Creation-Evolution Headlines
November 2003
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Assumptions and presuppositions that exclude the possibility of God are often underlying the popular conclusions about origins, and we are led to label as fact things that are actually tenets of a scientifically cloaked belief system.  Consider that life has never been observed to arise from non-living matter, meaningful information only comes from an intelligent source, and the immaterial realities of consciousness, emotional feelings, and relationships extend the domain of reality past the mere material.
– Jeremy Walter, mechanical engineer, On the Seventh Day: Forty scientists and academics explain why they believe in God, ed. John F. Ashton (Master Books, 2002) pp. 129-130.
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  CURRENT ISSUE
Animal Expertise Dept.    11/30/2003
Animals continue to amaze biologists with their technological feats.  Some recent entries:
  • Bear Bones:  Biologists are curious how bears keep their bones from deteriorating during the inactive period of hibernation, reports New Scientist.  It might lead to a cure for osteoporosis, the bone degenerative disease that afflicts many elderly people.  Part of the bears’ solution may not be feasible for humans, however; they do not eliminate waste during the winter months of slumber.
        National Geographic News reported that bears are becoming accustomed to city living.  Better close the garage door if it looks like a hibernation spot.
  • Fish Swish:  Rainbow trout made the cover story of Science, reports MSNBC News.  Harvard scientists studied how they swim against the current without getting tired.  They seem to have mastered the slalom around points of turbulence, using the currents to their advantage so that they can swim upstream with a minimum of exertion.  Their movements are reminiscent of a flag flapping in the breeze, explains Ulrike Muller in the Nov. 27 issue of Science, summarizing the work of Liao et al. in the same issue, “Fish Exploiting Vortices Decrease Muscle Activity,” 10.1126/science.1088295.
  • Bottom Feeders:  No, this is not about lawyers.  The Discovery Channel website looks into how scavengers on the bottom of the sea, including fish, starfish and other animals, can lie in suspended animation for long periods of time, then smell a falling carcass thousands of yards away and race to the feast.
    Human technology cannot compete with many of the skills found in the animal kingdom.  If you are an evolutionist like Francis Crick, you have to exercise transcendental meditation to avoid mental stress.  He said (see citation by Dembski), “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
    Next headline on: Ocean Dwellers. • Next headline on: Mammals. • Next amazing story.
    Antibiotic Resistance Is Technology Sharing    11/29/2003
    Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is often portrayed as the piece de resistance of evolution; it is Darwinism happening before our very eyes, some evolutionists claim.  In a recent issue of the
    Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Jerry Bergman argued that much of the antibiotic resistance seen “evolving” in bacteria is not due to natural selection acting on genetic mutations, the neo-Darwinian method, but rather technology sharing.  Genes for resistance already exist in plasmids (round segments of DNA) that get passed around from one species of bacterium to another.  By means of conjugation, bacteria share pre-existing genetic information.  Those with antibiotic resistance due to mutations have lost genetic information that makes them less fit in the wild.  For instance, a receptor on the cell surface may get damaged by a mutation, prohibiting the antibiotic from entering.  But this same mutational damage prevents needed substances from entering, making the bacterium defective.  It might outcompete its un-mutated brethren in the artificial world of the hospital, but would most likely lose in the outside world.
        A paper in the Nov. 28 issue of Science1 seems to confirm Bergman’s argument.  Weigel et al. analyzed the genes of the well-known example of Staphylococcus areus resistance to vancomycin, and concluded it was conferred via conjugation of a plasmid containing the resistance gene.
    1Weigel et al., “Genetic Analysis of a High-Level Vancomycin-Resistant Isolate of Staphylococcus aureus,” Science 28 November 2003, 10.1126/science.1090956.
    It is not evolution if the genetic information was already present.  What Darwinian evolution needs to explain is the origin of genetic information.  Mutations do not provide it; where is an example?  If antibiotic resistance is the showpiece, and is such a flop, why should we watch the rest of the show?
        For more information on the loss of information caused by genetic mutations, that may in some cases cause “antibiotic resistance,” the reader is referred to the book Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, and the film of the same name, and also Lee Spetner’s book Not By Chance!.  For a quick analogy, consider a man with no hands.  He would be “resistant to handcuffing” (which might be a benefit if the police were trying to restrain him), but would anyone claim this “loss of information” would make him better able to survive in the wild?
    Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Planets Go Solo   11/29/2003
    The discovery of planets without parent stars has caused a revision of thinking about their evolution, reports
    New Scientist.  It used to be assumed that “planets could only build up, or ‘accrete’, from gas and dust swirling in a disc around a newborn star,“ explains Marcus Chown, author of the article.  “But everything changed in 2000 with the discovery of isolated planets without parent stars in the Sigma Orionis star cluster.”
        Referring to the work Jane Greaves (Royal Observatory, Edinburgh) and others1 who have found nine such isolated planet-like objects using the James Clerk Maxwell telescope in Hawaii, the conclusion is that either the planets formed in the same way stars did, or that they formed in the usual way around a star and were ejected.  “However, Greaves says the fact that orphan planets are so common in Rho Ophiuchus B makes this unlikely,” concludes the article.  “In fact, there are so many, say the astronomers, that there could be as many lone planets as stars wandering in our galaxy.”
    1Journal reference supplied by the article: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (vol 346, p 441).
    Planetary evolution theories have been taking a beating lately.  Actually, all theories including the word evolution have been taking a beating lately.
    Next headline on: Stars.
    Two Worms Wear Different Genes    11/29/2003
    Another roundworm genome has been sequenced and reported in the journal Public Library of Science: Biology.1  This gives scientists the chance to compare two very similar genomes for evidence of common ancestry.
        Geneticists expected the genome of C. briggsae to be nearly identical to that of the earlier-sequenced C. elegans because they look outwardly so similar, it takes an expert to tell them apart.  But Mark Blaxter,in a news article in Nature November 272, said, “Surprisingly, however, their genomes are not so similar.”  Out of the nearly 19,000 genes for these worms (one already-known surprise, considering that “the more physically complicated fruitfly” Drosophila gets by with about 15,000 genes), they found that C. briggsae has 500 genes more than its close relative, including 260 additional chemoreceptor genes.  Also, there are about 800 genes unique to each worm.  Blaxter indicates what these data imply for comparative genomics:
    Two other pairs of related genomes have been sequenced: humans and mice last shared a common ancestor about 85 million years ago, and mosquitoes and fruitflies diverged around 250 million years ago.  When did C. briggsae and C. elegans split?  Judging from their morphology, one might think it was relatively recently, but the sequences tell a different story.  Using equivalent genes from mosquitoes, humans and the two nematodes, Stein et al. estimate that the worms diverged between 80 million and 110 million years ago.
        Do patterns of genome change help to describe the range of physical disparity between these various species pairs?  The answer is a resounding no: the physically most similar pair, the nematodes, shows the most differences in terms of rate of genome evolution.... For instance, there are about three times more synonymous substitutions ('silent' base-pair changes that do not affect encoded proteins) between the two nematodes than there are between mice and humans.  And changes in genome organization have occurred around 50 times as often.
    So what do evolutionists do with this unexpected information?  As Blaxter puts it, “one question for the future is why the nematodes still look so similar” when their genes tell a story of changes greater than those between a mouse and a man.  Only a suggestion is offered: “Stein et al. give a hint of an answer: they identify 1.3 million base-pair-level sequence matches between the two genomes, only a third of which correspond to coding portions of genes.  The remaining sequence matches may represent conserved control elements that coordinate gene expression to produce physically similar organisms.”
        Next, Blaxter explores the pattern of expression based on locations of the genes on the chromosomes.  He concludes, “How these blocks are maintained in the face of randomizing genome reorganization remains unknown.
        Another mystery is how the chromosome number of these worms remained constant despite 4,000 alleged chromosomal breakages.  These puzzles are left for future explorers.  As more databases are added, “These additional genomes will nourish comparative genomics,” he concludes.
    1Stein et al., “The Genome Sequence of Caenorhabditis briggsae: A Platform for Comparative Genomics,”
    Public Library of Science - Biology,November 17, 2003 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0000045.
    2Mark Blaxter, “Comparative Genomics: Two worms are better than one,” Nature 426, 395 - 396 (27 November 2003); doi:10.1038/426395a.
    The alarm bell went off.  Do you understand the ramifications of this article?  It’s amazing how evolutionists never seem to worry about their beliefs despite the most damaging findings.  Here are two worms that look nearly identical, yet their genomes have more differences than those between humans and mice!  Blaxter admits one conclusion with “a resounding no:” whether one can use patterns of genetic changes to describe the physical differences between two species.  This means that similar genomes can produce vastly different products, and different genomes can produce nearly identical products.  How, then, can genomes be used for any kind of evolutionary evidence?
        Comparative genomics was supposed to be the most clear and compelling confirmation of common ancestry of all living things.  As this and other articles have shown, however (follow the Chain Links on “Genes and DNA,”) that there are no clear answers, and there are lots of surprises and unexpected puzzles.  Normally this kind of negative evidence would falsify a theory, but since Darwinism is a Law of the Medes and the Persians that cannot be altered, it will survive; the data must be massaged to fit it.  In this case, the amount of massaging required may alter the morphology beyond recognition.
    Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Tree of Language Built by Evolutionary Theory   11/28/2003
    Scientists applied the same evolutionary ideas used to build their
    tree of life to build a tree of language.  They came up with a date for the origin of the Indo-European languages about 9000 years ago, reports Nature Science Update, summarizing a paper published in their journal Thursday.1  They used the “rate at which words change to gauge the age of the tree’s roots – just as biologists estimate a species’ age from the rate of gene mutations,” explains reporter John Whitfield.  But “The conclusion will be controversial,” he admits, “as there is no consensus on where Indo-European languages came from.”  In addition, “the technique is still fraught with difficulties.”  One biologist thinks this is interesting, however.  “There may be some fundamental principles of evolution of complex systems, such as languages and organisms,” he said.
    1Gray, R. D. & Atkinson, Q. D. “Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin,” Nature, 426, 435 - 439, doi:10.1038/nature02029 (2003).
    You can’t apply Darwinism to language.  Language is intelligent design.
    Next headline on: Early Man. • Next dumb story.
    Wet Trees Cause Global Warming   11/28/2003
    The
    BBC News may have broken the political correctness code by printing a claim that rain forests emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb, especially when wet.  But Richard Black, science correspondent, doesn’t seem to mind.  “Many environmentalists believe that politicians have run ahead of scientific understanding,” he says, “in giving forestry such prominence in the Kyoto Protocol.  They argue tree planting has been seized on not because it is good science, but because it is politically expedient.”
        His information is based on a three-year study of the Amazon by US and Brazilian scientists, who found “the rainforest emits more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than it absorbs when conditions are very wet,” indicating that “previous studies have almost certainly over-estimated how much CO2 the Amazon can take in.”
        The study led by Harvard biologist Scott Saleska was published in Science on Friday, “just three days before the latest United Nations negotiations on climate change take place in Milan.”
    The scientists and the reporter realize that “the relationship between trees and carbon dioxide is a complex one.”  It is not a little presumptuous to build international policy on questionable data, especially when the politicians are internationalist and have a decidedly biased agenda.
    Footnote: New Scientist reported 12/02/03 that Russia, citing economic reasons, will not abide by the Kyoto protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and the European Union has announced it cannot meet its emission reduction goals.  These setbacks effectively kill the Kyoto protocol.
    Next headline on: Politics and Ethics. • Next headline on: Plants.
    Cosmologist Perpetuates Science vs. Religion Stereotype   11/26/2003
    For Thanksgiving Day, Dr. Steven Weinberg (U. of Texas at Austin) seems thankful that science is gradually trumping religion, particularly the Judeo-Christian variety.  Writing a Concepts editorial in the
    Nov. 27 issue of Nature,1 the elderly cosmologist lists four lessons he has learned throughout his career, to pass along, as fatherly advice, to the young scientist.  Don’t be afraid not to know everything, he advises, pick the difficult problem, forgive yourself for wasting time, and learn something about the history of science.  This last lesson, he feels, provides “great satisfaction by recognizing that your work in science is a part of history.”  As a prime illustration of the historical value of science, he points to the the discovery of radioactivity, and what it did, or should have done, to Judeo-Christian dogma2:
    Look back 100 years, to 1903.  How important is it now who was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1903, or President of the United States?  What stands out as really important is that at McGill University, Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy were working out the nature of radioactivity.  This work (of course!) had practical applications, but much more important were its cultural implications.  The understanding of radioactivity allowed physicists to explain how the Sun and Earth’s cores could still be hot after millions of years.  In this way, it removed the last scientific objection to what many geologists and paleontologists thought was the great age of the Earth and the Sun.  After this, Christians and Jews either had to give up belief in the literal truth of the Bible or resign themselves to intellectual irrelevance.  This was just one step in a sequence of steps from Galileo through Newton and Darwin to the present that, time after time, has weakened the hold of religious dogmatism.  Reading any newspaper nowadays is enough to show you that this work is not yet complete.  But it is civilizing work, of which scientists are able to feel proud.
    The article caption states, “This essay is based on a commencement talk given by the author at the Science Convocation at McGill University in June 2003.”
    1“Scientist: Four Golden Lessons,“ Nature 426, 389 (27 November 2003); doi:10.1038/426389a.
    2Background: A heated debate had arisen in the late 1800s between Lord Kelvin, the Bible-believing creationist, and Thomas Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog,“ the evolutionist.  Kelvin had used thermodynamics to prove the earth and the sun could not be old enough for evolution to have occurred.  The evolutionists were stumped until the new science of radioactivity provided a possible mechanism to keep the earth and sun heated for millions of years.
    There are serious flaws and fallacies in the quote above, but, of course, the students at McGill only got to hear the views of the septegenarian sophist (which were not very sophisticated).  They were not allowed to hear any rebuttals.  Why is it that Weinberg and so many other evolutionists feel the need to aim their invective at Christians and Jews, specifically?  Where is the same level of disdain for Muslims, or Hindus, or animists in the jungle?  (Can any “religious dogmatism” exceed that of homicide bombers who blow up women and children on busses believing that is what their god wants them to do?  Or those who worship cow dung, or who eat their enemies?)  On the contrary, the non-Judeo-Christians usually get a free pass.  This bias, in itself, is instructive.  It almost makes you want to join the persecuted group, or at least look into what it is they believe that makes evolutionists so mad.
        Weinberg commits the selective evidence fallacy by saying that radioactivity “removed the last scientific objection” to millions of years, which, of course, are a prerequisite for Darwinian evolution.  (The reader is referred to Chain Links on Dating Methods for corroboration or discombobulation of this claim.)  He also committed the either-or fallacy by assuming one must be consigned to the dunce corner of “intellectual irrelevance” for accepting the “literal” truth of the Bible (which, being interpreted, means any belief that takes the Bible seriously, other than considering it a collection of fables and allegories).  Not a little elitist are the Darwin Party faithful.
        Weinberg’s last three sentences perpetuate the myth of science vs. religion.  He props up the myth with a glittering generality about Galileo and Newton (both creationists) and Darwin, as if these three points fall on a straight line pointing away from faith.  (Galileo and Newton would most likely object their placement on this trendline).  Dr. Weinberg, please tell us why it is not a non-sequitur to claim that undermining people’s faith is a civilizing work.  We thought the opposite was true, unless you think cannibals are civilized and the missionaries who bring them the gospel, medicine and human rights are not.
        To Steven Weinberg, all Christians and Jews are “religious dogmatists,” and science is the civilizing work of weakening their hold on society.  Darwinists, according to their own self-appraisals, are never dogmatists.  The recent school board debates about the teaching of evolution prove that.  How can the Darwin Party be considered dogmatic, when they use their connections to prevent the opposition from getting a hearing?  When only Darwin Party members are allowed to be heard, why of course, everyone agrees.  There is no controversy.  The religious dogmatists are those uncivilized radicals outside, behind the soundproof doors.  Yes, their “civilizing work” should make them feel very proud, indeed.
        Weinberg has cause for a little more humility.  In an interview he granted for the book Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists (ed. Alan Lightman and Roberta Brawer, Harvard Univ. Press, 1990), he was at a loss for words to explain inflation, the flatness problem, the horizon problem, and other major difficulties with modern cosmology.  In answer to the question, “Do you think that your views about what are the major problems have changed any in the last 10 years?” he replied, “No.  I think that the deeper problems having to do with inflation, what the universe is like on the Planck scale, and quantum cosmology are so far from any confrontation with experiment that I’ve suspended thinking about them” (p. 464).  Regarding the inevitable question that would come up at his public lectures, “What came before the Big Bang?” Weinberg admitted to the interviewer, “And I spend so many minutes waffling about that, saying, ‘Well, maybe there was no time . . .’ But I share their perplexity” (p. 465).  (It should be pointed out that 13 more years of cosmological work since this 1990 interview have not diminished the perplexity of these problems; follow the Cosmology chain links, such as this June 18 headline.)
        In his popular best seller on the Big Bang, The First Three Minutes (New York: Basic Books, 1977), Weinberg had said, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”  He acknowledged to the interviewer that he had received more negative comments about that sentence than about anything else he had ever written.  What did he mean, then?  “I certainly meant roughly what I said, but it didn’t come out exactly as I wanted it.  If you say things are pointless, you have to ask, ‘Well, what point were you looking for?’  And that’s what’s needed, I think, to be explained.  What kind of point would have been there that might have made it not pointless.  That’s what I really would have to explain” (p. 466).  That was his last sentence in the interview.  He left it unexplained.  So Dr. Weinberg, what’s the point?  If you cannot define what a point should be to be considered a point, how can you call the universe pointless?
    Wouldn’t it be nice if evolutionists took their own advice?  Yes, Dr. Weinberg, we agree.  We should all “learn something about the history of science.”  We offer for your perusal our online work in progress, The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists, where you can read the words of Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Maxwell, Pasteur, Carver, von Braun, and some of the other uncivilized lightweights on the lunatic fringe of the scientific stage.
        Would they were here to have a little roundtable discussion around the turkey dinner about these matters.  It would undoubtedly be a lively interchange.  Weinberg, fortunately for him, can celebrate Thanksgiving without fear of such a possibility.  But to whom will he give thanks?
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
    Venus May Have Lead-Frosted Mountains   11/26/2003
    You may have heard that surface temperatures on Venus are hot enough to melt lead.  But now an interesting by-product of that fact may have come to light. 
    BBC News reporter David Whitehouse interviewed two Washington University (St. Louis) scientists who believe the upper elevations of the highlands are coated with a “frost” of lead.
        Laura Schaefer and Bruce Fegley were interested in the anomalous brightness of the highlands as seen in the Magellan radar images.  They modeled 660 different compounds to see what might cause the brightness, and concluded that lead and bismuth are the most likely candidates.  If lead melts at the lower, hotter elevations, it might precipitate out on the “cooler” highlands.  The highest peaks, however, lack the coating, indicating that weathering might be eroding it downslope.  Their conclusion is to be published in an upcoming issue of the planetary journal, Icarus1.
        How long would it take for the metallic coating to be applied?  The article states, “The researchers estimate that the timescale for the coating of the Venusian highlands by metallic frost is somewhere between a few thousand and a few million years, demonstrating that it is an active process.”
    1We will try to provide the reference when it becomes available online.
    Planetary scientists already believed that the entire surface of Venus was young, and this new inference is consistent with that belief.  Not much can be inferred from this indirect evidence, but it is interesting.  The article concludes, “If it were possible to examine these lead deposits, from a Venus lander craft, the respective abundances of certain atom types, or isotopes, could give astronomers an estimate for the age of Venus.”  The hellish conditions on the surface make that unlikely anytime soon.  But just imagine hills coated with molten lead.  What a contrast from the good earth!  Before spacecraft explored it, Venus had been considered Earth’s twin.  It almost seems God wanted to show us how good we have it here, compared to the way things could be.
        It bears repeating that the youthful appearance of Venus’ surface came as a big surprise.  As the radar maps began to unfold from the Magellan spacecraft, “a profound puzzle began to emerge,” noted R. Stephen Saunders in The New Solar System (4th ed., 1999, Cambridge Univ. Press, p. 99):
    Volcanism dominated the surface.  Lava flows and various kinds of volcanoes were everywhere.  Faults and fractures crisscrossed the landscape.  Wind streaks were abundant.  All of these things were fascinating but not unexpected.  The craters provided the big surprise.  On the Earth, Moon and Mars, craters range from very fresh scars to barely visible, eroded circular ghosts.  However, apparently little erosion had affected the Venusian craters.  They looked as if they had formed recently.
        Further, as mapping proceeded, the craters appeared to be scattered randomly over the surface.  Unlike the Moon or Mars, there were no highly cratered (ancient) regions intermixed with lightly cratered (younger) regions.  All the surface appeared to be about the same age and geologically young.  If we use the lunar chronology and crater densities as a guide, the average surface age of Venus could be no more than about 500 million years.  We were seeing only the last 10 percent of Venus’s geologic history recorded in its surface.
      [italics added]
    Saunders went on to say that uniformitarianism, the doctrine that “the present is the key to the past,” does not apply to Venus.  “For Venus,” he wrote, “in the opinion of this writer, the catastrophe model will in time be judged more nearly correct than the equilibrium [uniformitarian] model” (Ibid., p. 99].
        There is no reason to use the lunar chronology as a guide (see May 14 headline).  That would be like the blind leading the blind.  The fact is, without a time machine, no one can tell the age of any surface in the solar system.  Inferences are made based on assumptions built on other assumptions, the primary one being the Sacred Parameter that the solar system is 4.6 billion years old (see next headline).  But to believe that, planetary scientists have to imagine ways that Venus awakened out of sleep periodically, so that its surface could be blanketed with fresh material.  The problem is compounded all over the solar system with young-looking phenomena, like Titan’s atmosphere and surface, comets, and Io’s volcanoes (follow the Solar System chain links for many more examples; a partial list can be found at the June 5 headline).  The point about Venus was that the data did not match what they expected to see: an ancient, static surface.  The Magellan data forced them to devise stories to fit their preconceived notions about its age.  We think science should follow the evidence where it leads.  If it looks young, it probably is.
        When interpreting the ages of things, keep this principle in mind: it is easier to tell something is young than that it is old.  For example, some young people have a genetic disease called progeria that makes them look 90 at age 15.  But no one has ever seen a newborn baby that was, in fact, 90 years old.  Calling something millions of years old requires extrapolating present rates into the past by many orders of magnitude: this is the extrapolation fallacy.  The upshot is, the observation-to-assumption ratio is much higher when concluding something is young than claiming it is old.  If the lead frosting on Venus is an active process, it would not have taken that long to produce what is observed.  How could these scientists know that it did not take a few centuries, or decades even?  They throw around this term “millions of years” as if they understand it.  Try to envision a million years in light of all the changes we have observed in the world since the origin of written language.  That requires multiplying the entire period of time we know about (7000 years) 150 times over.  It’s nearly impossible to imagine such a long time interval, let alone have any confidence about anything that occurred during the first 993,000 years.
        Scientists need to discipline their speculations and become more conservative in their age estimates.  Without observational evidence, it is unwarranted to extrapolate present processes orders of magnitude back in time.  The present is not the key to the past, and more and more scientists are saying so (see Nov. 4 headline, for example).
    Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
    Geologists Debate Impact of Impact Theories    11/25/2003
    Asish Basu (U. of Rochester) and colleagues claim to have found evidence for another giant impact that caused a mass extinction, this time at the Permian-Triassic (P-T) boundary.  Their paper, published in the Nov. 21 issue of Science,1 is fairly cautious about the claim, concluding, “These observations lead us to believe that continued research on such materials from additional P-T boundary samples will finally lead to a resolution of the long-sought and contentious issue of a catastrophic collision of a celestial body with the Earth at the end-Permian” (italics added).  Here’s how Science2 editor Richard A. Kerr analyzed the claim, and the evidence so far:
    Impact geologists tend to disagree.  The proposed meteorite fragments and gases surely came from beyond Earth.  But “things just don’t fit cleanly with what we know and think we understand” about impacts, says meteoriticist and impact geologist David Kring of the University of Arizona in Tucson.  Problems raised include how the chemically fragile bits of meteorite survived unaltered for a quarter-billion years....
        The latest signs of extraterrestrial debris at the P-T are getting a mixed reception.  “I don’t have any doubt that” the fragments are meteoritic, says meteoriticist Jeffrey Grossman of the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia.  “The mineral chemistry is the same, the texture is the same, there is some metal.”  So no one is denying that these Antarctic fragments came from outer space.  But meteoriticists and impact geologists alike are stunned that tiny, fresh-looking, unaltered fragments of a meteorite should have survived burial for 251 million years.  “It’s astonishing, it’s incredible, it’s unbelievable,” says Grossman.  Adds Kring, “You have to ask how they got there.”...
    ....Microscopic, unaltered meteoritic fragments surviving a quarter-billion years “would really be remarkable,” says [Birger] Schmitz.  “I get the gut feeling it’s wrong.”
    ....     Impact geologists would like to see Basu’s findings replicated before they accept them....
    Acceptance of the K-T impact has led to impacts being proposed for most other major extinctions.  Just last June, a group of scientist [sic] proposed that a comet triggered the Paleocene-Eocene extinction of 55 million years ago, and another presented evidence for the latest of several impacts in the mid-Devonian 380 million years ago.  But all depend on iridium anomalies that are too small, unconvincing shocked minerals, or impact markers as yet not generally accepted.
        Twenty years after the K-T impact gained convincing support, some impact geologists are getting discouraged by their failure to find a second example.  “I’ve tried for 10 years to look for impact layers,” says Schmitz.  “I almost ruined my career.  I have lots and lots of negative data in my drawers.  This is evidence for the uniqueness of the K-T boundary.”
    Here is how this story was reported in the media:
    The news outlet for the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
    EurekAlert said, “New evidence says Earth’s greatest extinction caused by ancient meteorite: Long before the dinosaurs ever lived, the planet experienced a mass extinction so severe it killed 90 percent of life on Earth, and researchers at the University of Rochester think they’ve identified the unlikely culprit.”
    MSNBC News had a similar optimistic headline sent out to Motorola pagers on Friday.
    1Basu, Petaev, Poreda, Jacobsen, and Becker, “Chondritic Meteorite Fragments Associated with the Permian-Triassic Boundary in Antarctica,” Science Volume 302, Number 5649, Issue of 21 Nov 2003, pp. 1388-1392.
    2Richard A. Kerr, “Mass Extinction: Has an Impact Done It Again?” Science Volume 302, Number 5649, Issue of 21 Nov 2003, pp. 1314-1316.
    Did you notice the alarm about the dates of these samples?  Astonishing...incredible...unbelievable that these fragile meteorite fragments could survive 250 million years.  Isn’t it interesting that the millions of years themselves are never questioned.  The long age of the earth is the Sacred Parameter, the Law of the Medes and the Persians that cannot be changed.  Historical geology is the art of fitting uncooperative data to the Sacred Parameter.
        The moral of this story is: don’t swallow any science report that comes through the news media without a strong dose of antibaloney tonic, especially if the subject relates to evolution or the unobservable past.  The contrast between Richard Kerr’s skeptical analysis and the popular press account is striking.  Sometimes science reporters get it right, but often they do not.  They assume that people want simple answers.  They think people cannot endure the debate and uncertainty that goes on among scientists in the peer-reviewed journals and at science conferences.  So they spoon-feed the public definitive answers that fit into 25-word-or-less sound bites.
        Here’s how it often gets spun.  A reporter asks the scientist about his paper, and he says, “Well, we think that we might have maybe found a little piece of evidence that suggests the intriguing possibility that an asteroidal impact may have, in some way, been connected with what appears to have been a mass extinction that might have occurred at the end of the Permian, which geologists estimate was perhaps 250 million years ago; but many of my colleagues are not convinced and have pointed out some pretty major discrepancies between the evidence and our conclusions, so we still have a lot of work to do.”
    The reporter jots all this down and heads back to his typewriter.  Here’s how the headline comes out:
    GIANT ASTEROID WIPED OUT MOST LIFE 250 MILLION YEARS AGO.
    *Sigh.*  We think our readers can handle the straight dope, so we give it to you like it is and let you decide.
    Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dating Methods
    German Cannibal Confession Attracts Imitators   11/24/2003
    The
    BBC News printed a bizarre story of a German who confessed to stabbing and eating a man he met on a “website for cannibals” after advertising for “young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter.”  What is even more bizarre is that the arrangement was apparently consensual, and now more websites have sprung up, says the BBC: “Disturbingly, a number of websites dedicated to Mr Meiwes have appeared, with people advertising for willing victims.”
    Update 12/02/2003: World Net Daily quotes sources that portray Meiwes as “friendly, modest and polite, always willing for a chat over the garden fence, to share a cup of coffee or to take part in village activities.”  The courts are debating over the issue of whether this was really a crime if the victim consented to being killed and eaten.
    What is becoming of the phrase, “that person has good taste”?
        When we published our “Cannibal Rights” satire recently (see Aug. 28 headline or the humor page), we were stretching to find a topic so outrageous, so beyond belief, it could be used safely in a semi-humorous satire.  There are so many unassailable perversions these days, risky to offend in print either seriously or in jest, that few outrageous topics seemed available.  I’ll have to admit this story caught me by surprise.  Even in a worst-case scenario I thought we had ten years before society reverted to the law of the jungle.  But now, even this bottom-rung abomination, cannibalism, is apparently already at the doorstep.  Guys like this are just entering the notoriety stage.  Then will come the curiosity stage (pedophiles, now that they have a celebrity garnering media sympathy, are rapidly proceeding from here through the next two stages), the victim stage, the advocacy stage, and then the stage of worldwide defense of the practice as normal and “sweet.”  The outlaws will be those who dare to call it wrong.
        What do we do in a crazy mixed-up society?  For one thing, be sure you don’t taste good.  But seriously, understand the connection between ideas and actions.  In Charlie’s World, we arose from nowhere, we end up nowhere, there is Nobody in charge who cares about what we do, and so each individual must be free to explore his own fantasy.  (The alternative platform of the Darwin Party is totalitarianism, in which individual rights must be subjugated to the good of the race.)
        We would acknowledge that distinguished scientific members of the Darwin Party are not personally responsible for what these men did, and would probably deplore it as a great evil.  But on what basis, really?  What is the difference between sexual vice between consenting adults and cannibalism between consenting adults, if personal freedom and self-expression are the highest values in a society that has driven the belief in a law-giving Creator out of the realm of rational consideration?
        We should have known it would come to this.  The Apostle Paul pointed out long ago that rejection of God as Creator does not lead merely to intellectual differences of opinion.  It leads down a slippery slope to a reprobate mind, producing the worst perversions imaginable, with perpetrators who “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-35).
        A quatrain by Alexander Pope should be memorized by all who want to understand the accelerating downhill slide of modern culture: “Vice is a monster of so frightul mien, / As to be hated needs but to be seen / Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
    Footnote: As an example of how vice feeds on itself, NewsDay.com tells about a polygamist who is jumping on the “gay marriage” bandwagon, claiming “what you do in your own home with consenting adults, you should be allowed to do.”  So where does this line of rationalization stop?  The cannibals were “consenting adults,” too.  What could the polygamist say to the cannibal to tell him, “That’s going too far”?
    Next dumb story.
    The Best Teacher of Darwinism is Darwin Himself   11/21/2003
    James Costa, a college biology professor, is incredulous at the persistence of antievolutionism in the public:
    It happened again in 2003.  With predictable regularity, local or (in one case) state school boards have tried to minimize or eliminate certain aspects of evolutionary biology from their high school curricula.  It is disquieting that antievolution salvos aren’t always fired by fringe groups.  Antievolution thinking is mainstream, as revealed by the Gallup organization’s most recent efforts on the subject.  In a February 2001 poll, 45 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”  How is it that at a time when our understanding of (and evidence for) evolution has never been greater, there persists such resistance to evolutionary ideas?  And this despite the fact that evolution has long been a mandated component of high school curricula in most states?  The problem cannot be attributed either to want of exposure or to lack of resources: from lucid textbook coverage to high-quality videos, CDROMs, and Web sites, the presentation of evolutionary ideas has never been more visually appealing or compellingly explained.  As an educator who teaches evolutionary biology at the college level, I have long wondered about the disconnect.
      Writing in the November issue of BioScience1, Costa has a suggestion: teach Darwin with Darwin.  This back-to-basics approach, he feels, will be more successful than the typical approach:
    In teaching evolutionary biology, the cart is sometimes put before the horse. The process of evolution is often illustrated with examples of microevolutionary change, like the increased antibiotic resistance of pathogens or HIV evolution.  These are excellent examples of evolution in action, but their effectiveness as tools for teaching evolution is blunted if the big-picture framework of how we came to know evolution occurs is not already in place.  This is because microevolution is not in dispute even among creationists; shifting allele frequencies are easily comprehended.  It is macroevolution that stymies most students....
    How did Darwin succeed?  Costa believes it is because he understood he needed an “enormous body of evidence” that had to be presented rigorously, or else his view would easily be “pilloried in print” as others’ attempts had been.  In his book, he built his argument on the analogy with domestic breeding:
    Darwin’s battle was partly won by rhetorical genius.  On the Origin of Species is a carefully constructed document—“one long argument,” its author wrote—that presents Darwin’s ideas about evolution in the contexts of analogy and inductive inference.  In the view of noted philosopher Michael Ruse, in both respects the arguments in Origin speak to the ideas of two leading thinkers of Darwin’s day, physicist John Herschel and philosopher William Whewell, both of whom discussed how insight could be gained into vera causae, true causes, in nature.
    Costa explains that Herschel taught that “insight into natural processes could be gained through close analogy,”  Darwin, an admirer of Herschel, followed suit by arguing by analogy with domestic breeding.  “Whewell, in contrast, argued that we can learn much about nature by seeking a ‘consilience of inductions,’” Costa continues, “ where disparate independent lines of evidence are neatly brought together under a common explanatory umbrella.”  He feels that is what Darwin did, bringing together this consilience “by drawing observations from such far-flung areas as paleontology, embryology, biogeography, and behavior.”
        This approach would be more successful in convincing students, Costa feels, because it would not seek to showcase questionable examples, but would help them understand how science is done.  “For modern educators,“ he writes, “Darwin’s approach can set the stage for showing students how science works by organizing observations systematically to help frame explanatory hypotheses.”  So by drawing students into a detective story, similar to how detectives work in the criminal justice system, they can see how multiple, independent lines of evidence might converge on the most likely conclusion:
    In consilience mode throughout his master work, Darwin presents each set of observations in turn and asks the reader to consider which hypothesis offers the most cogent explanation for them, typically contrasting special creation with his proposed model of evolution by natural selection.  His consilience approach works as well today as it did in 1859: Present the observed patterns and consider what process most likely gave rise to them.  Adopting Darwin’s approach in the way we introduce evolution can help our students see that the idea of evolution is not “just a theory” or Darwin’s offhand notion but a conclusion that flows logically from considerable and careful observation.
    Costa gives a couple of examples of how this might be done:
    Having set the stage thus for why we are convinced that Darwin was really onto something, students are in a better position to understand the mechanistic details.  Modern examples—for example, exciting fossil finds like the cetacean forerunner Ambulocetus or the prokaryotic signature of organellar DNA—can then be related to the consilience of inductions approach, consistent with evolution.  Or consider morphological oddities such as the dysfunctional chloroplast of the malarial parasite Plasmodium: What in the world would an obligate parasite of vertebrate blood cells be doing with a chloroplast?  There will always be those who willfully remain ignorant of and hostile to evolution.  But as Darwin well knew, reasonable critics are greater in number, if less vocal, than the openly hostile few.
    It is the reasonable majority of students, Costa believes, that give him faith in their eventual victory over the unreasonable forces of antievolution.  Shoulder to shoulder with Darwin, Costa quotes, “I look with confidence to the future, to rising and young naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.”  He concludes,
    The naturalists are already convinced.  The problem is that poor understanding of what science is and how it works prevents a significant proportion of the general public from being convinced.  The logical strategy Darwin devised for his Victorian audience can help educate students today.
    James Costa is associate professor of biology at Western Carolina University, North Carolina.
    1Viewpoint article by James Costa, “Teach Darwin With Darwin,” 1030
    BioScience November 2003 / Vol. 53 No. 11.
    This article is worth investigating, to parse for sound arguments vs. fallacies, misconceptions and admissions.  It is well written and well intentioned (from his viewpoint); he is simply trying to help the cause of science against the forces of prejudice and misunderstanding.  It seems galling to him and his fellow evolutionists that after all these years, the public still doesn’t get it.  (Notice how he mentions the 45% that believe in recent creation, but omits the fact that only a tiny minority, about 10%, accepts the full naturalistic evolutionary story.  Only 15% vote that only Darwinism should be taught, without opposing evidence; for example, see 05/14/2002 headline).  So he urges his fellow biology professors to help move the mainstream back toward where it should be, since “the naturalists are already convinced” (By “naturalists” he could either mean professional biologists or philosophical materialists, but in this case, the distinction is academic.)
        To begin with, the supercilious elitism of evolutionary propagandists is what is “disquieting.”  We’ve seen that attitude a lot here at Creation-Evolution Headlines (see Nov 15, Sept 9, June 25, and Feb. 27 headlines, for recent examples).  Costa admits that the antievolutionists are not always “fringe groups,” but he never seems to want to face, or admit, the fact that many antievolutionsts are scientists with PhDs.  He cannot fathom that any educated, informed, reasonable person would have doubts about Darwinism.  They must be just misinformed, or else they “willfully remain ignorant.”  Costa needs to get off his ivory tower pedestal, read more books, and discuss, face to face, some of the leading antievolutionist scientists and philosophers who argue that it is precisely the “consilience of inductions” that leads away from a Darwinist interpretation of life, and that the “enormous body of evidence” points to intelligent design.  He will quickly learn that many antievolutionists know as much about Darwinism as Michael Ruse, if not more.  For instance, Dr. Dean Kenyon (see film Unlocking the Mystery of Life), and Dr. Richard Lumsden, and Dr. Gary Parker, convinced evolutionists with PhDs, taught Darwinian evolution at the university level with zeal and bluster, until the “enormous weight of evidence” convinced them Darwin’s theory could not be true, and they became creationists.  Costa would do well to investigate these case studies, and many more testimonies from the 600 or more members of the Creation Research Society (all with advanced degrees in science), instead of caricaturing the opposition as uninformed and unenlightened.
        Costa mentions whale evolution, but as we commented in the Nov. 18 headline, where are the 50,000 or so transitional forms that should exist in the series that allegedly transformed a dog-size land animal to a deep-diving submarine behemoth?  He mentions the malaria parasite ostensibly having a remnant chloroplast, but let’s ask a follow-up question: What’s a single-celled organism doing with a coded language and translation system, and a factory of precisely coordinated molecular machines?  That is the question begging for an explanation, and that is a question Charlie could not have imagined in 1859.  However the alleged chloroplast in Plasmodium came about, it is, if anything, an example of devolution, not increase in genetic information.  So what good is it as an example to prop up Charlie?  Has Costa examined all possibilities, like horizontal gene transfer or the degradation of an original free-living organism?  A design scientist would approach this observation not from the assumption that the chloroplast is an evolutionary relic, but that it is there for a purpose.  This approach is just as valid and has often proven more productive in scientific research.
        Costa makes a big thing about Darwin’s analogy from domestic breeding being a good example of Herschellian and Whewellian induction.  It is precisely this point that illustrates the danger of self-deception.  (Costa conveniently overlooks, by the way, the fact that, like many great scientists of history, both John Herschel and William Whewell were Christians and creationists, and that Herschel ridiculed Darwin’s theory as the “law of higgledy-piggledy”.)  For one thing, Herschel and Whewell’s philosophies of science have been superseded by the realizations that scientific theories (1) need to make predictions, and (2) must be falsifiable.  The argument from analogy, as explained in our Baloney Detector, can be a slippery slope to deception when used for proof instead of illustration.  Do you see the flaw in Darwin’s analogical reasoning?  Domestic breeding is intelligent design.  Charlie turned this fact to argue the opposite, that no intelligence was necessary to derive humans, bats, whales, and eagles from bacteria.  That fallacy was bad enough, but he also committed the fallacy of extrapolation, forcing an observation far beyond anything ever observed.  No domestic breeder has ever turned a pigeon into a cat, or a beet into an orchid.  The only examples seen in nature are microevolutionary (see Aug. 20 headline), and it is a monstrous leap beyond the evidence to suggest bacteria can become humans by natural selection.  Another flaw in his argument was the either-or fallacy, in which he assumed that if special creation of each species were discredited, it would bolster unlimited common ancestry of all organisms.  The concept of “fixity of species” may have been believed by some creationists (such as Linnaeus, and that only early in his career), but certainly is not the position of creationists today.  To claim otherwise is a straw man argument.
        The “consilience of inductions” method is risky.  It can be used by anti-Semites to “prove” Jews are responsible for all the evils in the world, or to “prove” Joe Homeless is guilty of murder.  (Lee Strobel, a former legal reporter, has an interesting example of how circumstantial evidence formed an open-and-shut case against an innocent man, in the introduction to The Case for Faith.  Much of the problem was that all the evidence was consistent with the prejudice of the police, the attorneys, and the public.)  If you are not careful, you can amass a consilience of inductions to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that your bias is justified (see Card Stacking in the Baloney Detector).  If Darwin understood the need for rigor, today’s Darwinists often do not, because they print the measliest tidbits as evidence for their theories (see Nov. 18 headline, for example, and also the Nov. 13 headline, for another of many that could be shown in our back issues).  Science is not supposed to be a society for storytellers with vivid imaginations.  It is not only creationists who call foul at the Darwinist propensity for telling just-so stories.
        Isn’t it ironic, also, that criminal justice, the process Costa parades as an exemplary scientific methodology, is another example of an intelligent design approach to research?  The cop wants to find out if the dead body on the street was due to natural causes or “intelligent” (though malevolent) design, the act of a mind exercising choice and intent to commit murder.  So why not use the same process of design detection in science, and amass as many disparate lines of evidence into “one long argument” that life was designed?  Why should only the Darwinists get their day in court?  If criminal justice had this one-sided approach, government lawyers would have free reign to convict or exonerate anyone according to their whims, by arguing only the evidences that fit their a priori assumptions, without fear of contradictory arguments by well qualified lawyers on the opposing side.  That would not only be unconstitutional, it would be very unDarwinian.  It was Charlie himself who preached, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
        With that quote in mind, we have a suggestion.  Teach Darwin to Darwinist Professors.  Darwin was less dogmatic than his disciples (see 09/13/2002 headline).  He boldly set himself up for falsification when he said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”  He couldn’t think of any at the time, but that was long before we knew about DNA, Mendelian genetics and molecular machines.  Many feel Darwin’s theory has been falsified on this very point (e.g., the irreducible complexity argument), even ardent evolutionists, not mere high school students or soccer moms, understand the issue (see 08/20/2003 headline).
        So Dear Dr. Costa: your homework assignment is to read Darwin in the light of Year 2003 science instead of 1859 science; and for extra credit, read the two recent books by Cornelius Hunter on the history of Darwinian thought, Darwin’s God and Darwin’s Proof (Brazos Press, 2001 and 2003, respectively).  This will begin a good re-education, and provide a dose of humility for the remediation of elite conceit.  Any time you want to discuss the evidence calmly and rationally, as meek old Charlie would, please be our guest (after first reading all the chain links here on Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory; here’s one and another that might be a tad alarming to the Darwin Party faithful, and oh–don’t forget this one).
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Education. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
    How Do Plants Do Math?    11/20/2003
    An intriguing thing about plants is their ability to produce beautiful spiral designs.  This has fascinated mathematicians, philosophers and botanists for centuries, and is called phyllotaxis, or “leaf arrangement.”  Even more amazing was the discovery long ago that the spirals fit precise mathematical relationships: particularly, the Fibonacci Sequence.  This sequence, named for the medieval philosopher who described it, is the sequence of integers produced by adding together the two prior integers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.
        If you look top down at a pine cone, artichoke, sunflower or cactus and outline the spirals, you can detect multiple spirals both clockwise and counterclockwise with increasingly tighter angles.  The numbers of spirals in any two opposing directions are usually members of the Fibonacci sequence.  Furthermore, the angle between leaves on a stem and elements in a spiral is usually close to the “Golden Angle” (137.5 degrees) that is the limit of quotients of successive Fibonacci numbers, and relates to the “Golden Ratio,” the most visually eye-pleasing rectangle, which is built up from squares having sides with lengths of increasing Fibonacci numbers.  (If you are having trouble visualizing this, there are many good descriptions online if you search for the words “phyllotaxis” and “Fibonacci” – see, for instance, this pictorial one from
    Smith College, which also has an online exhibit on plant spirals, or the Fibonacci gold mine at Surrey CollegeBrantacan also has a detailed analysis of Fibonacci numbers in nature, with many interesting illustrations.)
        So the question is, how do plants do math?  How does this come about from natural processes at the molecular level?  The answer has eluded biologists for decades, and much still remains to be learned, but this week in Nature1, Reinhardt et al. have made progress.  They examined the concentrations of auxins, chemicals known to be responsible for plant growth, in the tips of seedlings in the widely-studied lab plant, thale cress (Arabidopsis brassica).  They also studied the protein carriers of these molecules.  Leaves, petals, flowers and seeds begin sprouting from the apical meristem (growing tip) at locations called primordia.  The team found that these primordia tend to act as sinks for the auxin; i.e., the auxin avoids them, and concentrates at the edges.  Through a detailed sequence of experiments, mutating the influx and efflux carriers, they found that new primordia do indeed grow where the concentrations of auxin are highest.  They feel this is the beginning of the patterning; as primordia develop, auxin concentrates at predictable angles to produce more primordia.  But they admit more study will be required to understand the process fully:
    Our work addresses the maintenance of phyllotactic pattern.  The challenge now is to elucidate how phyllotactic patterns are generated de novo, and how they change under natural conditions, for example when dicotyledonous plants undergo the transition from decussate [i.e., square, perpendicular] to spiral phyllotaxis.

    1Reinhardt et al., “Regulation of phyllotaxis by polar auxin transport,” Nature 426, 255 - 260 (20 November 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02081.
    Things don’t just happen; they require a cause.  Why should a flower or pine cone develop Fibonacci spirals?  This paper is very interesting in trying to elucidate the natural mechanism that would produce such a thing, but admits at the end, “The challenge now is to elucidate how phyllotactic patterns are generated de novo” – in other words (if you will pardon the anthropomorphism), how did the plant originally “decide” to pattern its growth after the Fibonacci sequence?  The scientists here have done a great job helping understand the construction phase, but admit the design phase remains elusive.  We see the crew at work, but where is the architect?  Are nature’s patterns always necessary, due to constraints of packing space or other physical requirements, or is there an intrinsic beauty and order in these patterns that reflects intelligent design?  Understanding the mechanism that generates the pattern begs the question of why there should be a pattern in the first place.
        Neither creationists nor evolutionists would expect a mystical force to be at work building a pine cone.  Clearly, some natural process is following a coded blueprint and carrying out the construction.  This paper does not address the philosophical questions raised by phyllotaxis, but only the mechanistic questions of how it is achieved in one particular plant.  But even that aspect is amazing.  Notice that a series of transportation machines, called influx and efflux carriers, transport the growth hormone (auxin) to the tips of the growing stem.  These carriers didn’t just happen, either; they are exquisite molecular machines constructed by other molecular machines that, in turn, obey instructions from the genetic code.
        Many other carriers are at work in the roots and throughout the plant.  Without them, auxin would just obey the law of gravity.  But the plant has an elaborate transportation and communication network that keeps a complex factory operating 24 x 7, day and night, rain or shine, on schedule, in budget, within spec.  You might recall an earlier story on intraplant communication (see 07/13/2001 headline, “Plants Talk to Themselves in Email”).  This “botanical internet” helps the factory carry out the patterned instructions from the genetic blueprint in ways we still do not understand.  But who wrote the blueprint?  You should never look at an artichoke the same way again.
        Your local botanical garden may have many examples of Fibonacci spirals on display.  Cacti are especially beautiful.  The Huntington Gardens in Arcadia, near Los Angeles, has an incredible display of cacti, as does the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson.  You can also buy small potted cacti with nice spirals at a local nursery and grow them at home.  With these, you’ll have a nice conversation starter that could lead to some deep philosophical discussions.
    Next headline on: Plants. • Next amazing story.
    Who’s to Blame for Environmental Destruction?   11/19/2003
    Two recent reports contradict common liberal opinion that the free world is ravaging the environment at the expense of the poor.  At least they bring some balance into the discussion and implicate some other culprits.
        On this 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Oregon State University scientists have used the famous duo’s journals to gauge the impact of human occupation on the wildlife ecology before and after the white man’s westward migration. 
    EurekAlert, reporting on their work, states flatly at the outset:
    It is a myth that vast areas of the West existed in some sort of pristine state, largely unaffected by humans until the 1800s, the research concludes.  In fact, the larger wildlife such as deer, elk or buffalo that were hunted by Native Americans appear to have populations that may have fluctuated greatly, up and down, based on the hunting pressure on them decades or centuries before European settlers ever arrived.
    The journals of Lewis and Clark provided data points to correlate large mammal abundance with Indian population density, and showed that native Americans had a large impact on the wildlife ecology without the white man’s help.  Where Indian settlements were dense, such as in the Columbia Basin, the expedition found so little game there was almost nothing to eat.  Another OSU professor, William Ripple, sets the record straight:
    Many people have a vision of very little human influence on the land around the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  That wasn’t the case.  The impact of humans, even then, was far greater than most people appreciate.  And as we develop ecological theories and management practices today, we must be careful about what we consider pristine.  With wildlife in the West, it was not in 1806.
        In our present world, which nations are most likely to destroy their biodiversity resources?  Those with corrupt governments, reported Nature Science Update Nov. 6.  “Corruption undermines conservation when it pays better,” one conservation economist put it.  Even when biologists are sent to the rescue, good intentions can fall apart:
    Wildlife workers are often badly remunerated, making bribes more attractive.  Conservation policy frequently carries relatively little clout with governments and law-enforcement agencies, and the success of conservation projects can be difficult to gauge.  All of these factors make projects vulnerable to crooked financial practices.
    A UK team headed by Robert Smith (U. of Kent, Canterbury) used a “corruption perception index” to rate conservation of forest and wildlife in several African countries.  Among their findings was that “Rhinos, elephants and trees are disappearing most quickly in countries with the worst governance scores.”  They found that “corruption explained the trends better than any other factor.”  Not to pick on Africa, NSU pointed out that “The influence of corruption on wildlife goes beyond Africa.  Efforts to conserve Indonesia's forests, for example, have been hampered by illegal logging, supported by corrupt officials despite a raft of protective legislation.”  A Nature Conservancy official noted that most conservationists tend to view the problems as biological rather than political.  Despite well-intentioned laws, it appears that money talks louder than good intentions.
        A press release from Oregon State Oct. 17 agreed that corruption is a curse on agriculture in Africa, along with world “free trade” agreements that undermine local economies’ ability to compete with foreign countries, whose governments can afford to subsidize their markets:
    The result is governments and societies that are teetering on the brink of collapse and increasingly unable to reach their goals of agricultural self-sufficiency, even though some of them have millions of farmers and land capable of producing far more than it does.
    Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and Senegal are cited as countries where corruption is rampant.  Larry Becker, geographer at OSU, said it’s time to shift our focus: “Too much emphasis has been put on technical solutions to the challenge of African food self-sufficiency.  The real obstacles to food production are political and economic.”
    Political, economic, and... moral.  Give people freedom and money without morals, and will you have utopia?  No, you will have an even more powerful corruption problem.  It is countries where high moral standards and the rule of law are intact where there is the best opportunity for a society to flourish, without the temptation to cut self-serving deals.  In free countries, where people are able to compete in the marketplace based on their abilities, and where their selfish interests are channeled by the requirement to satisfy their customers better than their competitors can, coupled with a moral consensus that values truth and honesty and punishes evil, there is a working recipe for sustainable prosperity.  But prosperity also must be kept in check by a moral standard that sees our place in the world as one of responsible stewardship.  Corruption destroys all these things.
        These articles help explode the “Dancing with Wolves” stereotype, and the white imperialist stereotype.  But it’s fruitless to point fingers here, because all humans are innately selfish and evil.  Any society will express its evil fully unless kept in check by the rule of law and beliefs that encourage honesty and responsibility.  Most often these beliefs are rooted in religion.  The Judeo-Christian tradition, for instance, when followed according to the Bible, teaches honesty, responsibility, compassion and stewardship.  This is not to say that Europe or America have not failed, often miserably, to live up to those standards.  But at least corruption has usually been viewed as an evil that must be punished. 
    So despised was corruption in Elizabethan England in the days of the King James Bible, for example, Sir Francis Bacon was humiliated and nearly ruined for taking a bribe.  But in many countries, you would be humiliated for not engaging in this evil practice.  Ask yourself which countries have the most corrupt governments today, where bribery is a way of life cynically accepted as a necessary evil, then check out their environmental record.  Also, dare to ask the politically incorrect question, what is their religious tradition.  At risk of oversimplification, consider that a native east Indian living in America has, on numerous occasions, mentioned in casual conversation to this reporter that bribery and corruption are ubiquitous in India, from the top of the government down to the local constable on the steet.  If you’re thinking ahead that India is primarily Hindu in religious tradition, you need to realize that another religion is dominant, dogmatic, and forceful in India today, at least among the intellectual and political elites who take the bribes: Darwinism.
        These articles are noteworthy in that they come from secular sources not particularly reputed as politically conservative.  The OSU press release pointed out that the problem is not resources.  There are plenty of workers, there is plenty of land, and there is a great potential for productivity, prosperity and self-sufficiency.  It is being destroyed by corruption.  More than any other factor, corruption was correlated with environmental destruction and poverty.  This would have been no surprise to Isaiah or Jeremiah, who understood that “the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up” because “Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right.”  Solomon, also, knew that “The king establishes the land by justice, But he who receives bribes overthrows it.” (Prov. 29:4).  This theme runs throughout the whole Bible: corruption ruins the land and its people.
        The situation is desperate.  The ecology is crumbling.  Wildlife is being exterminated.  People are starving.  The usual political, economic and scientific remedies – subsidies, education, consultants, scientific studies – are not working.  This calls for drastic measures.  Send missionaries with care packages containing copies of the Bible, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
    Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
    BBC Presents Piltdown Hoax Documentary    11/18/2003
    The BBC has a new web/video documentary about Piltdown Man to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his fall from grace, a discovery that took the infamous skull from “one of the biggest discoveries of the 20th Century to being its greatest scientific embarrassment.”  The feature, entitled
    “Unmasking Piltdown Man,” includes a gallery and video clips.  An accompanying article reviews the history of the hoax, and announces that a BBC documentary on Piltdown will air on Nov. 21.  In addition, the Natural History Museum has a new exhibit opening Nov. 25 named, “Piltdown Man: The Context And Exposure Of A Scientific Forgery.”
    For 46 years, Piltdown Man reigned as a human ancestor.  It was the standard by which other bones were judged; paleontologists rejected other evidence if it didn’t fit Piltdown Man and the legend that grew around it.  The fake was in its heyday during the Scopes Trial.  It fooled the brightest minds in the scientific world for a generation.
       On the same page with the BBC’s expose is an ad for their disinformation documentary, “Walking with Cavemen” (see March 19 headline).  Have we learned nothing?  No; actually quite a bit, thank you.  Our knowledge has improved considerably.  We’ve learned that hoaxes no longer need to be hidden as deep, dark secrets; they can now be trumpeted on the airwaves as edutainment.
    Next headline on: Movies. • Next headline on: Early Man.
    Is Darwin in the Genes?    11/18/2003
    A molecular phylogenist is a researcher who tries to find evidence for Darwinian common ancestry by comparing genes between organisms.  Let’s drop in at the journal
    Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29:3, Dec. 2003, and see how things are coming along.  This issue focuses mostly on the plant kingdom. 
    1. Plant polyploidy:  Lie and Wendel agree this subject is poorly understood:
      Recent studies in several plant systems have revealed that allopolyploid genesis under both synthetic and natural conditions often is accompanied by rapid and sometimes evolutionarily conserved epigenetic changes.... It is likely that the evolutionary success of allopolyploidy is in part attributable to epigenetic phenomena that we are only just beginning to understand.
      (Epigenetic phenomena are “above the genes,” or mechanisms that do not rely on DNA translation alone; they may regulate how DNA gets translated in the first place, which genes get expressed, and how often.)

    2. Mitochondrial gene evolution:  Adams and Palmer describe the diversity and complexity of mitochondrial genes.  There appears to be no clear evolutionary pattern of functional transfer to the nucleus:
      The tempo and pattern of mitochondrial gene loss is highly episodic, both across the broad sweep of eukaryotes and within such well-studied groups as angiosperms.  All animals, some plants, and certain other groups of eukaryotes are mired in profound stases in mitochondrial gene content, whereas other lineages have experienced relatively frequent gene loss.
      (“Profound stases” refers to the fact there is almost no change seen over assumed long periods of evolutionary time.)

    3. Spacers in Plant Genes:  Alvarez and Wendel examined internal transcribed spacer sequences (ITS) in plant genes for evidences of common ancestry, which are used in a third of phylogenetic studies.  The observations leave them somewhat befuddled:
      Notwithstanding the many important contributions of ITS sequence data to phylogenetic understanding and knowledge of genome relationships, a number of molecular genetic processes impact ITS sequences in ways that may mislead phylogenetic inference.... Despite the near-universal usage of ITS sequence data in plant phylogenetic studies, its complex and unpredictable evolutionary behavior reduce its utility for phylogenetic analysis.
    4. Plant DNA and Pseudogene Polymorphisms:  Bailey, Carr, Harris and Hughes warn their colleagues about possible misinterpretations through use of nuclear DNA and pseudogene comparisons.  Though early results seemed to show these regions are homogeneous within individuals, they noted that polymorphisms can exist within one individual that can cloud a phylogenetic interpretation:
      However, both older and more recent studies have found intra-individual nrDNA polymorphism across a range of plant taxa including presumed non-hybrid diploids.  In addition, polymorphic individuals often contain potentially non-functional nrDNA copies (pseudogenes).  These findings suggest that complete concerted evolution should not be assumed when embarking on phylogenetic studies using nrDNA sequences.
      They offer suggestions on how to get around these problems, but caution that “a priori determinations of orthology and paralogy of nrDNA sequences should not be made based on the functionality or lack of functionality of those sequences.”

    5. Developmental Genes:  Becker and Theiben examine the phylogeny of MADS-box genes, which code for transcription factors that influence many things: roots, flowers, and fruit.  Most of the genes appear very early, so that they conclude: “These findings reveal that the diversity of MADS-box genes in Arabidopsis [a commonly-studied herb] is rather ancient and representative for other flowering plants.”

    6. Morning Glory, Evening Stress:  Durbin et al. studied morning glories for evidence of evolution: “A central goal of evolutionary genetics is to trace the causal pathway between mutations at particular genes and adaptation at the phenotypic level.”  They didn’t seem to find it in the genes for flower color themselves, but rather in the ways they are regulated: “The results of this study show that most species differences in this crucial phenotype are associated with changes in the regulation of gene expression.”

    7. Sex Determination:  Kinney, Columbus and Friar studied maize for genes that determine sex, but got mixed results:
      Our results suggest that purifying selection may be acting on Ts2 in the hermaphrodite-flowered B. hirsuta while no evidence of selection was detected at Ts2 in the monoecious/dioecious B. dimorpha.
    8. Nuclear ribosomal DNA sequence polymorphism and hybridization: Andreason and Baldwin checked out checker mallows, a “taxonomically difficult” group of annuals and perennials, for evidence of evolution.  They offer some possible reasons for the “complex patterns of morphological variation putatively stemming from hybridization and polyploidy”:
      Polymorphic sequence patterns in other taxa may be a result of extensive interbreeding within young clades, in keeping with the minimal sequence divergence, largely overlapping geographic distributions and morphology, and ploidy variation in these groups.  Other possible explanations for polymorphic sequences in members of Sidalcea include slow concerted evolution relative to mutation rates, incomplete lineage sorting, and recent pseudogene formation.
    9. Limb Loss:  Now for an animal story.  Whiting, Bauer and Sites examined skinks (legless lizards) in sub-Saharan Africa and concluded evolution goes downward in this group:
      Reconstructions of ancestral states for limb and digital characters show limited support for the reversal or gain of both digits and limbs, but conservative interpretation of the results suggest that limb loss is common, occurring multiple times throughout evolutionary history, and is most likely not reversible.
    If Bailey et al. are correct (#4 above), and if polymorphisms are ubiquitous in many more genomes, what will this do?  Phylogenists take gene samples from one individual, and often only one part of an individual.  But what if there are many variations within the individual and between individuals within the same species?  Would that not cloud any tree-building to the point of making it an exercise in futility?  (Not that it wasn’t to begin with.)
        It’s kind of fun to watch Darwinists wrestle the data into their preconceived boxes, but it would seem a better use of their valiant efforts to find a cure for cancer.
    Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Evolving Bug Caught on Tape    11/18/2003
    Jamaican click beetles are evolving by Darwinian natural selection, concludes a team of scientists writing in the PNAS Nov. 17 online preprints.1  The color of one species’ ventral bioluminescent organ seems to be shifting from green to orange.  They believe they have (1) discounted the neutral evolution hypothesis, (2) connected a genetic change to a specific change in appearance (phenotype), and (3) determined that the population with orange light is growing.  This, they feel, represents an example of natural selection, a “possible ongoing adaptive color transition in progress.”  Their enthusiasm is evident in the mixed metaphors of their concluding sentence: “We can only speculate on what might have been if the voyage of a young English naturalist with an amusing fondness for beetles had visited Jamaica.”
    Stolz et al., “Darwinian natural selection for orange bioluminescent color in a Jamaican click beetle,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2432563100, Published online before print November 17, 2003.
    They admit in their conclusion that this is not a complete story of natural selection, because they have not established a connection between the orange light and the fitness of the beetle.  They offer some speculations:
    Possible explanations for the adaptive significance of more orange ventral light include: (i) sexual selection, (ii) predation from a nocturnal visual predator such as bats or birds, and (iii) character displacement caused by spectral competition from fireflies or another, now extinct, congeneric beetle.
        In addition to resolving click beetle ecology, several other pertinent questions also remain concerning whether and how natural selection has affected the dorsal polymorphism, the vYG allele, and interspecific color differences among Pyrophorus species.  Studies are also called for to quantify the visual acuity of beetles for different wavelengths of light to test for evidence of coevolution with bioluminescent color.  In conclusion, with the development of ever-more powerful genetic tools, we envision verification of selection at the molecular level as becoming a logical step in testing the adaptive hypothesis for a trait.
    Then comes their cute Charlie line (more on that later).  Did you catch what this concluding paragraph says?  All they found was a little bitty variation from greenish-orange to orangy-green, on the bellies of bugs that already exist, and perhaps the specific genetic mutation(s) that code for the color difference.  They don’t know if it has any adaptive significance.  They don’t know if the female likes it  They don’t know if she can even detect the difference.  They don’t know if it makes the beetles more fit.  They don’t know if natural selection has affected the other varieties of click beetles.  They don’t claim to have established a complete case of natural selection.  They admit that molecular testing of the “adaptive hypothesis” (i.e., natural selection) has not been done.  They started and ended with Jamaican click beetles.  Where is the evolution?
        If you don’t think Charlie is the evolutionists’ idol, consider their punch line.  The “young English naturalist” is clearly an allusion to Charlie Darling in his starring role on the Beagle, but the phrase “amusing fondness for beetles” recalls Haldane’s jab at God (for refutation, see 04/26/02 headline).  The association hardly seems coincidental.
    Next headline on: Bugs and Crawlers. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
    Hopeful Monsters in the Whale Evolution Tale    11/18/2003
    Fossil hunters at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota last week excitedly discussed the latest ideas about whale evolution, reported Erik Stokstad in the
    Nov. 14 issue of Science1.
        Philip Gingerich (U. of Michigan) listed 50 semi-aquatic mammals, from water mice to hippos, and related their bones to those of whales.  Most differences related to body size, but 3.6% of the differences related to aquatic ability, and 0.7% related to whether the animal swims with its feet (like an otter) or its hands (like a platypus).  The alleged transitional form Rodhocetus appears to have had weak bones and used its feet for swimming, with its tail like a rudder.  The “earliest known whale” Pakicetus apparently had bones dense enough to walk on land, although it probably lived like a sea cow.
    1Erik Stokstad, “Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Meeting: Early Whales Get All Wet,” Science Volume 302, Number 5648, Issue of 14 Nov 2003, pp. 1142-1143.
    Mammals occupy a wide variety of habitats.  Some, like bats, can fly.  Some, like beavers, spend time on land and in the water.  Some, like whales and dolphins, spend all their time in water.  This does not mean they are related by common ancestry.  Is a beaver halfway toward evolving into an obligate aquatic animal?  Or is it the other way around?  You can make up whatever story you want, but the beaver seems happy doing what it does.  Each mammal is well adapted to its current niche.  Many mammals are now extinct, some of which also lived in aquatic or semi-aquatic habitats.  This proves nothing about common ancestry.
        Another approach is to quantify all the changes that would be required to make a land mammal, like a cow, evolve into a sea creature, like a whale.  David Berlinksi discussed this approach in the Q&A section of the DVD version of the film Icons of Evolution (highly recommended).  He started adding up the changes – skin, tail, lungs, fins, respiration, diet, etc. – and came up with a conservative estimate of 50,000.  Moreover, these changes would have to be coordinated.  A change in lungs for diving deep underwater would have to be associated with a stronger brain case and ability to withstand pressure, and with impermeable skin, etc.  One may quibble about the number, but certainly many, and major, would be the changes from cow to whale.  The question then becomes, is there any fossil evidence for the thousands of transitional forms that must have existed during the estimated 50 million years in which this great transformation allegedly occurred?
        The only examples these evolutionists always trot out are a few extinct semi-aquatic candidates, like Pakicetus and Rodhocetus.  The artist’ reconstruction of Rodhocetus in the article shows a squat long-snouted tan-colored animal with dog-like feet and a wide tail that flips left and right, unlike a whale’s vertically-moving fluke.  Great.  15 mutations down, and only 49,985 to go.  The caption says, “The early whale Rodhocetus probably paddled like an aquatic mole, using its tail as a rudder, rather than wiggling like an otter.”  Notice two things: the word probably, which reminds us one cannot deduce lifestyles from fossils, and the observation that there are aquatic moles with similar lifestyles today.  Are the moles evolving into mini-whales?  How do we know the extinct animals were not perfectly content to stay what they were for eternity?
        The paleontologists got all excited that Rodhocetus might have used its hind feet for swimming.  What’s all the excitement about?  Whales have no hind feet, nor do they swim with them.  The gap between Rodhocetus, Pakicetus or any other candidate transitional form and true whales is huge, yet the article calls Pakicetus the “earliest known whale.”  Given the gap to bone ratio, that is no more plausible than calling Icarus the earliest known bird.
        In a way, it’s admirable that these paleontologists exhibit the power of positive thinking.  Otherwise, playing Darwin detective must be a very depressing job.  But the first step toward recovery for EA (Evolutionists Anonymous) is to admit that they have a problem.
    Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
    Film Debate: Unlocking the Mystery of Life    11/18/2003
    Eric Anderson of EvolutionDebate.info read all the critiques of the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life (from
    Illustra Media, 2002) posted on the National Center for Science Education website.  Then he found the film in the library and watched it.  He has written a fairly detailed point-by-point rebuttal to the criticisms, entitled, “No Mystery in the NCSE.”
    Read both sides and see if the NCSE criticisms hold up.  We recommend you review our own headlines about complex structures (see Aug. 20 headline) and the RNA World scenario (see 07/11/02 headline), in which the Darwin Party places so much bluffing confidence.  They treat the RNA World as their ace in the hole.  Just don’t ask about the details.
        Keep in mind also that the film attempts to cover a lot of ground in 67 minutes.  This it does admirably well.  It’s always a struggle to decide what must make it in the final print and what gems have to end up on the cutting room floor.  If the point of the film was the voyage of the Beagle, for instance, certainly more stops along the South American Coast should have been included.  The port of call most pertinent to Darwin’s theory, though, widely assented even among evolutionists, was that on the Galápagos Islands.  Pointing out other stops along the way would have only been a time-consuming distraction.  For critics to focus on such a minor shortcoming is a red herring.
        Also, was the film really dismissive about the co-option argument?  Watch it and decide.  What more could have been said?  The treatment of it seems pretty thorough.  The evolutionists claim it was “mockingly simplified,” but provide none of the “signficant evidence” for this “crucial evolutionary mechanism” they allude to, that the film should have mentioned.  But that’s typical of propaganda; make a bold claim, and fail to back it up.  It’s also typical of arguments coming from those in a weak position.  It would seem the NCSE, with all the big-gun scientists at their beck and call, could provide more substance if they had it.
    Next headline on: Movies. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
    Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week    11/17/2003
    MSNBC News has a story about the opening of a new Mammal Hall at the Smithsonian.  Randolph E. Schmid explains how “this hall is about us” and “children of all ages will be pleased.”  He says, “All mammals are descended from a common ancestor.  The exhibition discusses how evolution produced today’s great variety from the tiny shrew-like creature, Morganucodon oelheri.”    Schmid mentions what the museum has done to make sure children get the message: “An eight-minute video traces that evolution for visitors, who watch in the company of Harriet, a life-size sculpture of a chimpanzee seated on one of the benches.”
    Undoubtedly a lot of intelligent design went into the construction of this exhibit, the intention of which is to demonstrate to the kiddies that intelligent design is unnecessary to exhibit superb adaptation.  If this disturbs any precocious children, especially those with web access to Creation-Evolution Headlines, maybe National Geographic can help keep the peace (see Mar. 18 headline).
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Mammals. • Next dumb story.
    Meet JO Alien    11/17/2003
    National Geographic News has a story about two astrobiologists who think we will contact extraterrestrials by 2025.  They have created a “genderless” anthropomorphic animated figure, JO Alien, that stars in an English planetarium show (not that they believe aliens would look anything like us or like classic Hollywood aliens).  They have also written a book, Cosmic Company, that explains SETI and its significance.  One of the authors, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, believes that because there is “an enormous amount of real estate out there,” and planets are “as common as phone poles,” it’s only a matter of time before we make contact.  It’s “just a matter of statistics,” they argue.
        Does anything fuel their optimism?  Even in our neighborhood, “There are deep oceans on the moons of Jupiter, and some evidence that Mars in its early days really should have had some life.  So if there are two or maybe even three instances in this solar system alone, where life could have emerged, it’s not unreasonable to consider that similar situations arose in other solar systems,” Shostak says.  NG News points out that some scientists think the evolution of intelligence is another matter, but Shostak is optimistic about that, too.  The article explains that he and his co-author, astronomer Alexandra Barnett, argue that “there are evolutionary mechanisms that encourage intelligence, particularly among social beings.”
    Why does SETI get good press for bad science?  Let’s have a debate about this.  There is still only one planet proven to have life, and that is the one under your feet.  Europa might have liquid water under miles of ice; so what?  Water and life are vastly different collocations of chemical elements.  There is no evidence Mars had life: that’s a lie.  The Martian meteorite has been debunked as evidence (see Nov. 15 headline), the Viking experiments have been given purely physical explanations, and even evidence for water is still equivocal (although JPL just published a picture of what looks like a river delta, but that’s fine, we’ll grant the SETI believers all the water they want).
        It must be stressed that without evidence, you have no science.  You have beliefs, myths, and stories.   The only thing they might be correct about is the real estate.  But to claim lots of land means lots of tenants is a royal non-sequitur.
        The two authors deny that intelligent life would look like a Hollywood alien, but they use one to push their beliefs.  If they wanted to do this in the Church of SETI, that would be fine, but they do this in a public planetarium where no one gets to hear an opposing view.
        Their entire case is predicated on the assumption of evolution.  First, they believe chemicals can self-organize into life.  Give an example that does not assume chemical evolution, but demonstrates it (see 07/11/02 headline).  Second, they believe that “evolutionary mechanisms encourage intelligence, particularly among social beings.”  Name one.  (A mechanism, that is, not a social being.)  Mechanisms do not “encourage” anything (a personification fallacy).  If they are natural mechanisms, they only encourage one thing: entropy. Intelligence is as far from entropy as you can get.
        If SETI promoters want to spend money and search through radio waves, that’s fine, as long as it is their money.  But without evidence extraterrestrials exist, it is not science; it’s a belief.  Even if a lucky message does appear someday, it would not prove evolution, either.  It would demonstrate intelligent design. Mr. JO Alien would not be able to explain his origin by evolution.  He could be a liar, too, and Shostak would never be able to know.  “Why, yes, our race also evolved by slow processes of unguided, purposeless natural causes.  (What suckers these earthlings are, Screwtape.)”
    Next headline on: SETI. • Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
    Baloney Detecting Exercise: Texas Textbook Controversy   11/15/2003
    Here’s how Constance Holden reported the vote about Texas textbooks (see
    Nov. 5 headline) in the Nov. 14 issue of Science.1  Apply your skills from studying our Baloney Detector to decide if the reporting is fair or not.  Certain words are highlighted for convenience, but quote marks are in the original:
    Fending off attempts to weaken references to evolution, the Texas State Board of Education last week approved a list of biology textbooks that scientists believe do justice to Darwin’s theories....
        Scientists had been on high alert in response to complaints by advocates of “intelligent design” that pro-Darwin “inaccuracies” appear in books under review in Texas, the nation’s second-largest buyer of textbooks after California.  Shortly before the school board vote, 550 Texas scientists and teachers urged the 15 members to maintain “high standards of science”--and they think the appeal got through.  “The publishers have done a terrific job of holding the line and keeping the creationists at bay,” says Skip Evans of the National Center for Science Education in El Cerrito, California.
    The remainder of Holden’s article discusses specific complaints about evidences for Darwinism that the Discovery Institute was “unhappy with,” including the peppered moth story and Haeckel’s embryos and the claim human embryos have “gill slits.”  The term is being dropped, and photographs are being substituted for the drawings.  Holden continues,
    Now both sides seem to be happy.  DI officials praised publishers for correcting “a number of embarrassing errors” that overstate the evidence for evolutionary theory.  Scientists, for their part, say the changes pose no problems.  The embryo drawings were old and inaccurate, says Evans.  And whether or not books talk about gill slits is simply a matter of “terminology.”

    1Constance Holden, “Teaching Evolution: Texas Resolves War Over Biology Texts,” Science, Volume 302, Number 5648, Issue of 14 Nov 2003, p. 1130.
    This exercise should be a slam-dunk for anyone familiar with the issues.  But there are some subtleties, too.  Get good at Baloney Detecting.  You’re going to need it when the NCSE and the press show up at your school board meetings.
    Next headline on: Education. • Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
    Another Blow to Microfossil Hunters   11/15/2003
    That famous photo of apparent worm-like fossils in a Martian meteorite is all bunk, as far as scientists are concerned.  Richard A. Kerr, writing in the
    Oct. 14 issue of Science1 writes confidently that they “turned out to be purely mineralogical and never were alive.”
        That’s somewhat old news, but another group of putative microfossils from Australia, the “Warrawoona” specimens, first published in 1993, has now also been cast into severe doubt.  Kerr describes how a group from Spain, publishing in the same issue,2 provided a recipe detailing “how to cook up minerals in the laboratory that bear a striking resemblance to the Warrawoona microfossils,” using plausible geological conditions.  It appears, therefore, that the Warrawoona specimens “are nothing more than suggestively shaped geologic detritus, not fossils,” says Kerr.
        A few hold-outs still argue about them, but George Cody (Carnegie Institute of Washington) agrees with the principle this paper illustrates, “just because something looks familiar doesn’t mean it’s biogenic.  A lot more thought has to go into biomarkers for ancient life.”  Stephen Hyde, one of the researchers, concludes, “This means simply that we must rethink the criteria for detection of life, both here on Earth and elsewhere.  Morphology and organic chemistry are evidently not enough.”
    See also headlines from 06/20/2002, 05/15/2002, 03/18/2002, 03/07/2002, 11/20/2001, 07/20/2001, 03/28/2001, 02/28/2001, 12/14/2000, and 09/26/2000.
    1Richard A. Kerr, “Geochemistry: Minerals Cooked Up in the Laboratory Call Ancient Microfossils Into Question,”  Science Volume 302, Number 5648, Issue of 14 Nov 2003, p. 1134.
    2Garcia-Ruiz et al., “Self-Assembled Silica-Carbonate Structures and Detection of Ancient Microfossils,” Science 2003 302: 1194-1197.
    Too late.  Everyone has that picture of the Martian worm embedded in their brains and is convinced it proves evolution.  Too many books, articles, interactive CDs and TV shows have used it to go back now and say it has nothing to do with life.  Mars needs that image or else the space program isn’t as sexy, or so think some NASA public relations people.
    Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Mars.
    Flowers Monkey With Pollinators via Color    11/13/2003
    Monkeyflowers have a way to switch from bumblebee pollinators to hummingbirds: change color via a single mutation.  This is the thesis studied by Bradshaw and Shemske in the
    Nov. 13 issue of Nature1 (see also the popular-level report in National Geographic News.
        NG News sets the stage:
    For years scientists have grappled to understand the number and type of genetic mutations required for a new species to evolve.  Does it require the accumulation of many minute mutations?  Or can a single mutation spark a big change? 
    A mutation in a gene for color named YUP changes one species of monkeyflower from pink to red.  Bees seem to go for the pink, and hummingbirds for the red.  The biologists crossed different species with this one genetic mutation, set them out in the wild, and watched the pollinators come.  As expected, bees liked the normally-red ones mutated pink, and hummingbirds the reverse.
        According to NG News, the experiment does not demonstrate the origin of a new species, but just a possible fork in the road that might lead to a new species.  Bradshaw, co-author of the paper, told them, “Many mutations are required to get all the way, but the original step can be produced by one mutation.”  For example, the mutant would probably die off in the wild.  But if its main pollinator were in short supply, the flowers would have to evolve or perish.  Those adapted by this mutation to the alternate pollinator might flourish.  Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist (U. of Chicago), told the reporters, “Like evolution itself, there are no general rules that apply to the formation of species.”
    1H.D. Bradshaw, Jr. and Douglas H. Schemske, “Allele substitution at a flower colour locus produces a pollinator shift in monkeyflowers,” Nature 426, 176 - 178 (13 November 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02106.
    Evolutionists are happy with teensy weensy pieces of evidence, even if irrelevant to the core claim that humans have bacteria ancestors, as long as it fits in a teensy weensy way.  It does not have to constitute proof of their core claim, any more than a microscopic fleck of paint on a canvas, given enough time, might evolve into a Mona Lisa all by itself.  As long as the fleck fits into a mental image of the finished product, that’s good enough.  Hold their feet to the fire of scientifically proving or observing bacteria evolving into humans, and what do they do?  When pressed, they have to admit that not one example of a major change has ever been observed (see Aug 20 headline).  Even here they admit they did not see any evolution of even one new species; only a mutation that might be a fork in the road that might lead to a new species, someday over the rainbow.
        What have they shown?  Two existing species of monkeyflowers, plus existing bumblebees and existing hummingbirds.  Either species can be pollinated by either pollinator; it’s just that bees prefer pink, hummingbirds prefer red.  Nothing evolved.  Nothing about this study rules in favor of Charlie over Henry (Darwin, Morris, respectively).  Even creationists admit to lots of variability within kinds; coloration, plant height, root length, flowering period, ability to tolerate drought, you name it.  They believe the Creator put a certain measure of adaptability into each kind of creature as a safeguard to ensure survival in a dynamic environment.  Henry would not be surprised even if the monkeyflowers turned into another species or genus or order over hundreds or thousands of generations.  Nothing about this bears at all on whether it is possible for a monkeyflower to turn into a pear tree or a partridge or a monkey or anything else.  This experiment only has relevance to Darwinian evolution in the mind of the beholder.  Yet to Jerry Coyne, Mr. Darwin Party radical himself, this was “a solid and brilliant piece of research,” and the authors’ conclusions “are very sound.”  Evolutionists need to quit the mutual-self-esteem positive-thinking psychobabble, as if they are scientific alcoholics praising one another for keeping away from the bottle another day, sober up, and raise their standards.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
    Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Another Missing Link Demoted    11/12/2003
    The microscopic protozoan Giardia may be the bane of hikers who like to drink creek water, but it has been the boon to evolutionists as their missing link between prokaryotes and eukaryotes – until now.  New findings “mark a turning point for views of early eukaryotic and mitochondrial evolution,” report Katrin Henze and William Martin in the
    Nov. 13 issue of Nature1, summarizing work by Tovar et al.2 in the same issue: “Giardia’s place as an intermediate stage in standard schemes of eukaryotic evolutionary history is no longer tenable.”  They comment that this paper “will surprise many people.”
        What happened?  Central to the missing-link idea was the belief that Giardia lacked mitochondria, the ATP-energy factories common to eukaryotes (cells with nuclei, as opposed to prokaryotes, which lack them).  Lo and behold, the researchers found tiny mitochondria, dubbed mitosomes, had been present in the little germs all along.  And they are not just shriveled up versions of the big ones.  They have a unique biochemical path that produces ATP without oxygen, required for their anaerobic environment.  They build iron and sulfur clusters and then organize them into oxidation-reduction transport machinery.
        So it seems evolutionists have to start over in their search for a new candidate to bridge the gap between the two kingdoms.  But all is not lost by the finding; it helps shed light on alternative mitochondria, ones that don’t need oxygen:
    We know that mitochondria arose as intracellular symbionts in the evolutionary past.  But in what sort of host?  That question still has biologists dumbfounded.  In the most popular theories, Giardia is seen as a direct descendant of a hypothetical eukaryotic host lineage that existed before mitochondria did.  But Tovar and colleagues’ findings show that Giardia cannot have descended directly from such a host, because Giardia has mitosomes.  So our understanding of the original mitochondrial host is not improved by these new findings, but our understanding of mitochondria certainly is.  In its role as a living fossil from the time of prokaryote-to-eukaryote transition, Giardia is now retired.  But it assumes a new place in the textbooks as an exemplary eukaryote with tiny mitochondria that have a tenacious grip on an essential — and anaerobic — biochemical pathway.

    1Katrin Henze and William Martin, “Evolutionary biology: Essence of mitochondria,” Nature 426, 127 - 128 (13 November 2003); doi:10.1038/426127a.
    2Tovar et al., “Mitochondrial remnant organelles of Giardia function in iron-sulphur protein maturation,” Nature 426, 172 - 176 (13 November 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01945
    Also of interest in this report is Henze and Martin’s admission that the whole story of eukaryote evolution is slightly less than watertight: “The prokaryotes came first; eukaryotes (all plants, animals, fungi and protists) evolved from them, and to this day biologists hotly debate how this transition took place, with about 20 different theories on the go.”  Hate to break it to them on an already bad day, but the endosymbiont theory is not as watertight as they assume, either (see a rebuttal by Don Batten.)
        Even assuming their assumption, Tovar et al. admit that whatever this endosymbiont was, it was not a simple clod: “Thus, the original endosymbiont must have possessed the capacity to synthesize Fe–S clusters and to assemble them into functional redox and electron transport proteins.”  If you don’t know how to do that, don’t expect that a germ figured it out millions of years ago.
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Exercise for Joy    11/11/2003
    In a press release, the
    Society for Neuroscience explains additional findings that confirm the obvious: those who exercise are happier and healthier.  Regular exercise, especially when you put your mind into it, reduces the incidence of depression, and helps the body and brain recover from a variety of injuries and diseases.  The positive impact on the brain is especially an “exciting discovery,” the article says.  Exercise benefits more than muscles, and it has benefits for all ages, even the elderly.  One study tested patients aged 65 to 93.  The ones who exercised with mental intensity – really putting their mind to it, even for a relatively mild arm contraction test – received gains five times higher than those who watched TV while doing the same exercise.
    May as well have fun while working out.  Get off the sofa, turn off the TV, and do your brain some good: instead of the treadmill, go take a vigorous hike in the beauty of God’s creation.  If you’re thinking, “I’m just too tired and down in the dumps for that,” take a really vigorous hike!  Can you afford not to?  Just think how much more you could get done and enjoy doing it if you felt stronger and had a better disposition.
        Our bodies were made for activity.  Isn’t it a form of gratitude to our Maker to use and appreciate His gifts?  Paul said that “bodily exercise profits little” (in proportion to godliness, which benefits this life and the next), but if done in the right spirit, it can actually form a feedback loop: the more exercise, the more energy, the better the attitude, and the more capacity for godliness.  Joy is closer to godliness than depression and lethargy.  Who is commended in Proverbs, the sluggard or the diligent?  Paul’s point was not that exercise is bad (compare I Cor. 9:27 and II Tim. 2, and consider that Paul himself traveled thousands of miles on foot in his journeys), but that the body is temporary and godliness is not.  Doesn’t exercise require self-control and discipline?  Are these not qualities of godliness?  So no more excuses by quoting a verse out of context.  Glorify God in your body.
    Next headline on: Health.
    Editorial: Damadian’s Protest    11/10/2003
    Richard F. Harris has weighed in on the Nobel Prize for Medicine controversy in Current Biology1, in an op-ed piece entitled “Nobel Grudge.”  He quotes primarily sources critical of Dr. Raymond Damadian’s protest about the award (see
    Oct. 10 headline).  Harris quotes a Wall Street Journal piece that calls Damadian an “abrasive egotist,” and the LA Times that caricatures Damadian “as some mad comic book scientist.”  Harris’s selected quotes seem to draw attention to Damadian’s penchant for protesting decisions, his business wealth (including his company’s ability to buy expensive full-page ads), and his creationism.  Harris downplays the significance of Damadian’s discovery that made MRI possible, and quotes, without rebuttal, an unnamed letter from the Washington Post that alleges that “not even the company he founded uses his method” (a half truth, because modern MRI machines don’t use Lauterbur’s or Mansfield’s techniques either; they use a technique invented in 1980 by others – see Fonar Corp. documentation).  Fonar’s detailed history supports their claim: “only Damadian’s discovery is still in use on every MRI scanner, every day, throughout the world.”
    1Richard F. Harris, “Magazine: Nobel Grudge,” Current Biology, Vol 13, R857, 11 November 2003.
    Most of us learned as children that repeating a lie is just as bad as making one up.  Suppose, for instance your kid comes home and says, “Bobby said our teacher is a blankety-blank who’s on drugs, stashes assault rifles and votes Republican.”  Naturally, you rebuke this behavior.  How would you react if he defended his words by saying, “I didn’t say it – Bobby did!”  Suppose he continued his defense by saying the teacher really does vote Republican; that part of the story is true.  Would you let him off the hook?  (If so, stop your subscription to the LA Times; it’s scrambling your moral values.)  Apparently Richard Harris never learned his kindergarten manners.
        If you perceive the injustice Harris has done here, you will understand much of media bias in general.  Reporters insulate themselves from criticism by quoting others.  They pick vitriolic statements by interested parties that reinforce their own biases, providing either little or no opposing voices, or they leave the juiciest, nastiest quote for last, to be the stinger most likely to remain in memory.  To appear neutral, they can always claim they are merely reporting what others have said.  Responsible journalism, however, would not allow libelous statements to get a hearing or go unchallenged.  Selective quoting is a propaganda trick.  Though offering a few weak points in his defense, Harris gives neither Damadian nor anyone on his side comparable opportunity to respond to the lies.
        Readers are urged to review the Oct. 10 headline about the Nobel controversy, read Fonar’s documentation, and especially to watch the video clips where Damadian calmly and rationally explains why the decision was unjust.  Without a signal, he said, there is no image.  Damadian discovered the signal that made MRI possible, and drew a diagram in his original paper of how the signal could be used to produce an image of the human body.  Immediately that is what he set out to do, and he did.  Applying MR to imaging of the human body for medical application was in his mind from the start.  Lauterbur and Mansfield took that initial finding and ran with it, and are now the ones who will get to bask in all the glory that the Nobel Prize brings, when the real inventor has been snubbed.  Their silence at this injustice, when they know the facts all too well, makes them accomplices to this wrong.  Despite the fact that the Nobel committee works secretly and is accountable to no one, their decisions create, for the world, a quasi-historical record of the greatest scientific discoveries.  Damadian, whose discovery and development of MRI is helping save the lives of millions (Fonar reports that nearly 500 million people have had MRI scans), and who has been recognized by two top US awards as the inventor of MRI, has every right to set the record straight.
        The scurrilous epithets Richard Harris repeats are reprehensible.  By quoting half truths and loaded words, Harris suggests an image of an out-of-control, egotistical maniac who, though already rich, is an “unceasing self-promoter” out to get his share.  Like your kid, he can use the excuse, “I didn’t say it; the Wall Street Journal did.”  Anyone who knows Damadian knows a very different man.  Raymond V. Damadian is generous, honest, dignified, self-controlled, kind, rational and insightful.  He can be vigilant when the truth is at stake.  His patent fight was a David and Goliath struggle against large international corporations that violated the law by subverting his patent.  He stood up to them and won, being vindicated by the Supreme Court of the United States.  The earnings are helping his company, Fonar Corporation, produce more and better machines for life-saving medical diagnosis.  Damadian should be portrayed as an American hero, but Harris sets up three irrelevant strikes to put him out of the game: his business success (Damadian, the evil, wealthy corporate giant), his patent fight (Damadian, the litigious egotist), and his creationism (Damadian, the crackpot).  Watch out, anyone who succeeds at business, tries to defend his reputation, or dares to question establishment science.  The media are caricature artists.  They can turn Reagan into a senile cowboy or Damadian into a Frankenstein.  Don’t let them get away with their dirty work.  Richard Harris, check the record, hear his defense, and better yet, go meet with Damadian and get to know him in person before filling your pen with others’ poison.
        This article is not the first to suggest the Nobel committee delayed awarding a prize for MRI out of worry about how Damadian would react, but according to Harris, the New York Times suggested that they may have risked it now out of concern for Lauterbur’s health; i.e., it had to be now or never (the award cannot be given posthumously).  But then why not include all three in the prize?  Wouldn’t that keep the peace?  There must be more to it.  The Wall Street Journal was one of the few sources to mention Damadian’s position on creation and evolution.  (Evolutionists are so cocky of their position, that merely to mention the word “creationism” in the same sentence with an individual is enough to bedeck him with the scarlet letter C and write him off.)  One can only wonder how much the creationism issue figured into the Nobel committee’s decision.  Damadian’s 1971 achievement was unquestionably a fundamental discovery and a model of good scientific research.  But it would not be inconceivable to envision the committee thinking, “We can’t let a creationist win a Nobel prize.  No way.  What would that do to our elite reputation?  We cannot stomach the thought of what the creationists might do with one of their own getting our award.”  Perhaps that is also the reason that Fritz Schaefer, another perpetual Nobel nominee, never wins.
        If political correctness is now the metric for scientific honors, it is indeed “a shameful wrong that must be righted.”  It would have eliminated Newton, Maxwell, Leeuwenhoek, Kepler, and most other great scientists of history.
       
    Update 11/11/2003: Fonar has produced another full-page ad in the New York times (click here for PDF or for text format).  It’s loaded with scientific and historical evidence supporting Damadian’s claim.  Read and decide for yourself.
    Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
    Explaining a 27-Year-Old Martian Puzzle   11/07/2003
    When Vikings 1 and 2 landed on Mars during the USA Bicentennial, they were primed to look for life.  They had three major experiments to test soil samples for evidence of biology.  One of them said “no” but two said “maybe.”  That “maybe” has given some scientists a glimmer of hope for all this time.
        The pyrolysis experiment found no traces of organic compounds, which seemed to rule out life.  The gas-exchange experiment found rapid release of oxygen in soil samples, which might have been consistent with life.  The labeled-release experiment provided the soil sample with nutrients that any microorganisms would have loved.  It measured the results, and found that something indeed had consumed the ingredients.  Either something was metabolizing the sample, or else unknown chemistry in the soil caused the reaction.  The fact that no organic compounds were found in the soil, however, made it a long shot that life had done the work.
        Now, scientists have just published results of a comparison study done here on Earth.  In a remote region of the Andes of Chile is a dry desert similar in many respects to Martian soil.  Almost nothing lives there.  Scientists repeated the labeled-release experiment with those samples and were able to explain it by oxidizing reactions in the soil, not life.
        The
    BBC News has a report on the story published in the Nov 7 issue of Science1.  One of the researchers was Christopher P. McKay, a long-time proponent of the idea that Martian meteorites contain fossil evidence of past life.
    See also 07/20/2001 headline.
    1 Navarro-Gonzalez et al., “Mars-Like Soils in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the Dry Limit of Microbial Life,” Science magazine, Nov 7, 2003, 302:5647, pp. 1018-1021.
    After 1976, only a few scientists were willing to hope that the Viking experiments did not rule out life.  The “official” NASA explanation was that Mars had some kind of unusual oxidizing chemistry in its soil.  That is what has been corroborated here on Earth in this latest test.  Exobiologists were discouraged from 1976 till 1996, when the Martian meteorite ALH84001 showed what looked like bacterial fossils with organic compounds.  By now, however, most have rejected that idea as well.
        Just before the dawn of new Martian landings, this paper has added to the case against life on Mars.  The Martian invasion begins Christmas day, when the UK’s lander Beagle 2 (named after Darwin’s ship), attempts to detect carbonates and other organic molecules in the soil.  Starting January 4, the US Mars Exploration Rovers will try to determine whether water ever flowed on the Martian surface.  It seems more unlikely now, however, since large amounts of olivine, which could not have survived in the presence of water, have been found by the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft.  Anything is possible, but the track record for the life search on Mars has been a century-long series of discouragements for believers.  It is likely that even after January, no matter how bad the news, hope will spring eternal.
    Next headline on: Mars.
    Time to Junk the Term “Junk DNA”    11/06/2003
    “Heirlooms in the Attic” is the way Mark Johnston and Gary Stormo describe, in the Nov. 7 issue of
    Science1, the potential discoveries awaiting scientists in the realms of non-coding DNA, disparagingly referred to as “junk DNA.”  Genome research has understandably focused on genes that code for proteins, but what are these vast stretches of non-coding DNA?  Are they junk or treasures?
        Hints that interesting gems are waiting to be uncovered include the fact that these areas are highly conserved,2 even more so, in some cases, than the genes.  According to evolutionary thinking, if something is conserved, it must be important.  Scientists are only beginning to uncover hidden functions in the non-coding regions.  Do they regulate gene expression?  Do they provide scaffolding or attachment points?  “Uncovering the part that CNGs [conserved non-genic sequences] play in the cell will certainly require experimentation,” they say, “and that activity is likely to occupy many people for quite some time.” –
    Early in the Human Genome Project, people argued about what to sequence.  Some advocated determining just the sequence of the protein-coding regions, because the vast majority of the genome is “junk” DNA.  This would, they argued, be cost effective because most of the important information is in protein-coding DNA.  Given what we’ve learned about the jewels in the genome’s attic, aren’t we glad they sequenced it all?
    See also Oct 16 headline.
    1Mark Johnston and Gary D. Stormo, “Evolution: Heirlooms in the Attic,” Science Volume 302, Number 5647, Issue of 7 Nov 2003, pp. 997-999; 10.1126/science.1092271.
    2Dermitzakis et al., “Evolutionary Discrimination of Mammalian Conserved Non-Genic Sequences (CNGs),” Science Originally published in Science Express as 10.1126/science.1087047 on October 2, 2003; Science, Vol. 302, Issue 5647, 1033-1035, November 7, 2003; 10.1126/science.1087047
    Why would evolution conserve sequences at all, if it is such a powerful agent of change?  Why would non-coding sections, especially, be conserved?  Nothing in this story smells like evolution.  It smells like design.  Turn the assumption around; if it is important, it must be conserved.  The other way assumes evolution.
    Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
    Saved By the Shell    11/06/2003
    Did you notice anything this morning?  No?  Good.  It’s working.  Never mind, then.
        Oh, you want to know what I’m talking about?  Well, the biggest solar flares on record have been erupting off the sun since last week, but not to worry; our shields are intact and we’re doing just fine.  No problem.
        The flare on Nov. 4 was the largest in recorded history, says
    SpaceWeather.com.  It rated X28 on the Richter Scale of Solar Flares (most are below X6, or the lower M-class and smaller).  It produced over a hundred times the energy of the sun’s normal X-ray emissions.  SOHO took a picture of it, and it made Astronomy Picture of the Day.  According to Space.Com, this one was literally off the scale, and blinded the satellite for 11 minutes.  It was not aimed directly at Earth, but other recent giant flares were.  Last week, the X17 event on Oct. 28 hit the Earth head on.  Other than causing a few spacecraft mishaps and communication glitches, however, it did little damage, and even had a bright side: it gave viewers at low latitudes some awesome light shows in the form of beautiful auroras.
        In space, such flares would be deadly to humans.  The high flux of energetic protons and electrons and UV radiation could have killed an astronaut on the moon or anywhere outside our protective bubble.  Earth is shielded by a magnetic field that deflects many of the dangerous particles emitted by the sun (see 05/10/2002 headline).  Then there is our ionosphere that buffers us from energetic particles that make it past the magnetic field, and the ozone layer that absorbs most of the UV radiation.  The result is a relatively constant influx of solar energy at the Earth’s surface, the kind plants and sunbathers love.
        Despite these almost scary eruptions, our sun is a pretty calm star.  Some other stars have been seen to emit flares many orders of magnitude larger than these.  Giant stars emit far more UV, X-ray and other kinds of ionizing radiation, and many stars pulsate wildly.  Our relatively calm, yellow star is right outside the borderline of the pulsing types.  It’s not too hot, too cold, or too unpredictable; it’s just right.
        The sun’s influence extends far out into space.  After 26 years of flight, it appears that Voyager 1 may have just begun to reach the outer portions of the sun’s bubble, 8.5 billion miles away.  Even then, it has many more miles to go before truly entering interstellar space.
    We’re safe.  Thank God.
    Next headline on: Solar System. • Next amazing story.
    Texas Textbooks Update  11/05/2003
    Rhetoric is flying about the debate over Darwinism in Texas textbooks (see
    Oct. 30 headline).  The Texas school board plans to decide November 6 or 7 how evolution is to be presented in their textbook selections.  Since Texas is a major customer for textbook publishers, their decision could have a big influence on other states.
    Update 11/07/2003: MSNBC News reports that a preliminary 11-4 vote approved the textbooks as is, errors and all.  Some board members wanted to vote on each textbook individually, since some are better than others.  That motion was overturned in favor of an all-or-none vote.  The final vote was Friday the 7th; Discovery Institute reported a last-minute, partial victory, in the form of a promise that remaining errors in the textbooks will be corrected before print.
    Some recent articles:
  • Houston Chronicle.
  • Agape Press.
  • Dallas Morning News (reprinted by Discovery Institute).
  • Discovery Institute, also their Q&A.
  • A response by William Dembski to Eugenie Scott’s smear against ID sent to the Texas school board.
  • The Discovery Institute also maintains a page dedicated to the Texas textbook controversy, with background information and links to previous articles: Texas Textbook Information.
  • The Texans for Better Science Education group also maintains a news update page.
  • Agape Press: presents aftermath comments by Texans for Better Science Education, 11/10/2003.
  • New Mexico Update: the Coral Ridge newsletter reports that a letter-writing campaign by citizens in New Mexico resulted in that state’s school board agreeing to de-dogmatize Darwinism in biology classrooms, and to allow scientific objections to be heard.
    Next headline on: Schools.

    SETI: Editorial  11/05/2003
    Gary Bates has written an article reviewing the history of SETI at the
    Answers in Genesis website.  He claims NASA has revisited this once-scorned subject, in the form of its “Origins” program, in hopes of capturing the public imagination.

    SETI is different from astrobiology, which is NASA’s current thrust.  The Origins Program is more concerned about finding habitable planets than scanning the skies for coded messages (see the project roadmaps at NASA-JPL and NASA-Ames, which say nothing about SETI).  SETI itself is still privately funded, still hurting for money (see the Planetary Society appeal), and still unpopular in Washington.  In the end, it doesn’t make that much difference.  Both concepts are rooted in evolutionary belief, with SETI just a little farther up the tree.  Maybe NASA avoids SETI partly to stave off Intelligent Design counterattacks: “If a coded message from space is a reliable indicator of intelligent design, why isn’t DNA right here on Earth?”  Since space slime doesn’t talk back, it could not interfere with public relations.
    Next headline on: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
    Everything You Know Is Wrong Dept.: On Thunderstorms    11/05/2003
    Time to rewrite the textbooks again, or maybe throw them away till a new theory comes along.  This time it’s about lightning.  There isn’t a big enough electric field in a cloud to make lightning possible, claims Joseph Dwyer, a Florida Tech physicist, as reported in
    EurekAlert.   There is a limit to how much charge a cloud can accumulate.  The triggering mechanism also “remains a mystery.”  Obviously lightning happens.  So how are we going to explain it now?  We don’t know.  “Although everyone is familiar with lightning, we still don’t know much about how it really works,” said Dwyer.
    Here is a phenomenon observed for thousands of years, based on electromagnetic theory that is well understood, and we cannot explain it.  The assumptions were wrong, and what we have been taught to believe “for generations” is wrong.  The point is not that this phenomenon is impervious to scientific explanation.  But if something this observable, this physical, this amenable to real-time analysis and modeling is so baffling, how can evolutionists be cocky about processes they imagine occurred millions of years ago?
    Next headline on: Physics.
    Ohio Geologists Question Assumptions    11/05/2003
    A press release from
    University of Cincinnati lists some topics their researchers have been presenting in Seattle this week at meetings of the Geological Society of America.  Some of them seem to overturn some basic assumptions:
    • Erosion rates:  How fast does a hillside erode?  “University of Cincinnati geologist David Nash questions the conventional assumption that steepness of slope is the only factor.  The size of the slope, Nash said, is very important.”
    • Dinosaur flood:  A bed of dinosaur bones in Montana now appears to be the work of a flood that “was sweeping freshly killed animals, rather than gathering up loose bones.”  The old idea was that the animals became mired in mud flats.  Since “Evidence indicates that all of the juvenile to sub-adult dinosaurs were killed at one time,” Tim Myers and team believe that “a strong current deposited the remains.”  The headline reads, “Bad day at Jurassic Park.
    • Fossil succession:  “How accurate are paleontology’s models?” the headline asks.  Time to reconsider, apparently.  “Paleontologists often make assumptions about ancient environments by looking at collections of many fossils found at a single site.  They believe their conclusions are accurate by comparing ancient assemblages to modern environments in which animal remains are on their way to becoming fossils.  But how accurate is this comparison?”  To put a model to an observational test, “UC paleontologists compared a detailed inventory of seabed remains at Smuggler’s Cove, Virgin Islands, in 1980 and again in 2002.”  While the model appeared to hold up in some respects, “it was possible to map significant changes in snail populations over the 22-year period.”  What does this mean?  “It is possible, then, that fossilized assemblages may not be telling the whole story about how dynamic environments are through time.
    Here is a common train of thought in papers about the unobservable past:
    1. Such and such a process is poorly understood.
    2. Conventional models assume certain things.
    3. The assumptions do not hold up to experimental testing.
    4. More work is needed.
    Without a time machine that would allow an observer to watch the process, this line of reasoning constitutes a perpetual research program.  If so, a corollary is: the conventional model is always wrong.
    Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Fossils.
    Earliest Spiders Already Were Skilled Weavers    11/05/2003
    According to a press release from
    Ohio State University, a fossil spider alleged to be 300 million years old shows tentative evidence that it had the equipment necessary to produce silk and spin spider webs.  “The find suggests that silk-spinning has been around for a long time,” the article states.
    Once again, the evidence shows no evolution or transitional form, but the evolutionary spin doctors turn this into a prop for Charlie: “The finding -- based on the remarkably well-preserved arrangement of tiny bumps called microtubercle rows along the creatures [sic] hindmost legs -- could shed light on the early evolution of arachnids, silk use, and life on land.”  Well, it hasn’t yet.  They’re still in the dark, this means.  When do we get return on investment?  Only one organism surpasses the spiders’ ability to spin, and that is the human evolutionist.
    Next headline on: Bugs and Crawlers. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Leakey: The Sequel    11/05/2003
    Many middle-aged adults probably remember leafing through issues of National Geographic as kids and gawking at the artwork of nearly naked ape-men hunting in the African plains.  The magazine typically gave prominent coverage to the adventures of Louis and Mary Leakey (usually a cover story) showing them digging up alleged hominid skulls and attempting to piece them together into a story of human evolution.  The Leakeys were the poster children of paleoanthropology, thanks to the millions of National Geographic magazines on living room coffee tables and dentists’ offices around the world.
        That was then.  This is 2003, after there have been numerous upheavals of previously-held beliefs (see
    June 11 and 07/11/02 headlines, for instance).  But for all this time, the Leakey dynasty was never conquered.  They’re back in the NG spotlight again: National Geographic News tells how Meave and Louise are continuing to carry the Leakey family banner.
        Louise is back in Kenya with her mother Meave, digging through some of the Lake Turkana sediments as part of a five-year initiative sponsored (no surprise) by the National Geographic Society.  A smattering of bones and skulls labeled Australopithecus, Homo erectus and what-not have been unearthed, the most notable being what Meave named Kenyanthropus platyops in 2001 (see 04/07/2001 headline).  (Louise admits, however, that the classification of the specimen is controversial because it appears to have been deformed – see Mar 28 headline.)
        What has stood the test of time, after decades of Leakey work?  Not much, apparently; Louise seems to be at square one, considering the kinds of questions her team is researching:
    1. Sudden appearance:  “There are several research questions that we really want to approach.  One of them is relating to the sudden emergence of Homo erectus, or our genus Homo, around about two million years ago.  Where does it suddenly appear from?”
    2. ID of cousin Harry:  “Then the other question is, ‘What is Homo habilis?’ because there’s still a lot of disagreement or controversy surrounding Homo habilis.
    3. Extinction:  “In addition, there’s the...robust Australopithecines, Australopithecus boisei–which suddenly goes extinct at about 1.2 million years.  Why did that happen?
    Louise seems to still cling to the “out of Africa” theory in the Leakey tradition, and this gives meaning to her work:
    If you look at the state of the world today and the conflicts and the ethnic divisions, we’ve got to remember that we all came from a common ancestor.  That common ancestor was African. Africa is a very neglected part of the world.  I think we all need to remember where we came [from].  It is exciting to know about our past and how that came to be.  That’s really why I work in the field I work in.  It’s also our heritage, our global heritage.  Working towards recovering it and also protecting it for the future is a very worthwhile cause.
    National Geographic supports the Leakeys as Explorers-in-Residence.  Their “ongoing paleontology research is supported by a grant from the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.”
    If the Leakeys had to go through annual reviews like employees at most companies, they would be standing in unemployment lines, looking for a real job.  There is so little to show at this point to prove to a reasonable-minded skeptic that humans evolved from apes, that only grant money from a society dedicated to shoring up evolution keeps food on their table.
        And consider: if you were given a pile of money with the orders, “go find our ape-like ancestors,” would you come back to the boss empty handed?  If your base is in Africa, would you ever consider alternatives to the “out of Africa” theory? (see 02/15/2002 headline).  Even if all the evidence were contrary, never in your wildest nightmares would you bite the hand that feeds you with an admission like, “I’m sorry, but it appears that humans abruptly appeared in the record without any transitions.  This argues against an evolutionary ancestry for man, and supports instead a belief that humans were created.”
        So here Leakey III digs on.  It doesn’t really matter if she finds anything, because just by working side by side with native Kenyans, she is building their self-esteem.  She is promoting world peace.  She is protecting the environment.  Finding data is old-fashioned, superfluous, conservative.  What matters is keeping the NEA, the UN, the Sierra Club, the artists, the producers, and the board of directors happy.
    Next headline on: Early Man.
    The Downfall of Uniformitarianism   11/04/2003
    Can major paradigm shifts occur in science today?  Check this one out.
        You’ve seen it on TV science programs and in textbooks: plumes of hot magma from deep in the Earth’s mantle rise through the crust and erupt on the surface (the IMAX movie Yellowstone has computer graphics of the whole process).  Perhaps you’ve seen animations of the Hawaiian Islands riding over a “hot spot” and building its chain of volcanoes over millions of years on its slow, drifting journey.  Textbook diagrams show cross-sections of Earth’s crust, with lava erupting from channels rooted deep in the mantle, while crustal plates float and drift atop deep convection currents.
        That’s all defunct now, and so is a lot of the uniformitarian dogma associated with it, claims Warren B. Hamilton (Colorado School of Mines), in an extensive article in this month’s GSA Today.1  Uniformitarianism is out, catastrophism is in.  Now, don’t get the idea Hamilton denies the Earth is billions of years old; he still accepts the 4.567 billion year figure, the condensation of Earth from a solar nebula, and all that.  But he replaces Charles Lyell’s old premise “the present is the key to the past” with a new picture that seems to pay homage to Stephen Jay Gould.  He calls his model “Punctuated Gradualism.”  How serious is the subject?  Enough for him to entitle his paper, “An Alternative Earth,” and for it to get prominent press in a journal of the world’s leading geological society.
        Here’s the overview Hamilton provides of his paradigm, and the timeline of catastrophic events he now envisions (Note: Ga = giga-annum, i.e., a billion years).
    The Earth described here differs profoundly from that accepted as dogma in most textbooks and research papers.  Crust and upper mantle have formed a mostly closed system throughout geologic time, and their dramatic temporal changes are responses to cooling.  The changing processes define a Punctuated Gradualism and not Uniformitarianism.  Major stages in Earth evolution:
    1. 4.567–ca. 4.4 Ga.  Hot accretion and major irreversible mantle fractionation.  Giant bolides continue to ca. 3.9 Ga.
    2. 4.4–3.5 Ga.  Era of nearly global felsic crust, too hot and mobile to stand as continents.
    3. 3.5–2.0 Ga.  Granite-and-greenstone era.  Permanent hydrosphere.  Old crust cooled to density permitting mafic melts to reach surface.  Diapiric batholiths mobilized from underlying old crust.
    4. 2.0 Ga–continuing.  Plate tectonic era.  Distinct continents and oceans.  Top-down cooling of oceanic lithosphere enables subduction that drives plates, forces spreading, and mixes continental as well as oceanic crust into upper mantle.
    While much of this timeline looks standard, some of the underlying changes to assumptions are striking.  The rhetoric is also notable in that the new view is revolutionary, and overthrows long-held beliefs about uniformitarianism and plate tectonics.  Notice his confidence in the abstract: “Plumes from deep mantle, subduction into deep mantle, and bottom-up convective drive do not exist.”  In his Overview, he outlines how the old ideas have died:
    The conventional model (e.g., Turcotte and Schubert, 2002) of Earth’s evolution and dynamics postulates that most of the mantle is little fractionated, major differentiation continues, and continental crust has grown progressively throughout geologic time; through-the-mantle convection operates, lithosphere plates are moved by bottom-driven currents, and plumes rise from basal mantle to surface; and plate tectonics operated in early Precambrian time.  All of these conjectures likely are false.  They descend from speculation by Urey (1951) and other pioneers, reasonable then but not now, that Earth accreted slowly and at low temperature from fertile chondritic and carbonaceous-chondritic materials, heated gradually by radioactive decay and core segregation, and is still fractionating.
    Hamilton explains that “The notion of a cold, volatile-rich, young planet has long since been disproved,” but its corollary of an unfractionated [i.e., homogeneous, and therefore fluid] lower mantle no longer can stand up to the facts; “major constraints” now rule this view out in favor of shallow crustal activity from the upper mantle and crust.  This includes radioactive heating, of which he says, “Earth’s heat loss, now largely of radiogenic heat, is much overstated in the standard model.” He suggests a value 70% the earlier one, and states, “thermodynamic and mineral-physics data require that nearly all radioactivity be above 660 km (Hofmeister and Criss, 2003),” i.e., no deeper than 400 miles.  At that depth there is a discontinuity that could not be breached by a magma plume.
        In short, most volcanic activity and crustal movement is shallow, and plate tectonics started much later than assumed.  What are some of the ramifications geologists will have to consider if Hamilton’s “Alternative Earth” becomes the new textbook orthodoxy?  Some are technical, but here are a few for the casual reader:
    • The heat of volcanism is shallow, not deep.  The early crust did not form continents till much later than earlier assumed.
    • Plate tectonics began later.  “Plate tectonics did not operate within preserved Archean crust,” Hamilton asserts, and began (in his timeline) at 2.0 Ga.
    • Plate tectonics operates differently.  “What drives plates?” he rhetorically asks.  ”Most published models and explanations overlook known plate characteristics and behavior and instead elaborate false assumptions.”  He describes subduction and seafloor spreading as shallow processes, not driven by convection from deep within the mantle.  Notice how he derides those who have fudged their data to argue for deep mantle motions:
      Many published models are misleading: colors are saturated for lower-mantle anomalies one-tenth or one-fifth the amplitude of upper-mantle ones, huge unsampled volumes are assigned average values or populated with spherical-harmonic artifacts, illusory continuity is generated by severe smoothing and sharpening, cross sections are placed where subduction interpretations look most plausible.  Models account for only a few tenths of traveltime variance, and have not been tested by attempting to squeeze solutions back into upper mantle.  Nonsubduction alternatives receive little evaluation.
    • No more mantle plumes allowed.  Of the prototypical Hawaiian Islands case, he says, “There, in its only rigorously testable locale, the fixed-plume concept is falsified.”  How do supporters typically respond?  He claims, “Plume advocates respond to such refutations by making their conjectures ever more complex, unique to each example, and untestable.”  Yet beyond this, “All other geochemical, kinematic, and tectonic plume rationales derive from the misinterpretation that Hawaii stands atop a plume.”
    • Pure magma cannot reach the surface.  “Pro-plume conjectures assume wrongly that magmas are transported from melting sites to surface without modification, thereby preserving elemental and isotopic ratios of sources,” he chides.  He is emphatic that this assumption is no longer supportable: “Thermodynamics and phase petrology, including cotectic compositions of basalts and presence of underlying cumulates, prove that instead melts are profoundly modified before eruption (O'Hara and Herzberg, 2002).”  Hamilton continues to take opponents to task, accusing them of circular reasoning and flawed methodologies.
    • Island chains can form at once.  Rather than growing by drift of plates over hotspots, they form over “crackspots” that allow heat to the surface: “Island alignments, in this view, reflect regional stresses, perpetuation of directions once established, and lithosphere properties.”  Otherwise plume advocates have to explain how the Hawaiian chain made a 60-degree turn.
    • Recycled plate slabs are complex.  “Temperature, age, and isotopic ratios of sunken slabs vary regionally.”  What applies hither may not apply thither or yon.
    • Plate tectonics is top-down, not bottom-up.  Cooling at the top drives subduction, producing shallow cycles in the upper crust, all happening above 660 km.  It also allows for rotation of plates, impossible under the bottom-up view, which assumed there could be no net rotation: “The no-net-rotation framework minimizes motions of ridges and randomizes motions of subduction hinges so that many roll forward–impossible with gravity drive.  The lack of rational kinematics in these popular frameworks fosters acceptance of mysterious bottom drives,” he says.
    These are just a few of the ramifications mentioned by Hamilton.  Other consequences of this “Alternative Earth” with its shallow motions and shallow heating may become evident if the view becomes mainstream, which appears inevitable (see
    Aug. 20 and Apr. 1 headlines).
    1Warren B. Hamilton, “An Alternative Earth,” GSA Today, Vol. 13, No. 11, pp. 4-12.; DOI: 10.1130/1052-5173(2003)013<0004:AAE>2.0.CO;2.
    What’s most interesting about this story is not the new model, which may become the next discarded paradigm in the future, but the frank and revealing charges made against proponents of the old model: that they cheated, lied, and used irrational arguments to prop up their beliefs.  Is that possible in science?  You read it right here.
        Creationists have similarly argued against the standard model for a long time and maybe now are getting some comeuppance.  Dr. Walter Brown, for instance, has complained that deep mantle magma plumes are impossible, because the kinematics and thermodynamics would force the channels shut (see his paragraph on volcanoes and lava).  Volcanism, therefore, must occur at shallow depths.
        What can we learn from this paradigm shift?  Make no mistake: confident-sounding scientific models, replete with professional jargon, (maybe even this one here - cf. 11/14/2002 headline), are written by fallible human beings.  Like a hollow idol on a pedestal, a popular theory about the unobservable past might gleam in the sun for awhile, till toppled by tremors of fact.  Broken on the ground, it is swept away and forgotten, and then a new hollow idol takes its place.  Why hollow?  Because no observer was there to corroborate the processes or the vast periods of time they are assumed to take.  Remember Grand Canyon!  It was the prototypical case of a phenomenon requiring millions of years, yet now the consensus is growing that it was formed catastrophically and recently (see 07/22/2002 headline).  It should seem foolish to place one’s faith in the conjectures of mortals instead of in the testimony of an authoritative Eyewitness.
        Those not beholden to secular geological conjectures might well consider what this paradigm shift may do to other geological conjectures.  It may well cause a domino effect on current models in subjects as diverse as radiometric dating (which assumes pristine, unprocessed material from the deep mantle), planetary differentiation, seismology, volcanology, magnetic field dynamo theory, and even the origin of life.  This model tinkers with temperatures, chemistry, the nature of the core and mantle, the timing of continents, and a host of geophysical processes affecting land and sea.  Evolutionists had better revisit their assumptions about the early earth and what this does to their beliefs.
        Now that mantle plumes and deep plate tectonics are out, who knows what will happen next?  Perhaps Hamilton’s shallow plate tectonics theory will topple for other reasons.  It seems to hinder large migrations of plates, such as the belief that India migrated from lower Africa, crashed into Asia and built the Himalayas.  His choice of terms, “punctuated gradualism,” recalls Stephen Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibria, the “Alternative Earth” model in biology.  It arose out of frustration with the lack of evidence for Darwinian gradualism, not because of positive evidence for the alternative.  Gould replaced that “standard model” (neo-Darwinism) with – what? – a new model with even less empirical support, claiming, essentially, that evolution happens so fast it leaves no trace in the fossil record!  Is Hamilton’s “Punctuated gradualism” a parallel in geology?  It seems, at least, to nail the coffin shut on Lyell’s principle of uniformitarianism.  Whatever happens next, we have just seen that major paradigm shifts are still possible in science.  Kuhnians rejoice.  Darwinians beware.
    Next headline on: Geology.
    Ancient Air Grew Bigger Plants    11/03/2003
    Big plant-eating dinosaurs may have had plenty to eat, say scientists at North Carolina State University.  As reported in
    Science News1.  Sara Decherd and colleagues grew Ginkgo trees in hyperbaric chambers with more carbon dioxide and oxygen, and got them to grow up to five times as fast with three times as much foliage.  They figure that in Cretaceous times, oxygen in the atmosphere was 10% higher (at the expense of nitrogen), carbon dioxide was 5 times as abundant, and atmospheric pressure was 25% higher.  Their experimental results were reported at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Saint Paul, MN.
    1Sid Perkins, “Ancient Atmosphere was Productive,” Science News, Week of Nov. 1, 2003; Vol. 164, No. 18.
    Today’s world of deserts and wimpy animals like elephants does not seem like it evolved upward from the lush environments of the past, with its giant plants, dense jungles and three-story sauropods.  These scientists had better get their story straight with those at U. of Washington, however (see next headline).
        Before the Flood, there could have been plant biomass exceeding anything dreamt of today.  Measuring the effects of oxygen, CO2 and pressure on seedlings sounds like a feasible science project for a high school biology student.
    Next headline on: Plants.
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    Featured Creation Scientist for October

    Michael Faraday
    1791 - 1867

    For October, we’re happy to present (finally) one of the greatest in the roll call of the world’s greatest creation scientists, Michael Faraday.  This month’s biography has the makings of a good movie.  Who doesn’t enjoy hearing about someone rising out of poverty to achieve fame and success, making the world a better place, without it going to his head?  Stay tuned.

    Recently a scientist was asked what historical person’s life he would most like to relive.  The answer was Michael Faraday.  His was a Cinderella story, the embodiment of a Horatio Alger novel, with plenty of human interest that makes for a satisfying plot.  But it’s not just a good story; it was a life that changed the world.  Faraday was a “nobody” who trusted God, applied himself, and succeeded.  He became the world’s greatest experimental physicist; to this day he is often admired as such, notwithstanding the ultra-tech toys modern chemists and physicists have at their possession.  The president of the Institution for Electrical Engineers (IEE), for instance, at the unveiling of a Michael Faraday statue in 1989, said, “His discoveries have had an incalculable effect on subsequent scientific and technical development.  He was a true pioneer of scientific discovery.”

    Faraday dazzled audiences with his public demonstrations.  He discovered some of the most important laws of physics and chemistry, discoveries which revolutionized the world economy.  But none of this mattered to him as much as one thing: his Christian faith.  He would rather be praying and studying the Bible with his fellow church members than be at an awards ceremony or have audience with royalty.  Steadfast and humble, Faraday remained absolutely committed to Biblical truth from early childhood throughout his long life.  He would have been considered a “fundamentalist” Christian, had the term existed in his day.  But nothing, not even the rising tide of skepticism in Britain leading up to the Darwinian revolution, shook his confidence in the word of God.  And Faraday was not one to hear a snicker uttered by fellow scientists; he was too highly respected for that.  His contemporaries would have agreed with what Lord Rutherford said of him in 1931, “The more we study the work of Faraday with the perspective of time, the more we are impressed by his unrivalled genius as an experimenter and natural philosopher.  When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and industry, there is no honor too great to pay to the memory of Michael Faraday—one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”

    Start listing the things that run on electric motors – automobiles, fans, clocks, airplanes, pumps, vacuum cleaners, and so much more – and you begin to get a hint of what Faraday’s work brought forth.  Add to the list generators, transformers, electrolysis, electromagnets, and many other products of his lab, and Faraday’s importance to the history of science and technology starts to come into focus.  It has been said that the wealth generated by the inventions based on Faraday’s discoveries exceed the value of the British stock exchange.  This is probably an understatement.  Yet Faraday remained a modest, unpretentious soul who never sought financial profit from his work.  He accepted a cottage from the government in his senior years, but rebuffed honors.  When the queen wanted to knight him, he declined, wishing to remain plain old Mr.  Faraday to the end.  The glory of Jesus Christ was the only reward he sought.

    This series on scientist Christians (too bad we cannot reverse the order of the terms, no thanks to Mary Baker Eddy) has a recurring theme: circumstances are not the sole determiner of success.  There have been some who came from well-to-do families (Boyle, Joule) but others (Newton, Kepler, Carver) seemed to have everything against them.  Teachers should take note that a child from a poverty-stricken family and a bad neighborhood might turn out to be the next Michael Faraday.  “Man looks on the outward appearance,” Samuel reminded Jesse, the father of a ruddy shepherd boy destined to become King David, “but God looks on the heart.”  The most precious gift a poor mother and father can give their children is an example of faith, diligence, and godliness.  The Faraday household had little of this world’s goods, but they had these intangible treasures.  The centrality of worship in their life made them resolutely confident in the sovereignty and grace of God.  Michael gained from his faith a sense of purpose and drive and fortitude to withstand the rigors of life.  He developed values that subjugated worldly passions and promoted honorable work.  And for the benefit of science, his faith provided curiosity about God’s creation and a deep belief in the unity of nature.  As we will see, this belief steered him right toward his most fundamental discoveries.

    In this regard, young Michael Faraday was a rich child, even though outwardly his clothes were shabby, his shoes were worn out with holes, and he knew hunger.  His father, a blacksmith, had health problems and went for extended periods without work.  More than once Michael was given a loaf of bread by his mother and told it needed to last him a week.  The boy had to learn how to work hard and bear responsibility at an early age.  Properly understood and applied, these challenges can build character.  Jeremiah said, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27).  Faraday was living proof of that.  Rather than turn him into a thief or vagabond, hardships and deprivation instilled in Michael an appreciation for the few good things he had, a desire to succeed, and a deep hunger for knowledge.  That hunger began to be satisfied when he took a job as an apprentice bookbinder at the age of 13.

    Prior to his apprenticeship, he had attained only the rudiments of education through Sunday school: reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Though math would never be his strong point, he learned good penmanship, mastered writing and note-taking, and was a voracious reader.  In the print shop, he often read the books that were to be bound.  He was especially drawn to articles on science.  When he read in Encyclopedia Britannica about the new discoveries being made about electricity, including Volta’s new battery device that could supply a constant current, he was so fascinated, he cobbled parts from around the shop, including bottles, rags and clamps, made his own Voltaic pile, and used it to do simple experiments.  Faraday was also strongly influenced by a book by the English hymnwriter Isaac Watts on The Improvement of the Mind.  Michael resolved to discipline himself by reading profitable books, taking good notes at important occasions, and observing the habits of influential people.  These helped to fill in deficiencies from his substandard schooling.  Whenever he could, he asked friends and acquaintances to help him with grammar, spelling and punctuation.

    Michael dreamed of being a scientist, but felt trapped.  It seemed at times he would never be able to leave the working world he was in.  His mother and family members depended on his income, even more so when his father passed away when Michael was only 19.  By now he was a journeyman bookbinder working for a French businessman.  One day, he was given a stub of paper that was to become the ticket to his dreams: free tickets to a series of scientific lectures at the Royal Institution by the one of Britain’s most eminent scientists, Sir Humphry Davy.

    The Royal Institution was a showcase of science built in 1799 by Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson).  It was a combination laboratory, library and lecture hall.  It contained one of the largest Voltaic piles of the era.  Well stocked with chemicals, wire and magnets, it was the place to learn physical science.  Humphry Davy, famous for inventing the miner’s safety lamp, was an early experimenter with electrolysis and used it to discover six elements: potassium, sodium, calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium.  He was another Christian man of science.  Henry Morris summarizes his testimony: “he was a Bible-believing Christian, highly altruistic and generous, though not as spiritually minded and patient as was Faraday.  He was also a poet and, for a while, something of a Christian mystic.  In his declining years, however, he returned to Biblical Christianity and found peace therein.” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 38).

    Sir Davy’s public lectures at the Royal Institution were very popular and brought in a good source of funding (since it relied on subscribers).  One can imagine how Faraday, now a young man and well read in chemistry and electricity, would have dreamed of hearing Davy.  He had already been attending Wednesday night meetings of the City Philosophical Society, a group of working men interested in science.  He kept voluminous notes, which his boss often showed off to customers.  One customer was so impressed, he gave Michael free tickets to four lectures by Sir Humphry Davy.  The year was 1812, and Faraday was now 21.  He came early with ample note-taking materials and sat on the front row.

    Spellbound by all Davy presented on stage, Faraday wrote down everything, recopied it neatly at home, and bound it into a book 386 pages long.  Months went by as Faraday continued to dream of becoming a scientist like Davy.  His apprenticeship over, he took a job as a bookbinder across town, but was bored with business.  He took a bold step.  He wrote to Humphry Davy and asked for a job.  With his request, he enclosed a bound volume of notes he had taken at the lectures.  Davy’s reply was polite, but disappointing; there were no positions available.  In October of that year, Davy was temporarily blinded by an explosion in the laboratory.  Faraday managed to become his secretary for a few days, but when Davy recovered, there were still no positions available.

    A carriage pulled in front of Michael’s home one evening with a letter from Davy.  Excitedly, Michael tore it open.  It was a summons to appear at the Royal Institution the next day!  Davy’s assistant had just been dismissed for involvement in a brawl, so now a position was available, and Davy had not forgotten the eager young man.  Davy had discovered many things, but as he later admitted, his greatest discovery was Faraday.

    It was a substantial pay cut to take the job, but Michael enthusiastically accepted.  His position was little more than a janitor: washing bottles, setting up for lectures, keeping records, repairing things, and assisting the master as needed.  But it was a science education par excellence, learning at the feet of one of the greatest scientists in England.  Faraday applied himself diligently.  He learned everything he could, keeping detailed notes, and working long hours willingly.  Soon he was the equal of any chemist in the world.  What’s more, in 1813, Davy invited him on come along as his personal secretary on a tour of Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Holland and Germany, for a year and a half.  Faraday had the opportunity to personally meet some of the most important scientists on the continent, including Alessandro Volta.  It was not always easy; the talkative and snobbish Mrs. Davy had the habit of treating Michael like a servant, but overall, the experience was a powerful supplement to Faraday’s ongoing education.

    Faraday was like a kid in a toy shop at the Royal Institution.  His experiments are legendary.  Many have written on his lifetime discoveries, which are best summarized by Encyclopedia Brittanica:

    Faraday, who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, began his career as a chemist.  He wrote a manual of practical chemistry that reveals the mastery of the technical aspects of his art, discovered a number of new organic compounds, among them benzene, and was the first to liquefy a “permanent” gas (i.e., one that was believed to be incapable of liquefaction).  His major contribution, however, was in the field of electricity and magnetism.  He was the first to produce an electric current from a magnetic field, invented the first electric motor and dynamo, demonstrated the relation between electricity and chemical bonding, discovered the effect of magnetism on light, and discovered and named diamagnetism, the peculiar behaviour of certain substances in strong magnetic fields.  He provided the experimental, and a good deal of the theoretical, foundation upon which James Clerk Maxwell erected classical eletromagnetic field theory.

    This summary conceals years of hard work, and many lonely yet adventurous days and nights in the laboratory.  Sometimes Faraday used his tongue as a voltmeter or chemical taster, and explosions were not uncommon.  But he was a stickler for accuracy, kept good records, and published faithfully.  He also learned and mastered the art of lecturing and became famous for his stage demonstrations.  Within a decade of his employment by Davy, Faraday exceeded his master in eminence.  By 1824, he was appointed the Institute’s Director.  He was now a skilled lecturer, well-known experimentalist, Fellow of the Royal Society, and published scientist, with many major papers to his credit.  He was also a married man, having wed Sarah Barnard, a member of his church, in June, 1821.

    Come back soon for the rest of the story, including Faraday’s unusual church and the influence of his faith on his science!


    If you enjoyed this series, learn more about great Christians in science by reading our online book-in-progress:
    The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
    Copies are also available from our online store.

    A Concise Guide
    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).

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