Creation-Evolution Headlines
 November 2002
I believe all scientists should be wary of their assumptions, as these can largely determine their findings.  They should also be wary of extrapolations outside the range of observation.  The further the extrapolation, the less reliable the prediction.  Changes in the assumptions will change the prediction.  This applies in particular to boundary conditions, such as those involving initial conditions (or origins).  Therefore, scientists can only speculate, imagine and guess about the origin of life.
— George S. Hawke, Meteorologist, In Six Days, Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (1999), p. 323.
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Readers Object to National Geographic Ape-Man Cover   11/29/2002
In the December issue, National Geographic admits in Forum of letters to the editor, “The [August 2002] issue generated plenty of mail from those who dispute evolution.”  The cover had featured a reconstruction of the Dmanisi skull that looked half ape, half human.  One reader complained, “In 50 years I have never seen GEOGRAPHIC raise the possibility that man could be a divine creation, yet the possibility of evolution is promoted as fact.  Because of this your credibility is diminished for a significant percentage of Americans.”  A Brazilian museum curator complained about broad conclusions being formed from one teenage skull; another reader complained about linking intelligence to migratory skill.  Of the six readers whose letters were printed, only one seemed to enjoy the article (but she mainly just cracked a joke about males not stopping to ask directions); three were critical, and two were neutral.  Apparently some readers disputed the artist’s choice on how much facial hair to paint.  NG’s art director Christopher Sloan admitted it was the most speculative part of the reconstruction.  The magazine explains the decision: “Artist Mauricio Anton looked at the fossil’s closest living analogues—chimps and humans—and used a hair pattern halfway between the two.” 
Thus the artist made his choice on the assumption of evolution, and even then, on an arbitrary half-way point between ape and man—not 10%, not 30% not 70, 80 or 90%, but 50%—even though their August story lamented that this skull throws the whole ancestry of man into a confused state of affairs.  They said, “Along with other fossils and tools found at the site, this skull reopens so many questions about our ancestry that one scientist muttered, ‘They ought to put it back in the ground.’”  In short, everything you were taught about human evolution is wrong.  Why pay any attention to their artwork?  Keep those cards and letters coming.
PS: Facial hair should be correlated to intelligence.  just look at Santa Claus—he’s smart enough to
pilot a craft around the world.  The more the merrier.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Utah River Valley Shows Rapid Changes in Recent Centuries   11/27/2002
A paper in the
December GSA Today (Geological Society of America) by Richard Hereford explores recent alluvial and erosional landforms in the Paria River basin of Southern Utah.  The author writes, “Valley-fill alluvium deposited from ca. A.D. 1400 to 1880 is widespread in tributaries of the Paria River and is largely coincident with the Little Ice Age epoch of global climate variability.”  He traces periods of arroyo cutting at ca. A.D. 1200-1400 and 1860-1910, interspersed with periods of alluvial deposition.
Large changes can occur within centuries.  It doesn’t necessarily take millions of years to see big changes in landforms.  The Paria River basin is a colorful area of unique landforms and amazing hiking trails for the adventurous.  For your Thanksgiving weekend enjoyment, here is a brief photo-vacation from the Creation Safari Photo Gallery into the Paria River wilderness area of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument: Next headline on: Geology.
Is Darwin’s Tree of Life Visible in the Genes?   11/26/2002
Two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online preprints (11/25) complicate the task of deducing common ancestry from genetic codes.  One by
Kerry L. Shaw of University of Maryland is entitled, “Conflict between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA phylogenies of a recent species radiation: What mtDNA reveals and conceals about modes of speciation in Hawaiian crickets.” She concludes from her comparison of phylogenies built from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA that “speciation histories based on mtDNA alone can be extensively misleading.”
   Another paper by three Penn State geneticists is called, “Overcredibility of molecular phylogenies obtained by Bayesian phylogenetics.”  They investigated the technique of Bayesian inference, a popular method for inferring causation, and found it too “liberal” compared to the more “conservative” bootstrap method.  They write, “Bayesian analysis can be excessively liberal when concatenated gene sequences are used, whereas bootstrap probabilities in neighbor-joining and maximum likelihood analyses are generally slightly conservative.  These results indicate that bootstrap probabilities are more suitable for assessing the reliability of phylogenetic trees than posterior probabilities and that the mammalian and plant phylogenies may not have been fully resolved.”
No kidding; the mammalian and plant phylogenies are both abominable mysteries to evolutionists.  What the geneticists infer from DNA analysis often disagrees strongly with what the biologists infer from comparative anatomy, and both differ strongly from the fossil record.  Don’t let the popular media fool you into thinking scientists can see Darwin’s tree of common ancestry in the genes.  These articles reveal that it’s not so simple, and there are many problems, contradictions, and disagreements.  Follow our chain links on Darwinism for many more recent examples.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Is Directed Evolution Really Evolution?   11/26/2002
Three Caltech scientists did an experiment in “directed evolution,“ getting a genetic circuit to work by steering mutation and selection to obtain a desired result.  Their paper, “Directed evolution of a genetic circuit,” is published in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They feel this experiment demonstrates that directed evolution can achieve complex circuit design, even when the engineers do not understand the complex interactions of the parts.  Yokobayashi et al write, “We have demonstrated that directed evolution can solve a complex in vivo optimization problem involving multiple poorly understood biochemical interactions and parameters.  Laboratory evolution is an algorithmic design process, ultimately amenable to automation if the screening criteria and individual operations of mutation and screening can be standardized and described.”
This was an experiment in intelligent design, not evolution.  Picture a large scientific research laboratory, like JPL, with thousands of egghead scientists and engineers, individually very smart and skilled.  Without effective leadership, nothing might be accomplished.  But give the laboratory a good director and management team, and that talent can achieve great things.  The director may know very little about the details of rocket science or celestial navigation; he or she doesn’t have to.  An MBA may be more useful than a PhD.  The director just steers the human talent toward a chosen objective, and things happen.  In the same way, these researchers took an already-existing genetic code and translation system, and through intelligent design, guided the skilled molecules to achieve a predetermined function, even when they did not know the details of how the molecules actually worked.  “Directed evolution” is a misnomer.  This was an optimization experiment, and the word optimize implies goal-directed design for a purpose.  The molecules were not evolving by purposeless, undirected forces like Darwinian evolution would require.  They had inherent skill designed into them; they just needed to be given an assignment.  So these scientists are not evolutionists; they are just good managers.
    Jonathan Wells relates a clever “gotcha” conundrum that was posed to evolutionary philosopher Michael Ruse at a recent intelligent design debate at Hillsdale College:
In the Q&A, the parent of a Hillsdale student asked him about a hypothetical case in which a genetic engineer would modify an organism that was subsequently examined 100 years hence; would future scientists be able to conclude that the organism had, in fact, been modified by design?  Ruse stepped into the audience and started making jokes, but he never really answered the question.  Once he got the laughter going, he made some crack about the questioner being like the punk “at the end of the bar” who tries to start trouble.  End of discussion.
Now that scientists are starting to operate and modify cellular machines, like we reported November 15, this is no longer just a hypothetical question.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Why Does Earth Still Have a Magnetic Field?   11/25/2002
Astronomy Picture of the Day asks the question:
Why does the Earth have a magnetic field?  The electrical conductivity of the molten plasma of the Earth’s core should be able to damp the current magnetic field in only thousands of years.  Yet our five billion year old Earth clearly causes magnets to point to (defined) north.  The mystery is still being studied but recently thought related to motions in the Earth’s liquid outer core.  Specifically, as portions of the outer core cool and fall inward, oceans of the liquid iron-rich magma rise outward, forced into a helical motion by the spin of the Earth.  This motion, many geologists now believe, regenerates Earth’s magnetism.
This caption accompanies a picture of a computer-generated model of the twisting motion that might generate the field.
The article doesn’t mention that the magnetic field strength has been declining steadily ever since it was first measured in 1829, and has dropped 14% since then.  Creationists Thomas Barnes and now Russell Humphreys have used this as evidence that the earth could not be billions of years old.  Read his article and see if the helical theory will stand up to the evidence.  We have other data points in the solar system for comparison: gas giants and the sun with large magnetic fields, and practically none on Venus or Mars.  Just be glad earth has a good one, because it protects us from damaging radiation.  Review our May 10 headline on how it acts like storm windows to give us calm skies in the midst of a rifle range of particles.
Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Evolution and the Dog’s Tale   11/22/2002
Three articles on the evolution of the dog grace the
Nov. 22 issue of Science.  Elisabeth Pennisi, summarizing the papers, says the reactions vary from enthusiasm to skepticism.  Did dogs evolve from a single common ancestor, like the wolf, or from several?  How far back was the common ancestor?  Why do dogs show such diversity in size and shape?  And how did the dog gain the social skills to become man’s best friend?  BBC News has a summary of the reports, and you can also see adaptations in Science Now and Nature Science Update (complete with dog puns, like “ruff estimates” and “archaeological evidence for dogs is spotty”).  Surprisingly, dogs are better at reading our signals than chimpanzees, our closest relatives, says Nature: “Distantly related dogs, on the other hand, having evolved alongside humans, seem to have converged on some of our thought processes.”
They have converged on begging, for sure; dogs have perfected this thought process to a fine art.  Watching a frisbee-catching dog or a New Zealand sheepdog in action shows you how intelligent and skillful are these versatile animals.  Then there are saint bernards in the snow, bloodhounds on the trail, German shepherds in the 9/11 wreckage, greyhounds on the racetrack, Alaskan sled dogs, hunters and pointers, and the all-around household mutt (poodles, however, are a grotesque collage of useless mutations).  Dogs are very diverse animals, yet these articles fail to explain how the dog species evolved in the first place.  Creationists and evolutionists all agree that the diversity of dogs stem from a single dog “kind” or “common ancestor” (take your pick of terms), but they are still Canis familiaris.  Limited variation is not evolution.  Whether dachshunds or great danes, they all still pant and bark and wag their tails and walk in circles before lying down.  Evolutionists, show us the steps from worm to dog.  The earliest alleged dog fossil is claimed to be only 14,000 years old, (though Nature says most dog fossils date from 7,000 years or later), yet the theoretical common ancestor, according to one researcher, goes back 135,000 years, without a trace in the fossil record.  Pet dogs are found with the earliest human burials.  These facts show that dogs have always been just dogs, despite their variations.  Dog lovers can enjoy that special relationship with a multi-talented and friendly animal that bears the hallmarks of design.  We don’t need an evolutionary tale wagging the dog.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Trigger for Cambrian Explosion Found?   11/22/2002
John Grotzinger of MIT told the Geological Society of America last month that he thinks he knows what triggered the Cambrian Explosion, the sudden burst of life in the near-oldest fossiliferous rocks that contain representatives of every animal phylum.  While studying layers in Oman, he saw evidence of a sudden extinction at the onset of the Cambrian, dated 542 million years ago.  A simple precambrian fossil suddenly disappears from the next higher layers.  Evidently, some catastrophic extinction, maybe a rise in carbon dioxide in the oceans that obliterated any organisms not prepared to breathe oxygen.  That “cleared the playing field” for an explosion of new life forms, better adapted to the changed conditions.  Richard A. Kerr reports on this hypothesis, its adherents and critics, in the
Nov. 22 issue of Science.
Is there a shred of evidence in this story for how complex body plans could evolve?  None!  Instead, only a patently illogical idea, sensible only to a doctrinaire evolutionist, that catastrophe is the mother of complexity.  Evolution is the modern Phoenix myth.  The more disaster, the more pressure for life to evolve even faster.  Why worry about meteor impacts, then?  Look at all the good they have done for this planet, like bringing a profusion of mammals out of the dinosaur graveyard.  Strange, catastrophes haven’t brought forth life on the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Europa, Io, Ganymede, Callisto, Saturn, Titan ....
Grotzinger and David Bottjer need to meet and get their stories straight.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Bacteria Borrowed Each Other’s Photosynthesis Technology   11/22/2002
How could bacteria evolve the complex processes of photosynthesis five times separately?  By technology sharing.  That’s a new idea propounded by a team at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, reports Elisabeth Pennisi in the
Nov. 22 issue of Science.  They didn’t have to invent it from scratch each time; they got the parts at the swap meet, via a process of lateral gene transfer.
This is an ad hoc speculation, based on evolutionary assumptions, to explain away a lack of evidence for evolution.  Even if these bacteria did swap genes, It still doesn’t explain how photosynthesis, an immensely complicated set of processes, proteins, genes, and regulators, could ever evolve even once in the first place.  This idea is falsified by an observation mentioned in a lecture this past weekend by Dr. George Howe, retired botanist at The Master’s College in California.  He noted that CAM photosynthesis, a different variety of light-gathering food production used by the saguaro cactus, appears in up to 30 widely-scattered families of flowering plants.  Some species in a family will have the usual kind, and some will have the CAM kind, with no phylogenetic rhyme or reason.  It is inconceivable that such a complex set of hardware and software could have arisen independently even once, let alone 30 times.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Neanderthals Couldn’t Throw Spears   11/21/2002
A story in
New Scientist claims, “Neanderthals and early humans knew how to make spears - but did not know how to throw them.  Instead, they had a limited hunting strategy, and used their spears merely to stab animals they had already trapped or ambushed.”  How do they know this, if no one has seen a living Neanderthal?  Anthropologists thought that thicker bones in one arm gave evidence that Neanderthals were spear-throwers, but Steven Churchill of Duke University, NC has a different explanation.  He used his students to measure the amount of force needed in throwing vs stabbing with two arms, and found that the stabbing motion produced the amount of force consistent with the amount of Neanderthal humerus thickening.
This experiment seems only designed to preserve the image of Neanderthals as brutish numbskulls who couldn’t figure out how to use their arms.  Does it take 20,000 years for large human being with a bigger brain than modern man to learn how to throw?  Come on.  We already know Neanderthals were smart and savvy, and kind-hearted.  If a child can throw a spear, why couldn’t a big, handsome, intelligent Neanderthal man?  Who knows, maybe they got their big arms from arm wrestling, or from javelin tossing in the caveman Olympics.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next dumb story
Are You Man or Mouse – Or In Between?   11/21/2002
An editorial in the Nov. 21 Nature states (no kidding) “Biologists divided over proposal to create human-mouse embryos.”  Some scientists think they need to create human embryos using mouse stem cells to test the pluripotency of the latter (i.e., the ability to generate any cell).  “But the suggestion of creating such mixed-species embryos is likely to provoke public disquiet,” Natalie Dewitt writes, “and could galvanize political opposition to all research involving human embryos.”  At a forum in New York last week, scientists reached no agreement.  A leading stem cell researcher, Ronald McKay, said, “I am completely opposed to putting human embryonic stem cells into any condition that will cause moral affront.”  Others supported the experimentation as necessary to test the usefulness of stem cells for medical purposes.
Those inconvenient moral issues just keep getting in the way of progress.  It appears they are just afraid of public disquiet or moral affront, i.e., causing a public uproar, rather than whether these activities are truly unethical or immoral.  They probably don’t have to worry.  Sadly, much of the public seems too engrossed in the latest celebrity stories to raise an outcry over moral issues involving small clusters of cells, let alone even understand the issues.   See our Sept. 23 entry on the ethical ramifications of mixing human and animal DNA.
Next headline on: Politics; also next entry.
Lab to Create Artificial Life Form   11/21/2002
It’s not from scratch, but controversial geneticist Craig Venter is going to create an artificial bacterium, reports
New Scientist (see also CNN News).  With permission from the Ethics of Genomics Group and a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy, Venter’s new Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives will take the simplest free-living organism, remove its DNA, and insert artificial chromosomes.  These will be made up of what they think is the minimum requirement for life, which according to earlier research is comprised of 265 of its normal complement of 517 genes.  The ethics committee decided this did not violate any ethical guidelines, but some are concerned about the potential for biological warfare or accidental release of a novel infectious agent.  The lab believes appropriate safeguards will be taken, and the project will be valuable: “The work could reveal much about the evolution of life on Earth,” the article in New Scientist states.
What it will reveal is that life is irreducibly complex.  265 genes — that’s a lot of complex specified information, far more than the minimum complexity threshold that William Dembski uses to rule out chance as a cause, anywhere in the universe for as long as it has existed.  It’s also much more than the 239 protein minimum threshold for life James F. Coppedge used in Evolution: Possible or Impossible?; he calculated the chance of getting the complete set of these proteins at one in 10119850, a chance so small it would never happen at any time, in any place.  Even so, Mycoplasma genitalium is a parasite dependent on its host.  Rather than being an evolutionary link, it most probably is a stripped-down organism from something even more complex.  Yes, this experiment will reveal much about the evolution of life on Earth; it will reveal that evolution is impossible.
Dr. Jonathan Sarfati comments on this news item at Answers in Genesis.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Architect, Contractors and Skilled Laborers Build Your Colon  11/21/2002
Don’t look for bathroom humor here; just amazement.  In the
Nov 21 issue of Nature, Mark Peifer waxes eloquent about this organ that is usually not brought up in polite conversation:
It is no mean feat for organisms to make and maintain their organs. The complex cellular and molecular processes involved are illustrated by two studies of the proteins that participate in producing a colon.  

We often forget what marvellous machines our bodies are. Each of our organs is constructed from diverse cell types arranged in a complex, stereotyped pattern, allowing them to carry out their assigned tasks — propelling blood, composing a paragraph, or absorbing nutrients. Perhaps more remarkably, these organs operate continuously for decades, requiring constant remodelling to replace cells lost to attrition. In two landmark papers in Cell, Clevers and colleagues begin to explain the structure of one organ, the intestine, identifying the architect that directs its development and renewal, contractors that supervise different aspects of the process, and skilled labourers that do the heavy lifting.

The papers he references discuss proteins named Wnt, Myc, p21 and Eph, that are involved in the expression of genes that build the colon.  This provides Peifer an analogy to a well-run construction site:  “These data firmly establish Wnt signals as colon architects, identify sub-contractors such as Myc that supervise particular parts of the job, and highlight skilled labourers, such as p21 and Eph receptors, that carry out specialized tasks.”
Funny; we couldn’t find the word evolution anywhere in this article.
Next headline on: Human Body.Next amazing story.
Did Life Boot Itself Up?  11/21/2002
Gerald Joyce appreciates the problem of getting both the genetic code and self-replication to work simultaneously at the origin of life, but thinks a recent computer simulation might show how it happened.  Writing in the
Nov. 21 issue of Nature, he begins:
In thinking about the origin of life on Earth and, in principle, elsewhere in the Universe, many regard the ‘hard problem’ to be getting the ball rolling in the first place. It is generally thought that life on Earth began with the production of macromolecules that served as primitive stores of genetic information (genomes). Crucially, there was a need to replicate these macromolecules, both to propagate the contained information and to allow the occurrence of mutations — which, within limits, are essential for darwinian evolution based on natural selection.
Another hard problem is getting a genome big enough to encode for self-replication.  Manfred Eigen showed 30 years ago that error catastrophe can wipe out any sizable genome quickly if replication is not 99% accurate or better.  Joyce, largely responsible for the popularity of the “RNA World” hypothesis, reminds the reader that ribozymes have been manufactured that can replicate themselves, although they have not been found in nature.  Since ribozymes can both replicate and hold genetic information, perhaps that could lead to a solution of the chicken-and-egg dilemma.
        Joyce points to the work of Szabó et al, who performed a computer simulation that allowed a self-replicating organism to “bootstrap” itself upward to higher complexity, if spatial isolation of the products were carefully controlled.  The simulation was only done on a two-dimensional grid, so Joyce cautions that the work should not be taken too literally, although he finds it curious that even in the world of molecules, as with nations, “spatial isolation also contributes to good citizenship.”  Provided the right kind of isolation were achieved, “Spatial isolation provides an opportunity for darwinian evolution to ‘discover’ solutions to problems that require molecules to interact. The results obtained by Szabó et al. show that this makes evolutionary bootstrapping possible — and perhaps it is what started our planet on the path to the complex biosphere that exists today.”
Computer simulations are unrealistic, and too prone to investigator interference.  We want to see Joyce do this in the lab, using realistic mixtures and concentrations of ingredients, without any information or intervention by the researcher.  The results will be predictable: the laws of thermodynamics and equilibrium will dash all hopes of spontaneous generation.  Joyce not only wants the computer to be able to boot itself, he wants it to make itself.  His comments commit the usual sin of personification: darwinian evolution does not discover anything, and molecules are not citizens. See our June 11 entry and commentary on previous work by Gerald Joyce, and our August entry on a more realistic computer simulation.  Also, follow the Chain Links on Origin of Life for a reality check on the hopelessness of expecting life to lift itself up by its own bootstraps.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Archaeoraptor: The Rest of the Story  11/21/2002
The non-dinosaur half of Archaeoraptor, “once proclaimed as a key intermediate between carnivorous dinosaurs and birds but now known to be a forgery” was a fish-eating bird, says the Nov. 21 issue of Nature.
National Geographic News reported on the Nature article, but failed to reveal the egg on their face from their famous November 1999 cover story featuring a color reconstruction of Archaeoraptor.  NG writer Hillary Mayell judiciously states, in passive voice, “It was fairly quickly exposed as bogus.”
Save your November 1999 issue of National Geographic as a collector’s item, along with the October 2000 retraction.  At least it only took a year for Piltdown Chicken to be exposed, instead of the 45 years for Piltdown Man.  I suppose that’s progress.  National Geographic probably felt no need to dredge up their own shame today after printing the retraction, but millions of people rely on their magazine for scientific news.  The hoax did not make them more reticent to make extraordinary claims; in fact, this article shows them more brazen than ever to link birds and dinosaurs, despite the fact other paleontologists disagree.  They give prominence to two believers but no critics, quoting Julia Clarke saying,
“The really unfortunate aspect of the Archaeoraptor forgery was that it was used to suggest that other feathered dinosaur fossils were also faked, and added a layer of confusion to public understanding that shouldn’t be there,” said Clarke.  “There’s an abundant amount of evidence that the lineage leading to birds is nested in Dinosauria,“ she said.  “There are many feathered flying and non-flying dinosaur fossils from these two regions that are not forgeries.”
Let’s have the evidence instead of the verdict, please, especially from an institution with a track record of weaving tall tales out of minuscule evidence, and rushing to judgment, as long as some data point supports evolutionary assumptions.
     For a fun science project in psychology, someone should put a whale skull on a cow skeleton and hide it in a gravel pit near Washington, DC.
Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Dinosaurs.Next headline on: Fossils.
Planetesimal Hypothesis Requires Special Conditions   11/20/2002
How do you build a solar system?  Assume, tweak, and juggle.  The “conventional cosmogony” that has particles slowly accreting into planets in a protoplanetary disk is full of problems, so Andrew N. Youdin (Berkeley) and Frank H. Shu (Taiwan) propose an unconventional one that, with carefully chosen parameters, might surmount the difficulties.  Writing in the
Nov. 20 Astrophysical Journal, they first define a planetesimals as “primitive solids of kilometer size or larger,”  the presumption being these will grow into planets over time by gravitational attraction.  But next, they provide a laundry list of problems with conventional planetesimal hypotheses:
  1. Particles don’t stick: they bounce.  “Everyday experience tells us that dry silicate particulates of millimeter and larger size, such as sand, do not stick at almost any speed of attempted assemblage,” they say, and measurements confirm this.  Even ices at the outer fringes of a protoplanetary disk do not accrete much better.  How could microscopic solids ever accrete into planetesimals?
  2. Gas drags particles into the sun.  The gas in a protoplanetary disk is going to quickly draw small solid particles into the star.  Bodies must reach a threshold diameter of 1 km to escape the pull: “even if a mechanism could be found to grow chondrule-sized particulates to meter-sized bodies, one would have to worry about the rapid inward orbital drift associated with gas drag that would carry such bodies from 1 AU into the proto-Sun on a timescale of only 102 yr.”  How could planetesimals grow before being swallowed?
  3. Meteorites do not contain large particles.  Carbonaceous chondrites, supposedly the most primitive remnants of solar system evolution, are composed of chondrules a millimeter in diameter and smaller, and show evidence of melting and refreezing, perhaps several times.  Meteorites do not show a continuous range of particle sizes from microns to meters, so where is the evidence for planetesimals?
  4. Electrostatic attraction for small particles is unlikely.  “In order to be a relevant growth mechanism, it must be shown that tribocharging, the balance between collisional charging and ion/electron discharging, yields electrostatic attraction at much lower particle densities.”  Static electricity won’t keep small particles from bouncing off each other.
  5. Cosmic abundances of dust to gas are too low.  In a solar nebula with these abundances, there is not enough dust to concentrate.  If one assumes the particles will stick together (but they won’t), inner planetesimals would form too fast (10,000 yr) and giant outer planets would take too long (over 1 million yr), longer than the disk would survive erosion by the solar wind.  How can the dust be concentrated?
  6. Earth-sized planets migrate into the sun in a gas disk.  “Another troubling aspect of planet formation theories is the ‘type I’ migration of Earth-sized and larger (but not large enough to open a gap) bodies due to density wave torques exerted on the gas disk.”  This could happen to any earth-sized planet as far out as Jupiter within 100,000 years.  How do we get rid of the gas to keep the rocky planets in orbit?
They favor a model called “gravitational instability” (GI) proposed by Goldreich and Ward in 1973, where perturbations in the disk can begin a runaway accretion.  But this model was found to fail given the cosmic abundances of dust observed in protoplanetary disks.  To get around these and other difficulties, Youdin and Shu realize there had to be a way to concentrate the solids by a factor of 2 to tens, and get rid of the gas.  They got GI to work, if:
  1. Chondules formed according to Shu’s “X-Wind hypothesis.”  This proposes that shock waves heated the particles and re-melted them into chondrules at a certain radius from the sun, from which they were drawn inward; a third were launched into the bipolar jets and landed back out on the disk.
  2. The chondrules form not all at once.
  3. The temperature was not too high.
  4. The gas depletes enough to keep rocky inner bodies from spiraling in, but leaves enough for gas giants to form.
  5. Particles pile up as they spiral inward.  “For the somewhat arbitrary parameters we have chosen, we conclude that aerodynamic drift provides a significant amount of concentration, but not definitively enough to cause midplane GI.  Thus, in the case of our own solar system, one of the other solid/gas ratio enhancing mechanisms discussed in the introduction may be necessary.”
With these assumptions, they feel that inner rocky planets and outer gas giants might form within the same time frame.  They also feel this model explains the abrupt cutoff of our solar system at 40 AU, when disks around other stars are sometimes hundreds of astronomical units (earth-sun distance = 1 AU). 
Just as with biological evolution, planetary evolution requires a little bit of data and a lot of imagination.  And as with biological evolution, whatever gave birth to our solar system was an unobservable, one-time occurrence that cannot be repeated.  Neither biological or cosmogonical evolution is laboratory science; it is the art of storytelling, bounded only by certain laboratory constraints.  We like to give our readers the unvarnished stories straight out of the science journals, before they get sanitized for the popular press and virtual reality by the animators.  Notice how many parameters had to be carefully chosen to get the model to work against known forces opposing planet formation.  They didn’t even get into the problems with Uranus and Neptune, and much more.  Sure, one can produce a story that may or may not sound plausible, but is it true?  How can they ever know?  Whatever happened to Occam’s razor?
The Bible states that God created the heavens and the earth.  This implies that the parameters were fine-tuned for habitability, with purpose and design for us to have a relationship with Him.  The critics complain that if you believe that, science grinds to a halt; you just say “God did it” and your work is done.*  But if it’s true, is it not chasing after wind to seek a natural explanation?  Maybe it makes a materialist feel better, because he can construct his nothing-to-man universe in an unbroken chain of natural causation, without singularities like a God intervening.**  If it feels good, do it.  But call it a feeling – a preference – not science, because you will never know that is how it really happened, and you will be forced to tweak your way around major difficulties (if in fact the world was designed).  You will have your metaphysical research programme that gives you endless opportunities to speculate and write your just-so stories in the Astrophysical Journal.  But in so doing, you will deny the validity of historical reasoning from Eyewitness accounts, and you will have turned science into scientism, which is idolatry.
*“God did it” may be the short answer, but How did He do it? provides an abundance of research potential.  This was the approach of Kepler and Newton, which proved fruitful, one might say.
**Materialists are not without their singularities, too: black holes, the big bang, the origin of life, etc.
Next headline on: Solar System.
Sexual Selection Has No Effect on Speciation   11/19/2002
Sorry, Charlie; sexual selection doesn’t work.  Charles Darwin, in his second major work The Descent of Man proffered sexual selection as another mechanism by which new species could arise. 
Four UK and Swedish researchers looked for evidence to support the idea.  They surveyed 480 genera of mammals, 105 of butterflies and 148 of spiders for sexual size dimorphism (e.g., larger males), polyandry in 72 mammal genera, and mating frequency in 54 kinds of butterflies.  Was there any correlation with number of species?  None, they reported in this month’s Biological Proceedings of the Royal Society:
In summary, we find no evidence that two measures of sexual selection, which potentially lead to variance in multi-male gene flow and sexual conflict, are associated with the degree of speciation across mammalian, butterfly and spider genera.  If sexual size dimorphism and/or measures of mating pattern are predictors of the strength of sexual selection, and the level of multi-male gene flow or status of male-female conflict, we find that speciation occurs independently of sexual selection, and rather via naturally selected processes of speciation that are well recognized (Mayr 1963).
They do not elaborate on what these other processes are, just passing the baton to Ernst Mayr, but that is not their focus: their point is, “Our results therefore show that speciation occurs independently of sexual selection”
It has been noted that in The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote about everything except the origin of species.  He talked about artificial selection and proposed a natural counterpart, but never really solved the problem of how new species arose.  He just assumed that extrapolation of variation could lead to speciation, even though empirical examples were lacking.  His theory of sexual selection was another heuristic proposal, and to this day, evolutionists imagine “choosy” females and competitive males driving the accentuation of sex differences, and presumably, new species.  These four scientists, surely evolutionists themselves, looked at the data objectively, and found no evidence of speciation via sexual selection.  While assuming speciation occurs by other Darwinian processes, (note that “well recognized” is not the same as “established”), they deny it occurs by sexual selection.  The origin of species must be happening some other way.
In his recent book Darwin’s God (not to be confused with Ken Miller’s book with a similar title), Cornelius Hunter accuses Darwin of pulling off an intellectual coup, changing the rules of science, by shifting the burden of proof to his critics.  If he could just imagine a sequence of intermediates that might have resulted in an eye, or any other “organ of extreme perfection”, he felt he had done his job, and it was up to his critics to prove it could not happen that way.  In other words, he put his critics in the hopeless position of proving a universal negative.  Through cleverly-contrived “thought experiments” (how’s that for an oxymoron), he had no problem envisioning the origin of species, even if hard evidence was lacking.  Thus was born the Just-So Story Method of evolutionary explanations.  This tradition flourishes among evolution defenders to this day, as we demonstrate often in these pages.  Instead of evidence, the Just-So Story Method suffices to explain How the Peacock Got Its Tail, How the Elephant Got Its Snorkel, How the Camel Got His Hump, and anything else you ever wanted to know.  But when predictions are made based on Darwinian theory and tested, like in this article ... Evidence?  Evidence?  Who’s got the evidence? 
Cartoonist Bil Keane used to include in his Family Circus strips a little ghost named “Not Me.”  When Mom asked who broke the window or let the dog out, the kids would invariably blame Not Me for the crime.  Who’s holding the evidence for evolution?  The theoreticians say Not Me.  The biologists say Not Me.  The geneticists say Not Me.  The paleontologists say Not Me.  The zoologists say Not Me.  The biochemists say assuredly, Not Me.  All in favor of exonerating Not Me, say Me.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
I.D. Debaters Square Off at Hillsdale   11/19/2002
A who’s who of intelligent design proponents and critics made their views known during debates at
Hillsdale College November 10-13.  Jonathan Wells (pro-ID) gives his perspective on the anti-ID presentations by Larry Arnhart, Michael Ruse, Mano Singham and Niles Eldredge at the Discovery Institute website.  Defending ID were Wells, Michael Behe, and William Dembski.
We encourage people to study the arguments on both sides, and have their Baloney Detector handy.  It appears to us that the Darwinists are quick to oppose ID with metaphysical and religious arguments, but low on supply of scientific evidence to argue whether Darwinian evolution is actually true.  Ruse, for instance, relied on negative theological arguments (for detailed treatment of this tactic, see Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God.  Notice also his not-so-graceful sidestepping of a student’s question.)  Also notable was the air of “contemptuous condescension” on the part of the evolutionists, particularly Frank Steiner, biology professor and Dean of Natural Sciences at Hillsdale – who had the last word, and ended on that kind of note.  Regular readers of this column will not be impressed by what he marshaled as evidence to support his views, but may find it startling that he would quote George Orwell’s 1984 to promote the wisdom of believing in two contradictory ideas simultaneously.  Does he mean evolution is doublethink?  War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.  One would hope his colleagues cringed at such a suggestion.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Math Meets Natural Selection   11/18/2002
Sean H. Rice of Yale has published a paper in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled, “A general population genetic theory for the evolution of developmental interactions.”  The abstract reads,
The development of most phenotypic traits involves complex interactions between many underlying factors, both genetic and environmental.  To study the evolution of such processes, a set of mathematical relationships is derived that describe how selection acts to change the distribution of genetic variation given arbitrarily complex developmental interactions and any distribution of genetic and environmental variation.  The result is illustrated by using it to derive models for the evolution of dominance and for the evolutionary consequences of asymmetry in the distribution of genetic variation.
After an impressive array of tensor calculus functions, he concludes, “Because more individuals are far from the mean on one side than on the other, and fitness drops off nonlinearly around the optimum, there is a net selective pressure pushing the population mean away from the optimum.  This is countered by directional selection pushing the mean toward the optimum (Q1).  If these vectors do not point in exactly opposite directions, then there is a component of evolution along the optimum phenotype contour.”  By this he means that random forces will not necessarily cancel out; an organism’s body (phenotype) might climb a peak in fitness space, even if narrow, if the fitness function allows.  This is called “directional selection,” or upward evolution toward a fitness peak, as opposed to balancing selection, which would be maintaining a dynamic equilibrium.
Dr. Rice obviously is a whiz at math, so we hate to break the bad news, but garbage in, garbage out.  If the assumptions are wrong, no amount of mathematical hand-waving is going to provide a valid conclusion.  Unless you have a fitness function that is better than blind chance, you are not going to get the evolution of new organs or functions that will improve an organism, except by chance.  William Dembski deals with this extensively in his latest book No Free Lunch, and proves that no fitness function is superior to blind search, because it would require additional information from the outside (i.e., cheating) to distinguish a given fitness function as better than any other – including blind search.  Dr. Rice assumes that organisms are going to trend toward fitness, but how is that to be measured?  If fitness is measured by survival, then it is a tautology.  Recall a recent entry here by a biologist trying to explain what fitness is.  First, Dr. Rice needs to define fitness in terms other than survival, then needs to find a fitness function other than chance (without sneaking in outside information) that will generate directional selection.  Otherwise, all these fancy equations are just smoke and mirrors.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Leonid Meteor Shower – A Biochemical Rain?  11/16/2002
NASA will have two aircraft aloft early Tuesday morning Nov. 19 to try to capture Leonid meteor dust.  Why?
Researchers think meteors might have showered the Earth with the molecules necessary for life’s origin. A two-aircraft campaign, led by astronomer Dr. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will investigate this possibility.  “We are looking for clues about the diversity of comets and their impact on the chemistry of life's origin on Earth,” Jenniskens said.
On board will be 42 astrobiologists from 7 countries.  For details on viewing the Leonids, which may provide a big meteor storm this year (the last chance for 100 years perhaps) see the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website.  JPL astronomer Don Yeomans urges, “If you’re ever going to see them, this might be the year to try.”
Update 01/23/2002: The peaks were not as high as expected, but did occur on schedule.  Check out this report on Space.Com about the NASA mission; they got to see the northern lights with the meteors while aloft.
Get out and enjoy nature’s fireworks shows whenever you can.  Just don’t expect to evolve into something better.  If one hits you (highly unlikely), it might punctuate your equilibrium.
Next headline on: Solar System  •  Next headline on: Origin of Life.

DNA Translator Does the Twist  11/16/2002
A molecular protein machine responsible for translating DNA in a “primitive” cell does some pretty amazing gymnastics, scientists have discovered.  Writing an extended research paper in the Nov 15 issue of Science, two biochemists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Yim and Steitz) found that the RNA Polymerase (RNAP) of T7 bacteriophage is quite the contortionist.  Lacking the larger genome of eukaryotes, its DNA translation equipment has to get by with less, so it performs three large conformational changes on one end, and additional shifts on the other: “The transition from an initiation to an elongation complex is accompanied by a major refolding of the amino-terminal 300 residues. This results in loss of the promoter binding site, facilitating promoter clearance, and creates a tunnel that surrounds the RNA transcript after it peels off a seven-base pair heteroduplex.”  This involves seven subunits rotating 140 degrees and shifting 30 angstroms, then one subunit stretching out over twice its initial length.  Then comes the grand finale:
Perhaps the most unprecedented conformational change involves residues 160 to 190, which not only extensively refold, but move about 70 Å from one side of the polymerase to the other. This region refolds from a short helix and an extended loop into a pair of antiparallel helices (H1 and H2/3). The newly formed compact structure, named subdomain H, forms part of the RNA-transcript exit tunnel and contacts the 5' end of the RNA transcript on one surface and the nontemplate DNA on the opposite surface.
The other end also undergoes shape-changes to create an exit tunnel for the RNA copy of the DNA.  This “massive structural reorganization” of the protein machine causes it to form a protective tunnel, positively charged on the interior, in which the delicate work of translation can occur accurately. The tunnel interior melts the DNA into two strands, shunts the non-coding strand safely to the side, brings the RNA copy elements in and binds them to the DNA template.  As the machine progresses down the track, it twists and bends the DNA against its natural inclination.  This then supplies the energy to open up the strands and create a “transcription bubble” where the RNA letters (nucleotides) are mated with the DNA code in the “active site”.  The tunnel has just the right shape to allow the RNA elements to come in.
          RNAP first has to attach to the DNA at a specific starting point called a promoter; this is the “initiation” phase.  It appears that another protein called lysozyme regulates RNAP by binding to it, and preventing it from entering the “elongation phase” where all the gymnastics occur prior to the real translation work. In the initiation configuration, RNAP can produce only short chains (oligonucleotides) of RNA.  The authors puzzle over whether there is a reason for this:
One might ask why the abortive synthesis of short oligonucleotides exists and why the enzyme might not be “designed” to carry out the stable RNA synthesis that occurs in the elongation phase right from the start. The initiation of RNA synthesis at a particular site that is required for specific gene expression and regulation as well as the need for de novo, unprimed synthesis necessitates binding of the polymerase at a specific DNA location, the promoter. Furthermore, the binding of T7 RNAP to both the promoter and the downstream DNA appears to be essential for opening the bubble. Because short transcripts (2 to 4 nt) cannot form stable heteroduplexes, polymerase leaving the promoter prematurely would presumably lead to bubble closure and transcript displacement by the nontemplate strand. An enzyme locked in the elongation mode conformation seems unlikely to be capable of specific initiation and bubble opening. 
The authors also found that point mutations in certain spots either broke the machine or made it translate much less efficiently.  Eukaryotes have additional protein parts in their translation machinery that do not require the contortions done by RNA Polymerase in these ultra-miniature life-forms.
This is all so mind-boggling.  It’s like these little robots can reorganize themselves, like something in an animated sci-fi movie (or a kid with an advanced Lego set).  These incredibly tiny machines have moving parts that twist and turn and form tunnels and zippers and clamps and presses right on cue, and they are programmed with the know-how to handle every contingency.  How could this evolve by chance? When you see such a marvelous coordination of highly-specific parts, how can you conclude anything less than that a skillful Artist and Engineer designed it?  The rules have changed.  Biochemists have opened the black box, and shown us what really goes on deep inside the fundamental units of life.  It gets more amazing as the focus sharpens.  There is essentially no mention of evolution in this paper. As we show so often, evolutionary storytelling is inversely proportional to the amount of detail available for study.  (For contrast, see next headline.)
Next headline on: The Cell.Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next amazing story.
Where's the Evidence for Selection?  We're Still Looking   11/16/2002
Steve Olson, writing a perspective piece on population genetics in Science November 15, is “Seeking the Signs of Selection.”  He’s pretty sure they will be found, now that we have the complete human genome, and faster ways to sequence genes.  But it’s a daunting task (emphasis added):

Scientists have long sought the genetic imprint of natural selection to understand the forces that have shaped human traits. But it’s been a bit like trying to solve a crossword puzzle in which the clues have been scrambled. Other demographic events such as migrations, population contractions and expansions, and mating traditions have also left their mark on our genomes, making the effects of selection and history hard to untangle. ...

The effort to understand human traits and diseases in terms of natural selection began with Darwin, who sought in his last book, The Descent of Man, “to see how far the general conclusions arrived at in my former works were applicable to man.”  But as the quest moved to the genetic level in the 20th century, the task proved more difficult than expected. To detect selection, researchers first must determine how a genetic sequence would change under neutral conditions in which selection was not a factor. That’s easy to do for an infinitely large, randomly mating population—but human populations have never met those conditions.

About 150 anthropologists, geneticists, and pharmaceutical experts have been meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories to find the missing signs of selection in human genes that have evolved to fight diseases, a “new field, evolutionary medicine.”  Olson claims there have been some prospects, like lactose tolerance and resistance to malaria conferred by the sickle-cell gene, “But beyond these well-known examples, the pickings have been slim.”  He lists five samples in a table, but three are controversial or questionable, and the other two are ambiguous; is it really an improvement to have one disease like sickle-cell anemia balance another disease like malaria, so called “balancing selection”?  And is the one example of “directional selection” (the classic Darwinian mechanism), i.e. lactose tolerance among pastoralists, really conclusive?  Don’t adults with lactose intolerance still have babies?
      The search for remnants of natural selection in the genes is also rendered difficult by the fact that “demographic processes and random chance can mimic selection.”  For example, a population might lack a gene because it migrated as a small group. Worse still, there is no one-to-one correspondence between a gene and a human trait.  Jody Hey of Rutgers explains, “No one has found a variant that explains more than a couple of percent of any common disease, and all of these diseases are going to be highly multigenic” (i.e., influenced by multiple genes).  The search is further clouded by the recognition that social and psychological dimensions of human behavior, such as traditions about alcohol consumption, can affect the distribution of genes.  Nevertheless, Olson is optimistic: “But after years of frustration, researchers are welcoming the new data and methods that might finally yield progress.”
This entry and the one prior to it illustrate a common theme in these pages, that while evolutionists engage in guesswork and wishful thinking, the real hard evidence points to design.  Here we are in 2002, with 1.4 centuries of Darwinism directing biological thought, but where is the evidence for natural selection in the genes, where it should be most obvious?  We have the entire human genome sequenced, but nobody can find it.  The examples he cites in his table are almost ludicrous.  Surely they are nothing to crow about as evidence to support a belief in macroevolution, the origin of some new and complex function.  If anything, they are relics of conservative responses by the genome to maintain the complexity it already had.  “Balancing selection” (getting your enemies to fight each other) is not making you stronger.  Anybody want to inherit the gene for sickle-cell anemia?  That’s devolution, not evolution.  It’s like getting a lucky break because a gunman missed you, and by mistake shot the carjacker who was holding you up.
     One gets the impression these brilliant men have been snookered into a snipe hunt.  Darwin sent them into the woods with their bags and told them there were snipe all over the place.  Some of them are beating the bushes, and others are holding the bags to the ground, while they encourage one another that things are looking up, now that they have been given bigger bags and more helpers to beat the bushes.  Meanwhile, Phillip Johnson and Jonathan Wells are back in the lodge by the fire, chuckling over a hot cup of coffee.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Man Harnesses Nature’s Tiniest Motor   11/15/2002
The Nov. 9 print issue of Science News tells about a UCLA team that is learning how to operate ATP synthase, the tiny energy-pellet manufacturing motor that is present in all living cells.  Carlo Montemagno and team have attached propellers to the spinning motor and are working on ways to switch it on and off.  They hope this will lead to useful applications in nanotechnology.  He is taking his cue from “nature-inspired machines,” the article claims.
We’ve reported several times about ATP synthase and its marvels.  The fact that nanotechnologists are able to operate these devices blurs the line between mechanical and biological worlds.  This is a cogent argument against Hume’s criticism of natural theology.  David Hume argued that one could not compare artificial machines with biological machines to prove the existence of God (e.g., Paley’s divine Watchmaker argument).  But Montemagno is using ATP synthase as a model for nanodevices that might be made of different molecules.  If a man-made motor works on the same principles as the natural one, what’s the difference?  If a human engineer is required to make the artificial one, why not deduce a supreme Engineer as the Maker of the natural one?
Next amazing story

Theory of Plate Tectonics Not on Solid Ground   11/14/2002
Is geology in for a major paradigm shift?  Simon Lamb comments on the new thinking going on in geology in the News and Views section of the
Nov. 14 issue of Nature.  Apparently some hard realities have settled in after the heady days of early plate tectonic theory:
In the late 1960s, with the advent of the theory of plate tectonics, geophysicists finally seemed to have made sense of earthquakes.  The surface of the Earth is covered in a mosaic of rigid plates, and earthquakes, in this theory, occur only in narrow zones where the plates rub against each other.  This was good news, because it provided a basic understanding of why there were earthquakes in the first place.  But in the 1980s, there were second thoughts.  The plate theory worked well in the oceans, but across the continental land masses, earthquakes seemed to occur all over the place.
Lamb describes the change in heart of one geologist in particular, James Jackson, who used to believe this indicated the continents must be fluid.  Now he has changed his mind and “believes that we must go back to trying to understand the motions of small plate-like blocks in the crust.”  His recent article in GSA Today “is seeking to overturn more than two decades of geological thinking about the movement of the Earth’s surface.”  Jackson builds on the accumulating seismic data that indicate earthquakes occur in the crust, not the mantle, so “He proposes that where these motions occur on land, we need look no deeper than the crust for their driving forces.”  Though geologists debate Jackson’s ideas, one thing is clear: there is much to learn.  Simon Lamb explains:
A more fundamental problem is that geologists have surprisingly little to go on when it comes to understanding the mantle, and there is an embarrassingly large gap between laboratory experiments and the behaviour of rocks under real geological conditions.  To compound the problem, McKenzie and Fairhead’s results fly in the face of scores of other studies: studies conducted in northern India and elsewhere suggest much greater values of beam thickness, up to several times the thickness of the crust, plunging geophysicists into an intense argument about the significance of this discrepancy.
But Jackson’s proposal that the crust acts like an elastic beam is not without its own problems.  It doesn’t follow, Lamb argues, that earthquakes would be caused by strain on load-bearing regions.  And Jackson’s belief that the mantle is wet “remains as speculation: if instead it’s dry, it could actually have considerable strength.”  Still, Lamb commends Jackson that he “has bravely stuck his neck out and triggered a vociferous but vital debate.”
Welcome to the world of real geological science.  It’s not as straightforward as those computer animations on the Discovery Channel and displays in the national parks, is it?  The take-home lesson from this headline is how little they really know.  As Simon Lamb admits, “Looking below the crust is not easy.” Models are built to explain certain phenomena.  They gain in popularity for awhile, then sometimes collapse under the load of anomalies they can’t explain.  Maybe plate tectonics theory is on the way out, or maybe it will just be modified, but never assume that what is science today will not be myth tomorrow.
For example, a sign in Yellowstone, posted in stone for decades, explained to clueless visitors that the petrified forests of Specimen Ridge took over 50,000 years to form, as 27 or more forests grew sequentially on top of each other.  The sign is now gone.  When Mt. St. Helens exploded in 1981, geologists saw with their own eyes that catastrophic mudflows could create similar features in one episode.  Some see this as the way science progresses: over time, we are gathering and sifting data and converging on the truth.  But if the dominant explanation for a surface feature open to hands-on study could undergo such a turnover, how can we have any confidence about explanations for unobservable features miles under our feet?  Often the geological stories are the foundation for the evolutionary stories.  If the foundation be destroyed, what can the popularizers do?
Next headline on: Geology.
Fossil Proteins: A New Way to Trace Evolution?   11/13/2002
New Scientist says, “The first complete sequencing of protein from a fossil bone suggests that proteins can survive for millions of years — long enough to probe the evolution of many extinct species, including the ancestors of modern humans.”  Scientists at Newcastle University sequenced osteocalcin protein from extinct bison bones in permafrost believed to be 55,000 years old.  They believe this protein could survive 100 million years at freezing temperatures, and 10 million years at 50oF.  This might provide a way to compare the proteins between extinct species and determine their evolutionary relationships.  The paper is published in the December issue of Geology, which states, “These results suggest that DNA and protein sequences can be used to directly investigate molecular phylogenies over a considerable time period, the absolute limit of which is yet to be determined.”
The method is built on the assumption of evolution, so it is another case of circular reasoning.  They calibrate the survivability of osteocalcin on the evolutionary belief that the extinct bison lived 55,000 years ago.  But ask the obvious question: how could fragile amino acids survive anywhere near that long, or especially 120 million years as is claimed for dinosaur protein?  Wouldn’t that call into question the ages that are claimed for these bones?  Also, the protein amino acid of the extinct bison was identical to that of living bison, and only 1 amino acid different than that of living cattle.  This caused them to make the ad hoc assumption that “osteocalcin sequences diverge slowly.”  If they are calibrating a clock based on the assumption of evolution, they cannot then turn around and use it as evidence for evolution.  The article only offers this dating method as a possibility for future study.  It proves nothing except that there has been no evolution to speak between the extinct and living bison.  But like molecular phylogeny, this method will doubtless give evolutionists another useless tool to make artificial trees while appearing to back it up with empirical measurements.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Defective Proofreading Causes Cancer   11/12/2002
Scientists at University of Utah School of Medicine mutated genes in mice responsible for proofreading DNA, and saw 94% of them get cancer.  Writing in the Nov 12 online preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they stated, “Mutations are a hallmark of cancer.  Normal cells minimize spontaneous mutations through the combined actions of polymerase base selectivity, 3'-5' exonucleolytic proofreading, mismatch correction, and DNA damage repair.”  They induced a point mutation in DNA polymerase delta, one of the molecular machines with a proofreading domain, and the high incidence of tumors resulted.  Only 3-4% of the mice without the mutation developed cancers.
To an evolutionist, mutations are the source of new information and novelty that can be acted on by natural selection to produce eyes and brains and wings and all the other wonders of nature.  But this experiment shows what is intuitively obvious, that throwing mistakes into the works causes death.  It would seem more likely that nature is degenerating, not getting better, as mutations take their toll.  In a perfect world where the error-correcting mechanisms work properly, there wouldn’t be any cancer.  But machines break down, cars rust, and information degrades in a world subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Cancer is a sign we are not evolving, but devolving.  Unless it can be shown that new mutations could actually improve the proofreading capability of DNA polymerase and other error-correcting enzymes, it would be fair to conclude that the human genome is slowly degrading under the mutation load.
Aside from that sobering possibility, ponder the amazing fact that our cells have multiple levels of active processes to keep the DNA code accurate.  At every stage of translation from DNA to protein, molecular machines are there to catch the mistakes and fix them.  Their success rate is far better than any human police or fire department.  They are your heroes.  Instead of blaming God when cancer strikes, how about a little thanksgiving for systems He designed that work well, silently and unselfishly, 99.x% of the time.  He has already told us “it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  If you are trusting in Christ, and if cancer is the means by which God allows you to exit this life, there is a glorified body, free of cancer, awaiting you in heaven.  But if you are not trusting in God’s plan of salvation, then fear: you can work out religiously and be fastidious about eating the right things, but all it takes is one cosmic ray aimed at your DNA polymerase to bring you down.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Time Attributes Wonders of Birth to Evolution   11/11/2002
This week’s cover story in
Time Magazine describes latest findings in human fetal development.  Juxtaposed with high-resolution images and descriptions of the “marvelous” and seemingly “miraculous“ and “vastly complicated” process, the photo captions contain throwbacks to old embryonic recapitulation theory: “40 days: At this point, a human embryo looks no different from that of a pig, chick or elephant.  All have a tail, a yolk sac and rudimentary gills. ...”
Answers in Genesis rightly chides Time for including these false and misleading allusions to a defunct theory, perpetrated by a fraud (Ernst Haeckel), that humans go through stages of their evolutionary past during development.  If you can stomach these portions of the article and read from a viewpoint of intelligent design, you will marvel at the complexity and beauty of the programmed development process that each of us once went through.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next amazing story.
Darwin’s Finches Attacked by Parasites   11/08/2002
The
BBC News reports that some of Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands are being attacked by the larvae of parasitic flies.  The finches were instrumental in the formulation of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.  Scientists are “deeply concerned.”
Oh, well, survival of the fittest, you know.  Why worry; most things are extinct anyway.  They say roaches will probably inherit the earth.  If parasitic flies are the fittest, then long live parasitic flies*.  (But those finches sure are cute.)
Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Darwin.
*The reader surely realizes this is only intended as a parody.  We love birds, especially these ones, since they make such a good illustration against Darwinism.
Does Ocean Chemistry Drive Evolution?   11/08/2002
Geochemistry is getting linked to evolution, says Richard Kerr in the
Nov 8 issue of Science.  In his commentary of a paper in the same issue by J. A. D. Dickson, “Fossil Echinoderms As Monitor of the Mg/Ca Ratio of Phanerozoic Oceans,” he suggests the “controversial” idea that geochemical changes in the oceans might have driven major evolutionary speciation events.  As mid-oceanic ridges rose and deep-sea vents spurted material from the hot crust, and erosion washed minerals into the water, life could have been alternately blessed or stressed by concentrations of minerals.  Organisms creating calcium carbonate shells might have gone through a heyday followed by osteoporosis.  Blooms of organisms favored by optimal chemistry could have created formations like the white cliffs of Dover or the Great Barrier Reef.
This theory really says nothing about evolution.  Just like a passing wave makes a float bob up and down but not travel with the wave, certain organisms may have benefited or suffered from changes in chemistry, without evolving.  Animals and plants bloom where the resources are plentiful; even humans move out of drought regions into lands of milk and honey without evolving into other species.  The evolutionary talk in this article is pure conjecture (storytelling), based on a priori assumption that evolution occurred.  Dickson’s paper does not even mention evolution; he only discusses the magnesium/calcium ratio in starfish skeletons.  It’s a stretch for Kerr to pull an evolutionary tale out of this data, and he admits it (emphasis added):
“It’s a really interesting idea,” says paleontologist David Jablonski of the University of Chicago, “that ocean changes could drive these major turnovers” of marine animals or even facilitate shelled animals’ bursting on the scene.  The trick, he says, will be refining the patterns of evolutionary and ocean change so that cause and effect can be firmly linked.  Then geophysics and life might be joined for good.
Instead of another “really interesting idea” (read: pure conjecture) about evolution, how about some evidence?  Why not a different conjecture?  Try ours: large formations might have formed rapidly, not slowly and gradually, under different conditions.
Evolutionary writings usually have some data in them.  Dickson provided detailed measurements of Mg/Ca ratios, and that’s fine, but they have nothing to say about whether a starfish could evolve out of something simpler.  These kinds of data are smokescreens to give the illusion that the evolutionary tale has some basis in empirical observations, when the direct evidence for macroevolution is missing or imaginary.  Evolutionists no longer feel the need to prove evolution with evidence.  Since evolution is already a “fact,” a story will do (see next headline): find a tiny piece of data somewhere, assume it fits evolutionary theory, weave a monstrous conjecture out of it, then tell the reader they might be onto something big about evolution and hope to figure it out someday.  This is how scam artists work.  “Your investment looks promising, but we need another $30K before we can send you your million.”  The poor sucker keeps being led along until s/he realizes one day the million is never coming, and the money invested is lost forever.  This is not an unfair comparison, because as we have been reporting for over two years from primary pro-evolution sources, major aspects of evolutionary theory are poorly understood (recent example), and often contrary to the observations recent example).  Invest at your own risk.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
How the Elephant Got Its Snorkel   11/07/2002
Today’s
just-so story is brought to you by National Geographic.  Once upon a time, elephants lived in the water with their cousins, the manatees (sea cows).  Then,
For some reason–the availability of a food source that no other creature was exploiting is one possibility–elephants, over time, developed legs that were strong enough to support their huge body weight and enabled them to become land creatures. ... elephants also evolved trunks so they could breathe with their heads underwater.  To this day, elephants remain powerful swimmers.
You see, children, the elephant has unique anatomy like no other mammal.  Instead of a fluid-filled sack around its lungs, the elephant has connective tissue to form a strong but flexible case.  “The unusual lung structure enables elephants to withstand the extreme differences in pressure above and below water without rupturing blood vessels in the lining of the lungs.”  And that, boys and girls, is how the elephant got its trunk.
But teacher, why?
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Do Human Embryos Have a Future?   11/07/2002
The
Nov 7 issue of Nature is concerned that the human embryos might be given legal protections under the Bush administration, and that this might hamper scientific research.  The new Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections has been advised to pay particular attention to “pregnant women, embryos and fetuses,” among other groups.  This language did not exist in the Clinton administration’s earlier panel, the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee.  Although the panel cannot make law, they provide input to Congress, and scientists are concerned that legislators might restrict their ability to perform experiments on embryonic stem cells or embryos left over from in vitro fertilization.  Health and Human Services Director Bill Hall explained that the issue is to protect the rights of women who participate, making sure they are aware of the risks.  Erika Check writes in the Nature editorial:
But some observers say that no matter what the intentions behind the change are, the move is still alarming for scientists and many other groups, such as those who wish to keep abortion legal.  “It’s a dangerous precedent to characterize a cluster of cells as a human subject,” says Kevin Wilson, director of public policy for the American Society for Cell Biology.
The Department of Health and Human Services has jurisdiction over the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
A cluster of cells.  You and I were once just a cluster of cells.  That cluster of cells has all the coding and potential for full adult life.  There is an unbroken chain of humanness from one generation to the next.  The first step in rationalizing atrocities against a helpless group of humans is to say they’re not really human.  Reductionist evolutionism has made us into just a cluster of cells; adults are just a bigger cluster.  Where do they draw the line?  Not even a fetus’s ability to feel pain has stopped the abortion industry from carrying out their grisly deeds all the way to term and even beyond in some cases.  Here’s where the view of God and man comes to a clear dividing line: the image of God, or a cluster of cells?  Human embryos have become experimental playthings for scientists who expect to be paid for their Frankenscience using American tax dollars.  The reasons always sound so noble, but is it right to do wrong to do right?  The principle used to be that medicine would not harm one subject to aid another; that’s why we don’t carve up scientists to give their organs to people suffering from genetic diseases.  Scientists are playing with fire.  These are major moral issues, with ominous implications for any helpless group of individuals.  Scientists pretend they are politically neutral, even benefactors doing pure research for our good.  But scientists were once a cluster of cells, too, and they kid themselves to think their positions do not involve religious, political, and even economic motivations (such as NIH funding).  Science can inform the law, but scientists are not above the law.  If they want unrestricted access to human experimentation, let them go to North Korea, where no such inconvenient moral stipulations will get in their way:
He was told repeatedly of an island in the northeastern part of North Korea, in an area near Chongjin so highly restricted it does not appear on official maps, where prisoners are used as laboratory test material for anthrax and other bacteria, food poisoning, or medical experiments–how long they can stand freezing, or how long they can live underwater–“the cruelest experiments you can imagine,” Dr. Vollertsen says.
So reported Anne Morse just this year in World magazine, March 9, 2002.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Hubble Image 11/07/2002: The Hubble Heritage team has just released a new image of planetary nebula NGC 6369, the Little Ghost Nebula.
The heritage of Hubble has been a dynamic universe, where stars don’t just sit there and twinkle, but explode and die.  Like fireworks, they’re pretty when they go.
Next headline on: Stars.
AAAS Alert: Fight Intelligent Design   11/06/2002
The world’s largest scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has just issued a
board resolution opposing the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms.  Calling the contemporary theory of biological evolution “one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry,” the AAAS resolution calls on members and its 272 affiliated societies to oppose the introduction of intelligent design material in schools, to educate the educators on the nature of science, and “to communicate their support to appropriate parties at the federal, state and local levels of the government.”  EurekAlert explains that this board resolution resulted from concern over recent votes by school boards in Ohio and in Cobb County, Georgia that permit “teaching the controversy” about evolution.  According to Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS, “If intelligent design theory is presented within science courses as factually based, it is likely to confuse American schoolchildren and to undermine the integrity of U.S. science education.”  Leshner and five other AAAS directors have made themselves available for media interviews.
This is great news.  The Darwin Party is so scared that somebody is finally calling their bluff, they have to resort to intimidation and executive order to maintain their stranglehold on education.  What if they called a war and nobody showed up?  What if enough people realize this is a political power play, not a search for the truth about nature?  We mustn’t “confuse” the students, he says.  Good grief.  High school readers, are you offended that he says you aren’t smart enough to hear evidence on two sides of a question and decide which has better support?  Teachers, are you offended that the AAAS has to tell you what science is?  The resolution piously calls for a “fact-based, standards-based science education for American schoolchildren.”  Great.  Remove the evolutionary storytelling and we’ll be making progress.
Members of the AAAS, stand up for your right to do science the old fashioned way, by observation, testable hypothesis, logic, and open debate about the evidence.  Don’t let organizations require your scientific work to maintain a philosophical party line.  If you’re tired of the union bosses telling you how to think, write them to get out of politics and enter into reasoned discussion about the evidence.  That’s what the intelligent design movement is all about.
To understand how Leshner can call evolution one of the most robust products ever to come out of scientific inquiry, you need to take William Dembski’s short course in Evolutionary Logic.  See also our Concise Guide to Understanding Evolutionary Theory and our Baloney Detector on bluffing and bandwagon.
For our readers who support teaching the controversy, realize that nature is not going to obey the AAAS board resolution.  It will continue silently proclaiming intelligent design, whether or not the AAAS succeeds in intimidating school boards.  (Look at our recent headline on the histone code, for example; the author made no mention of evolution, and Darwinism would have been an impediment to understanding the observations.)  That’s reason to take heart and just keep holding up the evidence and letting it tell its own story.  In the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, Dr. Paul Nelson made a statement at the transition between the “old” Darwinian story (that natural selection creates all the beauty and diversity of life) and the “new” intelligent design evidence in molecular machines and DNA.  He said, “Evidence is very powerful, and all of have the sense that if we let that evidence speak for itself, that it would lead us in a very different direction, away from natural selection, and toward a different conclusion about the origin and nature of life on earth.”  Now click on the link below for an example.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: Politics.
Search for Alien Pond Scum Is Serious Science   11/05/2002
It must be serious if NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the Committee on the Origin and Evolution of Life at the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s premier scientific organization, are all behind it.  “Astrobiology is no longer a joke,” said the Astrobiology Institute Director Bruce Runegar.  In a report published on
BayArea.com, Robert S. Boyd of the Mercury News explained why scientists are looking for “weird life” – life based on a different genetic code (although the politically correct term is “non-terrean life”).  Boyd lists about eight current projects astrobiologists are working on, from missions to Mars and Saturn to experiments on Terra (earth).  He clarifies that they are not looking for little green men.  Alien pond scum would do: “Even that would be a monumental discovery, proving that we are not alone in the universe.” 
It doesn’t hurt to look, but they have been looking for a long time, and so far come up empty.  Every proposed habitat to date has proven to be hostile and dead.  Venus was once thought to harbor life but turned out to be like an inferno at the surface, to the surprise of many.  Likewise, the dreams of Percival Lowell (and the fears of H. G. Wells) of finding advanced life on Mars died in 1965 when Mariner 4 first imaged its dusty, cratered surface.  Now, 38 years later, the red planet still shows no evidence of even microbial life, past or present; moreover, its exposure to deadly radiation makes the habitat extreme to say the least.  Jupiter’s moon Europa may have water, and Saturn’s Titan may have organic chemistry; but so far, Earth is still the only known abode of life – all based on the A, G, C, T alphabet of DNA.  Would weird life prove anything?  It’s pretty weird already; just look at the election results.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: Solar System.
Cephalic Index: It’s All in the Head   11/05/2002
In a commentary in the
Nov. 5 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Holloway, anthropologist at Columbia University, is surprised that a long-trusted measurement of the human head may be misleading.  The “cephalic index,” a ratio of head breadth to length, was invented in the 19th century and has been used for scientific and political purposes, sometimes justifying racism or anti-immigration policies.  The work of Franz Boas in 1910-1913 seemed to indicate that it was a function of environment.  This supposedly neutral measurement lent itself to many biased studies about race and nationality.  Holloway mentions “the debacle about Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa” as one casualty of anthropology built on Boas’ premise.  A new study of his data undercuts his conclusions.  Although Holloway cautions that the new study may not be the final word, he hopes that the new data will “lead scientists, social and otherwise, to reflect more carefully on the various mantras and myths that have been collected, particularly by anthropologists of the Boasian persuasion.  Science should, hopefully, march on.”
Head measurements have been used to lend a quasi-scientific respectability to racism in the late 19th and early 20th century, when Darwinism was on the rise.  But even recently, Margaret Mead’s book, now discredited, was required reading for many college students and for years was held up as a model of good scientific research.  (It also tended to justify free sex as normal and healthy.)  Isn’t science supposed to be objective?  Isn’t it based on unbiased measurement?  An alarming exposé on the history and fallacy of using craniometry to justify xenophobia, racism and eugenics is Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (Gould, a staunch anti-creationist, never hesitated to lambaste his fellow evolutionists when he felt they were wrong).  The Boas data have been used by evolutionary anthropologists to propose that head shape and size have been evolving since Mesolithic times, but what if the measurements are invalid?  This story shows that assumptions based on faulty data, with political fallout and all, can go unchallenged for decades.  Science marches on.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Early Man.
Moonwalker Doubts Impact Theory for Origin of Moon   11/04/2002
Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist, doubts the popular Giant Impact theory for the origin of the moon (i.e., that an asteroid slammed into earth and the moon formed out of the debris).  Speaking to the
Geological Society of America last week, 30 years after his historic moon walk, he said the famous orange soil they discovered shows that the “interior of the moon is not cooperating” with the current leading hypothesis.  “If the Giant Impact hypothesis is not compatible with this evidence, alternatives to it should be considered, including capture of a small, independent planet from a solar orbit near that of the Earth’s,” he said.
Good attitude, but it should go farther.  Alternatives to naturalistic philosophy should also be considered.
Schmitt’s suggested alternative, the capture theory, is highly unlikely.  No naturalistic theory for the origin of the moon is without serious problems: see our Aug. 2001 headline on this.  One thing is clear; without our moon, life on earth would be under great stress, maybe even non-existent.  The moon keeps ocean currents moving and tides rising and falling, so that shorelines do not stagnate but are cleansed daily.  And the glory of a solar eclipse is due to highly improbable coincidence that the apparent lunar diameter matches the apparent solar diameter, even though the moon is orders of magnitude smaller than the sun.  We are either extremely lucky to have our moon, or it was designed.  Evolutionists have no choice but to trust dumb luck.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Solar System.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from ... Mars   11/04/2002
Paul Davies, popular author and Australian physicist, thinks life on earth came from Mars, leading ultimately to both men and women.  He shared his opinion recently in
The Guardian, a UK newspaper.  The evidence?  Life evolved too quickly on earth otherwise.
Davies, author of The Fifth Miracle and other writings that grapple with the complexity of life, is usually pretty honest about the problems in origin of life theories.  But this is really illogical.  Like many evolutionary tall tales these days, there is no evidence for it, only evidence that it could not have happened the conventional evolutionary way.  If you have ruled out the good, and all you have left are the bad and the ugly, which would you choose?
For fun, read William Dembski’s satire on Evolutionary Logic on DesignInference.com.
Next headline on: Mars. • Next dumb story.
Cell Memory “Borders on the Miraculous”   11/04/2002
Just when you thought the DNA code was mind-boggling enough, along comes the histone code.  Another coding system somehow helps the cell remember itself: whether it is a blood cell, or a nerve cell, or a muscle cell.  While all these cells in your body have the same genetic code, some kind of epigenetic (above-gene) code is telling it what genes need to be turned on.  The Nov. 1 edition of the
journal Cell has a review by Bryan M. Turner of the University of Birmingham (UK) called “Cellular memory and the histone code” that waxes enthusiastic about this cutting-edge mystery (emphasis added):
It is an obvious but easily forgotten truth that cells must have a mechanism for remembering who they are.  A cell’s identity is defined by its characteristic pattern of gene expression and silencing, so remembering who it is consists of maintaining that pattern of gene expression through the traumas of DNA replication, chromatin assembly, and the radical DNA repackaging that accompanies mitosis [cell division].  The mechanisms by which around 2 m [two meters, about 6 feet] of DNA is packaged into the cell nucleus while remaining functional border on the miraculous and are still poorly understood.  However, we do know more about the first stage in this packaging process, the nucleosome core particle.  This structure comprises an octamer of core histones (two each of H2A, H2B, H3, and H4), around which are wrapped 146 base pairs of DNA in 1 3/4 superhelical turns (Luger et al., 1997 ).  The reduction in DNA length produced by this histone-induced supercoiling is modest, but is an essential first step in the formation of higher-order chromatin structures.  In recent years it has become clear that the nucleosome has an additional role, perhaps equally important and conserved, namely regulation of gene expression.  Particularly exciting is the growing probability that the nucleosome can transmit epigenetic information from one cell generation to the next and has the potential to act, in effect, as the cell’s memory bank.
Turner describes how the histones have tails that are exposed on the exterior of the nucleosome.  It is on these tails where a variety of enzymes can rearrange some of the amino acids, providing a “rich source of epigenetic information.”  So how is the code maintained and translated?
It has been suggested that specific tail modifications, or combinations thereof, constitute a code that defines actual or potential transcriptional states (Jenuwein and Allis, 2001; Richards and Elgin, 2002; Spotswood and Turner, 2002).  The code is set by histone modifying enzymes of defined specificity and read by nonhistone proteins that bind in a modification-sensitive manner.  In order to realize its full information carrying potential, the code must use combinations of modifications.  This requires not only proteins that can read such combined modifications, but mechanisms by which they can be put in place and maintained.  Recent papers have provided new insights into how specific combinations of tail modification might be generated and revealed mechanisms by which the modification of one residue can determine that of another.
Turner discusses in some detail the types of reactions already known and puzzles that remain to be solved.  The histone code appears quite different from the DNA sequence of letters; it is more a sequence of events: “Viewed in this light, the histone code can be seen as part of a sequence of events, possibly involving structural and catalytic proteins and RNAs, whose end result is a functionally stable chromatin state.”  At times in the article the complexity of all of this seems to get to him; “To add further complexity,” begins one sentence.  Near the end, Turner remarks wryly, “It is in the nature of scientific progress that simple ideas, like people, grow more complex with age.”
This is wonderful and amazing stuff.  The trend of increasing complexity as more is uncovered at the basic unit of life shows no sign of abating.  When you consider just how DNA in the nucleus has to be bundled safely to avoid damage during the “trauma” and “radical repackaging” that occurs during cell division, that alone is cause for astonishment.  Click the link for an illustration from Eastern Michigan University showing how the six feet of DNA, so thin and fragile as to be invisible without an electron microscope, is first wrapped around the nucleosome, then supercoiled into chromatin, then bundled into chromosomes, without breaking a link anywhere (most of the time) in 60,000 genes – that’s a feat.   A reader sent in this link from Technical University of Denmark – check out the great illustrations of DNA packaging, and realize that this all has to be done over and over, quickly, every time the cell divides.  But now to realize that the components are actually maintaining codes and libraries, and have the mechanisms to read and act on the codes, all independently of DNA, is almost too much to fathom.
We’re witnessing a revolution.  The “Central Dogma” of genetics has been that DNA is the master control of the cell and the basis of heredity.  Now, it is becoming increasingly apparent that DNA is more a passive library, and that other master controls (epigenetic factors) that can be inherited independently of DNA are using the code as part of a more complex system, made up of proteins, enzymes, RNA, and DNA, that are all interdependent.  Turner makes only one single-word, vague, indirect reference to evolution in his entire paper, but it’s no comfort to a Darwinist: he says these DNA packaging systems and controls are all conserved, i.e., unevolved from the most primitive bacteria.  This means that not only the DNA, but the histones, the histone code, and the enzymes that read and translate them, had to all be present and working from the very beginning.  Life did not start simple; it started complex!
Ponder his statement that these processes “border on the miraculous.”  Turner does not mean, of course, that they are miraculous, nor do we.  It just means that they comprise such a wonderful and amazing system, it is like watching a world-class circus act or magic show or performance that leaves you gasping and clapping and standing up to cheer.  It is like incredibly rich and robust software controlling a coordinated series of automated events that is breathtaking in its complexity and function.  Remember that Darwin and his evangelists knew nothing about this.  If biochemistry had preceded phylogeny, one wonders how history might have taken a radically different turn around 1859.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next amazing story.
Preach It, Brother: Why You Should Believe in the Big Bang   11/02/2002
The December issue of Astronomy gets downright polemical with its cover story, “Do you believe in the Big Bang?  5 reasons you should.”  Both the editor (Dave Eicher) and the preacher (Jim Sweitzer) seem exasperated that only a third of the public accepts the Big Bang theory.  Hearing people doubt it is “shocking” to Sweitzer, since to him it ranks with the Copernican proof that the earth revolves around the sun.  He is even more aghast that belief in the Big Bang by the public actually declined in the 1990s.  The current 33% figure is “smaller still than the number of supporters of evolution (53 percent), a subject steeped in controversy in recent years.”
So in an effort to enlighten the public, Sweitzer makes “the case for the Big Bang”
The saga of the Big Bang is the scientific origin story for all of modern astrophysics and the language by which astronomers explain nearly all they see with their telescopes.  It is to an astronomer what evolution is to a biologist – and even more unpopular with the public.  So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you’re on the fence about the theory, read on – the following five exhibits will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe was created in the Big Bang.
This should be good.  Here are the five reasons:
  1. Exhibit A: The night sky.  The Big Bang solves Olber’s Paradox that the sky is dark by showing the universe had a beginning and has a history.
  2. Exhibit B: The expanding universe.  Red shifts prove that the galaxies are flying apart; the light from the Andromeda galaxy left “two million years ago, when Homo habilis, the earliest species of our genus Homo, fashioned Earth’s first stone tools.”
  3. Exhibit C: Background radiation.  The Cosmic Background Radiation (CMB) is the echo of the Big Bang.  Recent measurements show the CMB was hotter in the past, as predicted.
  4. Exhibit D: The light elements.  Ratios of hydrogen and helium fit the Big Bang; “The prediction of the exact abundances of the light elements ... together with the expansion of space and the CMB, clinched the Big Bang theory.”
  5. Exhibit E: Evolution of stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.  As we look deeper into space, as in the Hubble Deep Field, we see different generations of objects, indicating a universe that is steadily changing over time.
Sweitzer admits in closing that there are unanswered questions, but is not surprised: “Although the power of science and technology are great, we’ve only been at it a short while, merely hundreds of years.  The universe has been using physics hundreds of millions of times longer than we have.  We still have some catching up to do.”
Astronomy should be ashamed to print this simplistic, high-school pep talk.  It reminded us of a Sydney Harris cartoon; we couldn’t find a copy on the Web to show you, so we’ll have to use word pictures.  Harris portrays an outdoor Pentecostal-style revival meeting in progress, but the preacher and the crowd are modern cosmologists.  The preacher is waving his textbook overhead, and with great fervor, delivers his sermon, punctuated by responses from the spirit-filled audience:
“Brothers and sisters, at the time of 10-33 seconds 
after the Big Bang, the heat was enormous.”
“Verily, it was over 1032 degrees!”
“Matter and anti-matter arose!”
“Hallelujah – they annihilated each other.”
“And the universe was filled with particles...”
”Amen!  Quarks...”
“And gluons...”
“Yea, leptons...”
The banner behind the stage reads, BELIEVE.
This is a reasonable facsimile of the Astronomy cover story.  From their ivory tower, they are chagrined that the public doesn’t “get” evolution, and they don’t “get” the Big Bang, and they ought to.  Eicher says, “you should have as much confidence in the Big Bang as in the next sunrise.”  We assume our readers are more sturdy than to melt under blasts of hot air, so let’s call brother Sweitzer’s bluff, with all due respect.  But anyone who thinks Homo habilis is a clear-cut
human ancestor, or who personifies nature by saying that the universe has been using physics longer than we have, loses some respect right off the bat.
It’s pretty bold to call these five exhibits proof of the Big Bang, and pretty disingenuous to gloss over the problems, which are many and major.  Sweitzer and Eicher have apparently not been reading the Cosmology chain links on Creation-Evolution Headlines.  Nor have they revealed some of the honest admissions that leading cosmologists have made about metaphysical and anomalous facets of Big Bang theory, else their tone would be far less hortatory.  It all sounds so plausible in glittering generalities, but the devil is in the details.  Sweitzer accepts inflation theory, for instance, but which brand?  Guth’s original model, now discredited?  Chaotic inflation?  Alternate universes?  What about the antimatter deficit?  How could the universe start in such a low-entropy state?  What triggered the Big Bang, and why?  How did structure arise so quickly (the lumpiness problem)?  Why did 90% of star formation occur in the first billion years, and why are there no pure hydrogen stars?  What about large-scale peculiar motions contrary to universal expansion, and the huge walls and voids observed in superclusters?  Why is the universe relatively homogeneous and isotropic (the horizon problem)?  Why is the density of the universe finely balanced with the expansion rate (the flatness problem)?  What is dark matter, if it exists at all?  If the Big Bang is so solid, why did the accelerating universe catch cosmologists off guard?  Why were they surprised to find heavy elements in a quasar so soon after the beginning?  What about the anthropic characteristics of the universe, the Milky Way, and earth (the apparent fine-tuning of physics for our benefit)?  What is the origin of information?  How can you get something out of nothing?  How do we know cosmologists are not on the wrong track?  Why must people believe what is illogical?  These are just for starters!  It is disingenuous not to treat these questions and problems with humility.
The issue is not the observations.  We can all agree that yes, there are red shifts, and there is a CMB.  More power to COBE and MAP and the other missions trying to resolve the data to higher levels of precision.  The issue is the interpretation: which Big Bang model, and is the Big Bang the only explanation?  If so, why have other cosmologists recently come up with bizarre alternatives like the ekpyrotic model (the Big Splat), if not for the fact that current Big Bang theory leaves much to be desired?  They cannot claim that helium abundances and the CMB values are evidence for the Big Bang, when they were determined and fitted to the data after the Big Bang was proposed; that’s the “plostrum ante equum” fallacy (cart before the horse), like the Senator who ran in front of the marching crowd and claimed he was leading them.  Most important, if the universe is fine-tuned and in a low-entropy state, giving evidence of intelligent design, why not interpret the same data as evidence of a Creator God “stretching out the heavens” as the Bible says in several passages?  To claim yours is the only interpretation of the data, and ignore the problems, is a bad case of card stacking.  And to claim it must be true because it the majority believes it is just bandwagon.
Most fruitful in Sweitzer’s sermon was his analogy of the Big Bang theory to biological evolution.  Many insights can be gained from the comparison:
  • Evolution begins with a primordial soup; the Big Bang begins with a particle soup.
  • Evolution has missing links; the Big Bang has missing mass.
  • Evolution has no explanation for the origin of life; the Big Bang has no explanation for the origin of matter.
  • In evolution, life started abruptly; in the Big Bang, the universe came into being abruptly.
  • Evolution has asymmetry in proteins; the Big Bang has asymmetry in antimatter.
  • Evolution has an uncomfortably early appearance of the first life; the Big Bang has an uncomfortably early appearance of stars and galaxies.
  • Evolution has a Cambrian explosion; the Big Bang has a structure explosion.
  • Evolution has punctuated equilibria; the Big Bang has quantized redshifts.
  • Evolution has out-of-order fossils; the Big Bang has out-of-order stars, and clusters “older” than the universe.
  • Both are contrary to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Like evolution, the Big Bang is an interpretive framework into which data are force-fitted.  Like evolution, the Big Bang is impervious to contrary evidence, always finding a just-so story to accommodate it.  Like evolution, the Big Bang’s adherents hold to it with ardor and conviction, intimidating those who disagree.
So should you believe in the Big Bang?  “Have faith, brother, have faith.”
“I personally feel it is presumptuous to believe that man can determine the whole temporal structure of the universe, its evolution, development and ultimate fate from the first nanosecond of creation to the last 1010 years, on the basis of three or four facts which are not very accurately known and are disputed among the experts.”
– John Bahcall, senior astrophysicist, Institute for Advanced Study
For a very different opinion on the status of the Big Bang, we highly recommend you read this op-ed piece by Robert L. Oldershaw of Amherst that appeared in Sky and Telescope a few years ago.  Hold it up side-by-side with the Astronomy article and be amazed at the difference.
Next headline on: Cosmology.

Two For the Price of One: Did Transfer RNA Arise From Complementary Genes?   11/01/2002
The latest (Oct 27) issue of
Molecular Cell has a novel theory on how transfer RNA evolved.  In a letter to the editor, Charles Carter and William Duax revive the 1995 Rodin-Ohno hypothesis that suggests complementary strands of DNA can code for different proteins.  To understand this, we need to back up and learn a little about transfer RNA.  DNA translation, you may recall, starts when enzymes unwind a strand of DNA to expose a gene, and a messenger RNA molecule forms by base-pairing with the exposed DNA nucleotides (the “letters” A, C, T, and G).  The resulting messenger RNA molecule (mRNA), like a long computer tape bearing the code for a protein, exits the nucleus and approaches a ribosome.  There, individual transfer RNA molecules (tRNA), each carrying a specific amino acid on one end and a three-letter RNA codon on the other, mate with specific parts of the mRNA by base-pairing, and the amino acids on the other end join together into a protein chain.  This much is elementary biochemistry, illustrated beautifully with computer animation in the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life.  The process is actually much more complicated, requiring a host of helper enzymes at every step.
One set of helpers that is extremely critical to the accuracy of the operation comprises the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase family (aaRS).  These are the enzymes that join the appropriate amino acids to the transfer RNA molecules.  There are 20 of these aaRS enzymes, one for each of the 20 types of amino acids used in proteins.  What is most interesting and amazing about them is explained by James F. Coppedge in his book Evolution: Possible or Impossible?:
There seems to be no natural attraction between an amino acid and its own transfer-RNA, so something must bring them together.  It is as if there were two languages, and neither party understands the other except when there is an interpreter to bridge the gap.  This essential task is done by a special group of enzymes which match the different tRNA’s and amino acids.  One part of each such enzyme fits just its own particular kind of amino acid and no other.  Another part of the enzyme interacts with its own type of tRNA.  In plain language, it can be pictured as follows: the enzyme grasps its amino acid and its tRNA and fastens them together. (p. 147)
In the Molecular Cell article, Carter and Duax recognize the challenge that this complex arrangement presents to evolutionary theory (emphasis added):
The fidelity of protein synthesis resides almost entirely in the 20 aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRS), which acylate their cognate tRNAs with the appropriate amino acid.  The origin of codon-dependent translation presents a challenging intellectual problem in biology, owing to the apparently irreducible complexity represented by their simultaneous appearance.  Key to the conundrum is that contemporary aaRS divide into two classes each with ten enzymes (Eriani et al., 1990 ), whose respective architectures have quite unrelated homologies (Cusack et al., 1990 ).  Moreover, catalytic domains in class I and II aaRS:tRNA complexes from corresponding subclasses have complementary shapes that recognize nonoverlapping surfaces on the tRNA acceptor stems (Ribas de Poublana and Schimmel, 2001 ).  Pairwise binding between classes may therefore have protected tRNAs early in evolution, and the class division likely dates from the dawn of biology.
Drawing from an analogy with a gene found in a freshwater mold that seems to code for two different proteins, depending on whether the primary strand of the gene or its complementary strand is translated, Carter and Duax propose that genetic complementarity is behind the origin of the two classes of aaRS enzymes: one class evolved off the primary “sense” strand of DNA, and another class evolved off the complementary “antisense” strand.  From the original primordial split, the 20 aaRS enzymes arose: “Two synthetases, coding from that repertoire, might similarly have sufficed to produce recognizable protein folds.  Subclass speciation via gene duplication then would have enriched the coding repertoire.”
Let’s think about this.  Imagine a string of Morse Code dots and dashes that carries a message: for instance,
.--- --- .... -. .-.. --- ...- . ... -- .- .-. -.--
reads "John loves Mary."  According to this theory, you would be able to get a message out of the complementary string by reversing all the dots and dashes:
-... ... ---- .- -.-- ... ---. - --- .. -. -.- .-..
which reads, “Bs?a ys?to Inkl” (where ? means undefined).  Try writing a message in code that yields a different message with its complement, and you see how difficult it is.  In DNA, you have four letters, not two, and they are arranged in triplets (codons).  Imagine how much more difficult to get meaningful sequences out of the sense (primary) and antisense (complementary) strands when dealing with sequences hundreds of base pairs long!  If this really happens in protein translation, it almost screams for intelligent design.
Four letters (A,C,T,G) that can be grouped in threes yields 64 possible combinations of codons (43), yet there are only 20 amino acids.  This means that the aaRS enzymes must be able to match 20 amino acids to 64 possible tRNA molecules.  It’s absolutely mind-boggling to consider how this all works.  The aaRS family is not only the interpreter between two foreign languages, but is able to recognize when one language has three words for something and the other language only has one word, as if translating the English words mark, example, and pattern into the Greek word tupos.  Beyond this, the synonyms seem to carry shades of meaning, as if one synonym signals the tRNA that it should be the start of a message.  Could such a fantastic translation system evolve without a mind?
It’s noteworthy that Carter and Duax use Michael Behe’s term “irreducible complexity” in describing the aaRS system.  They try hard to “start to get ready to begin to commence” reducing the complexity to a manageable level (for a naturalistic theory).  Their hypothesis, though interesting, is only tentative and vastly oversimplified.  It only attempts to understand how the two different classes of aaRS enzymes bifurcated at some time in the past; it has nothing to say about the precision of function these amazing enzymes possess.  They assume that after the bifurcation, mutation and recombination did the rest of the design work.  That is like stringing copies of the “John loves Mary” Morse Code message together, introducing typographical errors, and expecting it to carry a longer and more profound message!  Carter and Duax have no explanation for the origin of the information content of the message, other than to assume natural selection did it.  Natural selection is the “god of the gaps” of the Darwinist, an omniscient and omnipotent deity that can conveniently do the necessary miracles without leaving a trace or a scripture.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
How Complex Organs Like the Placenta Evolved   11/01/2002
An article in the
Nov. 1 issue of Science hints that Darwinists are on the defensive against creationists.  Virginia Morell starts out (emphasis added):
It’s one of the oldest riddles in evolutionary biology: How does natural selection gradually create an eye, or any complex organ for that matter?  The puzzle troubled Charles Darwin, who nevertheless gamely nailed together a ladder of how it might have happened—from photoreceptor cells to highly refined orbits—by drawing examples from living organisms such as mollusks and arthropods.  But holes in this progression have persistently bothered evolutionary biologists and left openings that creationists have been only too happy to exploit.  Now a team of researchers presents a model system for studying the evolution of complex organs—in this case, the placenta—that Darwin could only dream about.
She reports on the work of David Reznick on placentas in a kind of guppylike fish.  Reznick, of UC Riverside, chose this genus because some member species have placentas and some don’t, and some appear to have intermediate stages.  What is it about the placentas of this genus that can help the Darwinists find ammunition against the creationists?
Placentas serve as a decent stand-in for eyes and other complex organs such as the heart or kidney whose histories evolutionary biologists have never been able to trace, Reznick and colleagues argue.  By definition, complex organs are composites of independently derived features; for instance, the human eye focuses light and also perceives color.  In the case of the placenta, the organ provides nutrients for the fetus while simultaneously managing waste products and regulating gas exchanges.  Evidence of the intermediate steps for acquiring such organs is missing from the fossil record, enabling creationists to claim they were “created” de novo.
So how did Reznick answer this one of “thorny evolutionary questions” with guppy placentas?  First, he and colleague Mark Springer developed a phylogenetic tree for the genus, which indicated to him that placentas evolved three times among different species of the fish.  Then he correlated the tree with “dates of geological events that probably led the species to diverge.”  He found that the shortest time interval between a species with a placenta “and its last common ancestor without one was 750,000 years–a period in keeping with the 400,000 years other researchers have calculated for the evolution of the eye.  Despite this relatively short period, ‘it’s not a problem for evolution to create this kind of complexity,’ says [Stephen] Stearns [of Yale].”  Another Yale biologist cautions that Reznick has not proved that this little guppy placenta is a complex organ, and Reznick admits it.  But at least these guppies might provide a glimpse of how it happened.  “We can’t ask how this kind of adaptation evolved with mammals because it only happened once over 100 million years ago,” he says.  Morell agrees: “But like the evolution of the eye, the evolution of the mammalian placenta is lost in history.”
Reznick’s paper in the same issue of Science is entitled “Independent Origins and Rapid Evolution of the Placenta in the Fish Genus Poeciliopsis”, co-authored by his colleague Mark Springer and by Mariana Mateos of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It states that the fish placenta is really a “follicular pseudoplacenta” that only appears to have some functional similarities to the mammalian placenta.
Did Reznick or Morell or the others provide any independent evidence on how a complex organ like a placenta evolved?  No!  Their only arguments beg the question: i.e., evolution happened, so it must have happened.  The phylogenetic tree assumes evolution.  The geologic dating assumes evolution.  The whole answer assumes evolution!  Did they provide any detailed analysis of how a fish without a placenta could evolve one by slow, gradual steps, where each step provided an advantage?  Did they prove that the guppy placenta has complexity comparable to a mammalian placenta or an eye?  Did they explain why some guppies get along just fine without it?  They did none of these things.  They just assumed it happened, and since it happened in a relatively short time period according to their own evolutionary assumptions, it must not be a problem for evolution to evolve placentas or any other complex organ.  Their reasoning also depends on the broken molecular clock hypothesis and phylogenetic trees that exist only in the imagination of the investigator.  Somehow geologic events (asteroid impacts?) spurred these little fish to evolve complex organs by some unknown, magical means, while leaving their cousins without them.  And they did this trick not just once, but three times!  If this is the best reasoning that the Darwin Party can come up with against creationists, and if this is the best that one of the most eminent scientific journals in the world can find to print, their days are numbered.
What is most notable about this story, as we have seen often before, are the glaring admissions of how lacking in evidence the evolutionary tall tale is (look at the bold print above again: evolutionists have never been able to trace the history of complex organs).  Their references to those pesky creationists makes it appear that they are feeling threatened; no longer can they get away with telling a just-so story with impunity.  Now they are going to have to supply evidence to back it up.  There must be some around here, somewhere...
Next headline on: Fish. • Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
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Featured Creation Scientist for November

Sir Francis Bacon
1561 - 1626

Is Christian philosophy good for science?  In this series we showcase many examples, but the case could hardly be made stronger than to point to Mr. Scientific Method himself, Sir Francis Bacon.

Although not a practicing scientist, Bacon is considered by many historians to be the “founder of modern science.”  His philosophy and writings were largely responsible for igniting the scientific revolution in the 17th century.  Numerous intellectuals like Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton seized on the “new philosophy” of Bacon that emphasized empiricism and induction.  Casting aside dependence on authorities like Aristotle, the new science exploded on the scene, yielding a wealth of discoveries and inventions that has continued unabated to this day.  But this “new philosophy” was really nothing new; it was a return to the principles of the Bible.  The “founder of modern science” was a Bible-believing Christian, and Christian doctrine was the foundation of his thinking.

A recent book makes the connection between Bacon and the Bible clear.  John Henry, a science history professor at Edinburgh University, has just written (2002) a biography of Bacon called Knowledge is Power: How Magic, the Government and an Apocalyptic Vision Inspired Francis Bacon to Create Modern Science.  Henry claims that Sir Francis Bacon, who according to traditional wisdom “invented modern science,” was motivated by “magic” (read: Christian faith), government (read: knowledge for practical good of mankind) and “apocalyptic vision” (meaning, a literal belief in the prophecy of Daniel 12:4, “Many will go to and fro, and knowledge will be increased”).  In a review of the book in the August 22, 2002 issue of Nature, Alan Stewart states:

Bacon firmly believed that he was living in the era in which the scriptures predicted that knowledge would increase beyond all recognition.  Had not the past decades seen crucial advances in learning, warfare and navigation, in the form (respectively) of the printing press, gunpowder and the magnetic compass, he asked?  Part of his Instauratio Magna was entitled Parasceve, the Greek word for preparation, but particularly the day of preparation for the Sabbath, the ultimate Sabbath of the Day of Judgement.  “What else can the prophet mean... in speaking about the last times?” Bacon asked rhetorically in his Refutation of Philosophies in 1608.  “Does he not imply that the passing to and fro or perambulation of the round earth and the increase or multiplication of science were destined to the same age and century?”

Stewart continues, “Perhaps the most compelling section of the book deals with Bacon’s ‘magic’, by which Henry means religion.  Here he makes a more convincing case than many for the profoundly religious underpinning of Bacon’s philosophical project.”  Notice that neither Stewart nor Henry are Christian apologists, but both here recognize that the Bible had a direct impact on the scientific revolution.  Like a spark to a fuse, the Bible ignited in Bacon’s mind a dream of a new instrument, a Novum Organum, that could lead to an increase of knowledge, just as the Bible predicted for the last days.

The essence of Baconian philosophy is induction: instead of deducing the nature of Nature from authorities like Aristotle and Galen, scientists should build from the ground up.  Gather facts.  Measure things.  Collect and organize observational evidence, then build a hypothesis to explain them.  Test all hypotheses against the facts.  Bacon was convinced this method would provide a more certain path to truth than trust in fallible human reason, and would issue in a golden age of discovery.  The scientific method we learn in school is largely Baconian: gather observations, make a hypothesis to explain them, test the hypothesis, and reject all causes inconsistent with the observations.  Hypotheses that pass empirical tests can advance to theories and laws.

Philosophy of science has changed and matured quite a bit since Bacon, and philosophers continue to debate what constitutes science vs pseudoscience.  The Baconian ideal seems a little simplistic and impractical; we now recognize the need for scientific theories to make predictions, and the requirement for falsifiability in hypotheses.  No matter; the value of Bacon’s method was seen in its fruits: major new discoveries in chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy; the founding of new branches of science; the overturning of long-held false beliefs, and new institutions like the Royal Society.  One of the ironies of history was that the other Bacon in our series (Roger Bacon), had promoted the same value of experimental science three and a half centuries earlier.  It would make a good research project to look for any connections or influences of Roger on Sir Francis, other than that they were both Englishmen.

But doesn’t the rejection of authority shoot down Bacon’s own belief in the authority of the Bible?  Skeptics sometimes portray early Christian founders of science as closet doubters who made a show of Christian piety to keep out of trouble.  According to this view, Bacon sugar-coated his scientific philosophy with Biblical words to make it more palatable to the religious authorities.  If that were so, Bacon would not have written elegant poetry, apparently from the depths of his soul, praising God and the Bible.  John Henry makes no such intimation that Bacon was a hypocrite.  From his research, the Biblical world view was the foundation of Bacon’s scientific philosophy, not its pretext.  Interestingly, continental scholars like Descartes and some more skeptical of the Bible disagreed with Bacon’s advocacy of induction and empiricism, placing more value on human reason.

But again, what of Biblical authority?  To Francis Bacon, the Bible provided a view of God, the world, and man that made science a noble duty.  Nature was God’s finely crafted machine, and God had given man the aptitude and duty to discover its workings.  Human reason alone was insufficient; it needed to be guided by Bible doctrine on the nature of God and the world, and by observation of the Creator’s laws.  The very belief in natural laws was a legacy of the Scriptures.  Sir Francis believed that, in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, man would increase in knowledge in the last days by casting off unbiblical authorities like Aristotle and investigating God’s natural revelation (creation) with minds that had been created in His image.

Consider again the Biblical basis of the three foundations of Bacon’s philosophy described in the title of Henry’s biography: (1) “magic” (a poor choice of words), meaning religious belief, which Steward calls a “profound underpinning” of Bacon’s philosophy; (2) “government,” underscoring the God-given responsibility of governments to work for the good of the people; (3) “apocalyptic vision,” the belief that Daniel’s prophecy should inspire us to advance knowledge for the good of mankind.  While the Bible does not propose a scientific method, it provides the fundamental view of God, man, and the world that makes scientific progress both possible and desirable.  “The works of the Lord are great,” writes the author of Psalm 111:2, “studied by all who delight in them.”

King Solomon, for example, was an early spare-time scientist.  He busied himself with gaining knowledge about all kinds of animals, plants, birds, insects and fish (I Kings 4:33-34).  His Proverbs are filled with admonitions to gain knowledge and wisdom.  Though in his old age Solomon considered the search for knowledge as one of the “vanity of vanities,” (Eccl 1:13-18), unattainable (8:16-17) and an endless drudgery (12:12), it was only so if pursued without thought of creation and final judgment (Eccl. 11:9-12:1).  To one’s own heart, the reward of wisdom justified its pursuit (7:11, 12, 25).  When the Creator is foremost in mind, observation of the wonders of creation springs out of worship — Psalms 104 and 148 are good examples.  Solomon’s peacetime science was a natural outgrowth of the gift of wisdom and discernment God gave him (I Kings 3-4).  Bacon’s thinking during the Elizabethan golden age makes an interesting parallel.

Francis Bacon was no closet skeptic; for him, the Bible was the key to liberating man from the fallible opinions of human authorities, and Genesis gave the impetus to take seriously our God-given role as stewards of creation.  That included doing science.  He viewed atheism as plebeian: “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism,” he quipped, “but depth of philosophy bringeth a man’s mind about to religion.” (To an Elizabethan, religion was synonymous with Christianity.)  Similarly, he said “Philosophy, when superficially studied, excites doubt; when thoroughly explored, it dispels it.”  In a statement congruent with the modern Intelligent Design Movement, he declared, “I had rather believe all the fables in the legends and the Talmud and the Alcoran [Koran], than that this universal frame is without a mind.” For Francis Bacon, science was an act of worship as well as a shield against falsehood.  He said, “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error: first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”

Sir Francis Bacon is more remembered for his ideas than his life.  He was born in London in 1561 after the recent accession of Elizabeth I, when English society was taking a dramatic upturn.  A contemporary of Galileo, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, Bacon worked not as a scientist, but as a lawyer and politician, becoming a barrister in 1582 and a member of the House of Commons in 1584.  He was knighted in 1603 under the newly-crowned King James I, and advanced to Solicitor General, Attorney General, and by 1618, Lord Chancellor.  Unfortunately, he sullied his reputation in 1621 by taking a litigant’s bribe.  Though he had been entangled in a struggle between the King and Parliament, he admitted to the corruption and had to resign in disgrace.  He entered the world without riches; his youth had been poor, penniless at 18 when his father died; his old age saw the loss of his fortune and reputation.  He died in 1626, apparently doing experiments to illustrate his devotion to empirical science; he caught a chill collecting snow, in hopes of determining the preservation powers of cold on meat.  In all, Bacon’s life and career were rather unremarkable; his personal character “was by no means admirable,” according to Frederic R. White.  He made no significant scientific discoveries nor uncovered any scientific laws.  But his ideas were profound, reflective of deep thought and genius.

Bacon was a philosopher of the first order, influencing Western civilization for centuries, even though in his day he was roundly criticized by other philosophers.  He referred to his critics as “Men of sharp wits, shut up in their cells of a few authors, chiefly Aristotle, their Dictator.”  Rather than rehashing old ideas with deductive reason, Bacon advocated “the fresh examination of particulars,” i.e., gathering evidence by experiment and then making interpretations, rather than deducing the nature of the particulars from universal forms and principles.  Encyclopedia Britannica explains that he was no raw Empiricist; he believed in formulating laws and generalizations; “His enduring place in the history of philosophy lies, however, in his single-minded advocacy of experience as the only source of valid knowledge and in his profound enthusiasm for the perfection of natural science.”  Most of Bacon’s philosophical writing was done late in life – his first work, The Advancement of Learning (1605) at age 44; his greatest work Novum Organum (part of a larger planned work) in 1620 (age 59), writing more till his death at age 65, with some additional works published posthumously.

Like Pascal, Bacon had a flair for the piquant proverb.  His eponyms are words fitly spoken, like “apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).  Here are some examples to get a taste of his thinking:

Knowledge itself is power.

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.

Money is like muck, not good except that it be spread.

Discretion in speech is more than eloquence.

Choose the life that is most useful, and habit will make it the most agreeable.

To choose time is to save time.

Books must follow sciences, and not sciences books.

God has placed no limits to the exercise of the intellect that he has given us, on this side of the grave.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.

The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits but not when it misses.

A prudent question is one-half wisdom.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.

To read without reflecting, is like eating without digesting.

More than entries for Reader’s Digest “Quotable Quotes,” however, Bacon’s words carried a vision of the New Atlantis, the new path to knowledge about the world.  Loren Eiseley, in The Man Who Saw Through Time, said that Bacon “...more fully than any man of his time, entertained the idea of the universe as a problem to be solved, examined, meditated upon, rather than as an eternally fixed stage, upon which man walked.”  (In a similar vein, current philosopher of science Paul Nelson has described science within an Intelligent Design framework as “an enormous puzzle-solving expedition, in which you expect to find order and rationality right at the root of things.”)  The title page of The Advancement of Learning portrays this new science taking mankind beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the presumed limits of man’s explorations.  The bottom contains the quote from Daniel 12:4, “many will pass through and knowledge will be increased.”

Bacon was strongly opposed to a priori assumptions.  In that regard, a little neo-Baconian philosophy would be good in our day.  Darwinists typically assume that evolution is true, and mold the observations to fit that assumption.  A recent book by Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God (2001), demonstrates how the alleged proofs of Darwinism are ultimately metaphysical.  Whether they talk about homology or fossils or microevolution, their observations are incidental; the force of the arguments used by Darwinists against creation revolve around what a Creator would or would not do.  When pressed to the wall for evidence to demonstrate evolution, what they supply cannot justify the claims made for major transformations.  Francis Bacon would be appalled.

We stated early on that inclusion of a person in this series does not imply 100% endorsement.  The theme is that Christian thought has been good for science.  In some regards, Christians should be cautious of Baconian philosophy.  Though he was not Catholic or scholastic, Bacon apparently accepted the premise of Thomas Aquinas that the Fall left man’s reason unscathed.  He also wrote, “Our humanity were a poor thing were it not for the divinity which stirs within us,” and we all know how that idea can be taken to the extreme.  To the extent he meant we bear the image of God, that is acceptable; it is unlikely Bacon doubted that humans are sinners in need of a Savior.  In addition, it might appear that Bacon’s advocacy of experience as the guide to truth would militate against trust in divine revelation.  Indeed, David Hume took that idea to the limit.  (The tides have turned against Hume in our time, as our “uniform experience” about information and codes is forcing scientists to confront the reality of intelligent design in DNA.)  Bacon, however, was not schizophrenic about induction and authority.  He saw no dichotomy in his religious faith and advocacy of the scientific method; like he said, depth of philosophy brings a man’s mind back to religion.  With allusions to Genesis 1, he said, “The first creation of God in the works of the days was the light of the sense, the last was the light of the reason; and his Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of the spirit.”  Illumination of the spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (John 16:13).

Though best known as an advocate of fact, and a sometime critic of poetry, Sir Francis Bacon was an occasional poet himself (although it is highly unlikely he was the secret author of Shakespeare’s plays, as some have alleged).  More than with prose or philosophy, poetry allows us to look into an author’s soul.  Was Sir Francis Bacon a creationist?  Was he a believer in the Bible, and a devout man of faith?  Did he see man’s role as praising the Creator for His works?  Did he himself trust in his heavenly King and look forward to Christ’s eternal victory?  Here is his poem “Sing a New Song.” You read and decide:

SING A NEW SONG
by Sir Francis Bacon

O sing a new song, to our God above,
Avoid profane ones, ’tis for holy choir:
Let Israel sing song of holy love
To him that made them, with their hearts on fire:
Let Zion’s sons lift up their voice, and sing
Carols and anthems to their heavenly king.

Let not your voice alone his praise forth tell,
But move withal, and praise him in the dance;
Cymbals and harps, let them be tuned well,
’Tis he that doth the poor’s estate advance:
Do this not only on the solemn days,
But on your secret beds your spirits raise.

O let the saints bear in their mouth his praise,
And a two-edged sword drawn in their hand,
Therewith for to revenge the former days,
Upon all nations, that their zeal withstand;
To bind their kings in chains of iron strong,
And manacle their nobles for their wrong.

Expect the time, for ’tis decreed in heaven,
Such honor shall unto his saints be given.


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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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