humans come in all shapes and sizes, scientists know little about individual variation among our ancestors.”  In other words, all these individual bones might not be different lineages and species, but just varieties within pure apes and men.  A paleontologist can interpret a skull as a transitional form when it might just be a variant of another non-transitional species.  Doesn’t this throw the door wide open for storytellers?  Make up your own; it will be just as valid as theirs.  You could make a pretty convincing evolutionary tree out of the skulls of living people today.  The skull of a young Einstein might wind up pretty low in the tree.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Missing Link Between Sea-Dwellers and Land-Dwellers Found?   07/03/2002
National Geographic reports that a fossil of a “short, squat crocodile-like creature” named Pederpes has been rediscovered in a Scottish museum that might represent a missing link, a type of the first creature to walk on land.  It appears to date into a period called “Romer’s Gap,” a 30-million year gap after the Devonian age of fishes, after which ancestors of amphibians, birds mammals and reptiles appear already formed.  UK paleontologist Jennifer Clack brushed off the old fossil and found toes that pointed forward, instead of backward like the paddle-shaped limbs of Devonian species.  She thinks this was for locomotion on land.  She went back to the place where the fossil was dug up but was unable to find any other specimens.  Nevertheless, Robert Carroll, a Canadian paleontologist, is glad for the find, because “Romer’s Gap is a 30-million-year black box that, frankly, keeps me awake at night,” he said.
He shouldn’t get too comfortable yet.  Romer’s Gap is just one of many major, systematic gaps in the fossil record.  The report is peppered with words like believe, may, might, probably, puzzle, misclassified, who knows.  Evolutionists have this bad habit of force-fitting data into a preconceived notion of what the family tree of life should look like.  The dating of the fossil is based on pollen, which assumes an evolutionary sequence and also incurs accusations of circular reasoning, maybe even of fudging the date to fill the embarrassing gap.  It appears that these evolutionists are trying to pin a tentative Post-It Note onto a whiteboard that is supposed to show a flowchart but has mostly empty space and question marks.  What’s the evidence in this story?  A toe bone.  How much can that reveal, when you consider that bones are just the easy part?  What about explaining the evolution of all the soft tissues and organs that hang on the bones, that must evolve simultaneously to support life from a seawater environment to an air-breathing environment?  If Romer’s Gap is the only action item giving Carroll insomnia, he isn’t seeing the whole List of Things To Do Tomorrow.
Robert Carroll in his News and Views commentary on this paper, makes some admissions that cannot be very encouraging to evolutionists who have been hunting for transitional forms ever since Darwin (emphasis added):
Perhaps the greatest importance of Pederpes is to emphasize the absence of fossils of so many other early tetrapod lineages that might be expected near the beginning of the Carboniferous. ... Discoveries of fossils representing well-established groups, such as dinosaurs and Cenozoic mammals, occur comparatively frequentlyBut the number of truly intermediate forms linking the major groups of vertebrates remains small. ... the many distinct but perhaps rare and short-lived lineages that linked ancestral and descendant forms across major evolutionary radiations remain largely unknown.  Such radiations include those of early Palaeozoic fish and the diverse orders of placental mammals, as well as that of early land vertebrates.  The absence of fossils of early members of most Palaeozoic lineages also precludes the possibility of establishing a reliable classification of the main groups of living tetrapods.”
Tetrapods, of course, represent every animal walking on all fours, from salamanders to elephants, and everything else with two pairs of limbs like birds, bats and whales.  In the end, all he can hope is that this one fossil is a small step in filling in these major gaps.  Sweet dreams.
Next headline on: Fossils . • Next headline on: Fish.
Human Evolution: Is This As Good As It Gets?   07/01/2002
According to
EurekAlert, some immunologists think our more advanced immune system is limiting our future evolution.  This is because the immune system has to recognize self-molecules to avoid autoimmune disease.  The bigger the genome, the more the immune system has to kill off immune cells to avoid fighting the body itself.  Too big a genome, and the immune system would get paralyzed.  Dr. Andrew George of Imperial College thinks this may make further human evolution difficult, but the body has compensated by creating genes with multiple uses.
Evolution is a playground for storytellers to speculate unrestrained without reference to observational science.  The conclusions are nowhere justified by the data.  The human genome count says nothing about the future of human evolution.  Gene count varies wildly between species, and the actual count of human genes is still controversial.  If the human immune system is advanced, and human genes have multiple uses, why not conclude intelligent design instead?  This is another reason creationism is good for science.  Without critics, evolutionists get to speculate unchallenged.  Creationists say “Show me!” and demand intellectual responsibility and scientific proof.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next dumb story.

Click on Apollos, the trusty

Scientist of the Month
Guide to Evolutionary Theory
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Featured Creation Scientist for July

Bernhard Riemann
1826 - 1866

To continue our summer of mathematics, we look at another remarkable Christian mathematician who, like Blaise Pascal, changed the world but never reached his 40th birthday: Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann.

Mathematics is the language of science and the two are almost useless without one another.  There are textbooks both in mathematical physics and physical mathematics.  Sometimes the scientist presses the mathematician to produce better tools for computation, but sometimes the mathematician opens up new vistas for the scientist to explore.  Riemann was such a man.  He liberated mathematics from the strictures of Euclidean geometry that for 2,000 years had seemed intuitively obvious and inviolable.  In so doing, he created a new space for Einstein to apply his mental powers.  Howard Anton called Riemann’s work “brilliant and of fundamental importance,” and lamented that “his early death was a great loss to mathematics.”  Yet such achievement would have seemed unlikely for a boy who wanted to become a preacher.

Like Leonhard Euler in the previous century, Riemann was the son of a Protestant minister.  Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, Bernhard had a trait that would not have suited the preaching profession, according to John Hudson Tiner: he was excessively shy.  Nevertheless, throughout his life, he was devoutly religious and sincere in his Christian faith.  Early on, his propensity for mathematics became obvious.  Dan Graves says that he outpaced his teacher at age ten, and at age 16 “he mastered Legendre’s (1752-1833) massive and difficult Theory of Numbers —in just six days.”  He breezed through Euler’s works on calculus and studied under the great Carl Friedrich Gauss, under whom he received his PhD with a thesis on complex functions. 

In order to obtain an assistant professorship, Riemann had to deliver a lecture on one of three topics.  Gauss selected the topic for which his student was least prepared: the foundations of geometry.  After hastening to prepare, he delivered a paper so brilliant it astonished his aging master.  Riemann’s work led to a bizarre concept hard for many to grasp: curved space, in which Euclid’s rules of geometry broke down.

One of Euclid’s primary assumptions was that parallel lines never meet; another was that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  A few, including Gauss, had speculated whether it would be possible to question these assumptions, and thereon build a non-Euclidean geometry.  By proposing that space was curved, Riemann’s method succeeded far better than earlier attempts.  In curved space, parallel lines could meet, and the shortest distance between two points would be a curve on the curved surface.  These ideas, mere curiosities among the learned in the 1850s, were fundamental to Einstein’s theories of relativity 50 years later.  Riemann also formalized the modern understanding of the definite integral and made other important contributions in both physics and mathematics, yet he did not achieve fame or recognition in his lifetime.

Personally, Riemann was bashful, reserved, and a perfectionist.  These traits led to two breakdowns from overwork, and contributed toward ill health much of his life.  For most of his short career he had low-paying jobs.  Though poor himself, he unselfishly supported his unmarried sisters.  Within a month of marrying at age 36, he suffered respiratory diseases that sent him into a downward spiral.  Through all his troubles, he maintained a steadfast faith and conducted daily spiritual examination.  As he was succumbing to tuberculosis, the Lord’s prayer comprised the last words on his lips.  His tombstone bears the inscription of Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

Calculus students today learn about Riemann sums, Riemann surfaces and Riemann integrals.  Knowing a little about the person behind the terms is definitely integral to appreciating them.

For more information on Bernhard Riemann and other great Christians in science, see our online book:
The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also available from our online store.

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
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.
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.
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).