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.
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2000: SEP-OCT NOV-DEC
Major Fossil Find in Australian Cave 07/31/2002
Very fascinating discovery, but whats 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.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.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 eyes 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 arms 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.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 others 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.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 havent 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?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 Dembskis 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?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.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 hasnt 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 dont 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.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?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, whats 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?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:
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.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. Its 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.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 OConnor, 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.
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 years 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?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?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. ...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 dont 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.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 artists reconstruction can be found on MSNBC.com
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.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. Youll need a good Baloney Detector to dissipate the heat from the light. Theres 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 Finagles 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.Evolution by Competition or Cooperation? 07/18/2002
The 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.
Its interesting to compare this book review with last weeks review in Nature of the Dembskis 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.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.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 its the best paper on the evolution of teenagers hes ever read. But he cautions, If youre 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 doesnt 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?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.  Weve 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.
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 Ill go to the filling station and fill up with protons. Pizza sounds good...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 Brownlees 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).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:
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.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 dont 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 were 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 Saturns 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.Did Life Begin in an RNA World? 07/11/2002
The 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):
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 Joyces article, is almost entirely devoid of experimental support.
How many show-stoppers does it take to stop a show? Every one of Joyces listed problems (and there are others), is serious enough to forbid progress toward life. Its 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 worlds most prestigious science journal. Are you impressed?Book Review 07/11/2002: William Dembskis 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 Charlesworths first citation). But instead of dealing with the mathematical theorems on which the book is based (it sounds like he didnt 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 Darwins 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
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.
What are we to think when every new hominid discovery blows the socks off (their words) the story of human evolution? Lets 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. Its deja vu all over again.Church Attendance Increases Marriage Rate 07/10/2002
A 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.
Lets 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 anothers 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?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 Ohnos 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, its 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, didnt they? Consider the following: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 earths 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 Queens 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.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 its 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 Ways nucleus. On the other hand, the farther out a star, the fewer the materials with which to build a solar system. Earths position also coincides with the rotation of the spiral arms. A consequence of this is that the earth doesnt 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, Drakes comment is not very realistic. If the GHZ concept holds up, it drastically narrows the suitable habitats for life in the universe. Some of Garlicks 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 dont 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?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. Thats 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. Thats, 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.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.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?Peppered Moth Experiment: A Fraud, or Not? 07/05/2002
In the July 4 Nature, Jerry A. Coyne reviews Judith Hoopers upcoming book Of Moths and Men: An Evolutionary Tale, which portrays Kettlewells 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 Kettlewells 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 Hoopers book and came to a similar conclusion.
Update 09/25/2002: Jonathan Wells has a review of Hoopers book in Christianity Todays 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 Grants critical review of Hoopers book.
Take note! Go back and read Coynes 1998 article, where he himself stated that Kettlewells 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 Kettlewells 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.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 Finagles Second Law).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 peoples 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. Doesnt 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.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 Romers 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 Romers Gap is a 30-million-year black box that, frankly, keeps me awake at night, he said.
He shouldnt get too comfortable yet. Romers 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. Whats 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 Romers Gap is the only action item giving Carroll insomnia, he isnt seeing the whole List of Things To Do Tomorrow.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.