Creation-Evolution Headlines
March 2004
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“Oh Lord, how difficult accuracy is!” Darwin said as letter after letter arrived at Down House disputing his statements.
Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002), p. 356.
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Quick Picks   03/31/2004
Too many stories came in too fast at the end of March.  Here are some we would have liked to explore in more detail.  They’re all interesting and some have amazing facts and quotes.
  • DNA vs. Evolution:  A paper in the Royal Society Biology Proceedings1 warned that pleiotropy, the antagonistic effect of genes that need to mutate together, inhibits natural selection more than is usually realized.  Sarah P. Otto writes,
    Pleiotropy is one of the most commonly observed attributes of genes.  Yet the extent and influence of pleiotropy have been underexplored in population genetics models. ... Under the assumption that pleiotropic effects are extensive and deleterious, the fraction of alleles that are beneficial overall is severely limited by pleiotropy and rises nearly linearly with the strength of directional selection on the focal trait.  Over a broad class of distribution of pleiotropic effects, the mean selective effect of those alleles that are beneficial overall is halved, on average, by pleiotropy. 
    Thus the simplistic notion that a beneficial mutation will be acted on by natural selection is “severely limited” by the effect of pleiotropy.

  • Starbirth:  In an article in the 19 March issue of Science.2 Robert Irion puzzles over why recent surveys of the heavens seem to indicate star formation was rapid in the early universe yet so slow today:
    As findings from these surveys cascade into the literature, they are shaking up notions about the evolution of star birth in the young cosmos.  Observers have found that some galaxies matured quickly after the big bang and then flamed out, forming giant blobs of stars that may have barely changed in at least 10 billion years.  Another population of galaxies kept evolving, churning out new stars for eons and gradually settling into mature but mildly fertile galaxies such as our Milky Way.
    But these claims seem to belie the uncertainty in the minds of modelers.  The following admissions of ignorance are startling, considering the ease with which the textbooks present the story of starbirth and galaxy evolution:
    Current theories of galaxy formation can’t explain why concussive waves of star birth swept through some early galaxies but not others--and why some of those fierce stellar fires got snuffed after a few billion years.  Startled by their own data, a few observers have implied that modelers of the cosmos need new ideas to describe our universe's combustive childhood (Science, 23 January, p. 460).
        Theorists aren’t yet ready to revise equations on their cluttered whiteboards, but they agree that the surveys illuminate serious flaws.  “We’re starting from a shaky foundation,” says cosmologist Carlos Frenk of the University of Durham, U.K.  “We don’t understand how a single star forms, yet we want to understand how 10 billion stars form.”  Fellow theorist Simon White of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, concurs: “The simple recipes in published models do not reproduce the star formation we see.  Theorists are now having to grow up.”
    Irion doesn’t contradict the predicament; he just hopes that new sky surveys will clear up the mess.

  • Alfred Russell Wallace:  Nigel Williams reviews Michael Shermer’s bio of the man who independently “discovered” the “law” of natural selection.
    Wallace was a colorful but tragic character.  He went on some legendary adventures in Malaysia and elsewhere, and graciously played second fiddle to Charlie, but was also suckered by spiritualism and the fallacies of his own beliefs.  He was another victim of loss of faith in the credibility of the Bible during his youth.  Janet Browne, in Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002) has many interesting insights into the Wallace-Darwin relationship, practically accusing Charlie of intrigue to prevent him getting glory for the discovery of natural selection.  Whether either of them deserved any credit is debatable.  In the March-May 2004 issue of Creation Ex Nihilo magazine, Russell Grigg argues that Charlie knew about and plagiarized the idea of natural selection from half a dozen predecessors and peers.
  • Charlie Worship:  In the 23 March issue of Current Biology,4 interviewee Hugo J. Bellen (Baylor College of Medicine) is asked if he has a scientific hero:
    Yes: Charles Darwin.  His ‘Origin of Species’ is in my opinion the most important text in biology that has been published so far.  I have read The Origin three times and every time I am in awe at Darwin’s ability to integrate so many different facts in a simple coherent theory.  The principle of natural selection has stood for over 150 years now.  Its implications for biology and genetics are far reaching, and the theory still hugely dominates our thinking as biologists.
    Follow the chain links on “Darwin” for differing views about this hero.

  • Another Thing You Can’t Live Without:  David Carling (Imperial College) provides a quick review of AMPK in the 23 March issue of Current Biology.5  If you don’t know what AMPK is (AMP-activated protein kinase), just be glad you (and everything else alive) has it:
    AMPK has been dubbed the cellular fuel gauge, because it is activated by a drop in the energy status of the cell.  If ATP is used up faster than it can be re-synthesized, ATP levels fall and this leads to a rise in AMP.  The increase in the AMP:ATP ratio triggers the activation of AMPK and leads to the phosphorylation of a large number of downstream targets.  The overall effect of AMPK activation is to switch off energy-using pathways and switch on energy-generating pathways, thus helping to restore the energy balance within the cell.  The conservation of AMPK throughout evolution emphasises its importance: homologs have been identified in all eukaryotic species examined to date, including plants.
    Other recent articles have focused on this cellular “fuel gauge” as a means of controlling appetite and obesity (see, for instance, Nature April 1, 2004).  When asked “Can we live without it,” Carlin answers immediately, “Almost certainly not.”  Mice without it die in embryo, and it cannot be mutated much: “Although a complete loss of AMPK activity is lethal, subtle changes in AMPK activity can lead to serious clinical consequences.”  You don’t say.  How the first organisms got about without it, he doesn’t say.

  • Genome Size:  Also in Current Biology,6 Brian Charlesworth and Nick Barton examine the question of why genome sizes differ so much between organisms, and offer a suggestion:
    Genome sizes vary enormously.  This variation in DNA content correlates with effective population size, suggesting that deleterious additions to the genome can accumulate in small populations.  On this view, the increased complexity of biological functions associated with large genomes partly reflects evolutionary degeneration.
    But judging from the many puzzles, contradictory evidences and lack of observations mentioned in the article, it doesn’t appear that evolutionists or creationists quite have a handle on this one yet.

  • Intron Origins:  Another paper in the same issue of Current Biology7 attempts to put forward a hypothesis about intron origin and evolution (see 09/23/2003 headline). Phylogenetic evidence indicates that these sequences have been targeted by numerous intron insertions during evolution , but little is known about this process.  Here, we test the prediction that exon junction sequences were functional splice sites that existed in the coding sequence of genes prior to the insertion of introns. Again, neither side seems to have scored a touchdown on this question.  What are introns there for?  If they evolved, why doesn’t the cell get rid of them, instead of using such complicated machinery to process them?  As to “phylogenetic evidence,” it is subject to evolutionary presuppositions.  Until we know more, we should not rule out the possibility that introns have a function.

  • Integrating Your Eyes and Ears:  Martin S. Banks (psychologist, Berkeley), explores the interaction of eyes and ears to help us make decisions.  In Current Biology,8, he gives an example of this complex process we take for granted:
    You enter a crowded room and someone calls your name.  You turn to see who it is.  You now see several people in the general direction the voice came from.  Many are talking.  Which one called your name?  You hear it again and now the sound seems to come from straight ahead or nearly so.  There are still a handful of candidates in your field of view, so you look from one to the other.  Finally, you see one whose lips move as you hear your name once more.  Sound and sight have come together and you identify the speaker as your college roommate.  How does this work?  That is, how does the brain find the appropriate auditory-visual correspondence to determine that a sound and sight have come from the same source?
    He points to a recent study by Alais and Burr that produces an “important and seemingly pervasive rule for the combination of visual and auditory cues to spatial location.”  Whatever it is, it’s amazing.

  • Thank God for Our Moon:  Lastly, an article in New Scientist argues that without a moon like earth has, life could not exist.

1Sarah P. Otto, “Two steps forward, one step back: the pleiotropic effects of favoured alleles,” Proceedings: Biological Sciences, The Royal Society, Issue: Volume 271, Number 1540, April 07, 2004 Pages: 705 - 714 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2003.2635 (published online before print).
2Robert Irion, “Surveys Scour the Cosmic Deep,” Science Vol 303, Issue 5665, 1750-1752 , 19 March 2004, [DOI: 10.126/science.303.5665.1750]
3Nigel Williams, “In Darwin’s Shadow,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R216-R217, 23 March 2004.
4Q&A: Hugo J. Bellen, Current Biology, Vol 14, R218, 23 March 2004.
5David Carling, “:Magazine: AMPK,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R220, 23 March 2004.
6Brian Charlesworth and Nick Barton, “Genome Size: Does Bigger Mean Worse?” Current Biology, Vol 14, R233-R235, 23 March 2004.
7Sadusky et al., “Exon Junction Sequences as Cryptic Splice Sites: Implications for Intron Origin,” Current Biology Vol 14, 505-509, 23 March 2004.
8Martin S. Banks, “Neuroscience: What You See and Hear Is What You Get,” Current BiologyVol 14, R236-R238, 23 March 2004.
Plenty of research material above for the curious.  We hope Creation-Evolution Headlines demonstrates to young people that there are still many scientific puzzles to solve and will stimulate a few to become scientists.  Despite their bluff and bravado, the Darwin Party clearly doesn’t have answers to some of the most basic questions about stars, life, cells, and genes.  Let’s roll.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologySolar SystemCell BiologyGenetics and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryHuman Body
In Defense of Men and Women, Body and Soul   03/31/2004
The
BBC News published a male-bashing article by Baroness Susan Greenfield, Director of The Royal Institution, on March 29.  It must have created a stir, because the next day, Prof. Steve Jones of University College, London, tried to restore the male ego.  This was apparently a two-part documentary exploring what would happen “If women ruled the world.”
    Greenfield had alleged that women will outperform men in 20 years, no longer have need of male muscle power, and have lots of alternative methods for bearing and raising children.  Her dismissal of men was just slightly less than total: “More probably, it is not so much that men could be extinct, as opposed to our family lives changing dramatically,” she said.  They might be useful to keep around as historical curiosities.
    Jones responded with an article illustrated with a superman cartoon.  The caption read, “Superhero or zero?  Professor Jones says men are indispensable.”  His point, however, reeks of Darwinian kryptonite and seems unlikely to make his buddies feel able to leap tall buildings in a single bound:
   In fact the question of males raises not one, but many biological issues: the origin of sex, of distinct sexes, of why there are only two sexes rather than dozens.
   And how is that pastime maintained, given that it is so expensive?  A woman, it seems, could much increase the rate at which she copies her own genes if she avoided having them diluted by those of a man.
    Yes, men are a complicated lot, and there’s a lot we do not know.  As we look through the living world, one thing is clear: it is very hard to get rid of them.
The best justification Jones seems to come up with for being male is that men enable the human race to shuffle the genetic cards.  Organisms without both sexes seem to come to an evolutionary dead end, he claims.  So since women can’t get rid of the louts, they might as well tolerate them.
If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you ...
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man my son.

-- Rudyard Kipling
These BBC articles would make Dr. Dobson hopping mad.  And they should make any red-blooded man or woman upset.  This is really ugly.  It illustrates the utter devastation Darwinian thinking has foisted on our culture.  Greenfield’s comments disparage the Royal Institution, which was brought to its pinnacle of prestige by an unselfish, honorable, God-fearing, hard-working man: Michael Faraday.
    Male chauvinism is wrong, but so is female chauvinism – what’s bad for the gander is bad for the goose.  Neither of these articles has restored any dignity to men or women.  Darwinism has reduced males and females to gene-propagating commodities.  Carl Sagan expressed the Darwinian view of humanity in black ink:
In a very real sense human beings are machines constructed by the nucleic acids to arrange for the efficient replication of more nucleic acids.  In a sense our strongest urges, noblest enterprises, most compelling necessities, and apparent free wills are all an expression of the information coded in the genetic material:  We are, in a way, temporary ambulatory repositories for our nucleic acids.  This does not deny our humanity.  It does not prevent us from pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful.  But it would be a great mistake to ignore where we have come from in our attempt to determine where we are going.
The Cosmic Connection (Dell 1960), p. 6.
Talk about schizophrenia; he just denied our humanity and then said it does not deny our humanity.  He used his free will to deny that we have free will.  He left “the good, the true, and the beautiful” as undefined terms, and reduced our noblest enterprises to the action of selfish genes.  This is the legacy of Darwinism, of which Sagan was one of the staunchest evangelists.  It leaves humanity as nothing more than gene-replicating machines accidentally emerging from nothingness and headed nowhere.  How can machines “attempt to determine where we are going”?  Want to know where we are going if Darwinism is true?  To the grave, where consciousness and intelligence and noble enterprises are extinguished, returning to the nothingness from which they emerged.
    Had enough?  Good.  Forget Sagan’s cynical and depressing view, because he contradicted himself.  The only way he could make his point was to cheat: he borrowed words from a Christian vocabulary (good, true, beautiful, noble, information, free will, etc.).  Thus, he shot his straw man in the foot.  If he really believed what he was saying, he would cry “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” in despair.  He would realize that his own noble enterprises, whether writing books, exploring Mars or appearing on the Johnny Carson show, were all emptiness and striving after wind.  He would just have sex (to help out the selfish genes) and then die.  And forget the BBC’s rant against maleness, which would have even robbed him of the joy of sex.  Forget, too, Jones’ wimpy comeback.  All these ideas are worthless, built on a foundation of Darwinian shifting sand.  Darwinians cannot answer any of the questions they raised: the origin of sex, of distinct sexes, of why there are only two sexes rather than dozens, and why sex persists when it is so expensive (see 04/14/2003 headline, for example).  Sex and gender roles are incomprehensible to a Darwinian, because they have no solid foundation for ultimate meaning.
    Here’s the first step for restoring your worth as a real man, or a real woman: keep your head, like Kipling warned.  Don’t fall for Darwinian propaganda.  It’s contradictory, unsupported by evidence, and leads to despair.  You have a soul, brother; you have a soul, sister; and being a man or woman is all about soul.  Souls did not evolve.
    To the degree Darwinism degrades humanity, the Bible restores it, and then some!  God Himself took our physical bodies He had formed by His intelligent design, and breathed into them the breath of life, and we became living souls.  Human beings, both male and female, were inscribed with the image of God, unlike anything else He had made.  Your purpose is not just to pass on your genes and die.  You have worth as an individual.  You are responsible as an individual for what you do with your life.  You, as an individual, will face the judgment of your Maker.
    Physically, God made men and women to need and desire one another.  All higher animals propagate by sexual reproduction, but with humankind, God instituted the family as a means of passing on His commandments to future generations, and gave sexual reproduction a spiritual and emotional meaning beyond mere procreation, as a picture of love – something animals, without God’s image, cannot experience.  He assigned roles to men and women appropriate to our natures.  But spiritually, He made us much more than mere sexual dimorphisms of an animal species.  Because of His image we bear, we have minds, and language, and the possibility of meaningful relationships.  We can think, reason, speak, write, communicate, and love.  His two great commandments are for men and women: to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
    As His creations made in His image, we are going to live forever.  Eternity will be either with or without our Creator, depending on our response to His call.  By default it will be without Him, because we have all sinned.  But because the Lord loved us, He offered His Son as a sacrifice to redeem us from our sins.  This is the good news of the Word of God to us:  He offers us reconciliation, without penalty, as a gift.  You can receive this gift by turning from your sin and placing your trust, your empty hands of faith, into his strong hand of salvation.  That can be the start of a new life, a new relationship with your Maker.
    Just how great His love to us was only hinted at in the recent blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ.  The movie quoted Jesus’ proverb and promise from John 15, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”  The remembrance of that passion of Christ, and the subsequent glorious resurrection, is approaching.  The contrast between the two world views – the dismal, meaningless, gene-propagating Darwinian world expressed by Sagan and the BBC articles, and the rich relationship between men, women and a heavenly Father taught in the Word of God – could hardly be more stark.  One leads to death, one to life.  So choose life: won’t you repent of your sin, and receive Him today?  Then you can find fulfillment and abundant life as a man or woman of God.
Homework: Watch The Passion of the Christ, then come home and read how it was prophesied 700 years before it happened by Isaiah (read Isaiah 52-54, esp. ch. 53).  Then read Jesus’ explanation of why He came and the importance of being born again by believing (trusting) in Him, in John ch. 3.  To take your belief to the point of commitment, read the Apostle Paul’s instructions in Romans 10.  Then for a real encouragement, and in preparation for Easter, read what is in store for those who trust in Christ by reading I Corinthians 15, the great “resurrection” chapter of the Bible.  When you get to the last verse, you will see why pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful, is indeed a noble enterprise for the redeemed: whether man or woman, boy or girl.
If you have any questions understanding these things, write here.
Next headline on:  Human BodyBible and Theology
Arecibo SETI Project Draws a Blank    03/31/2004
Project Phoenix, a 10-year project searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, found nothing, reports the
BBC News.  The project used the world’s most powerful radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to scan 800 nearby stars for signals.  Project manager Peter Backus claims the team has learned a lot about searching for ETI, but concludes we live in a quiet neighborhood.
No need to feel lonely.  There is someone out there attempting to make contact.  It’s your Creator.  Read the uncoded message in Isaiah 55.  He uses a private wavelength called prayer.  You don’t need expensive instruments.  You don’t need to send coded messages, and you don’t need to wait thousands of years for the answer.  It’s the fastest medium of communication in the universe, faster than light: so fast, in fact, that the Recipient answers before the call.
    All Carl Sagan could hope for in Contact was a temporary fellowship of commiseraters waiting for the heat death of the universe.  The living God offers a fountain of eternal life.  Choose today.  Don’t hesitate; seek the Lord while He may be found.
Next headline on:  SETI
Whoops; Coelacanth Not in the Family Tree   03/30/2004
Sorry; they looked like they were evolving.  The ungainly coelacanth, long thought extinct but then discovered alive and well in the Indian Ocean in the 1920s, had bony fins that evolutionists presumed were forerunners of limbs.  Now, a report in PNAS1 says lungfish instead were the distant ancestors of us and our fellow land vertebrates.  The authors, Brinkmann et al., considered their work a valiant attempt to solve a big problem:
The colonization of land by tetrapod ancestors is one of the major questions in the evolution of vertebrates.  Despite intense molecular phylogenetic research on this problem during the last 15 years, there is, until now , no statistically supported answer to the question of whether coelacanths or lungfish are the closest living relatives of tetrapods.
They compared the DNA of two genes in three lungfish groups and with coelacanth, and despite some puzzling results, tipped the ancestry score to the lungfish based on “high bootstrap values, Bayesian posterior probabilities, and likelihood ratio tests.”
1Brinkmann et al., “Nuclear protein-coding genes support lungfish and not the coelacanth as the closest living relatives of land vertebrates,”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0400609101, Published online before print March 22, 2004.
OK, so they get their publication in one journal before someone shoots it down somewhere else.  You can pick the genes that give you the results you want, if you massage them thoroughly with heavy doses of imagination while under the influence of Darwin whiskey.
    What a crazy way to do science.  Now anybody with a PhD and a knowledge of fancy jargon and mathematical hand-waving tricks can build a fictional account of the unobservable past that can never be proven.  As long as it might be true (provided we can massage away the protruding bones) it’s good enough to be published.  Should this be called science, which most people assume has something to do with discovering truth?  Look at this example of what these authors do in their paper when one of their methods doesn’t produce the desired result.  The details don’t matter, the medium is the massage:
The ML-based [Maximum-Likelihood] method (QP) shows generally high support values for all inferred branches, with three exceptions: (i) the nodes supporting the monophyly of lungfishes, (ii) the node supporting the sistergroup relationship of tetrapods and lungfishes, and (iii) the node supporting the monophyly of the Sarcopterygii (44%).  Part of the problem can be explained by the surprising result that TREE-PUZZLE supports an obviously artificial monophyletic group of Neoceratodus and the coelacanth with the highest value of 48% in this region of the tree.  It is known that the TREE-PUZZLE program is rather sensitive to pronounced differences in evolutionary rates because of the quartet approach.  The African and the South American lungfishes evolve quite fast , and the Australian lungfish and the coelacanth sequences evolve comparatively slower.  This constellation of pronounced differences in evolutionary rates may lead to an artificial grouping of sequences with similar evolutionary speed (usually the slowly evolving ones).  Often a more basal position of the fast evolving lineages due to long branch attraction effects will result, because these faster sequences are “pulled” toward the faster evolving sequences at the root, i.e., outgroup of the tree.  This explains why the highest support of QP among basal Sarcopterygii (48%) seems to favor a clearly incorrect grouping of Neoceratodus and the coelacanth, again supporting the notion that QP might not be the most appropriate method for this phylogenetic problem.
So we’ll just explain away the data that don’t fit our preconceived “notions” and adjust the imaginary parameters (evolution rates) till we get a semblance of congruence.  Tweak, tweak, tweak.  The rest of the article uses copious wiggle words – might, probably, possibly, support, etc.  Molecular phylogeny is just a game Darwin Party members like to play, because it has no possibility of a winner (see 07/25/2002 headline).
    For more on the winless game of guessing tetrapod evolution, see 07/30/2002, 12/03/2003 and 08/09/2003 headlines.
Next headline on:  Fish and Marine BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Swamp Gas Found on Mars    03/30/2004
The European Space Agency’s
Mars Express orbiter has confirmed earlier detections of methane in the Martian atmosphere, according to the BBC News.  Because methane could only exist in the atmosphere for a few hundred years, there must be a source that replenishes it.  Two sources have been proposed: active volcanos, or living organisms.  The BBC is hopeful it is the latter, titling its article, “Methane on Mars could signal life.”  Nature Science Update is more cautious, however, asserting that the low levels of methane detected rule out the idea of life spread all over the planet.  Instead, it might be leaking from dormant volcanos.  Science Now is not sure the methane spectra are definitive yet.
They found methane hissing out of crevices in deep mines on Earth, too (see 04/08/2002 headline), and thought it was a missing link in the evolution of life.  The same comments apply.
Next headline on:  MarsOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Jaw Mutation Led to Human Brain   03/29/2004
The science news outlets like
Science News seem to all jump on human evolution stories more than evolution stories about other life forms.  Maybe that’s because we’re only human.  This week’s entry concerns a story published in Nature1 by Stedman et al2 that a muscle protein mutation might be correlated with a change in brain size among human ancestors.  The idea is that this change reduced the stiffness of the jaw, shrinking the massive jaw muscles of gorilla-like primates, and therefore allowing brain size to grow.  “A change in a single muscle protein may have been a key step in the evolution of modern humans, according to a new theory,” echoes Elizabeth Pennisi in Science3
1Pete Currie, “Human genetics: Muscling in on hominoid evolution,” Nature 428, 373 - 374 (25 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428373a.
2Stedman et al., Nature 26 March 2004.
3Elizabeth Pennisi, “The Primate Bite: Brawn Versus Brain?” Science Vol 303, Issue 5666, 1957 , 26 March 2004, DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5666.1957a.
If you swallow this line, we’ve got a resort vacation to sell you on the Isle of DeBris.  The reaction of Ralph Holloway, a physical anthropologist at Columbia University, is more calm and rational: “To suggest that the brain is constrained by chewing muscles is just rubbish.”
    This tale is a pinhead balanced on a house of cards in a windstorm.  It relies on mythical dating methods and flexible estimates of mutation rates, all supported by the assumption of evolution.  We are not impressed by one putative mutation that might have made miracles possible (Stedman sidestepped in the Science article, “We’re not suggesting that this mutation alone [buys] you Homo sapiens, but it could make possible brain growth”).  We want to see the catalog of 50,000 or more lucky rolls of the die that supposedly turned a gorilla-like knuckle-walker into a philosopher.
    Pete Currie has the gall to open his report in Nature, Darwin’s mouthpiece (see 03/04/2004 commentary), with this distortion:
Ever since Bishop Wilberforce famously ridiculed the possibility that man was descended from apes, and T. H. Huxley bravely chose primate ancestry rather than ignorance , the debate over our origins has claimed a special place in evolutionary theory.  With the acceptance by most of us that we are indeed a product of natural selection , discussions surrounding the issue have cooled somewhat.  But exactly how natural selection acted to produce the modern human form has remained hotly contested. 
Fact is, no one recorded the actual words spoken in the famous interchange before the British Association at Oxford in 1860, and many if not most in the crowd sided with Wilberforce.  The debate has become somewhat of an urban legend, more symbolic than substantial (see Janet Browne’s account, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, ch. 3).
    “Most of us”?  Speak for yourself, Pete.  Only a few elitist Darwin Party members think the intricacies of human soul, spirit and body can be produced by natural selection.  But of course, they have far more faith and more vivid imaginations.  That’s why they are evolutionists.  If you think this is an unfair tirade against the X Clubbers, look what Currie himself confesses at the end of his article about not just the fossil record of human evolution, but of all evolution:
What is the significance of these findings, and do they shed any light on human origins? Although there is a rough consensus [see 12/27/2003 headline] about the individual features that define fossil species within the genus Homo, the sequence in which individual traits were acquired during hominid evolution remains controversial.  Furthermore, the definition of which character traits were essential for the appearance of the modern human form is equally contentious.  The reasons for this are familiar to anyone who tries to explain morphological transitions over large evolutionary distances based primarily on the fossil record.  Such explanations hinge on finding so-called ‘transitional forms’, where a particular fossil is so indelibly etched with the tell-tale signs of what something was, and what it was going to become , that an inescapable evolutionary theory simply tumbles out of the dirt.  Not unsurprisingly, such fossils are very rare indeed, and fossils charting the course of hominid evolution are no exception.
There you have it.  He has just admitted that transitional fossils are “rare indeed.” – so rare that a senior paleontologist at the British Museum once laid it on the line: “there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”  Though an evolutionist, Dr. Colin Patterson continued by criticizing a bad habit of his brethren: “It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection.  But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test.”a
    Deliberately and connivingly, the Darwin Party injected just-so storytelling into science (see 12/22/2003 commentary).  It’s time to vote the rascals out.
Next headline on:  Human EvolutionDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
aThe mockers at talk.origins lambaste creationists for using this old quote, accusing them of taking it out of context.  But read the entire quote, and then watch them squirm their way around it, trying to make us believe Patterson really didn’t mean what he clearly said.  If they want to dredge up Huxley and Wilberforce in 1860, why not Patterson in 1981?  As an evolutionist, of course Patterson could afterwards claim his words were taken out of context, so as not to embarrass his comrades, but look at the words!  There is no way to make them mean the opposite, that the fossil record is filled with transitional forms, or that storytelling has any value in science.  Even the mockers agree that the quote was accurate, at least in the Revised Quote Book.  You can listen to the entire lecture and read the transcript (available from Access Research Network).  Patterson was very hard on Darwinism, and accused it of being positively “anti-knowledge.”  It was an honest and damaging series of admissions he made in front of leading pro-Darwin colleagues.  Trying to make Patterson’s words concern only “systematics” and not “evolution” is a smokescreen, an example of sidestepping the issue with the either-or fallacy.  Systematics is to evolution what accounting is to business; you cannot separate them into watertight compartments.  Patterson’s backpedaling sounds no different than a politician explaining a flipflop to the press.  The entire context is available to anyone who wants to check it out; the rebuttal is full of bluffing and ridicule.  Mock.origins can label Carl Wieland’s response “ almost comical,” but if words mean things, Wieland was right to claim that “Reading the entire address, it would scarcely matter if it were a girl guides meeting, the comments are valid.”
    For more on Colin Patterson, see Paul Nelson’s comments and the ARN Colin Patterson Sampler.
How Could Polar Dinosaurs Survive Freezing, Darkness?    03/29/2004
National Geographic News has a report about a new exhibit of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the northern and southern polar regions.  These unusual creatures had to survive not only the cold, but also, due to the effects of orbital mechanics, six months of darkness each year.  Intrepid explorers in south Australia, northern Canada, Patagonia, Alaska and Antarctica have braved the elements since the 1980s to find dinosaur bones in the extreme polar regions.  Their discoveries have changed our conceptions of dinosaur metabolism and the ecosystems in which they lived.  Polar dinosaurs include:
  • Hypsolophodontids: “small, speedy, plant-eating dinosaurs that ran on two feet.”  They had large eyes, apparently adapted to low light levels, and bones that grew throughout the year, suggesting they were warm blooded.  The plants on which they fed apparently did not drop their leaves during the winter.
  • A horned dinosaur named Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei (no kidding) must have looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.  NG claims this is “one of the oldest horned, or frilled, dinosaurs known, which suggests that horned dinosaurs may have originated in the southern polar region.”
  • A sauropod, possibly the largest found in Antarctica, is being analyzed.  It was found at 13,000 feet elevation.
  • An allosaurus-like meat eater named Cryolophosaurus ellioti was 22 feet long.
The exhibit at Seattle’s Burke Museum is called “Dinosaur of Darkness.”
Throughout the world there are mysteries.  Fossils give silent evidence of a very different world in the past; a world with polar regions that must have supported lush plant life and rich ecologies of diverse plants and animals larger than those living today.  Large redwood stumps have also been found in the Arctic circle (see 03/22/2002 headline), and there are the legendary frozen mammoths of Siberia.
    This article suggests that “the climate was warmer then than it is now,” but puzzles over the fact that these dinosaurs must have “endured months of darkness and temperatures that plunged below freezing.”  For plants to have supported herbivores and carnivores of this size near the poles, it would seem there must have been atmospheric conditions that evened out the lighting and temperature.
    As for horned dinosaurs originating near the south pole, we laugh, ha ha, at this funny joke.
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossils
Mars Salt Water Predicted   03/28/2004
Planetary scientists have been very excited about the
Mars Exploration Rovers’ discovery of evidence that salt water existed on Mars in the past.  Not too many seem to be noticing, however, that this was predicted by a creationist.  Dr. Walt Brown predicted in 2001, “Soil in ‘erosion’ channels on Mars will contain traces of soluble compounds, such as salt from the subterranean chamber.  Soil far from ‘erosion’ channels will not.”  Dr. Brown has also made other predictions about water on Mars based on his hydroplate theory.
    Visualize a salt water sea while looking at this magnificent panorama taken by the Mars rover Opportunity.
Dr. Brown (see January featured scientist) has been one of few makers of scientific models to put his reputation on the line and make predictions.  This is not the only one of dozens he made in his book In the Beginning that have been confirmed.  If detailed predictions of a model seem to be corresponding to reality on repeated occasions, it should cause other scientists to take notice.
Next headline on:  MarsGeology
Animals Are “Overengineered” for Navigation   03/23/2004
Animals outshine us in many ways, but one capability that should humble us is animal navigation.  From spiders to mice, from birds to bees, the ability of animals to find their way around is truly astonishing, and James L. Gould of Princeton has raised our awareness of just how astonishing in a short article in
Current Biology (March 23, 2004).1
    He starts by explaining that navigation is more than just knowing which way you are pointed: “Nearly all animals move in an oriented way,” he says, “but navigation is something more: the directed movement toward a goal, as opposed to steering toward or away from, say, light or gravity.  Navigation involves the neural processing of sensory inputs to determine a direction and perhaps distance.”  As an example, he mentions how honeybees have to correct for the angle of the sun from morning to afternoon.  This involves much more than orienting at a fixed angle.  The bee has to use changing sensory information to maintain its internal map.
    Gould mentions four stumbling blocks that prevented early investigators from appreciating the navigational abilities of animals.  Researchers apparently assumed natural selection was sufficient to explain it all.  He writes, “Several trends reflecting favorably on natural selection and poorly on human imagination characterized early studies of navigation.”  The stumbling blocks investigators have had to get over include:
  1. Spectral Breadth:  Early researchers assumed that animals were limited to our own human senses, but found out they can utilize a shopping list of cues invisible to us: ultraviolet light, infrared light, magnetic fields, electric fields, chemical pheromones, ultrasonic sounds and infrasonic sounds.  We were “blind to our own blindness,” he says, “and there is no reason to assume the list is complete.”
  2. Complexity: Another “crippling tendency” of early investigators was “what navigation pioneer Donald Griffin called our innate ‘simplicity filter’: the desire to believe that animals do things in the least complex way possible.”  Perhaps it was from our own pride of place, but according to Gould, we should be humbled:
    Experience, however, tells us that animals whose lives depend on accurate navigation are uniformly overengineered.  Not only do they frequently wring more information out of the cues that surround them than we can, or use more exotic or weaker cues than we find conceivable, they usually come equipped with alternative strategies – a series of backups between which they switch depending on which is providing the most reliable information.
  3. Recalibration:  Early studies assumed animals just needed to learn a trick once (a phenomenon called imprinting, true in some short-lived animals.)  Then they found out that some animals are able to recalibrate their instruments.
  4. Cognition:  The school of psychology known as behaviorism, which denies instinct, “puts a ceiling on the maximum level of mental activity subject to legitimate investigation,” Gould chides.  As a result of this bias, “most researchers deliberately ignored or denigrated the evidence for cognitive processing in navigating animals.”  Not all animals exhibit cognitive intervention, Gould admits.  But he then makes a very unDarwinian countercharge: “However, the obvious abilities of hunting spiders and honey bees to plan novel routes make it equally clear that phylogenetic distance to humans is no sure guide to the sophistication of a species’ orientation strategies.
        He gives an example: “One of the problems we inherited from behaviorism was the assumption that exploratory behavior must be rewarded.  However, many species examine their surroundings voluntarily and, in fact, do so in detail.”  (See example on mice below.)
Let’s look at just a few of the “believe it or not” examples Gould showcases in the article:
  • Honeybees:  Here is an example of switching inputs to get the most reliable information.  “A honey bee, for instance, may set off for a goal using its time-compensated sun compass.  When a cloud covers the sun, it may change to inferring the sun’s position from UV patterns in the sky and opt a minute later for a map-like strategy when it encounters a distinctive landmark.  Lastly, it may ignore all of these cues as it gets close enough to its goal to detect the odors or visual cues provided by the flowers.”
  • Mice:  Here is an example of the “overengineering” Gould spoke of.  Many field animals, like mice, have a strong drive to acquire information about their home range in advance of need, whether or not (as behaviorism would expect) they get an immediate reward.  “Consider mice,” he says,
    which not only gallop endlessly in running wheels, but actually prefer difficulty, such as square ‘wheels’, or wheels with barriers that must be jumped.  Given a 430 meter long opaque three-dimensional maze of pipes, mice will work out the shortest path within three days, and without reward.
    Navigation requires determining direction:
    This can be achieved in two ways, and mice use both: they can use another landmark from their mental map and triangulate the direction of the goal, or they can use a landmark-independent compass like the earth’s magnetic field.
    --and they never joined the boy scouts.  What’s more, mice “can also navigate perfectly well, even if the habitat fails to provide useful landmarks.  They will remember the direction and length of each leg of their outward journey and integrate the result when they are ready to return and set off home,” even without a trail of bread crumbs. 
  • Pigeons:  Daytime provides celestial cues.  “...once the relationship between azimuth and time of day is memorized,” Gould says, “the animal has a highly accurate compass.”  We’ve all heard about the navigational feats of homing pigeons.  They can discern ultraviolet (UV) light, which accentuates polarization patterns of scattered sunlight, for drawing their mental map, and add to it individual data points like “the average of a night’s attempts to escape from a cage, or some other directional measure.”  The cues help them derive a mean vector, with direction pointing to the goal, and length representing scatter.  When all the cues line up, they’ve got their bearing.
  • Migratory birds:  Birds who migrate between nesting grounds and wintering grounds can use sun cues, star cues, magnetic fields and landmarks to find their way.  Not only that, they can recalibrate the cues for seasonal changes, latitude, and longitude.  This requires recalibration:
    To infer the pole point through broken clouds, the animal’s map of the sky must be updated.  And as the migrants move south in the fall, new sets of stars in the southern sky appear, while northern stars slip below the horizon.  Clearly, changes in both season and latitude make relearning the stars essential.  Only fairly recently has this constant updating been demonstrated.”
    In fact, for unknown reasons, “nocturnal migrants calibrate their star pole to the magnetic pole.  Instead of simply taking the pole point as the true guide, the birds constantly recalibrate the magnetic pole to the geographic pole, and then the geographic pole to the magnetic pole.”
  • Latitude: Fish, turtles, lobsters, and birds all determine their latitude by the angle of the magnetic field.  “In theory,” Gould says, “animals could obtain the same information from the sun’s noon elevation, but I know of no case in which this traditional human solution is used.”  The critters must know something we don’t.
  • Longitude: house wrens, pigeons, sharks, salmon, sea turtles and spiny lobsters have all conquered a navigational problem that “bedeviled human navigators until very recently,” the problem of determining longitude.  How do they know distance east from west?  How can house wrens find their way back, unerringly, to the same nest box after a long flight at a different time of year from when they left?  “The apparent answer to this conundrum is provided by a map sense,” Gould answers.  The earth’s magnetic field provides both a map and a compass – just the tools you would need if released in an unfamiliar area. 
  • Pigeons again:  When homing pigeons circle around before heading home, they are reading the local map of magnetic gradients and extrapolating it from the one they learned at home.  How do pigeons detect the earth’s magnetic field?  They actually have magnetite grains in their heads, in the ethymoid sinus.  Experiments have shown that magnetic anomalies make the birds disoriented.  A sharp pulse of magnetism can severely impair their compass.  But remagnetize the organ by putting it into a magnetic field, and the bird is back to normal
Gould ends by pointing out two of the biggest challenges to researchers studying animal navigation: (1) the nature of the map sense, and (2) the issue of recalibration, which is still puzzling.  “The interaction of these specific learning programs,” he promises, “doubtlessly holds many magnificent secrets.” 
1James L. Gould, “Magazine: Animal Navigation,” Current BiologyVol 14, R221-R224, 23 March 2004.
Wow.  Thank you, Dr. Gould.  This article contains absolutely no hints about how such abilities could have evolved; in fact, it contains a couple of off-handed swipes at the notion that natural selection could explain them, or that skill correlates with “phylogenetic distance.”  This is surprising, considering that James L. Gould is a member of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton.  It could just as well have been written by Dr. Gary Parker at the Institute for Creation Research.  It’s a wonder the editors of Current Biology let this one get by without the required pinch of incense to Emperor Charlie.
    Notice that these highly refined and accurate navigational skills are possessed by a wide variety of animals: mammals (e.g., mice), insects (e.g., Monarch butterflies -- see 05/23/2003 and 07/09/2002 headlines), birds (e.g., Pacific golden plovers, which can navigate over open sea to the Hawaiian islands without having ever seen them), reptiles (e.g., sea turtles), crustaceans (e.g., lobsters), and fish (e.g., salmon).  Skill does not scale with presumed evolutionary advancement: for instance, the spiny lobster wins the prize for magnetic mapping (see 01/06/2003 headline).  Even bacteria and plants can orient themselves with respect to environmental cues.  Humans were given ability to build tools that can navigate a spacecraft to Saturn, but we must surely stand in awe of a God who could put technology that outperforms NASA into a bird brain.  This article goes to show that the film “Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution” could become an infinite series.  Click your way back through the “Amazing” chain links for many more examples.
Next headline on:  MammalsBirdsTerrestrial ZoologyAmazing Facts
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Cell Networks    03/22/2004
A team of Chinese scientists analyzed protein interactions in yeast cells, and titled their paper in PNAS1 “The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed.”  They “demonstrated that the cell-cycle network is extremely stable and robust for its function,” and “able to survive perturbations.”  The beginning of the paper expresses the wonder the stimulated their research:
Despite the complex environment in and outside of the cell, various cellular functions are carried out reliably by the underlying biomolecular networks.  How is the stability of a cell state achieved?  How can a biological pathway take the cell from one state to another reliablyEvolution must have played a crucial role in the selection of the architectures of these networks for them to have such a remarkable property.  
After analyzing the stable states, “big attractors” and checkpoints in the yeast cell cycle, the scientists remind us that this network is part of an even bigger marvel:
Note that the network we studied ... is only a skeleton of a larger cell-cycle network with many “redundant” components and interactions.... Thus, we expect the complete network to be even more stable against perturbations.
    ... Furthermore, our results suggest that not only do biological states correspond to big fixed points but the biological pathways are also robust.
    Functional robustness has been found in other biological networks, e.g., in the chemotaxis of E. coli (in the response to external stimuli) and in the gene network setting up the segment polarity in insects development (with respect to parameter changes) .  It has also been found at the single molecular level, in the mutational and thermodynamic stability of proteins.  In some sense, biological systems have to be robust to function in complex (and very noisy) environments.
And now to the climax.  In the closing statement, after claiming several times that these networks are “robustly designed” (their term), they suggest that all this complexity, all this robustness, all this control and regulation is the product of time, chance and contingency.  In fact, the very robustness might even help evolution make it better:
More robust could also mean more evolvable, and thus more likely to survive; a robust “module” is easier to be modified, adapted, added-on, and combined with others for new functions and new environments.  Indeed, robustness may provide us with a handle to understand the profound driving force of evolution.

1Fangting Li, Tao Long, Ying Lu, Qi Ouyang, and Chao Tang, “The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed,”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0305937101, published online before print March 22, 2004.
Congratulations to the winners of this week’s Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  Bravo.  Now call the schizophrenia ward.
    They may actually have a point.  In the church, Christians are more likely to survive, and are easier to be modified, augmented, adapted and combined with others for new functions and new environments in the body of Christ if they are more “evolvable” (malleable) in God’s hand.  Strength can be perfected in weakness, but only by intelligent design.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyDumb Ideas
More Details of Photosynthesis Coming to Light   03/20/2004
Photosynthesis, the light-harvesting capability of plants, was a black box 30 years ago, but more and more details have been elucidated by advanced probing techniques.  In the
March 18 issue of Nature,1, a team of Chinese scientists determined the X-ray structure of a principal component acts like a light-harvesting antenna.  The structure utilizes special molecules that not only gather the energy of light, but also get rid of excess energy that could damage the plant.  They write, “Four carotenoid-binding sites per monomer have been observed.  The xanthophyll-cycle carotenoid at the monomer-monomer interface may be involved in the non-radiative dissipation of excessive energy, one of the photoprotective strategies that have evolved in plants.”
1Liu et al., “Crystal structure of spinach major light-harvesting complex at 2.72 Ň resolution,” Nature 428, 287 - 292 (18 March 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02373.
Nice observation, but another example of the Darwinian bad habit of assuming what ought to be proved.  Plants don’t evolve protective strategies.  That requires intelligence.
Next headline on:  Plants
Do Birds of a Feather Demonstrate Parallel Evolution?    03/19/2004
A puzzling phenomenon emerges from evolutionary considerations of bird plumage coloration and patterning.  Hopi E. Hoekstra and Trevor Price describe the problem in the March 19 issue of
Science1 and provide examples:
The pages of any bird guide reveal a spectacular diversity of colors and color patterns.  Although color patterns vary within species, often they also distinguish closely related species.  Variations in color are thought to have evolved through the interplay of sexual selection and natural selection.  What is less obvious--because the birds are on different pages of the guide--is the repeated appearance of similar color patterns among distantly related species (parallel evolution).  A list of 9672 of the world’s bird species includes a black-capped chickadee, a black-capped pygmy tyrant, and a black-capped kingfisher as well as 26 other species whose most conspicuous feature--at least prominent enough to prefix their common name--is a black cap.  There are 41 black-throated species (in 40 different genera), 8 that are blue-capped, 9 that are orange-breasted, and 29 that are red-billed.  There are many such examples of parallel evolution in birds , but the molecular underpinnings of similar plumage patterns among distantly related or unrelated species are still not clear.  
Hoekstra and Price take encouragement from a study published in the same issue of Science by Mundy et al.2  The team identified a single mutation present in two unrelated birds that affects the degree of melanism (dark coloration) in their plumage.  This can only be a partial solution, however, because they point out that “More than 100 genes that affect the amount and distribution of melanin in the pelts of laboratory mice have been identified; presumably a similar diversity of genes influences melanin production in birds.”  However, they take heart that a single amino acid mutation in the one gene studied correlated perfectly with the color variation in the two species: one an Arctic skua, the other a snow goose.  They conclude that “The repeated implication of this same gene suggests that there may be a more limited number of genetic mechanisms to produce dark plumage in natural populations than is suggested by genetic studies of lab mice” at least in this case.
    An illustration Hoekstra and Price included shows another remarkable example of parallel evolution among orioles.  Two nearly identical species are more distantly related, according to molecular phylogeny, than dissimilar ones.  It’s as if we were shown two pairs of identical twins, Moe and Joe, and Cindy and Mindy, and told that Joe is more closely related to Cindy, and Moe to Mindy, than the other way around.  “Within the oriole group, there are many such examples of similar plumage patterns among different species due to parallel evolution ,” the caption reads.
    The authors are hopeful that the work of Mundy et al. will lead to solutions to these puzzles.  “Field studies of selection, coupled with characterization of the melanin pathways in each species, will eventually enable a closer tracing of the roles of selection and mutation in generating the similarities and differences between the species,” they say.  “Further down the road, we should be able to dissect the genetic basis of more complicated color patterns like those of the orioles.”
1Hopi E. Hoekstra and Trevor Price, “Parallel Evolution Is in the Genes,” Science Vol 303, Issue 5665, 1779-1781 , 19 March 2004, DOI: 10.1126/science.1096413.
2Mundy et al., “Conserved Genetic Basis of a Quantitative Plumage Trait Involved in Mate Choice,” Science 03/19/2004, 2004 303: 1870-1873.
The Natural Law of the Medes and the Persians in their model is evolution, even when it contradicts other laws.  Evolutionists cling to their mythical phylogenetic trees like astrologers to horoscopes, but the data suggest a different paradigm: a sharing and sorting of information among different species, leading to traits like black caps, wing stripes, crests, speckles, throat patches, iridescence (see photonic crystals, 01/29/2003) and much more – traits that look designed.  The observations do not support a common ancestry cosmology, tweaked with epicycles like “convergent evolution” and “parallel evolution”.  When you see common design, why not postulate a common designer? 
    The authors freely admit that just to get dark color requires a complex set of molecular machines:
The melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) resides in the membrane of specialized cells known as melanocytes, which are the site of melanin synthesis in birds and mammals.  Circulating melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) binds to MC1R, turning on the cell’s melanin-making machinery.
Are we being asked to believe that up to a hundred molecular machines that control just the melanin pigment all evolved in parallel to produce nearly identical species?  What about the hundreds of other genes that produce throat patches, wing bars, and other plumage patterns and colors?  Visualize the exquisite patterns on a peacock, bird of paradise, crane, red-winged blackbird, parrot, ostrich, ruby-throated hummingbird, bald eagle, emperor penguin, magpie, rooster or the songbird in your back yard.  These patterns don’t just happen; they all require genetic information.  This information is transmitted reliably, with only rare slight variations, for many generations.
    Mundy et al. are confident that they have identified a “rare example where the major molecular genetic determinant of a quantitative trait has been identified in wild populations,” and that their work on snow geese and Arctic skuas provides “strong support for the notion that, at least in the case of melanism in birds, evolution is driven by mutation rather than selection on existing standing genetic variation.”  Nevertheless, to make their story work, they have to wave three hands: “This presumably reflects some combination of a high mutability to functionally novel MC1R alleles, a relative absence of deleterious pleiotropic effects of these alleles, and the visibility of dominant or codominant melanic MC1R alleles to natural selection.”  OK, if you want to call that science, let’s put some quantitative numbers in the equation and test it, instead of bluffing about “some combination” of multiple unknowns.  On top of all their other contradictions, they expect us to swallow their line about “a conserved mechanism of plumage color evolution through many tens of millions of years of avian history,” after they just told us the gene they studied must have been highly mutable!
    The phylogenetic explanation clearly has serious problems, and this one hyped correlation is trivial.  Even if these evolutionists could establish that orioles diverged from a common ancestor, they are still orioles: still able to fly, eat, lay eggs, and do all the things birds are so good at, whether or not their feather colors are a little darker in one population than another.  Sorting of existing traits has nothing to do with Darwinian evolution in the sense of producing new genetic information.  Something has sorted and distributed pre-existing complex specified information in bird feathers, creating beautiful patterns and colorful artwork.  That something could be intelligent design.  “Parallel evolution” is just a hand-waving term to describe an observation, not explain it.
Next headline on:  BirdsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Butterflies in Amber Stun Discoverers   03/17/2004
New Scientist reports that exquisitely-preserved butterflies have been found in amber from the Dominican Republic.  “It was just incredible,” exclaimed a Smithsonian researcher.  It’s no different than if you took a modern day butterfly and put it under a light microscope.”  But this prompted a puzzle: the amber is estimated to be up to 25 million years old.
    Insects were thought to have diverged from non-insects 40 to 50 million years ago, but these Caribbean islands had to have drifted from the mainland up to 50 million years ago, based on current theories of when the islands separated from Mexico.  It is unlikely that the delicate butterflies could have crossed an ocean.  These specimens, therefore, must have already been present.  If so, “Butterflies may be far more ancient creatures than previously believed,” the article states, and therefore, “it is possible butterflies may have even fluttered around the heads of dinosaurs, which were wiped out 65 million years ago.” Update 04/01/2004: Dick Vane-Wright puzzles over this find in Nature April 1.1  “Its discovery raises key issues,” he says, “about Caribbean biogeography, behavioural evolution (or lack of it), and the origin of butterflies.”  It looks like a living fossil.  If so, “an implication is that the basic ecology of Voltinia has not changed over this huge time span,” (i.e., 15-35 million years, “an order of magnitude greater than the lifetime of the average species.”
    Vane-Wright is sensitive to a common fault among the brethren: “In evolutionary biology we must be alert to mere story-telling, selecting suitable facts to support whatever view of events we favour,” he cautions; nevertheless, he feels compelled to accept the idea that no evolution in this species occurred for tens of millions of years.  Later, in discussing favored views about when butterflies diverged, he quips, “Here again we have to beware of story-telling.”  He also borrows a joke from a friend: “As de Jong has wryly observed: ‘We have no idea when the butterflies originated, although there is no shortage of wild guesses.’”
1Dick Vane-Wright, “Entomology: Butterflies at that awkward age,” Nature 428, 477 - 480 (01 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428477a.
This is a perfect time to review the correct procedure for reading a science article.  Always separate the data from the interpretation.  The data are five amber nuggets containing the “best-preserved fossil of any butterfly” yet found.  The species is almost identical to “its closest living relative” on the Mexican mainland.  The dates, and the stories about drifting islands and dinosaur wipeouts at such and such a time with butterflies fluttering about their heads, is all interpretive fluff.  Brush it away like cobwebs.  What remains?  Butterflies have always been butterflies.  No transitional form was found.  No date came on the samples.  No evolution was demonstrated – only beautiful design.  Does this discovery provide “vital clues to the evolution of butterflies”?  Does it explain why delicate butterflies, with wings like tissue paper, survived whatever killed macho, muscular dinosaurs?  We report – you decide.
    Dick Vane-Wright’s comments would almost make one think that Creation-Evolution Headlines is having an impact.  Scientists seem more sensitive lately about the charge of just-so storytelling (see also 04/01/2004 headline).
Next headline on:  Terrestrial Zoology
The Evolution of Cultural Diversity   03/17/2004
Darwinism can explain anything these days, including everything from war (see
09/16/2003 headline) to the Golden Rule (see 02/22/2004 headline), so why not culture?  All the arts, sciences, and languages are candidates for naturalistic explanation this week.  The self-proclaimed successors of Adam Smith, Mark Pagel and Ruth Mace, put forward their conjectures in “The cultural wealth of nations” in the Mar. 18 issue of Nature.1
  But first, this reverie:
Humans are the virtuosos of cultural diversity.  We fish, hunt, shepherd, forage and cultivate.  We practise polygyny, polyandry and monogamy, pay bride-prices and dowries, and have patrilineal and matrilineal wealth inheritance.  We construct or inhabit all manner of shelters, speak about 7,000 different languages and eat everything from seeds to whales.  And this is not counting many unique, and sometimes bizarre, belief systems and behavioural practices.
The mystery, in Darwinian terms, is how all this diversity could arise out of a relatively uniform genetic code:
If the picture of human cultures is one of variability, the human genetic landscape is one of homogeneityAll of humanity varies less genetically than does a typical wild population of chimpanzees.  This may reflect our youthfulness as a species.  Anatomically modern Homo sapiens emerged only about 75,000-100,000 years ago , and may have suffered a demographic ‘bottleneck’ in the recent past, meaning that in evolutionary terms we are all descended from a not-so-distant common ancestor.  Also, of course, we can interbreed throughout our entire worldwide range.  Add the facts that we regularly trade, migrate across each other’s territories and wage war against each other, and a puzzle emerges: where does our extreme cultural diversity come from, and what maintains it?
They suggest a new approach to solving this puzzle: think of human cultures like diverse species, evolving by Darwinian means against each other: “The answers can perhaps be found in thinking about human cultures as if they are collections of distinct biological species,” they suggest.  “Just as species carry genetic adaptations to their environments, we believe that cultural adaptations have evolved in response to social life, and that such adaptations work to maintain cultural identity and coherence.”
    Carrying the analogy further, cultural borders are like cell membranes resistant to gene flow.  They draw various analogies between Darwinian biology and Darwinian cultural evolution, such as phylogenetic trees of languages, the evolution of altruism, biogeography, horizontal gene transfer, group selection, etc.  Then they end on what they term “an unscientific postscript” based on the competing interests of the desire to control resources and the desire to gain identity with a group –
Putting these forces together, we get a picture of humans as a highly social and group-focused species.  None of this is to say that selfish behaviour has been erased or that all cultures survive intact.  The all-too-common ‘tragedies of the commons’, in which individual over-exploitation of common resources results in their collapse, remind us of the price of selfishness.  But this picture of the nature of cultures suggests that they are surprisingly robust against outside influences (although not invincible) and that, at least for large cultures, worries about cultural swamping are overstated.  Nevertheless, our ancient cultural practices may also be telling us that, in a world in which mass movements of people from poorer to richer areas will become ever more common, we must be especially vigilant about our own tendencies to protect the status quo ante.

1Mark Pagel and Ruth Mace, “The cultural wealth of nations,” Nature 428, 275 - 278 (18 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428275a.
We assume the authors were excepting themselves when mentioning “unique, and sometimes bizarre, belief systems.”  These authors have just pulled the foundation of meaning out from under all human communication, interaction, art, science and government, but it doesn’t seem to bother them at all.
    Social Darwinism is still around, as you can see.  Modern day Marxists will feel warm fuzzies with this article.  When scientists omit the reality of intelligent design, all they have left is matter in motion.  That matter might be molecules, cells, or people, but never life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It is not self-evident truth to a Darwinist that humans are endowed by a Creator with anything.  Thus government, culture and language must all be just artifacts of matter in motion.  Human culture obeys the same Darwinian laws as bacterial culture.
    Left without design, their pet theory of evolution has to fulfill the role of designer.  Darwinians are always up to the challenge; in fact, it is their form of entertainment (see 02/22/2004 commentary).  The basic Darwinian plot provides an endless, malleable storytelling platform for explaining anything (see 01/15/2004 commentary), and since the Starving Storytellers got on King Charlie’s welfare programs and grew obese (see 12/22/2003 commentary), they no longer have any motivation for hard scientific work.  One outcome is predictable: Nature, that megaphone for Darwin (see 03/04/2004 commentary), will be eagerly poised to shout the latest propaganda to the masses.
Exercise  Did you catch the admission that the entire human population seems to have gone through a demographic bottleneck in the recent past?  And that we all might have descended from a not-so-distant common ancestor?  Can you a describe a historical event that fits this observation?  Extra credit: name the ancestor.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Neanderthals Not Our Cousins, Expert Claims   03/16/2004
The news media are reporting claims that Neanderthals and modern humans never interbred, based on work from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.  Both
EurekAlert and Nature Science Update repeat the claim that the institute’s study of DNA and bones from four Neanderthals and five modern humans from scattered locations rules out any interbreeding.
That’s until you read the fine print.  Can such things be known?  Listen to the disclaimers in the NSU article:
Although the two groups seem to have been genetically separate, the fossil record is too patchy, and dating methods too unreliable, to say whether this was because they never met, or because they simply didn’t consider each other an enticing proposition.
    Given the small number of fossils studied, it’s also possible that interbreeding did occur, he [David Serre] adds, but that we have not found the evidence yet.
    Such a match-up would have been genetically feasible, says Stringer.  The two groups were closer in genetic terms than other primates that happily breed today, he says.

If these were potentially interbreeding humans, then forget the racism going on in all this Neanderthal/modern dichotomizing.  All scientists can observe is that there were a few distinct physical characteristics among the Neanderthals, such as prominent brows and thicker bones.  What can we know but that early wrestlers and bikers just got together and formed their own societies?
    There are groups of modern humans even today who prefer to associate with others like themselves.  They can and do form distinctive populations, like pygmies or Watusi.    The Bible speaks of the sons of Anak and the Nephelim who were giants in their time.  Did the Israelites interbreed with them?  Probably not.  Was either group non-human?  Of course not.
    Dead men tell no tales.  Living ones, however, often tell whoppers, especially those in the Darwin population.
Next headline on:  Early Man.
Privileged Planet Website Opens   03/16/2004
A
website featuring a new book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet, has opened.  The subtitle of the book is How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.  The authors take issue with pessimistic views, such as those of Steven Weinberg and Carl Sagan, that our planet is “pointless” or just a “lost speck of cosmic dust” in the universe.  Au contraire, the authors argue with many interesting observations: our planet appears to have been intelligently designed not only for our existence and well-being, but to maximize our ability to comprehend the creation.
    The website also highlights a documentary movie by the same title due to be released soon by Illustra Media, producer of the popular documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life.  The film will feature Robert Jastrow, Paul Davies, Donald Brownlee, and other prominent astronomers and philosophers.  A video clip of the opening is available on the website.  The book and film are being promoted by the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank.
This is not a typical creationist book or film.  To the extent it argues that our universe and earth appear designed for life and discovery, it makes an old anthropic argument stronger, adding an intriguing original point that our position makes science and discovery possible, as if that were the Creator’s intent.  Don’t expect it to argue for a view of special creation by the Judeo-Christian God, or to argue for a Biblical history or chronology.  It should, however, be a valuable resource to impel knowledgeable skeptics to consider the evidence for design.  Dr. Gonzalez and Jay Richards have impeccable credentials and know their specialties well.
Next headline on:  CosmologySolar SystemPhysicsMediaIntelligent Design
Scientific Elitism Trumps Democracy   03/12/2004
They don’t want it, but they’re going to get it.  Britons have expressed outrage and anger over genetically-modified foods, such as pesticide-resistant maize, reports Jim Giles in
Nature.1  But the government has listened to scientists who have assured government ministers it is safe.  On March 9, they approved commercial planting of GM maize “in the face of widespread public opposition.”  Giles says, “In Britain, opposition to agricultural biotechnology has been early and strident.”
    This decision may set a precedent: “Both supporters and enemies believe this week’s decision will influence debates outside Britain about transgenic crops.”  How did such a decision get past the voters?
The case for the crops was boosted by a scientific review, released last July, which found no reason to rule out carefully managed cultivation of the plants.  The review was discussed at a cabinet meeting last month.  Leaked minutes of the meeting state that ministers acknowledged public opposition, but thought that it “might eventually be worn down by solid , authoritative scientific argument”.
Do the GM crops pose any danger of spreading outside the farm?  “Farmers will also be wary of planting genetically modified varieties before the government has clarified rules governing how they should be kept separate from nearby conventional crops,” the article states.
    Regarding another ethical-political issue – the use of embryonic stem cells – Science editor Donald Kennedy2 announced that South Korea’s recent success in cloning a human embryo makes this a “good time for review” of the ethics of the procedure, which is currently banned from receiving federal funding in the United States and Germany.  Kennedy thinks the global scientific community should be the arbiter of what makes a practice ethical.  He writes,
Plainly, these findings may affect the U.S. ethical debate.  Leon Kass, the chairman of the President’s Council of Bioethics, sees them as a downward step on a slippery moral slope: “tomorrow,” he predicts, “cloned blastocysts for baby-making.”  After the recent purge of two pro-stem cell members, Kass has his commission under control.  But science is, after all, an international activity.  The Korean success reminds us that stem cell research, along with its therapeutic promise, is under way in countries with various cultural and religious traditions.  Our domestic moral terrain is not readily exportable: U.S. politicians can’t make the rules for everyone, and they don’t have a special claim to the ethical high ground.
This seems to mean: others can do it, others are doing it, and who are we (including the voters and democratically-elected representatives) to stand in the way of science?  Kennedy ends by quoting Harvard stem-cell biologist Doug Melton: “Look, life is short.  I don’t want spend the rest of mine reading about exciting advances in my field that can only be achieved in another country.”
1Jim Giles, “Transgenic planting approved despite scepticism of UK public,” Nature 428, 107 (11 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428107a.
2Donald Kennedy, “Stem Cells, Redux,” Science Volume 303, Number 5664, Issue of 12 Mar 2004, p. 1581.
They could do it; should they?  Could is technology; should is ethics.  Not everything possible is advisable.  Scientists are involved in many activities that could have profound societal effects: tampering with supergerms or nanobots that, if released accidentally or by terrorists, might evade all our defenses; producing chimeras, even combining human and non-human characters; toying with human genes in ways that might redefine what it means to be an individual.  To whom are these scientists accountable?  Does wearing a white lab coat mean someone knows the difference between could and should?  Are scientists subject to the rule of law as defined by duly-elected representatives?  Does the international scientific community comprise an elite oligarchy, granted global powers that supersede the rights of voters?  What constitution gave them this authority?
    The American founding fathers made government accountable to the people.  The purpose of government was to protect individual, unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  These rights were to be secured through the ballot box and due process of law.  Elected representatives were to be entrusted with decision-making power only with the consent of the governed.  Here, however, we see political and scientific elitists making sweeping, dramatic decisions on risky practices riddled with huge ethical concerns, just because they can, and they think they know what is good for us.
    The point of this commentary is not to debate the specific ethical dilemmas posed by GM crops or therapeutic cloning of embryonic stem cells.  It is not to get embroiled in the emotional arguments about slippery slopes, countered by utopian promises of better health or productivity.  The point is that the decisions on these highly-charged ethical issues are being made by elitists who have utter disdain for the voice of the people.  Giles acknowledged the public outcry but seemed satisfied that if scientists said it’s OK, then it’s OK, even though serious questions remain unanswered about protecting the environment or human health.
    The prior week in both Nature and Science, editorials expressed outrage that the Bush administration had dismissed Elizabeth Blackburn from the President’s Council on Ethics, presumably because she was so outspoken in her opposition to the administration’s position on stem cell research.  The concern seemed to be more about Big Science getting their consensus opinion represented on the council, not whether an elected representative had the right to select his advisors.  And no one was asking the obvious question, what do the voters feel about stem cell research?  How much voice and authority should an unelected council of scientists have to tell the voters the difference between could and should?
    Kennedy’s editorial makes it clear he is much more interested in could than should.  The bulk of his argument rests on pragmatism, if not utter selfishness.  Ethics, shmethics: Melton wants a piece of the action.  The Americans don’t want the Koreans and other pinnacles of ethical civilization to get all the Nobel prizes, whether or not such research leads to designer baby-making down the road.  Voters are idiots.  Scientists know what is good for them.  (Now read the 03/04/2004 headline again.)
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
Much Ado About Nothing   03/12/2004
How much can you say about nothing?  Some people can say quite a lot.  One astrobiologist just wrote a large book about it: Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life by David Grinspoon (Harper Collins, 2003).
    Larry R. Nittler reviewed this new book in the
March 12 issue of Science.1  Nittler describes how interest in alien life fell into the “scientific sub-basements of ‘exobiology’ and radio searches for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)” after pictures of Mars in 1965 revealed disappointing deserts of lifelessness.  But thirty years later, three developments led to a resurgence of interest in alien life: (1) the discovery of extrasolar planets (see 07/21/2003 headline), (2) evidence for probable oceans under the ice of Europa (see 02/11/2002 headline), and (3) claims of fossil bacteria in a Martian meteorite (see 03/18/2002 and 05/15/2002 headlines).  NASA launched its Astrobiology Institute in 1998 (see 08/23/2001 headline), imbuing new respectability into the study of alien life.  Nittler explains, however, why astrobiology is essentially the science of nothing:
Given the current surge in scientific attention to alien life, it is easy to think that recent developments constitute a revolution of sorts.  However, our actual knowledge of alien life remains the same as it has been for centuries and can be summarized by a single word: nothing.  Nonetheless, in Lonely Planets David Grinspoon provides a masterful synthesis of the history, science, philosophy, and even theological implications of extraterrestrial life.
So what can be said about nothing to fill 460 pages?  Grinspoon divided the nothingness into three sections: history, science, and belief.  In the history section, he examined beliefs about alien life from Kepler to the present.  Nittler’s review points out that pessimism about alien life has been rare.  Up until the 1960s, for instance, most people believed the dark patches on Mars were signs of vegetation.
  In the science section, Grinspoon “weaves a tale of cosmic evolution from the Big Bang through the formation of the solar system and the evolution of life on Earth,” Nittler says (see 07/15/2002 headline for more on Grinspoon’s beliefs).  The author “strenuously argues against” the Rare Earth hypothesis of Peter Ward and Robert Brownlee (see 12/19/2000 and 01/14/2003 headlines), preferring to trust in “the adaptability of life to different environments and especially the role life has played in shaping Earth’s unusual characteristics.”  As to this role, and its meaning for the definition of life,
Grinspoon uses the Gaia hypothesis (that Earth can in some sense be considered a “super-organism” of interconnected biogeochemical feedback mechanisms) and complexity theory to argue for a more generous definition of habitable worlds.  He holds that a key characteristic of “living worlds” should be chemical disequilibrium, with large flows of energy and/or matter.  By these criteria , he suggests, we should also be searching for cloud creatures on Venus and sulfur-based critters on the volcanic Jovian moon Io.
(For more on Gaia, see 12/18/2003 headline.)
The third section of the book deals with beliefs about aliens, from UFOs to SETI to politics.  There is the ubiquitous Drake equation, speculation about the future of human evolution, and much more.  Given that most evolutionists dismiss claims of UFO abductions and conspiracy theories, Grinspoon is surprisingly open-minded about the nothing we know.  But the reviewer detects a little hypocrisy:
His emphasis continues to be on keeping an open mind.  SETI assumes that aliens would continuously broadcast radio transmissions for thousands of years.  Anti-UFO skeptics argue that UFOs are not alien spacecraft, because “aliens just wouldn’t act that way.”  But both assumptions are based on preconceived notions of alien behavior , about which we actually know nothing.  (Grinspoon falls into his own trap as well, dismissing popular ideas about UFOs basically because they are so “B-movie.”)
Grinspoon doesn’t think humans are intelligent yet.  He seems to measure intelligence in global terms, and so does Nittler.  Here is where politics enters the discussion about nothing, where it is difficult for either of them to know where rational discussion ends and wild speculation begins:
The book becomes increasingly personal in the final chapters as Grinspoon delves deeper into more speculative ideas regarding spirituality and the nature of intelligence.  He muses that humans are not yet truly intelligent and that to become so will require much better collective behavior as a species.  He seems overly pessimistic in his assessment of our likelihood of becoming such a species, based on our propensity for perpetrating violence on one another.  I would argue that such developments as the global eradication of certain diseases and the advent of international courts to try war criminals paint a more optimistic picture than the examples he gives of SETI@home and world music.  The author closes with even wilder speculation regarding species immortality and machine civilizations.
Nittler sees the author as a product of the 70s, considering Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan were “family friends” of the Grinspoons.  “This background clearly colors his thinking about his subject,” Nittler says, “and his optimism about the existence of alien life sometimes comes off as wishful thinking informed by too many Star Trek episodes.”  But overall, he compliments the book for its writing style, and the fact that Grinspoon tries to be clear about where the science leaves off and the “intellectually squishy natural philosophy” begins.  “In the end,” Nittler concludes on a happy note, “Lonely Planets is an entertaining and thought-provoking book about a great deal more than nothing.
1Narry R. Nittler, “Astrobiology: Looking for Life in Far Distant Places,” Science Volume 303, Number 5664, Issue of 12 Mar 2004, p. 1614.
We didn’t say the book was about nothing: he did.  We didn’t say the book contained wild speculation: he did.  We didn’t say the author was selectively open-minded: he did.  We didn’t call it a “tale” of cosmic evolution: he did.  We didn’t use the phrases “intellectually squishy” and “wishful thinking” to describe Grinspoon’s ideas: he did.  Cloud creatures on Venus, sulfur critters on volcanic Io, machine civilizations, international courts as a measure of intelligence... good grief.  Yet Nittler calls this book a “masterful synthesis” of ideas on – well, nothing.
    That makes Nittler a co-conspirator, an accessory to the crime of allowing stupid ideas to get good press in America’s premiere science journal.  If a creationist made claims on this level, they wouldn’t get past the National Enquirer.  The code of silence in the Darwin Party requires that none of the brethren are to be publicly humiliated.  Even if lightly tapped with padded gloves, they must be praised as defenders of the “tale of cosmic evolution.”
    Don’t be fooled by the talk about “spirituality” and “theological implications” of finding alien life.  We know what they mean, and it’s not asking “what must I do to be saved?” (see 03/11/2004 headline).
    Both men unfairly attack Kepler (see our online biography).  Nittler lets him get away with libel: “Grinspoon reminds us that Johannes Kepler was a “philosopher/freak who walked the fine line between genius and delusion.”  Speak for yourselves.  Both of you would do well to read the life and writings of the father of planetary science, and learn to respect his integrity and intelligence.  His wildest speculations were tame compared to these.
Next headline on:  Origin of Life  SETIDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Major Cave with Fossils Found in Arizona   03/11/2004
Arizona Central has announced a major cave discovery east of Tucson.  The cave, named La Tetera, was discovered eight years ago but was kept secret till today.  The first human exploration only began New Years Day 2002.  The cave, located within Colossal Cave State Park, is said to rival or exceed Kartchner Caverns in the size and beauty of its formations.  One large chamber has a floor covered in delicate crystal, with huge multicolored domes reaching to the ceiling.  State officials intend to keep the cavern available to scientists only; it will probably never be open to the public.
    Much of the cave still remains to be explored; about 2000 feet of passageways have been mapped so far.  It appears in pristine condition, moist and growing – in fact, vapor rising from an orifice gave it the name La Tetera, Spanish for teakettle.  Unlike Kartchner, La Tetera Cave contains many bones of animals said to have gone extinct 10,000 years ago, including prehistoric horses, camels, rattlesnakes and other animals.  The article states, “Experts estimate that La Tetera is about 10 million years old - compared with less than 1 million years of age for Kartchner.”
Discoveries like this make exciting news.  Only the underground environment provides opportunities for 21st century explorers to discover virgin territory.  Click the photo gallery link in the article to view beautiful pictures of the interior of this cave.  What other magnificent caves on this vast planet remain to be discovered?
    What is uncalled for in such reports is the obligatory reference to millions of years.  If you read the scientific report on nearby Kartchner Caverns (available in the bookstore), you find that the dating methods are compromises of conflicting measurements based on prior assumptions.  Think about it; if there had been 9,990,000 years available for animals to stumble into this cave, wouldn’t it be totally filled with bones?  The long ages that tour guides and reports typically spout are usually stated in a glib, matter-of-fact way, without revealing the many assumptions that go into the estimates, or the many evidences around the world that contradict the dates.
    Ball park figures for cave dates are usually established beforehand from uniformitarian and Darwinian assumptions, so that they fit into the evolution-based geologic column (but see the 03/05/2004 headline).  Furthermore, the dating methods commit the fallacy of extrapolation of current processes far beyond what is justifiable.  Check out the following three articles, two by Ph.D. geologists, that explain how cave and speleothem formation do not require such vast periods of time: Snelling, Oard, and Austin.
    Next time on a cave tour, politely ask the guide how he or she knows the cave is x million years old.  Unless trained in anti-creationist tactics, the guide will usually stutter and stammer, admitting that he/she is just repeating what the script says.  Then, for fun, show the guide this picture.
    Here is a great new DVD to expand your mind about cave formation and geology in general, by a world-class caver and PhD geologist, Dr. Emil Silvestru: Geology and Cave Formation.  It contains stunning photographs and just as stunning facts, by someone who knows caves better inside and out than most people.  Just as good is another DVD by Dr. Silvestru entitled, Rocks & Ages: Do They Hide Millions of Years?
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
The Evolution of Omnipotence    03/11/2004
With a headline like “New Theory: Universe Created by Intelligent Being,” one might think that
National Geographic News has gone creationist and rediscovered Genesis 1.  The opposite would be true.  The article by John Roach explores the radical thinking of a lawyer/scientist named James Gardner, who has just published a book, Biocosm: The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life Is the Architect of the Universe.  It is the ultimate statement, not of creation, but of evolution.
    Basically, Gardner believes that intelligent life inevitably evolves to the point of being omnipotent, at which time it will learn how to create a new universe.  He calls intelligent life the “reproductive organ of the cosmos.”  Intelligence gets passed on to the next universe like a DNA code, ensuring the daughter universe is fine-tuned for life.  This explains the Anthropic Principle (see 02/28/04 headline), the observation that our universe is life-friendly.  As to ultimate origins, he “postulates a closed time-like curve wherein the universe serves as its own mother.”
    But the all-powerful, intelligent creator Gardner imagines was no benevolent, self-existent Person, Someone who might love His creatures enough to become incarnate with them and die for their sins.  On the contrary; Gardner’s creator is selfish.  He calls his cosmology the “selfish biocosm” theory, an extension to the nth degree of Dawkins’ “selfish gene” concept – that there are entities that use organisms for their own propagation.  Gardner makes it clear his inspiration was Charles Darwin.
    John Roach doesn’t seem to have any qualms about this radical new theory; in fact, he gives it pretty good press.  He says, “Though Gardner admits the theory is speculative and out-there in the literal and figurative senses, it is grounded enough in serious research to at least tickle the fancy of some of the world’s most respected scientists.”  Despite the title and the subject matter, Roach makes no mention that any reputable scientist (or lawyer) could believe in an omnipotent, eternal, self-existent Creator in the traditional sense, or that such belief might be grounded in enough serious research to be taken seriously by any scientist.  He suggests, instead, that Gardner’s theory might some day be testable, though as yet there is no evidence for it.
Are there Mormons on the board of National Geographic?  They would love this cosmology.  It’s not new; Barrow and Tipler propounded it in their books, such as The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.  Actually, it is as old as the serpent who told Eve, “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
    Pay no attention to the details of this “selfish biocosm” story, because despite what Roach claims, it is not based on “serious research.”  No human could ever observe or measure prior universes and ultimate realities.  What is notable in this foolish article is the effort unbelievers will expend in running from the obvious.  Does this syllogism make any sense?  Major premise: design implies intelligence.  Minor premise: our universe shows exquisite design.  Conclusion: It must have evolved.
    Also notable is the common practice of marginalizing people of faith by ignoring them.  This article sidesteps centuries of profound intellectual thought about the existence of a transcendent, infinite, eternal God, as if no scientist or philosopher of any merit, from any culture, had anything worthwhile to say about the subject.  Instead, a radical fringe “lawyer who moonlights as a scientist” gets the spotlight in one of the most popular magazines in the world.  This tactic parallels those on network news programs that grant friendly interviews to Gavin Newsom to make him appear mainstream, or American history books that spend pages on Marilyn Monroe but ignore George Washington.  We don’t mind NG mentioning this guy’s beliefs, but it should have been followed up by hard-hitting questions or rebuttals by reputable opponents, or else relegated to the funny pages.
    Ol’ Charlie probably had no premonition of the exaggerations his disciples would commit.  Evolutionist radicals have out-Darwinized the Mosstah (see 02/04/2004 headline), and made his guesswork into a full-fledged religion (see 02/13/2004 commentary).  When the light of evidence shines at them, they run further back into the darkness, bragging about how enlightened they are.
Next headline on:  CosmologySETIDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Evolution Battle Heats Up in Ohio   03/10/2004
CNN has reported that the Ohio school board voted 13-5 in favor of an optional set of lessons called “Critical Analysis of Evolution.”  The usual opponents are lining up on both sides; some scientific organizations are claiming it is a “religious effort cloaked as science,” but others consider it a victory for students and for academic freedom.
What are the Darwinians afraid of?  This is only an optional lesson.  There is no test on it.  A student’s grade does not depend on it.  The Darwinians get 478 pages out of 500 to tell their side of the story.  Come on, Darwin Party loyalists, give us your best shot.  We regularly debate the best Darwinian arguments from the best Darwinian mouthpiece journals right here on Creation-Evolution Headlines.  We’re not afraid to examine the evidence; why are you?  You assume students are smart enough to understand Darwinian doctrines in high school, so why do you assume they are not smart enough to judge evidence?
    Check out this analogy by Stephen Weeks (U. of Akron biologist), trying to explain why only Darwinians should teach Darwinism: “If someone’s an expert and they’re telling you they need a brain tumor removed in a certain way, that’s weighted more than your mechanic’s opinion.”  Try one of our analogies instead:
  • Instead of hearing news of the Iraq war only from Al-Jazeera, students should also have the opportunity to watch Fox News.
  • Before submitting to a risky brain tumor operation, one should get opinions from several independent experts and also read the medical literature.
  • Before buying a used car from a used car salesman, check Consumer Reports.
  • Members of the jury, listen carefully to both the prosecutor and the defense attorney before making up your minds.  Don’t be swayed by the personality or prestige of the attorneys; base your decision solely on the law and on the evidence.
Analogies are fun.  Make up one of your own depicting this controversy, and send it here.
  • If a drunk really wants to know if he has a drinking problem, should he only solicit his buddy’s opinion down at the ‘yall come back saloon’ -or- should he also seek the professional opinions of licensed counselors, trained to detect alcohol-related disorders?  [from a reader in Texas]
  • If a person wants to know how all the microscopic motors and machines work in a cell maybe they should start with a diagnostic test from the mechanic.  [from a reader in Arizona]
Next headline on:  EducationDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
Hubble Deep Field Surpassed: Ultra Deep Field   03/09/2004
If you remember the awe of seeing the first Hubble Deep Field image in 1995, check out the new HUDF:
Hubble Ultra Deep Field (see also the New Scientist report).  The field of view, just one-tenth the size of the full moon, is a composite of 800 images taken for 11.3 days.  The 1995 image dazzled beholders with its 1600 galaxies.  This new image contains at least 10,000.
Some images are so evocative, any attempt at description would spoil the moment.  Just stare at this one for awhile.  It would be odd not to be awed, nor to consider the power of God.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmology
Chameleon Tongue Beats Jet Aircraft   03/08/2004
Did you know a chameleon’s tongue is so fast as it shoots out toward its prey, it reaches 50 G’s – five times faster than a fighter jet can accelerate? 
Science Now describes how the chameleon does it.  Scientists only recently found out the secret with high-speed photography and careful examination of the tongue structure, done by Jurriaan de Groot of Leiden University and Johan van Leeuwen (Wageningen University, the Netherlands).  They had to shoot at 500 frames a second to see the action.
    The tongue has an accelerator muscle, which by itself is not strong enough to achieve the high speed.  The tongue is bound, though, to 10 newly-discovered sheaths, tied to the tongue bone, that literally catapult the tongue outwards.  These sheaths contain a spirally-wound protein that store energy “like a stretched rubber band.”  As the tongue accelerates, the sheaths release their energy, then telescope outward to allow the tongue to reach its maximum extent – twice the chameleon’s body length.  Facing a predator so armed, the fastest fly doesn’t stand a chance.
No series of gradual transitional forms was suggested in the article.  And forget it; there’s no way this creature could have evolved from a fast-talking salesman.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyAmazing Facts
Rethinking the Geological Layers   03/05/2004
One of the most formative ideas in Darwin’s intellectual journey was the concept of gradualism, the principle of “small agencies and their cumulative effects.”  This idea became a dominant motif in his philosophy of life.  Describing how the assumption of gradualism permeated his last book (on earthworms) shortly before his death, Janet Browne, in her acclaimed biography of Darwin, describes how the idea grew:
He [Darwin] believed that the natural world was the result of constantly repeated small and accumulative actions, a lesson he had first learned when reading Lyell’s Principles of Geology on board the Beagle and had put to work ever since.  His interpretation of South American geology had been based on Lyell’s vision of little-and-often, and his theory of coral reefs too, each polyp building on the skeletons of other polyps, every individual contributing its remains to the growing reef.  Most notably, he had applied the idea of gradual accumulative change to the origin of species, believing that the preservation of a constant process of minor adaptations in individuals would lead to the transformation of living beings.  His work on barnacles, plants, and pigeons all supported the point.  No one, not even Lyell himself, or any of Darwin’s closest friends and supporters, accepted as ardently as Darwin that the book of nature was about the accumulative powers of the small. 1
It was the record of the rocks that led to Lyell’s uniformitarian principle, and from there, Darwin extended it to all of nature.  But do the rocks actually record a process of slow and gradual accumulation?
    In this month’s journal Geology, an earth scientist from the Netherlands makes a startling proposal: the record in the rocks is fractal, not necessarily gradual.  In fractals, a pattern on a small scale can look the same on large scales.  In other words, he seems to be saying, a large stratigraphic record might not be the gradual accumulation of small layers, but a fractal pattern on a large scale that could represent a rapid accumulation of a large quantity of material.
    Wolfgang Schlager2 first debunks the conventional wisdom as being only, well, conventional – but not necessarily wise: “Orders of stratigraphic sequences are being used loosely and with widely varying definitions,” he says.  “The orders seem to be subdivisions of convenience rather than an indication of natural structure.”  He proposes that rock layers may not indicate so much about time as about quantity of material.  He calls it a “well-known fact” that “sediment architecture is largely scale invariant over a wide range of scales in time and space.”
    Schlager criticizes the conventional method that defines orders of strata by duration, even though the practice is “almost universally followed.”  Thus, he seems to be proposing a radical reinterpretation of the record:
This essay presents a critique of the concept of orders in sequence stratigraphy and argues that the succession of sequences is fractal rather than a hierarchy of orders.  The argument rests on four components: (1) The duration of the presumed orders varies widely, even within one publication.  (2) Exposure surfaces and flooding surfaces as unit boundaries are both common in a wide range of temporal scales.  (3) Extensive studies on sea-level fluctuations and sedimentation rates have shown that the principal trends of both are fractal.  (4) Limited data on shelf edges that prograde and step up and down in response to sea level indicate that these traces, too, are fractal.
He provides examples of discordant measurements when geologists assume the rocks represent “categories in time.”  The confusion does not seem to dissipate with more examples, he says: “Moreover, the values do not seem to converge with time and improving data.”  But if the size of the deposit is a fractal rather than a measure of the passage of time, it could mean that giant deposits could have been laid down in short order, provided enough material were available:
Sedimentation and erosion, the processes that are ultimately responsible for the sediment record, operate in the same fashion over a wide range of scales.  It is characteristic of hydrodynamics that flow properties are largely determined by dimensionless ratios, and few characteristic scales enter in the analysis.  Depositional patterns have been found to be scale invariant over a wide range of time and space.
Schlagel points to examples covering a wide range of presumed depositional times, and strata that represent “energy-dissipation patterns that are scale-invariant over the range of centimeters to hundreds of kilometers.”  His model allows for slow and gradual deposition as well as fast and catastrophic, of course, but he suggests it is not always easy to tell:
In many sequence data sets, the impression of a hierarchy of cycles is very strong.  The model does not imply that this impression is false.  It is characteristic of fractals that the same pattern is repeated at finer and finer scales.  Consequently, any snapshot of the fractal taken at a certain resolution will show a superposition of coarser and finer patterns.  The crucial difference to an ordered hierarchy of cycles [which he disputes] is their lack of characteristic scales.  The fractal model proposed here predicts that the sequence record, like many other natural time series, has the characteristics of noise with variable persistence and thus variable predictability.
He seems to be saying it will be harder to claim that a large depositional unit would have necessarily been a function of long ages.  It’s just a proposal at this point, he admits: “The model is meant as a conceptual framework to steer future data analysis and to provide a basis for statistical characterization of sequences.”  He only speculates about the origin of the fractal patterns.  Nevertheless, this new way of looking at the rock record might cause rethinking of Lyell’s assumption that huge layers necessarily represent huge passages of time:
Stratigraphic sequences are essentially shaped by the interplay of rates of change in accommodation and rates of sediment supply.... As both rates show fractal properties, it is not surprising that the resulting sequence record inherits this attribute.  At a more fundamental level, it may be the complexity of depositional systems and their tendency to evolve toward conditions of self-organized criticality that give rise to fractal features in sequence stratigraphy.
The fact that Schlager’s proposal was published in the world’s leading geology journal indicates that other geologists are taking it seriously.
1Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002), p. 490.
2 Wolfgang Schlager, “Fractal nature of stratigraphic sequences,”
Geology Vol. 32, No. 3 (March, 2004), pp. 185-188, doi: 10.1130/G20253.1.
Although this is a technical subject for mathematically-inclined geologists, it seems to represent a daring break from conventional wisdom.  Some creationist geologists have already demonstrated with experiments that layered deposits can be laid down rapidly in horizontal fashion, forming what look like fractal patterns, in one stage (see the work of Guy Berthault, for example).  Similarly, fine-grained laminations have been found in thick deposits at Mt. St. Helens, where the rates of deposition were known (e.g., one day!).  The old thinking was that each layer represented a long passage of time.  Now, we have observed examples that this is not necessarily true.
    Schlager is clearly not proposing a young-age geology; his article assumes millions of years for some deposits.  Nevertheless, his model seems to reinforce the notion that a pattern in the rock layers, no matter how thick, could be a function of “rate of change in accommodation and rates of sediment supply,” not necessarily a long, gradual passage of time.  In simple, creationist-geology terms, were the layers of Grand Canyon laid down by a little water over a long time, or a lot of water over a little time?
    Look at the philosophical baggage that Lyell’s vision of gradualism generated.  It appeared intuitively obvious to him, and then to Darwin, that the rock layers must have required many millions of years for their formation.  Darwin’s philosophical voyage from Christianity to agnosticism floated on this belief, which subsequently flavored all his investigations and writings.  Now we see geologists questioning the basic assumption.  The Titanic had a lot of baggage, too.  When the hull was breached, it no longer mattered how ornate the furnishings.
Next headline on:  Geology. • Dating MethodsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
The Paleoanthropologist Mantra: “We Need More Fossils!”   03/05/2004
Everyone join in and chant “the mantra of all paleontologists: We need more fossils!”  If you are a seeker of bones that might give clues of human ancestry, repeating this phrase might relieve stress.
    In quotes above is the concluding line of an editorial by David R. Begun in the March 5 issue of
Science, 1 reviewing the latest human fossil claim coming from Africa, as reported in the same issue.2 (see also Scientific American).  The booty consisted of six fragments of teeth from Ethiopia, found by the team of Haile-Selassie (see 07/17/2001 claim and 08/27/2002 rebuttal), Suwa, and White (see 03/21/2002 and 03/28/2003 headlines).  The discoverers claim their teeth show that earlier specimens, thought to represent diverse taxa, might be just variations within a single genus.  Apparently, David Begun has not begun to be convinced.
    Begun thinks that some of the other recent fossils, “Ardipithecus, Orrorin, and Sahelanthropus offer evidence of striking diversity.”  But on what objective criteria?  He seems to offer more questions than answers: words like may, unclear, and far from established pepper his article.  For example:
It is tempting to see evidence of anagenesis (unilinear evolution) in the late Miocene hominin record in part because continuity is suggested by claims for some evidence of bipedalism in all known taxa.  The evidence from Orrorin is ambiguous ... whereas that from Sahelanthropus is indirect, based only on the position of the foramen magnum.  The region is severely distorted in the only cranial specimen of Sahelanthropus, and even the describers recognize the uncertaintyA. kadabba is interpreted as a biped on the basis of a single toe bone, a foot proximal phalanx, with a dorsally oriented proximal joint surface, as in more recent hominins.  However, the same joint configuration occurs in the definitely nonbipedal late Miocene hominid Sivapithecus, and the length and curvature of this bone closely resembles those of a chimpanzee or bonobo.  In addition, the specimen is 400,000 to 600,000 years younger than the rest of the A. kadabba sample, 800,000 years older than A. ramidus, and from a locality that is geographically much closer to Aramis than to Asa Koma.  It may or may not be from a biped, and if it is, which biped?
    Another issue is the canine/premolar complex....
 
And so it goes.  (The Orrorin fossil was announced in Science in 2001; see 02/23/2001 headline).  In the final paragraph, Begun gives his opinion on the problem and the solution:
Why the different interpretations?  Evidence is scarce and fragmentary, and uncertainty predominates.  Interpretations rely especially heavily on past experience to make sense of incomplete evidence.  Haile-Selassie and colleagues interpret diversity in fossil hominids in terms of variability and gradual evolutionary change in an evolving lineage.  Others see cladistic diversity as opposed to ancestor-descendant relations....  Ancestor-descendant relations must exist , but adaptive radiation and cladogenesis also must exist , or organic diversity would be the same today as it was at the beginning of biological evolution.  Rather than a single lineage, the late Miocene hominin fossil record may sample an adaptive radiation , from a source either in Eurasia or yet undiscovered in Africa, the first of several radiations during the course of human evolution....  Regardless, the level of uncertainty in the available direct evidence at this time renders irreconcilable differences of opinion inevitable.  The solution is in the mantra of all paleontologists: We need more fossils!

1David R. Begun, “Anthropology: The Earliest Hominins: Is Less More?” Science Volume 303, Number 5663, Issue of 5 Mar 2004, pp. 1478-1480.
2Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Gen Suwa, and Tim White, “Late Miocene Teeth from Middle Awash, Ethiopia, and Early Hominid Dental Evolution,” Science 27 October 2003; accepted 13 January 2004, 10.1126/science.1092978.
Combined with last month’s article by Leslea Hlusko (see 02/19/2004 headline), this has to be one of the most damaging admissions on the subject of human evolution, among dozens of damaging admissions on the subject of human evolution, we have been publishing in Creation-Evolution Headlines for four years.  If you can wade past the jargon, the whole tale is one of debate, uncertainty, lack of evidence, controversy, contradiction, dispute, wishful thinking, implausibility, and storytelling, all held together by the glue of faith.
    For example, pay special attention to the sentence above where Begun believes that evidence for both descent and diversity must exist, “or organic diversity would be the same today as it was at the beginning of biological evolution.”  Aha!  Did you catch that?  He just said, in effect, if there weren’t any evolution, there wouldn’t be any evolution!  He wants it both ways: evidence of diversity, but also evidence of descent, and he has neither.  As an admission of blind faith in contradiction to the evidence, one would be hard pressed to find a better example.  Without the evidence of evolution in the fossils, in other words, they would have to admit that nothing has changed--the creationists would be right!  Gasp!  Anything but that!
    These blind guides have just made it crystal clear that after 140 years of trying to prove Darwin right, there just is not any fossil evidence for “the descent of man.”  What story did you grow up with?  Java Man?  Peking Man?  Heidelberg Man?  Those stories are all out the window, and all the new bones are up for grabs for anyone’s interpretation.  The creation story, that man has always been man and ape has always been ape, certainly has nothing to fear from the fossil record.  Darwin, the latecomer in the origins debate, has the burden of proof.
    Much of the futile searching for fragmentary evidence to prop up Charlie would stop if evolutionary paleoanthropologists really took to heart two articles, reported here recently, that portray the hunt to be vanity of vanities, a chasing after wind.  Leslea Hlusko last month (02/19/2004 headline) questioned the basic presuppositions of human evolution, showing how visible variations between bones tell nothing about genetics and development or descent.  And Tim White (a member of the team publishing this week’s paper) reminded his colleagues a year ago that natural variation and deformation can mimic diversity (03/28/2003 headline).  Both these realizations fog up any real evidence of human ancestry.  No matter how many bones they dig up, these two articles emphasize the problem we have emphasized all along: anyone can make up any story they want with the evidence, based on their own bias.  The confusion that reigns today, after decades of changing stories, shows the folly of trusting false assumptions.  As Hlusko rebuked, the answer is not “We need more fossils!”  What we need is repentance from the sin of storytelling – and calling it Science.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Sugar-Dried Blood: Just Add Water   03/04/2004
A discovery might save lives on the battlefield, or any other place where blood platelets are hard to come by.  A simple sugar named trehalose can replace water in platelets and perhaps red blood cells.  This could provide an alternative to freeze-drying, making blood platelets (necessary for clotting) available with a shelf-life of months or years.  The story is reported in the March 4 issue of
Nature.1
    Trehalose, a sugar found in yeast and shrimp that renders them impervious to dehydration, is naturally non-toxic to cells.  “Its properties are almost miraculous,” says author Geoff Brumfiel, based on studies by John Crowe and others.  Whereas freezing a cell risks damage when the water crystallizes, trehalose displaces water and neatly fits in and around proteins and membranes, protecting them from damage.  Though some technical hurdles remain, a DARPA team using trehalose has succeeded in extending the shelf-life of platelets to two years, “an impressive result.”
    Whether the sugar can dehydrate cells with nuclei will be more of a challenge.  Still, this has to be good news for the army.  Brumfield described the logistical problem they currently face: “The US military is one of the most bloodthirsty organizations on Earth.  The troops hold regular blood drives to keep a required 70,000 units on hand at all times; and a veritable small army is needed to transport this blood to remote battle zones in Iraq or Afghanistan.”  It goes without saying that this discovery could also help the Red Cross in your home town.
1Geoff Brumfiel, “Cell biology: Just add water,” Nature 428, 14 - 15 (04 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428014a.
Scientists did not design this sugar from scratch.  They found it, already working as a dehydrating agent, in yeast and shrimp.  Nature already has the best designs.  Evolutionists often admit this.  They just don’t admit they were designed.
Next headline on:  HealthAmazing Facts
How to Prevent Youthful Violence    03/04/2004
EurekAlert posted a finding by University of Washington sociologists that “Family discipline, religious attendance, attachment to school cut levels of later violence among aggressive children.”
Do we really need scientists to tell us the obvious?  Everyone seems to know this except secular researchers.  Solomon and Paul can tell the University of Washington all they need to know.
Next headline on:  HealthEducation
Cellular Cowboys: How the Cell Rounds Up Chromosomes Before Dividing    03/04/2004
Two cancer researchers from UC San Diego describe mitosis (cell division) in the
Mar. 4 issue of Nature.1  Pulling together the latest findings about this elaborate and important process, they begin by describing the puzzle that the cell needs to solve:
At the beginning of mitosis, the process of cell division, chromosomes are organized randomly – like jigsaw puzzle pieces spread out on the floor.  Their constituent two ‘sister chromatids’, each of which contains one of the two identical DNA molecules produced by replication, must be oriented such that they will be pulled in opposite directions into the two newly forming cells.  Like a jigsaw, the solution for correctly orienting all chromosomes comes partly through trial and error.  Mechanisms must exist to eliminate wrong configurations while selecting the right ones.
In the article, they describe how cables (microtubules) connect to handles (kinetochores) on the chromosomes and start pulling them in opposite directions.  Another enzyme dissolves the molecular “glue” in the centrosomes that hold the sister chromatids together, so that the opposite poles of the spindle can pull them apart into the daughter cells.
    A newly-described “highly-conserved enzyme” (i.e., identical in yeast and vertebrates), named Aurora B kinase, somehow finds chromosomes that lack an attachment to the other pole of the spindle, and fixes them.  Apparently this enzyme is able to identify chromosomes that are incorrectly lassoed to the same pole (syntelic attachment) and therefore are not under tension.  Only when there is tension on each chromosome, pulling the sister chromatids toward opposite poles, will the process continue.  “Finding out how Aurora B identifies and corrects them is an obvious next step,” the authors say.
Ian M. Cheeseman and Arshad Desai, “Cell division: Feeling tense enough?”, Nature 428, 32 - 33 (04 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428032b.
First of all, think of how many parts are involved in this process.  Then realize that without high fidelity duplication and segregation during cell division, an organism would be subject to cancer, genetic disease or death.  Furthermore, any alleged evolution would quickly come to a grinding halt, because natural selection is highly dependent on accurate replication for selected traits to be preserved.
    To visualize what goes on in mitosis, think of the following analogy.  (Analogies, though never precise, and inadequate as proofs, can help make complex processes approachable.)  Let’s head out West and picture a team of cowboys who need to split a herd of cattle for market.  The cattle in our hypothetical herd all have identical twins that are yoked together.  They are wandering aimlessly in a corral, and two teams of cowboys are standing at opposite ends of the corral with lassos in hand.  On cue, the corral fence (the nuclear membrane) drops.  The cowboys immediately go into action, lassoing every cow in sight.
    Their goal is to split the herd into identical halves.  To accomplish this, each team has to catch one of each pair: Bob, on the north team, lassos one of the twins, and Joe, on the south team, lassos the other.  As soon as a cow is caught, the cowboy starts pulling.  Sometimes, however, two guys on the same team catch both twins.  That’s when wrangler Chuck (Aurora B kinase) rides through the herd, looking at ropes that aren’t taut, indicating pairs hitched to the same team.  Chuck removes one of the ropes and lets the other team lasso the twin.  As the ropers keep applying tension, the boss makes sure all the pairs are lined up, each with one rope pulling a cow north and another rope pulling its twin south.  Then another wrangler breaks the yokes, and the cowboys wind in their ropes, pulling their half of the herd into the new north and south corrals.
    The difference in cells is that they don’t have sentient cowboys with eyes and ears doing the work by using their brains and roping skills.  Instead, cables called microtubules extend outward blindly at random from the spindle poles, looking for attachment points on the kinetochores at the middle of the chromosomes.  Tension is applied by molecular motors (see 02/25/2003 headline), like winches, that pull the chromatids into the daughter cells.  How can a cell make sure one and only one cable gets attached to each chromatid?  This is awesome.  Consider also that all the machinery, all the ropes, all the winches, all the corrals, all the procedures and everything else is produced by the DNA in the chromosomes, as if the cattle were the master controller and supplier for the cowboys!  For photomicrographs of mitosis, see the illustrations at the Florida State University and the University of Maryland websites.
    Mitosis is a coordinated team project that is done exactly right by the cell every time it divides.  Mistakes by cowboys might mean a lawsuit or the loss of business, but in the cell, a mistake can mean death.  The process is amazing enough as described, but then the authors throw in “the rest of the story” to boggle Darwinian minds beyond all hope of recovery.  What they described was for yeast – a “primitive” form of life.  What happens in vertebrates, like us humans?  Get ready:
In contrast to budding yeast, kinetochores of other eukaryotes bind multiple microtubules (about 20 in humans).  These larger kinetochores must coordinate all these microtubules and also deal with incorrect attachments in which microtubules from opposite spindle poles connect to a single kinetochore (termed ‘merotely’).  Another study, in this month’s Nature Cell Biology, found that Aurora B does not merely detach syntelic kinetochores from microtubules in vertebrates – it orchestrates the coordinated disassembly of all the microtubules that are bound to each kinetochore, so that the syntelically oriented chromosomes move towards the spindle poles before they are bi-oriented.
    Although sister kinetochore geometry seems to be dispensable in budding yeasts with their single-microtubule-connected kinetochores, it could contribute to reducing merotely, as implied by the conservation of this aspect of chromosome architecture throughout eukaryotic evolution.  Tackling the extra dimension that the multiplicity of microtubule-binding sites at kinetochores introduces will undoubtedly be another brain-teaser – and a particularly important one, too, because the loss of a single chromosome can be lethal, and aberrant numbers of chromosomes can contribute to birth defects and cancer.
Isn’t evolution wonderful.  It blindly found a way to solve multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzles correctly every time, and hung onto its invention for millions of years.  It started a successful cattle ranching business, employing blind cowboys.  Its advertisement boasts, “Satisfying customers since 2 billion years B.C.”  Would you trust such hype?
    One last thought.  Remember the
02/13/2003 headline last year?  It reported that meiosis (cell division for sexual reproduction) is even “much more complex” than mitosis, but there was no evidence it had evolved from the “simpler” process of mitosis.  These are bad days to work for Charlie on the Lazy E Ranch.  Better quit the outfit while you can and join up with the Boss who knows the business.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGenetics and DNAAmazing Facts
Science Journal Editors Face Accountability    03/04/2004
This quote by a journal editor comes from a news item in the
Mar. 4 issue of Nature:1
“Like everybody else, we are much more interested in other people’s accountability than we are in our own,” explains Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), who helped to draft the new code.  “Editors are perhaps some of the most unaccountable people in the world.”
The new code he speaks of is a draft of an ethical code of conduct for scientific publishing, which can be found on the website of the Committee on Publication Ethics.  The editor of Nature is “considering” the guidelines; other journals claim they already have independent review boards.  The article gives some examples of recent ethical violations by journal editors.  See also Nature Science Update (03/04/2004) for samples of misconduct; Jim Giles writes, “They lie, they cheat and they steal.  Judging by the cases described by a group of medical journal editors, scientists are no different from the rest of us.”
1Jim Giles, “Medical editors urged to accept ethical code,” Nature 428, 5 (04 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428005a.
You thought that peer review kept science journals honest, and that science was a self-correcting process in which peer review kept bias out of the journals, didn’t you?  How come after centuries of science publishing, here in 2004 they are admitting that editors are some of the most unaccountable people in the world?
    Some of the proposed guidelines, if followed honestly, would put the Darwin Party out of business:
    Data Analysis:
  • “The discussion section of a paper should mention any issues of bias which have been considered, and explain how they have been dealt with in the design and interpretation of the study.”
    Duties of Editors:
  • “Studies that challenge previous work published in the journal should be given an especially sympathetic hearing.
    How come Darwinians can speculate freely beyond the evidence, but rebuttals from ID scientists are systematically excluded? (see 05/13/2003 headline, for example).  How come pro-Darwin book reviews are published, but only negative reviews are published of intelligent design books, if at all?
  • “Studies reporting negative results should not be excluded.
    OK, let’s publish some of the many dates that conflict with the standard geological column.
  • “All original studies should be peer reviewed before publication, taking into full account possible bias due to related or conflicting interests.”
    Does philosophical materialism count as bias?
    Media Relations:
  • “Authors approached by the media should give as balanced an account of their work as possible, ensuring that they point out where evidence ends and speculation begins.
    This one guideline alone would put the Darwinian just-so storytelling enterprise out of business.
COPE says that “These guidelines are intended to be advisory rather than prescriptive, and to evolve over time.”  So who or what is going to hold the editor of Nature accountable?  Sales records?  Guidelines might evolve by intelligent design, but if ethics evolve, they are not ethics.
    Speaking of bias, did you know that the journal Nature was originally formed to be a propaganda outlet for the Darwinians?  Look at what Janet Browne wrote in Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002):
The Reader [a first-attempt Darwin mouthpiece] was to expire in 1867.  Not long afterwards, Norman Lockyear, one of its editors, put up the idea of founding a periodical which they would call Nature, to be owned and published by Alexander Macmillan, a journal that would provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge.  Lockyear brought Nature into existence in November 1869, fronted by an introduction by Huxley (“as if written by the maddest English scholar,” said Darwin indulgently).  To command the periodical market was a shrewd tactic in any contested cultural arena but one as yet little exploited in science, and while Lockyear was never a member of the X Club [a group of radical antireligious naturalists and Darwin-supporters, founded by Huxley] he displayed similar strong, progressive liberal opinions.  Far more than any other science journal of the period, Nature was conceived, born and raised to serve polemic purpose.  In the first year of its existence, there were six or seven articles urging Darwin’s scheme, two of which were written by Darwin himself.  Darwin became a lifelong subscriber, claiming he got a kind of “satisfaction” in reading articles he could not understand.
(p. 248)
[Otto] Zacharias also asked if he could use Darwin’s name on a new journal he wished to start in Germany, called Darwinia.... Such journals, as they all recognized, played a fundamental role in distributing evolutionary ideas.  The story of Nature’s conception in 1869 was prime evidence of the value of having a tightly-controlled, well-distributed mouthpiece.... One of the first journals to take up Darwin’s views in Germany had been the weekly magazine Ausland (“Abroad”), a heady mix of biology and society, pumped up with a stream of articles from Haeckel and other evolutionists.  During the Franco-Prussian War, the editor, Friedrich von Hellwald, claimed Darwinism as proof that warfare between nations was a natural law, a standard view of the time that did not prevent his journal’s expiry a few years afterwards.
(pp. 438-439).
These and many other tidbits from Browne’s book reveal that the Darwinian revolution was largely a propaganda coup.  It would have been more honest for Nature to have been named Naturalism.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Opportunity Finds Evidence of Past Water on Mars    03/02/2004
Liquid water once drenched the surface of Mars at Meridiani Planum and made it a suitable habitat for life, according to Ed Weiler at a NASA briefing today.  Four pieces of evidence from the
Mars Exploration Rover named Opportunity led principal scientist Stephen Squyres to this conclusion: (1) the spherules appear to be concretions grown within a water-saturated rock; (2) the rock is permeated with tabular holes that seem to be gaps left by dissolved-away crystals; (3) the X-ray spectrometer and mini-TES saw a strong signature of sulfur in ground-away rock, indicating the presence of sulfate salts; (4) the Mossbauer spectrometer found an abundance (10%) of iron sulfate hydrate named jerusite that only forms in the presence of water.
    Combined, these evidences make it “hard to avoid the conclusion” that water existed for some period of time in this environment (how long, Squyres admitted, is impossible to say from these data). Whether the rock outcrops were laid down in water remains to be determined.  Scientists will be investigating preliminary hints at crossbedding in the bedrock, which would indicate a sedimentary process.  High concentration of magnesium sulfate, like dehydrated Epson salt, were found, indicating that the salts likely precipitated out of solution.  The salts appear similar to what would remain if a salty body like the Dead Sea evaporated.
    Squyres said this could have been a habitable environment for life, but cautioned this doesn’t mean life existed on Mars.  It might be a good place to look, though: the crystal evidence suggests evidence for past life might have been trapped in the rocks.  It might take a sample return mission to tell.  Fossils would be very rare and unlikely to be found, but the isotopic fractionation signature of sulfur could provide a chemical tracer for life.  Squyres admitted there is no way to date the material.
Don’t just look for water.  Look for information (see 12/30/2002 headline).
    Note: organisms in salty environments on Earth can survive because of specialized adaptations to deal with the salts, which normally would be harmful.  One would not expect life, especially lipid membranes, to evolve in a salty environment (see 09/17/2002 headline).
    Finding evidence of past water is a geologically fascinating discovery, interesting in its own right.  It is disgusting, however, to watch the press assume that water equals life.  They did it at Europa, and you can just hear it coming on all the popular news outlets and TV shows.  Water is the simplest and easiest molecule to get.  In its solid and vapor forms, it is abundant in the solar system (whole moons of Saturn are made of ice).  What sets life apart from rock, dirt, sand and water is the way the material is organized into instruction-directed molecular machines, filled with information.  Given the periodic table and the laws of physics, one can derive the existence of water.  Information – codes – machinery – these are the hallmarks of intelligent design.
Next headline on:  MarsGeologyOrigin of Life
Fiber-Optic Sponge Makes Deep-Sea Lamps    03/01/2004
Last year, it was announced that a deep-sea sponge named the
Venus Flower Basket possessed glass strands similar to fiber optic cables (see 08/20/2003 headline).  Now, a five-member team from Bell Labs has performed the first detailed optical analysis of the fibers.  They indeed found these structures to be “remarkably similar to commercial silica optical fibers and are capable of forming an effective fiberoptical network.”  Their findings are published in PNAS.1
    The sponge’s fiber optics, though, are superior to man-made ones in four respects:
  1. Focus:  “Other interesting design elements include terminal lens-like extensions located proximally and barb-like spines located along the spicule shaft.  The presence of these lens structures at the end of the biofibers improves the light-collecting efficiency [that] offers an effective fiber-optical network with selected illumination points along the length of the crown-like fibrous network surrounding the cylindrical skeletal lattice.”
  2. Cool:  “Second, the formation of the biosilica fibers occurs at ambient temperatures and pressures.”  Man-made glass fibers are made at high temperatures.  “Their complex structure and composition are encoded in the organism and are controlled by specialized organic molecules and cells.  The low-temperature formation of silica in organisms, as an alternative to the high-temperature technological process, is a subject of extensive studies.”
  3. Dope:  “The low-temperature synthesis brings about an extremely important feature: the ability to effectively dope the structure with impurities that increase the refractive index of silica.  Our elemental analysis showed, for example, the presence of sodium ions in the entire fiber, particularly in the core.  Sodium ions (and many other additives) are not commercially viable optical fiber dopants because of manufacturing challenges, including devitrification at high processing temperatures.  In the case of these spicules, however, the presence of sodium ions results in the increase of the refractive index to values approaching and even exceeding that of vitreous silica.
  4. No Stress:  “Another advantage of the low-temperature synthesis is evidenced in the lack of the polarization dependence on the refractive index.  Birefringence in commercially prepared fibers often occurs as a result of the residual thermal stresses in the fibers upon their cooling.  Ambient condition formation of the spicules in biological environments prevents the development of any residual thermal stress.
The authors are not sure how the sponge uses its technology.  Typically, this species inhabits deep waters near hydrothermal vents, where the only light is from bioluminescent organisms or chemoluminescence.  They offer a suggestion that it might act as an underwater lamp for symbiotic organisms: “Our results suggest that if such sources exist within or in close association to the basalia of E. aspergillum, their light might be efficiently used and distributed by the sponge.  Such a fiberoptical lamp might potentially act as an attractant for larval or juvenile stages of these organisms and symbiotic shrimp to the host sponge.”
    Their final paragraph sums up the wonder of this creature’s amazing manufacturing ability:
In conclusion, we have demonstrated an example of nature’s ability to evolve highly effective and sophisticated optical systems, comparable and in some aspects superior to man-made analogs.  High fracture toughness arising from their composite structure, the presence of index-raising dopants, the degree of silica condensation, and the absence of residual stress in these fibers suggest an advantage of the protein-controlled, ambient temperature synthesis favored in nature.  Whether these optical properties are biologically relevant or not, the mechanisms of the formation of silica spicules in E. aspergillum are inspiring to materials scientists and engineers.  We believe, therefore, that this system represents a new route to improved, silica-based optical fibers, constructed by using a bottom-up approach.

1Aizenberg et al., “Biological glass fibers: Correlation between optical and structural properties,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0307843101 (published online before print on 03/01/2004).
Mother Nature, being blind, would not make a lamp.  Let’s object when scientists use the word “evolve” as a synonym for “engineer”.  Nature cannot “evolve” a “highly effective and sophisticated optical system.”  Highly effective and sophisticated systems are products of engineering.  Engineering requires intelligence and purpose.
    This sponge, first named by creationist Richard Owen in 1841, is a natural wonder.  Another wonder is how Darwinists think Nature Inc. can get any manufacturing done, with their pointy-haired boss (chance) managing a crew of blind, deaf and dumb Dilberts (natural selection).  The competition, Intelligent Design Unlimited, puts out a catalog that is a work of art.
Next headline on:  Fish and Marine BiologyAmazing Facts


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Featured Creation Scientist for March

Antony van Leeuwenhoek
1632 - 1723

This month we are reprinting one of our biographies from Nov. 2001, which subsequently was discovered and printed (with permission) by Christian History (Issue 76, Fall 2002).   Then SIRS, a large educational online resource company that provides news and articles for public schools, found it and asked permission to use it in their Renaissance database.  We hope you enjoy reading this interesting and important story about an amazing Christian who transformed science by making fundamental discoveries in his own home.


It’s not often that a layman untrained in science makes a fundamental discovery, starts a new branch of science, and alters the course of human history.  Nor is it often that a layman shows exemplary scientific technique that becomes a model for scientists to come.  Antony van Leeuwenhoek was such a person.  Extremely inventive, careful, and precise, unfettered by false notions of the day, Leeuwenhoek was driven by an insatiable curiosity that captivated him at age 40 and kept him going to his dying day at age 91.  It started when he read a copy of Robert Hooke’s new illustrated book Micrographia, which contained drawings of insects, cork, textiles and other things revealed under a microscope at magnifications about 20-30x.  Leeuwenhoek took to grinding his own lenses and making his own microscopes.  Perfecting a technique that raised the power to over 200x, he opened up a whole new world never before seen by man: the world of microorganisms.

Born in Delft, Holland, Antony did not have any inclinations or opportunities to become a scientist.  He would also know hardship and grief.  His father, a basket maker, died when he was five or six.  His mother was the daughter of a beer brewer.  She remarried a painter and bailiff, but he died when Antony was 16.  He was educated by an uncle, and never went to a university, never learned Latin (the scientific language of the day) or any other language other than his native Dutch.  By age 16, he was apprenticed to a textile merchant, and he became a drapery shopkeeper before he was 22.  He married Barbara de Mey, the daughter of a silk merchant about that time.  The Leeuwenhoeks had five children, four of whom died young.

Antony became a chamberlain in 1660, later a surveyor and an inspector of the measures for wine.  Through his appointments and possibly some inheritance, he attained a comfortable income with time to pursue what would later become his famous hobby.  His wife died in 1666 when he was 34; five years later, he married Cornelia Swalmius, the daughter of another cloth merchant who was also a Calvinist minister.  Her influence may somehow have stimulated Antony’s investigations into science, since these began within two years after their marriage.  This second marriage lasted 23 years till her death in 1694; Antony was cared for by his last daughter till his death in 1723, thus carrying on his scientific work for an additional 29 years after becoming a widower a second time.

Leeuwenhoek did not invent the microscope (compound magnifying lenses were known 40 years before he was born), but he took it to new levels of power.  He was probably acquainted with magnifying lenses used to investigate the textiles in his trade.  His only trip to London (between marriages, in 1668) introduced him to the unseen natural world under the magnifying lens shown in Robert Hooke’s popular new book, Micrographia.  We can only surmise what sparked his interest in microscopy that was in full bloom five years later; this book?  His second wife or her intellectual friends?  His own curiosity about nature?  Somehow, he began grinding his own magnifying glasses, and perfecting a way to mount them and hold specimens in position for viewing.  Crude by today’s standards, they were nevertheless far superior to those used by Hooke, Swammerdam, Malphighi and others, and were unsurpassed until the 19th century.  (The electron microscope would have to wait 250 years.)  The compound microscopes of his day suffered from chromatic aberration and were not useful much above 20x.  Leeuwenhoek made tiny lenses not much bigger than a pinhead in his simple microscopes, but aided with excellent eyesight, he achieved magnifications as high as 270x and 1.4 micron resolution.  He was now in position to peer into a world never before seen by human eyes.

Other scientists of the day were content to magnify well-known objects like leaves and textiles.  Leeuwenhoek wanted to see the invisible.  By 1673, when he was finding exciting things with his microscope, a friend put him in touch with the Royal Society of London.  Antony sent them drawings (made by a friend) of bee stings and mouthparts, a louse and a fungus.  The eminent British scientists were at first skeptical of the claims by this untrained layman who only spoke Dutch.  When in 1676 he described finding microorganisms in water that were so small that “ten thousand of these living creatures could scarce equal the bulk of a coarse sand grain,” the surprised Royal Society requested corroboration from other eyewitnesses, especially since Robert Hooke himself could not repeat them (until later, with a more powerful microscope).  Several friends, including a pastor, and a notary public, sent affidavits that they also saw these things through Antony’s microscope.  As Leeuwenhoek’s observations were found to be true and accurate, his reputation grew, and by 1680 this untrained layman was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.  Though he would never revisit London or attend a meeting, the Dutch cloth merchant kept up a lively relationship with the British scientists for fifty years, sending them hundreds of letters with attached samples, some of which survive to this day in the Royal Society archives, along with a few of his hand-made microscopes; though out of hundreds he manufactured, only nine survive.

Leeuwenhoek’s letters sparkle with the excitement of discovery.  Part of the fun of reading them is catching his infectious joy; where words like astonished, wonderful, odd, perfect, marvelous, inconceivable are frequent as he describes his “wee animalcules” and their motions.  Describing protozoa and bacteria in a drop of fresh water, he writes, “The motion of most of them in the water was so swift, and so various, upwards, downwards, and roundabout, that I admit I could not but wonder at it.  I judge that some of these little creatures were above a thousand times smaller than the smallest ones which I have hitherto seen on the rind of cheese, wheaten flour, mold and the like . . . . Some of these are so exceedingly small that millions of millions might be contained in a single drop of water.  I was much surprised at this wonderful spectacle, having never seen any living creature comparable to those for smallness; nor could I indeed imagine that nature had afforded instances of so exceedingly minute animal proportions.”  His vocabulary must have seemed a bit undignified to the British scientists at times – describing the plaque between his teeth, he wrote, “I then most always saw, with great wonder, that in the said matter there were many little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving, the biggest sort...had a very strong and swift motion, and shot through the water (or spittle) like a pike does through the water.  The second sort...oft-times spun round like a top.” – but Antony’s intense curiosity and amazement at what he was seeing provided the energy and patience to hold his little two-inch microscopes, illuminated by a nearby candle-flame, up to his eyes repeatedly for five decades.

Of his motivation, he himself wrote, “...my work, which I’ve done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men.”  Dobell, a translator of many of his letters, describes him thus: “Our Leeuwenhoek was manifestly a man of great and singular candour, honesty, and sincerity.  He was religiously plain and straightforward in all he did, and therefore sometimes almost immodestly frank in describing his observations.  It never occurred to him that Truth could appear indecent.  His letters, accordingly, are full of outspoken thoughts which more ‘scientific’ writers would hesitate to put on paper: and to the modern reader this is, indeed, one of his particular charms–for he is far more childlike and innocent and ‘modern’ than any present-day writer.” (Dobell, p. 73).

Leeuwenhoek investigated almost anything and everything that could be held up to his lens, exemplifying technical skill, persistence, curiosity, insight and penchant for accuracy that would become a model for others working in experimental biology.  He was the first to observe bacteria, rotifers and protists like Vorticella and Volvox.  He observed blood cells and was the first to see the whiplike action of sperm cells.  He also labored passionately to dispel myths.  Working independently, untied to the common misconceptions by scientists of his day, he used good empirical methods to find the truth.  One year, for instance, when people found objects that looked like burnt paper with mysterious writing on them and attributed them to messages from heaven, Antony proved they were merely dried sheets of algae.  In his proof, he did a model forensic analysis, even reproducing the processes that led to the phenomenon.  More importantly, Leeuwenhoek refuted the doctrine of spontaneous generation that was popular in his day, the idea that living things emerge spontaneously from inanimate matter–eels from dew, shellfish from sand, maggots from meat, and weevils from wheat.  He observed the complete life cycle of ants, fleas, mussels, eels, and various insects, proving that all organisms had parents.  It would take another 150 years for the false notion of spontaneous generation to be dealt its final death blow under Louis Pasteur (although a new form of the doctrine arose in the twentieth century, of necessity under Darwinian philosophy, under the name “chemical evolution”).

Antony van Leeuwenhoek became somewhat of a celebrity in his old age.  Visitors to his little shop wanting to see microscopic wonders included Peter the Great, King James II, and Frederick II of Prussia.  His relationship with the Royal Society also brought him into contact with other leading scientists of the day.  He had no regard for fame or position, though, and would rebuff royalty if he was too busy, or if they had not made an appointment.  Truly his passion was for the wonders of nature that God had allowed him to investigate.  There are indications he was also interested in navigation, astronomy, mathematics, and other natural sciences.  He said, “Man has always to be busy with his thoughts if anything is to be accomplished.”

It is difficult to find much detail about Leeuwenhoek’s church attendance or spiritual life in most biographical sources, which tend to focus on his experimental achievements, but it is clear that faith in God and a love for creation were the key influences behind his scientific work.  He was born into the Dutch Reformed tradition, which had a high view of Scripture and salvation in Jesus Christ, and a firm doctrine of creation, Of his religion, Richard Westfall of Indiana University writes, “He was baptized and buried in Calvinist churches, and his second wife was the daughter of a Calvinist minister.”  This tradition, furthermore, understood and encouraged man’s role in the investigation of God’s handiwork in nature.   A. Schierbeek, the Editor-in-Chief of the collected letters of Leeuwenhoek, explains that he was part of the ‘New Philosophy’ of scientists like Robert Boyle, who regarded the study of nature as “a work to the glory of God and the benefit of Man.”  The newly-formed Royal Society was made up largely of Puritans with similar convictions, from which we can infer Leeuwenhoek shared with them a common bond of belief, since he took great pride in his relationship with the Royal Society, mentioning it on his title pages and even on his tombstone.  Schierbeek observes, “His works are full of his admiration of creation and the Creator, a theme which is frequently found in writings of this period; in becoming better acquainted with creation, men wanted to get nearer the Creator, a conviction which is found among many of the early members of the Royal Society.” (Schierbeek, p. 200).  Thus we see again that Christianity was the driving force during the rise of modern science.

Of Leeuwenhoek’s personal faith, Schierbeek says, “To this we must add his deep religious assurance, his complete faith in the ‘All-wise Creator,’ a never-flagging admiration for the perfection of the most minute, hidden mysteries of the work of His hands and the conviction that his researches would surely help to make His Omnipotence more universally known.  Without ever lapsing into high-flown phrases he repeatedly gave evidence of his religious faith:  ‘Let us lay the hand on our mouth, and reflect that the All-wise hath deemed this needful for the reproduction of all that hath received movement and growth, and so, the why and the wherefore we can but guess after.’” (Schierbeek, p. 31).

It is clear, too, from his stand against non-Christian superstitions such as the doctrine of spontaneous generation, that he held to a Biblical doctrine of creation.  He believed it foolish to think his little “animalcules” could have formed by chance, and he worked diligently to prove that all things reproduce after their kind, as the book of Genesis teaches.  For example, after working for weeks observing the propagation of insects, Leeuwenhoek stated confidently, “. . .  This must appear wonderful, and be a confirmation of the principle, that all living creatures deduce their origin from those which were formed at the Beginning.” (Schierbeek, p. 137).  After another remarkable series of experiments on rotifers in 1702 he concluded:

The preceding kinds of experiments I have repeated many times with the same success, and in particular with some of the sediment which had been kept in my study for about five months. . .  From all these observations, we discern most plainly the incomprehensible perfection, the exact order, and the inscrutable providential care with which the most wise Creator and Lord of the Universe had formed the bodies of these animalcules, which are so minute as to escape our sight, to the end that different species of them may be preserved in existence.  And this most wonderful disposition of nature with regard to these animalcules for the preservation of their species; which at the same time strikes us with astonishment, must surely convince all of the absurdity of those old opinions, that living creatures can be produced from corruption of putrefaction. [Schierbeek, p. 171]

From Leeuwenhoek’s writings we frequently sense the awe and wonder that can only emanate from a man who has a joyful, personal relationship with God the Creator.  Dan Graves, in Scientists of Faith (Kregel, 1996), writes, “He often referred with reverence to the wonders God designed in making creatures small and great.  His virtues were perseverance, simplicity, and stubbornness.  He loved truth above any theory, even his own.  He asked of his challengers only that they prove their points as he proved his.”  Schierbeek says, “Leeuwenhoek was driven by a passionate desire to penetrate more deeply into the mysteries of creation.  To him, as to many others of his time, a watch was a greater specimen of craftsmanship than a clock in a tower; this opinion is reflected in his biological views.  The microscope gave him the opportunity to study and admire the small organisms, the “animalcules,” and whenever he was able he expressed his admiration of the beautiful things he saw.” (Schierbeek, p. 196).

Leeuwenhoek died shortly after dictating his latest observations to the Royal Society.  Clearly his long and full life was filled with the enthusiasm of scientific inquiry.  Microscopy has come a long way since then; scientists now use electron microscopes which, at 100,000x, are hundreds of times more powerful, investigating wonders even more amazing than those Leeuwenhoek saw: DNA, molecular motors, and the machinery of the cell.  A vast horizon of creation under the microscope still remains largely unexplored.  Do you have the Leeuwenhoek spirit?  We hope his story will encourage others to see the scientific investigation of nature as a source of joy, and a means of glorifying God.  Dan Graves said, “Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s life glorified God in many ways, but perhaps most by showing us that there is far more under the sun than we had first suspected.”

References:
A. Schierbeek, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the Collected Letters of A. v. Leeuwenhoek, Formerly Lecturer in the History of Biology in the University of Leyden, Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek F R S, Abelard-Schuman (London and New York, 1959), QH 31 L55 S3, LC 59-13233 .  This book (223 pp.) contains excerpts of Leeuwenhoek’s letters and focuses on his priority in several new branches of science, but makes several important references to his spiritual life and motivation.

Clifford Dobell, F R S, Protistologist to the Medical Research Council, London, Antony van Leeuwenhoek and His “Little Animals,” Staples Press Ltd (Cavendish Place, London, 1932), QH 31L55 D6.  This large book (435 pp.) contains new translations of many of Leeuwenhoek’s letters, but focuses on his observations.  The author gives excessive details about Leeuwenhoek’s name, city, portraits and other matters, but seems to de-emphasize references to his faith or spiritual life.

For online resources, check the right-hand sidebar, “Learn more about Antony van Leeuwenhoek,” at our online book site.


If you are enjoying 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).

Disclaimer: Creation-Evolution Headlines includes links to many external sites, but takes no responsibility for the accuracy or legitimacy of their content.† Inclusion of an external link is strictly for the reader’s convenience, and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of the material or its authors, owners, or sponsors.