The message is that evolution, in one way or another, must be the answer. In this sense, evolution can be anythinganything, that is, except divine creation. This is why evolution is not tied to natural selection or any other specific mechanism. It is simply anything but creation. It is any naturalistic explanation for the origin of species. This is why evolutionists speak of fact and theory. It is a theory in the sense that we dont know how it occurred; it is a fact because nonnaturalistic explanations (i.e., divine creation) have been ruled out.
September marks the third year Creation-Evolution Headlines has been bringing you near-daily reports on the important issues related to origins. This website is a growing database of science news (mostly from secular journals), all classified by topic, with color commentary. Now 1500+ entries!
Are you a regular reader? Drop us a line and let us know youre out there. While youre at it, tell us what you like or dislike, what topics most interest you, and any suggestions for improving this service. Heres where to write. (Note: you will not be put on a mailing list; we just like hearing from our readers.)
Movie Suggestion 09/30/2003
If you havent seen the new movie Luther starring Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov, it might provide some worthwhile visual context for our 08/19/2003 commentary on the Darwinian Counter-Reformation.
Next headline on: Movies.
Dog Genome Shows Human Similarities 09/29/2003
They have just a rough sketch of the canine genome at this point. They havent identified the gene that makes a dog drink out of the toilet or eat its own barf. Compared to its strong, handsome wolf-like ancestor, the poodle is a genetic disaster. What would they expect?Why Does Uranus Have So Many Small Moons? 09/29/2003
Are they chips off old blocks, or what? Several newly-discovered moons around Uranus are puzzling astronomers, reports Astrobiology Magazine. Jack Lissauer explains: The inner swarm of 13 satellites is unlike any other system of planetary moons. The larger moons must be gravitationally perturbing the smaller moons. The region is so crowded that these moons could be gravitationally unstable. So, we are trying to understand how the moons can coexist with each other. He thinks the San Francisco sized rocks are fragments left when a comet hit the moon Belinda, because it is unlikely they would have formed 4 billion years ago and still be around today.
This is not the only system with small moons. Every giant planet has a swarm of rocks. Gravitational influences on these small bodies should eject them over time. Planetary scientists admit its puzzling that so many should exist today (see May 14 headline).SETI: Scientific Progress Goes BOINC 09/29/2003
The popular SETI@home program is undergoing an overhaul, reports The Planetary Society. With apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, its going BOINC. The new BOINC software architecture (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) will not only provide more flexibility, but can be adapted for other scientific projects that might benefit by massively distributed computing.
Dont give this to the spammers and hackers. Thats all we need is more DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks on the net. 'Net users suffering under daily loads of Nigeria scams, porn sites and deceptive ads, to say nothing of worms and viruses generated for no other purpose than to cause anonymous pain, are getting an education on the reality of human wickedness. Should SETI researchers assume the aliens are innocent, compassionate friends?Biological Networks: Does Group Dynamics Trump Natural Selection? 09/29/2003
There seems to be a move among biologists to diminish the role of natural selection in biological evolution. A press release from Arizona State University, for instance, attributes the complexity of insect societies to network dynamics. The complexity is an emergent property of social interactions, not natural selection acting on the genes.
This is Jennifer Fewells contention in a paper on insect social order published in the Sept 26 issue of Science1, part of a special section on Networks in Biology2 (see also next headline). Other papers in the series discuss protein networks, nerve networks, and metabolic networks within this apparently new paradigm of self-organization that emerges apart from natural selection acting on genetic mutations. In the introductory paper, Life and the Art of Networks,2, Jasny and Ray explain that biologists are moving beyond compiling a parts list and trying to understand the larger picture of how components interact in complex processes. They ask, One assumes that biological regulatory networks are the result of crafting [sic] by natural selection. But are they?
1Jennifer H. Fewell, Social Insect Networks, Science doi 10.1126/science.1088945, 301:5641 (26 Sep 2003), pp. 1864-1870.
2Barbara R. Jasny and L. Bryan Ray, Life and the Art of Networks, Science 301:5641 (26 Sep 2003), p. 1863.
Lets try to get this reasoning straight. They use analogies such as the Internet, electronic circuits and electric power grids as networks. So studying the Internet (built by intelligent design), circuitry (built by intelligent design) and the electric power grid (built by intelligent design, more or less) can help us understand how ant colonies, brains, metabolic pathways, cell cycle regulation, gene expression, protein complexes and human behavior all emerged by time and chance.Darwins God Is a Tinkering Master Engineer 09/26/2003
Moses, Elijah and Ezra would be shocked. Idolatry has again invaded the land of Israel.
U. Alon, a molecular cell biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, has written a Viewpoint piece for Science Magazines 09/26/2003 special on Biological Networks, entitled The Tinkerer as an Engineer.1 Dr. Alon has no need of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the omniscient, omnipotent, all-wise Creator of all. To him, evolution achieves masterful design just by cobbling parts:
Francois Jacob pictured evolution as a tinkerer, not an engineer [Science 196:1161 (1977)]. Engineers and tinkerers arrive at their solutions by very different routes. Rather than planning structures in advance and drawing up blueprints (as an engineer would), evolution as a tinkerer works with odds and ends, assembling interactions until they are good enough to work. It is therefore wondrous that the solutions found by evolution have much in common with good engineering design. This Viewpoint comments on recent advances in understanding biological networks using concepts from engineering.Biological networks exhibit good engineering design, he explains, by their modularity, robustness to component tolerances, and the use of recurring circuit elements. He describes molecular biology as reverse-engineering on a grand scale. In conclusion, Alon says, The similarity between the creations of tinkerer and engineer also raises a fundamental scientific challenge: understanding the laws of nature that unite evolved and designed systems.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
1U. Alon, Biological Networks: The Tinkerer as an Engineer, Science 301:5641 09/26/2003, pp. 1866-1867.
This has to be one of the worst examples of evolutionary idolatry in recent months. Many evolutionists have used the tinkerer concept to personify evolution, but Alon takes the cake. And in the land of Israel, no less. Could Baal worship have been any worse? Stop playing word games with us, Darwinists: either make little idols of Mother Nature and sell them, or quit the illogical, misleading, nonsensical, blasphemous verbiage. It makes you sound like you are already stoned.Own Your Own Jurassic Park 09/26/2003
The BBC News reports that, beginning in 2005, you may be able to plant your own Wollemi Pine at home. Discovered alive in an isolated Australian grove in 1994, Wollemi pines were thought to have gone extinct after the Jurassic era. According to a botanist involved in the discovery, it was the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on earth. The trees grow slowly in low light, in hot or cold climates, and would make perfect indoor plants.
Plant it next to your Dawn Redwood and Ginkgo trees, similar living fossils. Why no evolution in 100 million years? Who needs the millions of years? Imagine the fossil ones living just a few thousand years ago, and it all begins to make more sense.Why Would Seals Become Foster Parents? 09/25/2003
Neil J. Gemmell (U. of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ) is scratching his head over why a fur seal mom would nurse anothers pup. This seems very unDarwinian:
Why fostering occurs in pinnipeds is currently unknown. Fostering is a costly behaviour on a variety of fronts. Production of milk is physiologically demanding and may affect female survival and future reproductive success. In addition, the quantity and quality of milk has a strong impact on the survival prospects and growth of juveniles (Roulin 2002). It is expected, therefore, that nursing activities directed towards unrelated offspring should be selected against strongly as these would act to increase the fitness of competing progeny in a population, at the expense of the mothers own offspring.(Emphasis added in all quotes.) So Neil studied Antarctic fur seals on Bird Island, South Georgia, for clues to this altruistic behavior and published a study in the Royal Society Biology Proceedings1. The seals he studied are better at detecting their own kin than other species, whose fostering might be explained by milk stealing or other trickery on the part of the pups. He measured about a 11% fostering rate looking at genetic markers (which were somewhat ambiguous for close relatives).
What might be the reason for fostering? Maybe the pups have gotten sneaky while waiting for mom to get back from foraging. Gemmell thinks, however, based on the apparent kinship between foster moms and pups, that the data suggest a possible role for kin selection; i.e., that there may be inclusive fitness advantages to individuals that foster the pups of close kin (Hamilton 1964), which arises out of the need for otariid mothers to leave their pups for extended periods of time.
More study will be required, though, to measure what the actual energetic costs of fostering are, the frequency of fostering, whether filial pups get better treatment, etc.: It would also be desirable to establish what influence food availability, female condition, female age and pup loss have on the fostering behaviours observed. Comparison studies with other species of fostering seals might help, too.
Neil J. Gemmell, Kin selection may influence fostering behaviour in Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), Proceedings: Biological Sciences, The Royal Society, 270:1528 (pp. 2033-2037), 10.1098/rspb.2003.2467, Oct. 2003.
Too bad W. D. Hamiltons 1964 tall tale, kin selection, is dead (see 05/07/2002 headline), or this might have provided some characters for the plot. Notice how all evolutionists seem to be able to do is suggest that some variation on their tale might provide an explanation for whatever is being investigated. Notice also how more study is always required.Meteor That Killed the Dinosaurs Didnt 09/25/2003
According to Gerta Keller (Princeton), the meteor that formed the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatan was not responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs. It was smaller than previously believed, and came 300,000 years too early. According to her research, that impact does not coincide with the K-T boundary, and it was too small to kill even small organisms like foraminifera. She thinks worldwide volcanism and a series of impacts did the job.
These views have not made Keller a popular figure at meteorite impact meetings, says EurekAlert. But the idea that a single impact caused a worldwide mass extinction 65 million years ago has been taking a beating by more and more very renowned scientists, the article claims. More detail can be found at the Princeton Weekly Bulletin.
This makes the final episode of Walking With Dinosaurs obsolete. Wonder what the BBC animators think? It was a fun story, while it lasted.Radiocarbon Found in Ancient Coal 09/25/2003
Dr. John Baumgardner reported finding carbon-14 still ticking in coal samples that should be radiocarbon-dead. Because carbon-14 has a short half life of 5730 years, it rapidly decays, such that after 20 half-lives (114,700 years) carbon-12 would outnumber carbon-14 atoms a million to one. After 1.5 million years, if one had started with a pile of carbon-14 equal to the mass of the entire universe, not a single carbon-14 atom would be left. Therefore, carbon-14 should be totally absent in samples far younger than a million years old.
Baumgardner and a team from the Institute for Creation Research involved in studying radiometric dating methods submitted 10 samples of coal from three different geological periods (Eocene, Cretaceous and Pennsylvanian) to a leading radiocarbon dating laboratory, which uses the highly accurate accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) method. The samples measured 0.21 to 0.27 percent modern carbon (pmc), indicating they cannot be older than 50,000 years, and possibly much younger, even though according to the geologic column, the periods tested are assumed to range around 50 million, 100 million and 300 million years old, respectively. The measured values fall squarely within the range already established in the peer-reviewed radiocarbon literature, says Baumgardner, and show little difference in 14C level as a function of position in the geological record.
Source: ICR Impact #364, October 2003.
Critics will undoubtedly complain that these creationists have an ulterior motive for questioning the old age of the earth, but doesnt that criticism cut both ways? Are the motives of Darwinians pure as the wind-driven snow? Can we not brush aside the motive-bashing and just look at the facts? Its the quality of the research that matters.Teeny Changes in Bees, Fruit Flies: Is This Evolution? 09/23/2003
Researchers at UC San Diego went to Brazil to study the bees (and maybe some birds, on the side). They wanted to see how bees had evolved the ability to communicate the location of food sources. Honeybees have an elaborate dance they do in the hive that communicates how far away the food source is, what direction it is in relation to the angle of the sun, and how good it is. Some other species leave an odor trail at intervals between the food source and the hive. The scientists found what they feel is an intermediate strategy, in which bees leave an odor trail extending a short distance from the food source. This abbreviated trail may be less conspicuous to foraging competitors, they say. Their work is being published in an upcoming issue of the Royal Society Biology Proceedings.
At Cornell, biologists studied apple maggots, which doesnt sound too appealing, but you do what you have to for science. They compared them with another species that is attracted to hawthorn, and the two types do not interbreed. By extracting the fruit odors and seeing how the flies reacted, they deduced that there is a slight genetic difference that keeps them separate populations, even though they look exactly alike. They feel this is an example of sympatric speciation, in which a species splits into two within the same geographic location. Surprisingly, this split occurred within 150 years, after apple trees were introduced into North America. Apparently some of the hawthorn flies took a liking to the new food source. The work is published in the Sept 22 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1
1Linn et al., Fruit odor discrimination and sympatric host race formation in Rhagoletis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.1635049100, published online 09/22/2003.
Microevolution, microevolution, all they ever show us is microevolution. The fly paper admits that there is no morphological difference between the two varieties. Theres more morphological difference between a poodle and a beagle, yet both are Canis familiaris, one species. Big deal. The bee keepers did not find anything remotely similar to the complex waggle dance honeybees do. They just found a very minor variation on the odor-trail strategy. Big deal.Neanderthals Interbred with Modern Humans, Ate Same Food 09/23/2003
A jawbone found in a Romanian cave and published in PNAS1 has features that show some degree of hybridisation they are possibly the result of interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals, reports BBC News. This is a position that drives a heated debate among scientists, many of whom doubt there was much mixing of the species, the article says. The original paper says it presents a mosaic of archaic, early modern human and possibly Neandertal morphological features, emphasizing both the complex population dynamics of modern human dispersal into Europe and the subsequent morphological evolution of European early modern humans.
Another report from Univ. of Washington, reported by EurekAlert, claims Neanderthals and modern humans ate the same food. Cave scraps indicate they hunted the same prey and had to worry about the same cave bears.
1Trinkaus et al., An early modern human from the Pestera cu Oase, Romania, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2035108100, published online 09/22/2003.
Evolutionists want to keep Neanderthals separate from modern humans, because it makes their storytelling plot more interesting: you can have the two breeds fighting each other, or competing for resources in the struggle for existence. Suppose they found human bones in France similar to Andre the Giant, and in Italy similar to Tom Thumb. Can you imagine the fun their storytelling contest would have with these? Yet both would be Homo sapiens sapiens, fully human, fully modern. This latest find has nothing to do with human evolution, but it has a lot to do with the evolution of Darwinian storytelling.Research Teaser 09/22/2003
Item: David Horowitz this month released results of a survey of American college faculty, showing that Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1 on average, and in some cases 30 to one or more. On some campuses, not a single Republican faculty member could be identified. Source: Students for Academic Freedom.
Here is a research project for someone. What is the political leaning among science faculty? Horowitz survey focused primarily on the political and social science departments. It would be interesting to tally the political party affiliations (Democrat/Republican/other) or ideology (liberal/conservative) of evolutionists in the science departments.Foraminifera Exploded onto the Fossil Record 09/22/2003
An international team looked for the family tree of foraminifera (small shell-bearing animals) in the fossil record and genetics. This is a lineage that has been poorly understood, and from the results, it seems like it still may be poorly understood. From their abstract in PNAS1 (emphasis added):
By using molecular data from a wide range of extant naked [shell-less] and testate [shelled] unilocular [single-chamber] species, we demonstrate that a large radiation of nonfossilized unilocular Foraminifera preceded the diversification of multilocular [multi-chambered] lineages during the Carboniferous. Within this radiation, similar test [shell] morphologies and wall types developed several times independently. Our findings indicate that the early Foraminifera were an important component of Neoproterozoic protistan community, whose ecological complexity was probably much higher than has been generally accepted.Prior to this, evolutionists had assumed there was a sequence of shell styles, one evolving into the other. According to their new phylogenetic analysis based on molecular comparisons, that view does not seem supportable:
Morphological variations in some lineages by far exceed the traditional morphology-based taxonomy. For example, the Antarctic notodendrodids comprise several morphotypes, including spherical, tubular, and arborescent forms, some of them present together in a single species. This evolutionary plasticity among early Foraminifera makes their present morphology-based classification of limited value. We conclude that the thecate or agglutinated walls in unilocular Foraminifera are convergent features [sic], and that the simple evolutionary progression from one to the other, as envisaged by earlier authors, did not occur.They infer from molecular-clock phylogeny that there must have been a very rapid tempo of morphological evolution in the Precambrian of the naked, unilocular types, some of them arriving with similar shell types by convergent or parallel evolution, and then another very rapid diversification of the multilocular types in the Cambrian. They speculate that perhaps early eukaryotic predators drove the evolution of all this diversity, forcing prey organisms to adopt various avoidance or resistance modalities. Maybe the compartmentalization brought about by early Cambrian multi-chambered Cambrian models allowed them to exploit new possibilities, like symbiosis. At least this model is an important first step in understanding the complex ecology of the Neoproterozoic.
1Pawlowski, Bowser et al., The evolution of early Foraminifera, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2035132100, published online 9/22/2003.
Once again, no clear pattern of evolution, just hand-waving and JSS (just-so storytelling). Evolution is supposed to be so slow and gradual, but here is a story morphological radiation running prestissimo: i.e., multiple miracles at a rapid tempo occurring independently and simultaneously with no clear ancestral tree between forms. Its the lawn or forest picture again, instead of the single tree. If the rapid evolution were true, why dont we see it happening in the present? They use personal verbs like exploit to make it seem like these little critters are consciously planning and designing new things they can do with accidental inventions.More Trouble for Solar System Planetesimal Theory 09/22/2003
Lately, planetary scientists have been abandoning the old core-accretion theory for the newer disk-instability theory for the origin of the solar system (see June 3 headline). A paper in the September Icarus1 by Ishitsu and Sekiya, however, shows that instabilities will not form unless the dust/gas surface density ratio is hundreds of times as large as that for the solar abundance.
The authors calculations took into account both the Coriolis forces and tidal forces, and showed that tidal forces have a stabilizing effect. The hydrodynamic and gravitationally instabilities tend to balance each other, so that The formation of planetesimals through the gravitational instabilities is difficult to occur as long as the dust/gas surface density ratio is equal to that for solar abundance.
One hope for increasing local surface densities had been to consider radial migration of particles in the solar nebula due to gas drag. But in an early release of a paper for the October issue of Icarus2, S. J. Weidenschilling says only individual particles were considered. By considering the collective effects of gas drag on an ensemble of particles, he demonstrates that it can produce outcomes that are quite different from those inferred from motions of individual particles. Thus, Collective motion due to turbulent stress on the particle layer acts to inhibit such enhancement and may prevent gravitational instability.
1Naoki Ishitsu and Minoru Sekiya, The effects of the tidal force on shear instabilities in the dust layer of the solar nebula, Icarus Volume 165, Issue 1, September 2003, Pages 181-194, doi:10.1016/S0019-1035(03)00151-9
2S. J. Weidenshilling, Radial drift of particles in the solar nebula: implications for planetesimal formation, Icarus Volume 165, Issue 2, October 2003, Pages 438-442, doi:10.1016/S0019-1035(03)00169-6.
Results of modeling like this are always dependent on assumptions and starting conditions; for instance, Ishitsu and Sekiya neglect the self-gravity of the dust layer, which is probably reasonable if the mass is low and distributed. Undoubtedly other papers will find a way around these problems. It goes to show, however, that initial hopes can be dashed by new considerations.Galileo Sacrifices Self for Europans 09/21/2003
Just one minute ago at the time of this writing, the venerable Galileo Spacecraft plunged into Jupiter to begin its fiery meltdown. Team members, their families, and the news media, packing the auditorium to overflowing, gathered at JPL to witness the event. The audience watched the countdown and broke into applause at the calculated time of impact, even though the signal would take another hour to reach waiting antennas on the earth.
This event ended a 13-year mission that revealed numerous surprising and unexpected findings about the miniature solar system of Jupiter and its moons. Some of these surprises included the high temperature lavas on Io, evidence of recent resurfacing on Europa and a possible subsurface ocean, a magnetic field at Ganymede, erosion on Callisto and a paucity of small craters and lack of a differentiated interior (unlike its twin Ganymede), and unexpected low density of the moon Amalthea. Mission scientists during the news briefings today used the word surprised numerous times when recounting the discoveries1.
In addition, Galileo attained high-resolution data about Jupiters magnetic field, atmospheric storms (including lightning orders of magnitude brighter than on earth), the fine-dust ring system, and surfaces of the four major moons. In 1994, it provided a remote observing station for the rare impact of comet fragments in Jupiters atmosphere. Despite its crippled main antenna, Galileo also took historic pictures of two asteroids (Gaspra and Ida), and the Earth-Moon system. It even tried to detect the presence of intelligent life on Earth during its 1990 swingby. Results were inconclusive.
Last February, Galileos engines were fired to send it on a trajectory to impact Jupiter, fulfilled today. Its vaporized fragments now reunite with molecules of the atmospheric probe sent into Jupiters cloud tops in December, 1995. Most likely the remains of both only descended only a few percent the radius of this huge planet. Though the actual ship has now sunk, a full-scale model of the Galileo spacecraft remains on display in the JPL Museum. Most important, the data is safe on earth. It will be at least a decade before another flight to Jupiter. If funded and approved by Congress, the next ambitious mission might be the nuclear-powered JIMO (Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter).
A large part of the justification for ending the mission in this fiery finale was to protect Europa. With Galileo low on fuel and out of reach of navigator control, there was a slight chance it might accidentally hit the icy moon within the next few hundred years. Whether inspired by Arthur C. Clarkes 2010 (attempt no landings there) or not, NASA considers Europa a prime target in the search for life. Apparently less concerned about Jupiter itself, despite Carl Sagans speculations in Cosmos that floating life-forms might have evolved there, NASA did not want to risk contaminating the surface of Europa with any microorganisms that might still have inhabited the aging spacecraft.
Its probably a wise move, in this eventuality: if Galileo germs were found on Europa some future day, how would scientists be sure of the source? Evolutionists might argue for years that they evolved in situ and use it as propaganda for chemical evolution. Better to keep Europa pristine till a new mission can end all speculation.Your Motors Perform Cooperative Interactions 09/18/2003
The motor that powers all life, often called a splendid molecular machine, looks even more splendid due to research by Caltech and French scientists. It has parts that help each other out. ATP synthase, which we have reported on frequently before (see 11/15/2002 headline), is a true rotary motor, and probably the most abundant enzyme on earth. Its job is to generate ATP, the energy currency of life. Because of the importance of this enzyme, the search for a full understanding of its mechanism is a key problem in structural biology, they state in their PNAS paper.1 They found that the structure of the six-lobed F1 upper unit, where ATP is catalyzed from ADP and phosphate, actually is tuned to enhance the productivity of the system.
Most living things have the F0-F1-ATPase model, composed of an upper and lower mechanism joined by a camshaft and some other parts, although there are variations in some bacteria. The six lobes of the F1 motor, arranged in pairs like orange slices around the camshaft, form three catalytic sites where ATP is synthesized. The researchers did thermodynamic and kinetic modeling of these structures and found that the shapes of the sites change as the camshaft rotates in a way that enhances productivity. Each pair of lobes cycles through three stages as the shaft turns: (1) insertion of ADP + P, (2) catalysis of ATP, and (3) ejection of the product. Each stage is not only finely tuned for its job, but actually stimulates the adjoining pair of lobes to do its job better: e.g., at stage one, the shape of the lobes causes the reaction in stage two of the adjoining lobes to accelerate. The reaction in stage two speeds up the ejection of product in stage three, and so on. Overall, this enhances the productivity of the system by a factor of 300 or more than would occur if a pair of lobes had to work alone. This and the rotation of the camshaft enhances productivity by a factor of 500,000.
They mention some other interesting facts about ATP synthase in passing. Each motor (and your body has quadrillions of them) can hydrolyze from 40 to 600 ATP per second. With three ATP per revolution, that translates to 12,000 RPM at top speed. Without these enzymes, it would take 500,000,000 times as long for ATP to hydrolyze in solution. Though they studied primarily the hydrolysis cycle, the synthesis reaction, driven by an electric current (proton flow) in the lower F0 subunit, is similarly accelerated because of the efficient mechanical arrangement of the parts.
1Gao, Yang, Marcus and Karplus, A model for the cooperative free energy transduction and kinetics of ATP hydrolysis by F1-ATPase, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.1334188100, published online 09/18/2003.
This is one of our favorite cell toys, because it is so exquisite, so small, so efficient, and so essential to all life, even the simplest single-celled organisms. As each new fact comes to light, it looks even more wondrous. Your car roars at 4,000 RPM; imagine these little motors, embedded in the mitochondrial membranes of all the cells in your body, humming along at up to 12,000 RPM. The efficiency of these motors nears 100%, because they are able to harness the random bumps of Brownian motion into ratchet-like boosts, so that no energy is wasted generating power for your bodys needs (see Feb. 5 headline about your bodys electrical power plant). Each day your body recycles at least half your body weight in ATP through these splendid molecular machines.Dark Matter Missing from Elliptical Galaxies 09/18/2003
An international team of scientists publishing in Science1 this week reported a surprise from their observations of three ordinary elliptical galaxies: there is no dark matter. Its not supposed to be visible, of course, but they found that dark matter is not required in dynamical models of these galaxies to account for their observed motions. This unexpected result conflicts with findings in other galaxy types and poses a challenge to current galaxy formation theories, they say. The velocity dispersions in these galaxies follows a normal Keplerian decline from center to edge, suggesting that these systems are not embedded in massive dark halos. Although a number of assumptions must be made, models devoid of dark matter produce the most plausible results.
This result clashes with conventional conceptions of galaxy formation, they announce. In particular, if ellipticals are built up by mergers of smaller galaxies, it is puzzling that the resulting systems show little trace of their precursors dark matter halos. Did the dark matter get stripped out somehow? They dont think so. It is apparent that some important physics is still missing from the recipes for galaxy formation.
1Romanowsky, Freeman et al., A Dearth of Dark Matter in Ordinary Elliptical Galaxies, Science 301:5640, 1696-1698, 09/19/2003.
Lets call dark matter what it really is: fudge. The only ones who need fudge in their diet (see the June 20 headline about the Science bake sale) are the cosmologists who arent satisfied with the meat and potatoes of hard data, but want a dessert of naturalistic explanations for everything. Like mother warned, too much fudge ruins your appetite for a healthy diet.Big, Big Guinea Pig 09/18/2003
You wouldnt have wanted to keep this pet at home; an extinct rodent as big as a buffalo has been reported in Science1. Similar to a guinea pig but much larger, Phoberomys pattersoni was 9 feel long and 4.2 feet tall. Even though EurekAlert dubs it Guinea-zilla, it probably ate grass.
1>Marcelo R. Sanchez-Villagra, Orangel Aguilera, and Inis Horovitz, The Anatomy of the World's Largest Extinct Rodent, Science, 10.1126/science.1089332 (19 Sept 2003).
The reports on this fossil are filled with speculative Darwinspeak. But whats evolution got to do with it? A big rodent once lived, and it went extinct. You would think we are on the verge of vindicating Darwin from all the hype. Listen to the AAAS spin release on EurekAlert (emphasis added):Trilobite Had Visors 09/18/2003
UK scientists have found a trilobite from Morocco with sun visors. The odd eyeballs of this extinct creature extend upward in two columns from the head, and contain vertically-stacked lenses (about 560 in all) that provided a commanding field of view that was entirely over the sediment surface on which the animal lived. The compass of the eyes shows that they commanded a 360-degree sweep in the horizontal plane. The high elevation of the eyes meant that the animal could even see backward over its thorax. Above each column of lenses, a lobe extended to provide shade from stray light from above. The authors of the report in Science1 comment that trilobites already had unusually sophisticated eyes with lenses made out of the mineral calcite, and many trilobites had binocular vision and internal structures of high magnesium calcite that helped the lenses to focus more precisely by eliminating sources of fuzziness, such as spherical aberration. The authors feel this indicates these trilobites were diurnal, rather than nocturnal; An eyeshade is of little use in the dark, they say.
1Richard Fortey and Brian Chatterton, A Devonian Trilobite with an Eyeshade, Science (19 Sept 2003), 10.1126/science.1088713.
My, werent these critters smart to figure out all the nifty optics and cool sun visors. The article is strangely silent about any transitional forms that might have led up to these high-tech innovations. The pictures of this weird animal are stunning, if you have access. The preservation of fine details in such an old fossil is remarkable.Greenhouse Gas in the Distant Past 09/18/2003
One of the geologists who proposed the Snowball Earth hypothesis believes he has found evidence that carbon dioxide levels in Earths atmosphere were 10-200 times higher 1.4 billion years ago. Jay Kaufman (U. of Maryland) and a colleague studied carbon isotopes in a single-celled plant fossil to arrive at the numbers, explains a National Science Foundation press release. Kaufmans paper is published in todays Nature1
1Alan J. Kaufman and Shuhai Xiao, High CO2 levels in the Proterozoic atmosphere estimated from analyses of individual microfossils, Nature 425,279-282 (18 Sep 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01902
Whenever a claim is made about how things were billions of years ago, be a good baloney detector and hunt for what was measured. Brush off the interpretation and the dates, which are based on evolutionary assumptions, and find that one little thing that was actually subjected to experimental lab methods. Here it is from the NSF press release (emphasis added):Plasma Blob: Its Alive? 09/17/2003One of the ocean-dwelling organisms producing oxygen during the later Proterozoic period [ignore the interpretation here] was Dictyosphaera delicata, a microscopic plant not much bigger than the dot in the letter i. To estimate the ancient levels of atmospheric CO2, Kaufman and Xiao measured ratios of two different forms, or isotopes, of carbon present in individual microfossils of this plant.Now decide whether carbon ratios in tiny specks of material subjected to hydrofluoric acid and high-energy beams and contamination by camel hair, can tell anyone anything about the state of the whole world over a billion years ago. Their resulting CO2 calculation depended also on models, averaging values, throwing out anomalous readings, and making assumptions about how these plants metabolized with carbon dioxide. They admit the sensitivity of their measurements depends critically on surface temperature and volume-to-surface ratio. How convenient for evolutionists there are no time machines for them to go back and make in situ observations from points all over the globe. Yet on the basis of tiny specks of questionable data, Kaufman states authoritatively, like an eyewitness,
New Scientist claims, Plasma blobs hint at new form of life. In an experiment worthy of Frankenstein, a Romanian scientist inserted two high-voltage electrodes into a plasma of argon, and created cell-like spheres of plasma that could replicate by splitting in two and communicate information by emitting electromagnetic energy, making atoms in other spheres vibrate.
Mircea Sanduloviciu and team (Cusa University, Romania) claim this shows that cell-like self-organization can occur in a few microseconds instead of millions of years. Sanduloviciu speculates these could have been the first cells on earth, formed in electrical storms. The emergence of such spheres seems likely to be a prerequisite for biochemical evolution, he said. Others think that is a stretch, but are intrigued by the implications that life might take on forms much different than the DNA and protein-based life we know on earth.
Were not going to dignify this claim with a serious analysis, other than to wonder why New Scientist would give it the time of day. But we will contribute our own theory: the Lava Lamp theory for the origin of life. Lava lamps are not just a kitsch conversation piece for nerds; they are an emerging life-form. Notice how the blobs replicate and communicate, exchange energy, and rise and fall in non-repetitive ways. Clearly there is more self-organization going on than meets the casual eye. If volcanoes under the sea created similar conditions, then perhaps the first life-form evolved from such a phenomenon. Hook up your Lava Lamp to a Jacobs Ladder, and talk to it. You might find yourself shrieking, Its allll-iiii-vvvv-eeee! (Wonder if Sanduloviciu is from Transylvania?)How Fairness Evolved 09/17/2003
If researchers at Emory University are right, our sense of justice and fairness evolved from monkeys. Nature Science Update titles their article, Monkeys strike for justice: Capuchin umbrage suggests sense of fairness extends beyond humans. The article discusses recent experiments by Sarah Brosnan, published in this weeks Nature1, with capuchin monkeys. When they were given food for tokens, they took offence if they saw a neighbour getting a grape for a token instead of a slice of cucumber, or if another monkey got something for nothing. (Brosnan calls the reaction inequity aversion.) Some got so mad they threw their cucumbers out of the cage. The article continues, Only females show this pique, however, because ostensibly, Males care about sex, and females care about food. Charles Janson of State University of New York cautions, Capuchin monkeys can learn to do all sorts of things in captivity that they never do in the wild, so its not clear how important this ability is in the forests of South America.
Notwithstanding the controversy over interpreting the work, National Geographic News is convinced that the evolution of attitudes toward fairness has been demonstrated (emphasis added):
If you expect equal pay for equal work, youre not the only species to have a sense of fair play. Blame evolution.
1Sarah Brosnan and Frans B. M. De Waal, Monkeys reject unequal pay, Nature 425,297-299 (18 Sept. 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01963.
We didnt learn fairness from monkeys. They learned how to sulk, pout, and throw tantrums by watching humans. Monkey see, monkey do. Actually, humans evolved altruism from dogs, especially those of us who grew up watching reruns of Lassie.The Evolution of War and The War of Evolution 09/16/2003
War originated when society became stratified between the haves and the have-nots, according to a new theory by anthropologist Joyce Marcus of the University of Michigan, published in PNAS1, reports New Scientist. Based on archaeological work in Oaxaca, Mexico, where her team examined burned structures, she feels that raiding, and later warfare, emerged where people organized into clans that competed over resources. Group violence was presumably rare in hunter-gatherer societies.
1Kent V. Flannery and Joyce Marcus, The origin of war: New 14C dates from ancient Mexico, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.1934526100, published online 09/18/2003.
The conclusions being drawn from this archaeological study is political science in the Marxist tradition. Hunter-gatherers of the world, unite! Throw off the bourgeoisie with their clay pots and fired-brick dwellings. Science? Worthless.Baloney Detection Exercise 09/16/2003
Parse the following sentence, found on a bumper sticker, for logical fallacies (see our Baloney Detector for help):
Dont pray in my school, and I wont think in your church.
This slogan commits the following errors: (A) Either-Or Fallacy, (B) Glittering Generalities, (C) Ridicule, (D) Non-Sequitur, (E) All of the above.
Click here for the answer.
Grand Canyon Sand Hails from Back East 09/15/2003
If the present is key to the past, is there anything like this happening today? Add a hawk flying around this hypothesis and you have a picturesque, ad hoc scenario.Intron Update 09/12/2003
(See Sept. 3 headline about introns). Scientists have found a possible reason why genes that contain introns are expressed more effectively than those without. Writing in PNAS1, a team from Howard Hughes Medical Institute suspects that the exon junction complex (EJC) that forms at each junction by the splicing process may give messenger RNA (mRNA) a tethering point with position-specific memory of the splicing event. EJC components may attach at the junctions to perform expediting functions.
Of five known protein components of the EJC, some are known to be involved in nonsense-mediated decay, positioning of the mRNA in the cytoplasm, or transport through the nuclear pore complex (see March 4 headline). Other functions of the EJC might include stabilizing the mRNA, enhancing transcription in the ribosome, and translational utilization.
They found that gene expression was enhanced by the EJC components but not necessarily by the act of splicing itself; that is apparently why some intronless genes can be expressed satisfactorily, especially if EJC proteins can be recruited through other means. Splicing may assist in the efficient formation and localization of EJC components. The stimulatory effect of splicing and the EJC can enhance gene expression more than 30-fold.
1Wiegand, Lu, and Cullen, Exon junction complexes mediate the enhancing effect of splicing on mRNA expression, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.1934877100.
This opens up exciting possibilities for understanding new functions of these widespread regions of so-called junk DNA. The splicing may provide handles for a variety of molecular assistants to speed up the workflow. Undoubtedly other benefits that ensue from the work of the spliceosome machinery (see 09/12/2002 headline) remain to be discovered.Comet, Asteroid News 09/12/2003
Two solar system stories are making the rounds:
Cells Fight Mutations 09/12/2003
Maintaining the stability of the genome is critical to cell survival and normal cell growth. Inherited or acquired deficiencies in genome maintenance systems contribute significantly to the onset of cancer as evidenced by the observation that a number of the DNA-repair and checkpoint genes are mutated in cancer susceptibility syndromes and sporadic cancers. This raises the possibility that other genetic defects causing genome instability and mutator phenotypes could contribute to carcinogenesis.(Emphasis added in all quotes.) Their blind screening technique found all the known mutation suppressors, but also ten more previously-unknown nonessential genes involved in mutation suppression.
Of the confirmed genes, five encode components of the oxidative-stress response, and six are genes of unknown function. We believe the data presented here define a nearly complete collection of nonessential genes involved in suppression of mutations in the CAN1 forward-mutation assay [a sample gene used for evaluating effects of mutations] and define several previously unappreciated mutation-suppression pathways.Some of the activities these genes perform are repairing base excisions, fixing oxidated guanine (G) bases, and replacing incorrectly-inserted uracil (U) bases with cytosine (C). Another one suppresses genome rearrangements.
Huang, Rio, Nicolas and Kolodner, A genomewide screen in Saccharomyces cerevisiae for genes that suppress the accumulation of mutations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2035018100.
Scientists need to get rid of these genes, because they are hindering the progress of evolution. Havent we all been taught that mutations provide the raw material for change? If these pathways are fixing all the damage, how can evolution ever make any progress? These scientists were negligent. They didnt mention evolution or praise Darwin anywhere in their paper.Texans Favor Teaching Evidence Against Darwinism 09/10/2003
Try your vote on the following choices:
Texas law requires students to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Should the state board of education apply this standard to how evolution is presented in textbooks?Officials of the Discovery Institute Bruce Chapman, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells and Seth Cooper issued statements to the Texas state board of education Sept. 10, encouraging them to allow criticisms of Darwinian evolution in the science framework, and urging them to clean up factual errors in the textbooks (see July 25 headline).
This latest poll tracks with similar polls in other states.
Messenger: The peasants are revolting!Flamboyant Birds Hitch Up Hollywood Style 09/10/2003
An Australian biologist believes he has found a significant positive association between the degree of mutual ornamentation and divorce rate among birds. Publishing in the Biological Proceedings of the Royal Society1, Ken Kraaijeveld (U. of Melbourne) claims that birds whose males and females are both colorful or endowed with showy feathers are less likely to mate for life. Like Hollywood stars, their relationships are most likely to be seasonal flings. He feels the ancestral state was flamboyance with low divorce rate, and the current higher divorce rate appears to result mainly from a loss of ornamentation under mate fidelity.
Some exceptions were noted, however. The relation is less robust for passerine birds, and the result was slightly weaker after controlling for phylogeny, although he also admits that high ornamentation in ancestral states is ambiguous when using the mtDNA-based phylogeny. Also, though he feels his finding is compatible with sexual selection theory, it leaves much of the variation in the degree of ornamentation unexplained, because the two factors (ornamentation and divorce rate) seem to vary dependently some times and independently others. The drabness of birds with low divorce rates is explained by the reduced competition for access to a new mate.
Another paper in the same issue2 by evolutionary biologists from Sweden and Canada also discusses sexual selection in birds, this time the relation between sexual selection and extinction risk, which has rarely been investigated. They conclude, unexpectedly, that sexual selection appears to be a double-edged sword, promoting speciation on the one hand but promoting extinction on the other.
1Ken Kraaijeveld, Degree of mutual ornamentation in birds is related to divorce rate, Royal Society Proceedings: Biological Sciences 270:1526, pp. 1785-1791, DOI 10.1098/rspb.2003.2450.
2Edward H. Morrow and Trevor E. Pitcher, Sexual selection and the risk of extinction in birds, Royal Society Proceedings: Biological Sciences 270:1526 pp. 1793-1799, DOI 10.1098/rspb.2003.2441.
Has it come to this? Imputing human marital feelings to birds? I suppose the lesson is, If you want to stay married, the more drab the better; dont wear designer clothes, and dont be well groomed. As if birds care a tweet. Question: how did they measure the divorce rates of fossil birds?Hezekiahs Tunnel Date Confirmed 09/10/2003
Radiocarbon dating of the Siloam Tunnel shows that it coincides with the time of Hezekiah, as the Bible claims, not the second century BC as some critics have alleged. Amos Frumkin of Hebrew University found some wood and plant material in the plaster that registered a radiocarbon date between 727 and 698 BC. A stalactite, which grew later, dated at 400 BC by the U-Th method. Samples were taken at 15 points along the tunnel which measures over 500 meters. The plaster composition also matches expectations from known Iron Age methods and materials. Another archaeologist at Ben-Gurion University stated that the study makes the tunnels age certain. For details, see Nature Science Update. The complete paper is published in Nature1
The tunnel, an engineering feat for its time, follows a zigzag path from the Gihon Spring into the city of Jerusalem. Two teams of men started at opposite sides of the mountain and met in the middle. They commemorated their achievement with an inscription that does not mention Hezekiah by name. A UK historian commented, I think it was the workmen recording what an extraordinary feat they had accomplished.
The Bible speaks of this in 2 Kings 20:20: Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah--all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city--are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? The purpose of the tunnel is clear from II Chronicles 32: And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that his purpose was to make war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?
Previous dating of the tunnel was based on paleographic evidence (writing style, etc.) of the inscription a more subjective method, and susceptible to criticism that it was written later to look earlier. The difficulties of dating other Biblical sites are listed in the abstract: poor archaeological preservation, uncertainty in identification, scarcity of datable materials, and restricted scientific access into well-identified worship sites. That is why no well-identified Biblical structure has been radiometrically dated until now. Frumkin is now confident that the converging evidences of paleogeography, the Biblical record and now radiometric dating results render the Siloam Tunnel the best-dated Iron-Age biblical structure thus far known.
See also the National Geographic News article, and EurekAlert, which notes, The Siloam Tunnel is one of the oldest structures in use up to the present day.
1Amos Frumkin, Aryeh Shimron and Jeff Rosenbaum, Radiometric dating of the Siloam Tunnel, Jerusalem, Nature 425, 169 - 171 (11 September 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01875.
Carbon-14 dating has value for a few thousand years, but beyond that it loses credibility because of the unverifiable assumptions that must be made. It can be appropriate for cross-checking artifacts within recorded history, as here.Commentary 09/09/2003
In his BreakPoint commentary today, Chuck Colson argues that the Copernican Cliché is an urban legend. The idea that ancient and medieval scholars believed man was important because earth was at the center of the universe is mistaken. Some contemporaries of Copernicus disagreed with his cosmology for other reasons, such as established tradition and opposition to the view the earth was in motion, not because they felt the Ptolemaic system exalted man. The notion that Copernicus had demoted the importance of man came a century later, in the writings of a satirist, Bouvier de Fontenelle.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Extinction of Dino Soars into Wars 09/09/2003
Scientists are only human.Bat Inspires Sonar Cane 09/09/2003
Blind as a bat is a misleading phrase, because bats see pretty good in the dark with their ears. Their amazing ability to use sound echoes to navigate their surroundings was all Dean Waters needed to get inspiration. He devised a cane that sends out ultrasonic pulses, and, based on returning echoes, provides the holder a tactile signal if an obstruction is in the way. Tests with visually-impaired people are looking very positive, reports Nature Science Update.
How long would it take people to evolve sonar? The sonar humans use today, in submarines, on ships and in hand-held canes, are products of intelligent design design inspired by nature.HGT Update 09/09/2003
A case of horizontal gene transfer between flowering plants and gymnosperms has been reported in PNAS1 (for background, see Aug 11 and July 10 headlines). According to the authors, this necessitates abandonment of the prevailing view that group II introns are strictly parentally inherited in seed plants. Their phylogenetic analysis, moreover, suggests that an intron was lost in the ancestor of Gnetum and then regained. (For discussion of introns, see Sept 3 headline.) They conclude, These results indicate that natural mechanisms exist for the horizontal transfer of mt genes, suggesting that horizontal gene transfer may play an underestimated role in the evolution of seed plants.
1Won and Renner, Horizontal gene transfer from flowering plants to Gnetum, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 10.1073/pnas.1833775100, online preprint 09/08/2003.
Next headline on: Plants. Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Educational Debauchery Creationism in UK School 09/09/2003
Tour the mountains of evidence right here on Creation-Evolution Headlines. Here is a sample trailhead.Plants Hold Bacterial Slaves 09/08/2003
Plants such as legumes have a cooperative relationship with soil bacteria. The bacteria, called rhizobia, have figured out how to crack the tough nuts of molecular nitrogen (N2; see 09/06/2002 headline), which the plant needs for protein. In return, the plants supply the bacteria with oxygen, which helps them grow and reproduce. But what happens if the rhizobia revolt and compete with one another for resources? What if they leave the host plant starving for nitrogen? The plant punishes them.
Thats the flavor of a news article in Science Now1 that portrays the characters in dark, ominous roles:
In a world thats red in tooth and claw, cooperation between species is about as cuddly as nature gets. Although each party apparently reaps greater benefits from teaming up, some of these arrangements arent all smiles and handshakes. A new study shows that soybean plants can apply sanctions against symbiotic bacteria when the bugs dont deliver their fair share of nitrogen.(Emphasis added in all quotes.) This claim is based on the work of Toby Kiers (U. of California, Davis), an evolutionary ecologist, who suspected that plants penalize bacteria that try to escape their slavery. Her team found that the plants keep their slaves in line by cutting off oxygen. This prevents cheating rhizobias ability to reproduce by 50%. The paper is published in last weeks Nature2. Noreen Parks, author of the Science Now article, concludes:
The work offers a new perspective on cooperation, says behavioral ecologist Bernard Crespi of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. It portrays symbiotic relationships not as a simple, friendly [sic] interaction where every party happily [sic] gains, but as trade with a dark side: Provide the resource I require and I will reciprocate [sic]; do not, and suffer dire consequences.
1Science Now 09/08/2003: Noreen Parks, The dark side of cooperation.
2E. Toby Kiers et al., Host sanctions and the legume-rhizobium mutualism, Nature, 425, 78 - 81 (04 September 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01931
Do such metaphors really mean anything? (See 07/04/2003 headline). An entirely different, more benign metaphor could work just as well: the partners stabilize each other for the good of the ecosystem. Evolutionists have arbitrarily imposed their dark emotions on plants and bacteria, giving this story a mood of organized crime or slavery. If the soybeans and rhizobia could speak, they might say, Youve got it all wrong. We love each other! Would that get published in Nature or Science?Material Girls (and Boys) in a Material World Are Not Happy Campers 09/07/2003
A lengthy report in Science News1 says that materialism is on the rise among kids, but making them less happy. California psychologist Allen Kanner noted that kids are less likely to talk about what they want to do when they grow up than they were 10 years ago. They just want to be rich. They lust for newer, better toys and think that riches are goal to strive for. Kanner observes that these kids represent the tip of a materialistic iceberg thats increasingly freezing the joy out of many peoples lives in Western societies.
The data reflect a two-pronged problem, Kanner argues. In some cases, people who buy into the values of consumer culture end up starved for close friends, family, or any deeper meaning in their lives. For others, he says, money and possessions are hollow compensations for doubts about self-worth, worries about lifes uncertainties, and, especially, fears of death.Kids are beating back death with a designer cane, the article puts it. Another reason for the materialism, according to Jeff Greenberg (U of Arizona), is that It serves as a secular religion in a time marked by widespread loss of faith in traditional forms of worship. Yet this materialism appears to be toxic to subjective well-being. It causes an insatiable gap between what they have and what they want. Also, It threatens a persons work ethic and ability to be creative.
Another short article in the same issue of Science News2 says that one in six children have a psychiatric ailment, and one in three grow up to develop one as adults. These include depression, panic disorder, and substance abuse.
Not all psychologists agree completely with Kanner colleague Tim Kasser on the downside of materialism, and No one has come up with a formula for happiness and well-being that works for everyone, and any factor, including material reward, will have different effects on different people, the article concludes. Kanners solution is voluntary simplicity slow down, reduce wasteful consumption, and emphasize family and relationships.
1Science News Week of Sept. 6, 2003 (164:10): Bruce Bower, Buyer Beware: Some psychologists see danger in excessive materialism.
2Science News Week of Sept. 6, 2003 (164:10): Bruce Bower, Flag raised for kids mental health.
Psychology is a useless science. When its wrong, its wrong. When its right, it just repeats what the Bible said. Jesus Christ taught that a persons life does not consist in his or her possessions. He had the cure for worry: look at creation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed to birds and flowers as examples of Gods providential care. He taught his disciples that since they are worth more than many sparrows, would not their Heavenly Father meet their needs? The solution, then, was to Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33).Left-Handed Amino Acids Explained? 09/06/2003
Another theory has surfaced to explain the origin of left-handed amino acids in proteins. Reported in Science News1, R. Graham Cooks and colleagues at Purdue University studied all 20 biological amino acids, and found that one serine formed stable clusters of all left- or all right-handed forms. The third lightest (after glycine and alanine), possessing an uncharged polar side chain, serine not only clustered in single-handed forms, but attracted other amino acids of the same hand. Sugars of the opposite hand were also attracted to the eight-molecule serine rings.
Serine clusters high stability and selectivity have convinced the researchers that left-handed serine must have forced its chemical siblings to follow its lead [sic]. What caused serines left form to become dominant in the first place remains an open question. Some scientists say that ancient minerals may have favored one form over the other (SN: 5/5/01, p. 276). Others point to the effects of radiation hitting primordial Earth. Or, says Cooks, it could have happened by chance.(Emphasis added in all quotes.) As to this chance event, Cooks speculates in the Purdue News press release that If somehow polarized light, for example, or a swirling motion in water were present at a critical moment, some of the right-handed clusters could have become left-handed. This could have cascaded into other prebiotic reactions and set the pace for a billion years of evolution [sic]. He calls serine the bouncer at lifes dance club. His teams paper was published online Aug. 4 in the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.2
1Science News Week of Sept. 6, 2003 (164:10): Alexandra Goho, Amino acid lends a heavy hand.
2Takats, Z., S.C. Nanita, and R.G. Cooks, Serine octamer reactions: Indicators of prebiotic relevance, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Volume 42, Issue 30, Pages 3521 - 3523 (published online Aug. 4).
Chemical evolutionists have been trying to get around this conundrum for nearly a hundred years, because the chance of getting a 100% pure polymer of one-handed amino acids is astronomically improbable (see our online book). But its hard to imagine how clusters of serine could be any help. The serine cluster is not a chain, but a ring. Further, it does not attract other amino acids to form peptide-bonded chains. The Cooks crew only tested eight amino acids for like-handedness joining the serine clusters. Do the clusters form under plausible prebiotic conditions? Most important, does the cluster, and any tag-along amino acids, have any function? If it has no function useful to a living organism, it might be a cute arrangement, but will accomplish nothing more than a magnet with paper clips clinging randomly on the sides.How Scum Evolves by Cooperation 09/05/2003
Even scum bacteria have to evolve or perish, two biologists agree, and they believe they have seen it. Their pet bacteria put on a show of cooperation that they think increased their fitness in a competitive environment. They believe their experiment might even shed light on the origins of multicellularity, a fundamental problem in biology. (Emphasis added in all quotes.) In their paper in the Sept. 4 issue of Nature1, Paul Rainey (U. of Oxford) and Katrina Rainey (U. of Auckland, NZ) watched the evolutionary fitness game and called it play by play.
The first item was to pick teams. In a broth of nutrients, they put populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens. As they watched, a genetic mutation in some of them produced excess amounts of a sticky polymer that helped them stick together. These formed rudimentary colonies. The members were named the WS group (wrinkly spreader), an offshoot of the ancestral [sic] smooth (SM) group. Over a few days, the WS colonies formed mats that tended to rise to the surface. This, presumably, gave them a fitness advantage i.e., more oxygen. Score one for the WS team. The future looked bright: the mat might provide protection from predation, new ways to migrate, enhanced resource utilization efficiency and teamwork. Cooperation has its downside, though e.g., reduced access to nutrients, build up of waste, and the work required to produce the excess sticky polymer, so the scientists had to subtract the cost of fitness. And then there are the cheaters.
In any cooperative colony, some freeloading individuals always hitchhike, enjoying the benefits of the hard workers without contributing their share. About a fourth of the WS colony took the renegade route, which led to the mat collapsing. This led to repeated rounds of mat buildup and collapse. Each round would see a new population of cooperators and cheaters. The mat appeared to be six times more robust against collapse if cheaters were removed. So unless evolution thinks of a new strategy, the cheats appear to short circuit the benefits of colonization. Natural selections experiment at multicellularity appears doomed: If cheating, via hitchhiking, goes unchecked, the WS group stands to be undermined.
But without cheaters, the mat also collapses from its own success. So many individuals join the colony, it becomes too heavy and sinks, leaving the poor cooperators gasping for air all over again. But in the flask, the cheats were ever present, living like parasites on the goods the cooperators worked hard to provide. What happens next?
The Raineys arent sure, but they feel their experiments have described an evolutionary transition from individual cells to a cooperating group that occurs de novo during the course of selection of P. fluorescens in a heterogeneous environment. The need for oxygen was the driving force that allowed the spontaneous mutation, which created a kind of intercellular glue, to allow the colonists to breathe easier. As a result, kin selection formed a type of colony, until the cheaters came along.
They admit, Undifferentiated groups of WS cells are a far cry from multicellularity, and much remains to be learned about how colonies evolve. A likely next step is the evolution of conflict mediators [sic] they speculate, although The form of these mediators, and the selective conditions necessary for their emergence [sic], is an experimentally tractable problem; and of some significance because the cellulosic polymer both creates the group and has the potential to co-evolve with traits that evolve on the basis of the group.
Notwithstanding the missing pieces of the puzzle, In all respects, our results confirm crucial elements of long-standing theory, they state with confidence. Many biologists have watched bacterial cultures form scum. The selective forces that led to the origin of multicellularity might be all around us, they say, and cooperative behaviour in bacteria [sic] may be more common than currently thought.
1Paul B. Rainey and Katrina Rainey, Evolution of cooperation and conflict in experimental bacterial populations, Nature 425, 72 - 74 (04 September 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01906.
Hate to break it to the Raineys, but kin selection is dead. Didnt Paul read the paper by his Oxford colleagues last year (see 05/07/2002 headline). that said Hamiltons theory and all the game-theory ideas that followed are based on untested, untestable, vague, self-contradictory and circular arguments?How to Walk on Walls When Youre Heavy 09/05/2003
Flies do it. Spiders do it. Lizards do it. Walking on walls and ceilings is a skill we have all observed these little critters do, some right in the kitchen. But when you think about it, the heavier a bug is, the harder it should be to walk up a wall. The body mass difference between a fly and a gecko covers six orders of magnitude. Does the same engineering principle hold in the design of their feet?
To find out, three German physicists writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 investigated the design scaling From micro to nano contacts in biological attachment devices. Applying the principles of contact theory, which teaches that splitting up the contacts into finer subcontacts increases adhesion, they find that bugs and lizards indeed follow this trend. The feet of each of these animals are divided into setae fine, hair-like projections and the more the mass, the finer and more densely packed the setae. Micrometer-size setae are sufficient to support a flys weight, but geckos require sub-micrometer setae, and more of them. Their paper includes interesting electron micrographs of the feet of beetles, flies, spiders and geckos, showing that, indeed, heavier animals exhibit finer adhesion structures.
Another advantage of this more-of-smaller principle is that the system is robust against damage to individual parts. The situation is more complicated by the fact that mass increases faster than foot-to-contact surface area. Also, the curvature of the contacting structure affects adhesion. As reported Aug. 27, 2002, gecko setae are fine enough to take advantage of intermolecular van der Waals forces between the surface and the foot. Even though other contact principles come to bear on the workings of bug feet (such as the secretion of sticky fluids and viscoelastic effects), This finding suggests that contact splitting is the overriding design principle, they conclude. Overall, it comes as no surprise that the concepts of contact theory are reflected in the evolutionary design [sic] of biological attachment systems (emphasis added).
1Arzt, Gorb, and Spolenak, From micro to nano contacts in biological attachment devices, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online preprints (Sept. 5, 2003), 10.1073/pnas.1534701100.
A core doctrine in the religion of evolutionary idolatry, illustrated here, is that the Blind Watchmaker is a master engineer. The genius does not lie within the brains of geckos, flies and spiders. It is an accidental attribute of a nebulous, impersonal deity suffused within all of reality (simplistically referred to by commoners as Mother Nature), who emerged, with everything else, out of nothing, after the Big Bang. Though a bumbling fool, she likes to tinker, and has lots of time on her hands. Sooner or later, quite by accident, she happens upon adaptive designs that are models of exquisite perfection. Sing praises to this blind, deaf, dumb, crippled, aimless, retarded engineering genius.Wyoming School District Considers ID; New Mexico Votes Darwin Only 09/03/2003
The school board members of Worland, Wyoming put two lightning-rod items on the agenda Tuesday: abstinence in sex education, and intelligent design in science education. The Casper Star Tribune quoted the recommendation for biology teaching:
It shall be the policy ... when teaching Darwins theory of evolution that it is only a theory and not a fact. Teachers shall be allowed in a neutral and objective manner to introduce all scientific theories of origin and the students may be allowed to discuss all aspects of controversy surrounding the lack of scientific evidence in support of the theory of evolution.As expected, this generated a heated debate during the meeting. This was only an introductory hearing by the board; it will take three readings by the board to approve a policy change.
In New Mexico, however, the state board of education recently adopted pro-evolutionary science standards without modification, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican. Though the standards call for teaching evolution as the best scientific explanation we have at this time, a department manager assured critics that it was not intended that evolution be taught as an absolute, and not to present a particular belief system or indoctrinate students.
Debates like this are going on around the country in populous states and small rural towns. It is very important to be informed on the issues, the history, the court cases and to have your baloney detector on when reading newspaper accounts. The usual arguments and terms are often very misleading. The title of the Wyoming article is, School board gives nod to creationism... Pray tell, where is creationism or creation even mentioned in the policy?Dark Matter Doesnt Matter 09/03/2003
Astrophysicists will be scratching their heads, reports Physics Web, following the discovery that three elliptical galaxies seem to contain little or no dark matter. Elliptical galaxies are thought to be the product of a collision between dark-matter-rich galaxies. University of Nottingham astronomers measured the rotation curves of three galaxies, and found they followed Keplerian orbital dynamics with no need for dark matter. Now astronomers must explain why certain types of galaxy appear to be rich in dark matter while others seem to be deficient. Katie Pennicott, author of the report on this unexpected result, gave it the title, Dark matter deficiency puts theory in the shade.
An old joke has a nurse rushing into the office, saying, Doctor, doctor! Theres an invisible man in the living room! to which the doctor nonchalantly replies without looking up from the newspaper, Tell him I cant see him. The moral of this story is you cannot deal with something that is unobservable. This would be a good time to review the Scottish sheep story on the humor page about the limits to what observational data can prove. As long as astronomers must postulate two giant fudge factors, dark matter and dark energy (see June 20 headline), to keep their theories in orbit, we can rightly tell them we cant see them.The Mystery of Intron Evolution 09/03/2003
Eukaryotes, the organisms whose cells contain a nucleus, encompass an astonishing diversity of organisms: all plants and animals and a number of one-celled protists. The genomes of eukaryotes contain a mystery: sections of DNA, called introns, that do not code for genes, and are exquisitely removed before translation by a complicated molecular machine called the spliceosome (see 09/12/2002 headline) and its helpers. The spliceosome, a large RNA-protein complex, is conserved throughout the eukaryotic world, from grizzly bears to earthworms to orchids. Coding regions of the eukaryotic DNA, called exons, are meticulously spliced together after the introns are removed. Why are these introns there? What is their function, if any? Why does the cell go to so much work to remove them? Evolutionary biologists want to know.
In the Sept. 2 issue of Current Biology1, a team of British and American scientists delved into published genomes to compare intron counts and positions, in hopes of determining the evolutionary history of introns. To their surprise, they found Remarkable Interkingdom Conservation of Intron Positions and Massive, Lineage-Specific Intron Loss and Gain in Eukaryotic Evolution, as the title of their paper summarizes. They compared eight very different eukaryotes: the malaria parasite and a cousin, two kinds of yeast (fungi), Arabidopsis (a flowering plant favored in genetics research), fruit flies, worms, and humans. Sifting through the published genomes, they found 684 orthologous sets but no clear evolutionary pattern. Surprises include:
The matrix of shared introns in all pairs of analyzed eukaryotic genomes revealed a striking, unexpected pattern (Table 2). The number of conserved introns did not drop monotonically with the increase of the evolutionary distance between the compared organisms. On the contrary, human genes shared the greatest number of introns not with any of the three animals but with the plant Arabidopsis; in the conserved regions (the more accurate results given the uncertainties in alignment in other parts of genes), 24% of the analyzed human introns were shared with Arabidopsis (27% of the Arabidopsis introns) compared to 12%17% of the introns shared by humans with the fly, mosquito, and the worm (Table 2). The difference becomes even more dramatic when the numbers of introns conserved in Arabidopsis and each of the three animal species are compared: approximately three times more plant introns have a counterpart in humans than in the fly or the worm (Table 2). Although S. pombe [yeast] and Plasmodium [malaria] have few introns compared to plants or animals, the same asymmetry was observed for these organisms: the numbers of introns shared with Arabidopsis and humans are close and are 23 times greater than the number of introns shared with the insects or the worm (Table 2).How does an evolutionist make sense of these unexpected findings? The team applied phylogenetic tree-building to the data, and quickly realized that intron presence or absence does not fit Darwinian expectations. A method called Dollo parsimony, for instance, assumes that each derived character state (e.g., intron presence) originated only once on the tree. This led to a very unDarwinian tree, with humans clustered together with plants, and yeast clustered with malaria. They tried other phylogenetic approaches that generated more of a web of branches going nowhere than a tree progressing toward higher organisms (see their Figure 2). These observations show that intron locations are not suitable markers for phylogenetic analysis at long evolutionary distances, they confessed.
Having shown that evolution of introns in eukaryotic genes did not follow the species tree, they inverted the analysis and started by assuming the species tree to deduce the evolution of introns. This led to a conclusion that the last common ancestor [sic] of the eukaryotic species with sequenced genomes comes out particularly intron rich, they note. In other words, introns and the spliceosome machinery to juggle them were already present in the earliest eukaryote. For some reason, certain groups lost introns, and others had a net gain, while not a few introns survived nearly two billion years of evolution intact and in their original positions.
Why would some species conserve introns, and others get rid of them? The authors consider possibilities. Why have so many ancestral [sic] introns survived almost 2 billion years of evolution? they ask. One intriguing possibility is that conserved introns are functionally important, but there is currently little evidence in support of this hypothesis. On the other hand, maybe losing introns, even if functionless, is hazardous; like trying to remove a bullet, maybe it is sometimes better to leave it in than to risk more damage by removing it. Perhaps their presence influences gene regulation and expression (see 07/22/2002 headline). If so, removing them could be lethal. But then, why would some organisms, like fruit flies, succeed in removing so many of them without harm? No clear reason is given why natural selection would favor removing introns on some groups and adding them in others.
Without a clear phylogeny emerging from the data, they conclude with some speculations. It even seems possible, they imagine, that invasion [sic] of protein-coding genes by ancestors of introns was part of the dramatic and still mysterious series of events that led to the origin of the eukaryotic cell. The bottom line is that this remarkable conservation across species and even kingdoms leaves much to be learned: The lineage-specific trends of intron loss and gain might reflect more general tendencies for genome compaction and genome expansion, the underlying causality of which remains to be understood.
Update: see Sept. 12 headline.
1Rogozin, Wolf, Sorokin, Mirkin and Koonin, Remarkable Interkingdom Conservation of Intron Positions and Massive, Lineage-Specific Intron Loss and Gain in Eukaryotic Evolution, Current Biology Vol 13, 1512-1517, 2 September 2003.
Its almost funny to watch evolutionists wiggle and squirm when the data dont fit their expectations. Not that non-evolutionists understand introns, either there is much to be learned but biologists cured of the phylogeny addiction are free to consider other alternatives, and might even assume there is a yet-to-be-discovered purpose for these mysterious sections of DNA code; gene regulation, or modular programming, for instance (see May 23 headline).Mars Color Not from Water 09/03/2003
Mars is red not because water oxidized the iron, but because meteorites and meteoritic dust bring in iron continually from space. This is the idea being advanced by JPL scientist Albert Yen, reports EurekAlert based on the upcoming issue of New Scientist. There is more iron and magnesium in the topsoil than in the rocks. Yen irradiated simulated Martian iron-rich topsoil with ultraviolet light and produced red oxides within a week, without water present.
This bolsters the find reported Aug. 21, that the lack of carbonates implies no large oceans existed on Mars. These evidences do not rule out liquid water on the surface, but suggest it was not abundant at any time in Martian history.
These findings are discouraging to those wishing to find life on Mars. More precise measurements are just months away, when Beagle 2 and the Mars Exploration Rovers descend to the surface in December and January.Smile When Getting that Flu Shot: Depression Harms Immune System 09/03/2003
The emotional part of your brain is linked to your immune system. When you are depressed or worried, you become more susceptible to disease. This is the conclusion a team of University of Wisconsin scientists arrived at by studying the effects of flu shots on 52 adults. Six months later, those who had been instructed to think about extremely bad emotional experiences had fewer antibodies; those who had thought about extremely happy experiences had high antibody levels. See the summary in Science Now, Sept. 3, 2003.
Old wise Solomon had it right, when he said a merry heart does good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Why, it even helps the medicine. You cant always manufacture happy thoughts out of thin air, though. Theres no better tonic than thankfulness and the joy of the Lord.Not Enough Comets in the Cupboard 09/03/2003
Theres a shortage of comets. The Hubble Space Telescope peered into the Kuiper Belt cupboard, and found it nearly empty only 4% of the predicted supply was found.
Astronomers needed a bigger storehouse to explain the number of short-period comets now inhabiting the solar system. The Kuiper Belt, a region of small icy bodies beyond Neptune, has been the favored source of comets with orbital periods 200 years or less, but the new measurements, soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, are wildly inconsistent with the observed number of comets. Astronomers expected to find 85 trans-Neptunian objects in the cupboard, and found only three.
Science News1 calls this a riddle. For this region to be a viable source, there should be hundred or even thousands of times as many objects as were actually found. Perhaps the objects expected had been dashed into dust by collisions. The measurements indicate that another hoped-for source at the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt might not be sufficiently massive to spawn the short-period comets.
Sky and Telescope says this confirms our solar system has a distinct edge, and wonders if the missing objects that were expected had destroyed themselves.
As quoted in the report in Science Now, how does one researcher describe the finding? This is very exciting work.
1Science News Week of Sept. 6, 2003 (164:10): Ron Cowen, Hubble Highlights a Riddle: What's the source of quick-return comets?
A true scientist should be excited that a hypothesis proves false, as much as when it proves true; what is undesirable in science is ambiguity. Unfortunately, no amount of evidence seems to ever cause naturalistic planetary scientists to falsify the idea that the solar system formed out of undirected, purposeless natural forces billions of years ago. Exciting becomes their euphemism for baffled, disappointed, and clueless. What would really be exciting would be to see a planetary scientist follow the data where it leads, and question the assumption that the solar system is so old.Utah Sandstone Came from Appalachia 09/02/2003
Geologists have matched radio-isotope dates of zircons in Utah sandstone to those from the Appalachian Mountains, reports Science Now based on a paper in the September issue of Geology. This means, they conclude, that the Utah sand originated in the east and migrated west somehow. The sands studied are those of the Navajo sandstone that covers 660,000 square kilometers in southern Utah and northern Arizona, reaching over 2,400 feet in thickness in some locations. Most people would have suggested these grains came from the Ancestral Rocky Mountains, one geologist remarked. The explanation offered is that maybe the sand grains were transported across the continent by mighty rivers, then picked up by winds and deposited into sand dunes that got cemented into sandstone. Science News 164:9 also has a summary of the report.
Anyone who has seen the massive walls of Navajo sandstone, like those in Zion National Park, is going to have trouble swallowing this tale. It was hard enough to get local sand concentrated in such tremendous volume, but now to say it was carried across the continent slowly by rivers? Get real. The Navajo Sandstone represents one of the largest erg deposits in the geologic record, the abstract in Geology states. Our finding requires the existence of a transcontinental sediment-dispersal system capable of moving a large volume of detritus westward ... throughout the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic. (Emphasis added.) Science News quotes another geologist who admitted, We didnt expect that many of [these zircons] would have come from so far away. They have to believe that westward-flowing transcontinental river system was in place several times between 275 and 150 million years ago. This is like proposing multiple episodes of Amazon rivers that had the magical ability to flow uphill over the Rocky Mountains (but of course, they believe, conveniently, the Rocky Mountains formed after the sand was deposited safely on the west side).Answer to Baloney Detection Exercise
Answer: (E) All of the above. The sentence falsely puts church and school in contradistinction in a couple of fallacious ways. For one, children are required to attend school, but no one is required to attend church. For another, it assumes no one thinks in church, but everyone thinks in school, which is not only another either-or fallacy, but an egregious generality as well (Does every child think in school? Does a student never pray when sweating for a final exam? Does a pastor and congregation never think about the sermon?). A third either-or fallacy pits praying and thinking against each other. Granted, many prayers are thoughtless, but Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul and the entire Bible clearly teach that prayer must be done with the mind, with alertness, not with vain repetition.
The bumper sticker also ridicules supporters of school prayer as non-thinkers who want to impose mindless religious activity on unwilling atheist students, when the issue is whether students should have the freedom to pray (as guaranteed by the First Amendment) in school as well as anywhere else. The cheap shot glosses over serious issues about the Constitutional protection of free speech and religious liberty, the ongoing secularization of our society, and whether atheism and humanism are themselves inherently religious.
Lastly, it contains an indirect non-sequitur, implying that prayer is somehow detrimental to students. It tacitly assumes that if religious people would just keep their praying hands off the school, and keep their mindless brains locked in church, both churches and schools would be better off. Does Columbine High come to mind?
This little bumper sticker exalts thinking, but is thoughtless. It goes to show how a clever slogan can bring analysis to a halt, and embed a mindless attitude into a persons consciousness. Think (and pray) about it.