Creation-Evolution Headlines
November 2004
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The appearance of life constitutes a revolution in the history of matter.  A vast gulf separates the organic form from the inorganic world, and that gulf is properly characterized in terms of information.  The matter in the dirt under your feet and the matter that makes up your body is the same.  Nevertheless, the arrangement of that matter—the information—vastly differs in these two cases.
—William Dembski, “Biology’s Information Problem,” The Design Revolution (IVP, 2004), p. 139.
AstronomyBirdsBotanyCell BiologyCosmosDating MethodsDinosaursEducationEarly ManEvolutionFossilsGenetics and DNAGeologyHealthHuman BodyIntelligent DesignMammalsMarineMarsMediaOrigin of LifePhysicsPolitics and EthicsSETI Solar SystemTheologyZoology     Awards:  AmazingDumb       Note: bold emphasis added in all quotations unless otherwise indicated.
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Debate: Four articles give a different answer to National Geographic’s November cover question, “Was Darwin Right?”  See 10/24/2004 headline update.

China: Where Evolution Destroys Human Rights   11/30/2004
According to
World Magazine, China is cracking down on what it calls “evil teachings,” i.e., religious beliefs and “superstition” contrary to the official atheist position of the communist government.  Christians in unregistered house churches have noticed a crackdown since May 27, when an internal document leaked to the West called for harsher measures against non-atheists.  Entitled “Notice on Further Strengthening Marxist Atheism Research, Propaganda and Education,” one of its provisions clarified China’s position on the creation-evolution debate:

Aiming at the phenomenon of fatuity and superstition, which exists among some people, we shall strengthen the research, propaganda and education of natural science, particularly the basic knowledge about life, the rule on human evolution, and correctly deal with various natural phenomena, natural disasters, birth, aging, disease and death....
    To publicize Marxist atheism, we shall positively use films, TV programs, books, electronic publications, and other things to people’s taste, and firmly ban all illegal publications, which disseminate superstitions and evil teachings.
While one of the provisions calls for “freedom of religious belief,” to “respect people’s freedom to believe religion or not believe religion,” what this means in practice that the people are to keep their beliefs to themselves and not try to influence others.  Statements like this are intended to hoodwink the Western world into believing China respects human rights.  “Where the government will make the distinction is between belief and expression,” explained an American human rights official.  A 34-year-old Christian found that out when handing out Bibles and gospel tracts in a marketplace in central China.  On June 17 she was arrested, and “the next day she was dead,” World reports. 
Autopsy pictures showed her body badly bruised and beaten.  Police ordered her body cremated within three days, her husband said, in an attempt to cover up evidence of the killing.  Her death, Mr. [Bob] Fu [president of Texas-based China Aid] believes, was a direct result of local officials following the Central Committee directive.
Since May 27, additional directives have given orders for disciplining officials who convert to Christianity, cracking down on churches in coastal and central provinces, and prohibiting religious observances on university campuses.  World points out that abuses will continue if human rights issues are decoupled from US trade policy with China.
Except for the torture, killing and banning of books, this sounds like Eugenie Scott’s perfect society.  Most of it is already here in America: especially the movies, books and TV programs to the people’s taste – just watch the weekly fare on the Science Channel and PBS.  The Darwin Party in America must feel a deep bond with China’s goals: to perpetuate the false dichotomy between science and religion; to equate science with naturalism; to equate religion with supersitition; to tell people to keep their religious beliefs to themselves and outside of the natural world; and to strengthen research, propaganda and education of “natural science” (that’s a euphemism for naturalistic philosophy), particularly the basic knowledge about [the origin and evolution of] life, the rule on human evolution.  (Only someone born yesterday wouldn’t know that Darwinism is the official Marxist interpretation of the world, from molecules to man.)  Sounds great, doesn’t it, Eugenie and Ken?  Why don’t you both move there so you can live happily ever after?
    Know your world history.  Know what happened under Lenin and Stalin, when churches were converted into museums of atheism and pastors were taken out of their homes without warning and sent to the Gulag for years at a time, their homes seized and their families left destitute.  Picture the suffering Christians in Siberia doing hard labor in the cold, dying of starvation, merely for sharing good news: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son....  Remember Georgi Vins and Richard Wurmbrand.  It’s not just history; it is now, in every remaining Marxist dictatorship on earth, where Darwinian evolution is the official state dogma, and the justification for their political philosophy.
    Innocent as some of the directives sound, those familiar with communist phraseology will get a chill when reading between the lines.  Visualize what these things mean to a communist government official who views man as a social animal, a product of evolution, with no individual rights, whose only purpose is to further the evolution of the state: “we shall ... correctly deal with various natural phenomena, natural disasters, birth, aging, disease and death.”  (See 11/07/2002 and 03/06/2002 commentaries.)
Next headline on:   Politics and EthicsMovies and Media
Swedish Poets Serenade Vegans   11/30/2004
Lest someone think by the title that Swedes are befriending vegetable lovers, the Vegans are aliens that might live on a planet around the star Vega.  According to
Reuters, some Swedish poets in Stockholm beamed their verse to the star on November 16.  A spokesman justified the action by saying, “I can’t think of anything more adequate than poetry to communicate what it means to be human.”  (Since Vega is 25 light-years away, any hope for a response will have to wait till 2054).
The answer: “Can I borrow your recipe for Swedish meatballs?”  Or perhaps, “Wiolets are bloo, rozhes are red, we more advanshed dan yoo, we know Darwin izh dead.”  Send your contribution here.
Next headline on:   SETIDumb Ideas
Dark Matter: What Could It Be?    11/30/2004
Four European cosmologists, writing in the 26 November issue of Science,1 discussed the leading candidates for dark matter.  One is a WIMP (not the scientist, but the candidate particle; it stands for “weakly interacting massive particle”) named a neutralino.  The other is called an axion.  Neither of these theoretical entities has yet been detected in particle accelerators (see
05/10/2004 headline), but the authors claim there might be some indirect evidence.  In closing, they say,
The astrophysical observations discussed here indicate that axions and neutralinos may have been abundantly produced in the early universe and/or inside stars.  These two types of particles remain the favorite candidates for dark matter and other celestial phenomena.  As ever more sensitive detectors are built, more definitive evidence for or against neutralinos and axions should become available.  Existence of one does not preclude existence of the other: The dark matter in the universe may contain both of these particles, as well as many other, as yet unforeseen ones.

1Zioutas et al., “What Is Dark Matter Made Of?”, Science, Vol 306, Issue 5701, 1485-1488 , 26 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1102823].
Well, that’s nice; we don’t mind you looking on someone else’s euro, but come back when you have proof.  The null hypothesis is that dark matter does not exist (see 09/03/2003 headline).  We’d like to know your timeline and exit strategy.  How long should a con artist be allowed to look for some claimed miracle substance or magical force that he says explains everything?  (See 02/10/2004 headline.)  Some hunches in science proved very productive and enlightening, but some have been dead ends, like the search for caloric and phlogiston.  Giving a fictitious particle a name does not validate an endless quest for it (see 06/20/2003 headline).  How can it be falsified?  What will you do with your cosmological models if you can no longer appeal to undetected or undetectable substances?  Are you prepared to deal with the universe as it is?  Are you prepared to endure the wrath of Bob Berman? (see 10/06/2004 headline).
Next headline on:   Cosmology
Darwin Wars Stir Up American Schools    11/30/2004
Laura Parker has recounted the ongoing battles over the teaching of evolution in public schools in the 11/29 issue of
USA Today.  She says 24 states are dealing with how evolution should be taught, and mentions the battlegrounds in Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Grand Canyon bookstore.  Not one anti-evolutionary scientist is given a quote, but the article gives prominent press to the usual pro-Darwin celebrities, Ken Miller and Eugenie Scott, along with ACLU lawyers and school board members who oppose the new initiatives to teach criticisms of Darwinism or allow alternatives such as intelligent design.  Parker frames the issue as a debate between science and religion.
Since many more people read USA Today rather than science journals that falsify neo-Darwinian theory (see yesterday’s headline), let’s use this article for a baloney detecting exercise:
  • Scopes Trial:  The 1925 monkey trial is mentioned in the opening paragraph without any hint that the roles have been reversed.  In 1925, the teaching of evolution was banned.  Now, not only is creation banned, but non-religious intelligent design theory is banned, and even pointing out flaws in Darwinian theory from scientific sources can get a teacher fired.  This is the dictatorship of the opposition with a vengeance, but Parker makes it seem that the current debate is just a resurgence of backwoods hicks who can’t realize they lost.
  • Pro-Science:  The Darwin Party loyalist on the Kansas school board who was defeated this month is described as “pro-science”.  (Presumably that makes the opponent anti-science.)  If he were really pro-science, he would read the journals like we do at Creation-Evolution Headlines and admit that the Darwin Party’s case is a long litany of flipflops, storytelling and embarrassing admissions.
  • Political Science:  “The debate over evolution itself has evolved,” jokes Parker.  She quotes Ms. Sola Darwina, Eugenie Scott, as describing the new debates as “politically smart”.
  • They have no science:  Parker does not contest the view of Scott, who dismisses the opposition with, “They have no science.”  Big lie, and shoe on the wrong foot; those four words fit Darwinists like hand and glove.
  • Is that a fact?  Perform qual (qualitative analysis) on this sentence: “But giving equal time to alternative views, critics such as Scott say, suggests that they are on par scientifically with evolution, which is grounded in scientific fact.”  I.e., a fact is a fact because I say so with feeling.
  • Be sensible: don’t mislead the kids:  A teacher and political activist is quoted, “It doesn’t make any sense to give equal time to all these other ideas that are vastly unsupported.  It’s misleading to kids.”  That’s right, so stop teaching Darwinism as fact.  Who is asking for equal time?  Which ideas are vastly unsupported?  Let the Darwinist scientists themselves speak: see headline and follow the chain links on Darwinism, if you want better support for a position than spin-doctored sound bites.
  • Sneaky Conspirators:  Parker says, “The most popular alternative is ‘intelligent design.’  Proponents of intelligent design do not publicly identify the ‘intelligent force,’ although they privately say it is God.”  Why not turn the tables on the Darwinists?  Isn’t it fair to say: “Proponents of Darwinism do not publicly identify their religious beliefs, but privately they say there is no God.”  Many intelligent design movement leaders are very clear in their writings and speaking what their personal beliefs are, but that is beside the point.  Their claim is that design detection is possible without identifying the designer, which is already the practice in SETI, archaeology, forensic science and cryptography.  There are scientists of various religious persuasions, and no religious persuasion (like Michael Denton and Paul Davies) who find the arguments for design compelling.  Parker ignores the arguments of ID in favor of portraying them as sneaky tactics of religious zealots.
  • Follow the money:  Parker mentions the Discovery Institute in Seattle “boasts as its largest donor the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”  Then why not mention that Paul Allen, Bill Gates’ right-hand man, personally funded the $14 million PBS Evolution series?  Why not mention the governmental and foundation funding that outspends opponents many times over?
  • Protestors:  The honorable, altruistic Jeff Brown and his wife resigned in protest over Dover, Pennsylvania’s vote to include ID in the curriculum.  “I don’t think we should be teaching it.  It is not a scientific theory, it is only a hypothesis,” he said.  Sounds like what William Jennings Bryan said about Darwinism in 1925.
  • Sneaky conspirators, reprise:  Parker writes, “Opponents call intelligent design ‘creationism in a tuxedo’ that attempts to blur the line between religion and science in a way that will survive an inevitable court challenges.”  O, those dastardly creationists, with subterfuge attempting to fling mud on the ivory idol of Charlie under cover of night.  They sneak up in tuxedos instead of barnyard overalls.  It seems a little difficult to hide the intentions of creation/ID proponents that are daily broadcast all over the world wide web.  Notice also how the Darwin Party hopes the courts will come to the rescue.  They don’t trust we, the people.
  • Rewriting history:  “In 1987,” the article continues, “the Supreme Court found that teaching creationism in public schools violates the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state.”  No, it did not (here we go again): it forbade states from mandating equal time for creation and evolution.  It specifically stated that any scientific evidence about origins could be taught.
  • Can’t stamp out this nuisance:  “We’ve been fighting this since 1925,” says Witold Walczak, a Pennsylvania ACLU lawyer.  “Why aren’t people questioning atomic theory?  Why aren’t they questioning the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun?  That’s because evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs.”  Need we remind Mr. Walczak that chemistry and gravity are observable phenomena in the present, but Darwin’s common ancestry story involves the unobservable past?  Turn the tables again: let’s say, “The Darwinists fight the opposition because creation conflicts with their antireligious beliefs.”  He’s right about 1925.  The ACLU wanted John Scopes to be free to use the textbook that taught that Caucasians were the superior race (see 08/04/2004 headline).
  • Whole lot of shaking going on:  Ken Miller, co-author of the textbook that Cobb County, Georgia stickered with disclaimers, doesn’t like the disclaimer that encourages students to keep an open mind and use critical analysis, because it “gives the impression that it’s a very shaky theory.”  The definition of a shaky theory is one whose proponents fear open-minded, critical analysis of the evidence.
Don’t just read these arguments.  Practice them.  Get good at baloney detecting, and write your newspaper whenever they perpetuate fallacious statements and misconceptions.  They will continue to get away with it until they fear the light from knowledgeable, articulate, informed readers who understand the issues and cannot endure one-sided propaganda.
Next headline on:   Politics and EthicsEducationDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
The Darwin Variations: Theatre of the Absurd   11/29/2004
Science journals are usually about labs instead of stage shows, but Peyret and Prochiantz went to a play in Paris about Darwin and reviewed it in Nature.1  They called it “theatre of the absurd,” but liked it.  They describe two scenes:
The curtain rises, for instance, on an empty stage.  Two actors appear, wearing dark glasses, carrying a bench, a pebble and an egg.  Off stage a blind man on his death-bed debates the existence of God with a priest, based on their different experiences of the natural world.  The conversation shifts, and the question becomes whether, given a choice, a blind man who knows the world by touch alone would choose to have eyes or a longer pair of arms.  Just then, one of the blind men on stage throws up the egg, and the other catches it in mid-air.
    In another scene, a woman sitting on a bench, cutting up newspaper, asks the man beside her if contempt is expressed by a slight pouting and a flaring of the nostrils with a small expiration – one of Darwin’s observations from his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.  The man doesn’t respond.  She asks him, indignantly, if the expression for disgust resembles that of someone about to spit.  He gazes off into the distance.  Enraged, she threatens him with her scissors.  His face contorts, he throws himself at her, and the scene ends in a fight to the death.
Sound like something you would go to see?  They described the play as “funny, original and anything but didactic,” but appreciated it most because it showed the human side of Darwinism:
Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been handed down to us as the broad vision of a brilliant man, meticulously researched, comprehensive and self-assured.  We hear less about his doubts, his procrastination and anguished discussions with contemporaries.  Nor is it well-known that, in confronting the implications of his theory, he made himself ill.  “I’m sick to the stomach,” he confesses at times throughout The Darwin Variations.
The play itself evolves, they note.  “Those attending on the last night may see something quite different to those present at the opening – not necessarily any better or worse, just different.”
1Jean-Francois Peyret and Alain Prochiantz, “The Darwin Variations,”
Nature 432, 445 (25 November 2004); doi:10.1038/432445a.
It wasn’t creationism that brought civilization the theatre of the absurd.  Creationists brought the world things like the Hallelujah Chorus and The Greatest Story Ever Told.  If evolution is making you ill, and giving you an upset stomach, try these guaranteed remedies: Psalm 119, and I Peter 1.  To feel even better, follow it up with Philippians 4
Next headline on:   Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Candidates Vie for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week   11/29/2004
Contributions for the weekly prize sometimes come in as numerous as contestants at the Boston Marathon.  You can
send in your contributions or vote on the following:
  • Evolution as sculptor:  Sid Perkins, in Science News, submitted three entries in an article on penguin evolution:
    • Early in penguin evolution, the bones, especially in the wings and hind limbs, became thick and dense.  This change would have improved the ease with which the birds could dive to chase underwater prey.  In contrast, the bones of flight-capable birds are highly buoyant because evolution has fine-tuned them to be thin, light, and, in some cases, filled with air.
    • Besides acquiring dense bones, penguin ancestors evolved narrow wings with inflexible elbows that worked as streamlined hydrofoils....
    • Evolution Marches On...  So, even though penguins have been immensely successful, the forces of evolution continue to sculpt their genome.

  • No speculations here:  Thurston Lacalli, in Nature (Nov 25), in an article on the evolution of the eye, commenting on a presumed ancestral marine worm that had two kinds of photoreceptors:
    Speculations aside, the new work provides a solid starting point for further study of the evolution of photoreceptor organs during the diversification of bilateral multicelled animals.  In evolutionary terms, it is a long way from a simple ocellus [see 08/13/2004 headline], involving no more than a few cells, to the complexity of an optimally constructed image-forming eye.  Evolution seems to have accomplished this transition piecemeal, by myriad small steps, each an adaptive improvement over what went before.  A detailed accounting of the steps is as yet beyond us, but clarifying the nature of the ancestral condition is a useful beginning.
  • The persistence of myth:  Paul Mellars, in Nature (25 Nov) in an article on Neanderthal man (see also 10/01/2004 and 09/21/2004 headlines):
    That the Neanderthals were replaced by populations that had evolved biologically, and no doubt behaviourally, in the very different environments of southern Africa makes the rapid demise of the Neanderthals even more remarkable, and forces us to ask what other cultural or cognitive developments may have made this replacement possible.... Perhaps it was the emergence of more complex language [see 02/27/2004 headline] and other forms of symbolic communication that gave the crucial adaptive advantage to fully modern populations and led to their subsequent dispersal across Asia and Europe and the demise of the European Neanderthals.  The precise mechanisms and timing of this dramatic population dispersal from southern Africa to the rest of the world remains to be investigated.
  • No data?  No problem:  R. Van Boekel et al., in Nature (25 Nov), in the abstract to a paper on interplanetary dust:
    Our Solar System was formed from a cloud of gas and dust.... Little is known about the evolution of the dust that forms Earth-like planets. (Note: All they suggested was that observations from dust disks around other stars shows an apparent zone of crystallization in the inner regions: “Our observations thus imply that crystallization of almost the entire inner disk and a substantial part of the outer disk must have occurred very early in the evolution of the disk.”  How the crystals afterward survived the melting of terrestrial planets during their formation and bombardment was not explained.)

  • Giving evolution a kickstart:  Robert Service, in Science (26 Nov), commenting on recent experiments on artificial selection of proteins:
    Evolution isn’t known for its quick work.  In recent years, researchers have come up with numerous ways to give it a kick in order to evolve [sic; this is intelligent design] proteins with new functions.  But most of these techniques are painfully slow, taking as long as a month to go through a single round of evolution.  The immune cells of vertebrates long ago perfected a faster approach, which they use to generate the myriad antibody proteins that fight off infections.  Now a team of California researchers has coaxed immune cells to apply their skill to other proteins, an ability that could speed the development of novel proteins for studies from catalysis to cell biology.
  • Comfort is the mother of evolution:  Erik Stokstad, in a story on horse evolution in Science (26 Nov):
    High-crowned teeth took a while to evolve to resist gritty food.  Later, During the Miocene, horses and camels were evolving longer limbs, but apparently not to escape accelerating predators--which evolved longer limbs some 20 million years later.  Instead, [Christine] Janis (Brown U.) proposed, the limbs first evolved to be more efficient at walking.... High-crowned teeth might not be the only way to make life on the grasslands less of a grind.
Decisions, decisions.  It’s like having 800 cable channels and nothing worth watching except the old comedies.
Next headline on:   Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Neo-Darwinism Falsified in the Lab, Again   11/29/2004
Last month (see
10/19/2004 headline), we reported a paper from PNAS that showed, contrary to evolutionary expectations, that mutations, even beneficial ones, conspire to decrease fitness.  Now, another independent study has corroborated the first claim.
    Bonhoeffer et al. in Science (26 Nov) sought to understand the evolution of sexual reproduction because it remains a mystery:
Reproductive strategies such as sexual reproduction and recombination that involve the shuffling of parental genomes for the production of offspring are ubiquitous in nature.  However, their evolutionary benefit remains unclear.  Many theories have identified potential benefits, but progress is hampered by the scarcity of relevant data.
The editor even mentioned it thus: “Note added in proof: After this paper had been accepted, a related paper on epistasis in the vesicular stomatitis virus by Sanjuán et al. appeared.”  They got similar results investigating recombination in HIV.  They could only speculate on why recombination evolved in HIV when it seems to decrease the ability to evolve drug resistance.
    Commenting on these studies in the same issue of Science,2 Yannis Michalakis and Denis Roze said, “The Sanjuán et al. and Bonhoeffer et al. studies show that the pattern of epistasis in RNA viruses is not compatible with current genetic theories of sexual reproduction and recombination, which assume that mutations affecting fitness exhibit negative epistasis” (i.e., that they do not work against each other).  Since epistasis means one gene fighting another gene, evolutionists don’t want positive epistasis.  They want to see negative epistasis, such that beneficial mutations do not counteract each other, and deleterious mutations do not conspire to cause more damage.  Now, however, two independent studies found only the positive, anti-fitness kind of interaction.
1Bonhoeffer et al., “ Science, Vol 306, Issue 5701, 1547-1550, 26 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1101786].
2Michalakis and Rose, “Epistasis in RNA Viruses,” Science, Vol 306, Issue 5701, 1492-1493 , 26 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1106677].
OK, Darwin Party; the burden of proof is on you.  Let’s see you squirm your way out of this one without concocting a myth to explain it away.
    Another quotable quote in the Bonhoeffer paper was their demolition of evolutionary stories about the evolution of sex:
One of the most fundamental questions in biology is why sexual reproduction and recombination are so widespread.  Meiotic recombination and sexual reproduction both induce the shuffling of parental genomes for the production of offspring.  Intuitively, shuffling might appear to be beneficial, because it promotes genetic diversity among the offspring and thus allows for a faster rate of adaptation.  However, this explanation has several shortcomings.  First, sexual reproduction and recombination do not always increase genetic variation.  Second, even when they do, it is not clear why greater genetic variation should generally be adaptive.  Third, recombination may not only create but also destroy favorable combinations of mutations.  Therefore, what is the evolutionary benefit of shuffling two genotypes that are proven viable in their current environment?
They studied recombination, looking for a benefit.  They found none, but provided good grist for the anti-Darwinism quote mill.
Next headline on:   Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
News Nuggets   11/29/2004
  • Another Adult Stem Cell Success:  EurekAlert reports that adult stem cells have been shown to cure incontinence.  Stem cells are first extracted from the patient’s arm, and cultured for six weeks.  Then, they are injected into the urinary tissue in a 20-minute outpatient procedure that makes them grow into the surrounding cell type, stopping leakage within 24 hours.  18 of 20 patients remained continent a year later.
  • Homing Pigeon Secret:  A new study summarized by EurekAlert and National Geographic News found that homing pigeons store a magnetic map in their beaks.  Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led by Cordula V. Mora, could affect the pigeons’ homing ability with external fields and with beak-mounted magnets.
  • Spiders Weave Material of the Future:  EurekAlert reports that spider silk could become the “intelligent materials of the future” if engineers can figure out how to mass produce it.  “The distinctive toughness of spider silk could allow manufacturers to improve wound-closure systems and plasters, and to produce artificial ligaments and tendons for durable surgical implants.  The silk could also be woven into strong textiles to make parachutes, body armour, ropes and fishing nets.  A whole range of ecological materials could emerge from the industrial production of spider silk,” it promises, without harming the environment.
  • Galileo Gets Website:  Science pointed out last week that the Galileo Project website at Rice University is growing, with many historical documents now freely available online: for instance, all 124 letters from his daughter Maria Celeste have been published.  (See Galileo in our online book.)
  • Molecular Rotary Motor Designed:  A team from University of Edinburgh, reporting in Science (26 Nov), succeeded in coaxing a ring-like molecular structure to undergo reversible rotary motion.  Using Brownian (random thermal) motion to advantage to create such a motor requires, they say, “(i) a randomizing element, (ii) an energy input to avoid falling foul of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and (iii) asymmetry in the energy or information potential in the dimension in which the motion occurs.”  They mentioned ATP synthase (see 02/13/2004 headline) but did not claim their invention was anywhere near as complex, or suggest how such a motor evolved.  Instead, their experiments were meant to “illustrate how interplay between informational and thermodynamic laws governs directional Brownian rotation in molecular structures.”
  • Hobbit Fossil Goes to Skeptic:  Science was somewhat alarmed that possession of the bones of Homo florensiensis (see 10/27/2004 headline) are going to Dr. Teuku Jacob, a skeptic of the idea that these were evolutionary links.  He believes instead they were modern human specimens suffering from microcephaly.  Whether he will returns the bones after a year, or ever, is a fear making other paleoanthropologists very unhappy.
  • Tetrapod Transitional Form:  Erik Stokstad attended the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology earlier this month, and dropped a hint in Science (26 Nov) that a team of American paleontologists found lobe-finned fish fossil in Canada that “may be an Archaeopteryx-quality transitional fossil” between fish and tetrapods.  Since Archaeopteryx was a flying, feathered, perching bird, one can only surmise what this means.
  • Survival of the Unfit:  National Geographic News summarized a report from Nature that shows natural selection does not always clearly favor the swift and the strong.  Studies of lizards under selection pressure did not always produce a clear result.  Other factors, such as the environment and behavior, can complicate the selection process and produce a variety of effects.  One evolutionist smirked about the naive concepts people have.  The weak and slow often thrive, “even though the theory of natural selection suggests that weak runners ought to be weeded out from the gene pool.”  That led NG to begin its report, “Glance at a crowd at just about any big sporting event and you’ll notice that humans are a diverse bunch.  Not only the fittest have survived.”
One of Murphy’s spinoff laws stated: “The intelligence of the human race is a constant.  The population is increasing.”  One might make similar comparisons about the plausibility of Darwinism as evidence increases.
Next headline on:   HealthBirdsEarly ManFossilsDarwinismIntelligent Design
Non-Coding DNA “Extremely” Conserved, Essential for Regulation   11/26/2004
A paper in PLOS Biology1 compared non-coding DNA from widely-separated vertebrates and found them not only “extremely conserved” in many cases, but essential for regulating the gene-coding regions.
Understanding the intricate and finely tuned process of gene regulation in vertebrate development remains a major challenge facing post-genomic research.  In order to begin to understand how genomic information can coordinate regulatory processes, we have adopted an approach integrating comparative genomics and a medium-throughput functional assay. Nearly 1,400 non-coding DNA sequence elements were identified that exhibit extreme conservation throughout the vertebrate lineage.... Most, if not all, of the CNE [conserved noncoding element] sequences appear to be associated with genes involved in the control of development, many of them transcription factors.  A significant proportion of genes identified in this study are homologous to those identified in the sea urchin and other invertebrates as master regulators of early development, leading us to believe that they interact in GRNs [gene regulatory networks].  Consequently, it is extremely likely that the CNEs identified compose at least part of the genomic component of GRNs in vertebrates, acting as critical regions of regulatory control for their associated genes.  Such regions would mediate up- or down-regulation of expression, effecting a cascade of downstream events.
They speculate that these sequences are not mere binding sites, because that would not explain the high degree of sequence conservation.  “Consequently,” they say, “we have not ruled out the possibility that the CNEs may have a completely different mode of action or act in numerous different ways.”  The team of 16 scientists from the UK were struck with the similarity of these noncoding sequences between human, rat, mouse and pufferfish.  They performed some limited functional analysis on the sequences and found that some affect genes that are physically distant, often megabases away.  Though apparently essential, “They are amongst the most highly conserved of all sequences in vertebrate genomes yet they are completely unrecognisable in invertebrates.”  It seems, however, that invertebrates have analogous sequences for gene regulation, as stated in their introduction:
Identification and characterisation of cis-regulatory regions [i.e., on the same strand of DNA] within the non-coding DNA of vertebrate genomes remain a challenge for the post-genomic era.  The idea that animal development is controlled by cis-regulatory DNA elements (such as enhancers and silencers) is well established and has been elegantly described in invertebrates such as Drosophila and the sea urchin.  These elements are thought to comprise clustered target sites for large numbers of transcription factors and collectively form the genomic instructions for developmental gene regulatory networks (GRNs).  However, relatively little is known about GRNs in vertebrates.
More work will need to be done to find out if this is true for vertebrates, as it appears from this study, and if so, how these vertebrate CNEs work.  Some could prevent gene expression, for example, as well as enhance it.  “Whatever their mode of action, the striking degree of conservation displayed by this set of CNEs suggests they play critically important functional roles,” they deduce.  In conclusion, they state, “Given their strong association with genes involved in developmental regulation, they are most likely to contain the essential heritable information for the coordination of vertebrate development.
1Woolfe et al., “Highly Conserved Non-Coding Sequences Are Associated with Vertebrate Development,”
PLOS Biology, Vol 3 Issue 1 (Jan 2005), published online 11/15/2004: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030007.
The authors make only the meagerest references to evolution, none of it helpful to the Darwin Party.  They merely state as matters of belief the “evolutionary divergence” between humans and mice, and make other similar assumptions that said divergent animals evolved from a common ancestor.  They merely assume some genes evolve quickly and others slowly.  But when it comes to explaining how such extremely conserved sequences could survive the inexorable pressure of natural selection for oodles of aeons, they admit there is nothing but guesswork:
A number of other ideas on the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for “ultra-conservation” have been suggested, involving decreased mutation rate, increased DNA repair, and multiply-overlapping transcription factor binding sites, but without more functional studies such hypotheses remain speculative.
Elsewhere, they remark with astonishment about specific examples of CNEs in all four species (human, rat, mouse, pufferfish) that show 100% identity, “demonstrating an extraordinary level of conservation for genomes separated by 900 million years of divergent evolution.”  Maybe no divergent evolution.  Maybe no 900 million years.
    So, any biologists around still wanting to assume this non-coding material is “junk DNA”?  Stop wasting your life work, your lab equipment, and your grant money.  Get with the program – the ID program.  Get out there and find out what it was made for.
Next headline on:   Genetics and DNAIntelligent Design
Evolution Made Us Liars    11/23/2004
Julian Keenan (Montclair State University) is teaching that evolution made us liars, reports the
Atlanta Journal and Constitution.  He teaches, “Lying has played a key role in our evolution, in making humans, human,” he said.  “It’s one of the most amazing, sophisticated, advanced cognitive abilities we have.  All evidence indicates that we are genetically programmed to lie.  The liar has such an advantage over you.  So the gene is passed on.”
See also the 04/26/2004 headline.
He’s lying.  It was all a ruse to win Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  Did you catch his encore?  He said lying evolved, but then said, “Morally, lying is wrong.”  Good one!
Next headline on:   DarwinismDumb Ideas
Not Even Liberals Want Evolution Only    11/23/2004
A
CBS News Poll shows that 56% of Kerry supporters believe both creation and evolution should be taught in public school science classes, compared to 71% for Bush supporters.  In all categories, Bush supporters favored less teaching of evolution and were more likely to believe God created humans in their present form (67% vs. 47%), but only a small minority from either party believe evolution did it all (6% Bush supporters, 21% Kerry supporters).
    In a related story, CBS News also discussed the “Evolution Showdown in Georgia.”  It says Atlanta residents are flocking to Cobb County for its schools, which have the highest SAT scores in the state – and also evolution disclaimers in the textbooks (see 11/08/2004 headline).
Support survival of the fittest.  Support the removal of parasitic Darwin Party welfare programs (see 12/22/2003 commentary).  Now that Darwinism has been falsified (see 10/19/2004 headline), and even its high priest doesn’t want it acting on him (see 11/14/2004 headline), it’s time to clean house: clean the science class of musty, dusty, outmoded, obsolete speculations by 18th century radical liberals.  Move it to the History class.
Next headline on:   Politics and EthicsEducationDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Only 27% of Dinosaur Types May Be Known   11/22/2004
The surge in dinosaur discoveries over the last decade is leading some paleontologists to estimate that 73% of the dinosaur genera may be unknown to science, according to a story in Science News.1  There were 285 genera known in 1990, but since then, 222 more have been added.  New findings have been especially impressive in China and Argentina.
    Fossil hunters on the Isle of Wight, meanwhile, have found Britain’s biggest dinosaur so far, reports the
BBC News.  The vertebra from the sauropod leads to estimates it was 20m in length.  Team leader Darren Naish commented about this and even larger specimens recently found in Spain and Portugal: “But given that until recently people didn’t think there were any big sauropods in the Lower Cretaceous, I think this is part of a bigger story.”  (See 07/20/2004 story of a find in Spain.)
1Sid Perkins, “Plenty of dinosaurs yet to be found, ” Science News, Week of Nov. 20, 2004; Vol. 166, No. 21 , p. 334.
Since there are plenty to go around, let’s see more home school dino digs (see 07/23/2003 and 05/21/2002 headlines).  Everything seems to have been bigger in the past.  Cave bears used to be triple the size of grizzlies, and saber tooth tigers were bigger than our modern lions.  We live in a species-impoverished world compared to the fossil record.  Does that sound like evolution?
Next headline on:   DinosaursFossils
Intelligent Design Science:  Does a scientist have to assume naturalism to do research?  Jonathan Wells assumed intelligent design when studying centrioles, a little-understood part of centrosomes (involved in cell division), and found they act like miniature turbines.  His work may lead to new insights into chromosomal instability, a major cause of cancer.  Read about it on PCID Vol 3.1 (Nov. 2004).
Next headline on:   Intelligent Design

Islamic Science Is Backward   11/21/2004
Two Pakistani scientists asked for “enlightened moderation” among fellow Muslims in the Nov. 18 issue of Nature.1  Admitting to the “backwardness of Islamic science and technology,” they called on the 57 predominantly-Muslim nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to reaffirm their commitment to science:

The global security situation has given Islam a false image, that of a religion of intolerance, activism and terrorism.  Islam is unfairly linked with fundamentalism, fundamentalism with extremism, and extremism with terrorism.
    Muslims can argue all they like that this loose thinking is unfounded, but we are having little impact in today’s battle of ideas.  It doesn’t help that some Muslim nations are probably among the poorest, the least educated and the least powerful on the planet.  We must get out of this rut if we do not want to be marginalized and to condemn future generations.
They say the time has come for “critical thinking and soul-searching among Muslims,” and believe that a recommitment to science and technology will bring a “knowledge-based renaissance.”
Science and Islam share a glorious past.  In its heyday, Islam was the standard bearer of a society of law and order, justice, tolerance and exemplary values.  The Koran encourages the pursuit of science, and the Islamic world was a cradle of science from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries.
But “the Muslim world has strayed far from these values,” the authors claim. 
We have fallen behind in socio-economic development and in the generation of ideas.  During our decline, we have shut ourselves off and refused to absorb knowledge from others.  And our spending on science is dire.  We can regret this deplorable situation, but we also need to face up to it.
Although they believe the West can help, they mostly call on Muslims to examine tough questions, like “what are our ideas?  Where are we going?”  Clearly, they believe, confrontation and political activism will not “bring us back to our glorious past”. 
We must take an enlightened path dedicated to developing our human resources, and tackling the problems of poverty, education, health and social justice.  We must abandon confrontation in favour of moderation, conciliation and individual freedom.  It is time for renaissance of the Ummah (the global Muslim community).  This is how we will eliminate the perception of Islam in conflict with modernity and democracy.
When it comes to quality of Islamic science, papers published, prizes won, and spending on science education by the OIC, the situation, they put it bluntly, “is dismal.”  Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan have shown the most progress in recent years.  In Pakistan, science has been encouraged by pecuniary motivation, by a system that provides “an opportunity to more than quadruple their earnings if they increase the numbers of their papers published in peer-reviewed journals.”  (Instead of “publish or perish,” this might be called “publish and flourish”.)
    They point out the basic oxymoron of the Muslim nations, that while they contain most of the world’s oil riches, they rank near lowest in socio-economic development.  This is partly due to “centuries of neglect by our political leaders” in scientific and technological education.  They point to some promising signs, but so far, it is only a dream for a “happier and more prosperous future.”  They ask for the cooperation and interaction of the scientific community, so that “In the place of the clash of civilizations, our collective wisdom and efforts can help heal wounds and guarantee a safer and better world for those who will follow us.”
1Atta-Ur Rahman and Anwar Nasim, “Time for ‘Enlightened Moderation,’”
Nature 432, 273 - 274 (18 November 2004); doi:10.1038/432273a.
Good questions, and noble dreams, but why not condemn the terrorists?  Notice how Rahman and Nasim did not repudiate the acts of terror that have given Westerners an image of AK47-toting Muslim men jumping up and down over burning American flags, Muslims beheading prisoners and treating their women as half-human.  A little moderation is certainly in order.  To what extent is the religion of Islam responsible for these damnable actions by its most ardent followers, the ones who are most dedicated to following Mohammed’s teachings to the letter?  To what extent is the religion of Islam responsible for the poverty and backwardness of most of its people, such that six of the eight poorest countries in the world belong to the OIC?
    Visitors to Muslim countries are quick to affirm that most of their citizens are ordinary people just like those in any other country, with hopes and dreams for their families, a desire for peace and an exemplary level of hospitality.  The fault lies primarily in the Islamic leadership and media that continue to foment hatred and fear.  But one must also seriously ask whether the teachings of Mohammed himself are to blame, a man whose sexual and terrorist exploits are legendary, a man who, unlike Jesus Christ, was petty, vindictive, capricious, violent, murderous, illogical, superstitious, contradictory, delusional, a plagiarist and basically anti-scientific.  Would his disciples be expected to rise to higher levels of virtue and intellect than the revered master?  We must be skeptical of the claim that the Koran encourages the pursuit of science, as claimed here and by other Muslim apologists.  (Notice they gave no references).
      Medieval Muslims did bequeath to the world the zero and algebra, the names of stars and some medical advances, geometric art and many cultural achievements, but science as an enterprise for its own sake never really took off in Arab countries.  Much of what was achieved was based on Aristotle rather than the Koran.  Some Muslim scholars have noted that the lack of a true, maintainable science is due to the nature of their God Allah, who is viewed as so utterly sovereign that he acts capriciously and unpredictably.  The Judeo-Christian God, by contrast, is sovereign but never acts contrary to his own nature of righteousness and justice.  As a lawgiver, his work can be studied and trusted.  To a Christian, when an arrow is shot, it follows the laws of physics; to a Muslim, Allah himself must push the arrow at every instant.  Therefore a Muslim can never be sure that the arrow will fly the same way every time.
    The contrast between Islamic and European science is a complex subject well worthy of study.  Islamic apologists today try to defend science in the Koran in a manner somewhat analogous to Christians who do so with the Bible.  (They omit the parts of the Hadith that say Adam was 90 feet tall, that yawning is from Satan, that an entire village turned into apes and that Jews were turned into pigs, or that seven men and their animals slept for 309 years in a cave and got up just fine.  Islamic physicians don’t repeat for Westerners what Mohammed taught, that if a fly falls into your cup it’s OK because one wing has the disease but the other has the antidote; see Islamic Invasion by Dr. Robert Morey for the Hadith references for all these claims.)  Early Muslims also subscribed to circular rather than linear time, which hindered their conception of cause and effect and produced many weird anachronisms in the Koran and Hadith.  Their philosophy did not produce the intelligent design movement, but now some are trying to co-opt it for its apologetic (jihad?) value (see IslamOnline.net article by Mustafa Akyol).
    Good luck, Rahman and Nasim.  It seems to us to get more moderation and enlightenment in OIC nations, they will have to ignore the Koran and start reading Western books, including the Bible.  And science itself will not produce a virtuous people.  A thief with mathematics will become a worse thief, and a murderer with physics can become a mass murderer.  Science will not bring a happy and prosperous future to the OIC if Muslim scientists use their learning to build better WMDs.  And Westerners, fear greatly a scientifically-literate religion that believes in conquering by the sword, as its founding prophet commanded (see Morey, pp. 197-200).
Postscript:  Notice how Nature gave lengthy, positive press to the religion of peace in their science journal.  How many want to hold their breath for a similar article on Christian or Jewish science?  You wouldn’t think that Big Science is also enslaved to political correctness now, would you?
Next headline on:   Politics and Ethics
Another Homochirality Theory: Will It Work?    11/19/2004
“The emergence of homochirality is a crucial enigma in the origin of life,” begins a paper in PNAS, as do most papers on this subject (see
06/21/2004 headline and online book).  French researchers Plasson et al. seem pretty cocky this time:
We show that the use of a Frank-like model2 in a recycled system composed of reversible chemical reactions, rather than the classical irreversible system, allows for the emergence of a synergetic autoinduction from simple reactions, without any autocatalytic or even catalytic reaction.  This model is described as a theoretical framework, based on the stereoselective reactivity of preexisting chiral monomeric building blocks (polymerization, epimerization, and depolymerization) maintained out of equilibrium by a continuous energy income, via an activation reaction.  It permits the self-conversion of all monomeric subunits into a single chiral configuration.  Real prebiotic systems of amino acid derivatives can be described on this basis.  They are shown to be able to spontaneously reach a stable nonracemic state in a few centuries.  In such systems, the presence of epimerization3 reactions is no more destructive, but in contrast is the central driving force of the unstabilization of the racemic state.
Well, this must be good, then.  They describe theoretically a dynamic system of amino acids joining and disjoining with a free flow of energy and ingredients.  An examination of their paper shows that their best-case scenario, provided all the ingredients are present in the right conditions, might produce about 70% of one hand in a few centuries (a value that stabilizes and does not rise higher).  But even this does form polypeptide chains – only an excess of one-hand in the amino acids.  They admit, “However, the formation of the first prebiotic peptides is not a trivial problem, as free amino acids are poorly reactive” (in fact, peptide bonds tend not to form in water).  To solve this part of the problem, they imagine alternate wetting and drying periods and the presence of N-carboxyanhydrides to activate the amino acids.
    Their tests required fairly high concentrations of ingredients, and specific temperature and acidity.  They didn’t get any single-handed chains to result, but feel they are getting warmer:
Of course, the APED system [their model] does not yet constitute a metabolic pattern, but has some of its characteristics.  It does not take into account the matter of creation (i.e., the formation of amino acids in the described example), but it describes the use of external energy to reproduce some properties (here, the absolute configuration of the monomers) and to increase the complexity of matter (by way of polymerization).  An interesting extension to a more complex system is being investigated by others, focusing on molecular energetic use, via carboxylicphosphoric mixed anhydrides.
They feel their model is better than the usual direct autocatalytic reaction models, which they view as “dubious in a prebiotic environment.”
1Plasson et al., “Recycling Frank: Spontaneous emergence of homochirality in noncatalytic systems,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0405293101, published online 11/17/2004.
2After F.C. Frank (1953), who considered chirally selective autocatalytic reactions.
3Epimerization refers to the randomizing of handedness when a molecule has two centers of handedness.
Sorry, close only counts in horseshoes.  The requirement is 100% purity (see 11/05/2004 headline, pt. 6).  30% poison is not better than 50% poison.  Too many ad hoc conditions.  No way to get them to join into useful polypeptides.  Too much bluffing.  Next.
Next headline on:   Origin of Life
How Science Reporters Lie to the Public    11/19/2004
An ape fossil was found in Spain, and reported in Science.1  It was pure ape, with a “mosaic” of features that confused the discoverers somewhat; rather than clarifying the origin of the great apes, it seemed to have some features that they feel suggested “convergent evolution” or homoplasy.  They named it Pierolapithecus, and made only a tentative suggestion about its place in the supposed monkey-ape-human family tree:
Pierolapithecus, hence, does not fit the theoretical model that predicts that all characters shared by extant great apes were present in their last common ancestor, but instead points to a large amount of homoplasy in ape evolution.  The overall pattern suggests that Pierolapithecus is probably close to the last common ancestor of great apes and humans.
In the same issue,2 Elizabeth Culotta described the different opinions about this fossil and where it fits between monkeys and apes, and between African apes and orang-utans.  Only the mildest suggestions were made that it might have been on the line that eventually led to humans, but there was confusion even on the issue of where it fit on the ape family tree.  In short, it was completely ape, and there was no agreement among specialists where to put it into the lineage of apes and monkeys.
    Since the skeletal fragments had a “mosaic” of ape and monkey features, there was no clear message of evolution.  The discoverers were reluctant to call it a “missing link” of any sort. Here’s how the media headlines came out, however:
  • National Geographic:  “Ancient Ape Discovered: Last Ape-Human Ancestor?
  • BBC News:  “Scientists have unearthed remains of a primate that could have been ancestral not only to humans but to all great apes, including chimps and gorillas.  The partial skeleton of this 13-million-year-old ‘missing link’ was found by palaeontologists working at a dig site near Barcelona in Spain.  Details of the sensational discovery appear in Science magazine.”
  • MSNBC News:  “Ape fossil bridges evolutionary gap” and “Specimen could represent the last common ancestor of humans and great apes.”
  • ABC News:  “Ancient Animal Could Be Human-Ape Ancestor: Scientists Say Fossil in Spain Shows Animal That Is Common Ancestor to Humans, Great Apes.”
Some of the news media buried caveats into the text of the articles.  But then, how many people read just the headlines?
1Moya-Sola et al., “Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a New Middle Miocene Great Ape from Spain,” Science,, Vol 306, Issue 5700, 1339-1344 , 19 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1103094].
2Elizabeth Culotta, “Spanish Fossil Sheds New Light on the Oldest Great Apes,” Science, Science, Vol 306, Issue 5700, 1273-1274 , 19 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5700.1273a].
This animal was pure ape.  It would have walked like an ape, climbed like an ape, smelled like an ape, and aped like an ape.  If you found one you would put it in the zoo in the ape cage.  It was no more evolving into a human than a new kind of horse fossil was evolving into a giraffe.  Instead of helping clarify evolution, it confused it, because it had a mosaic of features that did not fit neatly into any evolutionary lineage.  The researchers had to employ the hocus-pocus phrase “convergent evolution” to explain it.  Compared with other apes, there was not a single incipient human feature about it, but all the news media hyped the faintest suggestion by some of the researchers that it might have had something to do with the “last common ancestor” (assuming evolution) between apes and humans.  Shouldn’t this make a sensible person angry?  Suppose any other special interest group or religion routinely got such favorable press for non-sequiturs like this.  Yet as predictably as monkey see, monkey do, the instant any fossil of an ape, monkey or alleged hominid is reported by any scientist, you can bet your bananas there will be a color picture of an artist’s reconstruction of it on National Geographic News the same day, complete with a big fib about how this is helping us understand our own evolution.  But will they give fanfare to the headline that neo-Darwinism has been falsified in the lab? (see 10/19/2004 headline).  Never.  Bad press for Charlie makes them fold up like monkeys and say, “Hear no righteousness, see no righteousness, speak no righteousness.”  (Now read the next headline.)
Next headline on:   Early ManDarwinism
The Evolution of Marathon Man    11/18/2004
Humans are surprisingly good endurance runners.  Did you know that in the entire animal kingdom, there are few mammals that can keep up a steady run for 10 km or more?  (A marathon is 42.2 km).  Many animals are better sprinters than man for short distances, like cheetahs, but only a few mammals and humans are capable of extended travel in a trotting gait, and considering that humans only have two feet, they compete surprisingly well, pound for pound.  Surprisingly, no other primate is capable of endurance running.  This distinctive ability of humans made the cover story of Nature this week1.
    Biologists Dennis M. Bramble (U. of Utah) and anthropologist Daniel E. Lieberman (Harvard) examined the physiological adaptations for endurance running (ER), and speculated about how this capability may have evolved in early man.  “ER is unique to humans among primates,” they state, “and uncommon among quadrupedal mammals other than social carnivores (such as dogs and hyenas) and migratory ungulates (such as wildebeest and horses).”  They elaborate:
Although extensive data on endurance capabilities are not available for most quadrupedal mammals, several lines of evidence indicate that humans, using criteria such as speed and sustainable distance, are much better endurance runners than has generally been appreciated.  Human ER speeds range from approximately 2.3 to as much as 6.5 m s-1 in elite athletes.  Average ER speeds for recreational joggers range between 3.2-4.2 m s-1 (ref. 21).  From an evolutionary perspective, it is important to note that human ER speeds are exceptional compared to non-human primates.  Apes such as chimpanzees, and other primates, such as patas monkeys, can sprint rapidly, but they do so rarely and only for short distancesNo primates other than humans are capable of ER.
The goal of their paper is to understand the physical requirements for endurance running, and determine how humans evolved the ability to run.  One thing stands out in their paper: the physiological story is much more firmly understood than the evolutionary story.  (
National Geographic News also reported on this story, emphasizing the evolutionary part, and so did the BBC.  It was also discussed the next day by Carl Zimmer in Science2.)
    That humans can run so well is surprising, considering our upright posture:
Moreover, running is more costly for humans than for most mammals, demanding roughly twice as much metabolic energy per distance travelled than is typical for a mammal of equal body mass.  Finally, human runners are less manoeuvrable and lack many structural modifications characteristic of most quadrupedal cursors [walkers/runners] such as elongate digitigrade feet and short proximal limb segments.
Bramble and Lieberman’s extensive paper compares human and animal running, then analyzes the structural and energetic requirements for ER, including skeletal, muscular, balancing, thermoregulatory, and respiratory adaptations in humans.  Running is very different from walking, they point out:
Running exposes the skeletal system to much higher stresses than walking, especially when the foot collides with the ground, producing a shock wave that passes up the body from the heel through the spine to the head.  Peak vertical ground reaction forces (GRFs) at heel strike are approximately twice as high during running than during walking and may approach 3–4 times body weight at higher ER speeds.  Human runners reduce these stresses to some extent through limb compliance and mid-foot striking (thereby also storing elastic strain energy in the leg and foot), but must otherwise dissipate impact forces within their bones and joints.
It takes special physiological adaptations to endure these impact forces.  Did you know your legs act like springs when running?  The springs include the Achilles tendon, and other tendons, the arch of the foot, and muscles and joints, that in combination save about 50% of the metabolic cost of running.  Consider just the arch of the foot: “during running, the elastic structures of the plantar arch function as a spring, returning approximately 17% of the energy generated during each stance phase.”  The authors list some of the specializations that allow us to break into a run:
Such specialized structures include: an extensive system of springs in the leg and foot that effectively store and release significant elastic energy during running; hypertrophied gluteus maximus and spinal extensor muscles that contract strongly to stabilize the trunk in running but not walking; and an elongate, narrow waist in combination with a low, wide, decoupled shoulder girdle that have an essential stabilizing function only in running.
And that’s only part of it.  Several other physiological adaptations come into play during that marathon:
  • Stride length:  Humans uniquely increase their stride when running, due to their relatively long legs: “Unlike most quadrupeds, humans increase speed during ER mostly by increasing stride length rather than rate.... Stride lengths in humans during ER are typically more than 2 m, and can exceed 3.5 m in elite runners, approximately a metre longer than the strides predicted for a 65-kg quadruped or measured in chimpanzees at the same speeds, even when galloping.”
  • Stride rate:  “Humans also have relatively low stride rates at ER speeds, even lower than are predicted for a 500-kg quadruped.... Low stride rates that increase little in the ER range reduce the force required to oscillate the heavy legs (30% of body mass in humans, compared to 18% in chimpanzees) and may favour greater reliance on more slowly contracting, oxidative and fatigue-resistant muscle fibres, which are relatively more abundant in the legs of competitive distance runners than in sprinters.”
  • Small feet:  “Reductions in distal limb mass have little effect on the energetics of walking but produce substantial metabolic savings during ER, roughly proportional to the square of the distance of the mass from the hip.... Although we do not know the relative mass of the distal [leg] limb in fossil hominids, humans differ from australopithecines, and resemble many specialized cursors [animals that walk] in having more compact feet and relatively short toes; the human foot is only 9% of total leg mass, compared to 14% in chimpanzees.”
  • Joint size:  “Many studies have found that compared to both Pan [chimpanzee] and Australopithecus, Homo has substantially larger articular surface areas relative to body mass in most joints of the lower body, including the femoral head and knee, the sacroiliac joint, and the lumbar centra.”  The larger joints help dissipate impact energy while running.
  • Vertebral adaptations:  The authors describe how the pelvis, spinal column and neck vertebrae in humans help “minimize the angular momentum in the trunk caused by rapid oscillation of long, heavy legs,” and also how they keep us from pitching forward during the “inherently unsteady” bipedal gait.
  • Muscle adaptations:  It may be the butt of jokes, but the gluteus maximus, “whose increased size is among the most distinctive of all human features, is strongly recruited in running at all speeds but not in walking on level surfaces.”  Don’t laugh; everything has a purpose (it also provides a soft cushion when sitting, thanks also to our lack of a tail).  Chimps, by contrast, “have no buns,” Bramble told National Geographic.
  • Counter-rotational adaptations:  Humans swing their arms and torso during running while keeping the head straight.  When the foot is on the ground, it can help counteract the rotational torque on the trunk.  “However, during the aerial phase of running, leg acceleration generates even larger torques that cannot be counteracted by ground forces.  These potentially destabilizing forces are offset by the opposing torques produced by counter-rotation of thorax and arms (but not the head).”  They mention three specific human adaptations that keep us running in a straight line: a long, narrow waist; greater structural independence of the pectoral girdle and head; and wider shoulders that permit less massive forearms.  “Reductions in the forearm of Homo (50% less massive relative to total body mass in humans than chimpanzees), substantially lower the muscular effort required to maintain the stereotypically flexed elbow during ER.”
  • Head adaptations:  Our tall, bipedal posture puts us more at risk of pitching forward than quadrupeds or knuckle-walkers.  Fortunately, compared to other primates, we have reduced facial projections, larger semicircular canals (increasing our sensitivity to imbalance), and and a nuchal ligament that runs from the base of the skull to the base of the neck – “a convergent feature in Homo... and other mammals that are either cursorial (for example, dogs, horses, hares) or have massive heads (elephants).  Interestingly, a nuchal ligament is absent in chimpanzees, and apparently in australopithecines (as evinced by the absence of a median nuchal line).”  This ligament may keep the runner’s head from bobbing violently like those bobble-head toys.
  • Heat dissipation:  Since “running generates so much endogenous heat that sustained running is considerably more limited by thermoregulatory capabilities than is walking,” humans have several “derived” [i.e., absent in ancestors] features for dissipating heat: hairlessness, “elaboration and multiplication” of sweat glands, a narrow, elongated body form, more cranial veins, a cavernous sinus, “hot arterial blood in the internal carotid artery before it reaches the brain,” a tendency for “mouth breathing (but not panting) during strenuous activity.”  They note that while nasal breathing is typical of apes, “Human distance runners are thus obligate mouth breathers, permitting higher airflow rates with less resistance and muscular effort; mouth breathing is also a more effective means of unloading excess heat during expiration.”
Now that all these adaptations have been recognized as essential for endurance running, how did they evolve?  Researchers into human evolution have tended to focus on the adaptations for upright bipedal walking; “running is generally considered to have played no major role in human evolution because humans, like apes, are poor sprinters compared to most quadrupeds.”  The authors disagree.  “Given human ER performance capabilities, as well as the many derived features that appear to make them possible, it is also necessary to ask whether, when and why long-distance running may have played a role in human evolution.”  Here, the picture is not so clear.
    The fossil evidence is too fragmentary to be sure, but they believe these adaptations appeared in the genus Homo, not in assumed precursors like Australopithecus.  Most evolutionists have considered the ability to run as a byproduct of the evolution of walking.  Again, the authors disagree:
The ER capabilities of Homo raise several additional questions, the first being whether long-distance running was an important behaviour in human evolution or merely the by-product of enhanced walking capabilities.  Traditional arguments have favoured the latter hypothesis; several of the derived features of Homo in Table 1 are proposed as adaptations to improve long-distance walking performance in more arid, open habitats....  These features include relatively longer legs, larger hindlimb and vertebral joint surfaces, narrower waists and shorter toes.  Yet walking alone cannot account for many of the other derived features in Table 1 because the mass-spring mechanics of running, which differ fundamentally from the pendular mechanics of walking, require structural specializations for energy storage and stabilization that have little role in walking.  Such specialized structures include: an extensive system of springs in the leg and foot that effectively store and release significant elastic energy during running; hypertrophied gluteus maximus and spinal extensor muscles that contract strongly to stabilize the trunk in running but not walking; and an elongate, narrow waist in combination with a low, wide, decoupled shoulder girdle that have an essential stabilizing function only in running.
They add two more features unrelated to walking but essential for ER: the thermoregulatory adaptations required to cope with the “extreme mechanical and thermoregulatory challenges” posed by running, and the shortened forearms and decoupling of the head and pectoral girdle.
    Since these changes would have aided running but decreased human ability to swing in the trees, they speculate that walking was a by-product of selection for ER, rather than the other way around.  More specificially, “Considering all the evidence together, it is reasonable to hypothesize that Homo evolved to travel long distances by both walking and running.”  But that raises additional questions: “An even more difficult task is to determine what behaviours selected for ER in the first place.  Why would early Homo run long distances when walking is easier, safer and less costly?”  All they can suggest is that maybe our ancestors had to compete for meat by running after prey, or travel farther to find it, before they learned how to make spears and bows and arrows.  This hypothesis is “difficult to test” they admit, and “additional research” will be required.  They speculate that the ability to run may have helped man find more protein-rich meat, which might have led to “large bodies, small guts, big brains and small teeth,” and all the rest of the characteristics that make us human.  In conclusion, they comment, “Today, ER is primarily a form of exercise and recreation, but its roots may be as ancient as the origin of the human genus, and its demands a major contributing factor to the human body form.
1Dennis M. Bramble and Daniel E. Lieberman, “Endurance running and the evolution of Homo,” Nature 432, 345 - 352 (18 November 2004); doi:10.1038/nature03052.
2Carl Zimmer, “Human Evolution: Faster Than a Hyena?  Running May Make Humans Special,” Science, Science, Vol 306, Issue 5700, 1283 , 19 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5700.1283].
The physiological descriptions in this paper are wonderfully informative, and must make a thoughtful person stand in awe of the complexity required for such an ordinary thing as running.  Humans may not have the speed of a cheetah, the eyes of an eagle, the deep diving ability of a whale or some other specialties, but for overall flexibility and performance, the human body is unexcelled.  Just watch the Olympics for proof: gymnasts, swimmers, divers, sharpshooters, equestrians, pole vaulters, shot putters, weight lifters, basketball players, cyclists, hurdlers, sprinters and marathoners exemplify the wide range of capabilities designed into a two-meter, 65kg package.  Add to that the ability to think, write, create, compose, love, share, and speak, and you have every reason to respect the sanctity of life.  Let us never take these things for granted.  Let us live life to the fullest, and honor the Giver of these wondrous gifts.
    Notice the stark contrast between the measurable science in this article and the fluffy speculation about evolution.  The authors supplied no clear transitional forms, no relevant genetic phylogenies, and nothing but airy speculations about how alleged ancestors might have lived in the plains of Africa such that they “needed” to run.  Necessity is the mother of invention, not evolution: invention is intelligent design; evolution, on the contrary, is mindless and directionless, based ultimately on accidents.  How could so many multiple, independent adaptations converge on the ability to run?  How many lucky mutations did that require?
    Let’s up the ante a little (actually, a lot).  The authors described running only on flat surfaces.  How many additional adaptations are required for running up and down stairs, running up and down hills, or hopping from boulder to boulder across a river?  How about all the leaping, twisting, dribbling and slam-dunking in a basketball game, or the dramatic movements of a gymnast on floor exercise or the balance beam?  Keep in mind that it’s not just the skeleton, joints and muscles that need to be adapted for these things.  All the body’s systems must be prepared for the jolts of running: circulatory, endocrine, reproductive, nervous, sensory, digestive, excretory, lymphatic and respiratory – from the subcellular level, to the tissue, to the organ, to the integrated body.  A lucky mutation here or there will accomplish nothing, and will likely be selected against and removed, unless every change is synchronized to the whole function.  But didn’t we just learn last month that epistatic interactions prevent this, effectively falsifying the neo-Darwinian paradigm? (see 10/19/2004 headline).  On top of all that, the body knows how to maintain itself, and can usually repair most kinds of damage.  And the whole system runs on potatoes!
    Despite the Darwinian bluffing, rather than contributing knowledge to evolutionary theory, these authors actually made the situation worse for the Darwin Party.  They pointed out that running is not a by-product of walking – it requires too many independent structural adaptations.  And they emphasized numerous physiological traits that make humans outdistance our supposed nearest ape-like ancestors, the chimpanzees – you know, the primates that evolutionists keep telling us have genes 98.5% identical to ours (an oft-repeated myth—see 09/22/2002 headline).  We ask again: does the actual evidence point to evolution, or to creation?  Get off your hypertrophied gluteus, go jogging, and think about it.  You were made for running and thinking.  A little sweat (both mental and physical) will do wonders for your soul.
Next headline on:   Human BodyPhysicsEarly ManMammalsDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryAmazing Facts
Ankylosaurs Were Built for Defense    11/16/2004
Like walking tanks, ankylosaurs were heavily shielded.  “An in-depth study of dinosaur armour has revealed an unexpected new level of strength, with some plates having a weave of fibres resembling today’s bulletproof fabrics,” reports
New Scientist.  Researchers studying the coin-sized plates found that:
....the pattern of collagen fibres was highly organised in three dimensions.  They had sets of structural fibres running parallel and perpendicular to the surface, and then further sets at 45° to each of these axes, providing strength in all directions.  The fibres of the bulletproof fabric Kevlar are similarly arranged.
The article talks about other related dinosaurs with less coverage, but mentions them not as ancestors but “a coevolution,” with the ankylosaurs “acquiring better armour at the expense of speed.”
No mention is made of how close-knit stitching of protein chains “arose” to produce these structures, nor how the genetic code “emerged” to cover the entire animal, nor how the embryonic development program grew them at the right places at the right times.  An evolutionary tale requiring too many lucky mutations is like an alibi with too many improbable circumstances.
    The ankylosaurs may be extinct, but there are other heavily shielded animals today: turtles and armadillos, for some.  Collagen is an amazing, versatile protein that can be as tough as armor, or as soft as baby’s skin.
A reader comments:
About midway through the article is read “Scheyer and Sander conclude that ankylosaur species evolved progressively better armour plates to withstand the great crushing forces applied by the hungry jaws of its predators.”
    Wouldn’t this imply an intelligence to evolution?  I can see natural selection happening – the stronger shells happen to survive but to suggest this as a reason for their development is quite different.  Wouldn’t the evolutionary desire for stronger shells be selected out after each ‘crushing force of a hungry jaw’.  Just how does evolution network with a dead animal?
Next headline on:   DinosaursAmazing Facts
Beavers Know the Value of Dough    11/16/2004
According to a story in the Baton Rouge paper
The Advocate, beavers found some bags of stolen money from a casino and used the bills as stuffing for their dam.  “No charges have been filed against the beavers, though their home was ransacked by the search.”
This was too good to pass up.  Not sure what the moral is, but you can make up your own.  Should be good for some cartoon captions, too: “Don’t gamble on your future; there’s thousands of dollars of equity in your home,” advertises the beaver mortgage broker.  “Should I invest my cash in real estate?” asks a young customer.  “Gnaw.  Go against the flow: civil engineering is the best dam business around for a young pup like you; home values will collapse unless you first stop the runaway flow of currency.”
    “These leaves taste funny, Pa; I don’t want to get sick and cash in my chips.”  “Quit worrying, son, they come from a money tree.  Keep busy, and watch the bottom line.”
    The sheriff should realize the cash wasn’t doing anybody any good in a casino, so he should leave it to beaver.
Send your entries here.
• Beaver couple gazing at the Hoover Dam.  “and you thought I put a lot of cash in ours!”
• “When you said take this and put it into our dam, I didn’t know you meant as concrete.”
• “Oh!  That’s what the money was for!”
Next headline on:   Mammals
Mars Methane: Is It the Breath of Life?   11/14/2004
The methane oozing from Mars is real, says
New Scientist, and leading planetary scientists agree.  Where’s it coming from?  Methane does not survive for long in the Martian atmosphere.  It could come from clathrates, or from an impacting comet that contained some.  Or it could come from living organisms.  All eyes are on Mars to find out.
One planetary scientist quoted in the article calculated that if a comet containing only 2% methane struck Mars, the methane could survive 2000 years.  But he also calculated that the plentiful dust devils would destroy the methane at a high rate.  If methane has always been leaking from Mars, they are at a loss to find a plausible source.  The lack of known geological processes that could maintain it for billions of years is tempting some to believe it might come from living organisms.  But that conclusion comes more from a bias toward long ages than any evidence that methane and rocks and water will create life – far from it.  This will be an interesting story to watch.   If life is detected, will it be found to have arrived from Earth?  If not, will it put more pressure on scientists to give up the idea that Mars is billions of years old?  Stay tuned.
Next headline on:   MarsGeologyOrigin of Life
Evolutionary Atheist Portrayed as Priest   11/14/2004
Is evolution a religion?  Do evolutionists engage in just-so storytelling?  Darwinists wishing to keep evolution looking scientific may wince at
National Geographic’s choice of words for its interview with Richard Dawkins: “Evolution’s ‘High Priest’ Returns With New ‘Tale’.”
    The tale that interviewer James Owen refers to is the title of Dawkins’ latest book, The Ancestor’s Tale (see 09/12/2004 headline).  The pro-Dawkins interview reveals some other religious and political facts about the world’s leading evolutionist:
  • Bush Bash:  Owen seemed a little alarmed that Dawkins was overtly political in the book: “Dawkins doesn’t always come across as the dispassionate scientist.  Given that the book covers four billion years of evolution, readers might be surprised by a number of critical references to President George W. Bush and the current U.S. administration.”
  • Darwin Bash:  Believe it or not, Dawkins is anti-Darwinian – in his own personal context.  When asked whether medicinal drugs, education and the rule of law were disrupting our own natural evolution, Dawkins was quick to distance himself from Darwin’s curse:
    “Most of us have had our lives saved by medical science, probably more than once, and I am all for it,” he said in the interview.  “As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, in the sense that I believe Darwinian natural selection is the explanation for all lifeBut as a citizen I am an anti-Darwinian!  I do not want to see the ruthless callousness of natural selection taking its toll of human life and happiness.
  • Creation Bash:  Dawkins, as usual, has no tolerance for creationists, though this time he dropped the words insane or wicked:
    He said, “I know perfectly well that these people are not stupid but ignorant.  Ignorance is no crime and it is easily cured by education.  What annoys me is the religious groups who actively work to prevent scientific education.  And it doesn’t just annoy me.  It annoys respectable theologians who worry that creationism besmirches the reputation of true religion.”
Owen described Dawkins in religious terms: “In telling the story of evolution, it might seem odd that Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, should cast himself as a pilgrim.  Then again, he has been called the high priest of evolution, with Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species as his bible.
Dawkins illustrates the proverb that no life is ever a complete waste; it can always be used as a bad example.  He provides his disciples excellent training in how to shoot oneself in the foot.  His self-refuting and contradictory statements (i.e., religion is an evolutionary adaptation and there is no God, but speaks of “true religion”) provide useful case studies on logical fallacies.  His cross-eyed expression while tripping out over the wonders of nature and the mindlessness of natural selection provide comic relief (see 09/12/2004 headline).  His zeal for evolution is both passionate and NIMBY (not in my back yard): like a Massachusetts liberal all in favor of putting a nuclear waste dump in Nevada, he doesn’t want the ruthless callousness of Darwinian natural selection to get close to him.  His anti-conservative political views exemplify our claim that the Darwin Party leans strongly liberal-leftist in ideology (see 09/22/2003 commentary), as did Chairman Charlie (see 04/29/2004 commentary).  And his tirades about the creationists wanting to “prevent scientific education” illustrate the Big Lie at work today: creationists want the students to hear more about evolution, including the problems and criticisms, while the Darwinists insist on one-sided indoctrination (see next entry).  And finally, his atheist-priest title adds to the list of amusing oxymorons.  Yes, Dr. Dawkins, keep those useful quotes coming.  We especially liked the one with the 11-second silence, complete with furrowed brow and deep breath, when asked if any mutation or evolutionary process was known to add information to the genes.  Quotes are juicy, but silence is golden.
Next headline on:   Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and Ethics
Does Darwin Need a Shower?   11/14/2004
Science says that Wisconsin is trying to “water down Darwin.”1  That could be taken one of two ways.  Either Darwin is dirty, or his teachings are being diluted by competition.  It can safely be assumed the news reporter meant the latter:
Wisconsin academics are rallying to reverse a decision last month by a local school board that would require students to “study various scientific models/theories of origins” rather than stick with Darwinian theory only.
The decision prompted Michael Zimmerman (U of Wisconsin) to gather hundreds of signatures from scientists, academics, teachers and theologians to “send as strong a message as we can” to protest the more “inclusive” standards.
    This decision, along with the one in Dover, Pennsylvania to approve the teaching of intelligent design (see
11/05/2004 headline), made Eugenie Scott of the NCSE lament, “After last Tuesday there are a lot of happy creationists around the country.”
On November 12, Agape Press printed a story about school boards in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Texas working to permit criticisms of evolution in science classes.
1ScienceScope: “Wisconsin Academics Decry Move to Water Down Darwin,” Science, Volume 306, Number 5699, Issue of 12 November 2004.
We thought that competition and survival of the fittest was good for evolution.  Why not be consistent, Darwinists?  The fittest are apparently 82% to 12% against evolution-only indoctrination (see 10/18/2004 headline).  Maybe you should look at the intelligent design movement as something that evolved for the fitness of the human race.  Whatever is, is right.  Whatever will be, will be.  Don’t let your own memes be so selfish.  Get with the game; since nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, this is apparently the hottest evolutionary trend.  Don’t worry, be happy.
Next headline on:   Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent DesignEducation
Fish Colors Not Driven by Evolutionary Forces   11/14/2004
Why do tropical fish sport such vivid colors?  Are they signaling for mates, and flashing warnings to predators?  Or are they used for camouflage?  Evolutionists are not sure, according to a story in Science News.1  Sexual selection does not seem to explain the colors, because often both sexes look alike.  To understand fish coloration, we have to see as the fish sees, cautions Susan Milius in the article.  Some researchers believe that, to a fish, the colors may look vivid up close but may blend in with the background over a distance.  If so, “It may be possible to whisper and shout at the same time.”
    Gil Rosenthal of the Boston University Marine Program is convinced of one thing: “Evolutionary forces aren’t pushing fish toward conspicuous colors.”  The article includes a montage of the bright colors in fish skin.  The caption reads, “Close-ups of fish skin reveal the abundance of dramatic colors that has inspired theorists for more than a century, though plenty of their ideas about the evolutionary forces behind the colors haven’t held up.”
1Susan Milius, “Hide and See: Conflicting views of reef-fish colors,”
Science News, Week of Nov. 6, 2004; Vol. 166, No. 19 , p. 296.
Evolution is not a force.  A force has magnitude and direction.  Evolution is aimless, purposeless, directionless.  As simple a thing as skin color requires genes, organelles, molecular motors and developmental programs, to say nothing of the eyes with which to see the results.  Natural selection and sexual selection are powerless to drive dumb fish to invent the molecular factories that produce such gaudy clothing.  Since evolutionists have had over a century to explain this and have come up empty, can creationists get a turn?
    Maybe the Lord, the all-wise Creator of life, likes variety.  Psalm 104 says, “Here is the sea great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.  There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it” (Psalm 104:25-26).  Why would God form a creature for play in the water?  Why not?  The effect harks back to the cause: God loves creativity, art, goodness and beauty.  He takes pleasure in the breaching whale and the snow-sledding otter, the eagle and the deer and the angelfish.  The overwhelming variety of color and ability in the animal kingdom is a testimony to God’s creativity and wisdom.
    Evolutionists may quibble over which just-so story might work to explain this or that, but every time they look for a clear-cut explanation in a specific instance, it evades them (see the peppered moth update, for example, in the 06/25/2004 headline – one of their most celebrated cases of evolution).  The mindless mechanisms of natural selection are futile to explain complex functions and beauty.  Omniscience and omnipotence, coupled with goodness and wisdom, are more than adequate.  Science is supposed to believe in cause and effect.  Let’s put design back at the scientific table where it belongs.
Next headline on:   Fish and Marine LifeDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Gas Giants Belch Surprises   11/14/2004
No sooner had the
Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn, when the surprising discoveries began rolling in faster than they can be interpreted.  Uranus the Magician is also putting on an act.  Here’s what’s hot in the cold outer solar system:
  • Ring theft:  Saturn’s little moon Prometheus may not steal fire from the gods, but is stealing material from Saturn’s F-ring, reports New Scientist.  Presumably the little klepto is not putting it back, or they would say it was just borrowing it.
  • Groovy rings:  A new ultraviolet image of Saturn’s A ring (see SpaceRef.com) shows finer detail than ever before seen.  The waves generated by moons like Janus stimulate particles to bounce against each other, and thereby lose material.  The JPL press release (Nov. 8) by the ultraviolet imaging team speaks of other dynamic activity around the ringed planet, including “an ever-changing vista at the frontiers of Saturn, featuring wayward moons, colliding meteoroids, rippling rings and flickering auroras.”
  • Groovy musical rings:  As if the visible resemblance of Saturn’s rings to a phonograph record were not enough, here’s another new likeness: the rings make music!  New Scientist reports that the radio and plasma wave science (RPWS) experiment on Cassini detected radio waves in the rings that, when reduced to human frequencies, sound like a “melodic series of musical notes.”  Principal investigator Don Gurnett was “completely astonished” by the “surprising discovery.”
        OK, who, or what, is playing our tune?  The short answer is, impacts.  Meteoroids a centimeter in size (more or less by up to a factor of ten), when they strike the rings at high speed, generate radio waves that the RPWS instrument is detecting.  The tones last about one to three seconds and are distinct.  They might be related to the “spoke-like features” that Voyager 1 had detected in 1981.  This new radio observation, and others, are leading the Cassini scientists like Larry Esposito to recalibrate the age of the rings downward by a factor of ten.  The tones “suggest the rings are even more dynamic and unstable than had been thought,” New Scientist continues.  “If the rings had been in their present configuration for more than about 10 million years, their composition would have been thoroughly mixed and would now be uniform, according to dynamical models.”  (The old estimate had been 100 million years, still far younger than the solar system is presumed to be.)
  • Titanic mystery:  Scientists still don’t know what to make of Titan after the 750-mile flyby October 26.  Planetary scientists think they see an ice volcano spilling slushy ice (see report and picture on BBC News and JPL).  For more of the intriguing radar images, see The Planetary Society’s report.  The data are still confusing, but one realization is emerging: the lack of impact craters means Titan’s surface is young (see JPL press release from Oct. 29, for instance).
  • How dry I am:  Another enigma about Titan concerns the lack of evidence for lakes and oceans of ethane or methane.  Titan seems dry, although the roughness in the images could be caused by winds roughing up the liquid, if there is any.  See report on New Scientist that says that the paradigm of a moon covered in lakes or oceans up to three kilometers deep “has been shaken to its foundations” by the new observations.  “There had been hope that these bodies of liquid might harbour early stages in the development of biological molecules, and perhaps even simple forms of life,” the article reads, but “all that has changed.”  The Huygens Probe may have to land on a solid surface come January 14, to the slight dismay of its scientific team (although it can survive an impact on solid, too).
  • Cracked moon:  Cassini snapped a preview shot of the battered moon Tethys, better than Voyager’s (see The Planetary Society report).  Scientists are eager to investigate a huge canyon named Ithaca Chasma that formed when an impacting body cracked the moon from pole to pole.
  • Stormy weather:  A photo of Saturn’s “storm alley” made Astronomy Picture of the Day.  The caption ends, “Although the above image provides data and clues, the power behind Saturn’s storms still remains a mystery.”
  • Uranus activity:  Long thought bland and dull, the planet Uranus is showing more activity and diversity in its cloud patterns than expected, reports Space.Com.  Some features evolve rapidly, and, contrary to model predictions, a few of the clouds drift in latitude up to 5 degrees.  (See Astronomy Picture of the Day for Nov. 18.) The Planetary Society describes the surprising activity at Uranus as a fireworks show (see their collection of photos taken by Keck’s adaptive optics).  “In fact,” the article leads, “there are more clouds, moving faster, building larger structures, and changing shape more rapidly than any theorist expected.”
A good summary of Cassini’s findings so far can be found on Sky and Telescope.  Not to neglect the inner solar system: Mars Express took a strikingly detailed photo of Phobos, the potato-shaped moon of Mars.  The press release on SpaceDaily.com says Phobos is in a “death spiral” and may be speeding up on its way to either impacting Mars or splitting into a short-lived ring.
Wow.  This is all incredible news, coming fast and furiously remodeling the models.  What a great time to be living to share in these exciting discoveries.  Do you see a trend in the evidence?  It’s all about dynamic, destructive activity: collisions, erosion, smashing meteoroids – and all this out in the cold outer parts of the solar system.  Can you really believe, with an open mind, that all this activity has been going on at this intensity for 4.5 billion years?  Would not things have settled down by now?  10 million years for the rings sounds like a lot, but that is only 1/450 the assumed age of the solar system – and remember, 10 million is an upper limit.  Scientists don’t like to find evidence that we are living in a “lucky time” to see such things.
    Notice that none of this news was predicted.  It’s deja vu all over again, if anyone remembers the surprises that Voyager 1 and 2 uncovered at these regions in the 1980s.  Things haven’t got any calmer – in fact, it’s more of a fireworks show: they are finding out more dynamic activity than any of the models of the experts predicted (remember also the July 2 surprise?)  The headline “Solar system defies theories” is becoming commonplace.
    These scientists are very smart people and very good at what they do (measuring radio waves and ultraviolet, etc.), but telling stories about origins does not seem to be their strong point (see the press release list for examples).  Just for fun, watch to see if any of them casts doubt on the Sacred Parameter (the presumed age of the solar system, 4.5 billion years).  Don’t hold your breath.  According to the rules, all data must be massaged to fit this immovable Gibraltar of planetary science (that is, naturalistic, evolutionary planetary science, the kind that deals in just-so stories and buries its data in the unobservable past).
Factoid:  For those of you who have seen the film The Privileged Planet, it makes the claim that no other moon in the solar system produces perfect solar eclipses.  Actually, there is one: the book has a chart that shows Prometheus, at Saturn, able to line up exactly over the sun (if you were able to drift in Saturn’s cloud tops without dying).  Two problems: (1) the eclipse would last less than a second, so you would have to work fast to see it.  (2) Cassini recently found that the moonlet is potato-shaped, not spherical.  That means it cannot produce a perfect eclipse, so Earth’s moon is, again, the stand-alone winner!
Next headline on:   Solar SystemDating MethodsPhysicsMars
Darwinists Go Native to Discover the Evolution of Music   11/12/2004
Experimentation is the hallmark of science.  An article in Science this week1 describes a creative experiment designed to infer how music evolved:
On a recent fall evening, the lobby of the archaeology building at the University of Reading was the scene of a strange ritual.  Twenty-five researchers danced in a circle while blowing on the ends of differing lengths of rubber tubing.
The purpose of this dignified experiment was to try to figure out the evolutionary significance of music.  It was part of an interdisciplinary conference by the European Science Foundation last month, a “Workshop on Music, Language, and Human Evolution” in the UK.
    The evolution of music has been a controversial topic among Darwinists, and Stephen Pinker made it worse in 1997 when he asserted in a book that music had no adaptive significance in human evolution: it was just an artifact of other adaptations:
Rather, Pinker argued, music was “auditory cheesecake,” a byproduct of natural selection that just happened to “tickle the sensitive spots” of other truly adaptive functions, such as the rhythmic bodily movements of walking and running, the natural cadences of speech, and the brain’s ability to make sense of a cacophony of sounds.  Music, Pinker maintained, is what the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called a “spandrel,” after the highly decorative but nonfunctional spaces left by arches in Gothic buildings.
Participants were out to prove Pinker and Gould wrong, and show that music did indeed have an evolutionary role in human history.  How did music make humans more fit?  In the Science review, Michael Balter lists some of the ideas entertained at the workshop included:
  1. Sexual selection: as Darwin suggested, maybe music was part of attracting a mate, just as some songbirds sing as part of their courtship process.  But with humans, music is not restricted to courtship.
  2. Social cohesion: The leading hypothesis is that music evolved to keep the tribal early humans together.  Pinker, however, argues that this is circular reasoning; it assumes music is needed for bonding, when that is what the proponents need to prove.  Pinker points out that the fact music is innate is necessary but not sufficient to explain its adaptive value.
  3. Drug high: Another suggestion was that music releases endorphins, giving musical humans mental enjoyment and ability to endure pain.  Supposedly this would help early humans feel nicer toward their tribemates, increasing social cohesion and therefore survival.  The leading proponent of this hypothesis, Robin Dunbar, actually conducted an experiment on Anglican worshippers and found their endorphin levels were higher when singing hymns.  Another proponent felt that archaeological evidence might be found of early humans leaving circles around their campfires where they had danced.
  4. Mother love: Another hypothesis is that mothers sang lullabies to their babies and the soothing effect enhanced survival, by helping put the baby to sleep so she could forage for food.  Pinker responds that this does not explain why older children and adults listen to music.
When all was said and done, Pinker, in Balter’s concluding lines, did not feel his challenge had been met.  But maybe it doesn’t matter, he says: “Some of the things that make life most worth living are not biological adaptations.”
1Michael Balter, “Evolution of Behavior: Seeking the Key to Music,” Science, Science, Vol 306, Issue 5699, 1120-1122, 12 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5699.1120].
This article is humorous to anyone not under the influence of Darwinism.  A better example of Darwin Party freeloaders getting fat on “tantalizing speculations” could hardly be found (see 12/22/2003 headline).  They are arguing among themselves about it, which demonstrates they have no clue what they are talking about.  And to have some of them dancing around like natives and calling it a science experiment, that’s too much.  Do they have any idea how stupid that looks to normal people?  We need a new entry in the Evolution Songbook.
    Forget this nonsense.  Put on a CD of Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony, or sing Immortal, Invisible at a Bible-believing church.  If a Darwinist stops by to measure your endorphin level, invite him to get a life and sing along.
Next headline on:   Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEarly ManDumb Ideas
Bats Evolved Wing Fingers Quickly    11/11/2004
The earliest fossil bat is 100% bat, as Duane Gish used to point out in creation-evolution debates.  Admitting this is so, Karen Sears (U of Colorado) looked for a genetic explanation.  She found a gene named BMP2 that can cause finger lengths to change in mice.  This explains the absence of transitional forms:
Although it is a small developmental change, if it allowed the ancestors of bats to grow extended digits it could explain how bats evolved flight so rapidly, Sears told the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Denver.
    Relatively few transitional forms would have existed just briefly before being displaced by more advanced forms.  “We’ve never had an adequate explanation” for the sudden appearance of bats, Nancy Simmons of the American Museum of Natural History in New York told New Scientist.  “This sounds like a remarkable discovery”  The lack of transitional forms has also led to speculation about the origin of bats, with some believing that primates are their closest relatives.  Genetic studies now show they are closest to ferungulates, which include horses and pigs, or to the shrews and moles.
The article began, “A change to a single gene allowed bats to grow wings and take to the air, a development that may explain why bats appeared so suddenly in the fossil record some 50 million years ago,” adding, “Bats have been an evolutionary enigma.”
The enigma is that anyone would believe evolution.  It has to explain the lack of evidence, not the evidence.  We don’t want to know just about the mutation in this one gene that grew long fingers, but the magic cosmic rays that created flight software, echolocation, and webbed membranes between the fingers simultaneously.  Finish your work, Karen: give some mice more BMP2 and launch them into the air.
    In his classic cartoon book
Science Made Stupid, Tom Weller showed phylogenetic trees with flying horses and unicorns mixed in with real animals.  The statement here about bats being related to horses and pigs leads to a mutation of the old what-if joke, “if pigs had BMP2 mutations, they could fly.”  Should they teach this is school?
Next headline on:   MammalsFossilsDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Church Attendance Correlated with Good Eating    11/11/2004
“Saint Louis University researcher links spiritual, physical nourishment” begins a story on
EurekAlert.  Deidre Griffith announced to the American Public Health Association findings that people who attended church regularly were more likely to eat healthy fruits and vegetables. 
Everyone in the survey ate the most popular fruits and vegetables - corn, iceberg lettuce and bananas.  But frequent church-goers — many of whom attended choir rehearsals, Bible study groups, workshop services or committee meetings each week — ate more of the stuff that researchers say offer the most nutrition.
    “The body is your temple and we should treat it that way,” Griffith says.  “Church can be a big part of your support system for changing your diet.”
The study showed that church attenders ate 26% more “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables.
But watch out for Aunt Bertha’s time-bomb casserole at the all-church potluck.  It’s hard to say whether this correlation is statistically significant.  Potluck food left out in the open can cause problems with salmonella, for instance.  Griffith errs in misquoting the Bible.  She says “The body is your temple,” when Paul in I Corinthians 6 says the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  But St. Louis University is a Jesuit school, where Scriptural accuracy is not a priority.
    It makes sense that churchgoers, on average, being taught that their bodies are creations of God to maintain with diligence and reverence, would take better care of them – or they should.  Churches are not without pew potatoes, smokers and morbidly obese, but hopefully not in the same numbers as secularists.  The Bible teaches that because “The earth is the Lord’s, and its fulness,” the people of God have a spiritual duty: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10).
Next headline on:   HealthBible
Baby Planet Defies Theories    11/11/2004
A double-check on an apparently young extrasolar planet confirmed the earlier finding: it is too young to fit either of the leading models for planet formation.  See story on
U of Rochester press release.
Observations have a way of interfering with pet theories, especially about the unobservable past.
Next headline on:   Astronomy
Bacterial Hypodermic Needle Examined   11/10/2004
Those who have seen the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life might recall seeing the image of the “needle-nosed cellular pump” that some evolutionists claim was an intermediate for the bacterial flagellum.  Those wishing to investigate this claim further might want to see the renditions that a Yale team produced of the pump, called a Type III Secretion System (TTSS), in the Nov. 5 issue of Science.1 Their introduction describes the machine:
TTSSs are composed of more than 20 proteins, including a highly conserved group of integral membrane proteins, a family of customized cytoplasmic chaperones, and several accessory proteins, placing TTSSs among the most complex protein secretion systems known.
Their images of the TTSS show parts resembling exquisitely crafted rings, gears, sockets, rods and tubes.  The parts are flexible and undergo drastic conformational changes during assembly that amount to reprogramming of the parts.  Here’s a small sample of what transpires during the assembly of this one molecular complex:
Contoured longitudinal sections revealed conformational changes that occurred during the transition from the base to the fully assembled needle complex (Fig. 3, A and B).  The cuplike protrusion that emerged from the basal plate of IR1 moved down, while an inward, clamping movement of IR2 redefined the shape of the cavity that is located below the basal plate of the base (movie S2).  These conformational changes may provide the structural basis for the functional reprogramming of the TTSS machinery, which upon completion of needle assembly, switches from secreting the needle protein PrgI, the inner-rod protein PrgJ (see below), and the regulatory protein InvJ ... to secreting the effector proteins that are delivered into the host cell.  On the opposite side of the basal plate, the socketlike structure underwent an outward movement, which created an attachment point for the inner rod (movie S2).  A similar outward movement was observed for OR1, which created space for the needle to dock at the outermost perimeter of the base (movie S2).  These changes were complemented by an outward movement of OR2 and a drastic remodeling that flattened the septum, sealing the apical side of the base, against OR2 during needle assembly (Fig. 3, A and B; movie S2).  This rearrangement of the septum is essential for creation of the secretion channel and transformed part of InvG from being a barrier into forming two scaffolds that enable assembly of the needle and the inner rod.  Like the socket structure at the basal end of the chamber, these new scaffolds likely serve as adaptors, accommodating the symmetry mismatches between the base, the needle, and the inner rod.
Thus, the assembly of the TTSS involves not only parts coming together, but a coordinated series of shape changes of the parts relative to one another such that they fit together tightly, to enable the finished pumping action.  We know the TTSS largely from “virulence of many Gramnegative bacteria pathogenic for animals and plants”.
1Marlovits et al., “Structural Insights into the Assembly of the Type III Secretion Needle Complex,&148;
Science, Science, Vol 306, Issue 5698, 1040-1042, 5 November 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1102610].
The authors make no attempt to explain how these structures evolved, and do not claim that the better-known bacterial flagellum is related to it.  But as the film Unlocking says, many of the flagellar parts are unique.  If one machine borrows parts from another, and everything borrows from something else, you get to the point where you are borrowing from nothing.  The parts look almost machined for their specific function, and many of them are highly conserved (unevolved), continuing to do what they always did in ages past.  And like the movie also emphasizes, the parts are amazing enough, but even more amazing are the assembly instructions.  The parts have to be assembled in the correct order, and in the right amounts, in the right place at the right time.  No evolutionist seems to want to consider that part of the equation.
    Many molecular machines enliven and heal and enable things, but these little machines seem crafted for pain.  They look like little hypodermic needles of poison, but were they always so?  Looks can be deceiving.  The needles humans use can inject life-saving drugs, or heroin to an addict, or “lethal injection” to a criminal or political prisoner.  Is the TTSS a benevolent tool gone awry in a crooked world?  There is much more to be learned about bacteria, viruses, and their amazing tool kits.  It’s one project to figure out what they are, and how they work.  Where they came from, however, is a totally different matter for conjecture.  Claiming these machines, and the choreography that assembles them, is the work of blind forces of nature will be a hard sell, the closer we look at their amazing structures and functions.
Next headline on:   Intelligent DesignCell Biology
Plant Email Protocols Becoming Clearer    11/09/2004
The only way the root of a plant can signal the shoot at the tip is with a communication system, a kind of “interplant internet” and email system, as reported before (see
10/04/2004 headline).  Current Biology has been watching the plant signaling front; there were two articles in the most recent issues.1,2  In the Oct. 26 issue, Gallagher et al. studied a signaling protein named SHR and how it diffuses in and around root cells.1  In the Nov. 9 issue,2 Timothy Nelson of Yale presents a dispatch on the state of the research entitled, “Plant Signaling: Notes from the Underground.”  The article focuses on a “carotenoid derivative is a novel plant signaling molecule through which roots can influence shoot branching and leaf development.”
1Gallagher et al., “Mechanisms Regulating SHORT-ROOT Intercellular Movement,” Current Biology, Current Biology, Vol 14, 1847-1851, 26 October 2004.
2Timothy Nelson, “Plant Signaling: Notes from the Underground,” Current Biology, Volume 14, Issue 21, 9 November 2004, Pages R929-R930, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2004.10.017.
This is beginning to explain how plants can keep in touch with their feelings without nerves and muscles.  Little packages of information are emailed from source to destination, where they are read and understood.  Neat, huh?
Next headline on:   PlantsAmazing Facts
Birds Wag Their Heads for a Reason    11/09/2004
According to a study published in Current Biology,1 birds orient themselves to the earth’s magnetic field by doing “head scans,” or moving their heads from side to side (see also summary on
EurekAlert).  A team of German researchers found that migratory garden warblers put into a neutral magnetic field tripled their head movements, and became randomly oriented.  This proves that the magnetic organ of birds, whatever it is, is in their heads.
1Mouritsen et al., “Migratory Birds Use Head Scans to Detect the Direction of the Earth’s Magnetic Field,” Current Biology, Volume 14, Issue 21, 9 November 2004, Pages 1946-1949, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2004.10.025 .
Think of how sensitive an organ it must be to detect changes with just a few centimeters or millimeters of movement.  That surely must outperform human magnetometers.  The wonders of bird migration seem more marvelous with each new discovery.
Next headline on:   BirdsAmazing Facts
School Boards Becoming More Bold to Challenge Darwinism    11/08/2004
Board members willing to challenge the Darwin-only policy seem to be getting bolder:
  1. Kansas:  The Wichita Star reports that a 6-4 conservative majority is likely to revisit the issue of permitting discussion of intelligent design in the science standards beginning in January, even though “moderates” and opponents prefer instead the “religion” be kept in history and social studies.  The pendulum appears poised to swing back from the 1999 decision that received bad press.
  2. Wisconsin:  The city of Grantsburg revised its standards to allow inclusion of “various models/theories” of origins, prompting a protest by 300 biology and religion faculty, and accusations that it will confuse students and waste time, according to an Associated Press report.
  3. Georgia:  Cobb County are going to court this week to defend their use of disclaimers in biology textbooks, according to another Associated Press report.  The lawsuit, brought by the ACLU, alleges that the disclaimer “restricts the teaching of evolution, promotes the teaching of creationism and discriminates against particular religions.”  The county rebuts that the notice inside the books “simply encourages students to keep an open mind” on the subject of evolution.  The board included the disclaimers because the books taught evolution as fact, and “More than 2,000 people signed a petition opposing the biology texts because they did not discuss alternative theories, including creationism.”  For more background on the case, see the Discovery Institute press release and the media backgrounder by Seth Cooper.
The latter AP article mistakenly claims that “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution.”  In fact, it only ruled that schools could not mandate equal time, but permitted any valid scientific theories to be taught.  A lawyer for the defense believes the disclaimer will hold up in court.
The country just needs a few bold school board members willing to take the first shots, and many others will follow.  The debate should be about evidence, not power, to end the monopoly of the Darwin Party.  But they won’t stand for it, because once the discussion shifts to the evidence, instead of who has the force of intimidation, they know their gig is up.
    All can be well in a new era of pluralistic science teaching in a secular society, provided everyone agrees that evidence, logic and critical thinking skills are to be upheld, and that science must be about what is observable, testable and repeatable.  This will keep biology class from descending into a free-for-all for every cult (including the Darwin Party) that wants to get its myth inserted into the curriculum.  The way the trend of evidence has been going, though it appears that Darwinism will not only get a trouncing in the ring, but may, in our lifetime, be relegated to a chapter in textbooks on history and comparative religions.
Next headline on:   Education
Guppies Don’t Age According to Darwinian Expectations    11/08/2004
If you are exposed to more predators and environmental stresses, you’re supposed to wear out and not live as long.  Studies of guppies, however, are refuting that classical Darwinian prediction, says a news release from
UC Riverside.  “Classic evolutionary theories of senescence, or the evolution of the rate at which organisms deteriorate as they age, have been challenged by the findings of researchers at the University of California, Riverside,” it begins.  The guppies under high predation lived longer and declined slower, contrary to the theory of senescence taught by Peter Medawar and George Williams in the 1950s.  The researchers proposed three reasons for the “unexpected results.”  But according to the article, “All of these reasons are derived from newer theories for the evolution of senescence that have yet to receive serious consideration.”
Williams, who likes to chide his fellow evolutionists for their baloney stories, (see 05/31/2004 headline), is getting his turn.  So another Darwinian prediction is falsified by Darwinians.  Keep up the good work.
Next headline on:   Fish and Marine LifeDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Bees Cast Doubt on Meteor Impact Extinction Theory    11/08/2004
If the Cretaceous era ended in a global catastrophe brought on by a huge meteor that struck the Yucatan, plunging the world into a dinosaur-killing nuclear winter, how did a delicate honeybee survive and thrive?  That’s the question being asked on a press release from the
Geological Society of America.  Two researchers from U of New Orleans presented their findings at a GSA meeting in Denver about tropical honeybees discovered in amber from the Cretaceous that are “almost identical to their modern relatives.”  The delicate insects, and the plants they fed on, survived through those years, so they deduce that whatever the impact did, “It couldn’t have been that huge.”  The story was also reported on EurekAlert and PhysOrg.
This ruins all that exciting animation on Walking with Dinosaurs.  Now it will have to be sold on the cartoon shelf, not the science shelf.  (Notice also that the little bees didn’t evolve at all for all the years that small mammals supposedly transformed into whales, giraffes and hobbitses).
Next headline on:   GeologyTerrestrial ZoologyFossils
100 Protosaurs Buried; No Evolution Found   11/07/2004
A graduate student went on a field trip, hoping to document the evolution of early dinosaurs.  Trouble was, she couldn’t find any evolution. 
EurekAlert published a Virginia Tech press release about Michelle Casey, a Virginia Tech master’s degree student, who carefully measured about 100 articulated specimens of Tanytrachelos ahynis, a 12- to 18-inch marine reptile with a long neck, found in Virginia.  They were presumably buried over 350,000 years in lake sediments, but there are no evolutionary differences between individuals from different time periods, and they are all so well preserved, “They must have been buried really fast or left completely undisturbed after they died.”
This doesn’t sound like a case of slow accumulation of the creatures one by one sinking into lake beds over hundreds of thousands of years (they swim, don’t they?).  It sounds like a herd of them being engulfed in a flood.  That calls into question the validity of the dating methods used on the strata.  The report says the fossilized bones are too fragile to be removed from the sediment.  Would they not have floated after death, and have been scavenged at the surface?  Even if they sank, would the skeletons remain articulated for long periods till the soft sediments somehow turned to rock?  Why are so many found close together?  Could the fossils have remained articulated and finely preserved in a fragile state for hundreds of millions of years, in a world repeatedly racked by catastrophes?  Why was there not even microevolution of this species for 350,000 years?  The story doesn’t add up.  If it were not for the need of Darwinists to interpret everything into a long-age assumption of evolution, the observable evidence would fit neatly with a recent flood model.  Why not?  Why not take off the Darwin-Lyell glasses and look at the evidence with clear, unobstructed vision?
Next headline on:   DinosaursDating MethodsFossilsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Origin-of-Life Expert Jokes about Becoming a Creationist   11/05/2004
Exclusive  At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Nov. 5, a world-renowned origin-of-life researcher spoke to a packed auditorium on the status of his field, chemical evolution and the origin of life.  Dr. Steven Benner (U. of Florida) trains graduate students in the subject, knows all the big names in the field personally, and has published and worked on this subject for over 20 years.  His outline dealt with 4 approaches to probing the black box of life’s origin: (1) working forward in time from stars and planets, (2) working backward in time from existing life to its ancestors, (3) experimenting with synthetic life, and (4) searching suitable habitats in space.
    More interesting, though, were his candid admissions about the problems facing anyone in this field, and his joking references a couple of times that if these problems remain unsolveable, he might have to become a creationist.  He didn’t mean it, of course.  These were chuckle-garnering hyperboles to express the frustration he has felt for decades over problems that are still far from a solution.  For instance:
  1. DNA: as good as it gets?  Benner spent some time discussing how perfect DNA and RNA are for information storage.  The upshot: don’t expect to find non-DNA-based life elsewhere.  Alien life might have more than 4 base pairs in its genetic code, but the physical chemistry of DNA and RNA are hard to beat.  Part of the reason is that the electrochemical charges on the backbone keep the molecule rigid so it doesn’t fold up on itself, and keep the base pairs facing each other.  The entire molecule maximizes the potential for hydrogen bonding, which is counter-intuitive, since it would seem to a chemist that the worst environment to exploit hydrogen bonding would be in water.  Yet DNA twists into its double helix in water just fine, keeping its base pairs optimized for hydrogen bonds, because of the particular structures of its sugars, phosphates and nucleotides.  The oft-touted substitute named PNA falls apart with more than 20 bases.  Other proposed alternatives have their own serious failings.
  2. Sugar substitute:  Ribose sugar is the molecule of choice for nucleic acids, yet because it is difficult to imagine forming under plausible prebiotic conditions and has a short lifetime, origin-of-life researchers have searched diligently for alternatives, like glycerol, that might have served as scaffolding for prebiotic chemicals prior to the emergence of DNA.  Unfortunately, they don’t work.  He was emphatic: over 280 alternative molecules have been tested, and they just do not work at all; those that might be better than ribose are implausible under prebiotic conditions.  “Ribose is actually quite good – uniquely good,” he said.  Deal with it: one’s chemical evolution model is going to have to include ribose.  That means figuring out how it can form, how it can avoid destruction in water, and how it can avoid clumping into useless globs of tar.  (RNA, the main player in the leading “RNA World” scenario for the origin of life, uses ribose; DNA uses a closely-related sugar, deoxyribose.)
  3. Genetic takeovers:  Benner chided those whose models invoke genetic takeovers: i.e., starting with another sugar then switching to ribose, starting with another informational macromolecule then switching to DNA, etc.  For instance, some flippantly suggest to get DNA’s sugar, “just add an OH to ribose....”  The professor got animated.  That adds a charge to the molecule, he exclaimed, and what is more important to the behavior of a molecule than its electrostatic charge?  You can’t just add a charge to a molecule and expect it to keep behaving like it did before.
  4. Adding Ad Hoc:  When a researcher keeps having to multiply ad hoc scenarios to keep his model together, it quickly becomes a target of criticism.  The professor spoke of Robert Shapiro, a long time critic of this bad habit among his colleagues.  He said one of his requirements for graduate students is to endure Shapiro’s critique.  He spoke as if this is a common, well-known fault in the origin of life community – invoking a meteor strike here, a clay mineral there, a volcano over yonder, a deep sea vent somewhere else – all needing to be present at the right time and place to get the scheme to work.  He also spoke as if his own model was not immune from that criticism.
The ribose problem appeared so severe to him early in his studies, he felt certain at the time that researchers simply had to find an alternate sugar for chemical evolution.  Stanley Miller was similarly emphatic in his writings, stating that ribose sugars were not components of the earliest life.  His colleagues (researchers in this field tend to be a sociological society, he quipped) have gone back and forth on this issue for years, but the 280 molecules they have tested are worse than ribose; they don’t work.
    This intractable problem has led him to a novel solution: life didn’t form in the water, but in a desert.  Serendipitously, he found that a mineral – borate – can stabilize ribose long enough to make it a contender (see
01/09/2004 headline).  Like ribose, borate also decomposes in water and needs a dry environment.  If borate is found on Mars, he speculated, maybe ribose will also be found there, he announced to the planetary scientists and engineers in the room.  But then, how can the other necessary molecules associate with ribose if it is in a desert?  And how would it be shielded from ultraviolet radiation, as a questioner asked about Mars (to which he answered that much more research needs to be done on the effect of sunlight on ribose).  And how could ribose on a desert continent survive the impact record on the early earth?  Worse, the fact that borate and ribose seem made for each other raises the old specter of the Anthropic Principle: why should two independent substances that are not common in the universe be found together in the same place and time?  He admitted this gave him a shrinking feeling; “it was almost a creationist argument,” he confessed half seriously.
    This reporter had the opportunity to ask follow-up questions to the professor during the Q&A period, and in person after the meeting was adjourned:
  1. Information:  What is information, and how much would be needed to get a prebiotic chemical to the point of being accessible to “Darwinian evolution”?  (assuming, for the moment, that Darwinian evolution would be effective after that point).  When he bluffed about ambiguities over the meaning of “information,” I pointed to functional information; i.e., the need for replication and metabolism (see 06/12/2003 headline).  He estimated that 1000 nucleotides might be sufficient, maybe as low as 200 or 300– yet he admitted readily that 200 is still an enormous sequence: 4200 permutations, which translates into something like 10120.  He shrugged off any consideration of how improbable that was, instead making the problem far worse by intimating that 10,000 nucleotides might be necessary to contain enough information for Darwinian evolution (see online book).
  2. Chirality:  The professor readily admitted that getting a polymer of all one hand was enormously improbable (see 06/21/2004 headline and online book).  He suggested some experiments that showed an excess of one hand, but agreed, when reminded, that even one base of the wrong hand destroys the molecule.  It has to be 100% single-handed, he conceded, to be useful for life.  How could that come about?  He dodged the question, saying he prefers to stay focused on his own research and leave that problem to others.
  3. Science or Myth?  I saved the hardest question for last: How can chemical evolution theory be distinguished from just-so storytelling?  He jovially shrugged the question without getting offended.  “Well,” he replied, “I think we have made progress,” and mentioned one or two things that have been learned in the last 20 years or so.  But since there was little to show for it, and in a real sense the problems are worse now, since we have learned so much more about the complexity of life than was known in the Miller Experiment days, how can it be claimed all the activity is not mere oscillation rather than progress?  He smiled as if stumped, but was out of time; his escorts had to take him to the airport.
Besides the problems, another thing stood out from his presentation: the exquisite perfection of DNA, RNA and ribose for the jobs they have to do.  Maybe this would be a good time to follow the path of former chemical evolution researcher, Dean Kenyon: become a creationist.
Several important and valuable lessons came out of this interchange.  One was the observation that in a packed room of intelligent people, I was the only one to ask really challenging questions.  The others, many of them college graduates with advanced degrees, seemed to just accept what was being said, and appeared hopeful that science was making real progress in finding out how life evolved.  Few, if any, seemed to notice that most of what he discussed was either irrelevant to the question, or too speculative to be considered scientific.
Consider his four approaches: (1) Working forward in time from the earliest stars and planets to the origin of life.  This assumes evolution without offering a shred of evidence.  Irrelevant.  (2) Working backward in time from existing life to ancestral life.  This assumes evolution with only circumstantial evidence from comparative genomics, but has the additional problem that no evidence for life earlier than 2.5 billion years has been found (assuming evolutionary dating).  Speculation without evidence.  (3) Synthetic biology: tweaking proteins and DNA to explore the limits of life.  This is intelligent design (see 01/09/2003 headline).  Irrelevant.  (4) Exploring new habitats in space on other planets.  This is banking on hope, and even if life were found, it would not prove it evolved.  Irrelevant.
He provided no evidence to demonstrate chemical evolution is a viable scientific theory.  He shared some interesting organic chemistry, which is fine, but none of it was applicable to explaining the origin of life by natural means.  He himself once wrote, “It is difficult to believe that larger pools of random RNA emerged spontaneously without the gentle coaxing of a graduate student desiring a completed dissertation.”  That’s intelligent design, not evolution.
    Few in the audience, also, seemed to care that the problems he described were so serious as to falsify chemical evolution.  Each problem was a show stopper, yet his show went on.  Then there were the problems he didn’t even talk about.  Everything in evolution he accepted as true has problems of its own: common ancestry of all life, the RNA World hypothesis (see 07/11/2002 headline), Darwinian natural selection, the long ages of the geologists and the phylogenetic tree-building methods of the biologists.  Each of these things he merely assumed were true, but each has monstrous problems of its own.  Yet in spite of his faith in the cause to which he has devoted his professional life, he intimated a shrinking feeling that maybe the creationists might be right.
    This episode underscores the fact that, on this subject, creationists have the Darwinists in a hammerlock with their faces to the floor wincing in pain.  Darwinism has fouled out on the origin of life, and one cannot continue competing if he has fouled out in the first round.  If a designing intelligence is needed to get life going, then all the questions and answers change.  The fluff about finch beaks and peppered moths and Lucy is irrelevant, because a totally new approach to looking at the world is needed: an approach that recognizes that information from an intelligent cause is a fundamental property of life.  If that happens to have profound religious or metaphysical implications, so be it.  Meanwhile, keep the hammerlock on until they repent of their storytelling and cry UNCLE: Uniformitarian Naturalism Cannot Life Explain.
Next headline on:   Origin of Life
Pennsylvania School Board Seeks Alternatives to Darwin   11/05/2004
Creationism is like mushrooms, according to a news item in Science Nov. 5:
ID Forever: “Intelligent design” (ID)—the thinking man’s creationism—keeps popping up like mushrooms after a summer rain.  Last month it cropped up in Pennsylvania, where the Dover Area School Board revised its precollege science curriculum to include discussion of “gaps/problems” in Darwinian theory and of “other theories of evolution including ... intelligent design.”
According to a news item dated 10/24/2004 from the
York Daily Record, the policy passed by a 6-3 vote of the board reads, “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.  Note: Origins of life will not be taught.”  According to both sources, this is the first time intelligent design has been mentioned by name as a contender against Darwinism in a high school science policy.  Surprisingly, the Discovery Institute, an ID think tank in Seattle, did not recommend this policy.  It thinks the wording goes too far and invites a lawsuit.  They know from experience.  The action has not escaped the notice of Eugenie Scott’s NCSE, nor the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who are considering legal action that, if successful, would stick the taxpayers with the bill.
You have to just shake your head in disbelief that the Darwin Party has to keep resorting to threats, intimidation and mudslinging to protect their little buddha from competition.  They send their representatives to the school boards and the media to get everyone worked up over emotionally charged but meaningless slogans that foment heat, not light.  It is certainly not the thinking man’s evolutionism.
    If you don’t live near Dover, Pennsylvania, this issue is coming to your neighborhood school district sure as mushrooms after a summer rain.  Mushrooms can be good if they are the edible kind.  But how can you tell when the NCSE keeps screaming how poisonous they are?  You watch others eat them and see if they keel over.  You watch, that is, if the NCSE not already scoured the woods to pick them all and destroy them before anyone can find them.  Don’t worry; they are freely available on the web.  All it takes is a few spores drifting in the wind, and pretty soon, there will be so many mushrooms cropping up in so many places simultaneously that the combined armies of the NCSE, ACLU, AUSCS and Big Science won’t be able to stop people from finding the truth.  Once people discover how healthful and delicious they are, they will remark how much better they are than those Amanitas the Darwin Party establishment has been serving.
Next headline on:   Intelligent DesignEducation
“Crucial Evolutionary Link” Found for Eukaryotes    11/05/2004
Often the opening words of a news story are what stick in the memory: “crucial evolutionary link.”  The corroborating evidence, however, is buried in technical details of the press release from Rockefeller University, posted on
NewsWise.  In short, the researchers claim:
Scientists believe the emergence of organelles, compartments in the eukaryotic cell’s cytoplasm that perform such functions as energy production, waste removal and protein synthesis, and a nucleus evolved between 2 and 3 billion years ago.
    One hypothesis regarding the evolution of eukaryotic cells suggests that the endomembrane system developed because some ancient bacterial cells had the ability to sharply curve their membranes, allowing them to form internal membrane structures as well as to engulf other organisms.  The findings reported by [Michael P.] Rout and colleagues [Rockefeller University] suggest that an ancestor of an NPC component, called the Nup84 complex, may have been a key molecular sculptor responsible for such a reshaping of the membrane.
To find out what the Nup84 complex is, you have to wade through the boring body of the article.  For one thing, Nup84 is complicated:
...the scientists ... found that the Nup84 complex in yeast is composed of two types of protein structures, “alpha solenoids” and “beta propellers.”  Two of the proteins are beta propellers, three are alpha solenoids and two are composed of beta propeller “heads” attached to alpha solenoid “tails.”  The scientists showed that the architecture of the Nup84 complex also appears in the NPCs of human and plant cells and is therefore conserved throughout eukaryotes.
As our regular readers know, any functional protein is composed of a chain of amino acids, all left-handed, assembled by a complex factory of molecular machines (see online book).  The function of a protein is dependent on the precise sequence of the amino acids and the way the chain is folded with the help of other machines named chaperones.  When you have a complex of proteins working together (and most proteins work in complexes), the requirements for specified complexity are even higher.  The authors are assuming that this protein complex Nup84 emerged through a Darwinian process.
    What’s the gist of the missing link claim?  Basically, that Nup84 not only can curve a membrane, it is also involved in shuttling cargo around the cell.  Since both prokaryotes and eukaryotes do that, but only eukaryotes curve their membranes to form organelles, they concluded that Nup84 is a missing link, a “crucial evolutionary link.”
Did you ever install software on your computer, and in your hurry to use it, bypass the EULA (end-user license agreement) by clicking on the “I Accept” button?  How do you know the EULA didn’t reveal that it would install viruses and tracking cookies, mess with your registry, break other software, forbid any refunds and take away all your rights?  Almost nobody reads that stuff or could do anything about it if they did, because the installer does not let you proceed unless you accept all 1500 lines of incomprehensible legalese without protest.  It comes down to an issue of trust.  Because you read the sales pitch about how wonderful the software was, you just swallowed the EULA as written and hoped nothing terrible would happen.
    That’s why you need Creation-Evolution Headlines – the Consumer Reports of the origins debate.  Most people just trust the Darwin Software Co. sales pitch, because after all, it comes from scientists, who are very smart people and presumably honest, and they would never do anything dastardly or deceitful, at least not on purpose.  These are usually the same consumers who trust large brand names like Enron.  Here at CEH, we read the Darwin Software EULA,* point the Baloney Detector at it, and tell you when you are being sold a bill of goods.    *Evolutionary Uniformitarian Licentious Advocacy.
    Forget the hype that a “crucial evolutionary link” was found.  The data in this story is not a pitch for the Darwin Software brand; it is a pitch for the Intelligent Design brand.  They found a complex of molecular machines that can fold a membrane and shuttle cargo efficiently around the cell.  They found that it existed even farther back in “evolutionary time” than they thought.  They found that it is conserved (unevolved) all the way up to plants and people.  Where is the evolution?  The fact that functional machinery, with solenoids and propellers and architecture, is doing just fine in all forms of life, contradicts the sales pitch that this Nup84 complex illuminates the “emergence” of organelles and eukaryotic specialties by a mindless, undirected, natural process.  Not only that, this story messes with the registry of your mind and installs viruses in your brain that remove your common sense neurons.  Don’t install it.  Instead, go out and buy the ID brand, the kind that is intelligently designed.
    When you read Consumer Reports often enough, you learn how to dodge hype and put claims to the test yourself.  That is the goal of CEH, to help you tune your own Baloney Detector to the point you will no longer need our services.  Write in if you think you’re getting good at it.  In the meantime, are you glad you get this daily service with no advertising and no subscription fee?
Next headline on:   Cell BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
How Water Striders Stride the Water   11/04/2004
They have microscopic hairs on their feet, that’s how.  Scientists reporting in Nature1 Nov. 3 studied the tiny feet of these bugs that glide on the surface of the water (see
08/07/2003 headline).  They created artificial strider legs but theirs didn’t work as well.  Further study showed that what makes the bug feet so waterproof are thousands of microscopic hairs called setae, containing fine nanogrooves, and arranged in hierarchical rows.  The structure and arrangement of the microsetae traps air, resulting in 96.86% of the leg-water interface providing a cushion of air:
Available air is trapped in spaces in the microsetae and nanogrooves to form a cushion at the leg–water interface that prevents the legs from being wetted.
    This unique hierarchical micro- and nanostructuring on the leg’s surface therefore seems to be responsible for its water resistance and the strong supporting force.  This clever arrangement allows water striders to survive on water even if they are being bombarded by raindrops, when they bounce to avoid being drowned.  Our discovery may be helpful in the design of miniature aquatic devices and non-wetting materials.
So there you have it.  It was amazing enough that water striders could walk on water; now, it appears they quite literally walk on air.
    See also the National Geographic News report on this finding.   Report Brian Handwerk states that to match the water strider’s speed on the water for its size, a human swimmer would have to be able to swim 400 miles an hour.  He says this bug, Gerris remigis, “is considered the most advanced surface-dwelling water bug found in nature.”
1Xuefend Gao and Lei Jiang, “Biophysics: Water-repellent legs of water striders,” Nature 432, 36 (04 November 2004); doi:10.1038/432036a.
The authors do not even begin to speculate about how such a marvelous structure and function evolved.  Who would dare?  Dads, moms, use the water strider as a teachable moment next time you take your son or daughter on a walk by the stream.
Next headline on:   Terrestrial ZoologyAmazing Facts
Supernova Sparked Humanity    11/03/2004
Today’s just-so story is brought to you by the
Discovery Channel.  “Ancient Supernova Sparked Humanity?” asks reporter Rossella Lorenzi. 
A stellar blast might have helped initiate human evolution three million years ago, according to German scientists who have found clear traces of an ancient supernova explosion deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.
They found traces of Fe60, with a half-life of 1.5 million years, that they assume came from a nearby supernova.  So what does this have to do with us and our evolving ancestors?
“The African climate shifted toward more arid conditions about 2.8 million years ago .... Some of the major events in early hominid evolution appear to be coeval with the African climate changes,” the researchers wrote.
    Indeed, anthropologists believe that the dramatic African climate changes, resulting in deforestation and the emerging of savannah, forced hominins to climb down from the trees and walk erect.
Adam Burrows (U. of Arizona) thinks the supernova part is plausible, but added, “I would be loathe at this stage to credit the idea that this event stimulated the evolution or migrations of humanity.”
What the world needs is a good cartoonist to take the Darwinian just-so stories and visualize them, along with Looney Tunes background music.  First, the cosmic rays didn’t fry the hominin brains, it improved them.  Then, the hairless pre-humans decided it was too sunny and dry to stay in Africa, but the hairy chimps and gorillas didn’t.  And these parts of the story depend on the premise that a nearby supernova “heated up the Earth, forcing a climate change in Africa,” apparently selectively leaving Europe and the rest of the biosphere unaffected by the drastic changes, although they admit, “it has not yet been established that such an increase of the cosmic ray intensity could have had a significant influence on the Earth’s climate....”  Darwinists have lots of fun stringing together elements of circumstantial evidence about the unobservable past and tying them to evolutionary screenplays for Discovery Channel animators.  It provides endless possibilities for storytelling, their favorite pastime (see 12/22/2003 headline).
Next headline on:   AstronomyEarly ManDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Scientists Question Kerry’s Position on Stem Cell Research    11/03/2004
According to
LifeNews.com, 57 reseachers and medical professionals wrote John Kerry urging him to stop misrepresenting and hyping the issue of embryonic stem cell research.  Their open letter to the Kerry campaign is available on StemCellResearch.com.  It charged Kerry with misrepresenting science, dodging ethical concerns, and exaggerating promises of hoped-for benefits.  They urged him to stop repeating false promises for political gain.
The letter is still useful as a good summary of the practical problems with stem cell research as well as the ethical problems with “creating human lives solely to destroy them for research.”  The signatories from across America and Canada all have impressive credentials.  This is a concise, well written, factual document of the reasons why these knowledgeable, medical professionals were alarmed over how John Kerry had made this a centerpiece of his campaign and would have made it a top priority had he been elected.
    Now that Californians have passed Prop. 71 (see story on Monterey Herald for background), bioethics has been given a big shove down the slippery slope.  Even the proponents of stem cell research had deep concerns about what abuses California’s initiative, the largest tax-funded stem cell research project in the world, might bring, since it has no legislative oversight provisions and is engraved in the state constitution (see 10/21/2004 headline).  For more facts on this dastardly bill, which makes no economic, political or ethical sense, see the NoOn71.com.  Wesley J. Smith on The Weekly Standard said the mainstream media that “performed terribly, often misstating or skewing the science, hyping what could be accomplished in a reasonable time frame by biotechnology, and denigrating the moral concerns of bio-skeptics as mere religious fanaticism.”  As a result, the 60% of Californians who voted for it were suckered into “mortgaging their fiscal future to subsidize speculative and morally controversial research for medical treatments that may never materialize.”
    In spite of the passage of Prop. 71, this is no time to sit back and let the defenses down.  The next action item must be to ensure stringent oversight of all research, and insist on the careful crafting of ethical guidelines and prohibitions.  Prop. 71 must not be construed as a blank check for rogue researchers to do anything they please with embryos programmed to become full human beings.  And it must not become the prelude to even worse life-cheapening initiatives in the next election.  Yet the threat has already begun: World Net Daily reported a day after the election that one scientist is already floating the idea of growing headless humans for spare body parts!  The UK, also recently joining the stem cell club, is on the verge of performing genetic screening to create “designer children” (see TownHall.com) Any society that values “defect-free” people will soon place little value on “defectives” – the New Eugenics (see 10/12/2001 headline).  Now that Pandora’s Box is about to open, the only way to contain the demons of ethical nightmares is to surround it with a screened enclosure real fast.
Next headline on:   Politics and Ethics.
Supernova Remnant Count Comes Up Short    11/01/2004
M83 is a beautiful face-on spiral galaxy, with bright spiral arms that should indicate active star-forming regions.  Supernova remnants (SNRs) should be plentiful and easy to see, so William P. Blair (Johns Hopkins) and Knox S. Long (Space Telescope Science Institute) undertook a treasure hunt to find them, but got fewer than they bargained for – only 71 candidates, when they expected hundreds.  They explain the discrepancy in The Astrophysical Journal:1
While observations of M83 have been made at nearly all wavelengths, this is the first optical search for SNRs in this galaxy.  The search method has proven effective for identifying a large group of nebulae that, based on a ratio of [S II] to H emission greater than 0.4, are almost certainly SNRs.  This conclusion is strengthened by the reported spectroscopic observations, where 20 of the “normal” candidates in Table 5 have been confirmed.
    With six SNe observed since 1923, M83 has an implied supernova rate of approximately one SN every 15 years.  Given a typical SNR lifetime of tens of thousands of years, the total number of SNRs in M83 could be well above 500 and perhaps as high as 1000.  Clearly we have only detected the optically brightest population of SNRs in this initial survey, and our list is incomplete.  Further limitations have been caused by the seeing conditions for these observations, as well as the intrinsic complexity of M83’s spiral arm structure.  SNRs buried in H II regions or hidden behind dust lanes would not consistently have been detected by this optical survey.
    We have also searched for evidence of young oxygen-dominated SNRs that arise from core-collapse supernovae (objects for which Cas A is often declared the prototype).  This search was unsuccessful, with the possible exception of SN 1957D, which was known previously.  This negative result indicates that there are no exceptionally bright young SNRs, such as the object in NGC 4449 (Blair et al. 1983), present in M83, but that fainter, perhaps more typical young SNRs like 1E 0102-7219 in the Small Magellanic Cloud could have been missed due to faintness and the relatively poor spatial resolution of the current data set.
They followed up by comparing their optical results with those from the Chandra X-ray observatory.  Only 15 of those qualified as likely SNRs.  Perhaps the unexpectedly low count was due to low resolution, weak emission from the remnants, or the inability to discern SNRs hidden in the HII clouds.
1Blair and Long, “An Optical Survey of Supernova Remnants in M83,”
The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, 155:101-121, 2004 November
This is a complex subject with dependencies on theory, the limitations of instruments, and detectability.  Nevertheless, it was an unexpectedly low count by an order of magnitude that had to be explained away.  Perhaps there were no supernovas 10,000 years or more ago.
Next headline on:   AstronomyDating Methods


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Featured Creation Scientist for November

Nicolas Copernicus
1473-1543

Perhaps no revolution in science has been more far-reaching than the Copernican Revolution.  It led to the modern Copernican Principle, the idea that the earth occupies no preferred place in the cosmos (though the cosmos of Copernicus was very different from that revealed since the invention of the telescope).  Revisionist history has portrayed Copernicus as a secretive scientist hiding his views from the church for fear of being condemned as a heretic.  We are told also that Protestants of the Reformation scorned his views.  In recent years, however, that revisionism itself is being revised, thanks largely to the research of historian and astronomer Owen Gingerich of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
    What did Gingerich find about Copernicus the man, his views, his readers and the church’s reaction?  And what new discoveries are calling into question the central claim of the Copernican Principle, that Earth occupies no special status in the grand scheme of the cosmos?
    It’s time for myths about Copernicus to be corrected.  He did not set out to revolutionize all of astronomy and science.  He did not seek to cast doubt on the Scriptures, or attack the church.  He was not fearful of being persecuted as a heretic.  And his writings were not uniformly condemned by Catholics or Protestants; in fact, many embraced the new idea that the earth moved around the sun, and it was Lutherans especially who enabled the publication of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.  Finally, Copernicus is not responsible for what has become known as The Copernican Principle.
    Copernicus was born into a wealthy family, and studied astronomy, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Krakow in Poland.  He was appointed a canon, but never took orders to become a priest, preferring instead to continue his studies in Italy, where he learned literature and medicine.  On return to Poland, he became personal physician to his uncle, a bishop, a comfortable job that left him time to pursue astronomy as a hobby.  Later, he worked for the church in an official capacity in matters regarding war and reform of the currency.
    Astronomy was never one of his official duties, but Copernicus became renowned as an astronomer.  One of the chief duties of an astronomer in those days was to devise and improve calendars.  As a calendar-maker and mathematician, Copernicus noted the complexity of the Ptolemaic (earth-centered) system and its numerous epicycles (circles on circles to “save the appearances” of the planetary motions).  In 1506 he began privately developing a heliocentric (sun-centered) model of the solar system, primarily as a tool to make the calculations easier, although it is probable he grew to believe that the earth really did move.  The view was not entirely original.  Aristarchus of Samos had suggested it in the third century B.C., and several medieval philosophers considered it, but no one had worked out the mathematics of such a system in detail.  Copernicus did not reveal his model in writing until 1530, and then only in outline form.  “It immediately attracted great attention,” says the biographical note to the Britannica Great Books edition.  “At Rome, Johann Albrecht Widmanstadt lectured upon the new doctrine; Pope Clement VII gave his approval; Cardinal Schonberg entreated the author to make public his full thought on the subject.”
    The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, but Copernicus never became directly involved.  In fact, Protestants became his greatest allies.  Georg Joachim Rheticus, a Protestant mathematician at Luther’s Wittenberg University, was so intrigued by the new model that he took a leave of absence and traveled to meet Copernicus.  He spent two years with the Polish astronomer, and published his own general account of the heliocentric model with Copernicus’ approval.  Another Lutheran, Andreas Osiander, joined Rheticus in urging publication of the complete book, and a Lutheran prince, Duke Albrecht, subsidized the printing in 1543.  Copernicus became ill and lived only long enough to see a copy of the first edition.  He never had occasion to suffer any persecution for his ideas; it was not till many years later during Galileo’s time (see
bio) that the Catholic Church put it on the list of forbidden books, and that was largely over issues of politics, academics and personality.
    It is true that Copernicus hesitated to publish, but probably less from fear of heresy than from fear of ridicule by his peers.  Aristotle’s world view was so entrenched in the sixteenth century that to question it was asking for trouble.  It cannot be claimed that Copernicus feared censure by the church, since he dedicated his book to the pope.  Nor can it be claimed he sought to cast doubt on the Scriptures, since medieval theologians had already taught that statements in the Bible about natural phenomena, such as those about the earth moving, could be interpreted in the language of appearance to the observer.  It was only later, as conflicts between Catholics and Protestants raised tensions over interpretation of Scripture, that some church leaders insisted that passages about the sun moving and the earth standing still were taken to mean that the Copernican model must be heretical.  Certainly that was never the view of Galileo, the Catholic, nor Kepler, the Protestant, both who eagerly embraced the heliocentric system.
    Gingerich searched the world for every extant copy of Copernicus’ book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), and found that it was widely read.  There were supporters and naysayers on both sides of the Reformation divide.  It must be remembered that Copernicus had supplied no observational proof for his view, and at the time, it seemed counterintuitive; by all appearances, the Earth is terra firma, and it is the sun that rises and sets.  Before Galileo provided the evidence, and before Kepler refined the model to correct for errors made by Copernicus (the orbits are ellipses, not circles), it was primarily a thought experiment and nothing more.  We cannot misjudge some contemporaries who considered it a speculative scientific hypothesis, whether or not they felt it agreed with Scripture.
    In the Cosmos TV series in the 1980s, Carl Sagan took glee in pointing out that Luther apparently called Copernicus a fool.  That is an urban myth that was propagated by Andrew Dickson White, first president of Cornell University (where Sagan later was astronomy professor), in an 1896 book History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.  White’s motive was to describe Christianity as always antagonistic to science.  Once again, Owen Gingerich has examined the evidence to set the record straight.  In Issue 73 of Christian History magazine (November, 2002), Gingerich said that the statement attributed to Luther, “That fool would upset the whole art of astronomy” is generally believed by scholars to be apocryphal.  It was published as hearsay in 1566, twenty years after Luther had died.  It is hard to say what both Luther and Calvin thought of the Copernican model; we must be fair to history to remember that it was a radical idea to most people of the day, and took time to gain acceptance.  The record does show, however, that Protestants like Rheticus, Melanchthon and Kepler were the most eager to embrace it.  Alvin J. Schmidt, in his book Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Zondervan, 2001, pp. 226-227), gives six reasons why the Luther quote is unhistorical.  Agreeing that the statement was late-recollection hearsay and ambiguous, he quotes Melanchthon as early as 1549 (six years after publication of Copernicus’ book), saying “We have begun to admire and love Copernicus more.”  And Luther himself had taught that certain passages of Scripture could be understood in the language of appearance.  It can hardly be claimed that Biblical Christianity is inimical to science when the greatest explosion in scientific knowledge occurred in Protestant countries after the Reformation.
    Historians also generally agree that Copernicus was a faithful son of the Catholic church and never felt his model was contrary to Scripture.  The new book and film The Privileged Planet makes two things clear about Copernicus.  First, the so-called Copernican Principle, the idea that earth occupies no privileged position in the cosmos, was the invention of later naturalistic scientists, not the view of Nicolas Copernicus himself.  The insinuation that Copernicus had somehow “demoted” mankind from the center of the universe is another myth that Dennis Danielson, editor of The Book of the Cosmos, explodes in the question-and-answer section of the film.  Sagan treats the Copernican Revolution as a series of “demotions” of man from being the center of the universe.  But in medieval cosmology, Danielson points out, the center of the cosmos was the sump, where the dregs and filth descended; the celestial sphere, the abode of God, was far exalted above the world of fallen man.  So for Copernicus to raise earth to the status of a planet orbiting the sun was a promotion, not a demotion.
    Second, Copernicus felt that his study of the heavens glorified God, and he viewed God as a supreme and wise Creator of the elegant system of the heavens.  Dava Sobel, in her book Galileo’s Daughter, quotes Copernicus from the introduction to his book referring to the system of the heavens as being derived from “the best and most systematic Artist of all.”  From the Great Books edition, Copernicus says:
For who, after applying himself to things which he sees established in the best order and directed by divine ruling, would not through diligent contemplation of them and through a certain habituation be awakened to that which is best and would not wonder at the Artificer of all things, in Whom is all happiness and every good?  For the divine Psalmist surely did not say gratuitously that he took pleasure in the workings of God and rejoiced in the works of His hands, unless by means of these things as by some sort of vehicle we are transported to the contemplation of the highest Good.”
So we see that Psalm 111:1-4 has reflected a common experience of believers of all ages, that the pursuit of understanding of God’s works is an act of worship in which we draw nearer to God.  Later in his introduction, after Copernicus has deduced from his model that the fixed stars are at “an immense height away,” his praise rises to a crescendo and erupts into a doxology: “How exceedingly fine is the godlike work of the Best and Greatest Artist!”


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A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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