How the Eye Lens Stays Clear 08/28/2003
To act as a true lens that can focus light, the lens of the eye
must remain transparent for a lifetime. Yet the eye lens is
not a piece of glass, but a growing, living tissue made up of cells.
How can such a tissue stay clear, when the cells must be nourished,
and when they contain organelles and chromosomes that would tend to
Actually, that is exactly the problem with cataracts,
one of the leading causes of blindness, in which the lens becomes
clouded. Scientists at
Labs at Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri) have been
studying how the eye maintains transparency, and found an enzyme that,
when it fails, leads to cataracts in mice. The job of this
enzyme is to chop up and dispose of DNA in lens cells.
In a normal eye, Light can pass through the lens
because the cells break down their internal structures during
Now. Nagata et al. at the lab found large amounts of
an enzyme named DLAD in mouse lens cells that chops up DNA for disposal.
Mice lacking this enzyme developed cataracts. Failures in this
enzyme, or the gene that codes for it, are also probably implicated in
cataract development in humans.
Their work, published in
Aug. 28, explains how lens cells develop:
The eye lens is composed of fibre cells, which develop from
the epithelial cells on the anterior surface of the lens.
Differentiation into a lens fibre cell is accompanied by changes
in cell shape, the expression of crystallins and the degradation
of cellular organelles. Until now it was not known how
the cell dismantled its organelles and DNA. The fibre cells
have their nuclei removed during maturation, but the DNA remains.
It is the job of DLAD to act like a chipper and degrade the long
DNA molecules into fragments that can be expelled. Even if
the other aspects of fibre-cell cleanup succeed, this study shows
that DNA stragglers are enough to cause cataracts.
So normal eye operation depends on the successful
cleanup and removal of construction equipment and blueprints: organelles and
DNA. Science Now tells a little more about these
remarkable lens cells: Even so, these cells arent
simply empty; they house a highly organized network of proteins
called crystallins* that transmit and focus the light
passing through. Any disruption in this
sophisticated scaffolding can cloud the lens,
causing cataracts. (Emphasis added.)
Here is an electron micrograph from
College, UK showing how the fibre cells in the lens are stacked
in neat rows like lumber with hexagonal edges for close packing.
What an amazing thing a living,
transparent lens is. Did you ever think about this process,
that a sophisticated molecular machine had to be produced from the
DNA library that could chop up DNA into fragments, so that they
could be removed and not obstruct the light path? Undoubtedly
this is not the only enzyme involved in the cleanup job.
Each fibre cell needs organelles and DNA during development,
but they must be cleared away at the right time, and in the right
order before the lens is deployed into operation, or else the
user is denied the wonder of sight. This is just one tiny
aspect of dozens of complex systems that all must work for
vision to work.
Fetal Cells Fail to Help Parkinsons Patients 08/28/2003
Think of an eagle, detecting from high in the air
a fish below the water, and using its visual sensors to accurately gauge its
approach velocity, pitch, yaw and roll in order for it to capture food for the
young in the nest, whose eyes are just opening to the world.
Muscles, nerves, specialized tissues, detectors, software,
image processing, cleanup,
maintenance, lubrication and systems integration are just a few
subsystems that must be accurately designed and coordinated in this,
just one of many such complex sensory organs in the body.
Evolution is a fake fur that gives warm fuzzies to people who think in
Those who put on lab coats and examine the details and try to fit
them into an evolutionary history get
Library of Medicine paper describes one of these crystallin
proteins: alpha-Crystallin is a major lens protein, comprising
up to 40% of total lens proteins, where its structural function is to
assist in maintaining the proper refractive index in the lens. In
addition to its structural role, it has been shown to function in a
chaperone-like manner. The chaperone-like function of
alpha-crystallin will help prevent the formation of large
light-scattering aggregates and possibly cataract. ... Reconstructed
images of alpha B-crystallin obtained with cryo-electron microscopy
support the concept that alpha B-crystallin is an extremely dynamic
molecule and demonstrated that it has a hollow interior.
Interestingly, we present evidence that native alpha-crystallin is
significantly more thermally stable than either alpha A- or alpha
B-crystallin alone. In fact, our experiments suggest that a 3:1
ratio of alpha A to alpha B subunit composition in an alpha-crystallin
molecule is optimal in terms of thermal stability. This
fascinating result explains the stoichiometric ratios of alpha A- and
alpha B-crystallin subunits in the mammalian lens. (Emphasis
Next headline on: Human Body.
Next amazing story.
Brain cells transplanted from aborted fetuses did not help patients
with Parkinsons disease, reports
Now. In fact, for over half the test patients, it had serious
side effects. The test at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York,
involving 34 patients, was the second using this method.
Patients were followed for two years, another year longer
than the first test. It failed to help
patients overall and left some with frightening uncontrollable
movements, the article states. Researchers are hoping
embryonic stem cells might work better.
People suffering from Parkinsons disease deserve all the efforts
that science and medicine can provide, but it crosses the ethical line
to take the life of one to help another. A pro-abortion advocate
might argue that its better to use fetal tissue than let it go into
the garbage; after all, people are going to have abortions anyway.
But we have seen that this creates a black market for fetal body parts,
and gives abortionists a veneer of charitable advertising
to their clients; they can claim to a worried mother that her babys
tissues are going to help someone with a debilitating disease.
Quantum Gravity Theory Fails Observational Test 08/28/2003
Whether experimentation with embryonic stem cells or fetal cells,
there has to be a better
way to help Parkinsons patients than cannibalism: i.e., devouring
the flesh of one to nourish another. It is a tragic commentary
on our times that we are even asking the question. Maybe that
will be the next taboo our society will openly debate: the rights of cannibals
to practice their lifestyle, as long as they do it in private,
or for a good cause, or with mutual consent. (Dont laugh; with
the kinds of nuts we see today, nothing is shocking any more.
Its becoming hard to find any subject outrageous enough to be
understood as satire.)
You could almost predict the
voices that would rise up in support of cannibalism:
2010: The Future of Cannibal Rights
Beware of sweet-talking advocates who insist that cannibals should
have the right to do whatever they want with your own body.
First it will be something kinky on Jerry Springer that college students find amusing,
then the practitioners will be seen as victims, who cannot help the way they
were born. Some scientific journal will report a potential health
benefit, and a psychology journal will conclude that it is harmless,
and actually has
positive social effects in some populations.
Someone will find a gene for cannibalistic propensities.
The ACLU will support a test case of cannibalism for medicinal use;
defense attorneys will argue that it is no different in principle from
using fetal tissues or embryonic stem cells for medical treatment.
Cannibal Rights groups will arise, with marches on Washington; these will be
reported compassionately by the media, making people sympathetic for this
new class of the oppressed; the religious right, by contrast, will
be the bad guys. A ranting protestor, who will be labeled a
fundamentalist Christian, will be shown delivering hate speech to a
mild, nicely-dressed cannibal. Commentators will complain
that the members of the religious right always
want to shove their values down other peoples throats
(but some will try to respond that they want to prevent
other material from going down their throats).
The Discovery Channel will sanitize the
history of cannibal societies, portraying them as healthier and better
adjusted than stressed-out, obese Americans; after all, it was
Christian missionaries, whose exaggerated and biased reports gave
cannibals an undeserved negative reputation.
Celebrities, gradually at first, will become more open about their
private cannibalism, from I dont see anything particularly
wrong with it, to I tried it once when I was young, to
Only a bigot would try to stop someone from doing what he or she
feels is best for their own health. Actors will out each
other. Cable companies will offer the Cannibal News Network,
late nights at first, then prime time. This will be followed
by Cannibal History, Cannibal Gourmet and Cannibal Planet.
Slogans like Eat the one you love and You
are what you eat will be seen on backpacks and locker doors of
public school children, who will have
attended required presentations by visiting cannibals brought in to
describe their lifestyle under the banner of diversity and sensitivity.
Nose bones will become chic on campus.
Pretending to gnaw on anothers
arm will be funny at first, then a sign of affection. Laws will
by then have incrementally reduced penalties for cannibalism except in
the most violent cases. Readers of best-sellers will be shocked
at first, then amused, at great historical figures that were alleged
to have had cannibalistic tendencies.
Cannibals will take on a new label,
Sweet, to overcome any lingering prejudice about cannibalism.
Sweet Rock will become the hottest trend in music.
Some over-zealous right-winger who cant take it any more will bomb a
Sweet Barbecue, and this will become a cause celebre for the
Sweet Rights movement. There will be no end of replays on TV
of the shocking incident (the cameras will avoid, however, scenes of
looters picking up on all the newly-distributed body parts).
In response to this deplorable act, harsh
new laws will be enacted against those who protest or obstruct Sweet
events. Conservative politicians will get nowhere
unless they express moderation on the Sweet Rights controversy
and support cannibal privacy laws. It will be considered
marginally tolerable for a conservative to say, Well, though
I disapprove of the practice myself, Im not one to judge what
someone does in the privacy of their own home.
Liberal politicians and celebrities,
on the other hand, will be grand marshals at the Sweet Pride Parades.
The U.N., with a strong contingent of
representatives from cannibal countries, will have been harshly
criticizing America for years on this issue. Europeans will
wag their heads at how intolerant the Americans are, and some will refuse
to do business with the U.S. until it grants full civil rights to the
Sweet People. Finally, the Supreme Court
will find a right to cannibalism in the Constitution, and it will
become a hate crime to speak out against it.
Supermarkets of the future will be
amply stocked with Sweet products, attractively packaged,
USDA-approved, and microwave-ready. Public service announcements
will encourage partakers not to use black market products, which might
contain disease, but only to
purchase through legitimate approved sources, including flesh farms
where genetically-modified (GM) brainless bodies are grown under sanitary
conditions, and clinics where volunteers can submit their bodies
for consumption. The benefits of clean
cannibalism will be advertised: recycling, less need for valuable
cemetery land, and healthy spare organs for those on waiting lists.
Consumers will feel a little
better if they see labels certifying that the contents contain
no leftovers from Christian executions in totalitarian countries.
Though everyone thinks bigoted reactionaries are deplorable and deserve
condemnation, capital punishment is still taboo among civilized societies.
Next headline on: Health.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
OK, we have to lighten up this grim discussion with a
cannibal joke. In a New Guinea cannibal deli, a tourist was
intrigued by the menu. It read, Special today: fresh brains!
Janitor brain, $1/lb, taxi driver brain, $2/lb, lawyer brain, $3/lb,
criminal brain, $5/lb, grad student brain, $7/lb, PhD brain, $10/lb,
evolutionist brain, $50/lb. Puzzled, the tourist asked,
Why are you charging $10/lb for a PhD brain, but five times as
much for an evolutionist brain? The cook responded,
Do you realize how many of those rascals we have to round up
to get a pound of brain?
We trust our dear evolutionist readers can take a joke; you can insert
your favorite target into the punch line and tell it your way.
Just be sure to read todays other headline.
Studies of gamma rays from distant galaxies and from the Crab Nebula
have put the kibosh on theories of quantum gravity, reports
These theories predicted that space and time arent
smooth at the smallest scale, but fuzzy and foaming. Those hopes
have been dashed by two independent measurements of cosmic gamma rays,
which show that Einstein was right after all--and that current plans to
detect the quantum foam of spacetime should fizzle.
The tests involved looking for violations of Lorentz
invariance in gamma rays from these sources. What is the upshot
of these observational tests? The results sink several
quantum gravity theories, including some that predict the universe has
extra, as yet undiscovered dimensions.
The article includes the well-known picture of Albert
Einstein sticking out his tongue, as if saying, Nyah, nyah!
to his critics. Einsteins special relativity holds,
so quantum gravity remains undetectable.
Stephen Hawking has made much of quantum
gravity theories, and some cosmologists have suggested that the quantum
foam nature of spacetime led to a fluctuation that gave birth to
our universe. Hugh Ross has made a big deal out of extra cosmic
dimensions. Well have to see whether these findings produce
cosmic deflation of these ideas.
Mars and Neanderthals 08/27/2003
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Next headline on: Physics.
With Mars closer to Earth than any time in the last
60,000 years, assuming extrapolations into prehistory are justified,
Space Telescope has snapped pictures likely to grace textbooks
for some time (as if it could do better than JPLs
spacecraft at the red planet).
and BBC News
have taken the liberty to portray what it might have looked like to
Neanderthal men, women and children.
The BBC is just using this rare
planetary position to push its fake-reality series on human evolution.
Neanderthals neither wrote nor dated any records of their observations.
They were probably too smart, with their larger average brains, to
require such primitive written records.
Attack of the Clones 08/27/2003
Next headline on: Mars.
Three pig clones dropped dead of heart attacks suddenly,
before they reached six months old, reports
Science Update. These incidents point out that most
scientists rule out reproductive cloning of humans as inherently
dangerous, the article says, but still views therapeutic cloning
to grow tissues and organs as safe.
We are told that therapeutic cloning is a safe, effective operation on
embryos: Here they extract cells from early human embryos, which
can be selected or treated to ensure they are healthy.
Yet researchers found it totally shocking that their pig
clones died suddenly. The article states, Researchers
have already genetically engineered partly humanized pig cells and
then cloned them to make whole pigs, whose organs might avoid
rejection by human recipients. It may raise concerns,
says [Jerry] Yang, who watched his pigs collapse and expire.
Helping Chemical Evolution Re-Evolve 08/26/2003
Some scientists attempt dangerous and unethical experiments just because
they can, and often just because they want to be first.
Undoubtedly many are motivated by a sincere desire to alleviate human
suffering. But is it justifiable to kill a pre-birth human so that an
post-birth human can live longer? Most scientists are repulsed by
human cloning at this time, but that could change.
Does anyone trust their ability to police themselves?
Science, as well as democracy, may need separation of powers and
consent of the governed.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Institute for Biomedical Research (MIT) has an upbeat article about
chemical evolution, opening with a theme park flavor, complete with
cartoon of a roller coaster. Then it makes a surprising claim
that David Bartel, researcher at the Institute, is building a theme
park in a test tube. The theme of his theme park is explained:
a microscopic theme park whose motif, the origins of life,
is of equal interest to both scientists and philosophers.
His test tubes, filled with RNA micro exhibits, revolve
around an important theme, because
This is one of the most significant and fundamental questions
in science, right up there with `how does the mind work?' or `how
did the universe begin?'
To try to answer the question, Bartel is doing
evolutions job of selecting the fittest out of trillions,
even quadrillions, of RNA molecules. He is re-evolving
evolution, the article claims, by finding the best at forming
bonds with other RNAs, and giving them better odds: Really,
we end up selecting for the survival of the best
molecules, and then propagating those survivors, this is
Darwinian natural selection, according to the David Cameron, author of
the article. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Bartels group is proceeding on the RNA World
assumption: the idea that life got its start when RNAs found a way
to replicate themselves, store genetic information, and perform
simple enzymatic processes. So far, however, Bartel has only
gotten his molecules to replicate about 14 bases, much short of the
200-nucleotide goal. Some critics doubt the RNA
World scenario. David Deamer (UC Santa Cruz), for instance,
thinks its inconceivable that RNA could have catalyzed
and evolved outside the barrier of a cell membrane without just
Because of this and other problems, researchers
consider three alternative scenarios:
Each of these theories stresses one prerequisite for incipient life over the
other two: information, metabolism, and compartmentalization.
Bartel agrees that finding a suitable means to package his
precocious RNAs is necessary for the RNA World scenario to work.
Stuart Kaufmann (Santa Fe Institute) argues that the RNA World story
is too narrow; maybe other, unknown molecules were able to copy
themselves without the template base-pairing technique RNA uses.
But Jack Szostak, another RNA World pioneer, cant
imagine a system as complex as cell formation and division not
being preceded by some sort of informational transmission, such as
RNA creating RNA. Maybe there was a simpler precursor
to RNA, like TNA (threose nucleic acid), which has been manufactured,
but unfortunately does not exist in nature.
- Information First: This is another term for the
RNA World view, because RNA could have the ability to store genetic
information as well as catalyze chemical reactions.
- Metabolism First: This idea, in contrast to
the RNA worlds information first thesis, posits
that a chaotic soup of small, random molecules led to
chance metabolic reactions that evolved into modern
- Membrane First: This is Freeman Dysons
garbage bag hypothesis. Cameron describes it,
Dyson, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies in
Princeton, N.J., believes that primordial soup was filled with
membranes (garbage bags) that contained random chemicals
not nearly as complex as RNA or DNA. These chemicals began
catalyzing reactions in each other, some of which eventually caused the
cell-like garbage bags to divide and thus evolve.
The disputes between researchers leave Bartel
undaunted. Meanwhile, Bartel and his team continue working
toward their goal of developing an RNA enzyme that can fully
replicate other RNAs, Cameron concludes.
Were designing these RNAs as well as we can,
Bartel says, and what we cant design, we evolve.
The more successful this re-evolving, [the article ends,]
the closer he gets to his theme parks grand opening.
The time has come for Eugenie Scott and her NCSE friends to rise up
and picket this amusement park
in protest. If religion has no place in science,
then fairy tales must also be banned. The time has also come for the
ACLU lawyers to sue the park for misrepresentation. As any lawyer worth his salt knows,
terms must be defined carefully to avoid equivocation and obfuscation.
The readers are being taken for a ride in fantasyland.
Nobel Laureates Opine on DNA, Politics, and the Christian Right 08/24/2003
Where does one begin with such an article?
First, remove all the silly theme-park metaphors, because theme parks
do not evolve, they are the products of intelligent design.
Nature has no desire nor power to design theme parks, test tube size
Then remove all the references to test-tube evolution,
because it is not evolution, it is intelligent design again.
Artificial selection is not evolution. It is the application
of the breeders intention, design, purpose, planning, supervision
and guiding intelligence to achieve a desired result. How on
earth can this be re-evolving evolution, when he is
removing products that would otherwise degenerate or be destroyed
by harmful cross-reactions, and giving them an unnatural new lease
on life? Its the same fundamental fallacy
the computer evolutionists
make with their imaginary digital organisms in silico.
Foul! No guidance, no purpose, no goal,
no direction, no supervision, no sympathy, no cheerleading is
permissible in Darwinland. Thats
why Bartels statement What we dont design, we
evolve, should make the judges hit the gong. (Try your hand
at parsing this one: Really, we end up selecting for
the survival of the best molecules, and then propagating those
survivors - Darwinian natural selection.)
The three competing scenarios each falsify the other
two, and point out why chemical evolution is such a farce.
Without a membrane, the lucky molecules are going to just drift away,
as Deamer pointed out. Without metabolism, there is no energy
with which to convey or replicate genetic instructions.
But without genetic instructions (information), there will be no
replication, and no natural selection. Three strikes is
supposed to put them out, but paying no attention to the umpire,
who seems to be out to lunch, they gleefully run a victory lap
around the bases in their scientific lab coats.
The laboratory work is all a smokescreen.
It obscures the fact this is not science, but only materialistic
philosophers playing games with chemicals. Science is supposed to
be about observation, about proving things. Since the origin
of life is a one-time occurrence not subject to observation, evolutionists
could not prove it even if certain interesting reactions occur.
Even if they created life in a test tube (the impossible dream),
that would not prove it happened in that manner in the past.
NASA briefing about the shuttle disaster, investigator
Scott Hubbard of Ames Research Center pointed out part of the problem
that led to the failure of Columbia. Based on past
successes, the mood among the shuttle operations team had shifted
to prove to me it wont work instead of prove to me
it will work. Because they had become overconfident,
they slacked off, and expected engineers to raise alarms if they
could not prove everything was go, rather than making sure it was.
It was an accident waiting to happen. Similarly, evolutionists
have become lazy scientists. They expect us to just accept their
tales if we cannot prove that it wont work,
rather than their having to prove it will work.
This is the old debate fallacy of shifting
the burden of proof. In his new book
Proof (Brazos, 2003), Cornelius Hunter stresses the point.
It is not the job of a critic to disprove evolution; it is the job
of an evolutionist to prove it. When naturalistic philosophy
became wedded to science, evolutionists got lazy. They worked
on the premise that any remotely-plausible just-so story is
permissible, as long as it is naturalistic. They expected
non-evolutionists to disprove them, but its an impossible
task; it amounts to having to prove a universal negative.
How can you disprove a fairy tale?
After all, it just might be true, in dreamland, that
lucky molecules would just come together start evolving.
How could anyone prove them wrong? But it should not
be a critics job to prove them wrong. It should be an
evolutionists job to prove it right.
It is not enough to prove just one tiny piece of the
story right, either. The whole story must work, and in the right
sequence, and be demonstrated without investigator interference.
For instance, suppose I make up a story about the origin of music:
The Meatball Scenario for the Origin of Music
This story is not so implausible; why, think of all the millions of people
sneezing every second. Think of all the millions of meatballs being
made in homes around the country, and all the fish in the sea and all the
people that have cats. The ingredients of the scenario are all
natural and all readily available; given enough time, it could
On top of spaghetti,
all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table and onto the floor; the last time I saw it,
it rolled out the door. Then it rolled down the street, up over
a mountain, down to the ocean and off
the dock, and was swallowed by a fish. After crossing the Atlantic,
the fish was caught in Portugal, and was fed to a cat, who then jumped onto a piano
and spontaneously played a John Cage
chance music composition. From these humble beginnings,
music was on its way to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
Suppose no one saw the entire sequence of events, but individuals have seen
small parts of it: a cat on a piano, a man sneezing at dinner, and a
species of fish capable of crossing the Atlantic. I make a big
deal of this.
You respond by pointing out difficulties in the story, but I waltz around
them by invoking ad hoc conditions: the meatball made it over the mountain,
because a strong wind came at just the right moment. I publish a
scientific paper examining a gravy spot on the floor that I have
found. Someone else publishes a photograph of a fisherman on a
dock in Portugal. Have we established the meatball theory for
the origin of music?
Suppose also I insisted that you prove my story
wrong. You would be justified in insisting I prove the story
right. No less should we insist that chemical evolutionists
prove their tale, rather than bluff us
into agreeing that this or that
portion of the tale might be plausible, therefore it is up to a critic
to prove it could not happen. The origin-of-music tall tale is much
more plausible than believing that information organized itself, encased
itself in a membrane, and directed energy precisely where needed to
produce life, and thats where we came from.
The article lists only three alternative hypotheses for
the origin of life, all naturalistic.
The fourth one that is never listed is intelligent design.
Yet that is the only explanation that fits our common experience.
Whenever we find an information-rich system, whether a symphony, or a
book, or computer software, we know that an intelligence caused it.
We may not know the designer, or anything else about him or her, but
we can justifiably infer based on the specified complexity of the parts
that it was not the result of chance and natural law.
The reasoning is exactly the same when observing
the information-rich systems in a living cell.
Since intelligent design passes the
test of uniform experience, it is an inference to the best explanation
and therefore deserves to be the default explanation.
If you ever find a theme park created by chance,
dont ride the roller coaster, because its only an illusion
created by stacks of garbage bags.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Next dumb story.
James Watson (co-discoverer of the DNA code) stopped by California
Institute of Technology on May 5,
and had an informal chat onstage with David Baltimore (Nobel laureate
in DNA research, current Caltech president).
The discussion, held before a packed auditorium, was just reported in
Caltechs latest issue of its magazine
Engineering and Science
(LXVI:2, pp. 19-25). Jane Dietrichs report is
entitled, A Conversation with Jim Watson.
In their unrehearsed remarks, they touched on many subjects: the history
of Watson and Cricks discovery, computational biology, the minimum
genome for life, the ethics of genetic screening, pseudogenes, cloning,
aging, the brain, ethics, politics, science policy,
religion, and what it means to be human.
Watson went on to describe research that had determined that the bacterium
B. subtilis has only about 250 genes essential to life.
He said that in 1965 he had thought of a bacterial cell as
a little machine and tried to figure out how many essential
parts there were. He had guessed there would be about
a thousand parts, or genes. The astounding fact that a
bacterium can have as few as 250 necessary genes made sense, he
thought, because life had to get started. To put
together a thousand, you needed God, but with no God, you can say
at some time it had to be simple.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
A theme Watson repeated several times is that the religious right was
holding back the progress of science. For instance, Baltimore
asked Watson, What is the biggest ethical challenge that comes
out of the kind of knowledge were developing today?
I think its that were not using this
knowledge, said Watson. He pointed out that the gene for
fragile X, which causes the most common form of inherited mental
retardation (one in 265 women carries the gene), is known, but no one
is being screened for it. To me, the ethical thing is
were being held back.
Watson continued by contrasting people who believe in
religion but dont want to restrict other people
with fundamentalists who want all people to
follow their beliefs. The latter are those, he
thinks, who are hindering the screening for genetic diseases:
I feel very strongly that were failing ethically
by not using the knowledge we have.
Baltimore: Whos holding that back?
Why is it being held back? Is it because of commercial interest?
I think people are afraid to attack the
Right to Life lobby, thats all, Watson responded.
Screening is bad. Screening is Hitler.
But, countered Baltimore, genetic screening is
an opportunity for each individual to decide on for himself
Watsons response was that he finds it
troubling that our society is indifferent to continued
genetic disease. There is a conflict between truth
by revelation and truth by observation and experiment.
I think the big fight eventually in our country is not
going to be between Republicans and Democrats, but between
those who think secularly and those who think in
a fundamentalist way.
The audience applauded. You
know which side Caltech is on, said Baltimore.
Baltimore asked Watson about the 75% of
non-coding DNA in the human genome that is repetitive,
when other species have much less repetitive DNA:
.... Do you think, he asked, thats
a proof that all of that excess DNA really is junk, sort of
a parasitic DNA that only cares about itself?
The reporter noted that Watson profoundly believes that
modern biology is beginning to profoundly affect
how we as human beings live and think about ourselves.
She noted that often he prefaced his candid answers with
disclaimers like I probably shouldnt say this
or this will sound bad but its probably true.
For instance, when discussing stem cells, cloning, genetic
engineering and the public, he again pointed to the usual
suspects who are hindering scientific progress:
Its more like 95 percent,
answered Watson. As in the other species,
it looks like theres about 5 percent thats
conserved1 percent are amino-acid-specifying, and
the other 4 percent are useful in regulating when, where,
and to what extent individual genes function.
All human genetic variation resides in that 5 percent, he
said.... While many human attributes wont
have genetic causes, we shall probably be surprised
by the extent that they do.
You and I and all of our fellow scientists have to
spend much more time with the public and do it over and
over. Were finding out what human beings
are, and most people dont think like us.
He would like to see scientists run for Congress and become
part of the government. Youve got to get
in there. The Christian Righttheyre
in there. And were not.
Other subjects Watson touched on that fit the category
this will sound bad but its probably true
included: whether there is genetic basis for criminal behavior,
and whether we are all created equal, as assumed in our
Declaration of Independence:
Thats why biology really is becoming so
relevant. We have laws based on the fact that
were equal. And were probably not going
In discussing his rivalries with Linus Pauling, Rosalind
Franklin and others involved in 1950s genetic research,
Watson said he was struck by the 18th-century Scottish
philosopher David Humes belief that humans are
fueled by their passions, not by reason.
So it is a big issue, having law
that reflects the standards of genetics, commented
Watson: And no easy solution.
In answer to whether science has gotten too
big, Watson answered, Understanding human beings
at the molecular levelunderstanding the
immune response, which is a lot more complicated than
was thought 30 years ago, and the brain
will take an awful lot of people.
They are an
awful lot, are they not.
Nature Believes in Biblical Flood? 08/22/2003
This conversation is very enlightening, and
a good example of why the public should fear scientists
who think they know what is good for us.
It demonstrates that highly intelligent
people, which Watson and Baltimore certainly are, are unfit
to be our rulers, because they are just as filled with
illogic, prejudice, and shortsighted planning as the rest
of us. These two are undoubtedly polite and respectable
gentlemen in person, and certainly entitled to their opinions,
but look at their opinions: filled with the us-vs.-them mentality,
the either-or fallacy,
the straw man tactic, and
suggestions that, if not clarified, could be dangerousas
bad as Hitler, or worsedespite Watsons brush-off of the
fears people have. Lets think about some of
the things they said, first the scientific claims, then
the ethical ones.
David Hume was not always right, but aptly observed that at least
some humans, even some scientists, are fueled by
their passions, not by reason.
- Minimal Life: Watsons comment about
250 genes not needing a God was emphasized in a sidebar
in the magazine. Good grief. So 1000 genes would
need a Creator, but 250 would not? What kind of silly
conclusion is that? There is so much information in
even 250 genes, it would
never come together by chance in
trillions of universes.
Watson cannot point to any
self-sufficient living organism simpler than this bacterium
needing 250 genes as a minimum. As we pointed
out in the Aug. 13 headline,
even evolutionists believe that these minimal cells
are stripped down versions of complex organisms, not evolutionary
missing links. His comment goes to show that scientists
can be very skilled and intelligent in their specialties but
utterly illogical in other respects.
Watson admitted that the human brain and immune system are much more
complicated than previously thought. The one who helped
discover coded language at the core of life
should be aware of the tremendous complexity of even a minimal
living cell. He misrepresents reality to imply there
is a sequence from simple life to complex life, so that no
God is required. A scientist should build his opinion
on observed facts.
- Junk DNA: Both Watson and Baltimore equate
unknown function to no function. We reported
May 23 that so-called junk
DNA is turning out to be a treasure mine of functional
information. The term junk DNA was coined by an evolutionist whose
biased nomenclature stymied scientific progress by implying the repetitive sequences
were useless. Baltimore commits the personification
fallacy by calling this genetic information
parasitic DNA that only cares about itself.
Both men also appear bound to the now-questionable Central Dogma, that
DNA is the master control of genetics. Many investigators now
suspect that epigenetic factors may be just as important, if not
more so, in determining inheritance.
- Right to Life lobby: Here Watson indulges in
the either-or, us-vs-them tactic of making bogeymen out of
those who have legitimate concerns
about screening for genetic diseases. Both Watson and
Baltimore portray themselves as benefactors, wanting to
cure cancer and help
the suffering by using scientific knowledge from genetics,
while the Right-to-Life obscurantists scream Hitler!
and stand in the way of progress, as though more interested in
foisting their fundamentalist beliefs on people than helping
mankind. But who is Watson to lecture us on ethics?
Watson vastly oversimplifies the controversy.
Christians, the religious right, the Right-to-Life lobby, the
fundamentalists, or whatever label you want to put on them, do
not constitute the only people deeply concerned about genetic
screening. There are very serious questions to ask before
granting scientists the ethical reins of society.
Of course, any compassionate person would not want to deny a
person with a debilitating genetic disease the hope of a
cure, but we must define our terms. Is depression a
disease? Is criminal behavior a disease? Is an IQ
under 100 a disease? Should an
individual be allowed physician-assisted suicide if he or she has
a genetic disease? Should a couple be permitted to abort an
unborn baby diagnosed with a genetic disease?
Should the state sterilize disease-tainted individuals to prevent
their corrupting the human gene pool (eugenics)?
How do we define quality of life?
Who decides if a person is fit to live, or is a defective?
Are mentally retarded people fit to live? The elderly?
Criminals? Should we take human evolution into our own
hands? Should we breed a fitter race, such as stronger
swimmers and weight lifters for the Olympics? Should the
government breed worker bees, warriors, intellectuals and rulers
for preselected roles in a utopian society, and if so, would a warrior
have any rights to change his role and become an intellectual?
Should we breed chimeras,
just because we can? Should
couples be given the right to select the sex of their children?
Is it right to
do wrong to have a chance to do good? Should an individual
be put to death so
that another can live? Should we grow
brainless adults to harvest their organs for those needing them?
What is the difference between that and growing clones or stem
cells for the same purpose? When does genetic research
cease to be compassionate medicine, crossing the line into
These are just a few of the serious questions that
must be faced, and scientists are definitely not the only
ones to answer them. In fact, as ethics author and lecturer
has emphasized, experts should be the last ones to make
the decisions, because they are too close to their special interests.
Scientists can provide valuable information
to the policy makers, yes, but woe to the society that lets them make
the ethical decisions. Scientists often fail to
see the big picture, to understand history, and
to foresee the implications of their views. Watson implies
that we should screen people for a gene that causes mental retardation,
but then what? Should these people be allowed to marry, or
should they be forcibly sterilized
against their will or knowledge, as actually happened to
20,000 victims in the
United States during the eugenics fad? Where would Watson
draw the line on Hitlers experiments, some of which were
well-intentioned on sincerely held scientific beliefs?
We cannot forget history to see how ugly an
unrestrained science can become.
- Truth by revelation vs. truth by observation:
This makes sense, when you dont think about it.
Watsons comment presupposes that both religion and science
claim to provide exhaustive knowledge.
If God had told us all about DNA and retrotransposons, I suppose
it would make sense to believe the Expert, but the Bible is a
condensed book. There is a lot it does not talk about, and
God gave man the freedom and intellect to search out
many things. Conversely, science is incapable of investigating
some very large and important domains: history, aesthetics,
ethics, values, morals and ultimate destiny among them.
Neither source of information is exclusive nor exhaustive.
Watson commits the
either-or fallacy by implying that no person who believes in
divine revelation could ever be a scientist (see our
online book for a refutation), and that
science is a path to ultimate truth. He wrongly presupposes
that scientists can be objective and neutral regarding everything.
- Fundamentalists and proselytizing: Watson
tolerates religious people who dont want all people to
follow their beliefs. Presumably, such believers dont
take their beliefs too seriously. Watson, however, is quite
fundamentalist about his scientism. He thinks scientists
need to run for Congress and impose their beliefs on the rest of
us: such as, how to think secularly, and the belief that
we are not created equal, in fact, we were not created at all.
Watson badly misinterprets the Declaration of Independence clause that
we are all created equal, hinting that biology says
we probably are not. The Founding Fathers
had eyes. They knew people differed radically in size, shape,
physical and even intellectual capacities. The point was that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights; i.e., all people have equal worth, and each individual must be
treated by the government without partiality. To claim
otherwise is an invitation to tyranny, and science can make no
such claim. A tyranny of scientists
could be the worst of all.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Science Update posted a story about a hypothetical geological
model that may have explained the Biblical flood, and
even quotes Genesis 7:11 on a sidebar: All the fountains of
the great deep burst forth and the floodgates of the heavens were
opened. But before presuming the British science
journal has got religion, it should be noticed that the article is
focused more on a particular geologists explanation for the
Permian extinction that supposedly wiped out most living things
250 million years ago.
Considering this new idea wacky, but not so
wild that it shouldnt be taken seriously, the article
presents Gregory Ryskins hypothesis that huge volumes of
methane, trapped in frozen methane clathrates in the sea, were
released into solution over aeons, then suddenly belched
by a catastrophic event, like an asteroid impact. This might
have released 10,000 times the energy of the worlds nuclear
arsenals, leading to mortality on a massive scale.
If it happened once, it could have happened periodically
on a smaller scale, such as in the Black Sea 7,000 years ago
thus the Biblical flood.
Nature, of course, is more
interested in the evolutionary story of the wipeout of most of life
millions of years ago. Any similarities to a religious
myth dating back just a few thousand years are incidental
in their sophisticated, scientific opinion. It makes
a nice sideline for the occasional religious reader, perhaps.
Science Gives One-Sided Brush-off to ID 08/21/2003
There are two kinds of people who get interested in
natural explanations for Biblical miracles: (1) those who deny
the Bible, and believe that naturalistic events became entwined
in ethnic legends, as here; (2) those who believe the Bible, and think
that a natural explanation will make the story more palatable to the
public. Though well intentioned, these interpretations tend to
diminish the sovereignty of God, and often play loose with the
Biblical record. Undoubtedly, God could steer natural events to
accomplish His purposes, and a miracle would involve natural phenomena.
But in this case, the flood was not restricted to the Black Sea area,
and it was not due to a belch of swamp gas. According to Genesis,
God brought it about supernaturally by His definitive act, as judgment
on a world that was filled with violence, in which
the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every
intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
Next headline on: Geology.
Next headline on: The Bible.
Aug 21, Robert Pennock reviews Michael Ruses latest book
Darwin and Design (see June
12 headline). He compares it with the 19th-century Bridgewater
Treatises, a set of 19th-century monographs by Christians explaining
evidence for God in the sciences. Now, the Templeton Foundation
has funded a set of seven books on science and religion, of which
Ruses book is the first. Pennock likes it a lot and think
it has set a high standard that will be tough to match. It covers
everything from the history of natural theology and design arguments
to the modern Darwinian synthesis, which leaves no more place for
He also has a helpful way of organizing
the conceptual analysis of the design argument, separating the argument
to adaptive complexity from the move to a designing mind. Ruse
clearly explains how Darwinian evolution blocked that second
move, by providing the answer to the question of biological
purpose: Natural selection produces artifact-like features, not
by chance but because if they were not artifact-like they would not
work and serve their possessors needs. The language
of intentional design now serves only as a handy metaphor.
Both Pennock and Ruse think it is possible to be
awestruck at the appearance of design in nature without being religious:
We have learned much in the two centuries since Bridgewater, and Ruse
shows that natural theology is no longer viable. However, he does
not disparage the impulse that led to it. There is indeed awe to
be found in biological adaptations, which might be expressed in a new
theology of nature that appreciates the complex,
adaptive glory of the living world, rejoices in it, and trembles before
it. He quotes Mayr, who once told him, People forget
that it is possible to be intensely religious in the entire absence of
But both Pennock and Ruse only have time for a dismissive sweep of the
modern Intelligent Design movement:
Ruse quickly dismisses the recent attempt to resurrect
Paleys argument by Intelligent Design creationists such as
Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski; they warrant
only a brief discussion in the final chapter. Ruse reviews
and extends some of the many arguments that have been given against
Behes irreducible complexity, Dembskis
explanatory filter, and appeals to the purported problems of
complex specified information and the no-free-lunch
theorem. Behes view, he concludes, is pure and simple
fantasy; Dembski is just plain wrong; and their
Intelligent Design movement is already regarded, even by theologians,
as an embarrassment.
Pennock calls his review A Bridgewater Treatise for the
21st Century. The book is:
Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? by
Michael Ruse (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2003).
The comebacks are never heard in Science, because the
microphones point in only one direction. Johnson, Dembski, and Behe have
a lot to say in rebuttal (read their books), but the
Darwin Partys tactic, as here, is to brush them off quickly,
as if to say, Dont read their works; you dont
need to, because our Goliath already did it for you.
Its the argument from
authority in a journal that is supposed to be about open-minded
investigation of the facts.
No Martian Oceans 08/21/2003
Pennock should have been highly
suspect at Ruse for stooping to ridicule
like calling Behes work pure and simple fantasy or
sidestepping issues and
using glittering generalities
such as summing up Dembskis long and detailed arguments as
just plain wrong, or appealing to peoples
herd instinct by saying that
their work is already regarded, even by theologians [My, O my]
as an embarrassment. Is such blather to be respected
as the honorable and recondite analysis by Darwinisms greatest
living philosopher? Suppose Dembski did that, and instead of
writing two detailed, mathematical tomes, sent Science a
short postcard saying, Y'know, Ruse is just plain wrong.
His ideas are pure and simple fantasy. Everybody thinks they are
an embarrassment. And suppose
Science printed it? Thats about how fair these
Darwin Party journals are when it comes to seriously analyzing the
important issues in philosophy of science today.
Ruse and Pennock dont
want readers of Science to think. They just want them
to swallow the opinions of The Authorities. Ruse said ID is
fantasy. End of story.
You have to know their opinions are weak when a schoolboy
could see right through them. Take a look at the monumental
conclusion about the argument from design that Pennock feels Ruse has
deftly dealt a death blow: Natural selection produces artifact-like
features, not by chance but because if they were not artifact-like they
would not work and serve their possessors needs.
Are you impressed? So this is the best Ruse can come up with
(assuming Pennock, an admirer, accurately encapsulates the argument).
This is no answer at all. Its the same cop-out the
Anthropic Principle argument uses to fail to explain design:
Well, silly, if it werent that way, we wouldnt
be here worrying about the question. Good grief.
Ruse and his disciples have not explained the design of an eye, an
ear, a wing, or anything else. They just say if it were not
well adapted, it wouldnt be there. Newton and Maxwell
would be embarrassed by such shallow reasoning.
Whenever evolutionists really attempt to explain
design in detail, they give up in utter frustration (see
yesterdays headline). Natural selection
is impotent to explain the origin of any complex structure
except without copious additions of imagination and faith, and
yesterdays story essentially said so.
Science is supposed to rest on evidence.
OK, evolutionists, put up or shut up. And if you have your own mind,
read Behes and Johnsons and Dembskis books,
instead of leaning on the one-sided opinions of the Darwin Party.
Another challenge: name one instance of complex specified
information, anywhere, that is the product of unintelligent,
unguided, undirected natural law or chance, or combination of the
two, including natural selection (The Rule: it must be supported
by observational evidence, not just-so storytelling).
Another example of the shallowness of their thinking
is this idea you can be in awe of natures designs without being
religious. To be consistent, they would have to believe that
awe evolved like everything else. What survival value does
awe have? Why are we moved by the good, the true, and the
beautiful? Natural selection cannot provide answers to these
questions: they point to a conscience, and an innate knowledge
of purpose and morality and order that no naturalistic philosophy
can expunge. Thats why Pennock and Rose propose an
alternative theology of nature so that their God-shaped
vacuum has something to bow down to, and tremble before.
When a mans awe becomes detached from the
Creator, it attaches instead to the creation, fulfilling the
Apostle Pauls prediction, professing themselves to
be wise, they became fools.... they worshipped and served the
creature, more than the Creator, who is blessed forever
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
In a news bulletin sure to be disappointing to those envisioning
an ancient Mars with oceans brim full of life, the
Laboratory announced today that Mars shows no evidence that
large bodies of water existed in the past.
For six years since its arrival at Mars, the
Mars Global Surveyor
thermal emission spectrometer has been looking for signatures of
carbonates (like limestone), on the surface.
Oceans would have left outcrops high in carbonates, but none have been
found only a general,
low-level measurement that probably is due to atmospheric water
interacting with the ubiquitous dust.
According to Phil
Christensen, infrared specialist, This really points to a cold,
frozen, icy Mars that has always been that way, as opposed to a
warm, humid, ocean-bearing Mars sometime in the past.
The news report has the pessimistic title, New Findings
Could Dash Hopes for Past Oceans on Mars.
The original paper is published in
Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
arrives in Gusev Crater in January, it will also look for evidence that
surface water once was abundant at that location. There are still
apparent river channels and stream beds to explain, and possible evidence
of shorelines. The lack of carbonates is disappointing to a wet
Mars scenario, but not conclusive. Wet or dry, though, Mars is a
terra incognita just becoming known to us, as was the far west
in the days of
Lewis and Clark. These are great days of discovery.
Understanding Cells: Think Information, Logic Circuits 08/21/2003
NASAs recipe for life, however (dirt + water),
doesnt work. We tried it, and all we got was mud.
Next headline on: Mars.
The Concepts article in
is about Systems biology: Understanding Cells by Paul Nurse.
A striking feature of his article is the repeated use of the word
Many of the properties that characterize living organisms are also
exhibited by individual cells. These include communication,
homeostasis, spatial and temporal organization, reproduction, and
adaptation to external stimuli. Biological explanations of these
complex phenomena are often based on the logical and informational
processes that underpin the mechanisms involved....
Nurse identifies three types of information seen in cells:
sequence data, interaction data, and functional data.
He feels that this logical, informational approach to the study of
cells will be more productive than just studying the individual
molecules in detail:
Most experimental investigations of cells, however, do not readily
yield such explanations, because they usually put greater emphasis on
molecular and biochemical descriptions of phenomena. To explain
logical and informational processes on a cellular level,
therefore, we need to devise new ways to obtain and analyse data,
particularly those generated by genomic and post-genomic studies.
An important part of the search for such explanations is the
identification, characterization and classification of the logical
and informational modules that operate in cells. For example,
the types of modules that may be involved in the dynamics of
intracellular communication include feedback loops, switches,
timers, oscillators and amplifiers. Many of these could be
similar in formal structure to those already studied in the
development of machine theory, computing and electronic circuitry.
A useful analogy of what is being proposed is the analysis of an
electronic circuit. Once the detailed operations of
different types of electronic components have been identified, it is
possible to gain insight into what an electronic circuit can do simply
by knowing what components are present and how they are connected, even
if their precise dynamic behaviour has not been determined. The
various logical and informational modules implicated in a
biological phenomenon of interest have to be integrated in order to
generate a better understanding of how cells work.
Paul Nurse feels that this information-theoretic approach to the cell
could generate a great deal of experimental work.
The identification and characterization of these modules will
require extensive experimental investigation, followed by realistic
modelling of the processes involved, he predicts.
Such analyses would allow a catalogue of the module types that
operate in cells to be assembled.
But this approach will work only if there is a finite
set of such modules:
The success of this general approach depends on there being a limited
set of biochemical activities and molecular interactions that together
can solve the myriad logical and informational problems found in
biological systems. If there is only a restricted set of
processes that are efficient and stable in operation and which have
been exploited by evolution [sic], then there should be only a limited
set of possible solutions to real biological problems. Of course,
if nature shows no such restraint [sic], then we must go back to the
drawing-board if we are ever to understand its complexity.
Paul Nurse is at the Cell Cycle Laboratory, Cancer Research UK,
Lincolns Inn Fields, London.
Two things stand out from this
article: (1) The cell only makes sense when approached in terms
of information and logic, and (2) An information-theoretic
approach generates productive research.
Darwinists Fumble on the Evolution of Complex Structures 08/20/2003
The intelligent design (ID) community has been stressing
these points for some time, but here the same thing is being stated
in Nature, the most prestigious science journal in the world.
We have no inside clue on the beliefs of Paul Nurse, his feelings about
ID and the origin of life, but this could have been written by Paul
Nelson, a leader in the ID movement except for that one
fallacy line about the efficient processes that have
been exploited by evolution. That line is so out of
character with the rest of the article, one wonders whether Nurse had
to insert it to get it past the censors. It adds nothing.
It looks like an obligatory pinch of incense to Emperor Darwin.
The thrust of the article is that information
is the key to understanding and the key to research. Opponents
of ID falsely criticize that a design-theoretic approach brings
science to a screeching halt. God did it, and that settles
it! Nature has just printed this refutation,
showing that the opposite is true. Everybody knows that
feedback loops, switches, timers, oscillators and amplifiers
are the products of intelligent design. When we see similar
functions in biological systems to those we understand in electronic
circuits, doesnt it make sense to study them from a design
perspective? Wouldnt that provide the scientists with a
fruitful enterprise? Yes unless cells turn out to be
even more complex, too information-rich for our analogies with
man-made circuits. Then, the only sensible approach would be to
look for deeper design, not chance!
ID is going to save biology from implosion.
Poor Charles Atlas Darwin just cant hold up the world
any more. If you are a scientist worried about ID, fear not.
ID will liberate science from a suffocating 19th-century ideology that
didnt know about information and logic modules at the fundamental unit
of life. You can publish your scientific papers in a secular style
without needing to say the G word. Everything will remain the
same, except for some blessed subtractions: the removal of useless,
foolish references to chance and Mother Nature, the tinkerer.
Instead of having to tow the line of the Darwin Party, you can look
at life in a new way, and it will make sense. As Paul Nelson stated in
Unlocking the Mystery of
Life, science becomes this enormous puzzle-solving expedition,
in which you can expect to find rationality and beauty right at the
heart of things. It will be the beginning of another golden age
of scientific discovery.
Next headline on: The Cell.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
If Ronald Reagan had said, communism isnt working,
it would not be news. But when Gorbachev said, communism
isnt working, it was history book material.
Similarly, when Darwinists writing in a Darwinist-friendly scientific
journal say that evolutionary theory isnt working to explain
one of the most important problems that had stumped Darwin, it is an occasion
that should arouse the world news media for a press conference, replete
with anxious reporters asking hard-hitting questions. Yet you
probably will not hear about it except right here; the
admission is hidden away in a Dispatch in the Aug. 19 issue of
Current Biology (emphasis added in all quotes):
A central goal of evolutionary biology is to explain
the origin of complex organs the ribosomal machinery
that translates the genetic code, the immune system that
accurately distinguishes self from non-self, eyes that
can resolve precise images, and so on. Although we understand [sic]
in broad outline how such extraordinary systems can evolve by
natural selection, we know very little about the actual steps
involved, and can hardly begin to answer general questions about the
evolution of complexity. For example, how much time is
required for some particular structure to evolve?
In their article, Nick Barton and Willem Zuidema (Univ. of Edinburgh,
where Darwin attended for awhile), admit that traditional biological
approaches (like population genetics) for explaining the evolution of
complex structures have not worked:
Complex systems systems whose function requires many
interdependent parts are vanishingly unlikely to arise purely by
chance. Darwins explanation of their origin is that natural
selection establishes a series of variants, each of which increases
fitness. This is an efficient way of sifting through an enormous
number of possibilities, provided there is a sequence of
ever-increasing fitness that leads to the desired feature.
To use Sewall Wrights metaphor, there must be a path uphill
on the adaptive landscape.
The authors point to artificial life models like those of
Lenski and Adami to provide some hope for a solution to the
evolution of complex structures. They describe some of the
apparently complex functions that digital organisms arrived
at, when set free to evolve in simulations according to simple rules
designed into the program. Though encouraged by these, Barton
and Zuidema are not entirely impressed:
The crucial issue, then, is to know [sic] what
variants are available what can be reached from where and
what is the fitness of these variants. Is there a route by
which fitness can keep increasing? Population genetics is not
much help here. Given the geometry defined by mutation and
recombination, and given the fitnesses, we can work out how a
population will change, simply by following the proportion of different
types through time. But understanding [sic] how complex
features evolve requires plausible models for the geometry of
the adaptive landscape, which population genetics by itself does not
Artificial Life models such as Lenski et al.s
are perhaps interesting in themselves, but as biologists
we are concerned here with the question of what Artificial Life can
tell us about real organisms. The difficulty in
answering this is that much work in this field is rather isolated
from traditional evolutionary biology.
While hopeful that synergy between biologists and computer programmers
might provide mutual insights, they have doubts that the computer
organisms have any connection to the real world.
In population genetics and evolutionary game theory, we design
models to study the success and failure of a predefined set of
traits or strategies in the struggle for life.
But what are the possible traits? And how well do
they succeed in particular environments with particular competitors?
These questions are ignored in traditional models they come
in as parameters to be provided by developmental biology and
ecology. For understanding the evolution of complex traits
this is not satisfactory, because these parameters are themselves
shaped by evolution [sic]. Evolutionary processes constantly
shift the targets of evolutionary optimization [sic], create spatial
patterns, turn competitors into mutualists and create new levels of
selection. Artificial Life models of such phenomena ...
promise to be useful for developing the concepts and
techniques to deal with that challenge, but only if they are
combined with the insights from almost a century of population genetics.
The Dispatch is entitled, Evolution: the erratic path towards
complexity, by Nick Barton and Willem Zuidema.
If you have sifted these statements
for any evidence for evolution, or realistic explanations for
the evolution of any single complex system, you have undoubtedly found all
chaff and no grain. Its all emptiness and futility, wishful
thinking, models that are too complex to relate to the real world,
leaning on broken reeds, trusting in others work that never gets
delivered, and vaporware on back order.
Yet this is the theory that is so obviously a fact that anything
else is pseudoscience that must be shielded from students?
This is the greatest idea anyone ever had, so intuitively obvious
that it has taken over the world as the encapsulation of all
that is certain about nature? This is the theory that should
no longer be called a theory, but a fact like gravity?
Time to Revise Geology Textbooks Again 08/20/2003
We hasten to make clear that Barton and Zuidema
are evolutionists, and did not write this article to in any way
claim that they doubt Darwinian evolution. But that is what
makes their admissions so damaging. If Henry Morris had said this,
no one would pay attention, because he (presumably) has an axe to
grind and an ulterior motive. But these guys just gave away
the store. They admitted that after all these years, the
Darwinists are no nearer to explaining the origin of an eye, or
dolphin sonar, or butterfly wings, or immune systems, than Charlie
himself was in 1859.
Notice how they look yearningly, hopefully
to the computer programmers
to provide some relief to the befuddled
population geneticists (with their crude models built partly
on the personification fallacy
of game theory),
but then turn right around and criticize the
programmers for not being realistic, and ignoring the insights
from almost a century of population genetics.
Its like a cartoon character in quicksand calling another guy in the
same quicksand for help. Does anyone see anything solid that
any evolutionist is standing on, that should give Eugenie Scott of the
NCSE confidence in the righteousness of her crusade
to keep evolution the sole contender in the public schools?
The arrogance of the Darwin Party, given admissions like this one,
Barton and Zuidema claim that biologists
understand evolution in broad terms, just not in the details.
But they cannot even begin to point to any plausible series of
steps on the fitness landscape that would allow a mindless organism
to climb uphill to an adaptive peak
to evolve an eye, or a brain, an immune system, or any other
complex feature, when every
step in the imaginary sequence (for which there is no fossil
evidence) would have had to provide enough survival value
to make it triumph over all competitors, such that every organism
without the lucky trait would have died out (this is called
the cost of selection). They admit these complex systems
are extraordinary. They admit they are
(in their words, systems whose function requires many
They admit that the probability of getting any complex system by chance is
vanishingly small. They admit Darwins explanation,
to be efficient at sifting through the enormous possibilities, is
provisional on the requirement for a sequence of plausible intermediates,
each one needing to increase the fitness of the organism (but how efficient can
that be when there is slippage on the
treadmill due to indirect genetic effects?).
They are utterly clueless how long it would be expected to take for
the slight, successive modifications to add up to a
complex system. And yet
complex systems are the rule in biology, not the exception!
(See todays headline on sponges
for an interesting example.) They claim they
understand the broad outline of how such extraordinary
systems could evolve by natural selection, then two phrases later,
we can hardly begin to answer general questions
about the evolution of complexity. About face!
(Speaking about faces, they are pretty complex systems, too.)
We joke about car engines held together with bubble gum,
rubber bands and popsicle sticks. Darwinism is like a shiny
sports car advertised to the world as the hottest thing since
religion went out of style. Just dont lift up the hood.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
A textbook case of tectonic plate movement is wrong, admits
University of Rochester News.
The Hawaiian Island chain is not the result of plates moving over
a stationary hotspot, apparently (see also
April 1 headline).
It now looks like hotspots can move around:
Mobile magma plumes force us to reassess some of our
most basic assumptions about the way the mantle operates,
says John Tarduno, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the
University. Weve relied on them for a long time
as unwavering markers, but now well have to redefine
our understanding of global geography.
(Emphasis added.) The original paper is published in
Pretty strong words. Wonder what
other basic assumptions involving global understanding
that they have relied on for a long
time are due for reassessment. If anything comes up
that calls evolution into question, it will most likely be shot down
and declared unconstitutional.
Superior Fiber Optics From a Sponge 08/20/2003
Next headline on: Geology.
A deep-sea sponge has been found to have flexible glass fibers
that conduct light better than artificial fiber optic cables
manufactured for telecommunications. The story in
says that the sponges incorporate sodium into their structures,
which humans are unable to do because of high temperatures that
are required during manufacture. As a dopant, the sodium
gives the sponges
fibers such flexibility, they can be tied in a knot without breaking.
The brittleness of man-made fibers reduces their usefulness in
some applications, so engineers will probably be very interested in
finding out how the sponge accomplished the feat at ambient
temperatures. The sponges spicules are about the same size,
and made of the same basic glassy material, as artificial fiber optic cable,
yet the sponge builds it by means of proteins directed by DNA.
The authors of the paper in
Nature Aug 20
consider the function of these structures for the sponge, which is
known by the nickname Venus flower basket:
Our results suggest the intriguing possibility that the spicules
of Euplectella, beyond structural anchorage support, could
also provide a highly effective fibre-optical network, which may
be useful in distributing light in its deep-sea environment
Biomimetics, meaning life-imitation, is an active new
field of research, in which scientists and engineers go prospecting for
living things that have solved complex manufacturing problems.
This sponge is a good example. One scientist commented,
Its such a wonderful example of how exquisite nature
is as a designer and builder of complex systems.
We can draw it on paper and think about engineering it but
were in the stone age compared to nature.
No mention of evolution in the
article: thank God. For other articles on biomimetics,
see the brittlestar with superior
glass lenses (studied by the same scientist at Bell Labs who
led this research on the sponge),
spider silk, the
ideal material, gecko tape and
other stories under the category Amazing.
Then read the next headline for a big letdown.
Darwinians Plot Counter-Reformation Against I.D. Movement 08/19/2003
Next headline on: Ocean Dwellers.
Next amazing story.
The August issue of BioScience
contains two articles specifically directed at combatting creationism and
the ID (intelligent design) movement. In a Washington Watch
column, Robert E. Gropp reports on a recent activists summit
attended by 50 science education advocates, clergy, educators,
scientists, and representatives of national organizations which was
co-sponsored by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the
California Museum of Paleontology. In his report, Evolution
Activists Organize to Combat Pseudoscience in Public Schools, Gropp
says the occasion gave advocates a chance to share information and develop
strategies to ensure evolution teaching is unscathed.
Another article by Randy Moore, Murray Jensen, and Jay Hatch
is entitled, Twenty Questions: What Have the Courts Said about the
Teaching of Evolution and Creationism in Public Schools? It
is designed as a FAQ (frequently asked questions) resource to provide
talking points for teachers and other advocates needing to answer the questions
students bring to the science class.
We have a suggestion. Evolutionists should
run their articles by English teachers, logic professors and ethicists before printing
them. Unfortunately, after all the instances of propaganda, illogic and hypocrisy
were red-lined, very little of substance would remain.
Speciation Theory Goes Postmodern 08/19/2003
Most look back at
Luther as a brave, lonely man who did
the right thing when he refused to recant the beliefs of his conscience, saying,
Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.
What followed was a Reformation that many historians, even some Catholics, admit
was justified more or less, because the church, that lowly, persecuted band of
disciples of Jesus who had started as humble seekers after righteousness,
peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, had grown into a corrupt institution,
wedded to tradition and political power. It had drifted so far from
its roots that it was deeply involved in evil practices diametrically
opposite the teachings of Jesus, things like extortion (through the sale
of indulgences and confiscation of property), invention of unbiblical
doctrines, and even sexual promiscuity among priests.
But the Reformation was not won in a day, not by a long shot.
A Catholic counter-reformation followed and both sides
engaged in everything from intellectual debate to warfare.
Unquestionably, there were excesses and atrocities on both sides.
But the motivation to reform what had become corrupt is generally seen as a good thing.
95 theses are a classic of
logical and ethical argument against
illogic and corruption. Of course Martin Luther did not act alone.
He is representative of many reformers (Grosseteste,
Jan Hus, Wycliffe, and many more) who saw a problem and tried to fix it.
Some paid with their lives.
Because Luther got the right help at the right time, he just became the most
successful at effecting lasting change.
Neither side won a complete victory. There are still Catholics and Protestants
today, often engaging in combat both civil and militant. Though some strong
voices seek harmony at the expense of doctrine, it would be impossible to maintain
the integrity of the Reformation through compromise.
Maybe that is what is happening in the sciences.
The parallels are striking.
Science, once the common mans quest for truth, has become Big Science,
supported by politicians, with millions of dollars of funding at stake.
Evolution has become the state religion. Thomas Huxley took the sign of the Darwin
Fish and envisioned, In this sign conquer, and wedded evolutionary philosophy
to political science. This unholy alliance produced the corruption we see today,
where any convoluted just-so story gets published and praised,
as long as it has the Darwin imprimatur.
There have been calls for reformation within and without the church of Darwin
for a long time, and every time, the Darwinist apologists resort to the same
tactics to crush it, as seen in these papers.
(Theistic evolution is not a satisfying compromise, because it usually
sacrifices theism on the altar of Darwinism, and fails to explain why God
would have any more involvement than the Deistic god, if evolution is
so effective. As a result, theistic evolutionists usually get
hammered by both sides.) Maybe what is going to
result, instead of one side winning, is a huge schism: the science of the
Darwin Party and the science of the Design Party, the latter being the Reformers
who want to take science back to its original empirical roots,
and the former mounting a protracted Counter-Reformation and a Thirty Years War.
One could hope against hope that somewhere, somehow, cool heads
would prevail and look honestly at the data to see which side fits the facts
better. That would be as idealistic as a Protestant wishing a Catholic
would calmly sit with him and see what the Bible really teaches.
The Catholic would only rarely be won over by that approach, because to a
Catholic, the Bible is no longer the authority: the Church and tradition have
equal authority. So both sides will argue past each other unless they
can first agree on where the authority lies. Similarly, the Darwinists
will never be content to simply look at the raw data and see whether it shows
evidence of design, because they have re-written the definition of science
such that facts no longer matter of themselves. The facts must be
interpreted through the filter of naturalistic tradition and submit to the authority
of Big Science. The modern-day casuists win by default, because
science is naturalism by definition. Anyone who disagrees
simply does not understand the nature of science.
He is an outsider, who cannot show the official imprimatur, and therefore
is rejected out of hand as a dangerous heretic.
Because The Church was the only authority that could
take seemingly contradictory Biblical passages and interpret them properly,
it was necessary to keep the Bible out of the hands of commoners, and forbid
the distribution of bootleg copies of the Scriptures in the common tongue
(one effective method in Spain was to burn bootleggers at the stake as public
Similarly, only members of the Darwin Party can rightly interpret the
transition from fish to tetrapod and other puzzles,
even when the data are missing or uncooperative, and only party members
are authorized to teach the nature of science to initiates.
Bootleggers are denounced as dangerous heretics, committed
to the flames of public diatribes. Design scientists are excommunicated
from the officially sanctioned journals; unable to publish, they perish.
Its instructive to read Gropps article with
these parallels in mind. The missing ingredient in his counter-reformation
manifesto is the very thing most people assume is the essence of science:
observed evidence. His whole argument hinges on politics, strategy, and
who has the authority to dictate what arguments students get to hear.
Since he picks on Phillip Johnson, maybe that is the parallel to Luther,
although like Luther, Johnson had many predecessors, some more qualified
and outspoken. And since Luther had some political allies who
gave him aid and comfort, the counter-reformation must have a political
arm to combat him. Gropp singles out Rick
Santorum as giving aid and comfort to the enemy; he says, Many
evolution activists believe that Sen. Santorums advocacy of ID and
various state and local ID initiatives across the country are proof
that citizens [read, political action committees] and scientists
must work together to defend the teaching
of evolution in the public schools. Thus, Grobb praises
efforts of the NCSE to form a coalition with political clout.
Here is where it is important to be familiar with Phillip
Johnsons theme, discussed at length in The Right Questions,
that the one who formulates the questions often wins the debate.
Evolutionary casuists are very good at stating the controversy in terms
where they cannot lose. They portray this as a contest between
science and pseudoscience (notice how the Party in Power gets to define
what pseudoscience is.) Its all about defending
the teaching of evolution (appealing to peoples Alamo emotions),
which are under attack by these religiously-motivated
radicals who dont understand science. All kinds
of emotional appeals are used to rally the activists to the crusade:
the enemy is well funded and well organized (you can cut
the hypocrisy with a knife), and we need a strategy to
counter this dangerous threat to science.
Buzzwords abound: creation must
always be appended with ism,
so that it sounds like a cult, while evolution is equated with science;
big lies abound, like the one that ID
wants to remove evolution
from the science classroom when, in fact, they want to teach more
about it (including the contrary evidence); red
herrings abound, such that the claim this issue is about
separation of church and state (with the presupposition that
I.D. theory is inherently religious, but Darwinism is not);
such as associating the amount of evolution taught with the quality
of science teaching. In this smoke-filled
activists on both sides often jump into the fray, oblivious to the
issue of whether anyone is asking the right questions.
Is there a Diogenes here? Few are the
evolutionists who show any desire to critically examine whether
Darwinian theory can stand up to
the observed facts of nature. Do living things show evidence
of design, or do they not? Is time and chance sufficient to
produce a human being, or is it not? Can our universe be explained
in naturalistic terms only, or is information required? Such questions
are foreign to their mindset. Instead, the approach is, there
must be a way to stuff this uncooperative data into naturalism, which
I already know in my heart is true. Similarly, the
anticreationist literature is silent about these questions.
They either pass it off as a done deal; Big Science already looked at
Luthers writings and condemned them as heretical end of story.
When asked if a particular thing appears designed, they look at
generalities, including evil and suffering in the world, and
scoff, Well, a Designer wouldnt have
done it that way. But that is a religious argument,
not a scientific one, as Cornelius Hunter deftly demonstrated in
his book Darwins God, and expounds further in
his new sequel
Darwins Proof (Brazos Press, 2003
Just as the Catholic church
portrayed itself as the one and only universal apostolic vicar of
Christ, the Darwin Church portrays itself as the one and only universal
vicar of science. It is a religious war. Its about
holding onto power. If it were not, they would welcome debate on the
new ideas of intelligent design, and the challenges that new discoveries
about life are posing to the Darwinian explanation. Gropps
article would be an invitation to debate the evidence, not
Activists Organize to Combat heresy.
That a counter-reformation has begun may be a
good sign that the Church of Darwin can no longer merely assume its
domination over science. True, Darwinist Tetzels (science writers in
the news media) are still gleefully
strolling about, selling indulgences (just-so stories)
with reckless abandon, but the
priests in back rooms of the Vatican (NCSE) are anxiously plotting their next
moves, alarmed at the number of
common-tongue ID books and videos being distributed to the student peasants,
despite the best efforts of the Inquisition. (As surely as
Gutenbergs press lubricated the rapid dissemination of
information damaging to the Church, the Web does today.)
Fearing an uprising,
the Darwin Party seems bent on a strategy that will fail as surely as the
efforts to stop the Reformation. Only the Church is authorized to
interpret the Scriptures backfired when enough literate peasants
could read the source documents, and could see the contradictions for
themselves. Only the Darwin Party is authorized to interpret the observed facts
of nature will fail, when enough literate citizens are liberated
from the Darwin-only rule in the science classroom, and can see the
evidence for themselves all the evidence, not just the
preselected props for Darwinism (finch beaks, peppered moths), but the
Cambrian explosion, the complexity of the earliest life, the laws of
thermodynamics, information theory, design detection, the honorable
history of design science, and much more.
Creation-Evolution Headlines is your source for
the data in the common tongue (and some reports smuggled out of
the Jesuits strategy sessions). Read it and pass it on.
Note: This commentary is no more a criticism of science
than the Reformation was a criticism of the teachings of Jesus.
It is rather a criticism of the naturalistic philosophers who have
arrogated unto themselves the right to be the sole interpreters of
natural phenomena, the definers of terms, and the censors of the
curriculum. It should be obvious from three years of reporting
here that we love science and true scientists.
Similarly, this commentary is
not a criticism of individual Catholics, many of whom are sincere and
good people who accept what they are taught, including many involved
in Catholic charities who sacrificially care for the poor and needy.
The comparison is about ideas put forth by the leadership.
Not all union members are as liberal as their union bosses, for instance,
nor do all seniors agree with political positions of the AARP.
The official stated positions of Protestant Reformers and Catholics
are the basis for comparing Big Science with those who would reform it.
There are many individual scientists who do not tow the Darwin Party line.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Next headline on: Schools.
Next headline on: Politics.
From external appearances, the paper on fruit flies by an international team in
of the National Academy of Sciences (online preprints, 8/19/03)
looks like the usual bland, boring,
incomprehensible scientific paper. It has lots of jargon, charts,
and graphs, and a sleepy title, Allopatric genetic origins for
sympatric host-plant shifts and race formation in Rhagoletis.
Its just the last sentence that wakes you up.
The paper starts off by pointing out the rift in
speciation theory (see January
15 headline) between the orthodox allopatric speciationists and
the heretical sympatric speciationists. This team uses data from
apple maggots to propose a compromise: Here, we provide evidence for a
partial reconciliation of the sympatric and allopatric views by
showing that inversion polymorphism forming latitudinal clines within
R. pomonella and contributing to sympatric host race formation
may have had much earlier geographic roots. (Dont
fall asleep yet.)
After presenting abstruse and convoluted arguments
about which genes might have diverged when, and supporting it with
alternative phylogenetic trees fit to various genes found in three strains
of American and Mexican apple maggots, they come up with a proposal
that should make everybody happy, even though Questions remain
concerning why mtDNA haplotypes did not introgress with nuclear
alleles (perhaps gene flow is male-mediated) and the current taxonomic
status of Mexican flies. (Dont fall asleep yet.)
Then their last sentence says (you can wake up now),
Nevertheless, our results evoke a surprising PostModern
synthesis of processes and personalities, adding to a growing
literature implying that the origins of animal species can be
as dynamic and rich (reticulate) as those for plants.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Thats dynamic and rich, all right. Scientists hate
postmodernists, because postmodernists deny that anybody (including
scientists) is right. Everybody has their own truth, that is
true for them, whether it be scientism, Hinduisim, animism, Christianity,
Judaism, Islam, or Raelianism. All are equally valid and equally
pointless. To a postmodernist, everyone is a victim of some
oppressed minority, and we must be tolerant of everyones point
of view, including evolutionists and creationists. Because
such thinking undermines the privileged place scientists like to
feel they have, and puts evolutionism into fantasyland along with
everyone else, most scientists hate postmodernism.
Update 08/18/03: Iraqi Wetlands Disaster.
reports status of the environmental disaster wreaked by Saddam Hussein in Iraqs
vast wetlands (see May 1 headline), and efforts
to restore parts of it. The US is trying to help Arabs recover from the devastation.
The area looks like you let a child loose in a sand box with hand grenades,
as the report by a Duke University ecologist describes it; Saddams brutal regime
churned that country upside down, and turned extensive marshes filled with rich
habitats of biodiversity into dust bowls.
So evolutionists should choke at this papers
last line, even if it was meant as an overture for peace.
The warring parties (allopatric vs. sympatric speciationists) are
not going to like the terms of the peace treaty, which might be
stated: Dont feel bad, nobody is wrong, and nobody is right.
Each of you is right in his own way.
It doesnt really matter who is right,
as long as we all get along and be tolerant. Look, we can piece
together lines from both stories to produce an even better story.
So like the players in Alice in Wonderland, everybody wins, and
everyone gets a prize.
Even more telling is their admission that the story of animal
origins is no less dynamic and rich (reticulate) (read:
fluctuating and high in fat) as the evolutionary origin story of plants.
Reticulate, n.: 1.
resembling a net; esp.: having veins, fibers, or lines crossing;
2. of, relating to, or constituting evolutionary change dependent on
genetic recombination involving diverse interbreeding populations.
So both animals and plants no longer have an evolutionary tree, but a network
of crossing lines. What else is left? We have already seen how
bacteria and archaea are already complex and networked with HGT (see
Aug. 11 headline). So for every group of
organisms on earth, it appears tree is in the eye of the beholder:
I think that I shall never see
The data fit a Darwin tree;
Trees are made by God, not we,
But only fools see phylogeny.
(Sincere apologies to
we like his poem much better.) So
good news; you dont have to read the rest of the boring paper.
They just took it all away in the last sentence. Just be tolerant and say,
Hey, whatever grooves you, man, like, its cool.
Next headline on: Plants.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Next dumb story.
Next headline on: Politics.
Complexity from Simplicity: A New Kind of Science? 08/18/2003
In this week’s issue,
Science News takes a
critical look at Stephen Wolfram, the alleged genius who wrote A New
Kind of Science. That book has generated quite a stir among
scientists, and has amassed a loyal fan club. Wolfram, author of the
popular software Mathematica, got a PhD from Caltech at age 20.
Though critics cannot dismiss him as a crackpot, many dislike his
self-promotional style, and others deny the validity of his claims that
I have discovered vastly more than I ever thought possible, and
in fact what I have now done touches almost every existing area of
science, and quite a bit besides.
His theory of self-organization, similar to fractal theory,
revolves around the properties of
cellular automata, which are simple programs that generate complex
output. A small rule in an algorithm can have unexpected effects
far exceeding what could have been predicted. Wolfram has
spun off a lot of exhilarating ideas about where this new approach
can lead, reports Science News. For example,
rather than needing Darwinian evolution to explain the complexity
of living creatures.
Passing fad, or the closest thing to Newton in 350 years?
We agree with Ray Kurzweil that “Wolfram seriously overstated the
complexity that simple programs produce. On the topic of living
organisms, for instance, Kurzweil asserts that unless factors beyond
simple rules are invoked, one can’t explain ‘insects or humans or
Fossil Beetle Leaves Color Imprint 08/18/2003
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Geographic reports on fossilized beetles in Germany that still have the iridescent colors of
their shells plainly visible after 50 million years. This beetle and others from
the same site, are very rare examples of fossils that retain any original color,
and are the oldest colored fossils ever found, the article states. The color
is not the result of pigment, but closely-spaced layers that intensify certain wavelengths
like a film of oil on water.
The incredible part of this story is not the beetle, but the scientists, who have no
stomach churning over the dating of these fossils. That such delicate, ephemeral
characteristics could survive without any modification for so long should cause one to
question the obvious. 50 million years is a long time; so long, in fact, that
the earth supposedly went through multiple upheavals, mountains were built, canyons
eroded, whales evolved from land animals, and most species underwent major changes,
according to the evolutionary story (even though these beetles look thoroughly modern.)
Humans were allegedly 45 million years or more in
the future when these beetles were supposedly buried.
Notable Nuggets 08/15/2003
We only know of about 7000 years of recorded history, history that
was observed by humans who kept records.
If 7000 years were a foot, 50 million years would be 1.3 miles. How can anyone
be so dogmatic about unobserved history? Why not question the dates?
The answer, of course, is that the theory of evolution depends on them.
Evolutionary geology and biology are locked in a deadly embrace that could well
drown them both together.
Next headline on: Bugs.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Short topics from the news warranting further reading:
Next headline on: Human Body.
Next headline on: Health.
Newton Not a Newtonian:
If by Newtonian we mean someone who pictured the universe in
mechanistic clockwork, then He (Newton) of all people
was no Newtonian. This from a review by Patricia Fara
of a new book Isaac Newton by James Glieck (Pantheon, 2003),
Like most people, Newton was a complex person.
His Principia reads like impeccable logic; why, then, the
apparently arcane obsessions with alchemy, Solomons
temple, early Christian heresies and other diversions? Gleick
feels they fed directly into his cosmological theories. He probably
does not have the last word on Newton. From Newtons own pen,
however, it is clear he saw the universe as the grand masterwork of the
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
- Sweeping On to the Grand Fallacy:
It takes chutzpah to describe 3 billion years of prehistory lacking human
observers. Guy M. Narbonne respects Andrew H. Knolls charge into
the unknown in his review of the latters book Life on a
Young Planet (Princeton, 2003), in the
issue of Science. Knolls confidence of
modern evolutionary biology having superseded Genesis is seen in his
whimsical naturalists Generations of Abraham: bacteria
begat protozoans, protozoans begat invertebrates, invertebrates begat
fishes, and the like.
To subscribe to this genealogy, one must face Darwins
Dilemma, the Cambrian explosion. Knoll, not afraid to wade
into the major controversies, nor ... afraid to use words like
maybe and perhaps where the evidence is not
yet conclusive, dives right in. His view: the
survival of diverse eukaryotic lineages imply that snowball
Earth had a discontinuous ice cover with numerous marine
refugia, such that this and other intervals of rapid
environmental change caused temporary breakdowns of the established
ecosystems with their harsh competition for resources and thereby
permitted the new experiments of life [sic] that ultimately led to
our modern world.
Since when are scientists congratulated
for their imaginative use of creative bluffing? There is no
evidence for any of the story, and no way to observe it, either.
You cant dismiss Darwins Dilemma by waving your arms and
saying catastrophes happened so fast, they didnt leave
any fossil evidence. What kind of weird-science philosophy makes
environmental stress the Good Witch of the Gaps? Good grief.
Next headline on: Darwinism (and next item, below).
Next dumb story (and next item, below).
- Squeezing Data Points Into the Theory:
Some Washington University biologists writing in
Aug. 15, studied iguanas and found a surprise: four taxa exhibit
substantially different patterns of evolution. To normalize
the discrepancies, they postulate an inverse relationship between
timing of diversification and morphological disparity within subclades,
which may be a general feature that transcends the historically
contingent properties of different evolutionary radiations.
Translated, this means that all the change happens rapidly when species
split into different groups, then they remain relatively unchanged for
Ad hoc speculation is rife within
evolutionary theory. No data can possibly falsify it.
Welcome to the tolerant, diverse, inclusive Darwin Party where all data
are welcome, as long as they agree to fit in.
- Fatty Acids, Fatty Theories:
To get fatty acid synthesis to fit into the evolutionary tree of
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Irish biologists invoke
lateral gene transfer, adaptive evolution, and gene duplication.
Their paper in the
of the National Academy indicates they were surprised that
of the eight gene families examined, five of the phylogenies
reconstructed suggest that the actinobacteria have a closer relationship
with the alpha-proteobacteria than expected. This is either due
to an ancient transfer of genes or deep paralogy and subsequent
retention of the genes in unrelated lineages i.e., unrelated
bacteria came up with the same genes in parallel.
they say, Fatty acid biosynthesis is likely a very ancient
pathway.... It might seem likely that in a similar way to translation
or replication, a mechanism of carrying out this function would have
been invented [sic] early in evolution and the contemporary operation
of this pathway would have remained largely unchanged.
But they find significant changes, anomalies, and bottlenecks; of one
key enzyme, they say it is most unusual to think that it was
invented [sic] late in evolution, so maybe there has been
significant turnover and replacement of genes with similar functions.
Of another gene, they visualize duplication followed by positive
selection, concluding, This is likely to be a kind of
tweaking of the mechanism of fatty acid synthesis, perhaps
for improved functioning after major alterations of the pathway.
We just want readers to see that hand-waving and pantheism is
alive and well in scientific journals. Registered members of
the Darwin Party get free passes to fantasyland.
Next headline on: Origin of Life (also next story).
- Life Building Blocks in Space:
An international team found evidence in spectral lines for
glycine, the simplest amino acid, in the cores of hot molecular
clouds, strengthening, they feel, the thesis that interstellar organic
molecules could have played a pivotal role in the prebiotic
chemistry of the early Earth (paper in the
Journal, Aug. 20.)
In the Aug. 20
Letters, another team experimented on the surviveability of nucleic
acid bases (purines and pyrimidines) in the conditions of
They conclude that only adenine could survive for millions of years, if
protected from UV in interstellar dust. Gas-phase uracil and
adenine are destroyed by UV light within hours. (No evidence
for interstellar bases have been found to date, with the exception
of trace amounts in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites.)
Chemistry happens, and interesting
molecules form in space; so what? Its not going to help
the believers in naturalistic origin of life. So they found glycine,
the simplest and only non-chiral amino acid. The biologists told
the astronomers to look for lifes building blocks in space,
because they were having such a hard time producing them on Earth.
They would need megatons of amino acids and nucleic acid bases to rain
down on the Earth for any hope of getting successful concentrations,
but then the precious cargo would be subject to rapid degradation
by water, oxygen, UV light, and harmful cross-reactions.
Even then, they would be mixtures of left and right handed forms,
with no desire nor power to organize themselves into astronomers
who could invent weird science like this.
Next headline on: Stars.
- Honor Thy Gut Pardners:
Jian Xiu and Jeffrey Gordon have an interesting paper in the
of the National Academy preprints (Aug 15): Honor thy
symbionts. They talk about the trillions of bacteria
we carry around, especially in the colon, that are mostly beneficial
and help us digest our food. Our intestine is the site of an
extraordinarily complex and dynamic environmentally transmitted
consortial symbiosis, they write, that is only beginning to
- Natural Cancer Fighter:
A paper in the
Aug 14 issue of
Nature explores the finding that one of the
histone proteins, best known for their structural
role in packaging DNA into a compact form, is also
a cancer suppressor. H2AX, it is named, apparently
prevents runaway duplication when there is a double-stranded
break in the DNA. Mice with defective H2AX are more
subject to cancerous tumors. Histones are amazing for
their involvement in packing nearly 2 meters of DNA into
the tiny volume inside a cell nucleus, and also for their
role in regulating DNA expression the histone
code (see Nov. 4 headline).
Bridging the Canyon: Conceptual Scaffolds for Origin of Life 08/15/2003
The gulf between a soup of chemicals and a living organism
is perhaps the evolutionists biggest obstacle in the
obstacle course from Big Bang to man. Two recent
papers try to lay some hypothetical scaffolding across the gulf.
I. A paper this week in the online preprints of the
of the National Academy of Sciences by Christopher Francklyn
(Univ. of Vermont), attempts to find ancestors to the aminoacyl
tRNA synthetases (see July 21 and
June 9 headlines).
In tRNA synthetase paralogs: Evolutionary links in the transition
from tRNA-dependent amino acid biosynthesis to de novo biosynthesis,
Francklyn first marvels at the fidelity of translation
achieved in cells by virtue of three independent error-checking
procedures; Collectively, he notes, these processes
ensure that the error frequency does not exceed, on average, ~0.03%,
and that the overall rate of protein synthesis is not unduly
compromised. How could such a tightly-coupled system
Although the components of the translational
apparatus are highly conserved, he grants, the
biosynthetic machinery responsible for producing the amino
acid precursors to proteins is tremendously diverse, and the capability
to produce all 20 canonical standard amino acids is not universal.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
It is this diversity that provides the anchor for his conceptual
scaffold: This apparent contradiction presents a significant
challenge to untangling the connection between amino acid
and protein synthesis, but clarity is gradually beginning to
emerge, he believes. He builds his case on several
observations: (1) There are look-alikes to some aaRS members that
lack the codon recognition domain, yet serve other functions; (2)
some archaeal organisms build amino acids by indirect methods
instead of with aaRS; (3) Contemporary organisms have three pathways,
that appear functionally equivalent, for synthesizing some amino
acids, such as asparagine.
With these observations, Francklyn
speculates that indirect pathways evolved first, and that the
pathways have evolved at different rates. He finds some support
in genes that he thinks show the transition from indirect to direct
pathways. In closing, he confesses, Ultimately, any
model that seeks to address the origin of the aminoacylation system
must confront the inherent paradox that protein-based
machinery is required to synthesize proteins.
At this point, he leans for support on the
RNA world scenario,
which he feels is not far fetched,
because scientists have been able to select RNAs that can aminoacylate
themselves and tRNAs, and the role of small RNAs in cellular controls
has been a growing realization among biochemists.
Arguably, he concludes, such molecules
could be the contemporary descendents of early RNAs that transformed
amino acids on their tRNAs scaffolds, in a process that
anticipated [sic] the rich diversity of extant metabolism.
Science is not supposed to be
guesswork. There is nothing in this tall tale that warrants
it being included in a scientific journal; it is only truth-stretching
motivated by the desire to support naturalistic cosmology.
The fact is, each of the observed molecules is functional
and processive: the rest of the story is inference and hand-waving.
Francklyn speculates out of thin air about different rates of evolution for
different genes in different kingdoms, based on a prior assumption of
evolution. He puts indirect and
direct pathways into a purely hypothetical ancestry. He invokes
the RNA World scenario, which is riddled with serious problems, to
whitewash the cracks in the supporting beams of his story.
He says scientists have been able to select RNAs for function,
confusing artificial selection (intelligent design) with mindless
natural selection (inoperative prior to reproduction, anyway.)
He admits the existing aaRS system requires proteins to build proteins.
He admits the system in the simplest living cells of all three kingdoms
of life is extremely accurate and highly conserved.
II. In cells, amino acids join into polypeptides like proteins
and enzymes (a building up process, or anabolism), and
polypeptides break down into amino acids (a tearing down process, or
catabolism). This is all controlled
by sophisticated machines ribosomes and proteasomes, under
the control of DNA.
Getting amino acids to join via peptide bonds requires energy.
Biochemists have to go through multiple detailed steps to build
polypeptides, and even then, achieve only very low yields. The longer
the chain, the lower the yield. But ribosomes build them quickly, accurately,
efficiently, and productively.
How could such a peptide synthesis and degradation system evolve?
If you mentally erase the
evolutionary-based conceptual scaffold and look at the remaining hard
facts, they do not of themselves generate a bridge across the canyon;
quite the opposite. The observations reveal a highly-accurate,
exquisitely designed system of multiple interacting parts that is a
serious challenge to explain without intelligence. A series of
loosely-strung maybes does not cut it in science. Wherever
Francklyn needs something to happen according to the script, he uses the
favorite evolutionary euphemism for miracle: it emerged.
a priori commitment to naturalistic philosophy, and stories
like this are revealed for the materialistic fairy tales they are.
A German team has approached the problem in the journal
Aug. 15, with a paper entitled, A Possible Primordial
Peptide Cycle. Building on previous work
(Huber and Wachtershauser, Science,
1998) in which they
demonstrated that peptide bonds can form under hot aqueous
conditions in the presence of freshly coprecipitated colloidal
(Fe,Ni)S, they now have completed the cycle by degrading
hydantoin and urea derivatives to their amino acid building blocks
in the same environment.
The experiment required carbon monoxide (CO), which had to have its
pH stabilized with Mg(OH)2, and various intermediate compounds.
Since both the anabolic and catabolic processes can thus occur concomitantly
in the same environment, they feel The results support the
theory of a chemoautotrophic origin of life with a CO-driven,
(Fe,Ni)S-dependent primordial metabolism, presumably
in the presence of CO-laden volcanic exhalations.
They needed to demonstrate the catabolic side of the cycle
for preventing the cellular metabolism from being choked
by peptides. Therefore, We suggest that
the primordial peptide cycle may have continued to function
until the onset of cellularization.
Given a primordial peptide cycle, they wax somewhat
prosaic about the possibilities:
Because the constituents of the primordial peptide cycle [sic] are
continuously formed and degraded, they form a dynamic chemical
library that scans the space of structural possibilities.
This library [sic] may well have been self-selecting, because the
constituents may be differentially stabilized by bonding as ligands to
transition-metal centers, and early evolution may be seen [sic]
as proceeding by positive ligand feedback into the catalytic
transitionmetal centers of the metabolism.
Not only that, some nucleic acid precursors might be thrown in for
free as a package deal:
The hydantoin derivative resulting from a glycylpeptide is related
to the imidazol ring of uric acid. This opens a surprise
connection between the origin of peptides and a possible origin
of purines, which by extension would support the
notion of a coevolution of peptides (proteins) and nucleic
acids. The demonstrated hydrolysis of the hydantoin
derivative with (Fe,Ni)S may be seen as the evolutionary
precursor of the reaction of hydantoinase, a metal-dependent
enzyme. The demonstrated hydrolysis of the urea derivative
with (Fe,Ni)S may be seen as the evolutionary precursor
of the reaction of the Ni-enzyme urease. If this notion
is correct, these enzymes and their metal dependence may well
be extant echoes from the distant past of life.
The products of their experiments, however, were racemized;
they reverted to mixtures of left- and right-handed amino acids.
(Proteins in cells only uses the left-handed form, and the sugars in
nucleic acids use only the right-handed form.)
They offer no hypothesis for how the first life selected a
100% one-handed form; the earlier paper only speculates that homochirality
(one-handedness) is only important for longer chains.
In the 1998 paper, they only achieved two- and three-link chains,
and these tended to hydrolyze much more rapidly than they formed.
This paper is 90% bluff and 10% science.
It is a tornado of hot air sweeping up a few pebbles of fact.
The actual experimental results are so minuscule, compared to the
assumptions and ad-hoc parameters they require, as to make the story
laughable. What did they achieve? Just a few mixed-handed
dipeptides or tripeptides, totally irrelevant to life, that broke down
rapidly. Even this pitiful result required all kinds of
assumptions and volcanic heat and jerry-rigging to get it to work. Did they
explain the origin of homochirality? No. Did they
actually get purines? No. Did they get proteins? No.
Did they get libraries
of material? No. (As if a library of random letters is
a library at all.) Did they get metals to join the party and
invent enzymes? No. Did they demonstrate that out of the
astronomically vast space of structural possibilities
anything useful would be selected? No. This paper is
a total joke, yet Science glibly printed it. Anything
this silly by a non-evolutionist would have been sent to the circular
file faster than a paper airplane can fly. It is only because
it subscribes to the reigning materialistic paradigm that such
balderdash gets a hearing.
Cosmologists Consider Another Fundamental Cosmic Entity:
Though it helps, one does not need an education in
biochemistry to see through the
fluff in papers like this.
All you need to do is count the maybes. Count up the words
may, might, possibly, maybe, perhaps, putative, suggests,
notion, and all the other storytelling words, and compare them
with the hard facts where they actually observed or measured something.
Next, take your red pen and cross out all the
propaganda words that
embed their evolutionary assumptions
into the terms: words like primordial, primitive, precursor, emergence,
and ancestor. Also, redline the passives and subjunctives that
try to gently tiptoe around the who behind the miracles
(did you catch this one:
We suggest [BUZZ} that the primordial [BUZZ] peptide cycle may [BUZZ]
have continued to function [BUZZ] until after the onset of
Finally, become thoroughly familiar with
two fundamental logical principles that rest on rock-solid observation:
(1) Inanimate objects do not think (see the
fallacy of personification), and (2) Complex specified information
only comes from intelligence. Once you graduate from this school
of baloney detecting, you can expose the evolutionary quacks as
religious fanatics, pushing their materialistic philosophy on the
world with sleight-of-hand magic tricks that look scientific to the
uninformed. Instead of being bedazzled by the show, you will
boo and demand your money back. The rest of the audience will
look surprised at your reaction; they might even ask you how
the trick was done.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Next dumb story.
Scientific American is not usually one to grant anything higher
than disdain to ideas of
creation or intelligent design, but a feature article in the
issue may have handed a skeleton key to the anti-materialists, at least.
Jacob D. Bekenstein, author of
Information in the Holographic Universe, explores the question
whether physicists have been overlooking something before now. His
opening paragraph sounds like something that might have been written by
Stephen Meyer or A. E. Wilder-Smith:
Ask anybody what the physical world is made of, and you are
likely to be told “matter and energy.”
The six-page article delves into the meanings of information and
entropy, and how they might be measured for the universe as a whole.
Theoretical results about black holes suggest that the
universe could be like a gigantic hologram, the subtitle
Yet if we have learned anything from engineering, biology
and physics, information is just as crucial an ingredient.
The robot at the automobile factory is supplied with metal and
plastic but can make nothing useful without copious instructions
telling it which part to weld to what and so on. A ribosome
in a cell in your body is supplied with amino acid building
blocks and is powered by energy released by the conversion of
ATP to ADP, but it can synthesize no proteins without the
information brought to it from the DNA in the cell’s nucleus.
Likewise, a century of developments in physics has taught us
that information is a crucial player in physical systems and
processes. Indeed, a current trend, initiated by John A.
Wheeler of Princeton University, is to regard the physical
world as made of information, with energy and matter as incidentals.
Gregory J. Rummo, a Christian who studied classical
thermodynamics at the graduate level in the usual materialistic
way, is stunned at this revelation. Writing for
Editorials.com, he thinks the cosmologists have stumbled onto
a millennia-old Biblical truth, that of John 1:1, that states,
in the beginning was the Word. Bekenstein would
probably not take his cues from a Biblical text, yet there seems
to be a convergence of sorts in his concluding line,
the vision of information as the stuff the world is made
of will have found a worthy embodiment.
Wheeler and Bekenstein and the others quoted in the story are
surely not intending to support Christian or Biblical cosmology;
many of the ideas expressed are highly theoretical and almost
bizarre. Yet to admit that information might be
a necessary parameter to describe the universe is a highly
significant development. The trick is to define information,
and to explicate its sources. Recall how Jack Szostak
recently tried to get a grip on the information content of
proteins, with his definition of functional information
(see June 12
headline, and Benton Clark defined life in terms of
embedded instructions (see
Dec 30 headline). Philosophers and mathematicians
in the Intelligent Design movement, like Stephen Meyer and William
Dembski, have attempted to define information in a rigorous way.
Will our common sense notion
(which Dembski mathematically supports) that complex specified
information always has an intelligent cause become a necessary logical
premise for thinkers like Wheeler? If so, the materialists
who rule evolutionary
biology are going to be caught between a rock (I.D.) and
a hard place (physics).
Beautiful: The Maximum Output from Minimal Cells 08/13/2003
Though no Christian theist
by any means, John Wheeler, to his credit, does ponder the wonder of
things. In a foreword to The Anthropic Cosmological
Principle by Barrow and Tipler (Oxford, 1986), he said,
In the mind of every thinking person there is set aside
a special room, a museum of wonders. Every time we enter
that museum we find our attention gripped by marvel number one,
this strange universe, in which we live and move and have our
Here he alluded to a Biblical phrase from
Acts 17, in which Paul was attempting to reason with
the Greeks about their unknown god, whom he reasoned
from the evidence of creation and the resurrection of Christ
was the God who made all things.
The late Dr.-Dr.-Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith often spoke of evolutionary
cosmology as being deficient, in that its equation was
incomplete: matter + energy + time could not give rise to our
living world without adding another parameter, information.
More recently, information theorist Dr. Werner Gitt has written
a book on this, In the Beginning Was Information.
If secular cosmology gets hold of this principle, that information
is one of the fundamental parameters of the universe, it is going
to be a very interesting 21st century on Mars Hill.
Follow-up questions: does information have a
source, or is it eternally self-existent? Can information
exist without intelligence? If so, how could it arise
from nothing? Can intelligence be impersonal?
If so, how could personality arise from the impersonal?
If a personal intelligence exists, did it create life?
If it created life, did that Person attempt to communicate with
us? If there is a revelation, how would one distinguish
between the true and the false?
These are important questions, which the
Paul would have eagerly explored while addressing
the primed audience of intellectuals, The One whom
you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Dry science journals do not often talk about beauty, but Donald
A. Bryant (Penn State) entitled his Commentary in the
of the National Academy of Sciences (online preprints, 08/13/03),
The beauty in small things revealed. There is a tiny,
minimalist cyanobacterium in the oceans that is so plentiful in
numbers, it and one other species might account for as much as
two-thirds the total CO2 fixation in the oceans, and
one-third the primary biomass production on earth. This makes
it a key player in the global carbon cycle.
The contribution of marine photosynthesis to the global carbon cycle
was grossly underestimated until recently, Bryant comments.
...As every microbiologist inherently knows, little things can
be the cause of much greater things that are often of utmost
importance, and this is especially true of phytoplankton.
Yet this key player was only discovered 15 years ago.
Bryant refers to another paper in the same issue of
by Dufresne et al., who sequenced the genome of this organism named
Prochlorococcus marinus. They found it to be very near
the theoretical lower limit in size for an autotrophic (self-feeding)
photosynthetic organism, one ten-millionth of a cubic meter.
Because of its remarkable compactness, they write,
the genome of P. marinus SS120 might approximate the minimal
gene complement of a photosynthetic organism.
Some of its systems DNA repair, chaperones, transport systems,
motility, and nitrogen metabolism among them are scaled down
from other, larger bacterial cells. It also lacks duplicate genes
for photosystem II components (although it has the complete set).
But it has enough genetic information and synthetic machinery to make all
its own nutrients with sunlight. This is
a non-trivial toolkit: it must have the ability to synthesize
all cellular constituents, including amino acids, nucleotides,
coenzymes, etc. from CO2 and mineral salts.
The small size of Prochlorococcus also has the advantage of
a greater surface-to-volume ratio, less self-shading, and more
efficient light capture. Being minimalistic,
Bryant says, does not necessarily mean that Prochlorococcus
sp. is less competitive. The little cells can
diversify and adapt well. Yes, he concludes,
small things can be simple and yet highly successful on a
global scale. There is a lay summary of the article
Science Update by John Whitfield.
Simple needs to be qualified.
This little cell, near the lower limit of size for a self-replicating,
free-living organism, has 1,884 open reading frames (ORFs) in its
genome, of which at least 67% have assigned functions or are
conserved hypothetical proteins (21%) (i.e., functions
we know about). Because the organism is
photosynthetic, it must encode all the proteins required for
oxygenic photosynthesis, including the biosynthesis of chlorophyll,
carotenoids, quinones, heme, the photosynthetic electron transport
chain and light-harvesting proteins, and the Calvin cycle,
Bryant lists. Besides what is known, there are 231 ORFs that
dont match any in the biochemistry databases of known proteins.
These ORFans, as they are called, presumably are unique to this
species. This is part of a big problem for Darwinists
to explain (see Jan. 2 headline).
The authors make no effort to explain how these species evolved
from simpler organisms; on the contrary, they speculate that they
must have devolved from larger photosynthetic bacteria on their
way to the minimalist packaging contest.
Titans Ice Baths of Life 08/12/2003
But is not minimalization a
further evidence of design? When
Rutan flew around the world without refueling in 1986, he
exhibited superb engineering. He had to get his aircraft down
to the bare minimum. That took considerable skill in evaluating
mass-to-function ratios, knowledge of materials and fuels, and judgment in
evaluating essentials such that a minimalist craft could endure the
rigors of long-distance flight. Intel tries to pack more computing
power into less space. In many cases, minimalization is more a
mark of design than bulk.
Remember Pascals quip, This
letter is longer than usual, because I lack the
time to make it short.
The authors of these papers leave unanswered, again,
the question of how genetic instructions arose in the simplest
living organisms. Each one of the functions this little cell
performs is marvelously exquisite and astonishingly complex.
No comparable complexity tied to function is exhibited in the minerals
and foam surrounding Prochlorococcus. Up to a third of
the oxygen you breathe came from your little allies in the ocean.
Draw some logical conclusions.
Next headline on: The Cell.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Next amazing story.
Titan, the large haze-shrouded icy moon of Saturn, has undoubtedly gotten some big wallops
during its history. Although we cannot discern much detail on the surface until the
Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrives next year,
scientists have tried to characterize what might exist on the surface, given the chemistry
known from spectral analysis of the atmosphere. Planetary scientists have supposed
that a chemical rain of organic compounds should blanket the moon, although recently
they were surprised to discern through the clouds large expanses of water-ice bedrock (see
April 25 headline). Though the surface is icy (nearly
-300° F.), an impactor could bring in a lot of kinetic energy that would be dissipated
as heat. This could melt the ice, but for how long? Could an impact form a temporary
warm little pond on this moon, enriched with organic compounds, that might
endure long enough to be an incubator for life?
Natalia Artemieva and Jonathan Lunine think just perhaps. They
calculated the energy of impactors at different angles and deduced what might
remain. Though forward of an oblique impact would be devastating, they figure:
While much of the organic surface layer is heavily shocked and ejected from
the immediate region of the crater, a significant fraction located behind the oblique
impact trajectory is only lightly shocked and is deposited in the liquid water at
the crater base. Simple calculations suggest that the resulting aqueous organic
phase may remain liquid for hundreds of years or longer, enough time for the
synthesis of simple precursor molecules to the origin of life
They figure a non-negligible portion of the surface of Titan might have experienced
these transient vernal pools, protected under skins of ice, in which interesting
chemistry might occur: the formation of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins),
and perhaps purines and pyrimidines (the building blocks of DNA and RNA).
Their results are published in this months planetary journal
A related article was posted 8/14 on Space.Com.
Notice they did not say life, but only simple precursor molecules
(otherwise we would have had to classify this headline under the category Dumb).
But even this is very misleading. Is iron ore a precursor to a space shuttle?
Are Scrabble letters scattered at random a precursor to a play? Are wind chimes
a precursor to a symphony? Jonathan Lunine should know better. He is a
top planetary scientist with an intimate knowledge of the biochemistry of life.
He has said that evolutionists face extremely daunting challenges understanding the origin
of life on earth, and has had to reckon with some of those challenges getting from the
precursors to a real curser like Yosemite Sam, or even to a hypothetical replicating cell.
Comet/Asteroid Views Evolve 08/12/2003
Some of those extremely daunting challenges are getting single-handed molecules out of
random mixes, keeping harmful molecules (like oxidants) away, getting the necessary
molecules in contact, and especially, originating the genetic code. These are
each so extremely daunting as to be falsifying to chemical evolution.
(Read our online book for logical proof.) Hundreds of
years? Ha! Googols of times the assumed age of the universe would not be
enough to get even one functional protein. Chemical evolutionists assume
building blocks can build themselves up into computers without help,
from precursors to cursors, from prebiotic to biotic, in one continuous chain.
They speak of genetic information but always just assume that information will
emerge out of physical law and randomness. This is not science; there
is no observation to support such a belief; it is a fairy tale for grownups.
It emerges out of a pantheistic world view pretending to be naturalistic.
To call any resulting carbon-based molecules prebiotic
embeds evolutionary assumptions into the words, and influences the reader
to think incorrectly that such an experiment is relevant to the origin of life.
Scientifically, all one could say is that some complex carbon compounds might be
produced, and name which ones. The experiment they didnt perform
can be done in your kitchen (but we dont suggest you try it):
Pour motor oil on ice cubes in the freezer and shoot it with
bullets. Time the reactions with a stopwatch and see how long it takes for something
to crawl out and say, Just what in tarnation do ya think yore doin, you !@&Z#X*%@ wascally wabbit!
Next headline on: Solar System.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
We have been told for decades that comets are the most pristine
objects in the solar system, kept in deep freeze since its origin.
That view has evolved, says
Research Institute, because astronomers have become aware of
processes that can modify them over time.
Also, methods of classifying
comets and asteroids need modification, claims the
Astronomical Society. Categorizing them as Centaurs,
Kuiper-Belt Objects, long- and short-period comets, etc. is
misleading, because there are hybrid objects and no clear
divisions in some cases.
The point is that science is always
changing. How many planetarium shows or science TV programs
have you heard that made the claim that comets are pristine objects,
unmodified for 4.6 billion years? That they give us glimpses
into the earliest state of the solar nebula before the planets formed?
Weve seen some radical
rewriting of solar system formation theories recently. What
commonly-accepted truths are being spouted today that are in for
radical revision tomorrow?
Darwinian evolution, maybe?
Web or Tree: The Phylogeny Wars 08/11/2003
Next headline on: Solar System.
Next headline on: Dating Methods.
The evolutionary tree was hit with a plague of webs when
Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) was discovered.
How widespread is the practice
of sharing genes between organisms? If ubiquitous, that makes
it very difficult to reconstruct hypothetical ancestral trees,
because the trees look more and more like giant webs instead.
Two recent papers take sides on the debate.
In the Aug. 5 issue of
Biology, R. Thane Papke and W. Ford Doolittle examine
Phage evolution: New worlds of genomic diversity.
They review recent evidence that bacteriophages (viruses that
infect bacteria) comprise the most numerous and diverse
genomes on earth, and conclude that HGT (also called lateral
gene transfer) may be the most significant factor driving evolution.
For those studying phages and their prokaryotic hosts, they draw three
important lessons (emphasis added in all quotes):
First, that phages provide a vast community of exchangeable genes
which overlaps that of their hosts, and may drive its evolution.
Second, collections of phage genomes, such as the one described here,
may provide invaluable data sets for building theoretical
models which see evolutions pattern as a web,
not a tree, and seek to measure the relative importance of
lateral versus vertical inheritance. Third, these phages may
also be telling us something important about the process of genome
evolution through exchange.
Whoa there, say C. G. Kurland, B. Canback, and Otto G. Berg in the
of the National Academy of Sciences. In a commentary
entitled, Horizontal gene transfer: A critical view,
they call such claims exaggerated.
They assert that HGT only functions significantly among primitive
organisms and does not impact standard evolutionary tree-building.
Ribosomal RNA phylogeny, in particular, seems safe from HGT, and there
are selective barriers that constrain both the ranges
and frequencies of HGT, especially among higher organisms.
They conclude, All in all, the available data suggest that
rRNA-based phylogeny is robust and that Darwinian lineages are
the essence of phylogeny.
Yet a paper in Nature last month
(see July 10 headline)
claims the HGT discovered in higher organisms so far may
just be the tip of a large iceberg.
If the first paper is right, and
if the history of life is a web, not a tree, then
Darwins one and only illustration in The Origin, that
of a branching tree of life, passes off into the history books
as a myth. It is essential, therefore, that evolutionists
protect their tree of life
with flaming swords.
On Hang-Gliding Cannibals 08/11/2003
Add to this controversy another back room brawl that
shows no sign of abating, despite heroic peacekeeping efforts: the war
between molecular phylogenists and
morphologists. The din is
kept behind closed doors so the public doesnt hear it.
The same warriors show up at school board meetings, all dusted off
and showered and combed, sitting beside
ACLU lawyers, and testify, Why yes, evolution is an obvious fact,
and it is lunacy to say otherwise; we would have to overthrow everything
we know about science to doubt evolution, the central unifying principle
of biology, and anyone who disagrees is stupid or insane or wicked, and
obviously trying to push a religious agenda. Can I go now?
Those dadburn rascals on the other side of the feud just shot down
my paper and Im going to get even.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
While we may be adept at hang-gliding, the genes that make us so
were unquestionably not shaped by selection against individuals who
hang-glided unsuccessfully in our evolutionary past. This truism
is brought to you by John F. Y. Brookfield (University of Nottingham),
in the Aug. 5 issue of
Biology. But he is no anti-Darwinist; he is just a realist about
the difficulty of inferring unseen causes to explain present effects.
But he feels another, different method can infer the past from the genes,
and he uses it to uncover possible evidence of widespread cannibalism
among our apelike ancestors.
Brookfield admits it is very difficult to infer
what role natural selection played in human evolution:
One of the most challenging questions about humans is to know [sic] the
extent to which natural selection operating in our prehistoric ancestry
has shaped our present phenotypes and behaviours. Evolutionary
psychology tries to explain human behaviour in terms of the selective
advantage conferred by individual behavioural traits. This
approach falls into the biological tradition of trying to explain
aspects of an organisms phenotype through the fitness advantage
that the phenotype generates. With humans, however, the
explanation of behaviour in adaptive terms is more difficult than in
other species, as the societies in which we live today are immeasurably
different from those in which our gene pool evolved. [sic]
While we may be adept at hang-gliding, the genes that make us so were
unquestionably not shaped by selection against individuals who hang-glided
unsuccessfully in our evolutionary past.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
So how can he turn around and suggest there were cannibals
in our past? Aha, glad you asked:
For this reason, selective explanations of human behaviour cannot be
judged on the basis of the consequences of the behaviour for modern
humans, but only in terms of whether the genes responsible would
have been favoured by selection during the prehistoric eras when
our genome evolved [sic]. For this reason, many have speculated
about the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, the
hypothetical Pleistocene environment to which our genes were adapted by
selection. While some insights into our lifestyle during the time
of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness can be gleaned from
studies of hunter-gatherers living today, and from the archaeological
record, this can never be known with certainty. This is
obviously a problem for the adaptive interpretation of human behaviour,
as it is very easy to hypothesize selection having operated on
any arbitrary behaviour by making appropriate guesses
about the nature of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness.
There is, however, a completely different, and complementary, approach
to discovering the lifestyle of our ancestors one which starts with
the identification of selection, and moves from this to inference about
lifestyle. The idea is to identify genetic variability with known
fitness consequences in present-day populations, and to use the
patterns of variability to infer something about selection in the
past. Then inferences can be drawn about the lifestyle that would
have been necessary for such selection to have operated.
From this heuristic approach, he looks at an example, a
remarkable new study of Britons suffering from
Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, which is caused by a prion protein.
Subjects homozygous for the mutation are vulnerable, but those with
apparent heterozygote advantage appear resistant.
Switch scenes to Papua New Guinea, where a tribe that engages in
systematic consumption of diseased relatives at mortuary
feasts also appears to have heterozygotic resistance to kuru,
another prion disease. He puts two and two together to infer
that Britons had cannibal ancestors in their distant evolutionary
past. But, he cautions, Clearly, the situation is not
entirely clear-cut, because one would expect less frequency
of the common homozygous vulnerability if selection had been
acting for hundreds of thousands of years. There are other
In studies like this, the identification of selection
comes from a comparison of frequencies of variant alleles with
predictions of the standard neutral model which makes
many assumptions, a critical one being that there
is no population subdivision. With population subdivision,
predictions should be modified, but it is hard to know how
to do this without independent evidence of the migrations and
gene flow in our ancestry.
Brookfield leaves it at that, as if we are left hang gliding without a
landing strip. His Dispatch is entitled, Human evolution:
a legacy of cannibalism in our genes? (question mark in the
Furthermore, with population substructure, sampling strategy
becomes very important. Imagine a population that consists of
twenty fairly reproductively isolated subpopulations
created simultaneously at a time more than N generations ago,
where N is the effective population size. Now, suppose that we
sampled 20 alleles of our favourite gene from this population.
Our inferences about selection will almost certainly depend
on our sampling strategy. If our sample is of one allele
from each of the twenty populations, almost all variants will be seen only
once in the sample, and we will conclude that we are seeing
the signature of a selective sweep created by an adaptive
substitution. If, however, we choose to sample ten alleles from
each of two populations, most variants will be at intermediate
frequencies, and we will identify a history of balancing selection.
Anybody who assumes evolution is a
fact and all other points of view are faith-based should listen to
evolutionists talking to each other in the back rooms of science
journals. What Brookfield has done is shoot down one storytelling
method and replace it with another. Look at how he admitted that
the storytelling method of evolutionary psychologists is hopelessly
dependent on assumptions, is speculative, and can never be known for
sure. But is his completely different, and complementary
approach any better? No, and he admits that, too.
It is not entirely clear-cut, it yields surprising
results, and makes many assumptions, including the one
that there was no population subdivision. And depending on
the sampling method, it can yield opposite results. Worse, it
it starts with the identification of selection...,
i.e., you have to already believe evolutionary theory before you
start tweaking the data to make it fit evolution.
Evolution of the Darwin Fish 08/09/2003
Evolutionary theory is only rock solid in the
high school biology textbooks where mush-headed students raised on
MTV dont have the critical thinking skills and skeptical minds
to know the difference between baloney and fact. For the few
who read the journals, and are not distracted by the wee bits of data
tossed about like red herrings,
they see what a playpen for storytellers it really is, where every
participant wears the uniform: Guess Genes.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
For many years, Ichthyostega was the missing link between fish and
four-footed land dwellers (tetrapods).
When Jennifer Clack discovered Acanthostega in 1991, it
changed this conception entirely, says Neil H. Shubin in a review
of Clacks new book Gaining Ground, in
Aug 8, 2003:
How do major shifts in evolution happen? What is the way
in which new designs and functions emerge [sic] over time? Big
transitions, like the origin of flight or the invasion of land,
involve the evolution of new structures, functions, and ecological
interactions. Our understanding [sic] of the significant jumps in
evolution has depended on a few relatively well-known intervals in the
history of life. The origin of tetrapods has been one of those
exemplars, and in Gaining Ground Jennifer Clack provides a fresh
look at this key evolutionary event.
(Emphasis added in all quotes).
Acanthostega had both gills and five-digit
appendages. According to Rubin, this set off a chain of discoveries
around the world of putative missing links between sea-dwellers and
land-dwellers. Problems remain, however:
Well let Shubin, an enthusiastic evolutionist, summarize the
State of the Sea-Land Evolutionary Transition:
- Shubin speaks of the new material
that revealed that the current view of tetrapod origins
was wrong in several important ways. For instance,
the origin of tetrapods was not necessarily linked to the
invasion of land.
- Of Acanthostega, he says, Surprisingly, this
primitive [sic] tetrapod retains a remarkable suite of
aquatic adaptations, such as gills and flipper-like limbs.
These adaptations imply that fingers and toes first appeared
[sic] in the
paddle of an aquatic organism rather than in the hand or foot of a
more terrestrial one. Yet digits appear in the flippers
of aquatic mammals, and they are not presumed to be intermediates on the way
to becoming land creatures, but quite the opposite.
- Another big surprise came when Acanthostega
and Ichthyostega were studied phylogenetically.
It suggested more diversity than a simple monophyletic lineage between
water and land. Since then, a number of fossils have been found
all over the world adapted to different degrees of terrestriality.
This fossil bonanza has created a more complex view of what
was formerly seen as a simple transformation.
- Placing these fossils in relation to a phylogenetic tree is
challenging, because Descriptions of the osteological changes
along the fish-to-tetrapod transition are relatively complicated
because living taxa often lack comparable structures.
Where does Gaining Ground leave us? New fossils,
new phylogenetic hypotheses, and new discoveries from
developmental genetics have exposed the complexity involved
with the origin of novel taxa. This complexity tells us
much about how evolution works [sic]. As Clack
demonstrates in the book, the tetrapod limb provides a major
example of such evolutionary transformations. The
simple view would hold that the origin of tetrapods is
associated with the invasion of land by vertebrates, the
transformation of fins into limbs, and the origin of the first
fingers and toes. Clack shows that the relation among
these three aspects is loose at best: primitive tetrapods are
aquatic, primitive limbs can be very flipper-like, and digit-like
structures appear in parallel in at least one other lineage
of Devonian fish. Indeed, transitional taxa are often
mélanges of structures, genes, and functions seen in a variety
of different primitive groups. These mélanges are the
result [sic] of parallel evolution and the disparate patterns
of ecological and anatomical change. The features that
characterize important new groups often arise in several different
primitive species independently. In addition, major
anatomical shifts can precede ecological ones. In the
case of tetrapods, key features evolved in fish living in
aquatic ecosystems, and only later were they used to exploit
terrestrial environments. There are general lessons to be
gleaned from this new view of tetrapod origins: the complex
relation among parallel evolution, ecological change, and evolutionary
diversification is likely to pertain to other evolutionary
transitions as well.
Details on the book:
Gaining Ground: The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods
by Jennifer A. Clack, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2002.
What view do high school science students get? The simple view.
The outdated view. The wrong view. Students are still being
told about many simple, outdated, wrong views about the fossil record,
the origin of life, natural selection and Darwins imaginary tree of
life, as reported last month by Discovery
Institute. Here is another perfect example. How many of
you remember your high school biology textbook with a cartoon of a fish
walking up onto the land? Thats all it was a cartoon.
It was Frank & Ernest material, unfit for the science lab.
(Now the cartoon has evolved into that occasional rear-bumper icon,
the Darwin Fish. Next time you see one, give the driver the
URL to this story.)
Churches, the Unsung Heroes of Rehabilitation 08/09/2003
Jennifer Clack was one of the heroines in the
PBS TV series
Evolution. In episode two,
(in which Shubin also appeared),
she showed off her prize fossil, while the series gave the impression here
was a clear example of an evolutionary transitional form.
Dont be fooled by the rhetoric. Shubin is our hostile witness.
We give an extended, uncut quote to avoid the common canard
that critics of evolution quote out of context. Shubin is clearly a
staunch believer in evolution. That makes his points all the more
damaging to his beliefs. Its as if an Olympic coach admitted
his team took illegal drugs, but it was OK, because everyone else did.
Rather than thinking this disqualifies the whole Olympics, he thinks his
comeback makes the games better than ever.
Notice how Shubin has just undermined the credibility of
Darwinian evolution in this key event, this major shift in evolution
as he labels it. He starts out by asking how these transitions
occur. Asking the question implies that evolutionists dont really know,
a conclusion borne out by the rest of the review. The tale hinges on
relatively few well-known intervals, he says, of which the transition to
land is one of the biggest and most well known.
Then he admits the old view is wrong! New structures
emerge (theres that miracle word again) without regard
Why would a sea creature, living happily in the water,
develop five-digit limbs if not to crawl out on the land? Why not
ask it if it wants to? It apparently was happy where it was. Have we
learned nothing from Coelacanth?
That famous fossil was
supposedly evolving bony fins to support its weight on land, but is still
doing just fine deep in the sea (a living fossil, once thought extinct since
the dinosaurs). It is found today swimming in upright
positions feeding on the bottom, ostensibly with no desire to evolve into
a salamander. The same could be said for these extinct Devonian
critters. Only evolutionary belief puts them into a transition
Furthermore, consider these revelations by Shubin:
What an implausible story. (Complex is Shubins
euphemism for convoluted.) Only a believer could believe
it. There is no tree of evolution here, just a hodgepodge collection
extinct animals. The Darwinists thought they had a simple game of
laying numbered coins in a row, but have been handed three-dimensional
tic-tac-toe, checkers, chess pieces, Scrabble letters and dice by a jokester
who challenges them to arrange them into an ancestral tree. Just when
they try to get a handle on that, the jokester dumps random pieces from
dozens of different puzzles into the mix. Nothing fazes them, though;
they think they are making progress (just keep the funding flowing).
- The characteristics appear abruptly.
- They appear in parallel. Darwins tree is not supposed
to have parallel lines. This multiplies the already near-miraculous
improbabilities to have separate groups develop the same structures
and functions simultaneously.
- The structures and functions have no clear relationship to one another,
nor to the ecology.
- Many of the structures are not found in living counterparts,
so their functions are inferred.
- Acanthostega has a remarkable suite of aquatic
adaptations. Evolutionary theory is supposed to explain
adaptation, not assume it to be the product of evolution
- Transitional forms (a term that
embeds Darwinian assumptions into
the very words) are described as mélanges of structures, genes, and
functions, i.e., mosaics of characteristics that do not sort easily
into evolutionary lineages. (Mélange, n.: a mixture of
- The simple view of the few relatively
well-known intervals involving major transformations is wrong.
This view has been taught for decades, since at least 1928 with the
discovery of Ichthyostega, long showcased as a classic example
of a major evolutionary transformation. Where is the retraction
in the high school biology textbooks?
- Major anatomical shifts can precede ecological ones, he
says. In other words, fish evolved the complexities of digitized
limbs before they realized they could use them as feet on land.
So much for classical Darwinian theory. This means that
Acanthostega either had to simultaneously evolve digitized
paddles and the muscles, brain cells, nerves, developmental pathways and know-how to
use them, or else all of the above were freaks, as useless as tumors,
that stayed around (leaving no fossil record) and were not eliminated by
natural selection until their separate uselessnesses combined into a
useful, functional, coordinated limb system that, without design, was
later exploited by descendents as feet.
Well Ill, be darned, Grandpa Acan,
did you know I could use these things to walk on the land? Gasp!
I cant breathe!
- Its not only this transition that has the above problems.
the complex relation among parallel evolution, ecological change,
and evolutionary diversification is likely to pertain to other evolutionary
transitions as well. The whole shebang is a muddle.
So where does Gaining Ground leave us, really?
For one thing, throw out your high school evolutionary biology textbook.
Its useless. For another, stop waiting for the Darwinists to
finish their game, or youll be Losing Ground. Third, its
hot outside. Go take a swim with your digitized limbs.
If you have a tumor, maybe you can exploit it as scuba gear.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Next headline on: Underwater Life.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Next dumb story.
Faith-based groups do more than they think they do and more
than outsiders think they do to rehabilitate ex-convicts and
concludes a study by University of Iowa researchers reported by
For the 500,000 criminals released from prison each year, faith-based
support groups provide an introduction back into civil society, new
friendships, a new social network, and opportunities to rebuild their
lives. Stephan Arndt, psychiatrist in the study of the
the largely undocumented role these local groups play, said,
People tend to think that all public services have to stem from
governmental agencies. In truth, communities have provided for
those in need for a long time. The lack of recognition may be
because faith-based and community-based organizations often do not
advertise the massive amounts of service they do.
Government services and faith-based ministries tend to be isolated,
because the ministries are wary of accepting government money, and
government workers tend to just open the phone book when a released
offender asks to go to a church.
The study suggests that the correctional probation/parole officers
and substance abuse counselors ... attend church events such as barbecues,
where they can learn more about how the organizations help offenders
and understand how referrals to faith-based groups can be made while
still respecting separation of church and state. Faith-based
groups, on the other hand, were found to be
open to building communication and understanding
rather than getting more money.
Secularists want to keep religion in a box isolated from
society, as Russell Board described in a recent excellent
commentary in World
Magazine. They do this to the harm of all society.
Jesus Christ described his disciples
salt of the earth and the light of the world, a city set on a hill that
cannot be hid. That light was not to be put under a bushel-basket,
but on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house (society).
His followers were to let their light shine before men, that they would see
their good works, and glorify the Father in heaven. Good works are seldom
more beautiful than when they help the fallen, encourage the homeless and weak,
restore the sinner, and help the widow and orphan whose relative has
been taken from them, either in sickness and death, or in prison.
Government programs are typically far more expensive and less productive than
the these quiet ministries with their unsung heroes whose lights
have been shining for thousands of years.
Faith-based groups dont need a government handout, but neither do they
need the bushel baskets of oppressive regulations, taxes and
interference. Let their light shine.
Nanocells are Naah, No Cells 08/09/2003
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Earlier claims that
nanobacteria exist, tiny cells an order of magnitude
smaller than the smallest known cells, are apparently unfounded.
Update reports on a paper in
Aug. 2003 that the alleged fossils of nanobacteria appear to be
by-products of enzyme-driven tissue decay; i.e., just clumps of
leftover digested material from larger living things.
This underscores the reality that
there are lower limits to the size of a free-living entity.
A living cell needs a certain minimum subset of molecules to be able
to live, grow and reproduce. This is discussed in chapter 6
of our online book,
Evolution: Possible or Impossible?.
The more observational science demonstrates that there is a lower
threshold for autonomous life, the less plausible abiogenesis becomes.
One cannot expect a single RNA molecule to evolve into a cell.
Mars is Rad 08/07/2003
Next headline on: The Cell.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Mars 2001 Odyssey
has been orbiting Mars since Oct. 2001. One of its 3 prime
instruments is MARIE,
the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment. This device is
trying to characterize the amount of dangerous radiation around
Mars, for consideration in future manned missions.
Principal investigator for the MARIE instrument, Dr. Cary Zeitler,
gave a science briefing at JPL about its results to date.
Though there are many uncertainties regarding the effects of cosmic
radiation on biological tissues, and though MARIE cannot measure
surface radiation directly, it is apparent Mars is a hazardous
environment for humans. The instrument has measured about
2.5 times as much radiation in the Martian orbital environment as
that experienced by astronauts on a typical stay aboard the
International Space Station, which is about 80 times the amount we
get at the surface of Earth.
Sources of radiation are galactic cosmic rays (the most
dangerous) and solar particles (though usually weaker, can be
very deadly during coronal mass ejections). It is difficult to
shield against cosmic rays. Surprisingly, a little shielding is
worse than none: heavy atomic nuclei that are slowed down can cause
more damage, or produce secondary particles that can hit more genes.
Cells have elaborate mechanisms to repair DNA, but they can be
swamped by too
many hits too close together. It would take 151 cm of aluminum
to shield against the 1000 MeV protons that might impinge on a spacecraft
from a solar storm. Liquid hydrogen is the best
shield, but is difficult to incorporate into a spacecraft hull.
Presumably, for a human on the surface, some of
the solar particles would be attenuated or extinguished by Mars
weak atmosphere, and half the cosmic rays would be blocked by the
Still, future astronauts will receive about a third the suggested career
dosage on a three-year mission to the planet. Earth does not
have the problem, primarily because of our global magnetic field
and our much thicker atmosphere.
This shielding shatters the energetic cosmic rays into numerous,
harmless muons that pass through our bodies about 1000 per minute.
Mars, by contrast, has only a weak, patchy magnetic field not a
This reporter asked Dr. Zeitlin
what this means for futurists who dream of humans colonizing and terraforming
Mars. He said the enthusiasts, like
Robert Zubrin, have not
been discouraged, despite the high radiation levels. Zubrin feels the risk
is no larger than that a smoker takes. Sending reformed
smokers will give them about the same risk level they had on earth,
It is hard to imagine, however, how to get plants to stop smoking.
How to Walk on Water 08/07/2003
We are blessed on Earth with an environment that
extinguishes most harmful radiation, and a
DNA Damage Response system
that can repair most types of genetic harm. A cell that is killed by
radiation is not a threat, but then again, we cannot lose too many
cells. Cells that are damaged and stay with us give rise to
cataracts, cancer, central nervous system damage, and a host of other health problems.
With the obligatory pinch of incense to the emperor,
Dr. Zeitlin stated the half-truth
that life on Earth evolved with sparsely-ionizing radiation.
That Earth gets sparsely-ionizing radiation is true, but how this could
generate whales and dinosaurs and redwoods is a dark secret within
the mystery religion of Emperor Darwin.
On Mars, humans, animals, and plants would be subject to
overwhelming radiation. Such a bullet shower could not help
anything evolve into something fitter. It would tear their poor
cells to death and disarray. Despite the optimism of the
futurists, it appears that Earth is our only long-term safety bubble,
our privileged planet that we must preserve and cherish.
Next headline on: Mars.
If you are as big as a human, you would need supernatural power
to walk barefoot or sandal-clad on water, but there are much
smaller living things that do it all the time: water striders.
Scientists have known for a long time that these bugs stand on the
skin of water formed by surface tension, but how do
they move? It would seem to be like trying to run with wet skates
on a waxed floor. Now, scientists writing in
08/07/2003 have found that they generate waves not on the
surface, but underneath. The fast motion of the middle legs
generates vortices underneath the surface that propel the bug
forward without violating Newtons Second Law (force equals
mass times acceleration).
Water striders also have water-repellant skin and hairs
that keep them from getting glued to the surface like other bugs.
But since surface tension can only hold up so much weight, they never
get bigger than about 0.4 inch. The scientists built a small
robot that mimics the water striders rowing motion and found
that it works, but not as fast as the real living thing.
With their finely-adapted gear, some water striders can propel
themselves 100 body lengths in 1 second. That is comparable
to a human swimming 400 miles an hour, faster than most jet aircraft, says
Geographic News, which also comments,
they are the worlds most advanced surface-dwelling
water bugs. One of the few insects to conquer the oceans,
some intrepid species venture hundreds of miles across
becalmed tropical seas.
Never take a little critter for granted.
Insects and spiders have some of the most advanced technology known.
Here we see a common bug, noticed with momentary
curiosity by countless kids, that outperforms human high-tech robotics,
whose movements baffled biologists till now.
How did water striders gain this ability to walk on water?
How many generations of water strider ancestors drowned before they
figured out how to evolve the water repellant skin and hairs,
the muscles, the nerves, and the brains and developmental pathways
to accomplish this fleet feat of the feet? Good thing they
didnt have to.
Dolphin Sees With its Ears 08/07/2003
Next headline on: Bugs, Arthropods, Crawlers etc.
Next amazing story.
Toby the dolphin is a perspicacious personality in The Living Seas aquarium
at Disneys Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. Nothing gets by his
all-seeing ears. Dolphin trainers and scientists used Toby to test various
theories about how the mammals use their senses to identify objects.
Do they match cues to memory maps in their brains? Do they have
algorithms that figure out features of an object by the sensory signals?
Or do they discern object characteristics directly from the signals returning
from the object? Apparently the latter.
Through a series of clever experiments, the scientists
worked Toby through 54 unfamiliar objects in sets of three.
Objects included a food chopper, a Mickey Mouse balloon, an apple
and other junk hardware of various materials and sizes.
They hid the objects behind screens transparent to sonar, they held
them up in the air (where sonar is ineffective), and they mixed them up,
being careful to avoid trainer cues, rewards, and associations with
In the tests, they would show Toby an object and ask him to pick the
identical one from
behind the screen, and reward or not, he always got it right.
They also tried the reverse; letting him echodetect an object behind
the screen and pick the identical object visually out of three.
All indications demonstrated that Toby was reading the shape and
characteristics of the objects directly from the reflected sonar
pulses, and associating that information with what he had seen,
and vice versa. Organisms can perceive object
characteristics directly, the scientists concluded.
Their results are published in
(See also the June headline about
dolphin sonar automatic gain control.)
For Toby to have succeeded, his sonar must
have been extremely precise. He had to have been able to differentiate
between round and sharp edges, rough and smooth surfaces, size, and
density. That an animal could do that with sound is truly
remarkable, especially considering the sonic profile changes
as he swims toward the object. Dolphin and bat sonar exceeds
the specifications of man-made sonar by a long shot.
Could such a capability be the result of a long series of unguided
random processes? Toby or not to be, that is the question.
Quick Takes 08/06/2003
Next headline on: Mammals.
Next amazing story.
Some interesting news items our readers might want to pursue in more detail:
Ichthyosaur Extinction Not Due to Picky Diet 08/05/2003
- About Time: What is the end of time, and the
beginning of eternity? The letter e of course, but all
jesting aside, a scientific nobody is shaking the halls of science by coming
up with a radically new concept of time.
reports that Peter Lynd of New Zealand questioned some basic assumptions
and allegedly solved Zenos paradox and other puzzles that have occupied
philosophers for 2500 years. Others are skeptical, however.
Is he the new Einstein, or a crackpot?
Not taking sides here, but it is true that many
ground-breaking discoveries in science have been made by
Next headline on: Physics.
- Gates of the Membrane: A couple of papers in last
weeks issue of Science
reveal details of just two of nearly 360 specialized proteins in
cell membranes that ferry necessary molecules across the
otherwise impermeable barrier imposed by the phospholipid bilayer.
They look like clever rockers forming a funnel on one side of the
membrane. When the right molecule falls in, the funnel inverts
and ejects the molecule onto the other side. These act as
molecular pumps, translocating their substrates across membranes
against a concentration gradient; this thermodynamically unfavorable
process is powered by coupling to a second, energetically favorable
process such as ATP hydrolysis or the movement of a second solute
down a transmembrane concentration gradient. The two
studied here, LacY and GlpT, use the latter method.
Next headline on: The Cell.
- Iraq Museum Thefts:
08/01/2003 offers a timeline of the crazy, mixed-up case of the
Iraq Museum, whose fault it was for not protecting it during the looting,
and what the situation is now. The good news is that 8366
most precious artifacts had been stashed in a safe place by museum
workers before the war. The bad news is that 10,471 items (out of
nearly half a million) are still missing.
The Baghdad Museum is important for its artifacts and manuscripts that
reveal details of many kings, civilizations and places mentioned in the Bible.
An interesting aspect of the report concerns
the media circus that erupted April 12, when all the news outlets
started parroting the falsehood that 170,000 objects had been looted
Not to minimize the losses, its good that less than 7% of that
was closer to the truth. The media were quick to blame Bush
and Blair in this complex story that makes it unfair to point fingers.
Are not the Iraqi looters themselves the prime suspects?
The museum was not bombed; the articles were looted by Iraqis.
This story has the makings of a movie. The heroes who rescued and
stashed the artifacts swore on the Koran not to reveal the location until
after the war. Whatever works.
Next headline on: The Bible.
- Fossil Record: A news feature in
asks whether the new Paleobiology Database can take the bias out
of the fossil record and reveal the true levels of biodiversity in
the past. Some analyses show that, contrary to common wisdom,
biodiversity has not been increasing over time.
The article explains away the Cambrian
explosion with the usual mythoid that animals didnt
fossilize till hard shells appeared. Watch the film
for evidence that the Cambrian explosion is real,
not an artifact. There are precambrian strata that would have
been excellent for soft-body preservation, if the presumed evolutionary
ancestors had existed.
Next headline on: Fossils.
- Intellectual AntiDarwinists:
William Dembski has the introduction to his new book online in PDF format,
Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing.
It will feature essays by 14 scholars, some clearly not creationists
or Protestants, who deny Darwinian evolution is the answer to everything.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
- Geology: Cyclic Metamorphism Flawed?
A paper in
Geology 31:8, Aug 2003 by British and Chilean geologists debunks
a common explanation for metamorphic layers in the Andes that are
separated by unconformities. The old story was that there were
multiple episodes of metamorphism separated by 40 million years.
Each cycle involved basin formation, burial, metamorphism, and then
exhumation. The authors find no evidence of time gaps between
the strata, and conclude, Thus, metamorphic breaks within this
Andean section cannot be confirmed. Accordingly, models of
Andean burial metamorphism linked to episodic tectonic cycles throughout
the Mesozoic and Cenozoic appear unfounded.
This appears to collapse the timeline for this formation like an accordion.
Why could not all these layers have formed from one episode in a short time?
Here is another case where an alleged proof of long ages seems
to have been based in flawed reasoning.
- Origin of Old-Earth Geology:
Terry Mortensen on the
in Genesis website has a synopsis of his PhD dissertation on
Scriptural geologists entitled, The origin of old-earth
geology and its ramifications for life in the 21st century.
When did geologists start believing the earth was billions of years
old? What other geologists opposed them? What was the true
nature of 19th century debate about the age of the earth? What
does it mean for us today?
Next headline on: Geology.
An explanation for ichthyosaur extinction has fallen by the wayside
with a new fossil find. According to
Geographic News (see also
Science Update), these dolphin-like prehistoric reptiles were
not finicky eaters of belemnites (squid-like animals), who went
extinct when their food became scarce. This is evident because
of an astonishing new 110-million-year-old skeleton, with
preserved hatchling turtle and ancient bird fragments in its gut,
[that] is causing some experts to question that possible explanation
for the groups demise. If the ichthyosaur was
omnivorous, scarcity of its favorite food could not be the cause
of its disappearance.
NG news announces that Ichthyosaurs were a
successful group of reptiles. Their first awkward-looking
reptilian ancestors took to the seas 230-odd million years ago,
and never looked back. Yet since the next paragraph speaks
of their obscure origins it is not clear how John Pickrell,
the author, could know they were awkward-looking. What is clear
is that the ichthyosaurs were as adroit in the water as their modern
fish and mammal look-alikes. Fossils of
the ichthyosaurs indicate they had a streamlined tuna or dolphin
shape, and developed the most superbly adapted body form for
life in water (quoting a scientist involved in the study).
Most were about 20 feet long, but an enormous 80-footer has been
As to the cause of their extinction, the new evidence
from an ichthyosaurs gut sends the
paleontologists back to the drawing board. Maybe competition
by bony fishes or plesiosaurs was involved. Quoting Chris
McGowan of the Royal Ontario Museum, The problem is we have so
little data. Most of our theories are pure guesswork.
Let us summarize. The origins of these superbly-designed creatures
are obscure, but the common ancestor must have been awkward-looking.
Why? Because Darwinism demands that nothing spring into existence
fully formed, not because there is any fossil evidence for such
an ancestral oaf. How a reptile-brained awkward predecessor
decided to evolve the most superbly decided body form for
life in water is not explained. How three very diverse groups of
organisms reptiles, fish, and mammals all converged on this
successful formula independently, is left unexplained.
The dates of their introduction, reign and
demise are all based on evolutionary assumptions. No cause is
clear for their extinction. The new evidence demolishes a
favorite theory. The data are so scarce, the evolutionary theories are
pure guesswork. Isnt science wonderful.
Cohabitation Risks Depression, Conflict, Unhappiness 08/06/2003
A reader dubs the evolutionary thinking process
YAGTFCBOTSE Yet Another Gee The Facts
Changed But Our Theory Still Explains It All. He gets it.
The scientists dont. Maybe its because they only have
Next headline on: Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Reptiles.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary
Theory (next story, also).
The statistics are shocking: from 10% to over 50% in just 30 years.
Thats how many couples live together outside of marriage.
Most rationalize it that it will make them happier, less constricted,
able to test the relationship before committing to marriage.
But sociologists and psychologists at Penn State, according to
say the opposite is true. Couples who live together before marriage
are more likely to have conflicts and get divorced after marriage.
Cohabitation also makes people less religious and may encourage
them to develop problematic relationship skills and to spend less time
resolving problems or providing support to their partners.
Starting a relationship with a weak commitment carries over into
marriage, and increases the vulnerability to the inevitable
challenges that couples face over time.
Funny, we were told that the only purpose
of relationships was to pass on ones genes and keep the evolution
going. We were told that conflict is good. From a Darwinian
view, who cares if a couple is happy, as long as the selfish genes
Peanuts Are Good for You 08/01/2003
The article says that living together in an
unconventional relationship can make people less religious....
Maybe the reverse is true. People who have abandoned fear of God
are more likely to indulge their selfish passions. But then its
a downward spiral; the more they indulge, the more irreligious they
become. Hitting rock bottom is the only way some develop a
fear of God. How much better to humbly accept and obey His
commandments. Why kill yourself finding out He was right all along?
A common theme in the Old Testament, where the laws of
marriage and fidelity are stamped in stone, is that Gods laws
are not meant to be balls and chains, restricting our happiness.
They are the Makers operating instructions for achieving maximum health,
happiness, life and productivity. Isnt it odd that science,
that paragon of truth detection in our culture, takes such a long time
to confirm what the Bible said long ago? Does that say something
about the relative merits of
revelation vs. human reasoning in the things that matter most?
Next headline on: Health.
Simple minds equate fat with bad. Fat is a basic food, essential
for health, if taken in the right proportions and the right kinds.
Some people avoid peanuts, thinking they have too much fat, but
scientists at Purdue University
advise adding peanuts to that apple a day if you want to stay trim
and keep your heart healthy. They have good (monounsaturated) fat,
the kind that
reduces triglycerides, and also contain magnesium, folate, vitamin E,
copper, arginine and fiber, all of which have cardiovascular
disease risk-reducing properties. In addition, they aid
satiety (they make you feel full) so you are unlikely to pig out on
really fattening junk food. A test group that added 500 calories
of peanuts a day showed no increase in body weight. The bottom
line: People can feel comfortable including them in their
diet to take advantage of peanuts reducing the risk of heart
disease, without adding to body weight.
Washington Carver would have smiled with an I told you
so look. He said they were good food and replenished the
soil, too. If youre bored with plain peanuts, try one of
his dozens of peanut recipes. He served a full dinner once with
milk, bread, vegetables, coffee and dessert all made out of
peanuts. Try them plain, or as
peanut butter, peanut brittle, peanut cookies, peanut clusters,
trail mix, etc. (Of course, they are best when dipped in
Dont try this yet if you are one of the few cursed with
But keep your hopes up; scientists are finding
a cure for that, so that we can all enjoy what Carver considered
natures most perfect food. How did he find that out?
He asked the Creator. For the fascinating story, click the link
above and read our short biography of the man who found over 300 uses
for the peanut.
Bug High-Jump Champion Stumps Scientists 08/01/2003
Next headline on: Health.
A test pilot will pass out at 7 G's (7 times the force of normal earth-surface gravity), but
a common garden bug survives 400 G's in its phenomenal leaps.
In a blink of an eye, the tiny froghopper or
spittlebug hurls itself 70 centimeters. This olympic feat requires an instantaneous
take-off velocity of 4 meters per second, and an initial acceleration of 4,000 meters
per second per second. This is equivalent to superman being able to leap 70-story
buildings in a single bound. The tiny (6mm) bugs have comparatively huge leg
muscles, which lock into position and release together suddenly like a catapult.
This will rewrite the record books. Fleas, the previous record holders, drop
to a distant second place.
Humans can exert forces of 2-3 times their body weight; grasshoppers, 8; fleas, 135;
and froghoppers, 400. The scientists
observing and measuring their incredible jumps had a hard time catching
the critters. To a predator, it must seem these bugs just vanish into thin air.
BBC News and
which explains, The outstanding athletic ability of Philaenus spumarius,
also known as the froghopper, may have evolved to help the insects escape
attack from birds and other insects. (emphasis added).
How many predators came close to 4,000 m/sec2 to push the
froghoppers to such dramatic heights?
How many generations of froghoppers blacked out on their way to 400 G's?
How did they evolve massive leg muscles simultaneously with nervous
systems able to withstand such forces? What specific mutations
would have been required? How did this feat become
Where is the empirical evidence for a sequence of
Froghoppers didnt evolve to escape from predators.
They appeared to escape from evolutionary theories.
Next headline on: Bugs.
Next headline on: Physics.
Next amazing story.
Click on Apollos, the trusty|
Scientist of the Month
|Guide to Evolutionary Theory
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Featured Creation Scientist for August
James B. Irwin
1930 - 1991
To follow up last months biography of Wernher von Braun, were
going to hear about one of the few men who got to ride on top of one of his
behemoth Saturn V rockets: Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin.
This months entry was not a scientist in a professional sense;
he was an astronaut, and not just an astronaut, but one of the
12 people in history who has walked on the moon. But what is
a scientist? If we mean by the word a seeker for truth, someone
who uses observation and experimentation to uncover explanations
for natural phenomena, than anyone can be a scientist more or
less. James Irwin qualifies more than most. He
deployed scientific experiments on the surface of the moon,
and helped earth-bound scientists uncover many important facts
about our celestial neighbor. To qualify for his rigorous
Apollo training, he had to know more than most about celestial
mechanics, astronomy, and geology. Even after his historic
mission, James Irwin used his scientific training on some rigorous
expeditions of discovery most historians dont tell you about.
When you lean far back and look up, you can see the earth like
a beautiful, fragile Christmas tree ornament hanging against
the blackness of space. Its as if you could reach
out and hold it in your hand. Thats a feeling, a
perception, I had never anticipated. And I dont
think its blasphemous for me to say I felt I was seeing
the earth with the eyes of God. I believe, looking back
on it now, the good Lord did have His hand in it.
For me to travel such a roundabout way, and finally end up
in the space program, and then go to the moonits
amazing it ever happened.
Thus begins Jim Irwins book To Rule the Night
(Holman, Nashville, 1973, 1982), an autobiographical account
of the events leading up to and following his historic Apollo
15 mission to the moon. Written with the help of William A.
Emerson, Jr., the books title is taken from Genesis 1:14,
And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule
the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.
(That the moon shines by reflection makes it no less a “light”
than a lamp; we speak still of a bright full moon.)
For millennia, people saw the lesser light from earth.
What a rare privilege to see the earth from the lesser
light! Surely Gods handiwork must seem all the more
sublime to see our home, blue and brilliant, standing out against
Irwin’s comment that it was amazing it ever happened stems from
the fact that up into his Air Force career, he did not seem to
have either qualifications or interest in the space program to
have ended up in such a privileged position. He did not
get particularly high grades, and seemed rather bored with
military life. He was expecting to fulfill his term and
get a job as a commercial pilot when he had a chance to fly
a P-51, the hottest new aircraft of the time. Feeling all
that power as he accelerated almost vertically, that was the
turning point. He was hooked. He lived to fly.
Even after becoming passionate about flying, it was still amazing
Irwin ever made it into the astronaut corps. He had a serious
accident as a test pilot at Edwards that left him hospitalized
and grounded. He had high blood pressure and heart
problems. And despite repeated attempts, he was turned
down by NASA, until he was just about at the age limit (36).
With only one month to spare, and with his superiors going to bat
for him, he finally got a call in spring 1966 from Deke Slayton, inviting him to
come to Houston. “I’m ready,” he said eagerly.
“When do you want me?” He had trained hard, exercised hard
and tested hard; by this time, he felt he had the best qualifications
of all the Air Force candidates.
We’ll fast-forward past the astronaut training (those interested
can read the book) and let Irwin describe another rare privilege
he had: riding on top of one of Wernher von Braun’s mighty Saturn V rockets.
On the morning of July 21, 1971, strapped into his seat beside
Col. David R. Scott (mission commander) and Major Alfred M. Worden
(command module pilot), Col. James B. Irwin gripped the controls
at the word, “Ignition.”
We sensed and then heard all that tremendous power being released
underneath us on the pad. Slowly, tremulously, the rocket
began to stir....
The muffled roar flows through you. You just
hang there. Then you sense a little motion, a little vibration,
and you start to move. Once you realize you are moving,
there is a complete release of tensions. Slowly, slowly,
then faster and faster; you feel all that power underneath you....
As you build up to 4 G’s, you weigh four times as
much as you do on the earth, and you are plastered against the
couch....it is difficult to raise your arms to touch a switch or
move a lever....
Just then you come into staging and the engine
shuts downWHAM! All of a sudden you are thrown forward
against your straps. It feels as if you are going to go
right into the instrument panel; you unconsciously put your hands
up to absorb the impact. You are holding, just lying there.
The engine shuts down, the structure unloads, and the spent stage
drops off. That’s a hundred feet of rocket dropping off.
After an interval of a few seconds the next stage lights off
BAM! You are pushed back on the couch again.... The
guys who briefed us told us that when you go through staging it
feels like a train wreck.
The ship accelerated up to 18,000 mph into earth orbit,
but reached almost 25,000 mph during trans-lunar injection
(TLI). In the book, Irwin describes all the experiences
of flight, the approach of the moon, and the feeling of
walking on the surface in personal, human terms.
We get to share vicariously what it must have been like,
because he realized he was a representative of America
and of all people of the earth, fulfilling the dreams of
Apollo 15 was a highly successful and interesting mission.
Irwin and Scott were the first to use the new Lunar Rover, an
“$8 million dune buggy” as he called it. Apollo 12 astronaut
Alan Bean (for whom Irwin was alternate), reminisced,
“Dave and Jim could travel faster, gather more samples, and
make more scientific observations with their lunar wheels.
It was a great mission.” (Bean, p. 32). They found a bright
crystalline rock sitting on a pedestal, later dubbed the Genesis Rock,
that was significant for planetary scientists studying the moons
origin.* Interestingly, their scoops only went in about
12 inches before hitting very resistant hardpan (p. 78).
They saw layering on the mountains that was difficult to explain
geologically. Irwin saw colors on the moon: not only the
grays and whites, but light greens and browns.
The strenuous work
Irwin put in on the moon may have caused strain that
contributed to his later heart problems. Nevertheless, the
two astronauts fulfilled a huge amount of observation, rock
collecting and experiments, and had a little time for fun, too.
Jim tried broad jumping and got three feet high and 10 feet across in
that bulky suit and backpack that would have made him weigh 380 lbs on earth,
but only 64 on the moon in 1/6 earth gravity. The suits restricted
movement a lot. They had to walk by jumping from the ball of one
foot to the other. It felt, Irwin said, like walking on a
trampolinethe same lightness, the same bouncy feeling
(p. 64). They had to be careful in their play, though; one tear
in the suit, and the blood would boil, and an astronaut would have
10 to 20 seconds to live. Most of the lunar surface was soft
soil, however, so this was only a remote danger. On live camera,
Dave Scott dropped a hammer and feather together to demonstrate to
schoolchildren all over the world that “Mr. Galileo was right”
objects of different masses really do fall at the same speed.
Jim stepped on the feather by mistake and lost it, much to Daves
chagrin, who wanted to save it for posterity. Irwin thought,
I’m wondering if hundreds of years from now somebody will find
a falcon’s feather under a layer of dust on the surface of the moon
and speculate on what strange creature blew in there” (p. 85).
It will probably be obvious. Without erosion on the moon, the
footprints and all the flight hardware left behind will still be
intact, providing clear evidence of “intelligent design” having been
Scott’s historic photo of Irwin saluting against the backdrop of
Mt. Hadley (higher than Mt. Everest), with the lunar module, rover
and American flag all in place, became a poster print Irwin sent to all
who requested one back on earth, signed, His love from the
moon – Jim Irwin.
Jim felt God’s love and presence in a powerful way out there.
Though separated from home by 215,000 miles, he sensed a nearness
and presence of God that he never anticipated. Some other
Apollo astronauts also had spiritual experiences during their
missions, but Irwin knew the God of the Bible personally.
In the midst of their hectic schedule, he had time to briefly quote
his favorite Bible verse, Psalm 121:1, I will lift up mine eyes
unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. It was
particularly fitting against the massive hills of the Apennine Mountains
and canyons of Hadley Rille, but we must hasten to verse 2, which gives the
answer to the question: My help cometh from the Lord, who made
heaven and earth. Graciously deferring to the hard-working
ground crew back on Earth, Jim appended, “but of course we get quite a bit
from Houston, too.” Several times
when problems arose deploying experiments, he prayed for help.
Almost immediately, ideas would come to mind that worked.
He describes some of these moments:
It was almost like a revelation. God was telling me what to
do. I never asked Houston because I knew there would be a delay.
I didnt have time for Houston to get an answer to me; I needed
an immediate answer. I could see several logical ways to go
about solving these mechanical problems, but I wanted to know the
best way. I prayed, and immediately I knew the answer.
I am not talking about some vague sense of direction.
There was this supernatural sensation of His presence. If I
needed Him I could call on Him, call on His power.
(To Rule the Night,p. 19):
He describes the sensation of looking up at home:
In the three days of exploration, there were a couple
of times when I actually looked up to see the earthand it was a
difficult maneuver in that bulky suit; you had to grab onto something
to hold yourself steady and then lean back as far as you could.
That beautiful, warm living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if
you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart.
Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the
creation of God and the love of God.
(Ibid., p. 60.)
Alan Bean, mentioned earlier, has given the world a legacy unlike
any of the other twelve Apollo astronauts. He became an artist.
His large-format book of paintings, with text by Andrew Chaikin
and introduction by John Glenn,
Apollo, An Eyewitness Account by Astronaut /
Explorer / Artist / Moonwalker Alan Bean (Greenwich Workshop,
1998), is a must for Apollo aficionados. Bean’s impressionistic
works capture the spirit and feeling of events from all the Apollo
missions in ways that photographs never could. Intimately
acquainted with the mission vehicles and lunar activities, as well
as the lighting and sensations of being on the moon as only
one could who has been there, Beans art combines accurate detail with
feeling. He captures moments both momentous and whimsical that the
cameras missed, and captions each painting with first-person accounts
of the experiences that inspired each work. Alan Bean had a
special place in his heart for Jim Irwin. More than any of the
other Apollo team members, Alan considered Jim a brother.
Adjacent to a dignified painting of Irwin in the Apollo spacesuit,
Mt. Hadley reflected in the visor, Bean wrote this tribute:
MY BROTHER, JIM IRWIN
Jim Irwin was assigned as my backup on Apollo 12.
He knew his job extremely well. I knew that if anything
happened to me at the last minute, Jim Irwin would do an excellent
job on our mission and fit right in with Pete Conrad and Dick
Gordon.(Bean, p. 152.)
It was easy to like Jim. He had a personality
that suggested you could have a lot of confidence in him.
He wasn’t an individual who tried to convince you that what he was
doing was right or what you were doing was wrong, it was more like
he wanted to work with you, and find the best way to do something
He flew a wonderful flight on Apollo 15 in July, 1971.
He and Dave Scott were there 3 days and had what I felt was the
greatest mission of Apollo up to that point. Not only because
theirs was the first extended lunar scientific expedition, but
because of their skill. While they were on the moon,
Dave Scott and Jim Irwin worked extremely hard and displayed some
heart irregularities. It was only after they got back that
they discovered the extent of NASA’s concern for them and worry
that this situation may have caused permanent damage.
After all the post-flight activities were complete,
Jim left NASA and founded High Flight, an interdenominational
evangelical organization devoted to spreading his word, his
witnessing, his experience to other people. Jim described
being on the moon as a deeply spiritual experience. Less
than two years later, Jim experienced the first of several serious
heart attacks. He felt that his physical efforts on the moon,
combined with the way the human body eliminates excessive
potassium and other minerals in zero gravity, had damaged his
heart. He died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of
We used to see each other at astronaut reunions
or accidentally in airports from time to time, and when we
parted company, he would put his arm around me and say, “Well,
I hope to see you again soon, brother.” It was a surprise
the first time as that isn’t the way one astronaut talks to
another and I didn’t know what to say. After this happened
a few times, I wanted to reply because I felt very close to him
but I just couldn’t make myself say those words. Since I
left the space program and became an artist, I think differently
about myself and my life. I miss Jim a lot and I understand
how I miss him and respect him as the brother I never had.
The crew of Apollo 15 had a very successful return flight,
followed by the usual parades and visits with international
dignitaries: President Nixon, King Hussein of Jordan,
Golda Meir of Israel, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and to numerous
countries in Europe and the far east, including Taiwan, and
even Russia during the height of the Cold War. One unfortunate
episode got the crew in trouble, however. With the crew’s
knowledge and participation, Dave Scott had
taken 400 envelopes with first-day stamps to the moon and sold
them to a German dealer, who in turn sold them for a lot more money.
The rules about profiting from Apollo had been unclear, it seems, but NASA
was very concerned about the appearance of impropriety when
the matter became known, and reprimanded the crew members.
All accepted the reprimand honorably, and monies were returned, such that
none of them profited from the matter. NASA subsequently
imposed severe restrictions on what astronauts could sell from
their experiences. Other than this learning experience,
the reputations of the crew members were impeccable. Jim’s
wife Mary often traveled with him. They had five children:
Joy, Jill, James, Jan, and Joe, and called Colorado Springs
It’s a hard act
to follow, walking on the moon, yet Irwin’s career was, in a way,
just starting to take off. When speaking to a Baptist
church one evening, telling about the closeness to God he
felt on the moon, he realized he was in a unique position to
share the gospel. People were enthusiastically interested
to hear what an astronaut had to say, especially one who
was a Christian. Jim started a non-profit organization
named High Flight Foundation, based on the famous poem
of that name. It had two missions:
to share the gospel from his experiences as an astronaut, and
to stimulate archaeological research in support of the Bible.
In spite of heart problems, Jim took on some heavy-duty
adventures: climbing Mt. Ararat in Turkey to
investigate claims that remains of Noah’s Ark had been found,
and searching for possible sites of the Red Sea crossing by
Moses and the Israelites. Irwin’s reputation unlocked doors
with foreign governments. As a result, he was able to get
clearances to bring teams and equipment to sites that had been
frustratingly difficult to get near for other researchers.
Mt. Ararat (nearly 16,945 ft., in eastern Turkey), with its loose
rock, harsh winds, glaciers, deep gorges and landslides,
is one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb.
Irwin led teams up the slopes five times. On one of
these he was knocked unconscious by a falling rock. He lost
several teeth and a lot of blood. After spending the
night alone in the cold above 14,000 ft, he was barely discovered
in time by a team member. Of the dangers of this mountain,
Irwin wrote, We faced risk of physical danger, for Ararat is
a crumbling mountain. Every few minutes we could hear
rock slides and small avalanches. We slept in numbing
cold, fell on loose rock, dodged tumbling boulders, grew
exhausted from high-altitude climbing, had feet sore with
blisters, had painfully cracked lips from sunburn, received
various cuts and nicks, all in pursuit of a hidden and
uncertain treasure. He wrote a book after the third
More Than an Ark on Ararat: Spiritual lessons learned while
searching for Noah’s Ark (Broadman, 1985).
In it, he tells this story and other adventures.
(He signed my copy,
David He shows His love on the mountains
too! Jim Irwin, Apollo 15.) Unlike some sensationalists,
Irwin never claimed to have found the Ark, but was keenly
interested in following up on leads and eyewitness reports.
John McIntosh, another Ark researcher involved in 14 research expeditions
and 7 climbs on Ararat, met Irwin at base camp at the 11,000 foot
level in 1982. McIntosh was welcomed aboard Irwins
team and worked with him for five years. He says of Irwin,
I think he impressed
everyone he met as a very gracious, loving, dedicated and generous
Christian brother (personal communication, 2003).
Irwin was still planning expeditions to Ararat when his final,
fatal heart attack took him home to be with the Lord in 1991.
For the 20 years God gave him after his lunar expedition, Jim
Irwin never hesitated to share the gospel. He responded to Golda
Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, who asked if the moon mission had
changed his life or strengthened his faith, and said,
“Before the flight, I was not really a religious man.
I believed in God, but I really had nothing to share.
But when I came back from the moon, I felt so strongly that
I had something that I wanted to share with others, that I
established High Flight in order to tell all men everywhere that
God is alive, not only on earth, but also on the moon.”
(Irwin, p. 243). The details of that message, that he
shared countless times to attentive audiences, is his own adaptation
of the well-known Four Spiritual Laws from Campus Crusade for Christ:
Only after viewing earth from the moon, and totally dedicating his
life to Christ, did Col. James B. Irwin begin to sense how amazing
a flight plan could be, when its designer was not only the voice from
the Command Module, but the Manufacturer of all the flight hardware:
yet near and loving enough to call him “Brother Jim”:
- God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
The highest flight plan man can have on earth is to understand
this love and this personal plan. [Irwin quotes John 3:16]
- Man is sinful and separated from God, thus he cannot know
and experience God’s love and plan for his life.
Man’s flight plan is marred because he is sinful and separated
from God. This is much like being separated from the Command
Module in a space walk. Man will die unless he is reconnected.
[He quotes Romans 3:23 and 6:23]
- Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin.
Through Him you can know and experience God’s plan for your life.
The connecting link, like the umbilical cord on a space walk, between
God and man is Jesus Christ. [Quotes John 14:6 and I John 5:11-12]
- We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord:
Then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
The connecting link must be made personally. It isn’t something
someone else can do for us. It is intensely personal and private.
[Quotes Revelation 3:20]. Asking Him in is personally accepting Him.
(Irwin, pp. 231-232.)
For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified
are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them
brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
*Irwin describes this rock as being dated later at 4.15 billion
years old (To Rule the Night, p. 77). John McIntosh believes,
however, that Irwin was a young-earth creationist, because
He certainly believed that Noah’s flood was a
global event and occurred around 5,000 years ago.
Perhaps Irwin came to this conviction later.
If you enjoyed this episode,
learn more about great Christians in science by reading
our online book-in-progress:
The World’s Greatest
Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also
available from our online store.
A Concise Guide|
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.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
Science is true. Don’t be misled by facts.
Finagle’s 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there
will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c)
believe it happened according to his own pet theory.
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.
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.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peter’s Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts – not the facts themselves.
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.
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.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
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
Through the creatures Thou hast made
Show the brightness of Thy glory.
Be eternal truth displayed
In their substance transitory.
Till green earth and ocean hoary,
Massy rock and tender blade,
Tell the same unending story:
We are truth in form arrayed.
Teach me thus Thy works to read,
That my faith,– new strength accruing–
May from world to world proceed,
Wisdom’s fruitful search pursuing
Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
I proclaim the eternal Creed –
Oft the glorious theme renewing,
God our Lord is God indeed.
– James Clerk Maxwell
One of the greatest physicists
of all time (a creationist).
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