Creation-Evolution Headlines
May 2004
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Thus, for the naturalist, the world is intelligible only if it starts off without intelligence and then evolves intelligence.  If it starts out with intelligence and evolves intelligence because of a priori intelligence, then somehow the world becomes unintelligible.  The absurdity here is palpable.
— William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution (IVP 2004, p. 23)
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Darwinist Chides Recklessness of Evolutionists   05/31/2004
The tendency of some evolutionists to engage in just-so storytelling was intolerable to George C. Williams, an influential Darwinian.  Throughout his life he called them to accountability.  Now elderly, he was recently honored by fellow evolutionists at State University of New York, Stony Brook.  Carl Zimmer described the event in the May 28 issue of Science.1  The article describes Williams’ attitude toward those who avoided the necessity for scientific rigor in evolutionary explanations.
Williams was struck by the ad hoc way that even prominent biologists would explain an adaptation.  They’d claim that it had evolved because it provided some benefit; often, an entire population or species supposedly benefited.  Williams recalls a lecture he heard by Alfred Emerson, a zoologist at the University of Chicago, about why people age and die.  “He said growing old and dying is a good thing,” Williams says.  “We’ve evolved to do it so we get out of the way, so the young people can go on maintaining the species.”
    “I thought it was absolute nonsense,” says Williams.  Whenever people like Emerson claimed that an adaptation was for the good of a species, they never offered an explanation of how, from one generation to another, that potential benefit produced real evolutionary change.  Williams suspected that in most cases, no such explanation existed.  For him, the primary engine of evolutionary change was the one Darwin had written about in the Origin of Species: competition among individuals of the same species.  Most biologists in the 1950s simply failed to think seriously enough about how natural selection could produce adaptations, he says.
Williams has been especially harsh on the group selectionists, those who surmise that natural selection can act on groups instead of just individuals.  Zimmer points to his 1966 classic, Adaptation and Natural Selection, as the clarion call to see all adaptations as the result of “strict natural selection working on individuals.”  So how did Williams explain things?
Take a school of fish, for example.  It seems as if every individual cooperates for the good of the group, working with others to avoid predators, even if it means that individual gets devoured in the process.  Williams argued that the schooling behavior could instead be the product of individual fish trying to boost their personal chances of survival--by trying to get in the middle of the school and by watching other fish for signs of approaching predators....
    .... Williams argued that the decline of old age could be caused by pleiotropy--in other words, the harmful side effects of genes selected for advantages they offered during youth.  Just as long as the advantages of these genes outweighed the disadvantages, they would become widespread.
In other words, organisms trade off one advantage against another (see
05/11/2004 headline).  Not all group selectionists have repented, however.  Zimmer points out one ardent skeptic:
Although Williams has convinced many people of the value of his ideas, the notion that human behavior can be broken down into such finely tuned reproduction-boosting adaptations is, to say the least, controversial.  The late Stephen Jay Gould liked to call this approach “Darwinian fundamentalism,” and he credited Williams’s Adaptation and Natural Selection as “the founding document for this ultimate version of Darwinian reductionism.”
Zimmer also touches on the disappointment by some of Williams’ followers that his ideas on evolutionary medicine never really caught on.  Williams believed evolutionary theory might help doctors by helping them identify natural selection at work in their patients.  The competition between a fetus and its mother for the nutrients in the placenta, for instance, might explain the life-threatening condition called preeclampsia.  As Williams’s followers might see the situation, the mother’s blood pressure might be rising dangerously because the fetus is releasing factors into the placenta that “damage the walls of the mother’s blood vessels, thereby raising the resistance of her circulatory system,” so that it could glean more nutrients from the increased blood flow.  Participants at the meeting lamented that such “Darwinian ideas are not making a big impact” on the way doctors think.  A recent-convert doctor noted that “There’s a big barrier between people like me who are physicians and people who are in biology departments.”  Perhaps it’s just that all great ideas take time, Zimmer suggests.  (For more on evolutionary medicine, see 01/13/2003 and 06/25/2003 headlines.)
1Carl Zimmer, “George C. Williams Profile: Stretching the Limits of Evolutionary Biology, Science. Vol 304, Issue 5675, 1235-1236, 28 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1235].
Stephen Pinker claimed that “George Williams was instrumental in making natural selection an intellectually rigorous theory.”  There’s nothing scientifically rigorous about any of this.  The only thing Williams did was try to leash in today’s storytelling methods back to the original storytelling method.  One must not twist the plot with group selection, but only invoke individual selection, as Charlie proposed in the evolutionary Torah.  Thus, Darwinian fundamentalism must abide by the just-so storytelling method of the Mosstuh prescribed in the founding document of the Darwin Party.  We’ve said before that if you removed the personification fallacy from evolutionary theory, little would be left.  Raise your hand if you think fish plan their schooling for survival, or babies in the womb are plotting to steal from Mom.
    Medicine gets along just fine without Darwinian fundamentalism.  Pregnant mothers facing surgery are not likely to be comforted by the thought that their babies are competing with them for survival of the fittest.  (If anything, such teaching would only seem to promote abortion.)  Doctors and hospital chaplains prosper when they see the value in each individual life as a marvelous creation of a loving God.  If you care for your loved one in the hospital, better help keep the Darwin Party advocates out.  They don’t value compassion.  They value selfishness.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Young Planet Around Young Star Claimed    05/28/2004
A star estimated to be one million years old already has a planet in orbit around it, the
Spitzer Space Telescope (Hubble’s counterpart for infrared astronomy) has found.  Astrobiology Magazine says this challenges old theories.  Alan Boss (Carnegie Institute) thinks this supports his disk-instability model for planetary formation, in which gas giants can form quickly, in just hundreds or thousands of years (see 05/07/2001 headline).  If so, “that has profound implications for the prevalence of planetary systems similar to our own,” he says.  “That means you can make gas giant planets – a major component of our own solar system – in a short time scale, in even the shortest-lived disc.”
    Spitzer also found organic material in the disks of some stars, reports Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  The “raw ingredients for life” appears to be in icy bodies that might be comets.  If so, “Scientists believe these comets may have endowed Earth with some of its water and many of its biogenic, life-enabling materials.”
It also means our solar system doesn’t have to be as old as claimed even under naturalistic presuppositions.  Funny that you can have young-earth theories for other stars, but not our own.
    “Raw ingredients for life” again; sure.  Iron ore and gypsum are raw ingredients for buildings.  Once upon a time, these ingredients organized themselves into cities and factories and concert halls.
Next headline on:  AstronomyDating MethodsOrigin of Life
Cosmos Ages a Billion Years in One Day    05/28/2004
Physicists have found that a portion of the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen reaction thought to participate in fusion reactions inside stars runs two times slower than previously thought.  The measurements were made in the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), a lab nearly a mile underground in Italy that offers more protection from cosmic rays.  The ripple effect of this discovery is that all stars age more slowly than the textbooks claim, and the universe itself may be a billion years older.  For information, see
Physics Web or Science Now.
They measured one reaction in the present.  They did not measure 14 billion years.  Notice how one small measurement can have dramatic effects.  Physics is supposed to be a “hard” science, and now the textbooks have to be rewritten about something that was thought to be pretty well understood.  What about the soft sciences, and the mushy or gaseous ones like evolutionary theory?  What discovery tomorrow might invalidate some measurement the Darwinists are trusting?
Next headline on:  CosmologyPhysicsDating Methods
DNA: The Mystery of the Ultraconserved Elements   05/27/2004
As we proceed into the age of genomics, the DNA codes of more and more animals are coming into focus.  The genomes of humans, chimpanzees, mice, chickens, dogs, rats and pufferfish have been sequenced so far, and more are planned.  Evolutionists expected the ancestry of all living things to be traceable in the genetic code by comparing the DNA of distant vs. closely-related species, but the task has proven far more complicated than expected.  One recent finding has evolutionists really scratching their theoretical heads, as summarized in the May 28 issue of Science:
There are 481 segments longer than 200 base pairs (bp) that are absolutely conserved (100% identity with no insertions or deletions) between orthologous regions of the human, rat, and mouse genomes.  Nearly all of these segments are also conserved in the chicken and dog genomes, with an average of 95 and 99% identity, respectively.  Many are also significantly conserved in fish.  These ultraconserved elements of the human genome are most often located either overlapping exons in genes involved in RNA processing or in introns or nearby genes involved in the regulation of transcription and development.  Along with more than 5000 sequences of over 100 bp that are absolutely conserved among the three sequenced mammals, these represent a class of genetic elements whose functions and evolutionary origins are yet to be determined, but which are more highly conserved between these species than are proteins and appear to be essential for the ontogeny of mammals and other vertebrates.
Why is this unexpected?  According to evolutionary theory, mutations accumulate over time.  Evolutionists believe that fish, birds and mammals all diverged on the family tree and went their separate ways millions of years ago.  Why, then, are there these thousands of sequences that have not changed at all?
    Mutations, in theory, could be harmful, beneficial, or neutral.  If harmful, natural selection should weed them out.  If beneficial, natural selection should preserve them, as Darwin said in a classic passage on gradualism: “Natural selection is scrutinizing the slightest variations, rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good.”  But most evolutionists also consider the gray area between, the “neutral” mutations that cause neither benefit nor harm.  Exposed to mutagens in the environment over vast ages, each section of the genome should accumulate neutral mutations, resulting in genetic drift.  Presumably, the amount of drift between two species (like rats and humans) would be a function of the time since their lineages diverged, assuming a “molecular clock” ticking with a steady mutation rate.  (Is the molecular clock reliable?  See
04/20/2004 headline.)
    Yet there are significant segments of DNA that are 100% identical in the mammalian genomes, despite evolutionists’ belief their ancestries diverged tens of millions of years ago.  The puzzle is even more striking when fish and bird genomes show 95% or greater sequence identity with mammals in these ultraconserved elements for 300 to 400 million years.  How could this be, especially when some parts of the genomes appear to evolve rapidly?  The Darwinian explanation is that the ultraconserved regions have been subject to “purifying selection.”  This presumes that certain stretches of DNA are so important, so indispensable, that natural selection protects them from change and is vigilant about correcting mutations.  Thus, purifying selection is the converse of natural selection: instead of selecting positively for a new function, it selects negatively against change.
    Yet the authors of this paper do not seem completely satisfied with this explanation.  For one thing, not all ultraconserved elements are in the exons of active genes that code for proteins.  Many exist in introns and other regions thought to be “junk DNA.”  Why would natural selection preserve junk to a high degree of accuracy for millions of years?  The implication is that it’s not junk at all, but something vital to the regulation of gene expression.
Non-exonic ultraconserved elements are often found in “gene deserts” that extend more than a megabase.  In particular, of the non-exonic elements, there are 140 that are more than 10 kilobases (kb) away from any known gene, and 88 that are more than 100 kb away.  (See also 10/16/2003 headline.)
Indirect evidence suggests that these segments, far distant from genes, are important for regulating embryonic development or act as “distal enhancers” of the genes.  Simple scaffolding they are not.
    It is true that these ultraconserved elements do not extend to distant species, such as between humans and jellyfish or fruit flies; yet extreme conservation is apparent even among the more primitive lineages, going back to the earliest chordates.  The best that evolutionists can explain is that rapid evolution occurred in these regions in the past, then stopped in its tracks: “the bulk of the ultraconserved elements represent chordate innovations that evolved fairly rapidly at first but then slowed down considerably, becoming effectively ‘frozen’ in birds and mammals.”
    When the scientists searched for conservation in shorter segments, they found it everywhere:
A more extensive analysis of paralogs, based on a recent global clustering of highly conserved noncoding human DNA, reveals several further highly conserved intronic and intergenic elements in functionally equivalent positions relative to paralogous genes.  These were not classified as ultraconserved by our stringent criteria.  Indeed, if we merge alignment blocks of 200 bases, each with at least 99% identical columns, we obtain 1974 “highly conserved” elements up to 1087 bp long in the human.... If instead we demand at least a 100-bp exact match between humans and rodents, we get more than 5000 highly conserved elementsTens of thousands more are found at lower cutoffs; for example, there is a 57-bp exactly conserved sequence overlapping an alternatively spliced exon of the WT1 gene which is invariant in mammals and in chickens and is largely conserved in fishes (fig. S1).  The percentage of the conserved elements that overlap with a known coding region steadily rises from 14 to 34.7% as the length criteria defining these elements is reduced from 200 to 50 bp (table S6).
    If experiments with less conserved elements in recent studies are any indication, many of these shorter elements are also functional.
The scientists put these findings into three possible explanations: (1) either strong purifying selection is 20 times better at correcting mutations in these regions, or (2) the mutation rate is 20 times slower, or (3) a combination of both.  The importance of these regions must be extreme if the strong negative selection is the reason; does the conservation of active gene exons create structures that “must be extremely constraining over hundreds of bases of DNA”?  Perhaps, but questions remain for either explanation.  The article concludes on a question mark:
On the other hand, if reduced mutation rates are the explanation, then the existence of regions of a few hundred bases with 20-fold reduced mutation rates would itself be quite novel.  Although neutral mutation rates may vary depending on chromosomal location on a megabase scale, there is to our knowledge no evidence or precedent for the existence of short “hypomutable” or “hyperrepaired” neutral regions.  Finally, the answer could also be a combination of negative selection and better repair in these regions, owing to some vital role that these elements play, such as self-regulating networks of RNA processing control in the case of exonic elements and self-regulatory networks of transcriptional control for non-exonic elements.  In any case, the questions remain: What kind of elements associated with these processes would have arrived relatively early in chordate evolution and then become practically frozen in birds and mammals?  And what mechanisms would underlie this, allowing them to resist virtually all further change?
New Scientist June 3 reports an experiment the deepened the mystery: mice born without the some of the ultraconserved regions do just fine.  This announcement produced “gasps of amazement” at a scientific talk, the article says, because it was assumed if they were so conserved, they must be important for survival.  A team deleted 1000 highly conserved sequences shared between humans and mice, and found the lab mice to be virtually identical with normal mice in every measurement: growth, lifespan, metabolism, and overall development.  One of the deleted segments was over 1.6 million DNA bases long.  Perhaps backup copies exist on other chromosomes for redundancy.  The article puzzles over why some of the ultraconserved regions showed higher levels of conservation than many genes.  “What’s most mysterious is that we don’t know any molecular mechanism that would demand conservation like this,” one researcher said.
1Bejerano et al., “Ultraconserved Elements in the Human Genome,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5675, 1321-1325, 28 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1098119].
It was supposed to be so easy.  Where fossils and comparative anatomy failed to confirm Charlie’s story, the genes would come to the rescue.  Now this.
    The only way the Darwinians can keep their story going now is to propose that evolution is both lightning-fast and then frozen.  Somehow, brainless early chordates invented all kinds of elaborate molecular mechanisms, then put them under the Law of the Medes and the Persians; these regions of DNA could not be altered.  Thenceforth, genomes underwent fantastic degrees of evolution by natural selection, creating flying reptiles, flying birds, flying mammals and flying fish, blue whales, giraffes, lizards, peacocks and people, while these ultraconserved regions, exposed to all the natural forces affecting the other parts of the genome, remained steadfast and immovable.  Strong positive selection played fast and loose with genes, duplicating and recombining and mutating them and adding introns with seeming reckless abandon.  Simultaneously, strong purifying selection kept the ultraconserved regions virtually untouched.  All the while, genetic drift threw in a few neutral mutations at random that somehow didn’t touch the ultraconserved regions.  Ockham would slash away like a knight at this convoluted concoction of explanations.
    These findings may shed additional light on the mystery of introns, those sections of DNA that the transcription machinery cuts out and apparently discards (see 09/03/2003, 09/12/2003, 05/10/2004 and 05/19/2004 headlines).  It would seem evolutionists would predict just the important functional genes to be conserved, if anything; why would introns be conserved, unless they too are vital?  There is clearly much we don’t know yet.  While some differences between animal genes appear to be functions of their assumed ancestral distance, many others do not.  The picture is getting very complicated for the Darwin Party.  God must have had a sense of humor.
Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Exercise Your Nerves   05/27/2004
A team of neurologists from UCLA and duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware found that voluntary exercise improves regeneration of neurons, both for those who work out, and for those recuperating after injury.  The abstract in PNAS1 states:
Recent advances in understanding the role of neurotrophins on activity-dependent plasticity have provided insight into how behavior can affect specific aspects of neuronal biology.  We present evidence that voluntary exercise can prime adult dorsal root ganglion neurons for increased axonal regeneration through a neurotrophin-dependent mechanism.  Dorsal root ganglion neurons showed an increase in neurite outgrowth when cultured from animals that had undergone 3 or 7 days of exercise compared with sedentary animals.  Neurite length over 18-22 h in culture correlated directly with the distance that animals ran.  The exercise-conditioned animals also showed enhanced regrowth of axons after an in vivo nerve crush injury. Sensory ganglia from the 3- and 7-day-exercised animals contained higher brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neurotrophin 3, synapsin I, and GAP43 mRNA levels than those from sedentary animals.  Consistent with the rise in brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin 3 during exercise, the increased growth potential of the exercise-conditioned animals required activation of the neurotrophin signaling in vivo during the exercise period but did not require new mRNA synthesis in culture.

1Molteni et al., “Voluntary exercise increases axonal regeneration from sensory neurons,”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0401443101.
Couch potatoing can’t be good for you.  Use it and improve it.  The discovery that neurons can be regenerated should be good news for those who have suffered injury.  Physical therapy may be painful, but it offers hope.  Grin and bear it for as long as it takes.  Hopefully you’ll be grinning more eventually.
Next headline on:  HealthHuman Body
Human and Chimp DNA Compared   05/26/2004
Yesterday’s entry “Humans and Chimps Compared” (see
05/25/2004 headline) dealt with outward characteristics between us and our furry fellows in the zoo, but now we have DNA to compare.  Bonzo is asking, “Am I my keeper’s brother?”  Evolutionary scientists think so, and for the first time are beginning to quantify the differences between us, at least in terms of our libraries of genetic instructions.  Initial findings are sure to provide lively debate over how to answer Bonzo.  According to a preliminary review of the ongoing genome comparison project by Jean Weissenbach published in Nature,1 (see also Nature Science Update), there are both confirmations of expectations and whopping surprises.  NSU states, “Thousands of chimp genes could significantly differ from those in humans,” and, “Chimp chromosome creates puzzles; First sequence is unexpectedly different from human equivalent.”  (The same issue of Nature also contains the first detailed analyses of human chromosomes 9 and 10.)
    For the first time, scientists have compared two whole chromosomes that have been completely mapped: human chromosome 21, and its chimp counterpart, chromosome 22.  As expected, there were many similarities: less than 1% of the sequences that could be aligned had differences in one base over another (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs).  The actual statistical difference is not yet known accurately, however, since SNPs exist between humans also, and only one chimp’s DNA has been sampled.  What surprised the team was the “impressive” number of small-to-large sections of DNA that they believe had been either inserted or deleted (indels) as the species diverged.  Some 68,000 indels were counted, most 30 nucleotides long or less, but some up to 54,000 nucleotides.  Some of the 300-nucleotide sections could be explained as transposable elements, particularly Alu repeats, which seem to have occurred more often in humans.  Weissenbach expresses the reaction to this finding: “The number of single-nucleotide substitutions is in the range found in earlier studies, but the frequency and size of the indels are more of a surprise
    More interesting are the protein-coding regions.  Here again, there were expected similarities yet surprising differences:
Given the broad similarities between chimps and humans, many researchers thought that changes that alter amino-acid sequences would not be very frequent.  Surprisingly, however, the consortium found that sequence differences in the protein-coding regions of genes are not a great deal less common than in non-coding genomic regions.  But some of the affected genes might be pseudogenes — defective copies of functional genes – that have arisen recently.  And, among 231 presumably functional genes that could be compared between chimps and humans, 179 have protein-coding regions of identical length; 140 of the predicted encoded proteins would differ by one amino acid or more, but probably with little or no functional impact.  Of the other 52 genes, however, 47 show more significant structural changes.
(For more on pseudogenes, see 05/13/2004 headline).  And that wasn’t the only significant difference.  The scientists found big differences in how some genes are expressed.  Weissenbach reveals some chagrin at how this complicates the answer to Bonzo’s question:
The consortium could not resist making preliminary studies of the expression of the genes on human chromosome 21 and chimp chromosome 22 as well.  Their analyses indicate that – looking at just two tissues – about 20% of these genes show significant variations in their expression.  Extrapolation from these findings suggests that if this chromosome represents about 1% of mammalian genes, there may well be thousands of genes that either encode an altered protein or are expressed differentially in humans and chimpanzees.  This will not simplify the search for the hypothetical key genetic changes that prevented us from remaining as apes.
Weissenbach points out another surprise; the FOXP2 gene, which some evolutionists had suspected (based on mutation studies in humans -- see 08/15/2002 headline) was the key mutation leading to the origin of language in humans, differs by only 2 amino acids in chimpanzees.  There must be more to language than this gene, because despite the similarity, Bonzo has a hard time carrying on a conversation with us (see 05/25/2004 headline).
    So these early findings are not yielding simple answers.  Even though analysis is just beginning, these findings do not seem to fit what Darwin predicted, as Weissenbach hints in his conclusion: “Even if the major physical, physiological and behavioural differences between the two species do not result simply from an accumulation of many small alterations, the challenge to find the most crucial changes is still ahead.”  Maybe his whimsical opening sentence has some prescient overtones: “There are good reasons to continue the endeavour to accumulate genome sequence data from the passengers of Noah’s Ark.

1Jean Weissenbach, “Genome sequencing: Differences with the relatives,” Nature 429, 353 - 355 (27 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429353a.
Here is the abstract of the report from the International Chimpanzee Chromosome 22 Consortium in the same issue:2
“Human–chimpanzee comparative genome research is essential for narrowing down genetic changes involved in the acquisition of unique human features, such as highly developed cognitive functions, bipedalism or the use of complex language.  Here, we report the high-quality DNA sequence of 33.3 megabases of chimpanzee chromosome 22.  By comparing the whole sequence with the human counterpart, chromosome 21, we found that 1.44% of the chromosome consists of single-base substitutions in addition to nearly 68,000 insertions or deletions.  These differences are sufficient to generate changes in most of the proteins.  Indeed, 83% of the 231 coding sequences, including functionally important genes, show differences at the amino acid sequence level.  Furthermore, we demonstrate different expansion of particular subfamilies of retrotransposons between the lineages, suggesting different impacts of retrotranspositions on human and chimpanzee evolution.  The genomic changes after speciation and their biological consequences seem more complex than originally hypothesized.”
2“DNA sequence and comparative analysis of chimpanzee chromosome 22,” Nature 429, 382 - 388 (27 May 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02564.
Did you catch that?  Weissenbach just said, “Even if the major physical, physiological and behavioural differences between the two species do not result simply from an accumulation of many small alterations...” – that indirectly but clearly says they don’t.  Now what, do you recall, did Charlie propose as a test to confirm or falsify his theory?  “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”  Thank you, Charlie!  The implosion was very entertaining.  (If you think this will make evolutionists pack up and go home, you underestimate the power of the Darwin Party to change the rules.)
    It’s time to lay to rest once for all this mythoid that humans are 98.5% similar to apes.  It’s a prime example of the misuse of statistics and the use of card stacking.  Some gullible souls swallowed this bogus statistic and reasoned that chimpanzees should have the same civil rights as human children (see 05/24/2002 headline); others took it and decided humans should be lumped into the same genus with Bonzo.  Good grief.  Now at last the truth is coming to light.
    Creationists have always expected similarities as evidence of common design, and evolutionists have desperately longed for empirical evidence of common descent.  We’re barely off square one in comparative genomics.  Clearly there are many questions and puzzles ahead for both sides.  Will comparisons with other chromosomes fit this trend?  How similar would genes of other chimps be to this individual’s genome?  What similarities and differences will gorilla and orang-utan genomes reveal?  Are “pseudogenes” really evolutionary leftovers, or do they have a function? (see 05/13/2004 headline).  What is the effect of single-nucleotide polymorphisms?  How many SNPs can a genome tolerate?  Do indels have a function?  How, and how often, do they occur?  Why so many introns?  Why do Alu elements hop around the genome?  It’s too early to answer these and many other questions, but the initial findings are tantalizing.
    Now that Darwinism has been falsified (if we can connect Weissenbach’s comment to Darwin’s test literally), there are still good reasons to gather information from the passengers of Noah’s Ark
Early ManGenes and DNA
Hippos Sweat Their Own Sunscreen    05/25/2004
You know that reddish fluid on hippo skin that turns brown?  It’s not just funny colored sweat.  Japanese scientists reported in Nature1 that it acts as a sunscreen and an antibiotic.  See also the
BBC News report on this finding.
1Saikawa et al., “Pigment chemistry: The red sweat of the hippopotamus,” Nature 429, 363 (27 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429363a.
It must have been a sight watching the Japanese timidly wipe the face and back of a hippo to get their samples.  Wonder how many generations of hippos had to die of skin cancer to get this lucky set of mutations established in the population.
Next headline on:  MammalsAmazing Facts
Can a Cell Improve by Lowering Its Standards?    05/26/2004
The title of a paper in PNAS is intriguing: “Artificially ambiguous genetic code confers growth yield advantage.”  An international team claims to have created a beneficial mutation.  They removed the editing ability of a protein involved in translating the genetic code, and got it to survive in a nutrient-starved environment.  They suggest that the resulting misspellings might have provided a primitive cell with more options for evolution.
    The protein they mutated is one of the family of 20 molecular machines that hitches the correct (canonical) amino acid to its DNA template (anticodon).  One of these aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases has a hard time distinguishing between two very similar amino acids, isoleucine and valine, so an additional “editing” step corrects any “typos” that occur.  These scientists essentially removed the editor.  Then they gave the cell stronger concentrations of valine and other noncanonical amino acids, some of which are toxic.  On the one hand, the wild-type (normal) strain with the editor did better under high concentrations of toxic noncanonical amino acids.  But when starved for isoleucine, the mutated strain, without the editor getting in the way, had more options.  This apparent flexibility led the scientists to suggest that such looseness in standards could have been an advantage during the early evolution of the genetic code:
In summary, a stable and robust strain with an ambiguous code, and thus harboring statistical [e.g., non-coded] proteins, was created by irreversible ablation of the editing activity of a single tRNA synthetase.  The WT [wild-type, or normal] strain, with its full complement of editing activities, has the decided advantage of being more resistant to the potential toxicity of elevated concentrations of noncoding amino acids (for example, norvaline) (Figs. 3 and 4).  However, the editing-deficient strain with its statistical proteins has the capacity to use noncanonical amino acids to fill in at codons specifying (but starved for) particular amino acids such as isoleucine.  This capacity is advantageous in circumstances when the organism is confronted with modest concentrations of various amino acids that might have been the only available building blocks for proteins in an early environment.  The lack of both specific resources and competing species may have favored early organisms that could maximize yield and therefore maximize the chances of spreading to new resource patches that would otherwise go unused.  Thus, organisms with the capacity to generate statistical proteins could plausibly have served as intermediates in the evolution of early living systems.

1Pezo et al., “Artificially ambiguous genetic code confers growth yield advantage,”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0402893101, published online before print May 26, 2004.
If lies and nonsense make you angry, you should be angry at this paper.  You should not be intimidated by the fact it was written by nine PhDs.  You should not be swayed by its presence in the journal of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.  You should not be dazzled by the jargon.  If it’s baloney, it stinks as bad in a castle as in a shack.
    These scientists, drunk on Darwinism, are trying to make us believe that lowering your standards makes you stronger.  By analogy, firing the proofreader makes the newspaper better.  Firing the coach makes the athlete stronger.  Firing the sergeant makes the army squad better prepared for the contingencies of battle.  Baloney, baloney, baloney.
    When in a restaurant, will you maintain better health by restraining your baser appetites and restricting yourself to a well-balanced meal?  Of course.  But if you were trapped in a candy store, could you survive a little while on chocolate?  Delicious in small quantities, and better than going hungry, that doesn’t mean you should make it your daily diet.  These scientists forced normal cells to be starved for isoleucine, an essential nutrient for healthy proteins.  The normal cells did not want to eat the unhealthy ingredients that were available; they had a coach ordering them to keep off the chocolate.  But other cells, free of such discipline, engorged themselves and at least didn’t starve.  So the fatsos outqualify the hunks for the Olympics.  If you can believe that, you can believe the phony baloney premise of this paper.
    Darwinian articles often dodge personal responsibility by (1) flat-out bluffing, or (2) using passive voice verbs that cover up their own shame.  Look at this example: “The modern genetic code appeared ~3 billion years ago [Sez who?  Were you there?] .... The code itself is thought to have started in a primitive form [Who thought so?  Own up, you Darwin Party dogmatists], perhaps with codons composed of two rather than three nucleotides [where is the evidence for that?] and with different amino acids not precisely assigned to specific codons” [who made up this howler?]  It sounds pompously aloof to say “It is thought” rather than “I think this elaborate, complex system of codes and translators began from random letters in a primitive soup.”  By saying It is thought and leaving the subject undefined, the propagandist gives the reader a subliminal impression that somebody important thinks so, somebody authoritative thinks so, or that everybody who knows anything thinks so.  Don’t be fooled.
    Did these scientists find any evidence that their lowering of editing standards actually made their variants fitter?  No.  Did they demonstrate that the incorporation of noncanonical amino acids into the protein conferred any new functional advantage?  No.  Did they provide any empirical evidence that the genetic code began in a primitive state, without proofreading?  No.  Did they provide any historical evidence, or any analogies from present systems, that a complex, proofreading system can improve by lowering standards?  No.  Did they use certified lab techniques?  Yes.  Did they use their brains?  No.
    One thing they did do: they won Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  “Because they could opportunistically use whatever amino acids were available to complete a protein sequence, organisms harboring statistical proteins could have had a selective advantage in a primitive environment.  Also, by having many closely related versions of the same basic sequence, variants with a particular catalytic activity could be produced.  These microvariants might have special adaptive advantages, much in the way that one or more mutations in an enzyme can enhance its activity or broaden its specificity.  The selective advantages of more complex organisms that were able to produce their own amino acids and are dependent on higher specificity eventually forced replacement of the ancient statistical systems.  Remains of ambiguous codes are still observed in nature as in the Leu/Ser ambiguity in Candida sp. [prove it].”  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  Gimme a break.  I thought I was in science class, not Fantasyland.
    As explained earlier (see 07/21/2003 and 06/29/2003 headlines), the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase family of enzymes comprise an exquisite, complex system that relies on accuracy, and they know it.  They admit, “The genetic code is established in reactions catalyzed by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, in which each amino acid is covalently joined to its cognate tRNA.  The tRNA bears the complementary nucleotide triplet of the code corresponding to the attached amino acid.”  In cases where similar amino acids might incorrectly attach, “Certain synthetases, including isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase (IleRS), have a second active site that clears mischarged amino acids and thereby removes errors of aminoacylation.”  The existence of code-translation and quality-control systems are hallmarks of intelligent design.
    Furthermore, they admit that incorrectly attached amino acids can be toxic: “Valine is the obvious starting point because of its structural similarity to isoleucine.  However, the effects of valine are difficult to measure because of its general toxicity in minimal media, caused by feedback inhibition of the isoleucine biosynthetic pathway.”  In other words, not only are there systems to edit out the wrong amino acid, but there are feedback pathways to ensure the toxic substance does not proliferate in the cell.  They admitted that the noncanonical amino acids were toxic: “As expected, high concentrations of valine or norvaline ultimately became toxic in the editing-deficient strain but not in its WT counterpart.
    Only in a very specific environment, where the normal cell was starved and their carefully-engineered mutant was given preferential treatment, did they see it outcompete the champ.  And on this, they want us to believe that life, the genetic code, its translation machinery, molecular factories of tens of thousands of protein motors and enzymes “emerged” by chance into streamlined tunas, fast-focus cormorant eyes, human composers, and all the rich and varied life forms today.  Thereon hangs a tale: not a tale of science, but a fairy tale about a fictional place where one needs to believe six impossible things before breakfast – Fallacy in Blunderland.
Next headline on:  Genes and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Humans and Chimps Compared   05/25/2004
In case you had an identity crisis last time at the zoo, Current Biology can provide psychoanalysis.  The May 25 issue posted two articles side by side: one, simply entitled “Humans,”1 and the other, “Chimps.”2  Various comparisons are contrasts are drawn, including a few surprising facts, such as this statement: “Based on relative amounts of genetic variation, humans are more endangered than chimps!”
    Both articles are noteworthy for what scientists don’t know, more than for what they do; a number of controversial issues are discussed, such as whether humans are still evolving, how much humans are affecting the environment, what races mean (if anything) and how they should be defined, and whether humans should be reclassified with the chimps based on sequence similarity of genes, or on the other hand, whether humans, due to their cognitive/mental abilities, deserve to be classified in their own kingdom: “Psychozoa” (Gr., soul-life).
    Neither article questions the Darwinian assumption that humans and chimps diverged from a common ancestor 5-6 million years ago.  But neither do they dispute that the most distinguishing characteristic of humans is language.  Linda Vigilant writes in the “Chimps” article,
One defining human trait that chimpanzees lack is language.  Although some captive chimpanzees and bonobos have been laboriously taught to use sign-language or communicate using icons on a keyboard, it seems that their communicative abilities in the wild fall far short of what we do with language, and so this chimpanzee–human difference remains profound.
How and when this skill arose in humans is unknown and the subject of much dispute among primate zoologists.
    See also
05/26/2004 headline, “Human and Chimp DNA Compared.”
1David A. Hughes, Richard Cordaux, and Mark Stoneking, “Humans,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R367-R369, 25 May 2004.
2Linda Vigilant, “Chimps,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R369-R371, 25 May 2004.
These articles contain some interesting facts and useful information, but are imbued with the typical Darwinian fluff and storytelling about how our primitive ancestors arose in Africa millions of years ago, invented fire and language and took over the world (now read this).  Every element of the plot has its detractors willing to point out contrary evidence.  The first article wrongly repeats the mythoid that humans are 98% to 99% identical to chimpanzees in terms of genetic sequences, a phony figure (see 10/25/2002 headline).  But it does rightly point out that gene expression may be much more significant than the contents of the DNA library, as seen from comparisons with the genomes of other organisms: “In other words, it’s not so much what you have, but what you do with what you have, that matters.”  That’s true for me and thee and the chimpanzee.
    It is a legitimate biological investigation to analyze human mammalian characteristics and to draw comparisons and contrasts with our fellow creatures.  We are, as Wernher von Braun once described it, “souls cast into animal bodies.”  Animals are fun to watch and have as companions.  We have a lot in common with them, especially other primates.  But there is no evidence, and there are numerous problems, trying to relate us all to a common ancestor or reducing humans to mere genes in motion.  Language, for instance, truly is a “profound” difference, with no parallel in the animal world.  But what is language without cognition, and what is cognition without the ability to think in abstract thoughts?  Even dogs and crows have intelligence, but no animal uses logic or writes books on philosophy.  How did the laws of logic evolve?  Why would natural selection produce a physicist able to compute 23 decimal places of a cube root in his head?  Why do we care about justice?  What is the survival value of writing a symphony?  Humanness is all about soul.
    The articles also fail to recognize many other human distinctives, such as conscience, bipedalism, naked skin and enhanced touch, blushing, laughter, the moral sense, art, music and religion.  None of these can be demonstrated by a sequence of transitional forms, and none can be explained by genetic mutations and natural selection; they go far beyond the necessities of biological survival.  Understood instead as the handwork of a Designer who wants to be known by creatures made in His image, they make possible a unique realm of communication with one another and with our Maker that no animal can share.  Chimps have nostrils, but what makes us distinctively human is that our Creator breathed into our common (human) ancestor’s biological nostrils the breath of life, and man became a Psychozoa, a living soul (Gen. 2:7).  Yes, we deserve a kingdom of our own, but what’s a kingdom without a King?  Read the following passages with this view of man in mind: Isaiah 57, and I John 1-2.  They express issues and ideas no chimp will ever comprehend.
Next headline on:  MammalsEarly ManDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryBible and Theology
Red Planet News; Ring World Beckons    05/25/2004
Let’s drop in on Mars for the latest findings.  The two
Mars Exploration Rovers are still doing splendidly; Spirit has its goal mapped out, a tour of the Columbia Hills where rock outcrops beckon geologists.  It recently crossed the 1.5 mile mark and set a single-day distance record, covering more than a football field with its autonomous guidance controls.  Its turf, Gusev Crater, turned out to be drier than expected.  Over on the far side, Opportunity has been circling Endurance Crater wondering whether to drop in for a visit.  (Scientists want to be sure that it can get out again.)
    The only surface-based evidence for past liquid water has come from Opportunity.  At several sites now, the rover detected layers and concretions that are consistent with salty water existing for a period of time.  From orbit, however, one of the most striking evidences for water flow has just become ambiguous.  The BBC News reports that the gullies streaming down some craters may have a dry explanation: rockfalls and slumping sand in the lower gravity could produce the stream-like channels, according to a paper in PNAS1.
    With rovers and orbiters in good health, more surprises are sure to come.  Some of the coolest 3D pictures are now coming from Europe’s Mars Express.  JPL hopes to catch up next year with its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which, with its huge camera, “will make a more comprehensive inspection of Mars than any previous mission.”  Instead of resolving areas the size of Bonneville Salt Flats, it will detect features as small as a Yellowstone hot spring.  It will also search deeper below the surface with its ground-penetrating radar.
    Not to be forgotten, the 2001 Mars Odyssey celebrated 10,000 mapping orbits recently, and the venerable Mars Global Surveyor is still adding to its huge inventory of photographs.  All three orbiters are assisting the rover program by relaying images to earth and helping identify features of interest.
    Politically, the future is bright for Mars exploration.  At a town hall meeting at JPL today, Senator Sam Brownback (R., Kansas) and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R., California) invited feedback from the scientists and engineers about the President’s Moon, Mars and Beyond initiative for NASA.  Opinions were divided between the value of manned vs. robotic missions, but no one discounted the power of space exploration to inspire the next generation of adventurers.
    Far beyond Mars, the giant Cassini spacecraft is racing to home plate at Saturn.  New images are coming in almost daily at the Cassini website and also at the imaging team site.  Next highlight will be a close flyby of the little satellite Phoebe on June 11, sure to keep the world wide-eyed at the nature of this “wrong-way” moon.  Just a fuzzy ball yet, Titan is looming in the distance, the target of the daring and ambitious Huygens Probe.  Built by ESA, it will attempt to parachute below the smoggy clouds and reveal the surface for the first time.
    Educators will want to contact the Cassini outreach department to get a copy of Ring World, a beautiful DVD animation made especially for planetaria, and stunning on a wide-screen TV.  It gives viewers a theater-style visual overview of the entire Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan.  Highlights from the film are downloadable in QuickTime format.
1Shinbrot, Duong, Kwan, and Alvarez, “Dry granular flows can generate surface features resembling those seen in Martian gullies,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0308251101 (published online May 28).
These are great days of planetary exploration.  We can feel somewhat like the townspeople of 1804 felt as Lewis and Clark left St. Louis to explore terra incognita and started sending back samples from upriver.  It will take years to sort out all the data and figure out what it means.  For now, it’s time to enjoy the ride of a lifetime.
Next headline on:  MarsSolar System
Stem Cell Cover-Up?    05/24/2004
Stem cells, most have heard, hold promise for many life-saving cures.  Michael Fumento in
Insight Magazine claims that while adult stem cells have shown many positive results, the media and science establishments tend to hype the benefits of embryonic stem cells while glossing over the ethical and moral problems they present.
    Recently, Nature1 published an editorial about the ethical controversy in Korea, in which a lab working on therapeutic cloning pressured female students to donate their eggs for the study.  Noting that to some, “the idea of creating a human embryo and culturing it for several days to obtain stem cells that would be needed to grow such grafts is morally reprehensible,” the editorial says the last thing cloning research needs now is further ethical controversy.  “If the air is not cleared quickly, the consequences for Korean science – and for research into therapeutic cloning internationally – could be severe.  It will be a tragedy if one of the greatest scientific stories of the year ends up being remembered, in South Korea especially, as one that lost the trust of the people.
1Editorial, “Ethics of therapeutic cloning,” Nature 429, 1 (06 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429001b.
Nature seems to miss the point.  It is more concerned about whether the women were coerced than whether creating human embryos just to destroy them is morally reprehensible or not.  While some techniques may really help those with debilitating genetic diseases, we cannot assume scientists all operate from pure motives.  Fame and fortune seduce many a mortal.  Just because some things can be done, that doesn’t mean they should be done; and in a Darwinian world, who decides?
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsHealth
Plant Evolution Modeled in Computer   05/24/2004
Simulation games are popular on computers.  Darwinian biologists seem to like them, too.  What they cannot go back in time to observe, they sometimes try to recreate in silico, inside the silicon chips of a computer.  Karl J. Niklas (Cornell) tried to simulate plant evolution, and wrote about it in Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.1  He feels his contribution was to demonstrate that plants had to be multitasking specialists: they optimized competing interests in a dynamic environment, rather than achieving perfection with any one structure.  This involved tradeoffs; a horizontal stem might provide the best light-gathering stance, for instance, but puts the plant at the burden of having to fight gravity’s leverage:
Indeed, when viewed with a biophysical or engineering perspective, none of the basic biological tasks plants perform can be maximized without decreasing or imperiling the performance of another necessary task.  In this sense, the relationships among organic form-function generally involve optimization rather than maximization.  But differently, single-tasked devices can perform their ascribed functions perfectly, at least in theory.  In contrast, multitasked devices, whether organic or inorganic, invariably involve compromises and tradeoffs—they perform all of their ascribed tasks reasonably well, but no task perfectly.
(For more on evolutionary tradeoffs, see
05/11/2004 entry.)
The origin of land plants “sparked one of the most dramatic bursts of diversifying evolution in the history of life,” he claims, indicating the motivation for this project.  In just 46 million short years from the Silurian through the Devonian, these pioneering plants had “diversified phyletically and structurally to encompass all of the major land plant lineages and the full spectrum of organizational grades represented in present-day floras, with the exception of flowering plants.”  He lists 11 innovations they introduced, from branching stems to leaves to stomata with guard cells to seeds and wood.  They employed sexual reproduction with alternation of generations and diversified into an enormous number of morphologies, from mosses and ferns to pines and giant redwoods.  “Why plant evolution was so rapid during the Late Silurian-Devonian time interval remains problematic,” he admits.  “Lessons drawn from evolutionary theory provide limited insights”  Thus, computer modeling to the rescue.
    For his model, Niklas used a principle proposed by Sewall Wright in 1931: the fitness landscape, a “heuristic device” that visualizes evolution as “a series of walks over fitness landscapes with adaptive hills and maladaptive valleys.”  On this landscape, Niklas placed his digital plants and gave them four competing problems to solve: (1) water conservation, (2) mechanical stability, (3) spore dispersal, and (4) light interception.  He defined the fitness of each combination and set the plants on their “adaptive walk” on the fitness landscape (peaks on the fitness landscape imply high fitness and good adaptation, and valleys imply poor adaptation and low fitness).  First, he used a stable fitness landscape, then he ran it again with a dynamic landscape, which would reflect a more realistic environment changing over time.  He found that overall fitness levels dropped considerably in the dynamic fitness landscape.  How does one decide when to vary the landscape?  “Unfortunately, there are no a priori rules for how or when a particular landscape changes,” he says.  “Therefore, the number of permutations of shifting landscapes is literally astronomically large.”  So he looked to the fossil record for guidance, and also tried to learn from repeated trials what seemed to match natural history.
    In a brief aside, he compared his results to the predictions of Zimmerman’s telome theory – the idea that all of the diverse morphologies of plants can be reduced to the action of five developmental processes – planation, overtopping, reduction, recurvature, and webbing – acting on branched points (telomes) and unbranched points (mesomes).  But telome theory is far from a complete story:
The telome theory has been criticized, and rightly so, for a variety of reasons (Niklas 2000, Kaplan 2001).  One obvious problem with the theory is its vagueness regarding the developmental mechanisms responsible for overtopping, planation, etc.  Indeed, these terms are descriptive rather than explicative in nature.  Another criticism is that the telome theory never explains why certain morphological transformations occur as opposed to others, nor does it stipulate the sequence of processes foreshadowing the appearance of a particular morphology.  Why should planated and webbed lateral branch systems evolve?  Are the leaves of ferns or seed plants functionally adaptive in terms of light interception or some other biological requirement?  Did these megaphylls [broad leaves] evolve as the result of the simultaneous operation of reduction, overtopping, planation, and webbing, or did planation and webbing occur after reduction and overtopping?  Questions such as these can be answered retrospectively (and only in small part) by examining the fossil record, but the telome theory sheds little light on them.
So why use it?  Because the terminology is useful: “Zimmerman’s ideas are nevertheless useful because they provide a lexicon of terms for the morphological transformations observed in the fossil record and for those identified by the computer simulations presented here.  In turn, these simulations suggest the adaptive significance of the transformations envisioned by the telome theory.”
    Niklas produced some digital plants that succeeded in adapting to his fitness landscape, but warned against overinterpreting the results.  In his concluding “Caveats and Desiderata,” he said,
Computer models such as the ones presented here are heuristic tools.  They provide an opportunity to test assumptions about how a particular biological or physical system operates or behaves.  Their validity can be evaluated by comparing predicted with observed behavior.  When observation and prediction disagree, the assumptions upon which a model rests are either incorrect or incomplete.  However, the obverse is not true.  When predicted and observed behavior agrees, the assumptions upon which a model rests cannot be said to be sufficient and necessary.  The reason is simple — model can describe the behavior of a system for the wrong reasons.  This caveat is important, because the only rigorous test of a computer model is to experimentally manipulate the system it purports to describe and to see if the model predicts the outcome for each manipulation.
Niklas did not perform any such rigorous experimental tests with real plants.  He explains why, but still claims his model had merit:
Unfortunately, we cannot experiment with history.  We can only observe it.  For this reason, the most conservative interpretation of the simulations presented here is that six general properties emerge logically (mathematically) from the assumptions made about early vascular plant evolution.  These properties are as follows: (a) the number of equally fit morphological variants is predicted to increase as the number of functional tasks subject to selection increases; (b) the relative fitness of these phenotypes decreases as the number of tasks increases; (c) therefore, morphological diversification is easier on complex as opposed to simple fitness landscapes; (d) constraints on how morphology can be developmentally altered do not a priori limit the number of equally fit variants that can be reached by adaptive walks; (e) however, the relative fitness of these variants is significantly lower than the phenotypic optima that can be reached by unfettered adaptive walks; and (f) adaptive walks on shifting fitness landscapes (used to mimic changes in the focus of selection) identify morphological optima that often differ significantly from those on stable fitness landscapes (used to mimic constant selection).
He points to a few living vascular plants as confirmations of these general predictions, and concludes that the six properties also make biological sense.  Feeling thus justified, he concludes,
Computer simulations of morphological evolution are still very much in their infancy, especially in terms of constructing morphospaces and understanding the developmental mechanisms that permit or confine phenotypic transformations in them (see Thomas & Reif 1993, McGhee 1999, Niklas 2003).  However, as conceptual tools, they provide opportunities to explore the logical consequences of popular metaphors for evolution, such as Sewall Wright’s adaptive walks on fitness landscapes, and by so doing, quantify the possible biological structure and dynamics of opportunistic historical events that distinguish some evolutionary episodes as more adaptive than others.

1Karl J. Niklas, “Computer Models of Early Land Plant Evolution,” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, May 2004, Vol. 32, pp. 47-66 (doi:10.1146/
You can prove anything on a computer.  This is so oversimplified, so narrow-minded, so dumb, it’s a wonder any journal would publish such tripe.  It’s only because biologists have offered their brains in sacrifice to Darwin’s image that they cannot see the illogic of their own positions.  Niklas came close, and had a gem of insight here or there,2 but failed to see the worthlessness of his simulation.  His fake plants evolved because he made them evolve.  We’ve seen this so many times before with other computer models.  It is not evolution, it is intelligent design.  These modelers set the fitness goals, define the criteria for success, and reward the ones that get there.  Natural selection has no such guiding intelligence.

2(One perceptive insight he shared was that agreement with predictions does not necessarily make the assumptions of one’s model sufficient and necessary.  But then, contrary to his requirement for rigorous experimental testing, he failed to deliver any.)

    To get a sense of the futility of this model, imagine my writing a simulation about the evolution of computers.  I define fitness scores for screen visibility, mouse responsiveness, keyboard ergonomics and other factors I deem worthy, then start some high-tech devices evolving and reward those that succeed in terms of outward conformance to my specifications.  Maybe I wind up with a variety of objects that look like palmtops, laptops and desktops.  But I describe nothing about programmers or users, nor the thinking required to make a computer.  Is such a result worth anything more than a cheap science-fiction game for kids?
    Let’s understand something important here.  Plants have DNA.  They are adapted because they have complex, specified information in their genes.  Watching little digital organisms evolve branches and leaves and other structures might be cute, but says absolutely nothing about how the genetic information and developmental pathways achieved the structures, and more importantly, says nothing about the intricate cellular processes, like photosynthesis and cell division and sexual reproduction and regulation of stomates originated and employed the morphologies.  Niklas halfheartedly admitted as much.  He should know that plants at the cellular level are fantastically complicated factories of molecular machines.  Which is more intricate: the cover of your computer or the chips and software inside?  If I only pay attention to the morphology of the external parts, I have missed the whole point of what is required to make a computer, or a plant.
    The “fitness landscape” metaphor is only a metaphor, but it is actually a more accurate metaphor than a ramp.  Early evolutionists mistakenly pictured Darwinism like a ramp, on which organisms marched onward and upward.  “Progressivists” viewed natural selection as a “fitness ratchet” leading inevitably to bigger and better things.  Knowledgeable evolutionists today realize this view was simplistic.  There are peaks and valleys of fitness (whatever that is; see Fitness for Dummies, 10/29/2002).  Picture marbles rolling around on a surface constantly in motion, with peaks and pits forming and reforming at random locations.  Real marbles might roll uphill for short periods, but gravity will ensure they tend to inhabit the valleys and pits most of the time.  The gravity in the fitness landscape is the second law of thermodynamics – the inviolable trend toward entropy.  Evolutionists want us to believe that natural selection will overcome this entropic gravity and force the marbles to the tops of the peaks.  Trouble is, even if they got there and stayed there, they would be stuck, unable to evolve further without dropping down into the valley again and losing what fitness they had.  Now realize that the adaptive peaks are like Devils Towers and Space Needles: the exquisite engineering seen in whale flippers and cormorant eyes and spider silk and the other things the biomimetic engineers marvel at are so improbable as to be unthinkable for undirected processes to achieve (despite Richard Dawkins’ claims that chance and natural selection can “climb Mt. Improbable” another fallacy “proved” by worthless computer simulations).  No matter, it’s just a metaphor, and metaphors bewitch you.  Engineering doesn’t emerge without design except in the imagination of evolutionists.
    Niklas said, “Unfortunately, we cannot experiment with history.  We can only observe it.”  When was the last time you observed history?  If you watched a historical event like 9/11, you observed it in the present.  Did you observe the fall of the Roman empire, or the building of Stonehenge?  Did Niklas observe the origin of land plants?  We don’t observe history.  We believe eyewitness accounts and examine artifacts.  Even recordings (artifacts viewed in the present) can have biases, and there were no videotapes of the origin of plants, anyway.  We can observe fossils as they are in the present, but can only infer how they got there; piecing scattered fossils into a sequence is even more fraught with difficulties (see 05/21/2004 headline).  There is no observable history of evolution.  There is a story imposed on the artifacts seen in the present.  An eyewitness account from a credible witness that can be corroborated by observation is superior to a story weaved out of personal bias and propped up by circumstantial evidence.
    By the way, there is a credible eyewitness account that fits the evidence.  It will tell a biologist all he needs to know about the emergence of plants and how they achieved their high levels of adaptive fitness.  It explains not only the outward morphology, but the programming and developmental constraints that maintain fitness.  It’s in that best seller in your hotel room drawer.  Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.  (Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.)
Next headline on:  PlantsDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas

Cormorant Eyes Rapidly Refocus in Dives Into Murky Water   05/24/2004
You’re hang gliding over a lake, and you spot a fish below.  From your hovering position, you drop into a rapid, steep dive headfirst into the water.  Whoops; your eyes just went out of focus, and you lost your fish in the murky depths.  Too bad you’re not a cormorant.
    Cormorants (a kind of waterfowl) are able to adjust the lenses of their eyes from air-focus to water-focus in a split second, according to an article in Current Biology May 25.1  Four Israeli scientists bedazzle us:
Cormorants (Aves; Phalacrocoracidae) are active fliers, yet they forage by pursuit diving and capture of fish with the bill.  In air, the cormorant’s cornea provides most of the total refractive power of the eye.  Underwater, however, corneal power is lost, as the cornea is now bathed in liquids of similar refractive index.  The retention of a sharp image, while performing precise visual tasks underwater, requires that the cormorant’s optical system compensates for the loss of refractive power of the cornea.  In addition, the underwater photic environment differs markedly from the aerial one, with the image quality undergoing a rapid deterioration through scatter and absorption.  Upon submergence, cormorants compensate for the loss of corneal power (>55 dioptres, D) and rapidly (>1000D/sec) attain a state of emmetropia, i.e. they are well focussed, by marked changes in the shape of their very flexible lens.
The scientists somehow acquired accurate measurements of the birds’ optical acuity in air and in murky water.  The birds’ vision is as good as that of fish, seals and whales who spend most of their time underwater.  Cormorants, however, need outstanding vision in water as well as air.  “The requirements to perform precise visuo-motor tasks in two optically different media, and the uniqueness of the lenticular system of these birds,” they note with some admiration, ”make the vision of pursuit-diving birds a model of vertebrate capacities at the extreme.
1Strod, Arad, Izhaki and Katzir, “Cormorants keep their power: visual resolution in a pursuit-diving bird under amphibious and turbid conditions,”
Current Biology, Vol 14, R376-R377, 25 May 2004.
Strod and Arad work at the Hula Valley Nature Preserve in northern Israel; perhaps that is where they made some of the observations.  TV nature programs sometimes show these birds in action.  Next time you see one, you’ll have reason to appreciate even more the elegance of their fishing expertise.
    Once again, this excellent intelligent-design paper was marred by a worthless insertion of the E word, probably because Current Darwin-Worship wouldn’t print it otherwise: they conclude, “Low turbidity levels are commonly encountered in natural water bodies and thus are of crucial importance in our understanding of the evolution, sensory ecology, and micro-habitat selection in aquatic organisms.”  This, as usual, means that nobody understands how these optical marvels evolved, but the Darwin Party hopes to some day.  I wonder if the authors really buy that promissory note.  So how many billion cormorants died of starvation till they got their optics right?  Sorry, 990 dioptres per second isn’t good enough; let’s bump it up to 1000 and make sure all the less fit go extinct.  For sure.  We don’t need such evolutionary whistling in the dark.  Cormorants knew the tune from the top, and in the right key, too; see sharp or be flat.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
Early Humans Refused to Be Classified    05/24/2004
We humans like to classify things, and when we classify ourselves, we sometimes get into trouble.  We create groups of “us” and “them” that breed conflicts.  A fight of sorts is going on between paleoanthropologists, reports Science News1 May 22, over what to make of some skulls found in a cave in Romania.  The skulls are blurring the neat categories most anthropologists had made to distinguish primitive and early modern humans.
    The discovery last June, an Indiana Jones-like adventure involving cave diving into a tomb-like chamber and finding bones of cave bears and human skulls, has the makings of a good movie.  But now that the skulls are in the lab, scientists are scratching their own skulls figuring out where to fit them in the human lineage.  The problem is that they display both “primitive” and “modern” traits: modern cheek bones and no brow ridges, but heavy-set jaws and massive teeth.  Named Oase (wah-see) after the cave in which they were found, the skulls also contain multi-ridged third molars larger than those of Neanderthals.  These bones and another found in Portugal that displays “a potpourri of traits from both species” are causing some anthropologists to suggest that all these varieties of early humans interbred.  That threatens to overturn favorite theories about human evolution:
The Oase skull’s strange combination of modern and archaic characteristics underscores scientific confusion about how to define anatomically modern humans, [Erik] Trinkaus [Washington U at St. Louis] adds.
    “Paleontologists have created an artificial [anatomical] Rubicon that the Oase fossils violate,” he says.  “The blend of traits on these specimens contradicts the existence of a straightforward evolutionary process [during the Stone Age] in which modern humans came out of Africa and replaced everyone else.”
    In more serious jeopardy is the practice of classification itself.  “One way to make sense of fossils such as the Portuguese child and the Oase skull is to stop assuming that each ancient Homo species existed on a separate branch of an evolutionary tree, says Trenton W. Holliday of Tulane University in New Orleans.”
1Bruce Bower, “Humanity’s Strange Face,”
Science News Week of May 22, 2004; Vol. 165, No. 21, p. 328.
Is it possible to be racist with long-dead humans?  There is a great deal of variation among people groups living today (Watusi and pygmy, etc.), yet they are all 100% human and it is very unPC to discriminate between them.  Variation within a species can be quite pronounced.  Anthropologists seem to be too quick to sort bones into evolutionary lineages without considering the environmental influences on anatomy, such as diet: chewing tough meat might accentuate brow ridges and teeth, for instance.
    This long-fumbling practice of classifying human bones into separate species so as to weave a tale of evolution should be scorned for its phony discrimination.  It’s not science; it is dogma looking for support.  Primitive, my tooth.  These deceased brethren could probably outrun and outsmart any modern paleoanthropologist on the trail of a cave bear.  That takes brains, physical fitness, and complex DNA that is anything but primitive.  Maybe the new paradigm is that humans have been devolving from highly intelligent, skilled, artistic hunters into lazy, obese, foolish storytellers.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Do Fossils Show a Worldwide Record of Evolution?   05/21/2004
The fossil record provides the acid test for evolutionary theory.  Everyone who walks a real dog by a poodle knows that small-scale variation occurs among living species, but non-evolutionists get understandably annoyed when Darwinians extrapolate the observed variations to encompass all of life: as if to say, because finch beaks vary, therefore humans had bacteria ancestors.  Darwin’s bold hypothesis connected all living things into a branching tree of life.  He claimed that, ultimately, whales and oaks and kangaroos and seashells could trace their ancestry to single-celled organisms.  The only way to connect this hypothesis to actual earth history is to examine the fossil record.  Does the record of the rocks show a sequence of life evolving from simple to complex?
    Those who assume so might be disturbed by a paper in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences1 by Peter M. Sadler (UC Riverside).  The annual reviews are a good place to catch up on the state of the art of this or that discipline.  Sadler’s review concerns quantitative biostratigraphy, the attempt to correlate global fossil data.  Things are looking up in this field; fossil data are becoming more available in large databases, and computers are making the number-crunching easier.  He takes the reader through the latest computer algorithms that attempt to correlate fossils from tens, hundreds, or thousands of sites around the world into a unified, global time sequence.  Though his lengthy paper never questions evolution (and hardly mentions it), and while written with a tone of scholarly confidence, it gives a distinct impression that biostratigraphy is more art than science.
    Imagine an ideal record where everything that had died left a fossil, and these fossils accumulated upward, layer upon layer, since the beginning of life.  If evolution had occurred, each species would have a first appearance in the record (a first-appearance datum, or FAD), and when it went extinct, it would exhibit a last-appearance datum, or LAD.  These “horizons” would form a vertical timeline for each species, which could be correlated with similar ones around the world.  Assume it were also possible to reliably date each layer.  Tracing the history of life, then, would be a piece of cake; actually, a layer cake, because the layers would preserve a clear sequence, from oldest at the bottom, to youngest at the top.  The fossils they contain, if evolution had occurred, would clearly exhibit increasing complexity as each new phylum, order, class, genus and species appeared through time.
    Alas, as with most things in life, the situation is far from being so simple.  Sadler points out a number of difficulties that make global correlation of fossil-bearing strata a challenge:
  • Imbalance:  Most of the record consists of seashells.  “Richly fossiliferous sections are more common in the marine invertebrate record,” he notes.  (Marine invertebrates actually comprise about 95% of all known fossils.  That means all the large mammals, land plants and dinosaurs make up a tiny fraction of the record).  In a few studies, he claims, biostratigraphers can produce sequences of some marine invertebrates to resolutions of 10,000 to 50,000 years, though resolution is usually much lower.

  • Gaps:  “Relative to marine Cenozoic correlation problems, nonmarine instances suffer from a lack of continuous sections,” he says.  Instead of showing a continuous record of evolution, the record is discontinuous or jerky, riddled with gaps.  (Stephen Jay Gould once remarked that the near universal presence of gaps in the fossil record is the “trade secret” of paleontology.)  Many sites display “isolated faunas” that do not overlap with other sites.  Sadler explains how the gaps affect biostratigraphy:
    Biology demands that the global abundance of a species cannot fall to zero within its temporal range.  Unfortunately, species distributions are patchy, the patches may shift, few individuals are fossilized, and fossils may be overlooked.  Consequently, the local taxon ranges observed in single stratigraphic sections reflect local conditions and do include gaps.  More critically, and for the same reasons, gaps of unknown extent occur at the ends of observed ranges.  Thus, local horizons of highest and lowest finds of a species do not correspond to the global FAD and LAD.  The discrepancies vary from place to place, and locally observed taxon range charts contradict one another in detail concerning the sequence of range-end events.
    For these and other reasons, Sadler warns that it is “crucial to acknowledge that local first and last appearances are also uniquely troublesome as recorders of calendar events: The local stratigraphic horizons at which they are observed do not reliably reproduce the true global sequence of origination and extinction events.  Discrepancies must be expected because local appearances and disappearances are likely to be migration events and probably displaced by lapses in fossilization.”

  • Reworking:  Many fossils have been transported or reworked, destroying the temporal sequence information.  (Some of the best-known fossil sites, such as Dinosaur National Monument, La Brea Tar Pits, and Petrified Forest present this difficulty.)  The biostratigrapher cannot assume the apparent FAD-LAD horizons represent the true history of the fossils, because many processes can disrupt the correlation of fossils with strata: floods can transport fossils from one location to another, burrowing animals can rework the deposits, or deposits can fall into a cave or be washed down well bores into older strata.  Moreoever, it is not always easy to tell when or how much reworking has occurred.  “Severe caving may require abandoning FADs altogether,” he says.  Marine microfossils are especially subject to reworking.  The sometimes “cryptic” signatures of reworking may go “unrecognized,” and their impact on the record may be significant.  Yet the biostratigrapher needs to rely on databases that are contaminated by this problem: “Large integrated databases will combine taxa that are prone to reworking with those that are not.  Decisions about the likelihood of reworking, or the most palatable assumptions concerning reworking, currently force a dichotomous choice between methods that seek maximal ranges and those that seek probable ranges.  No method yet embodies a satisfactory theory of reworking that can obviate this unfortunate choice,” he laments, yet the computer models often assume that little or no reworking occurred.

  • Decreasing Information with Age:  The farther back in time, the less reliable the inputs: for instance, “Paleozoic instances include less radiometric, paleomagnetic, and stable isotopic data.”  The known instances usually do not overlap.  “The large Paleozoic correlation problem in Table 1 includes many pairs of sections that do not overlap in age.  They must be stacked in the correct order and impart to the problem a significant component of seriationSeriation is the essence of the problem when the data are isolated faunas.”

    Considering these difficulties, is it even possible to produce a global correlation of fossils into a time sequence?  Sadler apparently feels the problem is tractable and current work is promising, but the use of simplifying assumptions is unavoidable.  Some are reasonable (e.g., a FAD must precede its LAD, and proven coexistences must be honored).  Also, certain geological events provide a means of independently correlating fossiliferous strata.  A volcanic ash fall, for instance, might be traceable across a large region, or magnetic reversals or global climate changes can provide clues.  In addition, paleontologists try to hitch the data to milestones obtained via radiometric dating (although these are usually not applicable to the sedimentary strata that contain fossils).  Putting it all together is easier said than done:

    The way to improve the resolving power of the geologic calendar is obvious but not easy—increase the number of events and thus reduce the average time intervals between them.  There is no shortage of species to add.  The real problem is to keep all the appearance and extinction events in their correct sequence.  The difficulty increases dramatically with the number of species for three reasons: First, the number of possible sequences of appearance and extinction events grows faster than exponentially as a function of the number of species (Figure 1).  Also, events that are separated by smaller time intervals are more likely to be preserved in contradictory order from place to place.  Finally, as the list of species grows it must include more provincial organisms that will be missing from many locations.
        The bulk of Sadler’s paper concerns various clever mathematical algorithms biostratigraphers have developed to approach this huge puzzle.  Some make use of the principles of operations research.  Some employ heuristic algorithms or manipulate matrices with iterative processes to try to converge on a solution.  Each method is best suited to its own data type, each makes its own assumptions, and each has its shortcomings.  Consequently, he cautions the reader not to expect too much:
    The true global sequence of FADs and LADs is not knowable in detail and the locally preserved sequences of highest and lowest finds are incomplete and contradictory.  The practical and tractable problem is to find a hypothetical sequence of FADs and LADs that enjoys the lowest net misfit with all observations in local range charts and isolated faunas, or requires the smallest net adjustment of all observed ranges.  It is an optimization problem.
    Sadler freely admits that contradictions are inevitable.  Much of his paper concerns dealing with misfits: how to measure misfits, and how to minimize them.  Some of these misfits are those that contradict the expectations of evolution.  One of the criteria for success seems to be how well the result of an algorithm agrees with the “correct” phylogenetic sequence: “Procedures for fitting the best LOC [line of correlation on the graph] include deterministic regression techniques ... and heuristic search algorithms from evolutionary programming,” he explains.  Congruence with evolutionary phylogeny seems to define Sadler’s “best-fit” or “optimal” sequences.  In the opening, he indicates that evolutionary sequence information takes priority over geological dating information:
    Geologic time correlation proceeds by constructing a global calendar of past events in which the appearances and extinctions of fossil species dominate the entries.  Other events include changes in ocean chemistry, reversals of Earth’s magnetic field, and the deposition of volcanic ash beds, some of them dated by radiometric methods.  The challenge is to merge incomplete inventories of physical events and partly contradictory faunal successions from many local thickness scales (measured stratigraphic sections) onto a single calendar that correctly sequences all the events and scales the time intervals between them.  Because correctly sequenced events serve the purpose of correlation, with or without knowledge of their numerical ages, sequencing is the fundamental task and the focus of this review.  Numerical estimates of age are available for very few events, especially in the older periods of the Phanerozoic.  Furthermore, estimates of the relative size of time intervals between events rest largely upon questionable assumptions about rates of sediment accumulation and biological turnover.  Consequently, scaling and calibration tasks are best attempted after the optimal sequence of events has been determined.
    In the conclusion, titled “The Remaining Challenges,” Sadler reveals his discipline’s dependence on evolutionary theory, and drops hints that it needs to be more of a two-way street:
    Paleobiologists can extract considerable information about the phylogenetic sequence of taxa by analyzing the morphology of fossils, without recourse to stratigraphic information.  But these insights do not yet aid the correlation task as much as they might.  To date, more effort has been committed to questions concerning the place of stratigraphic information in cladistic analyses of morphology than to the possibility that the resulting cladograms provide independent evidence of sequence that can improve biostratigraphy.
    How this avoids circular reasoning he does not explain.  Instead, he suggests how evolutionary systematists can help – by revealing, for instance, “the order of FADs that best fits the morphologic information.”  But even with their assistance, he sees three “looming challenges” posed by modern stratigraphic databases:
    1. Deciding on a single method:  “First it is desirable to integrate more data types into a single method.  Every method, regardless of the data to which it is suited, must seek a sequence of events.  Consequently, the best way to suit all the data is to invert the problem, working through a suite of permutable sequences and achieving iterative improvements as judged by the fit between the sequences and the data.”
    2. Speed vs. Completeness:  “But the second challenge is to manage considerably larger data sets without loss of speed.  The flexibility of the inverse approach sacrifices speed.  The fastest algorithms are those that are tailored to specific data types and work forward from the data to the best solution.
    3. Reworked fossils.  As quoted above, “No method yet embodies a satisfactory theory of reworking that can obviate this unfortunate choice” between maximal ranges and probability ranges (that is, choosing between incorporating all the data into the model vs. using the data that produce the expected result).
    .  Are biostratigraphers stuck in a rut?  He ends, “As in the past, answers to all these challenges might be discovered by recognizing analogies with problems in other disciplines and adapting their numerical methods.”
    1Peter M. Sadler, “Quantitative Biostratigraphy: Achieving Finer Resolution in Global Correlation,”
    Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, May 2004, Vol. 32, pp. 187-213 (doi:10.1146/
    It must be acknowledged that Sadler neither doubts evolution nor intended to cast doubt on evolution in this paper.  A casual reading would lead one to think that everything is fine and the Darwinians are making great progress.  But, if read perceptively, without evolutionary assumptions, it is quite revealing.  Where is the proof of the pudding?  Where is the evidence in the fossil record to prove Charlie right?  Sadler exposes to view what a huge “optimization” problem he has on his hands.  The best he can do is try to keep the “contradictions” and “misfits” to a minimum.
        As with everything else in evolutionary theory, the tweak space is greater than the data space.  Only massive inputs of questionable assumptions keep the story intact.  A story of evolution clearly doesn’t jump out of the data, as if it were an intuitively obvious fact that only an obscurantist would deny.  No; instead of supplying the Darwin Party with the proof they desire, he needs to ask them for help as he stumbles through a contradictory, unmanageable, confusing, formidable task.  It’s reminiscent of the impossible dream the molecular phylogenists face trying to keep Charlie’s imagined tree of life connected to reality (see 07/25/2002 and 06/13/2003 headlines).  In the end, they must assume evolution to prove evolution.  Instead of taking the evidence where it leads, they apply similar heuristic “optimization” approaches to handling overwhelming and contradictory inputs, where “optimal” means “mostly agrees with Charlie, if we neglect the misfits.”
        Notice that “gap” is a loaded word.  What if it is a brute fact that the data are discontinuous?  Then that is the true sequence; there are no gaps.  A gap is only a gap if you assume evolution.  Why not face the evidence squarely: living taxa are discontinuous, and fossil taxa are discontinuous.  They appeared abruptly, and some died abruptly.  If it weren’t that such an admission destroys Darwinism, that would be what the textbooks would matter-of-factly present.
        Skeptical readers are encouraged to put aside “questionable assumptions” about “rates of sediment accumulation and biological turnover,” and to study this article without Darwin-tinted glasses on.  Look at the fossil data as objectively as possible.  What is found?  Multitudes of non-overlapping “isolated faunas” without clear “seriation” information.  A preponderance of seashells.  Unknown effects of reworking.  Fossil graveyards.  Myriads of dead organisms buried in water-laid rock strata all over the world.  Sadler suggests a solution in his ending sentence; biostratigraphers might have better success by looking outside the box and adapting the techniques of other disciplines.  Most likely he did not intend to consider some disciplines that the ruling Darwin Party has placed off limits.  Too bad; what if that’s where the true solution is waiting to be found?
    Next headline on:  GeologyFossilsDating Methods
    Evolution of Jaws: A Hox on Storytelling   05/19/2004
    Lampreys are jawless fish, unlike Jaws and his kin.  M.J. Cohn found that Hox genes are expressed in a lamprey in the first pharangeal arch.  Noting that fish with jaws do not express Hox genes in the first pharangeal arch [PA1], from which the jaws develop, Cohn hypothesized that jaw evolution proceeded with a retreat of Hox expression from this arch.  But an international team publishing in Nature1 found another lamprey with no Hox expression in the arch.  They conclude, “Cohn’s finding is not a general feature within the lamprey group and is therefore unlikely to be related to jawlessness.”  Instead, “ the lack of Hox expression in the lamprey PA1 may reflect the fact that in both lampreys and gnathostomes [jawed creatures] the rostral-most pharyngeal arch forms highly specialized structures that are morphologically distinct from those of more posterior arches.”  The presence or absence of Hox expression in PA1 is “therefore not functionally relevant to jawlessness,” they say.
    1Takio et al., “Evolutionary biology: Lamprey Hox genes and the evolution of jaws,”
    Nature (20 May 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02616.
    Let us understand that evolution cannot advance by losses.  A lamprey is not going to get a jaw by turning off genes.  Is Cohn asking us to believe that there were jaw-making genes that the lamprey decided to turn off?  Clearly not.  But to evolve by losses is like the merchant who lost money on every sale but thought he could make it up in volume.  A jaw is a “highly specialized structure” made of many parts that must fit together.  Cohn’s hypothesis was just a tall tale based on circumstantial evidence and belief in evolution.  At least he was ambidextrous; he could wave his hands and whistle in the dark at the same time.
        It’s getting monotonous to report evolutionary just-so stories that have proven false.  Can we get some positive evidence for a change, instead of jawboning?
    Next headline on:  Fish and Marine LifeDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Selfish Genes Turn Cooperative   05/19/2004
    Nature1 has reported evidence that transposons help to regulate gene expression.  Transposons are genetic material that insert themselves into the DNA of a host, and were thought to represent “selfish genes” that only had their own propagation in mind, “without regard for the consequences.”  Some new studies on the L1 retrotransposon, which makes up about 17% of the human genome (mainly within non-coding introns), have shown, however, that they may do us some good.
        The studies “suggest that the insertion of L1 elements into introns can also diminish cellular gene expression in a graded fashion,” the News and Views piece says.  “In the words of Han, Szak and Boeke, such L1 insertions provide a ‘molecular rheostat’ with which to govern gene activity — and their bioinformatics analysis establishes that the mechanism is widely used.”  (For more on the molecular rheostat concept, see
    01/10/2003 headline).  If the transposons were truly selfish, “responding individually to darwinian natural selection” “without regard for the consequences,” it has “long been a mystery” what keeps them “at bay.”  If the new studies “unveil a major control mechanism,” part of the solution may be to recognize synergy instead of selfishness.
    1Frederic Bushman, “Gene regulation: Selfish elements make a mark,” Nature 429, 253 - 255 (20 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429253b.
    How can a gene be selfish?  A gene has no concept of self.  It couldn’t care if it propagated itself or not.  The myth of selfish genes is a misleading anthropomorphism.  Only people are selfish.
        On the other hand, genes are not altruistic, either.  The metaphors of rheostats, regulators and molecular machines imply intelligent design and programming.  That is not an anthropomorphism, because machines are not personal.  Consequently, one doesn’t have to demonstrate anything about the designer to see the evidence that a product was designed.  But observing that the design works so well (i.e., your senses are working as you read this thanks to the regulation provided by transposons), it wouldn’t hurt to ponder the subject a little.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNA
    Giardia Spoils Evolutionists’ Soup   05/19/2004
    In current evolutionary thinking, Giardia (the backpacker’s bane, a water-borne intestinal parasite that causes cramps and diarrhea) is an oldie.  Once long ago, early cells supposedly engulfed bacteria that became specialized into modern mitochondria.  “Until a few months ago, Giardia was thought to represent a throwback to the time before this union,” reports Nature,1 because the organism apparently did not contain mitochondria.  Recently, however, scientists had found the genes that code for mitochondrial proteins.  “But the real bombshell came last November,” Jonathan Knight reports, when a team found the proteins clustered in little sacs they dubbed mitosomes, or mitochondria-like bodies (see
    11/12/2003 headline).  Some scientists want more evidence before giving up their evolutionary trees.
    This attitude frustrates people such as William Martin, who studies molecular evolution at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany.  He is convinced that the best and simplest explanation for the data is that Giardia once had mitochondria.  Some people, he argues, refuse to accept this because they have spent too many years working on the opposite assumption.  “They don’t want it to have mitochondria because it spoils their soup,” he says.  “This thinking is deeply ingrained.”
        The thinking has its roots in the concept of the Archezoa, Martin argues, the group that was conceived to bring together a range of single-celled eukaryotes thought to lack mitochondriaGiardia was the granddaddy, having branched off on its own before any other eukaryote, according to evolutionary trees built using sequences of RNA from ribosomes, the organelles in which proteins are made....
    But one by one, the Archezoa all proved to have either a set of mitochondrial genes in their nuclei, \ or relics of mitochondria such as mitosomes or hydrogenosomes.
    Nature has a “gut feeling” that “Giardia’s status as the earliest branching eukaryote has also been questioned” by these discoveries.  Maybe some day, someone will discover “a new member of the Archezoa, sans mitochondria or mitosomes, lurking in the oxygen-starved muck at the bottom of a lake.”  But even then, “Some recent evolutionary trees that take into account the variable rates at which different DNA bases mutate paint a much muddier picture of the early branches.”
    1Jonathan Knight, “Giardia: Not so special, after all?” Nature 429, 236 - 237 (20 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429236a.
    Need we remind anyone that a mitochondrion is among the most complex organelles in a cell, home of the elaborate molecular machine named ATP synthase? (See 02/13/2004 and 09/18/2003 headlines).  So here again is a familiar pattern: the earliest, most “primitive” organisms are already busily using advanced technology.  Darwinists can point to no precursors.  The ones they surmised were precursors turned out not to be; they are either just as complex, or parasites that degenerated from earlier complex organisms.  Another familiar pattern: evolutionists don’t want to admit it.  “This thinking is deeply ingrained.”
        A group of evolutionary biologists was standing by the rail on a Darwin Party cruise aboard the HMS Beagle 3.  They were all moaning from having eaten spoiled soup, made with bad leaves from the wrong tree.  Captain FitzBehe walked up to a green-faced patron who just fed the fish.  “What’s the matter, Chuck?” he asked with a slap on the shoulder.  “Weak stomach?”  “No, captain,” the evolutionist struggled to reply.  “I’m throwing it farther than anybody else.”
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Fossil Water Lily Matches Modern   05/19/2004
    Three Cornell botanists found fossil water lilies from the early Cretaceous that look nearly identical to modern ones, except that they are smaller.  The exquisitely-detailed fossils were preserved in a New Jersey clay pit by a process of coalification.  Water lilies (family Nymphaeaceae) are presumed by evolutionists to be among the earliest flowering plants (angiosperms).  These ancient specimens apparently trapped beetles for pollination the same way as their living counterparts, “suggesting that many modern insect–plant associations were already established by this time,” (~90 million years ago).”  The paper is published in PNAS.1
    1Gandolfo, Nixon and Crepet, “Cretaceous flowers of Nymphaeaceae and implications for complex insect entrapment pollination mechanisms in early Angiosperms,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0402473101.
    The paper shows fine details that make it hard to believe these impressions are that old, but that is where evolutionary theory has to put them into their mythical timeline.  No evolution, again; the fossils are spitting images for modern water lilies, elaborate pollination structures and all, except smaller – but size is a minor matter compared to the machinery required to produce structure.  Maybe they just haven’t found big ones yet.  These specimens exhibit “precise and dramatic correspondence between the fossil floral morphology and that of modern Victoria [Amazon water lily] flowers,” they announce with apparent surprise.  Enough to give Charlie another bout of indigestion.
        Poor evolutionists.  They keep trying to find simple ancestors for things, and in every kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species they find the oldest specimens are just as complex as those alive today.  Anyone see evolution here?  Keep hunting; our selfish, materialistic world is counting on you.
    Next headline on:  PlantsFossils
    Fruit Flies Fail to Exhibit Neo-Darwinism    05/18/2004
    The Neo-Darwinian Synthesis is the current reigning paradigm of Darwinian evolution.  It teaches that random genetic mutations provide the raw material of variation, and that natural selection acting on these variations produces all the complexity of life.  A corollary is that mutation is independent of selection; i.e., that mutations do not “conspire” with natural selection to produce new structures and functions.  Since mutations are random, it should be possible to speed up the mutation rate and thus speed up evolution.
        The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been used since the 1920s in experiments on neo-Darwinism.  The poor bugs have been irradiated, treated with chemicals, and subjected to numerous tortures so that scientists could monitor the effects of mutations.  Experiments have yielded some freaks, like four-winged flies and flies with legs where the antennae should be.  One would think that, of any lab animal, fruit flies should provide some evidence that neo-Darwinism actually works.  But a paper in Current Biology1 seems to indicate that most of the work in decades of experiments on Drosophila is irrelevant to the way neo-Darwinian evolution works in the wild.
        It was not the intent of John F. Y. Brookfield, a geneticist at the University of Nottingham, to argue against neo-Darwinism.  From all appearances, he accepts it; he begins,
    The neo-Darwinian paradigm of evolutionary change assumes that mutations occur independently of any natural selection that will subsequently act on them.  While such independence has been challenged in some descriptions of adaptive mutation in bacteria, it is still generally accepted to apply in multicellular organisms.  It follows that, were one to examine simultaneously the process of mutation and the process of evolution, the kinds of mutational change that one would see should not be different in kind from the sorts of changes one sees occurring over evolutionary time, unless different types of mutation had systematically different phenotypic consequences: only selection can create a systematic difference between mutational and evolutionary changes.
    By evolutionary change, he means adaptive change.  Mutational change could be neutral, producing no benefit to the organism, or it could be “downhill,” destructive to the species.
        Brookfield’s topic in this paper is another question: whether mobile DNA elements can also be sources of adaptive change.  In passing, though, he mentions several serious problems that neo-Darwinian theory has yet to explain.
  • Dominance.  How do mutations become established in a population?
    A lack of agreement between mutation and evolutionary change was first noted in the context of dominance.  In the 1920s, when the neo-Darwinian synthesis was being created, it was seen that mutations in Drosophila melanogaster are usually recessive to the wild-type allele.  The paradox was that if genes are evolving, then the current wild-type allele would have been a mutant when it first arose, spreading to become the wild-type because of its advantageous phenotypic effect.  Why should advantageous mutations generally be dominant, when their advantageousness depends on the particular environments that they will encounter?
    Brookfield describes attempts by R. A. Fisher and Sewall Wright to address this paradox.  Fisher thought that dominance evolves, but Wright, whose views have been “abundantly confirmed” in subsequent experiments, was that “mutations are recessive because they inactivate genes, so that their recessivity has a physiological, rather than an evolutionary, cause.”  But this seems to lead away from adaptive evolution.  Turning off a gene would not create the gene in the first place.  That leads to another difficulty:
  • Information Loss.  “Major mutations represent losses of gene function, a change not often used in adaptive evolution — we do not evolve by successively losing more and more of our gene functions, but rather by subtly altering the ways in which genes work.”  Instead of answering where the beneficial mutations come from, he changes the subject, leading to a third difficulty for neo-Darwinism.
  • Source of mutations.  Brookfield mildly announces a shocker: most mutations in Drosophila are not random mistakes, but rather genetic information from other sources: “Similarly, what are the evolutionary consequences of mobile DNA insertions?  It has been estimated that 80% of the spontaneous mutations seen in Drosophila genetics result from transposable elements.  Do mobile DNA insertions similarly create 80% of evolutionary changes in this species?  Without question, they do not.”
  • Fixation.  One would think that a beneficial mutation would become established in the genome.  But Brookfield says, “The most revealing observation is the almost complete absence of fixed sites of mobile DNAs in D. melanogaster.  A mobile DNA insertion that created an advantageous phenotype would be expected to spread to fixation in the species by natural selection.  This would create a site fixed for the element throughout the species.  Such sites are very rare, although they have recently been detected for the S element family in heat shock protein genes.”

    Brookfield turns to focus on the possibility that mobile DNA insertions might enhance the expression pattern of a gene, and that this could lead to adaptive (evolutionary) change.  He discusses recent examples of possible clues in certain fruit fly genes.  In particular, a population of California fruit flies suggests the occurrence of a past selective sweep, which “occurs when a new advantageous mutation arises and rapidly spreads through the population.”  Finding evidence of a selective sweep is difficult, he admits, and is based on circumstantial evidence.  But a selective sweep is not necessarily a positive sign of evolutionary change: it has a downside:

  • Reduction in diversity.  “Because the mutation arises initially in a single chromosome, as it spreads, this chromosome also spreads through the population, eliminating the standing crop of genetic diversity in the region.”  In other words, as the chromosome containing the beneficial mutation spreads through the population, the genetic diversity goes down.
  • Few examples.  Even if selective sweeps indicated the fixing of advantageous mutations, there aren’t many examples.  All biologists have are some subjective hints, but most of the evidence has disappeared:
    If these apparent selective sweeps are indeed the result of mobile DNA sequence insertions, why are insertion mutations that alter the expression patterns of adjacent genes in a selectively advantageous way not more common?  Why do these so rarely seem to spread through the species as a whole?  One can clearly create a model in which insertions are eventually followed by imprecise excisions, leaving behind a small fragment only of the inserted sequence, or causing the loss of all the insertion, along with some flanking host sequences.  Such a change might still create the advantageous phenotype, and thus one can imagine that an advantageous insertion is replaced by its deleted derivative.
  • Artificial effects.  Lastly, Brookfield asks whether the mutations biologists have studied in fruit flies were not evolutionary at all, but results of man’s interference through the use of pesticides:
    The other, more disturbing, aspect of this study is that the species is responding to a very strong, man-made selective pressure, as is the case with many of our best examples of recent adaptive change in wild populations.  Are these sudden man-made changes in environments typical of the environmental changes that wild populations encounter, and to which they respond through evolutionary change?  Or do environments more usually change in such a gradual way that the adaptive response is qualitatively different at the molecular level.  In other words, just as the mutations seen in laboratories are not typical of the mutational changes used in adaptive evolution, is it possible that the mutational changes used in adaptive evolution triggered by sudden man-made environmental changes are not typical of the mutational changes used in adaptation to the more gradual environmental changes normally encountered by wild populations?
    On that note, Brookfield quits.  So where is the evidence for adaptive evolution resulting from mutations in fruit flies?  He doesn’t say.  The article leaves us hanging on question marks.
    1John F.Y. Brookfield, “Evolutionary Genetics: Mobile DNAs as Sources of Adaptive Change?”
    Current Biology, Vol 14, R344-R345, 4 May 2004.
    Time for a joke.  Wife: “Why do you always answer my question with a question?”  Husband: “Why not?”  Encore: Spike Jones picks up the phone in one of his skits and we only hear his side of the conversation.  We hear him responding, with various inflections, “You don’t say? ... You don’t say? .... You don’t say?”  After he hangs up, his curious buddy asks, “What did he say?”  Jones replies, “He didn’t say.”
        For this whole paper, we were waiting for Brookfield to say how fruit flies evolved from non-fruit flies by mutations and natural selection through a neo-Darwinian process, since that is the official creation myth of the culture that provides the explanations for whale aerodynamics (see 05/11/2004 headline), cell locks and keys (see 05/13/2004 headline) and transgender rights (see 05/17/2004 headline).  But all we got was (1) Everything you were taught is wrong, and (2) How about if I answer your question with a question?
        Remember that fruit flies are not simple, but some of the most elaborate miniaturized high-tech robots you could imagine (see 12/18/2003 headline).  Darwinians have a lot more explaining to do than just weaving stories about how something might alter the expression of this or that gene.  Brookfield spouted a lot of hot air about mobile DNA insertions, but these are a far cry from random genetic mutations.  Mobile DNA elements represent genetic information that had to come from somewhere else, and were apparently not inserted at random, but in association with genes, altering or inactivating their expression.  But a gene cannot be expressed unless it exists.  Where did the gene come from?  You don’t say.
        This article does not represent a definitive treatise on neo-Darwinian theory, but it sure exposes some gaping holes the textbooks conceal.  That means it must be banned from the classroom (see 05/13/2004 headline).  When it comes to teaching evolution, “you don’t say” what the experts say.
    Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Can Traits Evolve Before Need?  The Case of California Chaparral Plants    05/18/2004
    A biologist went to California looking for evolution in plants.  He didn’t find it, but believes the plants evolved anyway.
        That seems to be the upshot of a study by David D. Ackerly (Stanford U.) published in American Naturalist1 (see summary on
    EurekAlert).  Ackerly wanted to test whether natural selection produced the small, tough evergreen leaves of chaparral plants.  The leaves typically have thick cuticles (waxy coatings) and a particular structure and density of stomata, the pores that exchange moisture.  Presumably these leaves, called sclerophylls, evolved to adapt to the drought-prone Mediterranean-type climate of southern California.  Ackerly applied phylogenetic analysis and statistical techniques to the study.  Of 12 species he analyzed, most showed only a small trend toward “low specific leaf area,” a trait characteristic of plants in Mediterranean-type (MT) climates.  Only four of the 12 indicated histories consistent with adaptation through natural selection, and even then only slightly.  Apparently, the plants already possessed the adaptations before the climate changed.  Little, if anything, evolved:
    Small leaves and low specific leaf area (SLA) have long been viewed as adaptations to Mediterranean-type climates in many species of evergreen woody plants.  However, paleobotanical and floristic evidence suggests that in many cases these traits originated prior to the advent of the summer-drought climate regime.  In this study, molecular phylogenies and ancestral state reconstructions were used to test the hypothesis of adaptive leaf evolution in 12 lineages of evergreen shrubs in the California chaparral.  Across all lineages there was a small but significant shift toward lower SLA, but there were no trends in leaf size evolution.  For individual lineages, adaptive changes were detected in only three cases for SLA and in one case for leaf size.  Three of these cases of evolutionary change were observed in taxa derived from cool temperate ancestors (e.g., Heteromeles).  In contrast, most lineages originating from subtropical ancestors exhibited relative stasis in leaf trait evolution (e.g., Ceanothus).  The absence of change suggests that ancestors of chaparral taxa had already acquired appropriate traits that contributed to their success under Mediterranean-type climates.  These results illustrate how biogeographic history may influence patterns of trait evolution and adaptation and highlight the contribution of ecological sorting processes to the assembly and functional ecology of regional biotas.
    What this means is that these plants already had the small, hard evergreen leaves, before they arrived in the chaparral.  They did not begin as large-leaved or soft-leaved plants that got trapped in climates with dry, hot summers, some of which survived by adapting their leaves to the climate through a process of natural selection.
        Moreover, Ackerly believes these plants converged on the solution of small, hard leaf size independently, before a change in climate provided them the opportunity to succeed.  “The functional similarities among MT ecosystems have often been cited as an outstanding example of convergent evolution,” he notes, “in light of the disparate phylogenetic composition of the biotas (Cody and Mooney 1978).  Convergence is viewed as a strong test of the role of natural selection because no other evolutionary force is expected to produce similar phenotypes under similar conditions in independent locations and lineages.”  Since no one else had tested for convergence in these species with a phylogenetic approach, he did.  Sure enough, he found it, but farther back in time, before the climate changed:
    For the case studied here, it appears that the leaf traits of evergreen sclerophylls are highly functional in MT climate conditions but that in many lineages these traits evolved in ancestral non-MT environments.  Lineages possessing such traits were apparently successful and persisted in the face of the transition to summer drought, subsequently expanding to form a dominant vegetation type in California and other MT climate regions.  The maintenance of sclerophylly and related traits reflects the adaptive value of these characteristics in the face of such changes.  Assuming that genetic variation has been available for these traits, the lack of substantial evolutionary change represents an adaptive pattern as the traits were maintained by stabilizing selection.  The similarities in leaf traits among species in the California chaparral reflect a mix of conserved traits that arose prior to MT climates and more recent adaptive shifts in lineages derived from cooler climates.  These conclusions are consistent with the evidence from biogeographic and paleontological studies (Axelrod 1989; Valiente-Banuet et al. 1998), and importantly, they are based on entirely independent data sets and methods.  The results highlight the importance of both ecological and evolutionary processes contributing to contemporary patterns in the fit between organisms and their environment.
    Stabilizing selection means that natural selection preserved existing adaptations rather than creating new ones.  The overall result seems to be: the plants did not evolve to fit the change in climate, but the climate evolved without affecting the success of the plants that were pre-adapted to MT climate.
    1David D. Ackerly, “Adaptation, Niche Conservatism, and Convergence: Comparative Studies of Leaf Evolution in the California Chaparral,” The American Naturalist 2004. Vol. 163, pp. 654-671, The University of Chicago, 0003-0147/2004/16305-30210.
    This is not evidence for evolution.  It is evidence for stasis, which by definition, is non-evolution.  The plants were already pre-adapted.  They were able to succeed in cooler, wetter climates as well as in drought-prone Mediterranean-type climates.  One would think this to be evidence of design, but Ackerly and his evolutionary friends invent hand-waving terms like conservation and stabilizing selection to hide the fact that nothing evolved.  Like a buoy anchored to the seafloor, the sclerophyllic plants withstood the changing tides of climate without evolving.
        Leaf size and shape are minor adaptations, compared to the many complex systems at the cellular level that must exist for the plant to survive a long, hot, dry summer.  Regulators must control when the stomates open and close, and how often and how fast the photosynthetic pathways operate so that they do not overheat.  Evolutionists need to explain ten thousands of complex systems and molecular machines in a plant, but this study illustrated a Darwinian biologist unable to explain even the simple things.
        One of Ackerly’s statements is a classic of obfuscation: “Convergence is viewed as a strong test of the role of natural selection because no other evolutionary force is expected to produce similar phenotypes under similar conditions in independent locations and lineages.”  Convergent evolution is not a force.  It pushes nothing, it lifts nothing, it energizes nothing.  Convergence is an a posteriori concept, a word evolutionists invented to cover up the evidence against evolution.  Here are separate, unrelated species of plants that all “converged” on the same solution by some unexplained mechanism.  This is not an evolutionary force; it is an evolutionary farce.
    Next headline on:  PlantsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Does Darwinism Contribute to Sexual Deviancy?   05/17/2004
    Joan Roughgarden (Stanford U.) is a transsexual biologist.  Although a convinced Darwinian, “she” claims to have disproved Darwin’s theory of sexual selection (see
    02/26/2003 headline).  Two reviews of her book Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People (University of California Press, 2003) appeared recently, one in Nature1 and another in Science.2  The book title refers to Roughgarden’s position that we should no longer believe there are only two sexes, but a spectrum (rainbow) of genders.  The book is part biology, and part agenda: as Sarah Hrdy describes, “a passionate cry from the heart for greater understanding of sexual diversity in nature and greater tolerance for the many gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and others who do not fit comfortably into male or female binary categories.”
        Apparently eager to present themselves as enlightened and politically correct, neither reviewer had anything negative to say about Roughgarden’s advocacy of the transsexual and transgender agenda.  They were actually quite sympathetic about it, thanking “her” for raising biologists’ consciousness of the trials that transsexual and transgender individuals face in society.  The thing both reviewers did not appreciate was her disparagement of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.
        In the Science review, Jolly takes some jabs at people of faith: “The readership should, but undoubtedly won’t, include the religious orthodox, who probably would not appreciate a transsexual professor of evolutionary biology quoting the Bible and the Koran.” (One such quotation by Roughgarden refers to Jesus’ comment about eunuchs in Matthew 19:12, that some are born eunuchs, some are made eunuchs by men, and some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God).  Alison Jolly thinks Darwinism can easily embrace the gender revolution: “what Darwinian theory needs is not so much radical revision as a simple expansion to take sexual diversity much more seriously.”  Sarah Hrdy seems to take a similar stance; “For readers craving information about transgendered existences, or for those like me who are deeply moved by Gay Pride parades and the social transformations that they represent, this book is going to have a huge impact.
    1Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, “Sexual diversity and the gender agenda,” Nature 429, 19 - 21 (06 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429019a.
    2Alison Jolly, “The Wide Spectrum of Sex and Gender,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5673, 965-966, 14 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097003].
    Only a radical twisting of Scripture could abuse Jesus’ statement about eunuchs to support the transsexual/transgender agenda (see context).  Are we to assume Roughgarden got religion and wants to pursue the kingdom of God?  Is that the agenda of Gay Pride parades?  Clearly not.
        In context, Jesus had just given his disciples stern warnings about adultery.  His comment about eunuchs was in response to the disciples’ alarm at the strictness of God’s law – they were taken aback, stating that it might be better not to marry.  Jesus responded with a mere statement of fact, an observation that some men go through life without marrying, either because they were born incapable of sex because of a birth defect, or were castrated (for example, by despotic kings to guard their harems), or chose not to marry so that they could pursue the kingdom of God without distraction (See I Corinthians 7).
        The Bible is sympathetic to singles, but not to sexual deviants.  It clearly teaches that God created humans with only two sexes, male and female (Gen. 1-2).  The Mosaic Law stated that wearing the clothes of the opposite sex is an abomination (Deut. 22:5).  We were not created to act like animals, no matter how many weird examples biologists find in nature; humans were created in the image of God, and the Maker has the right to set the rules.  It’s getting to the point already where quoting the Bible on these topics is being construed, not as common sense, but as hate speech.  Just this past month, in Canada, it became illegal to quote the Bible to speak in opposition to sexual deviancy.  Have you connected the dots from Darwinism to these developments?
        Treating a struggling individual compassionately is not the same as legitimizing, honoring and promoting a deviant lifestyle.  The way to heal the sick is not to tell them they are normal and society is sick.  The last thing deviants need is pseudo-scientific rationalization for their deviancy (see our satire on cannibal rights); this pours gasoline on the fire.  Darwinism has already been used to legitimize genocide, racism, eugenics, euthanasia, and abortion and other moral evils.  Sexual licentiousness is part of a long line of evolution-sanctified immorality.  That was exactly the message of the PBS Series Evolution episode Why Sex? (see 11/12/2001 notice and 09/28/2001 commentary): animals do it, so anything you want to do has Charlie’s blessing.  There is no Creator.  There are no rules.  I was born this way.  I evolved this way.  I can’t help myself.  Remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse.  That line Thou shalt not commit adultery hurts my self-esteem.
        We are in the midst of a sexual identity crisis that symbolizes the modern culture war.  The sick are now normal, and the normal are now sick.  For the first time, homosexual marriage is legal in one state of the United States, with the likely prospect the movement will spread to the entire nation.  Rather than expressing alarm that four out of seven judges took it upon themselves to redefine the meaning of marriage without a vote of the people or their elected representatives, the news media are focusing instead on the euphoria of the newly liberated “oppressed,” and reporters are eagerly holding up microphones to their chants of rage against their “oppressors”.  Now that this check dam is collapsing, what will prevent downstream floods of polygamy, multiple partners, and child abuse?  Activists will be sure to find Darwinian rationalizations for their pet perversions, too.
        The impersonal, undirected, purposeless universe Darwin gave the intellectual world is hitting home, affecting your boys’ conception of who he is and what he should wear to school.  The innocent childhood years are being flooded with mixed messages from teachers, while TV images showcase immorality in parades hosted by celebrities and politicians.  The new sinners, deserving of the strictest denunciation and severest judgment, are those daring to call any of this immoral.  A California school district was recently forced to allow boys to dress like girls.  How will administrators redesign all the forms that request a designation of “Sex: M or F”?  Will the media have to concoct new gender-neutral pronouns?  Will anything written before 2004, using the pronouns he or she, become politically incorrect?  Serious debates are arising on college campuses about which bathrooms the gender-confused should use.  There is a risk that rapists might pretend to be transgender to sneak into women’s restrooms.  The potential for confusion, abuse, victimization and outright crime is enormous.  Now that Darwinism embraces the gender-bending political correctness of our day, the reader is left to draw his, hers, or its own conclusions about where this radical social evolution will lead.  Extinction?
        None of the transgender advocates seem to be very concerned about the soundness of the Darwinian model that legitimized all this social experimentation (follow the Chain Links on Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory).  It’s about time to revisit the tried and true model that predicted this outcome.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
    The Red Queen Did Not Invent Sex   05/16/2004
    A Darwinian story just died.  One of the evolutionary stories for the origin of sex is the “Red Queen” hypothesis.  Named after a character in Alice in Wonderland, it is the idea that an organism must continually change just to stay the same, like running and getting nowhere.  Technically, it states that “sexual reproduction is maintained because it improves a species’ ability to respond to a changing biotic environment.”  First proposed by Van Valen in 1973, it has been a favorite among competing hypotheses for the origin of sex.
        Otto and Nuismer, publishing in the May 14 issue of Science,1 investigated this hypothesis with a population genetics model and found it wanting.  Their abstract summarizes, “Our results show that species interactions typically select against sex.  We conclude that, although the Red Queen favors sex under certain circumstances, it alone does not account for the ubiquity of sex.”  (For more on the origin of sex, see
    05/12/2004 commentary.)
    1Sarah P. Otto and Scott L. Nuismer, “Species Interactions and the Evolution of Sex,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5673, 1018-1020, 14 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1094072].
    How long do we have to watch Charlie shoot himself in the foot before we conclude he should not run for Sheriff?
        Montana teachers, beware!  Do not quote this paper in biology class.  Since it casts doubt on the Darwinian paradigm, it’s against the law (see 05/13/2004 headline).
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Mitochondrial Clock Untrustworthy   05/16/2004
    A major assumption of the “molecular clock” dating method has been called into question.  If so,
    Science Now describes the impact on current theories:
    “Mitochondrial Eve,” the hypothetical mother of all modern humans who lived about 150,000 years ago, might be lying about her age.  A key assumption in determining how long ago she lived—that molecules of mitochondrial DNA do not swap segments with one another—is false, researchers now say.  Their findings call into question a multitude of findings in evolution, early human migration, and even the relations between languages.
    The mitochondria in our cells, organelles that provide the ATP power supply, contain small amounts of DNA.  You may have heard that we inherit this mitochondrial DNA only from our mothers.  Now, scientists have found evidence that male mitochondrial DNA can be inherited, and might be mixed in with the rest of the mitochondrial DNA.  Since “the implications are that this is going on all the time in our cells,” that would render it untrustworthy as a genealogical tracer and dating method.
        An announcement about evidence for recombination in human mitochondrial DNA was published in the May 14 issue of Science.
    1Kraytsberg et al., “Recombination of Human Mitochondrial DNA,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5673, 981, 14 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1096342].
    If confirmed, this calls into question many studies on presumed evolutionary history.  Mitochondrial DNA’s history “is clearly not as clean as people had thought.  Or people had wished,” lamented one molecular biologist.  The wishers are the dreamers in the Darwin Party, who are waking up from one of their favorite dreams to find out it was just ... a dream.
        Harrub and Thompson have a good section on “the demise of mitochondrial Eve” and the problems with the molecular clock hypothesis in their new book, The Truth About Human Origins (Apologetics Press, 2004, ch. 3).  Unfortunately, some creationists had joined the Mitochondrial Eve bandwagon, thinking it supported the Biblical story of a single human pair.  It had problems years ago (see 10/31/2000 headline).  This should be a lesson on the folly of trusting any tale about the unobservable past coming from the Darwin Sand & Gravel Co.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADating Methods
    New T. Rex Found; Best-Ever Skull Unveiled    05/14/2004
    National Geographic News has reported the excavation of a possibly complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton at a “secret location,” a private ranch, in Montana.  The curious can monitor the interactive dig at Unearthing T. Rex.
        The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh has finally unveiled Samson, the best preserved skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, reports MSNBC News.  The article says that this skull, discovered in South Dakota in 1992, “may challenge scientific beliefs about the dinosaur,” but does not elaborate.  Maybe that’s because museum curator Chris Beard leans toward the interpretation that T. Rex was not a fearsome predator chasing jeeps, but a timid, opportunistic scavenger (see Carnegie Magazine).
    Tomorrow’s students may laugh at Jurassic Park like today’s laugh at old Godzilla movies: scary, but hokey.
    Next headline on:  Dinosaurs
    Fish Antifreeze Provided by “Pseudogene”   05/13/2004
    Freezing water forms crystals that can rip and tear at cells.  Yet there are fish in arctic waters that can survive even below the freezing point of sea water.  They accomplish this by means of special “antifreeze proteins” that interfere with the damaging effects of water crystals.
        Scientists knew about AFP (anti-freeze protein) Type I in winter flounder, and knew its properties.  They became puzzled how the fish survived temperatures lower than the protection AFP type I could provide.  They suspected another antifreeze protein was at work, and found the gene that codes for it.  They explain why this gene, named 5a, had escaped detection for 30 years: “The two proteins differ slightly in their amino-terminal sequence and amino-acid composition.  At the time of its discovery, the 5a gene was dismissed as an antifreeze-protein pseudogene, largely because the protein it encodes would have been grossly different from type I AFP and had never been detected in the flounder.”
        The protein is normally present in low concentrations and degrades at room temperature.  At low temperatures, however, it roars into action.  It becomes extraordinarily hyperactive, providing more protection against freezing than the previously-known AFP by an order of magnitude.
    1Marshall, Fletcher, and Davies, “Hyperactive antifreeze protein in a fish,”
    Nature 429, 153 (13 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429153a.
    Another wonderful discovery, all the more interesting for the last line: “The evolutionary relationship between our 5a-like antifreeze protein and type I AFP, which also contains short tracts of alanine, remains to be solved.”
        Here is an example of “junk DNA” proving to be functionally important.  Based on Darwinian assumptions, scientists had dismissed the gene as a degenerating relic of a gene duplication event sometime in the fish’s prehistory.  Such a mindset is proving to be a hindrance to the advance of science (see 05/10/2004 headline).
    Next headline on:  Fish and Marine LifeGenetics and DNAAmazing Facts
    Cell Requires Two Keys to Let Cargo Pass   05/13/2004
    For high-security environments, guards sometimes require two independent authentication methods.  Before humans came up with this trick, the cells in their bodies were already using it.  Itoh and Camilli explain in the May 13 issue of Nature:1
    Our cells contain a series of distinct compartments that do different jobs and have different properties.  The membranes that clad each of these compartments – like the plasma membrane that encases the cell – are defined by precise molecular compositions, which are preserved despite the continuous influx and efflux of components in transit to and from other cellular locations.  Precision is the hallmark of this flow of traffic, too, which must be directed appropriately between compartments.  All of this is achieved, in part, by the reversible recruitment of regulatory proteins from other parts of the cell to specific membranes or membrane regions.  A growing amount of evidence hints that membrane lipids cooperate with membrane proteins to control this recruitment.
    They refer to work by Godi et al. in Nature Cell Biology that shows a dual-key authentication mechanism in the cell.  With “at least two independent, but synergistic, mechanisms,” cargo is only allowed to bind to a membrane if it binds correctly to two cytosolic proteins.  This can be envisioned as a kind of code:
    The interaction of cytosolic proteins with both lipids and proteins on a target membrane is an efficient dual-key strategy to control their recruitment to membranes.  Only when both the lipid-binding and protein-binding sites are engaged is the interaction with the membrane strong enough.  The two elements of the code can be controlled independently, affording the possibility of fine-tuning the spatial and temporal regulation of recruitment.
    Itoh and Camilli provide no suggestions on how such a system might have evolved.
    1Toshiki Itoh and Pietro de Camilli, “Membrane trafficking: Dual-key strategy,”
    Nature 429, 141 - 143 (13 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429141a.
    There’s a coded message in this story.  Can you decipher it?
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent Design
    Another Impact Theory for Permian Extinction Proposed    05/13/2004
    Richard Kerr was very cautious in his announcement in Science1 about a new claim about an asteroid impact near Australia causing the Permian Extinction.  He went to lengths to point out that the evidence is not clear, and that many other scientists disagree.  After describing the “proposed” impact site, he cautioned:
    Not so fast, say some researchers who specialize in deciphering signs of impact lingering in rock.  “There’s no convincing evidence for an impact origin” in the studied rocks, says impact petrographer Bevan French of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  “Everything they’re arguing was shocked [by impact] can have nonshock origins,” such as volcanic activity, he argues.  Despite the variety of evidence presented in this and two earlier Science papers by the same principal authors (Science, 21 November 2003, pp. 1388 and 1392), impact-triggered extinction at the P-T has yet to meet broad acceptance.

    1Richard Kerr, “Evidence of Huge, Deadly Impact Found Off Australian Coast?”
    Science, Vol 304, Issue 5673, 941, 14 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5673.941a].
    That’s not the way it came across in the media.  On a Motorola pager, MSNBC trumpeted: “Scientists find suspect in ‘great dying’ impact – Scientists have linked Earth’s biggest extinction event, 250 million years ago, to a suspected impact crater off the coast of Australia.”
    Freudianly, their next headline was about con artists.
    Next headline on:  GeologyFossils
    Montana Schools Not Allowed to Question Darwinism    05/13/2004
    “Objective origins” is against the law in Darby, Montana (see
    02/27/2004 headline).  A policy change proposed by a local minister would have encouraged students to “analyze scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution.”  It didn’t lose because of a vote on the policy, or because of the threats of litigation by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  It lost because “evolution supporter Erik Abrahamsen handily defeated incumbent chair Gina Schallenberger in a 4 May election,” according to a news item in Science.1  The Missoulian said the election was driven by the origins debate, a “rancorous battle over a controversial science policy.”
    1ScienceScope, Science, Volume 304, Number 5673, Issue of 14 May 2004.
    Science took glee in the Darwin Party victory: “Creationism Loses in Montana Town – The residents of Darby, Montana, have doused one creationist brushfire by tipping the balance of its school board.”  (This was nothing about creationism, you recall; it was about letting the students hear about teaching students critical thinking skills.  There was nothing at all about creationism, church and state, or religion in this policy proposal – see 04/29/2004 headline.)
        This story underscores the fact that ministers have no standing in public policy debates.  They are disqualified before they even open their mouths.  If a minister suggests anything that affects public policy, no matter how innocently worded, no matter how lawful and logically sound, it can be completely disregarded because, everyone knows, he has a religious agenda.  The ACLU and the secularists in the Darwin Party have no such handicap; they present themselves as scientific, value-free, religiously neutral and objective.  Pastors and ministers have been confined inside the walls of their churches.  They are forbidden to have a voice in their communities.  Only in church can they speak their minds, but how long can even that last?  It is conceivable on the horizon that ministers will feel intimidated to speak out against the Darwin Party even to their own congregations, just like teachers are at school.  Would you have suspected such harassment in the Old West?
        This decision shows that Darwinian evolutionism does not just affect metropolitan academia, but touches every small town school district.  It also shows that critical thinking and analytical skills are not valued when the reigning dogma of Darwin is threatened.  Should the Darwin Party be proud?  They won an election by wearying the public over non-issues, and intimidating the townspeople with threats.  Like Islamic fundamentalists, they made it illegal to criticize or even analyze their theory.  They didn’t win by a reasoned debate over the evidence.  Losers, take courage.  Truth and politics are not synonymous.  Things are going better in Alabama, it’s not over in Roseville, and a majority of Californians still favor the students’ right to hear both sides, according to two new surveys, reports the Discovery Institute.  It takes time to overcome authoritarian dogmatism, but it’s worth it.
    Next headline on:  DarwinismEducationPolitics and Ethics
    Geological Column, Rev. 2004-a    05/13/2004
    The geological column is not “set in stone,” John Whitfield discovered as he investigated the work of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), which is releasing a revised column this summer.  “Silurian, Devonian, Triassic: the names seem as solid and permanent as rocks themselves.  But in fact,” he cautions in his report in Nature,1 “like fashions in hair or hem-length, the geological divisions of our planet’s timeline are prone to change.”
        Rocks, naturally, do not come with dates or names on them.  The column is largely an artificial construct intended to bring some kind of universal order to the many varied assemblages of rocks and strata, and their fossil contents, around the world.  Just as hair and hem lengths can vary by large margins, the dates and boundaries of the eras, epochs and periods within the column are largely a matter of convention.  Sometimes those conventions fall prey to local disagreements:
    Over the past 150 years, geologists have struggled to unravel Earth’s history.  To a large extent, they have relied on significant events, such as the appearance of a specific fossil, or a reversal in the planet’s magnetic field, to define the boundary between two time periods.  Having defined these physical boundaries, researchers then attempted to date them.  But geologists in different parts of the world used different rocks as benchmarks, leading to disagreements over the exact definition of each period.
        Lately, however, geologists have been trying to nail down some calibration points with “golden spikes.”  Whitfield explains,
    To resolve the issue, stratigraphers are deploying ‘golden spikes’ – also known as global standard stratotype-section and points (GSSPs).  These are locations where a good example of a worldwide event can be found, nominated by working groups within the ICS and then ratified by the IUGS [International Union of Geological Sciences].  Once a spike is set, that rock remains the boundary of a time period, even if estimates of its age change.
    There are now 50 golden spike points around the world, and the number is growing.  But what about their dates?  A method growing in popularity is to calibrate them with astronomical events, such as changes in earth’s orbit that led to climate changes on earth.  Geologists gather clues about these changes by measuring oxygen isotope ratios and calcium carbonate concentrations in rock.  Whitfield claims this method is accurate to 65 million years ago and is improving.
        Geologists try to refine the dates with radiometric dating.  “But in the past decade,” Whitfield laments, “it has become clear that the results from different techniques and different labs don’t agree.”  The solution?  A global network of laboratories, all using a standard procedure, should be active in about a year.  Maybe then geologists can extend their column to the entire solar system.
    1John Whitfield, “Geology: Time Lords,”
    Nature 429, 124 - 125 (13 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429124a.
    Though he trusts in it, Whitfield treats this whole process something like a game, because it is.  Do you see the flaw?  The geological column has more to do with consensus than fact (see 12/27/2003 editorial).  The geologists are confused because their evolutionary just-so stories don’t agree.  So they are like a group of independent Hollywood producers who want to form a consortium where they can all come to agreement on their screenplay for Planet of the Apes.  And like any game, you have cheering fans.  Whitfield describes how China responded when they won a golden spike: “To Chinese stratigraphers, this was the equivalent of winning a bid to host the Olympics.  They hoisted a six-metre-tall monument on the spot to commemorate the achievement.”  This means no more than getting recognition from the director of a science fiction movie.  It may make them feel good, but does it tell them anything about the real world?
        It takes a skeptic to read this kind of literature without being hoodwinked.  There’s plenty of reason to doubt that geologists are really unraveling Earth’s history, and plenty to arouse suspicion they are engaging in self-deception by consensus.  Some examples from this article, in addition to those stated above, remind us of Dewlap’s Laws of Physics, namely: (1) Fact is solidified opinion; (2) Facts may weaken under extreme heat and pressure; and (3) Truth is elastic.  See for yourself:
    • Flexible boundaries:  “The end of the Jurassic period, for instance, has wobbled by more than 30 million years since it was dated in the 1930s.”
    • Babel:  “The new scale will help Earth scientists speak to one another in a common language, and the dates will help to answer questions about what caused various mass extinctions and changes in climate.”
    • Fuzz:  “But despite being the most complete work on dates so far ... the new timescale is not definitive.
    • Flux:  “Its assembly has rekindled a long-standing debate on how to define the earliest geological time periods, and many of those boundaries look set to change in the next few years.”
    • Stretch:  “And as the dates are re-examined, the timescale may even widen to encompass rocks beyond Earth.”
    • Politics:  “In 1999, the IUGS executive called for a concerted effort to find GSSPs, and the past few years have seen a surge of activityPolitical as well as scientific arguments ensued.
    • Laziness: “In the debate over where to put the spike separating the Permian from the Triassic, the relative inaccessibility of sites in Kashmir and Iran helped to rule them out in favour of one in Zhejiang Province, China.”
    • Everything You Know Is Wrong:  “‘Most people will tell you that a measurement more than five years old is obsolete,’ says Gradstein.”
    • You’re Not Getting Older – You’re Not Getting BetterUncertainty over dates is a particular problem for the early life of Earth.  When these time periods were established [by consensus], it was thought that there would be too few benchmarks to define GSSPs: rocks get rarer as they get older, and there are no large fossils from that long ago.  Instead, each period is anchored by round dates rather than golden spikes.  Most of the Precambrian, the first four billion years of Earth’s history, is chopped up in this way.”
    • Armchair Strategy:  “Some Earth scientists have railed against this system ever since the ICS decided on it in the 1980s, complaining that it is inconsistent.  ‘There’s been a ferocious debate between a bunch of field-based mavericks and the committees,’ says geologist Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway, a college of the University of London in Egham.”
    • Missionary Fervor:  “More ancient spikes are set to come.  The new chairman of the ICS Precambrian subcommission, Wouter Bleeker of the Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, is on a mission to use rock features to divide up the deep past.”
    • Sans Rigor:  “To define such ancient spikes, geologists will need to relax their criteria.  There is no worldwide record of the Ediacaran changes seen in Australia, and this will be true for other spikes in the distant past.
    Field geologists do a worthy work, and there is nothing wrong with trying to classify and bring order to a bunch of heterogeneous data.  But the geological column, with its stories about dates and evolutionary epochs, is a script, a framework, a game, an evolving consensus, a prescriptive set of orders, a set of colored glasses, not a fact.  Go out and look at rocks at various locations.  It’s not obvious that this rock is a billion years older than that rock.  It has nothing to do with the color, texture, grain, mineralogy, or hardness of the rock, but rather where it fits in the screenplay.  Evolutionary geologists will claim that even with the uncertainties they are in the ballpark.  But the park is owned by the Darwin Party, and the D.P. sets the rules of the game.  They can’t lose.
        There you have it: a bunch of Hollywood scriptwriters building a Tower of Babel for the Planet of the Apes.  If it’s self-consistent (with a little forcing), and if everyone agrees (with a little forcing) how could it be wrong?  (Now read what they did to homology – see 05/05/2004 headline).
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
    Male Imparts More to Embryo than Just DNA   05/12/2004
    A team of biologists have confirmed that male sperm RNAs are delivered to the oocyte along with the DNA.  Specifically, paternal messenger RNAs are delivered to the egg.  These might influence development and put the male’s imprint on the developing zygote.  Writing in Nature,1 the researchers speculate what the finding means:
    Why should spermatozoa messenger RNAs be transferred to the oocyte?  Messenger RNAs encoding proteins that bind nucleic acids, such as protamine-2, are likely to be deleterious and are probably degraded following entry, and a similar fate may await other RNAs that gain access.  But some may have a role in the developing zygote: for example, clusterin (also known as sulphated glycoprotein-2, or SGP-2) is delivered to the oocyte and has been implicated in cell-cell and cell-substratum interactions, enhancement of fertility rate, lipid transportation, membrane recycling, stabilization of stress proteins, and promotion or inhibition of apoptosis.  These may therefore be required in the early zygote but unnecessary in the oocyte.  Alternatively (or in addition), these and other unidentified molecules, such as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), may participate in processes such as pronuclear formation, the orchestration of events leading to oocyte activation, the transition from maternal to embryonic gene control, and the establishment of imprints in early embryos.
    But haven’t cloning and parthenogenesis experiments shown the male contribution to the zygote is dispensable?
    However, the success of such experiments and of somatic-cell nuclear transfer is limited, as is the production of human embryonic stem cells after somatic-cell nuclear transfer.  This may be because sperm RNAs contribute to early development.  Transcripts that are specific to male germ cells play a role in the differentiation of embryonic stem cells and their function may not be easily replaced.
    They conclude that these accessory RNAs delivered in sperm may be necessary for fertility, and may influence the developing embryo with a signature only the male can provide.
    1Ostermeier et al., “Reproductive biology: Delivering spermatozoan RNA to the oocyte,”
    Nature 429, 154 (13 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429154a.
    Men have been taking a beating lately (see 03/31/2004 headline), so this should provide some rebuttal.  In this day of experimental families and marriages and test-tube reproduction, we need to realize that there is no substitute in a family for a man and a woman.  This extends all the way up from the gametes to the sexual identity and role modeling of the whole person.
        The origin of sexuality is the “queen of evolutionary problems.”  To a Darwinist, it doesn’t make any sense.  It is costly and complex.  For a good treatment on the seriousness of this problem to Darwinians, see chapter 4 of the new book by Harrub and Thompson, The Truth About Human Origins (Apologetics Press, 2004).  Viewed instead as a gift of God for love, pleasure, education, diversity of roles and talents and gifts, and as a picture of his intimacy with his creatures, it can be seen as not just an accident of a purposeless past, but an awe-inspiring and beautiful thing.
    Next headline on:  HealthHuman BodyGenes and DNA
    Whale Flippers Inspire Aeronautical Engineers   05/11/2004
    Have you seen the bumpy flippers on humpback whales, you know, the species whose males serenade their mates?  Don’t laugh.  Scientists have found that the ungainly flippers actually have superior lift, less drag, and are less susceptible to stalling.  Engineers are imitating the whale flippers for advanced aircraft and helicopter rotors, reports
    EurekAlert from studies at Duke University.  “Humpback whales maneuver in the water with surprising agility for 44-foot animals,” says the press release.  Test wings modeled after the flipper had 8% better lift, 32% lower drag, and could withstand stalling at a 40% steeper wing angle.
    We don’t need to design so many things from scratch.  Biomimetics is a modern application of an ancient principle expressed by Job, “ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee” (Job 12:7).
    Next headline on:  MammalsMarine LifeAmazing Facts
    For additional insight, keep reading: “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.  Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?  In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10).
    Search for Evolutionary Trade-Offs Comes Up Empty   05/11/2004
    Husbands and wives know a lot about trade-offs, but according to Darwinian theory, all living things are in a constant tug-of-war between competing interests.  In evolutionary terms, a trade-off is a compromise between competing forces of natural selection.  For instance, “Simultaneously obtaining enough food to grow and reproduce while trying not to become someone else’s dinner is a pervasive trade-off faced by many organisms,” explains Mark McPeek (Dartmouth), writing in American Naturalist.1  How does this concept fit in with evolutionary theory?
    Trade-offs are central to our conception of how the natural world is organized.  Trade-offs shape the choices that individuals make (Sih 1980, 1987; Krebs and Davies 1997), influence evolutionary trajectories and mold genetic diversity (Loeschcke 1987; Rose 1991; Stearns 1992; Roff 2002), and determine which species are able to coexist with one another in the long term (Levin 1970; Tilman and Pacala 1993; Chesson 2000).  Trade-offs are presumed to be caused by some genetic or phenotypic trait or traits influencing two fitness components in antagonistic ways.  Understanding the mechanisms that cause trade-offs is critical for predicting their consequences (Schoener 1986; Tilman 1987).
    So McPeek set out to test the evolutionary trade-off hypothesis.  But when he looked for a trade-off among damselflies, specifically his prediction that activity correlates to mortality from predation, he was stumped: he couldn’t find it.
        McPeek studied two coexisting species of damselflies that inhabit freshwater lakes.  One has larvae that are much more active than the other.  The active ones presumably get more food but are more exposed to predation, and suffer higher mortality.  What he found, however, is that both species actually obtain the same amount of nutrition, regardless of activity.  “However, laboratory studies presented here show that the mechanism assumed by most theoretical and empirical studies to mediate this trade-off, namely activity simultaneously modulating foraging returns and predation risk, does not operate in this system,” he lamented with apparent consternation. 
    In spite of no difference in the amount of food ingested or assimilated, I. verticalis larvae grew faster than Enallagma larvae because they were better able to physiologically convert assimilated food into their own biomass in the presence of mortality threats.  From these studies we understand the phenotypic mechanisms determining the antagonistic patterns of relative growth and survival between these two genera, but why these patterns exist remains unclear.
    McPeek lays out his experimental data in exhaustive detail, but in the end, the principle he sought to verify was not found:
    If the growth/predation risk trade-off has influenced the evolution of these genera, the walk and production efficiency variables should display positive correlations across species’ phenotypes (i.e., for the “tips”) and in the evolutionary contrasts.  The number of walks in the presence of dragonfly predators was correlated across species with the production efficiency and growth rate in the presence of predators, but correlations among the corresponding evolutionary contrasts indicated that these variables have evolved independently; correlations among contrasts for walking and production efficiency/growth variables were all not significant, and they were not even consistent in sign (table 1; fig. 6b).
    His ending discussion puzzles over this negative result, and compares it with findings of other studies on evolutionary trade-offs.  He really expected the vigor of the one species to exhibit a trade-off:
    A trade-off implies that some character or set of characters, either phenotypic or genetic, antagonistically influence two fitness components.  As this character (or set) evolves, one fitness component increases while the other decreases, hence the trade-off.  Clearly, activity is not that character because activity does not influence growth rate, and they do not evolve in a correlated manner across species (table 1).
    A negative result is still a result, and McPeek has to leave it at that: “At present it is difficult to speculate what the underlying character modulating mortality and growth may be to generate the trade-off among the damselflies,” he concludes.  “In fact, we must entertain the possibility that this is not a trade-off in the mechanistic sense at all.  In other words, no mediating phenotypic or genetic traits may have shaped the evolution of both growth rate and predation risk,” he states with apparent surprise.  In fact, evolutionists may have to propose an opposite principle:
    Perhaps the direction of causation is also opposite from what we usually assume; these differences between the genera may not have evolved because of selection pressures to allow them to coexist (Abrams 2003), but rather these phenotypic differences may have arisen for other reasons (e.g., drift or past selective agents that no longer influence them), and the fact that these phenotypic differences promote coexistence has allowed the ecology of the system to dynamically capture these two taxa and promote their long-term persistence with their present phenotypes.
    This seems to suggest a force for stasis, not evolution.  It gets worse; he next points to other studies that show the same thing, such as with tadpoles.  We need to find the mechanism for trade-offs, he implores, to understand organizations of species with each other and with other organisms, and to understand ecology.  “Such differences in phenotypically mediated community dynamics cannot be correctly discerned or reliably predicted without a thorough understanding of the mechanisms shaping the phenotypes of the interacting species.”  So – back to the drawing board.
    1Mark A. McPeek, “The Growth/Predation Risk Trade-Off: So What Is the Mechanism?”
    American Naturalist2004. Vol. 163, pp. E88-E111. © 2004 by The University of Chicago. 0003-0147/2004/16305-40010, Electronically published April 26, 2004.
    Notice his suggestion about “past selective agents that no longer influence them” as an explanation for why the evolutionary trade-off was not found.  How is a past selective agent that no longer has any influence a testable scientific model?  How is it different from a ghost?
        You have to feel sorry for Darwinists, hunting in vain for evidence of the mechanistic processes that they hope can explain the world.  He couldn’t even find evidence that selection influenced the activity of the damselfly, let alone the damselfly itself, with its wings, muscles, eyes, and countless other engineering marvels (remember what Dickinson taught us about fruit flies?  See 12/18/2003 headline for a reminder of the exquisite engineering Darwinism needs to explain).
        So another Darwinian principle has been tested and found wanting.  Wonderful.  Keep up the good work.  (See 04/02/2004 headline for another recent example.)  At this rate we can just stand back and watch the whole Darwinian edifice implode.
    Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Former “Junk DNA” Now Considered Essential   05/10/2004
    The term “junk DNA” seems to be fading with each new discovery.  Helen Pearson, reporting for
    Nature Science Update, leads with the line “‘Junk’ DNA reveals vital role: Inscrutable genetic sequences seem indispensable.”  They don’t know what it does yet, but the assumption is it must be important for evolution to hang onto it for so long.  Pearson writes,
    If you thought we had explored all the important parts of our genome, think again.  Scientists are puzzling over a collection of mystery DNA segments that seem to be essential to the survival of virtually all vertebrates.  But their function is completely unknown.
        The segments, dubbed ‘ultraconserved elements’, lie in the large parts of the genome that do not code for any protein.  Their presence adds to growing evidence that the importance of these areas, often dismissed as junk DNA, could be much more fundamental than anyone suspected.
    Researchers found 480 sequences that are identical between humans, mice and rats, and “largely match up with chicken, dog and fish sequences too,” but do not exist in invertebrates such as sea squirts and fruit flies.
        Scientists can only guess what these sequences do.  One idea is that they “control the activity of indispensable genes.”  Another is that they may slice and splice RNA into different forms.  Or perhaps they may control embryo growth.  Pearson describes the initial reactions to the discovery that junk DNA is not junk after all:
    To solve the conundrum, experts predict a flurry of studies into the enigmatic DNA chunks.  “People will be intrigued by this [finding],” says Kelly Frazer who studies genomics at Perlegen Sciences in Mountain View, California.  “It is the kind of stuff that blows people away.”
    She quotes one researcher who said, “It absolutely knocked me off my chair.”  It was hard to believe these sections could be 100% identical.  Some thought they must have contaminated their samples.  “The presence of exact copies in different animals suggests that even tiny changes in the sequence of these segments destroy whatever they do,” Pearson surmises, “and have been weeded out during evolution” whereas other parts have been free to accumulate mutations.
        Clearly there is a lot of work ahead, Pearson says.  Finding the function of the ultraconserved elements is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are other vast tracts of similar so-called “junk DNA” whose functions await discovery.
        On a related subject, Current Biology has news on introns (see 09/03/2003 headline).  A dispatch by Arlin Stoltzfus begins, “The evolutionary origin of spliceosomal introns remains elusive.  The startling success of a new way of predicting intron sites suggests that the splicing machinery determines where introns are added to genes.”  New techniques show the splicing sites are not random, because observers can predict where they will be found with uncanny accuracy.  The “putative benefits” of introns that “justify their existence” are still unknown.  Apparently, the cell has “mechanisms of targeted intron gain.”
    See also the May 12 BBC News report on this finding.
    Researchers could have had a big head start by approaching this topic from an intelligent design perspective.  Just because these stretches of DNA don’t code for proteins, and just because they have unknown functions, doesn’t mean they are junk.  It was evolutionary presuppositions that treated them as useless leftovers of evolutionary ancestry.  Now Darwinian scientists are surprised and have a lot of catching up to do.  A design perspective would begin by assuming that these stretches are there for a reason.  Let’s find out, therefore, what they are there for.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAIntelligent Design
    Searchers in the Dark Over Dark Matter   05/10/2004
    No sooner had Sean Carroll published his essay in Nature1 that dark matter proves how insignificant we are, that Geoff Brumfiel tells us in
    Nature Science Update that researchers can’t find the stuff.  The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search II is four times more sensitive than previous searches, but came up empty.  Carroll had just reiterated the common statistic that “About 70% of our current Universe is dark energy and 25% is dark matter.  This leaves all the stuff we have directly observed at a paltry 5% of the whole Universe.”  We see the light; where is the dark?
    1Sean Carroll, “Insignificance,” Nature 429, 27 (06 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429027a.
    Cosmologists love dark matter rather than light because their deeds are evolutionary.  And you thought the pillar of science was observation.
    Next headline on:  Cosmology
    Botulinum Toxin Deactivated by One Slight Change    05/10/2004
    A researcher at
    Brookhaven National Laboratory mutated a botulinum enzyme by just one amino acid, and abolished its toxicity.  The mutation, a change from a glutamate to a glutamine at one position, increased the distance from a zinc atom to a water molecule by 0.6 angstrom, less than one tenth of a billionth of a meter.  This was enough to prevent the botulinum enzyme from cleaving its target protein, a neurotransmitter.  The modified enzyme could still bind to it, but not cleave it.
    This experiment points out the specificity of enzymes.  We are led to believe that evolution works by mutating things recklessly, but look how slight a change totally disarmed this enzyme.  A second observation is that toxins like botulinum might have originally had a beneficial function, but became toxic through degenerative mutations.  Though difficult to prove, it is an interesting suggestion that, just as with mentally ill humans, it doesn’t take much to turn a benign individual into a killer.  That isn’t evolution.  It’s a breakdown in quality control.  Another possibility is that botulinum’s function, cleaving a neurotransmitter, was originally beneficial.  As reported before, many deadly poisons actually follow a “hormesis” curve and only become harmful above certain levels (see 02/12/2003 headline).  Botox is now all the rage.  In minute amounts, it is proving versatile for everything from beauty treatments to tumor reduction; see for instance this report on EurekAlert about University of Pittsburgh scientists using to ease symptoms of enlarged prostate.
    Next headline on:  Cell Biology
    Caves Are Made by Bacteria    05/10/2004
    Caves seem like archetypes of slow, gradual, ancient processes.  Tourists have long been told that caves form slowly over many tens or hundreds of thousands of years by the slow dissolution of limestone by weak carbonic acid in water carried down from surface rainfall.  That explanation took a dramatic turn in the 1970s when scientists realized that a stronger agent, sulfuric acid, might enlarge subaerial chambers much more quickly. It was a revolutionary discovery to realize that sulfuric acid could be formed by oxidation of subterranean hydrogen sulfide.  Now, the same “type locality” where the initial studies were done, Lower Kane Cave in Wyoming, has produced another revolutionary discovery; bacteria make caves.
        A trio of geologists from the University of Texas at Austin revisited Lower Kane Cave for a three-year research program.  They measured very little hydrogen sulfide emitting into the air able to dissolve limestone on subaerial surfaces.  Instead, they found two species of bacteria that feed on hydrogen sulfide produce more sulfuric acid.  Concentrated in dense microbial mats, these bacteria essentially focus the acid on the phreatic (groundwater) limestone surfaces.  “Our observations show that sulfur-oxidizing bacteria colonize subaqueous carbonate surfaces, localize dissolution by generating acidity, and therefore are integral to sulfuric acid speleogenesis,” they state in their revised model of sulfuric-acid speleogenesis (SAS; speleogenesis meaning cave formation).  Their paper is published in the May issue of Geology.1
        Although some of the hydrogen sulfide is autocatalyzed, escaping into the cave atmosphere to contribute to dissolution of subaerial surfaces as previously suggested, it appears that most of it is biogenic – catalyzed by microbes that extract energy from hydrogen sulfide: “cave enlargement via dissolution of the cave floor is microbially mediated,” they theorize.  Because these bacteria concentrate sulfuric acid formation on the cave floor and are operative where subaerial dissolution would be kinetically limited, ”microbial catalysis extends the phreatic depths to which porosity and conduit enlargement could occur in carbonate systems, including oil-field reservoirs and aquifers.  The metabolic consequences of an active microbial ecosystem change the model for sulfuric acid speleogenesis.”
        See a summary of this paper on
    Nature Science Update, which states, “Although the exact age of Lower Kane Cave is controversial, Engel says that it probably formed about 10,000 years ago.  That is relatively recent; caves formed by the more common action of carbonic acid grow considerably more slowly.”  They claim Carlsbad Caverns is 10-14 million years old; “They show just what the bacteria can achieve, given time.”
    1Engel, Stern and Bennett, “Microbial contributions to cave formation: New insights into sulfuric acid speleogenesis,” Geology, Vol. 32, No. 5, May 2004, pp. 369–372, doi: 10.1130/G20288.1.
    The authors do not give any indication of how rapidly this process would occur relative to other cave-formation processes or to the old SAS model, nor do they indicate that microbial sulfide oxidation would be the only or dominant process.  Nevertheless, if the dense microbial mats described by the researchers focus sulfuric acid on the rock surfaces, it seems plausible that cave formation, at least in some cases, could be much more rapid than usually assumed.  Despite NSU’s guesses, nobody was present even 10,000 years ago to tell us if conditions were the same back then; how much less for millions of years.  If enough bacteria and the right conditions were available, why could not even large caves form rapidly?  NSU claims that most caves form by standard carbonic acid solution, but look at how revolutionary the SAS model was in the 1970s.  Who knows what other mechanism might be discovered?
        According to these researchers, an open-air environment is no longer required for sulfuric acid speleogenesis; cave enlargement by concentrated sulfuric acid could be occurring within groundwater-saturated regions.  It would be interesting to find out if this extends the temperature range in which cave formation could take place.  Enzymes are known to facilitate reactions that normally take much longer or require narrow temperature ranges.
        Share this finding with the guide on your next cave tour right after the “millions of years” story.  It’s fun watching the summer hires get befuddled when something off the script happens.  Have the kid record it on the camcorder.
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
    Virus: Like DNA in a Hard Plastic Shell    05/07/2004
    A European team of biophysicists studied the mechanical properties of a virus and found the shell, made of protein, to act like hard plastic.  Writing in PNAS,1 they described the coat of a bacteriophage they studied:
    The protective proteinaceous shells (capsids) of viruses are striking examples of biological materials engineering.  These highly regular, self-assembled, nanometer-sized containers are minimalistic in design, but they combine complex passive and active functions.  Besides chemical protection, they are involved in the selective packing and the injection of the viral genetic material.
    The capsids look like oblong, geometric shapes with pointy ends.  The DNA is packed inside under pressure, and the coat can withstand indentations of 30%.  “The measured Young’s modulus,” they found, “is comparable with that of hard plastic.”  They seemed to admire the little cases: the bacteriophage capsid is
    remarkably dynamic yet resilient and tough enough to easily withstand the known packing pressure of DNA (~60 atmospheres).  These capsids, thus, not only provide a chemical shield but also significant mechanical protection for their genetic contents.  Viral shells are a remarkable example of nature’s solution to a challenging materials engineering problem: they self-assemble to form strong shells of precisely defined geometry by using a minimum amount of different proteins.
    The team is looking at these miniaturized packages for inspiration in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.
    1Ivanovska et al., “Bacteriophage capsids: Tough nanoshells with complex elastic properties,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0308198101, published online before print May 7, 2004.
    Here is observational evidence that leads to interesting questions.  It shows that living things need to overcome the same kinds of physics problems that engineers face.  Yet viruses are not, by definition, alive; they rely on a host for replication.  How could such precision bio-nanotechnology evolve?  Why do viruses exist?  Did they ever have a beneficial role, considering that the vast majority are harmless?  We may never be able to explain such things completely, but we can marvel at the biophysics capabilities found in nature, and deduce that such things don’t just happen.  Now read about the little motor that packs the contents (see 10/18/2001 headline).
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
    Hot Jupiter!  Exoplanets Found Very Close to Stars    05/07/2004
    Two examples of Jupiter-size planets have been found by the
    European Southern Observatory.  They are so close to their parent stars, they orbit in less than two earth-days each.  Mercury would be 17 times farther out than one of them.  They belong to a new class of exoplanets scientists are terming “hot Jupiters.”
    A few years ago, solar system models would have always put the small, rocky planets close in and the gas giants farther out.  Discoveries like this have caused a major rethink of the old nebular and planetesimal hypotheses (see 05/16/2003 headline).  Ideas are floating around, seriously, that gas giants could form in just hundreds of years, and if the nebula doesn’t disperse fast, could be dragged into the parent star in just thousands of years.  Our solar system is looking rare or unique (see 07/21/2003 headline).  Are we privileged?
    Next headline on:  AstronomySolar System
    Fossil Hummingbird, Arthropod Look Modern    05/07/2004
    Science announced that a rare hummingbird fossil has been found in Germany and, though assumed to be 30 million years old, is indistinguishable from living New-World hummingbirds.  This upsets the standard theory that hummingbirds evolved in the New World only.  Writing in the May 7 issue,1 discoverer Gerald Mayr said,
    I report on tiny skeletons of stem-group hummingbirds from the early Oligocene of Germany that are of essentially modern appearance and exhibit morphological specializations toward nectarivory and hovering flight.  These are the oldest fossils of modern-type hummingbirds, which had not previously been reported from the Old World.  The findings demonstrate that early hummingbird evolution was not restricted to the New World.  They further suggest that bird–flower coevolution dates back to the early Oligocene and open another view on the origin of ornithophily in Old World plants.
    Reviewer Erik Stokstad in the same issue2 quotes ornithologist Margaret Rubega (U. of Connecticut), “The amazing thing about this fossil is that it’s essentially a modern hummingbird.  My mind is a little blown.”  He adds, “Where the whole hovering tribe came from ... remains up in the air.”    
    MSNBC News has a picture of the fossil.  It mentions that Mayr named his specimen Eurotrochilus inexpectatus, an “unexpected European version of Trochilus, a modern hummingbird genus.  He called his find a “striking example for the complexity of evolution and animal biogeography.”
        The previous day, Nature announced a Cambrian fossil that shows an arthropod in the act of molting (shedding its exoskeleton).  The discoverers say, “Here we describe a 505-million-year-old specimen of the Cambrian soft-bodied arthropod Marrella splendens that has been visibly preserved in the middle of the act of moulting.  This specimen confirms that early arthropods moulted during growth, just as they do today.
    1Gerald Mayr, “Old World Fossil Record of Modern-Type Hummingbirds,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5672, 861-864 , 7 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1096856].
    2Erik Stokstad, “Surprise Hummingbird Fossil Sets Experts Abuzz,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5672, 810-811 , 7 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5672.810a].
    3Diego C. Garcia-Bellido and Desmond H. Collins, “Moulting arthropod caught in the act,” Nature 429, 40 (06 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429040a.
    Anyone see evolution here?  Is this what Charlie would have predicted?  Two guesses who would have predicted the sudden, abrupt appearance of fully formed, functional organisms.  (Hint: the same ones who would have predicted the salamander, the fly, the worm, the ostracode, the spider, the frog, the shark, the forams, the Cambrian fish, the cockroach, the tick, the ant, etc.)
    Next headline on:  BirdsTerrestrial ZoologyFossils
    Science Bashes I.D.    05/07/2004
    The Intelligent Design movement took another lashing by the journal Science,1 in the form of three book reviews by Steve Olson, a Washington DC area science writer.  Olsen reviewed one pro-ID book, Darwin, Design and Public Education by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, and two anti-ID books, God, the Devil and Darwin by Niall Shanks, and Creationism’s Trojan Horse by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross.  A flavor of Olson’s rhetoric: “Shanks... deftly skewers the scientific pretensions of intelligent design creationists.  He is particularly effective in demolishing the claims of creationist William Dembski....”  Olson calls the faithful to holy war:
    Resistance to the teaching of evolution is not going to fade away.  On the contrary, creationism appears again to be in a period of ascendancy.  Science educators must try to understand and come to terms with the viewpoints and passions of those who feel threatened by the teaching of evolution in public schools.  They also must be well informed to continue to resist the inclusion of religiously motivated ideas in science curricula.

    1Steve Olson, “Evolution and Creationism: Shapes of a Wedge,”
    Science Vol 304, Issue 5672, 825-826, 7 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097382].
    Saddam Hussein talked tough when he had the power to torture any opponent, but when he met his match, he cowered in a hole.  Evolutionists are such cowards.  If you thought for a moment they were interested in the truth, then why don’t they invite Dembski to review the anti-ID books?  It’s always loyal D.P. (Darwin Party) comrades who get to pummel the straw men when reviewing pro-ID books, and cheer their champions when reviewing anti-ID books.  Science, when touching on these subjects, is the Al Jazeera of Charlie worship.  It broadcasts the weaknesses of its enemies, but hides the genocides of its imams.  It rallies jihad against anyone who questions their sacred dogmas or threatens their pantheistic worldview.
        Dembski can take care of himself.  The master swordsman in The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design (IVP, 2004) and previous books, he deftly parries the “skewering” that Shanks and Olson bluff about, and doesn’t need our help, nor do Meyer and the other ID leaders.  Their arguments are weightier and better stated than our few responses here.
        Olson launches the usual stereotypes.  It gets so tiring when they won’t listen.  All the usual tactics, the usual fear-mongering, the usual loaded words, the usual hidden agendas, the usual guilt by association rhetoric must be swept aside when looking for any argument of merit.  Strangely, Olson accuses ID of being aligned with radical deconstructionists.  What?  If anyone is removed from the demands of evidence, it is the Darwinists, whose flexible just-so storytelling method of science can explain away any problem.
       Olson faintly admires Campbell’s “fine rhetorical flourish” and “the sophistication of those opposed to the teaching of evolution,” but only in the sense of watching a good actor, not admiring the substance of his arguments.  But he cannot help but admit that “The volume’s legal, pedagogical, and social arguments--in contrast to much of its scientific discussion--are nuanced and informed.”  How to respond to this artful rhetoric, he asks, which he fears will “play well with legislators and school board members”?
    Scientists face a dilemma in deciding how to respond to anti-evolutionists.  Demonstrating the scientific errors committed by creationists requires a thorough familiarity with their claims.  But studying intelligent design hypotheses can be frustrating because they seem so obviously inspired by nonscientific considerations.  When rebutted, intelligent design theorists tend to ignore the objections, claim that all will be revealed in the future [sic; Dembski’s detailed response has been in print three months now, with years of responses by all ID leaders in print, on tape, on film, on radio, and on the web], or rework their arguments to draw the same conclusions in a slightly different way [Darwinists, of course, never do this].  Essentially, the worldviews of scientists and intelligent design theorists fail to intersect.  Scientists seek to explain the natural world, whereas creationists seek to find unexplainable mysteries in the natural world.  Sometimes, scientists may be tempted simply to ignore the entire affair.
    Stop right there.  This is so lame and so hypocritical.  It has all the flavor of the Pharisees discussing among themselves how to respond to Jesus’ clever “render unto Caesar” answer – “if we say this, he’ll say that, if we say that, he’ll say this, but if we say nothing, the people will stone us.  I wish he would just go away.”
        Not feeling that “science” (read: the priesthood of Darwin) is yet threatened, Olson is just annoyed at these pesky neighborhood brats, the “creationists” that keep coming back and disturbing his tea, not listening to them trying to warn him his house is on fire.  He’s right about the worldview differences; trouble is, he equates (that is, equivocates) “science” with naturalistic philosophy.  “Scientists seek to explain the natural world,” he claims (as if creationists and design theorists do not, forgetting that Kepler, Newton, Maxwell and so many other great scientists were design theorists), but he means they restrict themselves to natural causes (chance and necessity) and rule out, a priori, intelligent causes.  The claim that “creationists seek to find unexplainable mysteries in the natural world” is a bald lie cloaked in loaded words.  Intelligent causes are the only explanation for coded messaging and complex specified information.  That is no mystery.  It is already a practical truth in forensics, cryptography, archeology and SETI.  That lie is only superseded by this one: “Advocates of intelligent design have produced no evidence that anything other than naturally occurring mechanisms is responsible for the empirically observed world.”  Anybody home?  Watch this film... again.
        Since we know Olson is already cheering for Shanks, it is a bit surprising to see him worried that his Goliath is ignoring the sling.  He asserts without elaboration that Shanks has skewered Dembski’s law of “conservation of information,” but then sees his champion’s forehead unprotected: “However, Shanks offers relatively little advice about how to respond to the demand that science educators ‘teach the controversy.’  In fact, by focusing on the more extreme social ambitions of creationists, he sometimes overlooks their less divisive and therefore stronger arguments.”  He must have read something that bothered him.
        Most of Olson’s bluff consists of unmasking the hidden agenda of creationists, as if the D.P. motives are pure as the new fallen snow.  He delights in Forrest and Gross holding up all the evidence of subversive religious public relations activity by the ID conspirators.  What if they’re onto something?  We’d like to hear more about those ”less divisive and therefore stronger arguments.”  After all, they don’t want to conquer the D.P. regime with weapons of mass destruction; they just want to teach the controversy, to get the scientific evidence out into the open marketplace of ideas for discussion.  They want to show the captives, who have heard only the party line about the usual icons (Haeckel’s embryos, melanism, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion--items which Olson lists), the rest of the story: the facts admitted in the scientific journals but carefully filtered for mass consumption.  Olson can’t allow that: he knows exactly what will happen:
    According to polls (which are themselves controversial in this area), relatively few people in the United States believe that God played no role in the evolution of human beings from other life forms.  Fortunately, many Americans are adept at recognizing a material and a nonmaterial dimension to life, and usually they succeed in keeping the two domains separate.  But when individuals are forced to choose, such as through a ballot initiative, science [read: the Darwin Party line] almost invariably suffers.
    Since the pigs at the Darwinian Animal Farm control the media and train the dogs, you have to attend the private councils with the other animals to know what’s really going on.  Don’t despair over the power of the regime.  Since the incessant news about molecular motors, biological codes and sudden appearance of complex organisms is screaming in their ears, it will only be a matter of time before their Dagon falls over face-first toward the ark of evidence.
    Next headline on:  Intelligent Design
    Feathered Dinosaur Exhibit Raises Doubts    05/06/2004
    Can you trust those fossils on display in your local museum, the ones showing “Feathered Dinosaurs and the Origin of Flight”?  No less than the respected journal Nature1 is concerned they may have been gathered and sold illegally, and are no more trustworthy than the 1999 Archaeoraptor hoax that embarrassed National Geographic magazine.
        The same Utah fossil collectors who sold Archaeoraptor to the world press, Stephen and Sylvia Czerkas, now have a traveling exhibit of presumed feathered dinosaur fossils beginning to make the rounds at American museums.  The exhibit is currently in a seven-month run at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  Other museums, however, like the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, do not want to be involved with questionable specimens, despite Czerkas’ claim that they were obtained legally.
        Nature’s concern is concentrated on whether the fossils were smuggled illegally out of China, and that exhibiting them promotes trafficking in illegal specimens.  They mention that Archaeoraptor turned out to be a “forged composite from different species ... put together in China to resemble a ‘missing link’ between dinosaurs and birds,” but failed to ask whether any of the current Czerkas specimens might be forgeries.
    1Rex Dalton, “Feathered fossils cause a flap in museums,”
    Nature 429, 5 (06 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429005a.
    Here are all the enticements necessary for hoaxers: money, fame, and gullible customers.  Chinese fossil scavengers know that unusual fossils that look like missing links bring a much higher price on the black market than “more of the same.”  There is the lust for fame to be the first to discover a missing link.  And there is a scientific clientele convinced that birds evolved from dinosaurs.  Add to that the fact that many of these specimens arrived in the west without documentation as to their location and context, and would you believe the exhibit signs?
        Both Archaeoraptor and Piltdown Man were good enough to fool the experts. Nature and Science and other reputable journals have already featured artwork of feathered dinosaurs on their covers.  It is only a thin ethical line and the memory of past embarrassment that prevents them from jumping for joy over these fossils.  Extra caution is certainly in order.  These should be considered fakes until proven otherwise.  Paleontologists need to consider only specimens found in situ, excavated with full disclosure under carefully-monitored, rigorously followed standard procedures.
        We think the Czerkas fossils should be exhibited – in the art museum.  “Why look, darling; the detail is wonderful, the colors and textures are magnificent.  What an exquisite forgery.  The compositing is so fine it is nearly imperceptible.  Bravo.  It looks so stunning next to the portrait of the red-faced National Geographic editor.”
    Next headline on: 
    Fish See With Electric Eyes   05/05/2004
    Biologists knew that some electric fish shock their prey and others with weak electricity can navigate with it, but they didn’t know till recently just how much information these fish can detect with their unique sense.  French and British scientists ran some experimental tests on weakly electric fish, the African
    elephantnose fish Gnathonemus petersii, which sends out pulses of electricity, and the Amazonian longtail knifefish Sternopygus macrurus, which sends out electrical waves.  These fish feed on aquatic larvae at night where eyes are of no use.  But they have eyes of a different sort: electric eyes.
        Graff et al., in their paper in the May 4 issue of Current Biology,1 showed experimentally that these fish use their electric sense for much more than just location.  Their electric organs effectively provide a map of their surroundings.  The electric field they generate is modulated by the dielectric properties and impedances of objects in the area: grass, stones, other fish and larvae each have their own electrical signature.  These signatures are picked up by numerous sensory organs in the skin of the fish.  The skin thus acts like a retina, allowing the fish to see its way in the dark.  The information is so rich and varied, you could even say it’s analogous to 3D color vision.
        Through a series of clever experiments, the scientists demonstrated that these species of fish can detect the following information about objects: size, composition, distance to objects, distance between objects, spatial patterns, 3D orientations, and similarities between different objects.  They can even memorize configurations in space to create a mental map.  They can do all these relying solely on their electric sense, “which is alien to all other animals”  (They do not mention one possible exception, the duck-billed platypus.)
        The authors coined a new term, “electroperception,” to indicate that this special sense does more than just electro-location.  They compared it to the echolocation of bats and dolphins who, similarly, can discern shapes, textures, motions and distances with their special senses.  Needless to say, the fish’s electrical sensory apparatus requires processing for interpretation and response.  They may not have the human cerebral cortex, but “evolution favored the valvula cerebelli, a hypertrophied part of the metencephalon (cerebellum), which is likely to be responsible for such functions.”
        See also Science Now for a summary of the findings.
    1Graff, Kaminski, Gresty and Ohlman, “Fish Perform Spatial Pattern Recognition and Abstraction by Exclusive Use of Active Electrolocation,” Current Biology Vol 14, 818-823, 4 May 2004.
    This was such a great story, why did they have to mess it up with a stupid evolutionary personification at the end?  Evolution can’t favor anything, nor can it build a brain or a hypertrophied (enlarged) valvula cerebellum.  They presented no evolutionary pathways or missing links; the comment added nothing.  *Sigh*
        Let us forgive this brief indecorum (maybe they had to say the E word to get it past the Darwin Party guards of Current Biology).  Let us just thank them for performing good experimental technique to bring another wonder of nature to our attention.  Just a dumb fish at night, but with the coolest of gadgets: electric eyes.  Stunning.
    Next headline on:  Fish and Marine BiologyAmazing Facts
    Homology for Dummies   05/05/2004
    Current Biology likes to give its readers primers on various concepts.  The topic in the May 4 issue is homology.1  Caleb Webber and Chris P. Ponting explain this important evolutionary term for the rest of us.  The Q&A format also introduces homology’s siblings: analogy, orthology, paralogy, xenology, and synteny.
        Some readers may not realize that the term homology was first coined by a Christian creationist, Richard Owen, Britain’s foremost paleontologist in Darwin’s day.  Owen, who despised Darwin’s book, defined homologous structures as similarities descended from a common archetypal body plan.  The Darwinians co-opted the term to mean descended from a common ancestor.  Analogous structures, by contrast, came to mean similarities not due to common ancestry, but rather to convergence (evolution toward similarity from different directions).  The other words are derivatives of these key concepts.  Orthology means similarities on the same branch of the phylogenetic tree; paralogy means similarity due to gene duplication; xenology means similarity arising from lateral gene transfer, and synteny can mean either genes that reside on the same chromosome, or, more generally, genes in the same orthologous order within the same genomic regions.  The terms can be applied to visible structures, like vertebrate limbs and plant leaves, but are more commonly used to describe gene sequences.  Now that you know the words, how are they used in practice by biologists?
        The authors seem to be eager to dismiss charges that the terminology provides an ostentatious distraction from evolutionary assumptions.  No, it is truly useful, as a famous biologist once said:
    Differentiating between homology and analogy is not mere pedantry2: homology allows Darwinian evolutionary theory to be applied accurately across the biosciences.  And, as Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900–1975) famously remarked, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
    With that understood, the authors point out occasions where lack of understanding of the ancestry can trip up the observer.  Sequence similarity, for instance, is not the same thing as homology: “Sequence similarity is a quantity that is agnostic of evolution.  In contrast, homology is a property that describes evolutionary history.”  In other words, sequences can look homologous but not really be related in the family tree.  Even evolutionary scientists goof on this point sometimes:
    Just as with bird wings and bat wings, perceived similarities between sequences need not be due to a common evolutionary origin.  Research papers sometimes wrongly quote values of ‘percent homology’.  In these cases ’percent identity’ is meant, as two genes either have a common ancestor or they do not.  The only appropriate use of ‘percent homology’ is when separate portions of a gene have distinct evolutionary histories, for example as a result of a gene fusion event.
    That raises the next obvious question; “How can one be sure beyond reasonable doubt that two similar sequences are homologous?”  To answer it requires a little high school algebra.  Hang on:
    Using statistics you can estimate how likely it is that randomly composed sequences yield alignment scores that are at least as high as that obtained between the real sequences in question.  For example, the BLAST program reports an Expect (or E) value for each alignment (with score x), which is the number of times sequences are expected, with scores >=x, to crop up in a search just by chance.  As E gets closer to zero, the more confident one should be in a prediction of homology.  Many users cautiously consider only those alignments with E-values lower than 10-3 as substantiating evidence for homology.
    Now that that’s clear, what about proteins?  They can have similar folds; does that indicate homology?  Not necessarily.  They warn that “once again we are faced with ‘similarities’: we cannot be sure that just because two proteins fold up in the same way it means they arose from a common ancestor.  Nevertheless, spatial coincidence of active or binding sites, or unusual structure, can boost the odds of a homology prediction being correct.”  Then there is the puzzle of convergence:
    What about convergent evolution?  As far as we can tell, the convergence of gene sequences is extremely rare.  It is, by far, ‘easier’ for Nature to duplicate a gene than invent similar genes on two separate occasions.  By contrast, independent invention of protein structure is often suggested to have occurred, yet for most of these cases the evolutionary provenance is unclear.
    Next, they describe how orthology, paralogy and xenology are best illustrated with a phylogenetic tree, and draw one to make it clear.  “However,” they caution, “lineage-specific gene deletion, pseudogenisation, duplication, conversion and rapid sequence divergence can all confuse phylogenetic tree reconstruction.”  Better leave that to the experts.  They provide examples of confusion that can arise from gene duplication and deletion.
    Note that these relationships [orthologs, paralogs etc.] are defined with respect to evolution, and not function.  Nevertheless, they are useful in predicting function as the more recently two genes shared a common ancestor, the more likely it is that they have retained similar functions.  Moreover, orthologous genes that have been spared by natural selection from deletion or duplication over many millions of years are also likely to share overlapping functions.
    Well, that about wraps up this lesson.  One more issue is the need for such jargon.  How useful are these words, really?  Why not invent a new term that avoids evolutionary assumptions altogether?
    Do we need new terms (neologies)?  Some would say that we do.  They argue that we should coin terms to describe similarities — in sequence or structure, for example — between biological molecules regardless of whether these arose by divergence from a common ancestor.  Only definitions that are useful will survive, they suggest, while those that are not will be dropped (a linguistic mimicking of purifying selection).  We believe that there is too much bewilderment already in the use of homology, orthology and paralogy, so introducing yet more terms appears to be asking for trouble.  Moreover, the terms in current use are sufficient, when applied appropriately, to qualitatively describe the consequences of gene duplication (homologs), speciation (orthologs), intragenome duplication (paralogs) and horizontal transfer (xenologues), which are four of the major evolutionary forces acting on genes.
    Coincidentally, the same week, Nature3 posted a story about a case of apparent convergent evolution.  The abstract states, “Swift-swimming, open-ocean hunters such as mako sharks and tunas need a big engine.  Despite their long separation in evolutionary terms, the internal drive systems adopted by these fishes are much the same.... after 400 million years of separate evolutionary trajectories, these two high-speed predators have converged on solutions to the problem of swimming fast that go from skin to skeleton.”  Don’t forget that certain extinct marine reptiles with similar body shapes that probably also “converged” on these solutions independently.
    1Caleb Webber and Chris P. Ponting, “Magazine: Genes and homology,” Current BiologyVol 14, R332-R333, 4 May 2004.
    2Pedantry, n., pedantic presentation or application of knowledge or learning.  Pedantic, adj., or, relating to, or being a pedant.  Pedant, n., 2. a. one who parades his learning.  b. one who is unimaginative or who unduly emphasizes minutiae in the presentation or use of knowledge.  Pedantic can also mean: narrowly, stodgily, and often ostentatiously learned: e.g., ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.
    3Adam P. Summers, “Fast Fish,” Nature 429, 31 - 33 (06 May 2004); doi:10.1038/429031a.
    Well, now I’m more bewildered than ever.  Didn’t they just say that we need the evolutionary terms with their evolutionary baggage so that we can describe evolutionary forces in evolutionary terms?  This has me going around in so many circles I’m getting dizzy.
        I hope you got the gist of this tale.  Webber and Ponting just bluffed their way past the pedantry of the terminology, claimed without evidence that it is useful, supported it by an argument from authority, and then assumed evolution to explain everything in an evolutionary way, no matter how contradictory the evidence.  Basically, they used evolutionary assumptions to create evolutionary lingo such that any kind of data yields an evolutionary explanation.  This is why they said, “homology allows Darwinian evolutionary theory [read: belief] to be applied accurately [read: forceably] across the biosciences.”  What a con job!  Since we already agree a priori that nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution, as Dobzhansky “famously remarked,” well by golly we’re going to make sure that nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution, and we’ll even invent the words to enforce it.  Look, we can even throw in some worthless algebra to impress the peasants – that will make them afraid to use common sense.
        This is how they can get away with murdering the data.  They’ve put their opponents into a catch-22.  Unless the opponent comes up with an evolutionary explanation, he’s disqualified, because he or she is not applying evolutionary theory accurately across the biosciences.  They can’t lose.  Similarities due to prior belief in common ancestry?  No problem: homologous.  Similarities due to prior belief they are not related by common ancestry?  Oh, those are analogous.  Convergent evolution took care of it.  “Nature” was clever and “invented” it twice; it’s rare, but trust us, it just happens sometimes.  Sequence similarity?  Well, it might be homologous, or it might not; better leave that to the wizards (who have already sworn allegiance to Charlie).  See?  Everything makes perfect sense.  Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.  But couldn’t we just try to use terms that describe the similarities without any evolutionary presuppositions?  Well, now, the peasants are already bewildered by the words we have.  It’s a nice suggestion, but... I think we should just leave things alone.  Everything is fine.
        In his book Icons of Evolution (Regnery, 2000, p. 248), Jonathan Wells* turned Dobzhansky’s famous line around into something more akin to the spirit of true science: “Nothing makes sense except in the light of evidence.”
    Next headline on:  Genes and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    In his chapter on homology (pp. 79-80), Wells wrote a clever dialogue between a Darwinian teacher and a perceptive student.  This says it all.  Use it as an inspiration to engage in applied baloney detecting.
    Teacher: OK, let’s start today’s lesson with a quick review.  Yesterday I talked about homology.  Homologous features, such as the vertebrate limbs shown in your textbook, provide us with some of our best evidence that living things have evolved from common ancestors.
    Student (raising hand): I know you went over this yesterday, but I’m still confused.  How do we know whether features are homologous?
    Teacher: Well, if you look at vertebrate limbs, you can see that even though they’re adapted to perform different functions their bone patterns are structurally similar.
    Student: But you told us yesterday that even though an octopus eye is structurally similar to a human eye, the two are not homologous.
    Teacher: That’s correct.  Octopus and human eyes are not homologous because their common ancestor did not have such an eye.
    Student: So regardless of similarity, features are not homologous unless they are inherited from a common ancestor?
    Teacher: Yes, now you’re catching on.
    Student (looking puzzled): Well, actually, I’m still confused.  You say homologous features provide some of our best evidence for common ancestry.  But before we can tell whether features are homologous, we have to know whether they came from a common ancestor.
    Teacher: That’s right.
    Student (scratching head): I must be missing something.  It sounds as though you’re saying that we know features are derived from a common ancestor because they’re derived from a common ancestor.  Isn’t that circular reasoning?
    Wells spares us the look on the teacher’s face (or the violence perpetrated against the student).  This goes to show that, like the boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes, students may be our last hope against the hegemony of the Darwin Party.
    Origin-of-Life Researcher Leslie Orgel Interviewed    05/05/2004
    The May 4 issue of Current Biology1 contains an interview with organic chemist Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute, who in 1974 published the book The Origin of Life on Earth with Stanley Miller of spark-discharge fame (see
    05/02/2003 and 10/31/2002 headlines).  He considers his biggest mistake not thinking of the RNA World scenario first (see 02/20/2004 headline)  His greatest ambition is “I would like to understand in chemical detail how RNA or some simpler polymer capable of evolution through natural selection established itself on the primitive Earth.”  Asked if he had a scientific hero, and why, he replied tersely: “Charles Darwin, for all the obvious reasons.”
    1Q&A: Leslie Orgel, Current Biology Vol 14, R331-R332, 4 May 2004.
    Isn’t this pathetic?  An intelligent individual wastes 40 years of his life trying to pay homage to Charlie by filling in the biggest blank (see 08/15/2003 headline) in his idol’s creation myth (see 02/15/2004 headline), and has nothing to show for it (compare 08/26/2003 headline).  As if the RNA World fiction is going to save his faith (see 07/11/2002 and 06/18/2002 headlines).  Is his career any different than that of a sorcerer’s apprentice seeking to please his wizard (see 02/13/2004 headline), or a promising lad deciding to become a priest of Marduk, devoting his life to figuring out what patterns in a liver lead to success on the battlefield?  Sad.  We’ll leave it as an exercise to determine what he meant by his genuflection, “Charles Darwin, for all the obvious reasons.”
    Next headline on:  Origin of LifeDarwin and Evolution
    Io, Io, It’s Off to Work We Go    05/04/2004
    The innermost large moon of Jupiter, Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system.  About the size of our moon but no more than a speck of light in small telescopes, it caused a sensation when Galileo first glimpsed it and the other three major satellites of Jupiter in 1610.  Back then, it upset tradition about the hierarchy of the heavens; today, it is upsetting tradition about the age and composition of planetary bodies.  The volcanos were first observed by the Voyagers in 1979, and have been monitored with earth instruments since then, but were most clearly and dramatically revealed by the Galileo spacecraft between 1995 and 2003.  Now that its seven-year orbital tour of the Jupiter system is history, planetary scientists are trying to come to grips with the startling findings from all four large moons.  The May issue of Icarus is devoted to the puzzles of Io, whose volcanos dwarf those on earth.  “Io After Galileo” provides a status report, a state of the moon address, before it’s off to work they go for more data mining and problem solving.
        Most of the articles are descriptive of the dramatic and colorful volcanos seen in the photographic images: Tupan Patera, a lava lake 47 miles across and half a mile deep; Tvashtar Catena, a chain of craters that displayed a 240-mile-high plume and 30-mile-long fire fountain; Thor, an eruption that reached 310 miles high; Amirami, the largest lava flow in the solar system; mountains towering up to 36,000 feet (Everest is 29,000); and much more.  The fact that such activity could exist on a small moon that should be mostly frozen by now is calling into question traditional theories about the dynamics of planetary interiors.  Io’s lavas, for instance, are generally much hotter than the basaltic lavas on earth.  It appears they contain heavy elements like iron and magnesium (called ultramafic lavas).  Theory demands that the heavy elements sink into the interior; how can these heavy elements erupt out onto the surface?  What drives the incessant heat flow that is as active at the poles as at the equator, and shows no cooling down during the night?
        The first-order explanation is that Io is tidally pumped by its orbital resonance between Jupiter and Europa.  Like a rubber ball repeatedly squeezed, Io’s tides generate heat and that heat has to come out.  Volcanic activity was actually predicted on this principle shortly before Voyager 1 arrived.  The problem is that there is more heat flow – by an order of magnitude – than most models of tidal flexing predict.  Veeder, Matson, Johnson, Davies and Blaney1 have made the problem worse in their paper by recalculating the heat flow from thermal anomalies and adding in the extra amount detected from polar sources, arriving at a weighted average of 2.5 watts per square meter – “well above that predicted by most theories of tidal dissipation in Jupiter and Io.”  Considering all the heat emitted by cooling lavas over the entire surface, Matson in an earlier paper had set an upper bound of 13.5 watts per square meter.  This is nearly five times the heat coming out of Yellowstone’s thermal basins.
        The final paper by Keszthelyi, Jaeger, Turtle, Milazzo and Radebaugh2 is entitled “A post-Galileo view of Io’s interior.”  In proposing their “mushy magma ocean” model, in which the interior has no solid core but is mushy all way through, they seem to be meekly standing up with bulls-eyes painted on their backs, waiting for the inevitable criticisms: how can the tall mountains exist?  How does the model prevent runaway melting?  How do you stop the magma from escaping too fast?  How do you prevent differentiation?  More complex models will be required, they meekly admit, and “Such future work may show that the mushy magma ocean model will need to be further refined, or even rejected.”  They point to previous critiques: “ Stevenson (2002) predicts that a mush zone >20 km deep would be unstable over geologic timescales.  Another issue is that, if the temperature of the mantle were to change significantly on a time scale of less than 106 [one million] years, then our model for stresses in the lithosphere would be inaccurate (McKinnon et al., 2001).”  Hey, it’s only a model, a “useful starting point for future discussions.”  So Io, it’s off to work we go.
    1Glenn J. Veeder, Dennis L. Matson, Torrence V. Johnson, Ashley G. Davies and Diana L. Blaney, “The polar contribution to the heat flow of Io,”
    Icarus Volume 169, Issue 1, May 2004, Pages 264-270, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2003.11.016.
    2Laszlo Keszthelyi, Windy L. Jaeger, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Moses Milazzo and Jani Radebaugh, “A post-Galileo view of Io’s interior,” Icarus Volume 169, Issue 1, May 2004, Pages 271-286; doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2004.01.005.
    One model they never seem to consider is that Io might not be as old as they assume.  Did you catch the phrase “geologic timescales”?  That’s code for 4.6 billion years.  If the model does not fit “geologic timescales” then the model must be tweaked till it does.  4.6 billion years is the golden parameter, the figure that must not be altered, because Darwinian evolution depends on it.
        Io might be considered just a special case if it were alone in displaying recent surface activity.  Actually, most of the moons in the solar system possess young-looking features that defy long ages.  Europa may be gushing out water even today, Ganymede indicates recent cryovolcanism against expectations and has a global magnetic field, and Callisto shows signs of erosion and has an induced magnetic field.  Tidal flexing is not available to explain these features.  Same at Saturn: Enceladus shows widespread resurfacing and may have active water volcanos, Dione and Rhea show vast fields of surface frost, Iapetus is half-coated in dark material, and Titan has an atmosphere that is quickly eroding.  At Uranus, Ariel and Titania show resurfacing and Miranda is a mosaic of old-looking and young-looking features.  Even as far out as Neptune, the coldest body in the solar system – Triton, at 300 below zero – has active nitrogen geysers and few craters, looking like much of its surface has been reworked recently.  Back at home, our own moon exhibits transient lunar phenomena, short-lived bright or gaseous emissions from an interior that should long ago have solidified if as old as claimed.  Io is forcing planetary geologists to question their assumptions.  Would that one of them would break rank and question the assumption of 4.6 billion years.  But that would be aiding and abetting the enemy, the young-earth creationists.  No respectable scientist would want to be caught dead in such a trespass, or risk offending the Darwin Party.
        Check out this issue of Icarus.  Look at the pictures and read the descriptions with a mind freed of evolutionary presuppositions.  Where does the evidence lead?
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating Methods
    New Institute    05/04/2004
    Dr. D. James Kennedy announced this week that his Coral Ridge Ministries (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) is launching a new initiative dedicated to defending Biblical creation: the Creation Studies Institute.  Their May newsletter indicates that Tom DeRosa, known for his creation expeditions that have uncovered dinosaur bones (see 01/29/2003 headline), will head the new ministry which will provide radio programs, conferences, field expeditions, newsletters and an interactive website.  The newsletter tells Tom DeRosa’s testimony, From Atheist to Creationist, and also updates the story of Tom Vail and his Grand Canyon book (see 01/08/2004 headline).  It ends with a commentary by Dr. Kennedy entitled, Darwin’s Crumbling Idea.
    Dr. James Kennedy, a nationally-known TV pastor, has been a strong supporter of Biblical creation for many years.  It’s amazing how many ministries his organization operates, but unlike some media ministers, Kennedy never let all this go to his head: he still has a heart for one-on-one evangelism and concern for the individual soul.  Many pastors seem afraid of science or consider creation/evolution a side issue (see why the church must emphasize creation), but Kennedy understands the deleterious effects of Darwinism in our culture* and the importance of confronting it.    Tom DeRosa has a long track record of hands-on field work and leadership with people, and understands both sides of the creation-evolution issue from personal experience.  This should be an effective collaboration.
    *The CSI announcement flyer begins with a list of 16 damaging results from our society’s acceptance of evolution: “A legacy of damage”:
    1. Evolution is inherently anti-Christian.
    2. Evolution has been used to legitimize homosexual “marriage.”
    3. Evolution leads to judicial tyranny.
    4. Evolution promotes immorality.
    5. Evolution leads to suicide.
    6. Evolution gives glory to man, not God.
    7. Evolution promotes a lie.
    8. Evolution corrupts education.
    9. Evolution attacks Biblical Christianity.
    10. Evolution fosters unbelief.
    11. Evolution attacks the Bible and the Ten Commandments.
    12. Evolution undermines America’s Christian foundation.
    13. Evolution breeds intolerance toward Christians.
    14. Evolution breeds cults.
    15. Evolution promotes a false religion.
    16. Evolution fuels the church-state debacle.
    Each point has an elaboration with examples.  Unfortunately, this list was not found on the Coral Ridge website.
    On the bright side of creation, you should look at the coffee-table book offered on the Coral Ridge website, The Wonder of It All, illustrated with beautiful photographs by Steve Terrill.  Interestingly, there is a similar book with the same title by Adrian Rogers, another well-known TV preacher,with equally impressive photography by Tom Fox.  Adding Tom Vail’s Grand Canyon: A Different View would make for a nice trio on the coffee table.  Turn off the TV and read.
    How Climate Influenced the Dead Sea and History    05/03/2004
    The Dead Sea, the lowest lake on earth (1368 ft below sea level), figures prominently in the Bible.  Near this body of water, Lot settled and the cities of the plain were destroyed.  David wandered here, battles were fought nearby, and Herod built a fortress at Masada overlooking the lake.  Later, Moslems and Crusaders left marks of their conquests in the region.  Did the Dead Sea preserve a record of climactic changes that affected not only the Great Rift Valley in which it resides, but also the whole land of Israel?  Students of Biblical history will be interested in two papers about the Dead Sea published in the May Bulletin of the Geological Society of America.
        The first paper by R. Bookman (Ken-Tor) et al.1 reconstructs a curve of lake levels during historic times.  Currently, the Dead Sea is at a record low due to diversion of Jordan River waters for irrigation.  This has exposed historic shorelines for analysis.  The team took radiocarbon dates of organic material at three sites around the lake to discern periods when the lake shore rose and fell.  They then correlated the lake levels with cultural changes occurring in Palestine at those times:
    Highstands occurred in the second and first centuries B.C. and the fourth century A.D. during the Roman and early Byzantine periods, respectively, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D. during the Crusader period, and at the end of the nineteenth century A.D.  The rises mark a significant change in the annual rainfall in the region, which likely exceeded the instrumentally measured modern average.
        The curve also indicates drastic drops that exposed the sedimentary sequences to erosion.  The oldest and probably deepest drop in the lake level culminated during the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C. after a retreat from a higher lake stand.  The longest lowstand occurred after the Byzantine period and continued at least until the ninth century A.D.  This arid period coincided with the invasion of Moslem-Arab tribes into the area during the seventh century A.D.
    The team estimated that high-water levels correspond to annual Jerusalem rainfall rates of 26 inches per year or more, and low-water levels to droughts of 18-20 in/yr or less.  Thus Dead Sea lake levels are indicators of overall climate in Palestine.  The oldest part of the curve is the least certain, but seems to indicate a high water level during the patriarchal period:
    The oldest sediments described (unit I, Fig. 5) correspond to a lake level higher than 411 mbsl dated to 2140–1445 B.C. (3703 ± 37 and 3220 ± 36 radiocarbon yr B.P., Table 1).  At that time the lake level was falling from an earlier highstand (prior to the fifteenth century B.C.), but no indicator for the absolute lake-level elevation was found at our sites.  However, unit I may correspond to a distinct shore ridge identified in a western location in the Nahal Darga fan delta (Fig. 1C ) at 370 mbsl, where its age was estimated at 3000–4000 yr B.P.
    The second paper by David-Novak et al.2 examined debris flows in the canyons around the Dead Sea.  Unusually strong storms in 1995 and 1997 allowed them to calibrate, for the first time, the rainfall conditions necessary to trigger a debris flow in an arid environment.  The 1995 storm, in which a convective cell hovered over the area and dumped rain at rates nearly 2 inches per hour, was the most severe and resulted in debris flows in all the canyons under the heaviest rain; the 1997 storm was milder and more localized to the plateau, and only resulted in three debris flows.
      Since rainfall measurements were available for these storms, they were able to interpolate an estimate for the rainfall rate necessary to trigger a debris flow, and found the threshold to be approximately 30mm/hr for at least one hour (1.2 inches per hour).  Surprisingly, they found evidence for prehistoric debris flows was rare.  They estimate only zero to three debris flows occurred during the last 3000 years, but they admit that “it is possible that some deposits, mainly at the larger basins, were formed by multiple flows that are currently indistinguishable.”
        Although “Debris flows are major processes of sediment transport in arid regions, particularly in areas of high relief,” their rarity has made it difficult to measure the rainfall necessary to trigger them.  Fortunately, at Nahal Arugot and Nahal David on the western slopes of the Dead Sea, rain gauges and a stream flow measurement station were available for the intense storms of 1995 and 1997.
    1R. Bookman (Ken-Tor), Y. Enzel, A. Agnon and M. Stein, “Late Holocene lake levels of the Dead Sea,”
    Geological Society of America Bulletin Vol. 116, No. 5 (May/June 2004), pp. 555–571, doi: 10.1130/B25286.1.
    2 Hagit Ben David-Novak, Efrat Morin and Yehouda Enzel, “Modern extreme storms and the rainfall thresholds for initiating debris flows on the hyperarid western escarpment of the Dead Sea, Israel,” Geological Society of America Bulletin Vol. 116, No. 5 (May/June 2004) pp. 718–728, doi: 10.1130/B25403.2.
    Bible study is enhanced by considering the environment in which the great sagas of history took place.  How did the geology, climate, zoology, botany, mineralogy, topography and hydrology affect culture, or influence decisions of kings and tribal groups?  Availability of water, for instance, is a primary deciding factor for settlers, and strongly influences the locations of cities and roads.  Of particular interest is the story of Abraham and Lot.  Anyone looking at the Dead Sea shores today would wonder why Lot would find the place attractive; today, it is hot, dry and nearly devoid of vegetation.  Yet when Lot viewed it, it was “well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar” (Gen. 13:10).  Was this desert once a garden?
        Though scientific investigations of the past depend on assumptions, studies that can be corroborated by eyewitnesses have more credibility.  The paper on Dead Sea lake levels lends support to Lot’s description of its environs.  Now that probable remains of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been found (along with evidence of their fiery destruction) the historicity of the Biblical account has been strengthened, because these ruins hint at thriving civilizations that must have prospered under a milder, wetter climate than is found there today.  Also, from this paper one can see why Herod would have found Jericho and Masada attractive for his palaces, if Palestine were enjoying one of the well-watered periods.  Between those times, from after the Exodus through the monarchies, David and the Judean kings would apparently have found the Dead Sea region much like we see it today, since by the patriarchal period the lake level was falling rapidly, such that “The oldest and probably deepest drop in the lake level culminated during the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C. after a retreat from a higher lake stand.”  A long era of drought would also shed light on the heroic efforts of Hezekiah to protect the Gihon Spring (see 09/10/2003 headline).  Perhaps the “land flowing with milk and honey” was subjected to drought as God’s judgment for Israel’s disobedience, just as prophesied by Moses (see Deuteronomy 28).
        The second paper on debris flows is not as pertinent to Bible history, but is important for understanding the conditions necessary for rapid geologic change.  Huge alluvial fans are common in deserts of the world.  Southern California, particularly Death Valley, has massive alluvial aprons surrounding arid peaks in regions of (currently) low rainfall.  The paper shows that a lot can happen in a short time if the rain is concentrated and intense.  Combine that fact with the first paper, that rainfall was more plentiful in ancient times in the Dead Sea region.  There is no reason to reject the possibility that major geological change took place rapidly under the right conditions.  In Red Rock Canyon State Park, California, a usually dry and arid desert, an intense storm under a localized convection cell in 1997 caused a flood that washed out a major highway, deposited mud three feet deep in trailers, and carried objects as big as refrigerators far down the channel.  They estimate this was a “once in 300 to 500 year flood” for the area.  Extrapolating present erosion rates, say from 1990 to 1996, would have been very misleading.  But how do they know these floods are so rare, even at Red Rock?  No settlers who kept records inhabited the area as long as 300 years ago.  Did the formation of large erosional features like alluvial fans require a little water a lot of time, or a lot of water a little time?  Science is limited to make such determinations when they cannot be cross-checked by observations.  These scientists estimated “zero to three” Holocene debris flows in the Dead Sea canyons they investigated, but admitted there could have been more that were indistinguishable.
        Today, when you drive through the desert, you see landforms that look static, ancient, and unchanging.  You can come back year after year and see no difference.  All it takes is a flood or earthquake big enough, and you would hardly recognize the place.  Geologists have been becoming increasingly aware of the power of catastrophic agents to effect rapid change.  Perhaps much of what we observe today is not slowly-evolving landforms, but relicts of intense, concentrated forces in the past.
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating MethodsBible and Theology
    Tufa Mounds Formed “Instantaneously,” Geologically Speaking   05/01/2004
    Tufa towers have been found forming in Big Soda Lake, Nevada, at the rate of 30mm/year.  Now more than 3 meters tall, that means they could have reached their current height in only 100 years.  Rosen et al., who reported this in the May issue of Geology,1 warn that “care should be taken when trying to determine the significance of variations in isotopic or chemical compositions of tufas that may have been caused by mixing with groundwater,” because “The exceptionally fast growth of the tufa mounds indicates that large tufa deposits may form almost instantaneously in geologic time.”  They point out that similar structures “have been used as proxy for paleoclimate throughout the world” such as in Spain.  They conclude,
    The presence of large, fast-growing tufa mounds in a modern closed-basin lake indicates that care must be taken when evaluating the growth rate of ancient tufa mounds for paleoclimate or signatures and paleohydrologic information.  In particular, if overgrowth and/or recrystallization such as described here occur, there is ample possibility of obtaining a mixed signature from tufa that may not be representative of either groundwater recharge sources or local surface water.  In such cases, caution must be exercised in elucidating the paleoclimate or paleohydrologic signature.

    1Rosen, Arehart and Lico, “Exceptionally fast growth rate of 100-yr-old tufa, Big Soda Lake, Nevada: Implications for using tufa as a paleoclimate proxy,”
    Geology Vol. 32, No. 5 (May 2004), pp. 409–412, doi: 10.1130/G20386.1.
    Large tufa mounds are found around the world.  Some notable examples are at Mono Lake and Searles Dry Lake in California.  Before assuming these structures took long ages to form, or can tell us about past climates, we should take note of these geologists’ surprising findings.
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods

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    Featured Creation Scientist for May

    Henrietta Swan Leavitt

    (reprinted from the Aug 2001 issue)

    Today, there are many women scientists, but until the twentieth century, whether from prejudice, tradition, or the needs of homemaking, women had rarely entered the almost exclusively male domains of science and technology.  Henrietta Swan Leavitt is a glorious exception, and with her, a whole group of lady astronomers who, under Dr. Edward C. Pickering of Harvard, made it their mission to survey the stars.  Pickering hired local women, who were willing to work for less money, to do the tedious work of measuring stars from thousands of photographic plates.  Annie Jump Cannon, one of “Pickering’s harem” as it was later crudely dubbed, would become famous for her star classification scheme OBAFGKM (memorialized by the guys for its mnemonic “O Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me”).  Henrietta Swan Leavitt, however, would always be most famous of the group: she helped us measure the universe.

    Deaf, and reserved in manner but charmingly sweet, Henrietta Leavitt had a brilliant mind and a capacity for detail that helped her discover an astronomical law destined to put her in the history books.  This law become the essential tool Edwin Hubble would later use to determine the distance to the “nebulae” (clouds) – unknown fuzzy objects found in all directions of the sky.  Leavitt was the daughter of a congregational minister.  She graduated from what was later named Radcliffe College, and in 1892, joined the Harvard College Observatory as a volunteer research assistant.

    Soon after the twentieth century began, she rose to the head of a department measuring stellar magnitudes (brightnesses).  For the next several years, she performed very tedious work, searching thousands of plates taken from an observatory in Peru, for a special class of pulsating stars called Cepheid variables.  For reasons unknown at the time, Cepheids were known to vary regularly in brightness.  Some pulsated rapidly, in a few hours or days, and some took months, but they could be depended on like clockwork.  By 1908 she had compiled a list of well over a thousand Cepheids in a nebular patch of the southern sky called the Small Magellanic Cloud.  Her careful observations uncovered an important relationship: the longer the period, the brighter the star.

    Great advances in science are often made by individuals who not only observe something interesting, but get that flash of insight that allows them to interpret the meaning of the observation.  To understand the significance of her find, we need to recall the concept of the universe in Leavitt’s day.  The Herschels and other notable astronomers had catalogued thousands of stars, but were frustrated by a common fact, that you cannot tell the distance of a star by its brightness alone.  It might be a very bright star very far away, or a very dim star close up.

    If you had a “standard candle” or light source of known brightness, you could use it as a distance measuring tool.  Think of a row of uniform street lights vanishing in the distance along a city street.  If every lamp is the same, you can use the apparent brightness of a lamp, i.e., how bright it looks to your eye or film, and compare it to the lamp’s absolute brightness, or how bright it would look from a known, standard distance, to measure how far away it is.

    The relationship Leavitt observed is a little more complicated, but similar.  If you know that fast-blinking lamps are intrinsically dimmer than slow-blinking lamps, they will have a relationship that allows you to infer how far away one is by measuring its apparent brightness or magnitude, and comparing that to its blinking rate, or period, which is linked to its absolute magnitude.  A simple mathematical equation then gives you the distance.

    Before Leavitt, no standard candle was known.  Other than the few nearby stars that could be measured using triangulation, no stars hinted at a reliable method that could tell for sure how far they were, and by extrapolation, how far the universe extended.  Astronomers took part in the “Great Debate” – was everything inside the Milky Way, or were some objects beyond it?  Just how big was the Milky Way?

    Leavitt used a fair assumption that the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud were all, within reason, the same distance from us.  This meant she could compare each star’s absolute magnitude, or luminosity, as if she were to see a variety of lamps of different brightnesses from the same distance d (where d was still to be determined).  She found 16 Cepheids on the plates that appeared often enough to measure their periods.  Plotting the periods of these stars on a graph against their apparent luminosities, she saw that they all fell on a line: she had found a Period-Luminosity Relation.  If astronomers could determine the distance to one Cepheid, they could calibrate the relationship and use it as a measuring stick.  They would have their long-sought standard candle.

    Henrietta Leavitt published her results, enthusiastic about the possibilities of the relationship for measuring objects in space.  But Pickering assigned her to other duties that he felt were more appropriate as women’s work than making fundamental discoveries.  Other astronomers like Hertzprung and Shapley became intrigued by Leavitt’s paper, however, and found ways to calibrate her standard candle.  It took several iterations and error corrections, but by the 1920s, using Cepheids with the Period-Luminosity Relation had become an increasingly accepted method of measurement, and astronomers were finally getting a grasp on the distances to the stars.

    Leavitt did not live to see the epochal day in October, 1923, when Edwin Hubble, working at the new 100" telescope on Mt. Wilson near Los Angeles, the largest in the world at the time, excitedly wrote "VAR!" on a plate taken of the Andromeda Nebula.  He had found a Cepheid variable star within it.  This Cepheid was to bring powerful new evidence into the long-standing debate about the nature of these spiral nebulae: were they clouds of dust or gas within the Milky Way, or star systems far beyond it?  Hubble noted that this Cepheid was much dimmer than most.  

    Applying Henrietta Leavitt’s Period-Luminosity Relation, he calculated that the Andromeda Nebula must be extremely distant; it was in fact another galaxy like our own, far beyond the Milky Way – an “island universe” in the vastness of empty space.  As the implications of this discovery began to sink in, and objections to it withered and disappeared, the age of galactic astronomy was born.  By 1935, the cosmos had multiplied in size a hundred billionfold – an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of the heavens, unlikely to ever be surpassed.  Armed with Leavitt’s standard candle, Hubble and other astronomers revealed to our telescopes a universe of unfathomably immense proportions.

    The glory of this discovery was due largely to this wonderful lady scientist, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize posthumously in 1925.  What kind of person was she?  Solon I. Bailey eulogized her in these words:

        Miss Leavitt inherited, in a somewhat chastened form, the stern virtues of her puritan ancestors.  She took life seriously.  Her sense of duty, justice and loyalty was strong.  For light amusements she appeared to care little.  She was a devoted member of her intimate family circle, unselfishly considerate in her friendships, steadfastly loyal to her principles, and deeply conscientious and sincere in her attachment to her religion and church.  She had the happy faculty of appreciating all that was worthy and lovable in others, and was possessed of a nature so full of sunshine that, to her, all of life became beautiful and full of meaning.

    This moving description makes it clear that Miss Leavitt exemplified the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Christians, creationists, women, and the disabled – all can justly look to Dr. Henrietta Swan Leavitt as a role model of an overcomer, an achiever, and an exemplary Christian.

    There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
    – I Corinthians 15:41

    If you are enjoying this series, you can 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.
    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.
    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.
    The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

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

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

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

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advice from Paul

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

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

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

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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