Creation-Evolution Headlines
April 2005
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Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.  Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.
— King David of Israel, c. 1050 BC (Psalm 40:4-5)
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World’s Smallest Rotary Motors Coming Into Focus    04/30/2005
Science April 29 had three articles on the ATP synthase rotary motors that inhabit all living cells.1,2,3  Using creative techniques of extreme microscopy and crystallography, research teams are beginning to get more focused images of the carousel-like rotating engines of both F-type and V-type motors.  (V-type enzymes pump ions into the cell to regulate acidity; see
2/24/2003 entry.  F-type ATP synthase enzymes produce ATP, the energy currency of the cell; see 09/18/2003 entry.)
    The rotors look like elegant circular rings of helical units arranged at angles to the axis.  From the side, they look like “concave barrel with a pronounced waist in the middle, and an inner septum that is probably filled with and electrically sealed by membrane lipids in vivo.”  Scientists are still trying to figure out how the ions get into the active-site pockets in the subunits of the ring, and how they create torque to make the carousel go round.  It may result from harnessing Brownian motion in a ratcheting manner that only allows rotation in one direction.  All the researchers seem surprised that the gear ratio is not an integer, but rather 10:3 in some species, and 11:3 or 14:3 in others; it may be necessary that these motors have a non-integer ratio between the bottom carousel and the top catalytic engine for torque generation and catalytic activity (see 08/10/2004 entry).  They are also beginning to understand the nature of the camshaft attached to the carousel that induces ATP production in the top.
  Whatever their mechanism, these little engines, only 12 nanometers tall, are effective.  The review by Junge and Nelson says these motors can generate an acidity of pH 2 in lemons and 250 millivolts of electricity in insect guts.  We humans also run on electricity.  The constant action of quadrillions of these tiny generators running day and night in our bodies keeps all our energy systems humming at about 116 watts (see 02/05/2003 story).
    In another molecular-motor story, Current Biology4 reported about how actin and myosin work during cell division to pinch the two daughter cells apart.  David R. Burgess in a review5 states, “Myosin II is the motor for cytokinesis, an event at the end of cell division during which the animal cell uses a contractile ring to pinch itself in half.  New and surprising research shows that myosin, either through light chain phosphorylation or through its ATPase activity, also plays an important role in both the assembly and disassembly of the actin contractile ring.”
1Wolfgang Junge and Nathan Nelson, “Structural Biology: Nature’s Rotary Electromotors,” Science Vol 308, Issue 5722, 642-644 , 29 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1112617].
2Murata et al., “Structure of the Rotor of the V-Type Na+-ATPase from Enterococcus hirae,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5722, 654-659, 29 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1110064].
3Meier et al., “Structure of the Rotor Ring of F-Type Na+-ATPase from Ilyobacter tartaricus,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5722, 659-662 , 29 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1111199].
4E. D. Salmon, “Microtubules: A Ring for the Depolymerization Motor,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 8, 26 April 2005, Pages R299-R302, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.04.005.
5David R. Burgess, “Cytokinesis: New roles for myosin,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 8, 26 April 2005, Pages R310-R311, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.04.008.
None of these five papers mention evolution once, nor make any attempt to explain how the motors of life could have arisen by an unguided process of chance or natural law.  Murata’s paper says “Eukaryotic V-ATPases contain 13 different polypeptides.”  Since getting just one usable polypeptide (protein) is astronomically improbable (see online book), it is utterly out of the question to assume that the complete set of these specialized functional molecules could have arisen by chance.  Even getting a few of them would be useless; all of them have to be in the same place, at the same time, in the same arrangement, together simultaneously for the system to work.  ATP synthase is a classic example of an irreducibly complex system that defies evolutionary explanation.  Since even the simplest organisms depend on these motors for life, and since Charlie’s magic wand of natural selection cannot be used at this stage (see online book), we have here a convincing case for intelligent design.  Similarly, since the actin/myosin operation is essential for cell division (e.g., replication, an essential prerequisite for natural selection), evolutionists have only chance as an explanation for the origin of these exquisite molecular machines.  To any thinking person, that would be absurd.  The Kansas school board (see 04/29/2005 entry) should hold up the pictures of ATP synthase from these papers and challenge the Darwinists to explain how such complex systems at the beginning of life could ever have arisen by chance.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Stories
Is a Darwinian Tree Visible in the Genes?    04/30/2005
Current Biology1 has an article on the status of searching for Darwin’s “tree of life” via comparative genomics.  The expected simple picture has become complex and difficult to decipher:
The traditional view of animal evolution is one of gradually increasing complexity.  The earliest-branching flatworms lack the body cavity known as a coelom, which is a characteristic feature of the two traditional groups of ‘higher’ animals: deuterostomes, including echinoderms and chordates, and protostomes, such as annelids, molluscs and arthropods.  Between these two extremes, according to the traditional view, lie the pseudoceolomate worms such as the nematodes, the body cavities of which lack the refinements of a true coelom.  This hierarchical view was shaken in the mid 1990s by a phylogenetic study of small subunit ribosomal (r)RNA genes.  This work elevated the acoelomate flatworms to a close relationship with the coelomate annelids and molluscs, in a group called the Lophotrochozoa, and pseudocoelomate nematodes moved close to the coelomate arthropods, creating a group called the Ecdysozoa.
    Opposing the ‘new animal phylogeny’, as this new scheme has been called, are several analyses of huge numbers of genes – close to 800 in the most recent – sampled from the few animals with completely sequenced genomes: fruitfly, nematode and various vertebrates.  These multigene analyses are unanimous in grouping coelomate arthropods and vertebrates to the exclusion of the pseudocoelomate nematodes, so reverting to traditional views of their relationships.
    The overwhelming number of genes supporting the old scheme might suggest that the new animal phylogeny was finished – an artefact of a small data set.  New work, however, suggests this conclusion is premature, and that the multigene result might itself be based on an artefact called long branch attraction.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Long branch attraction is a “pernicious effect” they say.  When “some species in a phylogenetic analysis have evolved much faster than others,” it makes them long branch species and confuses the tree.  What is the net effect?  “The result of this relatively common phenomenon is a tendency for all methods of tree reconstruction to group the long-branch species together regardless of their true relationship.”
    They provide examples of how the choice of “outgroup” (the distant species) and the tree-building method can produce radically different or counterintuitive results.  For example,
In common with previous studies Philippe et al. found that, using yeast as an outgroup, nematodes are located at the base of the tree with high statistical support.  The flatworms are long branched too, and they are also found at the base of the tree.  The change when short-branched Hydra is used instead of yeast is dramatic: both nematodes and flatworms jump up from the root of the tree to a position adjacent to the arthropods, strongly suggesting it was long branch attraction that placed them at the base.
    But this result is troubling, as there is now an unexpected close association between nematodes – which, as presumed ecdysozoans are appropriately close to the arthropods – and flatworms which, according to the new animal phylogeny ought to be grouped with annelids and molluscs in the Lophotrochozoa.
The authors describe efforts to counteract the effects of long branch attraction, some of which appear hopeful.  But much more data will need to be analyzed before any conclusions can be drawn.  Of the 28 animal phyla to be placed in the tree, only eight so far have genetic sequences available for analysis.
1Maximilian J. Telford, and Richard R. Copley, “Animal Phylogeny: Fatal Attraction,”
Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 8, 26 April 2005, Pages R296-R299, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.04.001.
What if the pieces of this huge puzzle don’t fit the picture Darwin drew on the box?  The very term “long branch attraction” comes from evolutionary assumptions.  When the organism should be on a certain branch in their a priori evolutionary mindset but the software puts it farther up, they can just assume it “evolved much faster” than its relatives.  But what if it did not evolve significantly at all?  What if animals are not related by common descent from a single cell?  It could be a complete exercise in futility.
    Science needs freedom to explore many possible avenues, some of which may become dead ends.  At what point do they give up and go the other direction?  What if complete representative genomes from all 28 animal phyla still don’t match expectations and produce “troubling” results for Charlie?  If a driver cannot read the dead-end sign, he might drive the wrong way forever.  Evolutionists know how to translate any warning sign into Darwinese.  It allows them to ignore No Trespassing signs and wander endlessly in storyland.
    This article illustrates how phylogenomics is like a perpetual metaphysical research programme.  Every parameter is tweakable except the notion of Darwinian common ancestry.  Notice the evolutionary assumptions embedded in their phrase, “a tendency for all methods of tree reconstruction to group the long-branch species together regardless of their true relationship.”  Phylogeny is the art of forcing uncooperative data into the “true relationship” received from Pope Charlie’s scriptures (see 02/13/2004 commentary).  And you thought only religious people operated under dogma.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryGenetics and DNA
Media, Journals Alarmed at Rise of Intelligent Design Movement    04/29/2005
The number of articles in the news about the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement is rising, partly because of the upcoming hearings before the Kansas school board. 
National Geographic news asked, “Does ‘Intelligent Design’ Threaten the Definition of Science?” in an April 27 article, but at least author John Roach got the definition of ID correct, said John West on the EvolutionNews blog.  MSNBC News, on the other hand, portrayed ID as a religious movement and quoted pro-evolution attorney Pedro Irigonegaray exclaiming, “I feel like I’m in a time warp here.  To debate evolution is similar to debating whether the Earth is round.  It is an absurd proposition.”  The source of this story appears to be Reuters news service.  In addition, NPR Science Friday also presented another one-sided view of the debate.
    Science magazine this week joined Nature (see 04/27 entry) in alerting the research community about the rise of ID.  Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reported1 updated the earlier story posted on ScienceNow (see 04/21 entry) about the pro-evolution strategy in Kansas.  The plan is to argue that ID will hurt the economy:
Last week more than 100 people opposed to making ID part of the science curriculum held a meeting in a liberal church here to test a new rallying cry: A high-quality science education means more jobs and a stronger economy.  By attracting business, civic, and religious leaders, supporters hope to erode ID’s traditional base and stave off changes that they believe will make Kansas an undesirable location for high-tech companies, academics, and other knowledge-based workers.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Science also printed a letter to the editor called “A cry for help from Kansas.”2  Eric Reynolds appealed to fellow readers to wake up to the possibility that what is happening in Kansas could soon come to their states.  Claiming that “the very foundation of science in the United States is at risk,” he said, “What a shame it would be if unqualified politicians succeed in undoing centuries of scientific progress in both the public’s perception of science and its continuing advancement.”  There must be heretics among the ranks of Science readers, however; the prior week, there were four letters to the editor about ID: two for, and two against.
    Part of the anti-ID strategy appears to distance evolution from atheism.  Bhattacharjee’s article shows Steve Case making his case from a pulpit, with the caption, “Steve Case and other Kansas scientists hope to make religious leaders allies in the debate over intelligent design.”  Twice it is noted that their allies are liberal churches.  The religious image may just be a cloak, however.  The pro-ID website KansasScience2005 found a letter posted by the anti-ID group Kansas Citizens for Science that said:
My strategy at this point is the same as it was in 1999: notify the national and local media about what’s going on and portray them in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc.
There may no way to head off another science standards debacle, but we can sure make them look like asses as they do what they do.
The letter was from Liz Craig, said to be a spokesperson for Kansas Citizens for Science.  John West on EvolutionNews wonders “whether journalists in the national news media will be credulous enough to allow themselves to be manipulated by Ms. Craig and her colleagues.”  Mark Hartwig commented on Access Research Network that her “loose lips” gives occasion for ID supporters to shout, like teens catching someone in the act, “B-u-u-u-sted!”
1Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Kansas Gears Up for Another Battle Over Teaching Evolution,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5722, 627, 29 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5722.627].
2Eric Reynolds, “A Cry for Help from Kansas,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5722, 631, 29 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5722.631b].
It is really quite amusing to see the paranoia of the Darwin Party hacks.  You know they are on the wrong side of history when they have to resort to fear mongering, faulty analogies, non-sequiturs and straw man arguments.  We offer them a secret weapon that is sure to demolish ID in one fell swoop like a nuclear bomb, without all the guerrilla warfare.  It is called scientific evidence.  Show the world evidence that undirected natural processes could indeed build the most efficient molecular machines and programmed guidance and control mechanisms known to man.  Build a better irreducibly complex mousetrap without appeal to design, and the worldview will beat a path to your door.
Next headline on:  EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducation
The Origin of Specious Ideas: Did Darwin Explain Speciation?    04/29/2005
Even though Darwin’s best seller was titled On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, Albert and Schluter in Current Biology1 claim his title was deceptive: “Darwin’s book is about adaptation and the origin of varieties and has surprisingly little to say about selection and ‘the origin of species – that mystery of mysteries’.”  Is the mystery better understood today, 146 years later?  This is their “primer” article, “Selection and the origin of species.”
Natural selection is the differential survival or reproductive success of individuals differing in phenotype within a population.  Sexual selection, by contrast, is the differential mating success of phenotypically different individuals.  These two processes are the most potent drivers of evolutionary change within populations.  Here we shall consider some of their contributions to the buildup of reproductive incompatibilities between populations – the origin of species.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They argue that, surprisingly, natural selection and sexual selection actually have little to do with speciation (the divergence of a population into non-interbreeding groups), but rather only with morphological differences within populations or between individuals.  Instead, “speciation is environment driven,” they claim, with selection only incidental to the process.  It can modify traits that lead to reproductive isolation (and thus, speciation).  They provide some examples of populations that have diverged into non-interbreeding groups, including Darwin’s finches, fruit flies and flowering plants.
    Geneticists try to detect reproductive isolation in the genes (bottom-up approach), and biologists try to determine it from morphology (top-down approach).  Do these approaches meet in the middle?
Our understanding of the process of speciation has increased greatly since Darwin first proposed a central role for natural selection.  Much of what we now know has come from research conducted over the past two decades.  The picture emerging is that speciation is a process that results from the same forces responsible for most change within species: natural and sexual selection.  Nonetheless, there are still many areas that require investigation.
    The ‘top down’ or phenotypic approach to studying speciation has found evidence for selection on ordinary phenotypic characters shown also to underlie premating and postmating isolation.  This approach has yielded little, however, about the genetic basis of reproductive isolation.  For example, we do not know yet if species differences are based on many genes of small phenotypic effect, or if few genes of large effect are most important in causing divergence and reproductive isolation.  This has made it difficult to pinpoint exactly how natural selection has led to divergence in most cases.  Recent studies of speciation in monkeyflowers and other taxa are helping to overcome this gap.
    The ‘bottom up’ or genetic approach to studying speciation has hunted down genes responsible for premating and postmating isolation, and then shown that the gene sequences exhibit signatures of recent selection.  But this approach has told us little about the nature of that selection.  Is selection divergent or has divergence occurred under uniform selection?  Was selection in response to environmental differences?  Was it natural or sexual selection?
    Finally, we still know little about how mate preferences evolve within and between populations during the process of speciation.  Sexual selection by mate choice might be a near-universal process in speciation, but what drives the divergence of mate preferences to begin with?
    Speciation study is in the midst of a surge of research effort, and part of the reason is that answers to many of these questions appear at last to be within reach.  We expect that a combination of phenotypic and genetic approaches will soon close the gap between the genes and the mechanisms of selection, and yield a fuller account of how most species in nature have formed.

1Arianne Y.K. Albert, and Dolph Schluter, “Primer: Selection and the origin of species,”
Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 8 , 26 April 2005, Pages R283-R288, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.04.015.
Who needs the primer, the readers or the authors?  This is nothing more than another “check’s in the mail” whitewash like the one on 04/15/2004 and many others.  Articles like this should make the peasants who have suffered under the Darwin monarchy angry enough to revolt.  Here we have tolerated the intellectual revolutionaries who swept into the scientific institutions in the 1860s, promising a new age of enlightenment, and while tolerating a few extremists along the way (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot--see 04/22/2004 entry), we kept thinking that at least the new leaders had science on their side, that they were making policy based on reality and scientific evidence.  But when the evidence is always nothing more than promises of future discoveries, how much longer do we give them till calling time out?  We can’t, because they built future promises into the very definition of science.  In essence, we handed the Darwinists a blank check to run Big Science with no accountability, with no obligation to produce the goods (see 12/22/2003 commentary and footnote*).
    Notice how Charlie and his disciples have gotten away with this ruse for 126 years, since they say much of what we “know” (sic) has come from research over the last two decades.  What were the Darwinists doing in the 1900s, 1920s, 1940s and 1960s about this central issue?  We were told that natural selection was the be-all and end-all of evolution: it was the thing that made Charlie a world-wide celebrity, because while many freethinkers had desired to justify an evolutionary worldview, his predecessors like Erasmus and Kingsley and Lamarck failed to produce a plausible mechanism.  Natural selection, with a little sexual selection where needed, was supposed to be the skeleton key that unlocked all the natural history of life.  Darwin wrote a book about the origin of species by natural selection, but now, these two scientists admit that, if anything, natural selection is only incidental to the process of speciation.  Look carefully at this paper for any hint of something big that they know natural selection has done.  The evidence is vague and inconclusive.  On the contrary, the unknowns outnumber the knowns.  Look at the questions in their ending quote: these are big issues.  Even their proudest examples of natural selection in action leave key questions unanswered: was selection caused by the environment?  Can speciation be allopatric, sympatric or both?  What effects are caused by natural selection, and what by sexual selection?  In short, the whole story of natural selection and speciation is futureware, issues that “will require future investigation.”  After all this time, how many of you are willing to believe their promise that answers are “within reach” and that they are now “closing the gap”?  When put on trial, they can’t make a case strong enough to convince a jury (see 04/15/2003 commentary).
    Most shameful of all is that this Darwinist hand-waving explanation about natural selection and speciation fails utterly to explain the biggest problem: the origin of complex functional systems.  The only examples they provide are about fruit fly mutations, finch beak size, stickleback fish spines (see 04/15/2004 entry) and plant polyploidy.  Fruit flies are organisms possessing extreme technology in materials, flight hardware and software, and networking (re-read the 12/08/2003 entry and marvel); they utterly defy a Darwinian explanation (see 05/18/2004 entry).  Evolutionary stories about finch beaks are quibbles over trivial details.  Finches already had beaks, eyes, wings, ears, sexual organs, feathers, hollow bones, avian lungs and feathers before the story of their beak evolution was told; evolutionists grasp at wind when trying to explain how the complex interacting structures evolved (see 08/20/2003 entry).  In plants, the origin of just one sugar in the cell wall defies evolutionary explanation (see 10/26/2001 entry), let alone how trees figured out how to pump water 367 feet into the sky (see 06/26/2003 entry).  Are monkeyflower studies filling in these gaps?  Read the 11/13/2003 entry and see if you are impressed.  Plant speciation is a postmodern synthesis, not a a scientific theory (see 08/19/2003 entry).
    So the very thing that made Darwin famous is still a “mystery of mysteries” after 146 years.  When the Darwinists are pushed to the wall with this kind of rebuttal, they retreat into their “rules of science” castle* that disallows design explanations by fiat.  It’s time to storm the castle and throw the usurpers out.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
*For an engaging account of how Darwin and Huxley succeeded in changing the rules of science away from empiricism and toward “hypothetico-deductive” methods (i.e., storytelling based on one’s assumptions), and how the science vs. religion false dichotomy was fostered, read this lecture by John Hedley Brooke given at the University of Oxford in 2001.
Evolutionary Psychology “Wrong in Almost Every Detail”   04/28/2005
Seems like Darwinism can’t get anything right about the human psyche.  Sharon Begley, writing in the
Wall Street Journal, discussed David J. Buller’s new book, Adapting Minds (MIT Press, 2005), and found it “the most persuasive critique of evo psych I have encountered.”  Buller details why evolutionary psychology, despite its bravado, fails to explain rape, child abuse, and even normal sexual attraction.  Begley was so convinced, she said, “After ‘Adapting Minds,’ it is impossible to ever again think that human behavior is the Stone Age artifact that evolutionary psychology claims.”
The Darwinian explanatory edifice is being dismantled before the eyes of the watching world, one crumbling mud brick at a time.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
“Extinct” Woodpecker Found in Arkansas    04/28/2005
One of the world’s largest woodpeckers, the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought for over 50 years to be extinct, has been spotted alive in the remote woods of Arkansas.  See
National Geographic News, New Scientist, and MSNBC for details.
Update 07/21/2005: The good news may be premature.  News@Nature says that some experts believe the observers were mistaken, and that what were seen were a related species, the pileated woodpecker.  The final verdict is still out, therefore.
If a breeding population of a species of bird this large and colorful could escape detection for almost 60 years right in America’s back yard, how can scientists be sure that other large animals are truly extinct?  Remember the video of a mammoth-size elephant found in Thailand a few years ago?  It’s good to have this woodpecker back, but it raises interesting questions about what other assumed-extinct species may just be hiding behind a tree somewhere.  Every once in awhile one shows up alive and well, some thought extinct since the age of dinosaurs: the Wollemi pine, the tuatara, the coelacanth, and others.  Keep your eyes open.  Maybe a brontosaurus will come strolling down Sunset Boulevard.  Sightings of stranger creatures have been reported there.
Next headline on:  Birds
Nature Alerts Researchers to Threat of Intelligent Design Movement    04/27/2005
It can’t be ignored anymore, reported Nature in two articles this week.  Geoff Brumfiel1 asked academic researchers, “Who has designs on your students’ minds?”  He reported on the rise of IDEA Clubs (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness, such as the first one at
UC San Diego), highlighting the story of Salvador Cordova’s prospering IDEA club at George Mason University (Virginia).  Noting that “the turnout was surprisingly good” at a cold March meeting, he discussed the rise in student interest in intelligent design (ID) and delved into the reactions of scientists and some theologians who are opposed to it.
    Although ID leader Stephen Meyer got a few words in the article, most of those quoted were critical.  Bruce Alberts, head of the AAAS, got several sentences in, including this one: “To me it doesn’t deserve any attention, because it doesn’t make any sense.”  The criticisms centered around supposed connections of ID to creationism and the Christian Right.  While mentioning problems with the fossil record and complex molecular machines, Brumfiel allowed critics to dismiss them with claims that science is making progress explaining them, whereas ID supposedly stops further investigation by invoking the supernatural.
    The lead editorial in Nature2 made no attempt to give a balanced presentation; it assumed ID is a threat to science.  It flashed a red alarm to the science community and discussed strategies to deal with ID.  “Rather than ignoring it, scientists need to understand its appeal and help students recognize the alternatives.”  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)  The old strategy of pretending it will go away won’t work, the editorial says:
Scientists tend to tune out when they hear the words ‘intelligent design’.  The concept, which endeavours to show God’s hand shaping the course of evolution, is being promoted in parts of Europe and, more significantly, has recently become popular among Christian fundamentalists who want religion taught in US secondary schools.  To most researchers it sounds like politics rather than science, and like someone else’s problem.
The editorial portrays ID as antique rather than cutting-edge: “the concept is a throwback to the days when natural philosophers pursued pseudoscientific disciplines such as alchemy,” it continues.  But scientists should not ignore it, Nature says, because it is gaining popularity on many campuses.  The editorial is convinced it stems from religious beliefs of students, but feels ID is more insidious than creationism (“bad news for researchers”), because of its scientific rather than Biblical arguments.  “This approach makes it less theologically heavy-handed than its predecessor, but it also poses a threat to the very core of scientific reason.”  This is because “Most contemporary researchers believe that it is better to keep science and theology firmly separated.”
    So what strategy does Nature recommend?  Certainly not a frontal assault: “attacking or dismissing intelligent design is likely to aggravate the rift between science and faith that causes students to become interested in intelligent design in the first place,” it continues.  Though “Some will be troubled by the suggestion that they discuss these issues in the classroom,” it must be dealt with:
Scientists would do better to offer some constructive thoughts of their own.  For religious scientists, this may involve taking the time to talk to students about how they personally reconcile their beliefs with their research.  Secular researchers should talk to others in order to understand how faiths have come to terms with science.  All scientists whose classes are faced with such concerns should familiarize themselves with some basic arguments as to why evolution, cosmology and geology are not competing with religion.  When they walk into the lecture hall, they should be prepared to talk about what science can and cannot do, and how it fits in with different religious beliefs.
This gentler one-on-one discipleship could be more fruitful than engaging in campus-wide ‘Darwin vs. Design’ debates, Nature suggests, because “ill-prepared scientific lectures can sometimes lack the superficial impact of design advocates’ carefully crafted talking points.”  Influencing individual students in the classroom setting can be powerful:
Indeed, it is not the job of a science teacher to meddle with the way their students are brought up or to attack their core personal beliefs.  Rather, the goal should be to point to options other than intelligent design for reconciling science and belief.
    Even if they manage to sway just a few students, researchers in the United States can have a disproportionate effect on the national debate over science in the classroom.  Students often return to their home communities and become teachers, doctors and engineers.  It is as local community leaders that those students will become invaluable allies when more conservative religious groups try to halt the teaching of scientific theories in schools.

1Geoff Brumfiel, “Intelligent design:  Who has designs on your students’ minds?”, Nature 434, 1062-1065 (28 April 2005), doi: 10.1038/4341062a
2Editorial, “Dealing with Design,” Nature 434, 1053 (28 April 2005), doi: 10.1038/4341053a.
3Martin Jones and Mark Blaxter, “Evolutionary biology: Animal roots and shoots,” Nature, 434, 1076 (28 April 2005), doi: 10.1038/4341076a.
This should be read as a victory for the ID movement, akin to Sennacherib’s boast that he had Hezekiah locked up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage when in fact his army had been decimated.  It’s a victory because ID is finally getting beyond the stage where the scientific establishment can just ignore it, and more importantly, because it demonstrates that the opposition has no answers.  Like Sennacherib, the Kingdom of Charlie boasts great things, but falls flat before the power of design arguments.  Retreating, it has to change its strategy.  Rather than addressing the evidence and facing the issues squarely, it resorts to propaganda tactics and empty boasts.
    Noticeably absent from either of these two articles was any enlightened response to the claims of ID that Darwinian evolution is woefully inadequate to explain the complexity of life and the explosion of complex body plans in the fossil record.  All they could say was the bluffing statement worthy of Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week, “Scientists know that natural selection can explain the awe-inspiring complexities of organisms, and should be prepared to explain how.”  But did they explain how?  No!  In fact, in the same issue (see footnote 3 above), another paper on Darwin’s Tree of Life admitted in the first sentence, “Despite the comforting certainty of textbooks and 150 years of argument, the true relationships of the major groups (phyla) of animals remain contentious.
    The opposition to ID is running scared.  They have no answers, and they know it, so they just try to pigeonhole design arguments as “religion vs science” by using the loaded words Christian fundamentalists, faith, belief, pseudoscience, alchemy, religious right etc.  They are scared because they don’t want to debate and tell us all those good reasons why natural selection can explain the awe-inspiring complexities of organisms.  They are scared because they see that Darwinism is on the way out due to its own inherent failings, and they are afraid of ID the Future.
    Like Hezekiah’s army facing formidable odds, the ID leaders do not need power in numbers.  They need power in evidence: to have a case that matches what the observations show, and to present it forthrightly and persistently.  The power of the ID movement is not in the personalities of its leaders, but in the strength of the arguments.  When given the opportunity to hear both sides, most people who have not previously been brainwashed find ID arguments convincing and reasonable.  Too bad that does not include Bruce Alberts, Mr. Molecular Machine himself, who should know better (see 01/09/2002 entry).
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Genes Must Be Expressed in the Right Order    04/26/2005
A team of scientists in Switzerland made neural cells switch on a transcription factor earlier during the embryo’s development.  The result?  Axons (long branches of nerve cells) refused to grow to the spinal cord and to the peripheral target.  To the mice, this meant they couldn’t feel things on the skin due to stunted nerves.  The paper is published in PLOS Biology.  A synopsis of this paper in the same issue (published April 26) explains why the order of expression is important:
Building an embryo is like building a house: everything has to be done at the right time and the right place if the plans are to be translated faithfully.  On the building site, if the roofer comes along before the bricklayer has finished, the result may be a bungalow instead of a two-story residence.  In the embryo, if the neurons, for example, start to make connections prematurely, the resultant animal may lack feeling in its skin.
    On the building site, the project manager passes messages to the subcontractors, and they tell the laborers what to do and where.  In the embryo, the expression of specific transcription factors (molecules that tell the cell which DNA sequences to convert into proteins) at different stages of development and in different places controls the orderly construction of the body.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

1 Hippenmeyer, Arber et al., “A Developmental Switch in the Response of DRG Neurons to ETS Transcription Factor Signaling,”,
Public Library of Science Biology Volume 3 | Issue 5 | MAY 2005, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030159.
This sounds remarkably like the illustration made in the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life as an argument for intelligent design.  It’s not just the molecular machines themselves that are irreducibly complex; the ways they are constructed – the assembly instructions and developmental processes – are themselves irreducibly complex.  Like Jonathan Wells quips, “what you have is irreducible complexity all the way down.”  Undoubtedly the journal didn’t mean to make a case for intelligent design, but it sure didn’t make a case for naturalism; neither the authors of the paper nor the synopsis mentioned evolution once.
Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAIntelligent Design
Titan’s Atmosphere Is a Hydrocarbon Factory    04/25/2005
A press release from
Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the discovery of complex hydrocarbons in Titan’s atmosphere.  Some molecules have up to seven carbon atoms.  The discoveries came from the recent flyby on April 16, the closest yet, at just 638 miles above the surface.  Swooping into the upper layers of the atmosphere, the spacecraft came close enough for the ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS) to sample the chemical mix.  Hydrocarbons (H and C) and nitriles (N, H, and C) were detected, but the location was a bit puzzling: “it is surprising to find the plethora of complex hydrocarbon molecules in the upper reaches of the atmosphere,” the article states.  “Titan is very cold, and complex hydrocarbons would be expected to condense and rain down to the surface.”
The press release could not resist holding up the primordial soup can again: “Scientists believe that Titan’s atmosphere may be a laboratory for studying the organic chemistry that preceded life and provided the building blocks for life on Earth.”  Read the 04/22 entry again.  Get past the chemicals, and talk about the information.
Next headline on:  Solar System
Hubble Telescope Celebrates 15th Birthday with Stunning Images    04/25/2005
Fifteen years old this month, the Hubble Space Telescope showed off new images of the Whirlpool Galaxy and Eagle Nebula (see
ESA press release).  Engineers at JPL who built the WFPC-2 (Wide Field and Planetary Camera), the camera that took most of those famous images that adorn our walls and calendars, took great satisfaction today during a slide show of famous images and astronomical discoveries that Hubble has beamed to earth.  Though built under time pressure and political pressure to save the Hubble from its original optical flaws, WFPC-2 was installed during a risky shuttle rescue operation right as planned, and has worked perfectly for 15 years – longer than any other part of the telescope.
    Though Hubble usually takes the spotlight because its vision is like ours, two other space telescopes are filling in knowledge about the wings of the optical spectrum: Spitzer in the infrared, and GALEX in the ultraviolet.
Hubble is a great American success story that deserves far more press coverage than the usual daily retinue of crime stories and celebrity trials.  HST has brought us not only knowledge and science, but art.  Take this occasion to tour the Hubble Site and feast your eyes on things Galileo could not have dreamt of.  Congratulations to all the Hubble team: the universe will never be the same in our eyes thanks to this wonderful true story of intelligent design.
    PS: News@Nature reported the possibility that some stars may have planets made of diamond.  Tell that to your kid after she sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and see if you can get a big-eyed Wow.
Next headline on:  Stars and AstronomyAmazing Stories
Bacterial Hydrogen Fuel Cell May Yield Cleaner World    04/24/2005
Scientists at
Penn State are working on a new, improved fuel cell.  Its secret?  Bacteria that can be coaxed with a little electricity to produce “four times as much hydrogen directly out of biomass than can be generated typically by fermentation alone.”  Will you someday be able to harness hydrogen from organic waste to drive your car?  Their new electrically-assisted microbial fuel cell can theoretically be used to “obtain high yields of hydrogen from any biodegradable, dissolved, organic matter – human, agricultural or industrial wastewater, for example – and simultaneously clean the wastewater.”
If this dream ever comes true, be thankful for those little germs.  The lot of them often gets a bad rap from the few that went delinquent.  Notice how the scientists didn’t build nano-scale hydrogen factories from scratch.  They had to harness the skill of molecular machines in bacteria to get this promising result.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Stories
Giant Carnivorous Amphibians Found in African Fossil Deposit    04/23/2005
Meat-eating amphibians shaped like crocodiles?  Be glad you didn’t live in West Africa 250 million years ago, say scientists at
McGill University.  Two species were described, one with large and small fang-like teeth, and another with curved horns on the back of its head.
The fossils didn’t come with dates on them, and since amphibian phylogeny is a mess anyway (see 09/13/2004 entry, for example), we’ll just leave that part out and pause to wonder again at the richness of extinct biodiversity compared with that of today.
Next headline on:  FossilsTerrestrial Zoology
In the Beginning, Hydrogen: Was It Miller Time?    04/22/2005
A press release from
University of Colorado says that the spark-discharge experiments of Stanley Miller in the 1950s (see 05/02/2003 entry) might be relevant again.  Why?  Researchers used new models to estimate the amount of hydrogen in the early earth’s atmosphere, and came up with numbers 100 times higher than before.  If hydrogen did not escape as fast as scientists have thought, it might have composed 30 to 40% of the earth’s atmosphere.
    After the initial enthusiasm of the Miller experiment, scientists began to realize that the early earth’s atmosphere was not “reducing” (hydrogen rich) and contained more carbon dioxide.  Nitrogen and carbon dioxide do not produce the amino acids and other building blocks of life in Miller-type experiments.  But if the model of these scientists is correct, hydrogen might have stayed around long enough to contribute organic molecules to the early oceans.  This would mean the old primordial soup icon may be back in business.  In Science Express, their abstract states, “The organic soup in the oceans and ponds on the early Earth would have been a more favorable place for the origin of life than previously thought.”  (Emphasis added.)
Give them a universe filled with organic soup.  Concentrate it and stir it and feed it lots of energy.  It won’t help.  Life will not crawl out.  To convince yourself once and for all, read our online book that climaxes in chapter 7 with the calculation for getting just one simple, usable protein molecule by chance under ideal conditions, even with incredibly generous concessions to make it easier for chance to succeed.  This is not just one contrived calculation by one individual: the same conclusion has been reached repeatedly, independently, by numerous scientists, including Fred Hoyle and even Carl Sagan.  Those who continue to believe it realize that it is hopeless to expect a primitive cell by chance alone, so they jump to the next fallacy by inserting natural selection where it doesn’t belong: i.e., before a complex, self-replicating system existed (see ch. 5).
    Everyone in the field knows how improbable it is to get a protein, RNA or DNA molecule by chance, yet they continue to hope against hope that simple molecules might have gotten organized into self-replicating machines if just the ingredients were present.  Phillip Johnson once pointed out how the believers in chemical evolution always focus on getting the right chemicals, but have no idea about where the information came from.  Without recognizing the vital necessity of information in the origin of life, this meager attempt to breathe hydrogen gas into the Miller myth is too little, too late.  Materialists need to get off their chemical soup diet and learn to handle the meat of information theory.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeDumb Stories
Evolutionists Plan Secret Weapon for Kansas Debate    04/21/2005
Pro-evolution scientists have changed their mind and decided to join the hearings about the Kansas science standards, but haven’t released a list of witnesses.  Those in favor of the new standards, which call for critical thinking about evolution, have published a complete list.
    On March 31, Geoff Brumfiel in Nature1 reported, “Biologists snub ‘kangaroo court’ for Darwin,” claiming that the hearings were rigged as a “political smokescreen” for a predetermined outcome, and they didn’t want to lend an air of credibility to the intelligent design movement.  That was the decision of Harry McDonald, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, a pro-evolution lobby.  Now, according to the
Lawrence Journal-World, “in a surprise move, it appears that supporters of evolution will present their side May 12 through May 14” the week after the other side has their say.  But to the consternation of John Calvert (pro-ID lawyer) and the pro-ID members on the board favoring the new science standards, pro-evolution attorney Pedro Irigonegaray said “he would not reveal whom he may call as witnesses,” according to reporter Scott Rothschild.
    The Wichita Eagle highlighted a spirited interchange between the combatants.  Calvert said “You cannot cross-examine an expert witness without preparation.  I’m a little bit perplexed about why these witnesses need to be kept secret, especially in light of the boycott.”  When fellow board member Connie Morris remarked that they need to know the list so they could be “praying over” their coming decision, Irigonegaray leaped on the statement like Huxley on Wilberforce: “Did you say praying over?” he asked, adding, “I’m just very disturbed that one of the reasons I have to do this is so the board can pray about it.”  The Wichita Eagle gave the last word to John Burch, a private investor concerned “that Kansas’ bioscience industry will suffer if the anti-evolution push continues,” said his side can’t play Mr. Nice Guy any more: “We can’t afford to be nice about this anymore to religious partisans.  We’ve really got to get serious.”
    Supporters of the new standards have been very up front about their plans.  KansasScience2005.com displays the complete list of witnesses to be called May 5-7, and the proposed revisions to the science standards.  Irigonegaray said his side would spend no public funds for the hearings.  The Board had agreed to give Calvert up to $5000 to cover the cost of bringing in witnesses; in justifying the expense, Calvert said, “This is one of the most important issues facing education in the entire country.”  During the teleconference in which the latest decisions were made, the “combative” Irigonegaray countered, “We would object to the use of a single penny to conduct what we believe is a political process as opposed to a legitimate issue regarding science.”
    Meanwhile, in California, Larry Caldwell is asking for a retraction from Eugenie Scott (National Center for Science Education) and the California Academy of Sciences for alleged false and defamatory claims about him during his year-long attempt to get the Roseville School District to permit criticisms of Darwin’s theory.  John West on the blog EvolutionNews remarked, “Has Scott found it so difficult to locate someone who actually fits her preconceived stereotype of a Bible-thumper trying to ban evolution that she must now resort to reinventing someone to fit her stereotype?  It will be interesting to see whether Scott and the California Academy of Sciences have the decency to correct the record.”
Update  04/22/2005:  Some details of the Darwinist strategy were just revealed by Science Now, a pro-Darwin news source for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  A news item entitled, “Scientists Gear Up to Battle Intelligent Design,” reveals that scientists and educators opposed to the new science standards plan to focus on the possible economic impact of the new standards.  This was the emphasis at a public meeting in Kansas on Thurs. 4/21:
Yesterday’s meeting focused on the economic consequences of downplaying evolution in school curriculums.  “Most industries today want workers with analytical skills,” says microbiologist Charles Decedue, executive director of the Higuchi Biosciences Center at the University of Kansas (KU), which is dedicated to the development and transfer of bioscience technologies.  “ID does not foster analytical thinking because its arguments are faith-based.”  Leonard Krishtalka, an evolutionary biologist who directs the Biodiversity Institute at KU, predicts that ID instruction would also turn away potential investors. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The meeting was part of an effort by John Burch to “build a broad coalition behind Darwin’s teachings,” the article states.  Interestingly, it gives the last word to Don Covington of the Intelligent Design Network, one of half a dozen ID supporters at the meeting.  He was not impressed with the economic arguments.  “Corporate executives don’t discuss Darwinism,” he countered.  “When kids find out that they are going to learn the truth, they might be excited to come here,” he argued, and it would make the state a magnet for families.
1Geoff Brumfiel, “Biologists snub 'kangaroo court' for Darwin,” Nature 434, 550 (31 March 2005) | doi: 10.1038/434550a.
This is turning into a contest to watch.  The most amazing thing about the Darwinist response is that it is a red herring strategy.  They want to scare the public into thinking anything other than 100% pure Darwin might hurt the economy.  That is really funny.  Apparently, they don’t want to touch the scientific case for ID with a ten foot strand of DNA.  This has all the earmarks of a desperate ploy by special interests who know they have a weak case.  Analytical skills?  Take this bacterial flagellum and analyze it.  “Faith-based” arguments?  No devotee is as incorrigible as a 33rd-degree Charlie worshiper (see 11/14/2004 entry about Priest Dawkins).  Covington should argue that Darwinists are bad for the economy, because they believe evolution made us liars (see 11/23/2004 and 11/19/2004 entries) and criminals (see 03/04/2005 entry).  If it’s embryonic stem cell research they have in mind that’s going to make Wichita the new boom town, do Kansans really want to gain the whole bandwagon and lose their own soul? (See 02/08/2005 entry.)  Kansas will do just fine economically without obligatory naturalism, just like Britain did after Faraday and Maxwell, both creationists.  Nobody on the board is proposing downplaying evolution, anyway – read the standards.  If anything, students will get more than before, this time fair and balanced.
    Why should a Darwinist be disturbed that someone wants to pray over an important decision?  The Darwin Party keeps telling everyone that evolution is not a threat to one’s religious beliefs.  They stress how many evolutionists believe in God, and that belief in God is no issue at all, because “science” has nothing to say about faith.  This is the two-platoon strategy at work (see 01/14/2002 commentary).  Out of one mouth they try to soft-pedal any threats of Darwinian philosophy to religion, and out of the other mouth they scream and holler if someone prays about an important decision affecting the teaching of science.  Make up your mind, Darwinists: if the destruction of religion is what you believe in, at least everyone will know where you stand.  We’d also like a count on how many of you are Democrats (see 12/02/2004 entry).
    Irigonegaray is grandstanding about the money.  $5,000 is nothing in a state budget, and is only fair, considering that some of the witnesses must be flown in from across the country.  The Board would have made the same amount available to him, as if he needed it with all the pro-Darwinian establishment on his side.  Who is he to play the martyr?  Stop the false piety; it doesn’t matter if you spend twice as much.  Let’s see you bring in some big brains who can tell us how life evolved out of a chemical soup, or how molecular machines learned ballet (see 04/13/2005 entry), without resorting to just-so stories or defining your opposition out of the game.  Have them tell us why Darwinism is such a sacred belief that it cannot be critically examined by anyone except those initiated into the rituals of the Temple of Charlie, whose survivors turn into lobotomized robots quacking “evolution is a fact, like gravity.”
    Sorry, but our memory banks don’t recall any instance of pro-Darwin advocates in Kansas being nice.  They tell jokes about Kansas being the Land of Oz, threaten that universities will not accept Kansas grads, or spread fear about loss of revenues for research.  They make it sound like the scientific revolution began with Darwin, when in fact, science had a long creationist history that continues to the present (see online book).  The opponents of the evolution-only position of the NCSE want some long-overdue fairness in the presentation of an admittedly controversial subject (see 11/30/2004 entry).  Science is supposed to flourish with evidence, logic and critical thinking.  How can any Darwinist, in the name of science, continue to support indoctrination into an all-encompassing belief system that is so poorly supported by actual evidence? (See 12/30/2004 and 11/29/2004 entries, and over 500 chain links on “Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory” over the last five years).  John Calvert has gone out of his way to invite a fair and balanced presentation by both sides in this important debate.  Larry Caldwell has presented a rational, limited case in California for a long time to permit criticisms of Darwinism, well known in the scientific community, to be heard by students.  How does the opposition respond?  With stereotypes, epithets, outrage, underhanded tactics, refusal to talk, blame, allegations, lies, distortions and sidestepping.  Don’t just listen to the words in the upcoming hearings.  Watch which side acts with decency.
    We can only hope that the Darwinites will take Burch’s advice to get serious.  We’ve been wanting them to get serious for a long time (see 04/06/2005, 02/10/2005, 11/29/2004, 11/23/2004, 08/12/2004, 02/25/2004, 09/26/2003, 05/08/2003, 03/21/2003, 01/16/2003, 02/24/2003, 11/07/2002, 10/25/2002, 04/08/2002, 01/29/2002, 11/15/2001, 10/16/2001 and 08/29/2001 entries for samples).  In fact, Mr. Calvert, why not hand out to everyone at the hearing a compilation of all the Dumb awards in these pages?  After they’ve all had a good laugh, they will probably be thinking: should we really be teaching this stuff to our kids?  The Darwinites, during this expose, will probably be secretly praying in the background.  The Kansas school board could be very lenient and tolerant of the losers.  They could give the Darwinites free rein in the theater class (see 11/29/2004 entry).
Next headline on:  EducationDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
Ichthyosaurs Suddenly Appeared in Triassic Oceans    04/20/2005
“Ichthyosaurs were a group of Mesozoic marine reptiles that evolved fish-shaped body outlines,” begins Ryosuke Motani (UC Davis) in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences,1 in a paper on “Evolution of Fish-Shaped Reptiles... in Their Physical Environments and Constraints.”  But while much is said about their environments and constraints, little is said to explain their evolution.  It is not even certain they were reptiles: “The sister group of ichthyosaurs is unknown,” he says, resulting in taxonomists proposing conflicting ideas of where to put them within the vertebrates: “Many different hypotheses have been proposed as to where ichthyosaurs belong in the tree of vertebrates, and all major groups, including mammals, amphibians, and osteichthyes [bony fishes], have been proposed.”  The majority view is that they are reptiles that diverged before the dinosaurs, though “It is unknown whether they are outside or inside the saurian clade.”  The classification problems continue inside the clade.  Even though “there seems to be a consensus regarding the basic phylogenetic relationship among major groups” of ichthyosaurs, “None of the published phylogenetic trees is uncontroversial,” he notes.
    Ichthyosaurs are characterized by narrow snouts, usually conical teeth, and a bend in the vertebra near the tail.  They apparently ate fish and squid.  Some of them had enormous eyes, much bigger relative to body size than any other animal.  The number of fin digits varied from one to twenty.   “Ichthyosaurs were a diverse group, with various body forms and sizes,” writes Motani, an expert on this unusual group of swimmers.
    The first ichthyosaur was described in 1814, long before Darwin’s theory.  “Despite such a long history of scientific study,” Motani says, “our knowledge of the evolution of the group was limited until recently because interest in the group flagged, especially after the recognition of the Dinosauria (Owen 1842).  It was not until the late 1980s that the ichthyosaurian study was revitalized, and many of the noteworthy facts listed above were recognized during the past decade.”  Summarizing the latest discoveries and discussing future perspectives are the purposes of Motani’s review.
    “The first definitive records of ichthyosaurs appear suddenly and almost simultaneously over a wide range of the Northern Hemisphere, including Canada, China, Japan, and Spitsbergen,” in the upper Triassic, he says, making it “difficult to discuss the geographic origin of the group.”  The earliest forms look like a “long-snouted lizard with flippers and a small caudal fin..., with a relatively small skull, an elongated trunk containing approximately 40 vertebrae in front of the pelvic girdle, and a short tail” (emphasis added in all quotes).  These were 1-3 meters in length.  Two other groups appear in Middle Triassic strata, one large (9m) and one small (2m), that disappear in the Late Triassic.  A group of tuna-shaped ichthyosaurs called Parvipelvia shows up in Late Triassic strata and became the dominant type in those rocks.  Ichthyosaur fossils appear throughout the Jurassic into the Cretaceous, when they all went extinct.  More fossils of new species are being found all the time.  Some finely-preserved, articulated specimens found recently in China are proving very interesting.  Yet putting all the diversity of ichthyosaurs into an evolutionary timeline is made difficult by gaps:
The evolution of the intermediate grade ichthyosaurs during the Middle and Later Triassic is poorly understood at this point, and the diversity of ichthyosaurs in the Early Cretaceous requires further investigation.  Middle and Late Jurassic are also important, given the scarcity of materials known at his point.
Motani speaks often of evolution in his review, yet points more to species diversity than to any particular trends in morphology.  For instance, discussing the flippers, he claims “it is possible to trace the continuous evolutionary transformation series for the forelimb,” but then says, “Although the series is continuous, it is difficult to single out a feature that is shared by all ichthyosaurian front flippers.”  His elaboration presents a somewhat confusing picture:
Ichthyosaurs initially had five digits as in many amniotes, including humans.  Some time in the Late Triassic, a form without the first digit, or the thumb, appeared..., and this lineage eventually gave rise to the Parvipelvia.  Extra digits started to appear in some species of Norian ichthyosaurs, and many Jurassic ichthyosaurs added digits both anteriorly and posteriorly in the forelimb (Figure 4), a phenomenon referred to as hyperdactyly.  Ichthyosaurs also added extra finger bones, or phalanges, to their digits.  Such hyperphalangy was present even in the most basal ichthyosaurs, such as Utatsusaurus ....
So the earliest forms already had multiple phalanges and digits; some later forms had more, some had fewer.  Neither is there an evolutionary pattern in size: “There was no simple trend in ichthyosaurian body sizes through geological time,” he writes.  “Large as well as small ichthyosaurian species seem to have coexisted from the beginning.”  Most were under 10m, but a giant species possibly 20m was found near British Columbia.
    Motani says that ichthyosaurs were the “first tetrapod to evolve a fish-shaped body profile with a well-demarcated caudal fluke, long before cetaceans came up with a similar design some 150 million years later,” but merely assumes that three very different groups – reptiles, mammals and fish – all converged on the multiple structural and physiological features necessary for streamlined swimming.  He claims ichthyosaurs “evolved the largest eyes of all vertebrates” without saying how; later, he mentions, “It is not known why such an extensive bony coverage of the eyeball evolved.”
    Motani also discusses that ichthyosaurs “have one of the earliest records of live-birth in amniotes” without mentioning the transitions necessary to make it possible; in fact, this capability seems to have appeared abruptly in this group: “Given that ichthyosaurs did not appear until very late in the Early Triassic, live-birth clearly evolved early in the ichthyosaurian evolution, at least during the first few million years or possibly less, of their 150-million-year evolutionary history” — i.e., this complex adaptation suddenly appeared in the first 1% of their timeline and persisted unchanged throughout 150 million years, while other major changes in body shape evolved, including significant reductions in the pelvis.
    Motani’s only specific reference to a transitional form is “Californosaurus, which is one of the transitional forms between the fish-shaped and more basal ichthyosaurs, it is clearly seen that the change of the orientation of the neural spines corresponds to the position of the tailbend.”  Yet that change seems to represent only a rather minor difference in shape.  In another place, he admits that “The exact phylogenetic position for the appearance of the fish-shaped design in ichthyosaurs is controversial.”  The only other reference to transitional forms is: “The evolution of the group during the Early Jurassic can be considered as continued experimentation along the fish-shaped parvipelvian design that appeared in the Norian,” yet he does not elaborate on which descended from which, or which could be considered more fit or better adapted.
    However confusing the interpretation of ichthyosaurs remains, this diverse group of marine animals became an early icon of evolution: ichthyosaurs “were the first major fossil collected by Mary Anning in the 1800s (McGowan 1991), and, together with the plesiosaurs that she discovered later, they symbolize the early phase of scientific movements in England that cultivated the grounds for Darwin’s evolutionary theory.”
    Some of the most remarkable ichthyosaur fossils show the young in the process of being born.  At least six genera show embryos inside adult individuals. 
1Ryosuke Motani, “Evolution of Fish-Shaped Reptiles (Reptilia: Ichthyopterygia) in Their Physical Environments and Constraints,”
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 33: 395-420 (Volume publication date January 2005) (doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.33.092203.122707)
Ichthyosaurs were a remarkable group of swimming animals.  Motani knows a lot about them, but he doesn’t know much about their evolution.  Despite his bluffing assertions about phylogeny, there is not a single point he makes that is without controversy or problems.  Even accepting the evolution-biased geological dates, he has to admit that the “basal” (earliest, presumably most primitive) ichthyosaurs already had five digits in functional flippers and gave birth to live young.  No subsequent evolution could be anywhere near as dramatic as having a full-fledged ichthyosaur appear in the fossil record without ancestors.
    They are not clearly related to any other group of vertebrates, yet in many respects are like reptiles in fish costumes.  The similarities in body shape between some ichthyosaurs and tunas or dolphins is uncanny.  Streamlined body design requires not just a skeleton, but the musculature and skin to deal with fast swimming.  Every other body system – digestive, circulatory, endocrine, nervous, sensory, excretory, reproductive, and immune – must also adjust when there are changes in morphology.  How many lucky mutations had to converge in just one species of ichthyosaur to get this all right, let alone in a tuna (bony fish) or dolphin (mammal)?  Since the last common ancestor of these three groups could not have possessed that genetic information, the Darwinist is forced to believe that these three distant groups illustrate an amazing example of convergent evolution, whatever that means.  But even accepting that cop-out explanation, Motani admits that the phylogenetic position of the fish-shaped ichthyosaurs is controversial.  They seem to appear fully streamlined out of nowhere.
    Consider also how remarkable it is to have numerous examples of fossils containing live embryos.  Marine creatures do not normally fossilize while carrying young.  A marine animal is either eaten or else dies of old age, not while giving birth.  For the embryos to be preserved, some even possibly in the process of exiting the birth canal, there had to be a sudden catastrophe that captured and smothered these large, strong creatures in mud before they could even appear startled.
    There is nothing in this story to suggest these creatures evolved from something else.  Diversity is not evolution.  Motani did not demonstrate any clear sequence of characters morphing into others, or new functional capabilities arising de novo; nor did he explain how mutations and natural selection could produce an interrelated suite of complex structures like an ichthyosaur.  He did not show how they originated in one location and spread around the globe.  On the contrary, they burst on the scene all over the world, from Canada to Europe to China, in a geological blink of an eye, without precursors.  The only thing of any certainty about evolution in this paper was his determination to force-fit every piece of data into a Darwinian belief system.  (Notice how these fossils were used as props for Darwin’s theory, even though 146 years later, scientists are still struggling to understand their evolution.)  There is much in this story, however, that fits the framework of creation and a worldwide flood.  Along with most other living things, these marvelously designed animals were carrying out their everyday life and bearing their young, when the flood came and destroyed them all.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyFossilsDinosaursDarwinism
How to Get Asteroid Dust Ponds in Mere Millennia   04/19/2005
A team of U. of Colorado and MIT scientists modeled the formation of the smooth dust ponds found in some of the craters on the asteroid Eros by the
NEAR spacecraft (see 02/13/2001 entry).  They calculated that micrometeoroid settling from impacts was too slow a process, and instead ran experiments with electrostatic levitation of fine particles.  Their calculations suggested this process could deposit a monolayer of micron-size particles once a day.  That would lead to the observed pond formation in 2,000 years or less; maybe as little as 100 years.  Their paper is published in Icarus.1
1Colwell et al., “Dust transport in photoelectron layers and the formation of dust ponds on Eros,” Icarus, Volume 175, Issue 1, May 2005, Pages 159-169, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2004.11.001.
If that process is so efficient, why aren’t the craters overflowing with dust after 4.5 billion years?  The dust is found coating only the bottoms of some of the craters.  Explore the pictures on NASA Photojournal and see for yourself.  Calculations like this are always based on assumptions and limited data, but it seems harder to imagine so little ponding after billions of years.  Explaining the dust away seems to require more ad hoc elements in the story.  Maybe Eros just hasn’t been drifting out there all that long.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
Butterflies Really Know How to Fly    04/18/2005
The path of a butterfly may appear haphazard to us, but there is a method to the fluttering.  A UK team of scientists put transponders on butterflies and monitored their flight paths.  They found that the looping paths appear to help with orientation and food detection.  The rest of the time, they flew straight at speeds up to six miles an hour.  They appeared able to detect hazards from 200 meters, and food sources at 100 meters.  See the
BBC News story for more information.
    MSNBC News reported that the largest migration of painted lady butterflies is underway in California.  From the southern desert and coastal areas, they fly through the Central Valley and some make it all the way to Oregon.  See also the press release from UC Davis.
What kind of engineering and programming must a tiny butterfly brain possess to engage in navigation, orienteering, and long distance flight?  The most delicate of small creatures shows capabilities that would stump robotics experts.  Help your kids appreciate not just the beauty but the technical abilities of these beautifully-decorated small wonders.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyAmazing Stories
Temple Mount Debris Yields Artifacts from Solomon’s Temple   04/17/2005
Israelis were shocked and outraged when Palestinians undertook an illegal construction project in 1999 on the Temple Mount, and threw the debris into the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem, but there was little they could do about it.  Though this “archaeological disaster” caused irreparable damage to the site, the holiest place for the Jews, some Israelis tried to salvage some of the wreckage.  A respected Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Gabriel Barkai, spirited away 70 truckloads of the debris to a nearby location where it could be sifted and studied, according to
Israel National News, which reported on some of the spectacular finds coming out of the rubble during the project over the past six months.
    Among artifacts identified were coins, shards, figurines and other materials from the periods of the Crusaders, the Romans, the Hasmoneans (before Christ) and earlier.  Arrowheads from Nebuchadnezzar’s army were found, and some figurines and shards appear to date from the First Temple of Solomon.  Animal bones from sacrifices were also discovered.  The Palestinian Arabs have consistently denied the existence of Jewish Temples on the site of the Temple Mount, now the site of the Muslim Dome of the Rock.
    How could Muslims get away with treating arguably the world’s most religiously valuable real estate like garbage?  The article explains, “During the illegal excavations and dumping on and from the Temple Mount, the police and the government Antiquities Authority refused to interfere, citing concerns of violence by Muslims who deny that Temples ever stood on the Temple Mount.”
    The salvage operation was undertaken with private funding, but the money is running out, threatening to leave the work uncompleted.  This was the “first ever archaeological examination of the Temple Mount,” the article claims.  “Though the archaeological remains were no longer in their original contexts, they held enormous potential to shed light on the undocumented human history of the Temple Mount, as systematic archaeological excavation or scientific study have never taken place there.  The mounds of dirt in the Kidron Valley therefore contained the only available data from the Temple Mount to which modern archaeologists have ever had access.”  See also the Jerusalem Post article on this story.
How the Muslims could have wreaked this havoc without an international outrage and condemnation is beyond belief; this site is one of the most sacred to Jews and of great interest to Christians around the world.  The discoveries made here by this rescue effort are all consistent with the Biblical record of the Temples of Solomon and Herod.  They hint at the tremendous potential for archaeological research if more of the Mount could be excavated.
    Not all religious moral traditions are equivalent.  Notice which religion values knowledge, preservation, carefulness, scientific research and historical accuracy, and which denies facts of history and shows utter disregard for the sensibilities of others.  These Muslims knew full well what feelings the Jews have for the Temple Mount, yet engaged in illegal clandestine construction and dumped priceless artifacts into the ditch under cover of night; and if anyone didn’t like it, they could fall back on threats of intifada.
    If there are so many good Muslims, as we are told, where were their voices to condemn the actions of their brethren?  Instead, Muslims in Jerusalem threaten violence for trespassing on their holy site, yet forbid Jews and Christians access to sites just as sacred to them.  The article equates Muslim denial of the Jewish Temple to Holocaust denial, yet they get away with it with very little protest from the outside world.  Let the reader understand.
Update 05/20/2005:  In the next few weeks after this story was announced, Muslims worldwide rioted, killing 17 people, over an unsubstantiated report in Newsweek that American guards had intimidated Muslim prisoners by flushing pages of the Quran down the toilet.  Newsweek later retracted the story and apologized, but the damage was done, largely by leftist newspapers that repeated the story without checking the facts.  Few reporters remembered that Palestinians in Bethlehem had torn out pages of the Bible and used it for toilet paper when they occupied the Church of the Nativity a few years ago.  No Christians rioted then; they just came in to weep and clean up the mess after the Palestinians left.
    If Big Science wants to resurrect its supposed reputation for logic and honesty, it should stop opposing Christians and Jews, and go after the religious zealots that make hate, lies and irrationality a way of life and death.  See also the 05/19/2005 story.
Next headline on:  BiblePolitics and Ethics
Dinosaur Fossilized in the Act of Laying Eggs   04/15/2005
Two eggs, with shell material still attached, were found inside the oviducts of a theropod dinosaur, a Chinese team reported in Science.1  This first-time discovery of intact eggs in the body of the female “suggests that theropod dinosaurs had two functional oviducts (like crocodiles) but that each oviduct produced only one egg at a time and that an entire egg clutch was laid through multiple ovipositions (like birds).”  The suggestion that the fossil provides an intermediate egg-laying structure between reptiles and birds was made on the basis of the position of the eggs.  It is improbable two eggs would be found in the ovary when the animal was fossilized, they explained:
Unless sequential egg formation and shelling was very rapid and/or there was an extremely prolonged period of egg laying, the preservation of only two tightly juxtaposed eggs in the specimen strongly indicates that each of the paired oviducts simultaneously produced a single egg.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The fossilization process appears to have retained the shape and texture of the eggshells.  See also the popular writeups on this story in
National Geographic, BBC News and MSNBC News.
1Sato et al., “A Pair of Shelled Eggs Inside A Female Dinosaur,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5720, 375 , 15 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1110578].
The science reporters all seem to be jumping on the spin that this might represent a transitional form, and ignoring the remarkable fact that this animal was buried and fossilized within minutes or seconds of laying eggs.  The missing-link angle depends on interpretation of positions of the eggs relative to the pelvis and oviducts.  Notice how the paper said unless sequential egg formation and shelling was very rapid – a reference to how quickly this mother dinosaur was buried.  Could the rapid fossilization of this dinosaur been contemporaneous with a worldwide event that entombed a T. rex in Montana (see 03/24/2005 entry), leaving blood vessels intact?  If so, both these specimens were living much more recently than tens of millions of years ago.
    There are many, many things different between dinosaurs and birds.  Finding structural similarities in oviducts begs the question of how egg-laying and all its prerequisite equipment evolved in the first place.  The ability to encase an embryo in a calcified incubator of the right size and shape, keep it at the right temperature for the right time, and provide instructions to the hatchling on how and when to break out, is what we want explained in the Darwinist storybook.  Even that story would beg the question of everything else that would have to be pre-existent for egg laying to work: the structure of the mother’s skeleton, the egg laying machinery, the developmental process, the mineralization and nutrient requirements, and the incredibly complex story of embryonic development.  Saying it evolved doesn’t make it so.
    MSNBC News uttered another one of those ridiculous evolutionary lines that is self-contradicting, because it implies purpose on the part of the blind mechanism of natural selection, the very thing King Charles ordered expunged from biological explanations.  Any questions on why the final sentence below deserves Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week?  This is cartoon material:
“The evolution of one egg at a time happened very early, before birds could fly, and then the evolution of only one oviduct happened later,” he said [Matt Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington].
    “That might be related to the origin of flight,” he said, explaining that maybe birds wanted to lighten their body and so developed one oviduct.
Next headline on:  DinosaursBirdsFossils
Gorilla or Hominid?  Toumaï Controversy Continues    04/14/2005
Michel Brunet’s controversial Toumaï skull (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) made the cover of Nature last week,1,2 but rivals contend it was not part of the human line.  The skull he found in Chad in 2002 (see
07/11/2002 and 10/09/2002 entries) was badly disfigured and needed reconstructive surgery, leading to criticisms that any interpretations were subjective.
    News sources like MSNBC, BBC News and National Geographic immediately pounced on the clay reconstruction featured on the cover of Nature, a gorilla-shaped face with a smooth head and thoughtful-looking eyes.  National Geographic printed a large image of the reconstruction but made no mention of the controversy surrounding its classification.  It stated, “Now new fossil finds and a high-tech skull reconstruction (not shown) strongly suggest the species was human, after all.  This would make it the oldest known human ancestor.”
    The BBC News article, by contrast, included statements by other anthropologists who disagreed.  It quoted Mary Pickford (National History Museum, Paris), for instance, who said that it is an ape-like animal and is unconvinced that Toumaï was a hominid at all.  The BBC also pointed out the ramifications of Brunet’s claim that this was in the human line:
If Toumaï really does belong on the human branch of the evolutionary tree, its discovery calls into question certain assumptions about our prehistory.
    The fossils were found some 2,500km (1,500 miles) west of the African Great Rift Valley – traditionally seen as humankind’s ancestral home due to the wealth of hominid fossils that have been discovered there.
    The discovery of S. tchadensis implies early hominids ranged far wider from East Africa, and far earlier, than previously thought.
    It also suggests that hominids evolved quickly when they set off on their own evolutionary path.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

1Michel Brunet et al., “New material of the earliest hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad,” Nature 434, 752 - 755 (07 April 2005); doi:10.1038/nature03392.
2Zollikoffer, Brunet et al., “Virtual cranial reconstruction of Sahelanthropus tchadensis,”
Have we forgotten?  Brunet wants to be top dog in the paleoanthropology olympics, so he found his own contestant in his own turf.  He dug up a gorilla skull that was badly deformed, gave it a mythical date, and fashioned it according to his own beliefs (see 03/28/2003 caution by Tim White).  So Brunet got his prize – the cover of Nature – which says absolutely nothing about the validity of his claim that his specimen lived millions of years ago, but more about the gullibility of Darwinist-controlled journals.  Now the other teams are angry that he scored and are out to topple him in this king of the hill game by disqualifying his contestant.
    This is all so silly.  Evolutionists want us to be surprised at the suggestion that Chad Gorilla could have wandered so far from the Great Rift Valley in millions of years.  Have we forgotten them telling us a few weeks ago that a chipmunk-size armadillo made it from Africa to North America? (see 04/01/2005).  They talk about adaptive radiations and migrations all the time, but need to keep their hominids imprisoned in isolated areas for millions of years to keep their tall tale from falling apart.  Evolutionists toss these millions of years around like flippant remarks, seemingly oblivious to how long even ten thousand years represents.  All of known human history, including all the plant and animal breeding humans have done, fits into a span that is one one-hundredth of just one million years.  They want us to refrain from laughing when they spout absurdities like “It also suggests that hominids evolved quickly when they set off on their own evolutionary path.”
    Once you understand the inherent foolishness of these long timelines and the stretch-and-squish manner in which they treat rates of evolution (see 12/14/2004 entry), you will not be swayed by these occasional announcements.  Once you understand that the facts are not the issue, but rather the obsessive-compulsive Darwinian need to force human ancestry into an evolutionary timeline, you will instead find these announcements quite amusing.
Next headline on:  Early ManFossils
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Academic Bill of Rights?    04/13/2005
Why would Nature claim that academic freedom is a threat to academic freedom?  In the April 7 issue,1 Emma Marris titled her news item, “Professors bristle as states act to mould lecture content – Academics are fighting right-wing ‘bills of rights’.”  The academic freedom the professors want is their own freedom to control lecture content, not freedom for other points of view to be heard.  Since the universities are predominantly Democrat (see
12/02/2004 entry), any intrusion into the status quo is viewed as a right-wing conspiracy.  One Florida opponent calls such attempts to bring a balance of viewpoints back into academia a “right-wing political takeover of the universities.”
    David Horowitz, a former Marxist radical now turned conservative activist, has proposed an “Academic Bill of Rights” (see FrontPage Magazine description).  This includes the right of students to have their work graded on content and not religious beliefs, fair hiring practices for professors, tenure based on performance rather than beliefs, a call for professors to abstain from presenting controversial material unrelated to the curriculum, administrative neutrality, and balance in presentations on controversial issues.  Why should such apparently fair proposals generate such a negative reaction on campuses where Horowitz is making his case?
    Marris gives her explanation: “Critics say that these ‘Academic Bills of Rights’, which are written to make sure that each side of an issue is presented in lectures at public universities, could in fact stifle academic freedom – and disrupt the teaching of science in contentious fields such as evolution and global warming.”  How could this be, when the intent is the opposite?  One opponent of the Academic Bill of Rights says, “It will waste a lot of time in the classroom because you will have to spend time covering a bunch of extraneous stuffevery crazy idea out there,” referring to alternatives to Darwinism.
    In the same issue of Nature,2 Geoff Brumfiel defended the decision of pro-evolution scientists to boycott the Kansas board of education hearings.  The board wanted to hear both sides argue over proposed changes to standards that would include “language that is friendly to intelligent design,” but the evolutionists wanted no part in what they considered a “kangaroo court.”
    David Horowitz, meanwhile, is taking heat at university campus lectures with his Academic Bill of Rights.  The American Association of University Professors called it “part of a larger pressure on higher education to politicize the agenda.”
1Emma Marris, “Professors bristle as states act to mould lecture content,” Nature 434, 686 (07 April 2005); doi:10.1038/434686b
2Geoff Brumfiel, “Biologists snub 'kangaroo court' for Darwin,” Nature 434, 550 (31 March 2005); doi:10.1038/434550a.
Have you seen a worse case recently of the pot calling the kettle black?  The agenda is already politicized to the far left.  When you are at the south pole, everything appears north.  Horowitz is somewhere in the midwest latitudes calling for balance at the equator.  To those at the extreme south pole, his views appear radically northern.  That’s only because they fail to see their own extreme position.
    Gene Edward Veith in World Magazine wrote about a shocking example of hypocrisy at the University of Colorado, where all the faculty rose up to defend leftist pro-terrorist radical Ward Churchill’s academic freedom, but were dead silent when award-winning professor Dr. Phil Mitchell was fired for quoting black critics of affirmative action.
    The fact that Nature would slant this news item against Horowitz and give best press to his opponents shows that the establishment science enterprise, along with its positions on evolution, global warming, and stem cell research, is all tied in with leftist politics.  The Democratic Party is probably too conservative for most of them.  Any time the leading science journals have something to say about politics or ethics, it is usually predictably leftist.  Anything that threatens the left-wing totalitarian hold on academia, where you thought academic freedom was the highest virtue, is anathema to them, because, from their extreme position, balance appears far right.  Don’t ignore how evolutionism is tied in with this mess.  Even Charlie described his politics as “liberal or radical.”
    Our hearts bleed for the professors who might have to spend time going over “extraneous stuff” for a change, if the Academic Bill of Rights succeeds.  Everybody knows that in any totalitarian regime, the most efficient use of time is to teach only the party propaganda.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and EthicsEducation
Molecular Motors Do Ballet   04/13/2005
Scientists at University of Illinois studied dynein and kinesin – the tiny molecular trucks that ferry cargo inside the living cell – and found that they are not just individualists: they cooperate in a delicate yet effective performance.
    Some scientists had thought that the two machine types, which travel in opposite directions, were involved in a constant tug-o’war with each other.  Instead, reports the university’s
news bureau, “The motors cooperate in a delicate choreography of steps.”
    Using high-speed imaging techniques, they determined that “multiple motors can work in concert, producing more than 10 times the speed of individual motors measured outside the cell.”  The machines move by “walking” on rails called microtubules in steps 8 billionths of a meter at a time.  The team is measuring the force produced by the motion to “further understand these marvelous little machines.”  There was no mention of evolution in the report.
Someone should put an animation of these machines to the Blue Danube Waltz.  It would be quite a show.  Darwinists could be allowed to buy tickets as long as they do their smoking outside.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Stories
Go to the Roach, Thou Robotics Designer   04/13/2005
Most of us can’t step on them fast enough, but of cockroaches, engineers at Johns Hopkins say “the pesky critters are excellent role models” – for robotics.  Classroom exercises include building obstacle courses for cockroaches and observing how they use their antennae to navigate, even in the dark.  Said one student, experienced in trying to build robots that can navigate based on perception, “Every time I looked at the images of the runs, I was in awe of the cockroaches’ agility and speed.”
    The story by Stefan Lovgren in
National Geographic News says engineers want to learn how the insects achieve rapid locomotion control.  Cockroaches can sweep their antenna up and down and side to side when standing still to survey their surroundings, but hold them steady when running.  Like radar, the antenna give them a continuous status report on their surroundings.
    Some day, artificial cockroachbots may be able to crawl inside collapsed buildings looking for trapped people, or explore battlefields for missing soldiers.  Actual robotics applications mimicking the antennae are “extraordinarily limited” to date, the article says: “But scientists are increasingly looking at some of nature’s solutions to help them overcome several of the problems that hamper progress using traditional engineering methods” (emphasis added).
    By the way, a team at Northwestern is using a different biological model system for study: rat’s whiskers.
“The vermin have become our role models” sounds like something a cynical talk show host might say.  But in the context of this story, it’s an interesting insight into design right under our feet.  Who would have thought that lowly and despised critters scurrying about in our yards (and, to our disgust sometimes, our homes) are providing scientists with a sense of awe over their engineered capabilities?
    We humans are justly proud of our Mars rovers that struggle about at two inches per second and manage to avoid obstacles, but just imagine: if we could mount cameras and radio transmitters on cockroaches and release a batch out there, you can bet every nook and cranny on the whole planet would be explored in short order.
    Scientists are justified to envy “nature’s solutions” and try to imitate them (although “nature” is not a person).  How scientists can stand in awe of the robotics capabilities of a cockroach or rat, and then turn around and say these technologies came about by the accumulation of accidents, is illogical in the extreme.  Let’s learn the true lesson of biomimetics: the world has a Designer with vastly superior engineering skills than ours.  Logic would continue that if He knows this much about rapid locomotion control, He must also have a lot of other things to teach us.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyAmazing Stories
Solar Eclipse Probabilities Calculated   04/13/2005
The probability, on average, that the spot you are standing on will see a total solar eclipse is once every 360 to 375 years, says Joe Rao, a lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium, writing for
MSNBC News.  Some cities, though, like Los Angeles, have to wait 1565.9 years, and some rare spots may not see one for 36 centuries.  About 28% of solar eclipses are total.  On average, an eclipse occurs somewhere on Earth every 18 months.  The one happening Friday in the South Pacific is a hybrid, mostly annular (ring-like), but total only in the middle of the path for 42 seconds.  The article contains a table of 25 cities and their average wait between eclipses.
As a young astronomer, Guillermo Gonzalez was struck by the beauty of a total eclipse he saw in India.  This became the subject of an article called “Wonderful Eclipses” that grew into a thesis that Earth was a special place, a “Privileged Planet” that resulted in a book and film with that phrase as the title.  Gonzalez and Jay Richards found that solar eclipses were just the tip of the iceberg of a class of phenomena that illustrated an uncanny relationship between the factors that make Earth habitable and the factors that make Earth an ideal platform for scientific discovery.  Order this beautiful and thought-provoking film – once you watch it, you will be loaning it to everyone you know.
    Next time a total solar eclipse comes within a thousand miles of your home – or even farther – by all means go see it.  It’s an indescribable event that affects the entire 360° field of view, the weather, the animals, the people and the economy.  The sight of a circular black dot, blacker than midnight, surrounded by streamers of the glowing pewter-white corona will leave you breathless.  You’ll understand what makes people travel around the world to experience even a few seconds or minutes of totality.  Pictures can’t do justice to the phenomenon.
    Total solar eclipses are not just coincidental light shows; they have proven extremely important in the history of astrophysics, and have enabled archaeologists to pinpoint dates of kingdoms thousands of years ago with high accuracy.  Gonzalez discusses these matters in detail in his book.  Isn’t it a provocative thought to consider that the only platform in our solar system capable of a perfectly-matched total eclipse (due to the size-distance relationship of three bodies, the sun, the Earth and our large moon) also has sentient beings able to appreciate it?
Next headline on:  Solar SystemAmazing Stories
Bobble-Head Birds See Straight   04/12/2005
Anyone who has fed pigeons in the park has probably wondered why they bob their heads forward and back when they walk.  It not only looks comical to us, it seems like it would give them a very confused sense of sight.  Leave it to scientists to go find out why birds bob their heads.  Strangely, nobody seems to have studied this before.
    A team of Maryland biologists decided to investigate, and just published their results in Current Biology.1  They found that the head bobbing actually maximizes the amount of time the eyes see a stationary picture.  “The stable phase of bird head-bobbing movements is particularly interesting,” they say, “because the behavior, unique to birds, clearly contributes to visual gaze stabilization.”  (To make this all sound scientific, they had to give it the highfalutin name “gaze stabilization.”)
Many species of birds move their heads forward through a series of successive, fixed positions when walking.  This unique ‘head-bobbing” behavior stabilizes visual fields during body movement, preventing motion blur of the retinal image.  Gaze stabilization could be required for successful visual search, particularly for moving objects, but the time available for stabilization varies with walking speed.  No direct evidence has been published showing that birds favor the stabilization phase while foraging either for moving or immobile food.  We examined head-bobbing behavior in foraging whooping cranes, Grus americana, as they searched the ground for food, and found that they walk at speeds that allow the head to be immobilized at least 50% of the time.  This result strongly suggests that, in cranes and probably many other birds, visual fixation via head stabilization is necessary for object detection and identification during visual search.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They chose Big Bird the whooping crane because its head, with eyes nearly five feet off the ground, makes the bobbing easy to observe.  Watching male and female cranes feed in a pen, they recorded their movements with a video camera, and analyzed the motion mathematically.  Think of the two extremes: “At a slow pace, fixation is possible almost all the time, but the area that can be searched is limited,” they write, but “At near-running speeds, much more ground can be covered, but head thrusts dominate the thrust-fixation cycle.”  (For the rest of us, that means that while the bird is running, its head would bob so often the vision would be blurry.)
    Birds forage at a walking pace that gives them the best of both: a large search area, and stable eyes to detect prey.  Their preferred walking pace allows them to see with tripod-steady intervals about 50% of the time, giving them occasions to change their head angle and “fixate new objects of visual interest,” they say.  Pigeons bob their heads when landing, they noted, and herons assume a rigid gaze, even if the perch moves under their feet.  These observations suggest that a steady gaze is important to a bird.  In conclusion, they say, “The observation that foraging whooping cranes favor visual fixation strongly implies that for them, and probably many other species of birds, stabilization of vision is necessary for object detection, recognition, and localization.”
1Kronin, Kinlock and Olsen, “Head-bobbing behavior in foraging whooping cranes favors visual fixation,”
Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 7, 12 April 2005, Pages R243-R244, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.03.036.
For this to evolve, the neck muscles had to adapt to fast controlled motion while the brain simultaneously found a way to interpret the motion.  Additional structural support might be needed to keep the eyes from popping out.  Does the brain tune out the jerky part of the motion and stitch together a seamless set of still images?  Perhaps so.  It would be interesting to project on a screen how the smart bird brain (see 02/01/2005) interprets its visual input.  This story illustrates how even the simplest everyday phenomena in the living world around us have a purpose.  Investigating such things with careful observation and analysis often reveals an amazing set of parts working together harmoniously for the big picture.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Stories
Whose Side Is Unenlightened?    04/12/2005
Here’s an opportunity for readers to compare arguments on both sides of the debate about origins and the nature of science.  Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of Science, wrote an editorial last week that claims the sunrise of the intelligent design movement threatens “twilight for the Enlightenment.”1  He wrote that the “retrogression to the pre-Darwinian zoologist William Paley” is undermining the heritage of David Hume and “developing conviction that substituted faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma.”
    Chuck Colson in his
Breakpoint commentary for April 8 puts the shoe of enlightenment on the other foot.  He countered that the Darwinists have been in the business of suppressing the weaknesses of their theory.  He quotes Rodney Stark, who wrote that evolution “has primarily been an attack on religion by militant atheists who wrap themselves in the mantle of science in an effort to refute all religious claims concerning a creator—an effort that has also often attempted to suppress all scientific criticisms of Darwin’s work.”
1Donald Kennedy, “Twilight for the Enlightenment?”, Science, Vol 308, Issue 5719, 165 , 8 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1112920].
Kennedy could enlighten all of us by explaining how molecular machines, DNA transcription and replication with all its error-correcting mechanisms, and the human brain arose from mindless, undirected process of chance and natural law.  He could further explain how refusing to hear honest questions about Darwinian evolution exemplifies a conviction that substitutes faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma.
    What science needs today is not another Enlightenment, an era that produced a mixed bag of atheists and forgotten skeptics as well as deeply spiritually-minded scientists.  It needs to go back further in time to what made enlightenment possible, to the period where brave men challenged establishment dogma at the risk of their lives.  It needs a Reformation.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
Astrobiology: Much Ado About Nothing So Far    04/11/2005
The mood at a NASA Astrobiology Institute conference is very upbeat, according to Leonard David at
Space.com, reporting from the meetings in Boulder, Colorado.  The participants have set their goals high:
Consider it nothing short of the cosmic quest for all time: Understanding the origin, evolution, distribution, and fate of life on Earth and in the Universe.
    That’s a tall order . . . but within the sights of experts gathering here this week to take part in the 2005 Biennial Meeting of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Much of the excitement comes from a flood of data about Mars, Titan and extrasolar planets.  But these objects provide only information about solid, liquid and gas – no biology yet.  That’s enough, though, to get Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute promoting astrobiology like a high-energy TV commercial:
What a fabulous opportunity to think about the boundaries of what that life might be like,” Tarter said.  “The planets are there.  We can’t deny that anymore.  It’s really setting the backdrop and driving forward everybody’s thinking.  So it just gets more exciting to think about how nature might have generalized biology and geology,” she said.
Much of the excitement also stems from prospects for discovery in the future, from the Kepler, Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) and Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) projects, and NASA’s “Moon, Mars and Beyond” initiative.
    One participant seemed like a wet blanket in the party.  Nick Woolf (U of Arizona) echoed the feelings of Fritz Benedict earlier this month (see 04/04/2005 entry): “I started off expecting Earth-like planets to be very common . . . and have become steadily more cautious.  That does not mean that my change of opinion is correct.  I believe that the attitude we should adopt at the present is agnostic.”
Astrobiology is like futureware on back order.  None of the actual data returned by MER or Cassini, and none of the exoplanets so far detected, provide any hint that life exists, or has existed, or is even possible at any of these places.  Remember the realistic lab tests of amino acid survival in a Martian environment? (See 01/28/2005 entry.)  The poor molecules were destroyed within hours.  We have seen nothing but rocks, ice and gas so far, but these scientific charlatans are already claiming to be experts about the origin, evolution, distribution and fate of the universe.
    Learn the lesson of Greenwater, a ghost town in Death Valley.  In 1904, this desert hideout mushroomed into a boom town with nearly two thousand people, a bank, post office, saloon (but no church), a lively newspaper (the Death Valley Chuck-Walla), and exuberant enthusiasm – all fueled by rumors that there wuz oodles o' copper in them thar hills.  Famous investment advisors like Charles Schwab promoted the site as one of the richest digs on the globe, and speculators jumped on the bandwagon, spending fortunes on stock with nothing behind it except promises.  The boom began to go bust when miners actually began digging in the hills and came back with only pitiful amounts of low-grade ore.  Most townspeople had left by 1908; the last mine gave up hope in 1911.  Today, literally nothing remains of the town: only the rocks, sand, lizards and desert bushes that endured the harsh environment before a lot of foolish people arrived with dollar signs in their eyes, eyes that soon got blasted with the hot winds of reality.  Must have been quite a counseling job for the last barkeep.
    There’s nothing wrong with looking.  It’s good to have prospectors out there with their burros and pickaxes.  Maybe one will find that rare rich vein of ore.  In the meantime, though, better watch where you invest your philosophical assets when the salespeople come to town selling stock in eternal wisdom with nothing in hand but irrelevant details and empty promises.  Isn’t it ironic that creationists tend to be the agnostics, and the emotional evangelists are the scientists – or, more precisely, the evolutionists wearing science costumes.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeSETI
Variable Constants Dept.    04/11/2005
Is nothing sacred? 
EurekAlert reported that the fine structure constant alpha may have changed from its once-thought invariable value, based on new observations from the Keck telescope.  “Sacred constant might be changing,” it says.
    Another study, by contrast, shows no change in the fine structure constant, according to a press release from UC Berkeley.
Too early for any conclusions.  The measurements are very difficult to make.  The consequences of any change, if confirmed, could be cosmic.  That might be a reason it couldn’t have changed: we wouldn’t be here wondering if it could.
Next headline on:  PhysicsCosmology
Titan May Have Erupted Ice Recently    04/08/2005
Large features on Titan resemble volcanic calderas.  The fact that no impact craters appear on the flows indicate that they are young.  But these are no ordinary volcanoes.  If the findings are confirmed, they erupted ice.
    Richard Kerr reported the scuttlebutt from last week’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.  Titan may have enough rock in its interior to produce heating by radioactive decay, “unlike Enceladus,” Kerr comments (a smaller Saturnian moon showing signs of recent resurfacing: see
03/04/2005 entry).  That internal heat could have melted the ice “tens or hundreds of kilometers down,” scientists think, and ammonia in the crust could lower the melting point of ice to allow slush to flow on the surface – but not forever, worries Caltech planetary physicist David Stevenson:
But Stevenson does wonder how Titan could still be flooding its surface with cryolavas this late in its life.  No impact craters have been seen on any cryovolcanic features, implying that they are relatively young.  Yet, notes Stevenson, billions of years of volcanic activity would have extracted the interior’s reservoir of ammonia.  Without that antifreeze, cryolavas could not flow.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The only way Stevenson could suggest a solution to this problem is if Titan is “somehow recycling its ammonia back into the interior.”
1Richard A. Kerr, “Icy Volcanism Has Rejuvenated Titan,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5719, 193 , 8 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5719.193a].
This is just one of the conundrums about Titan if it is 4.5 billion years old as assumed by conventional wisdom.  The atmosphere is another problem.  It seems ad hoc to get the ammonia out to melt the ice, then plunge it back inside to reuse it later.  How many times could that cycle repeat?  Long enough to save face for scientists billions of years in the future when Titan was explored by humans?
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsSolar SystemGeology
Stupid Evolution Quotes of the Week    04/06/2005
“Evolution is blind and brutish but, every now and then, it stumbles across a truly stunning innovation that rewrites the rules of life,” says
New Scientist in a caption for the cover story article, “Life’s top 10 greatest inventions.”  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)  The inventions are a mixed bag of nasty and nice: multicellularity, the eye, the brain, language, photosynthesis, sex, death, parasitism, superorganisms, and symbiosis.  Each entry is described by a different writer, all of whom assume evolution was up to the job of creating any spectacular innovation needed.  This article provides many quotes vying for the prize.  Take your pick:
  • Ponder this one in the bath.  Chances are you’ve just scrubbed your back with a choice example of one of evolution’s greatest inventions.  Or at least, a good plastic copy.  Sponges are a key example of multicellular life, an innovation that transformed living things from solitary cells into fantastically complex bodies.  It was such a great move, it evolved at least 16 different times. Animals, land plants, fungi and algae all joined in. (Claire Ainsworth)
  • They appeared in an evolutionary blink and changed the rules of life forever.... eyes...probably evolved from light-sensitive pits. (Graham Lawton)
  • Just a few million years later, eyes were commonplace and animals were more active, bristling with defensive armour.  This burst of evolutionary innovation is what we now know as the Cambrian explosion. (Graham Lawton)
  • Brains are often seen as a crowning achievement of evolution – bestowing the ultimate human traits such as language, intelligence and consciousness.  But before all that, the evolution of brains did something just as striking: it lifted life beyond vegetation. (Helen Phillips)
  • The next evolutionary step, which probably happened in flatworms in the Cambrian, was to add some sort of control system to give the movements more purpose.  This sort of primitive brain is simply a bit of extra wiring that helps organise the networks. (Helen Phillips)
  • As far as humans are concerned, language has got to be the ultimate evolutionary innovation.  It is central to most of what makes us special, from consciousness, empathy and mental time travel to symbolism, spirituality and morality.  Language may be a defining factor of our species, but just how important is it in the evolutionary scheme of things? (Kate Douglas)
  • ....genetic studies suggest that the light-harvesting apparatus evolved from a protein with the job of transferring energy between molecules.  Photosynthesis had arrived. (Alison George)
  • In those early days, oxygen was poisonous to life.  But it built up in the atmosphere until some microbes evolved mechanisms to tolerate it, and eventually hit on ways to use it as an energy source.  That was a pretty important discovery too: using oxygen to burn carbohydrates for energy is 18 times as efficient as doing it without oxygen. (Alison George)
  • Important as sex is, however, biologists are still arguing over how it evolved – and why it hasn’t un-evolved.  That’s because, on the face of it, sex looks like a losing strategy. (Clare Wilson)
  • Could evolution have brought the Grim Reaper into being?  Yes, indeed.  Not in all his guises, of course – living things have always died because of mishaps such as starvation or injury.  But there’s another sort of death in which cells – and perhaps, controversially, even whole organisms – choose annihilation because of the benefits it brings to some greater whole.  In other words, death is an evolutionary strategy. (Bob Holmes)
  • But now that people routinely survive well past reproductive age, we suffer the invention evolution never meant us to find: death by old age. (Bob Holmes)
  • The name is synonymous with stealing, cheating and stealthy evil.  But the age-old battle between parasites and their hosts is one of the most powerful driving forces in evolution.  Without its plunderers and freeloaders, life would simply not be the same. (Ana Gosline)
  • Large numbers of individuals living together in harmony, achieving a better life by dividing their workload and sharing the fruits of their labours.  We call this blissful state utopia, and have been striving to achieve it for at least as long as recorded history.  Alas, our efforts so far have been in vain.  Evolution, however, has made a rather better job of it. (Kate Douglas)
  • Symbiosis has triggered seismic shifts in evolution, and evolution in turn continually spawns new symbiotic relationships. (Rachel Nowak)
  • In a sense, language is the last word in biological evolution.  That’s because this particular evolutionary innovation allows those who possess it to move beyond the realms of the purely biological. (Kate Douglas)  
To these science writers, evolution sounds like the ultimate free lunch.
Picture yourself stopping by a red wagon that’s promoting the Cult of Tinkerbell (03/11/2005).  You decide to stop and join us listeners for a moment and watch the silly devotees, all wearing conical hats and pink tassled slippers (04/01/2005) doing their best to win us over.  Moving right along, after we’ve sufficiently yucked it up over these groaners, we can only hope that Kate is right: that this is the last word on evolution, and now we can move beyond the realms of the purely bi-illogical.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Stories
Active Adolescents Are Leaner, Fitter    04/07/2005
The intuitively obvious sometimes holds up to experimentation.  Researchers at
Medical College of Georgia found that, indeed, young people who are physically active are less likely to be obese.  Most adolescents need to double their physical activity, the researchers said, preferably an hour or more a day – and it needs to be vigorous.  In most cases this time could easily replace television watching.
Give them some motivation by taking them hiking in beautiful places, like on Creation Safaris (picture).  Ever wonder why you don’t find many fat people on mountain trails?  Or bored ones?
Next headline on:  Health
No Excuses: Nazi-Era German Scientists Had Bloody Hands    04/07/2005
A six-year, $5 million (US$) project in Germany to investigate the extent of scientific involvement with the Nazi regime completed its final report last month, reports Nature,1 with “uncomfortable truths.”  It can no longer be claimed that (1) there were only a few rotten apples involved, (2) the work was pseudoscientific, low-quality work with meaningless results, (3) that Hitler’s regime held science in low esteem, such that scientists tried to wait out the dark period, or (4) those who collaborated with the Reich did so under duress.
    On the contrary, the report found that scientists in the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (now named the Max Planck Institute, or MPS) often participated knowingly and willingly. 
The MPS has found that a large part of the most criminal research conducted was not ‘pseudoscience’ – in fact, it followed conventional scientific methods and was at the cutting edge of research at the time.  It has also demonstrated that the Nazis held basic research in high esteem, increasing funding for it during the war years without requiring scientists to join the Nazi Party.  And it found that, far from being subjected to force, many scientists voluntarily oriented their work to fit the regime’s policies – as a way of getting money and of exploiting the new resources that Nazi policies made available through, for example, the invasion of other countries.  Most researchers, it turns out, seem to have regarded the regime not as a threat, but as an opportunity for their research ambitions.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
One Nobel prize winning scientist, for instance, knew that his lab was using blood samples from Auschwitz; others voluntarily came up with many projects to improve weapons systems.  One reason for the cooperation seems to have been the attitude that Germany was in a new era for the long term.  In hindsight, we know of the rapid collapse of the Third Reich and subsequent worldwide condemnation for a science twisted to support egregious violations of human rights, crimes against humanity that to many represent the ultimate icon of evil.  But picture yourself back then in 1936 and consider how the world might have looked to a research scientist working in a successful, forward-looking, nationalistic, advancing country:
In the 1930s and early 1940s, it seemed to those living under fascist flags that fascism was immortal.  Until 1942, few Germans – or Italians, for that matter – imagined that the ruling regimes would be overthrown, or be replaced by a democratic system that would judge many of the actions they considered loyal, patriotic, or simply getting on with their job, as unacceptable support for a criminal regime.
Some of the findings were not known at the Nuremburg trials, because important Russian documents did not become available till the end of the cold war.  Nature commended the MPS for producing this “serious, dispassionate reanalysis” that will help us learn the lessons of this dark period.  The findings are available on the website of the
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.  See also the 06/12/2001 entry about MPS president Markl’s apology for the victims, that characterized Nazi-era science as built on a “materialistic, Social Darwinist, dehumanized form of biology.”  (For the Darwin-Hitler connection, see this book review and article pertaining to research by historian Richard Weikart).
1Editorial, “Uncomfortable truths,” Nature 434, 681 (07 April 2005); doi:10.1038/434681a.
The editorial says that the “conventional wisdom” stemming from the Nuremberg trials, “which condemned the heinous crimes of high-ranking Nazis, but did not enquire into the behaviour of less notorious individuals, including rank-and-file scientists,” was politically correct for the time.  It allowed Germany to rebuild its infrastructure and justified the allies supporting West Germany to restrain the advance of communism.
    This report raises many new questions for historians.  If there were more than a few rotten apples, how could so many take part?  How much did they know?  How much was their involvement influenced by acceptance of Social Darwinism and eugenics?  What are the analogues to our modern era, so that similar ethical atrocities do not take place on our watch? (see 03/10/2005 and 02/08/2005 entries as food for thought).  Could the cry, “Never again!” be drowned in the rumble of a new evil empire?  New Scientist reported recently about a set of radical proposals from the UK parliament’s committee on science and technology.  It is advocating baby sex selection, human reproductive cloning, human-animal chimeras and other “controversial” activities – this by the same country that stood courageously against Hitler 60 years ago.  What if there is no Nuremberg trial this time?  What if, this time around, the voices crying for the rights of the weak and helpless are successfully quenched?  What if today’s scientists again imagine themselves living under an immortal regime for the long term?
    Some Nazi war criminals never felt guilty for what they did.  They said that the only reason they were condemned was because their country lost the war.  The judges at Nuremberg argued that there was a higher law that they should have obeyed.  Yet do we not still have a “materialistic, Social Darwinist, dehumanized form of biology” taught in universities around the world?  If no one in this international Darwinist reich believes in a higher law any more, God save us.*
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
*And God save the North Koreans, where even today the same materialistic, Social Darwinist, dehumanized forms of science are murdering thousands in ways that might make Hitler and Stalin cringe (see editorial by Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu, author of Separated at Birth: How North Korea Became the Evil Twin).
Late Stars Found Early On    04/06/2005
A press release from the
Spitzer Space Telescope team reports that the oldest, most distant galaxies ever seen already had well-developed stars.  It claims that the light has taken 13 billion years to reach us.
“It seems that in a couple of cases these early galaxies are nearly as massive as galaxies we see around us today, which is a bit surprising when the theory is that galaxies start small and grow by colliding and merging with other galaxies,” said Dr. Mark Lacy (Spitzer Science Center).
    “The real puzzle is that these galaxies seem to be already quite old when the Universe was only about 5 per cent of its current age,” commented Professor Richard Ellis of Caltech.  “This means star formation must have started very early in the history of the Universe – earlier than previously believed.”
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The release was echoed on News@Nature which claims these galaxies were born a mere 700 million years after the big bang.  Whether small galaxies were also present at that epoch is hard to tell, because only the largest tend to be detectable.  BBC News reported that a new instrument named DAZLE (Dark Age Redshift Lyman Explorer) on the Very large Telescope in Chile may soon be able to observe objects at redshift (z) 7.8, corresponding to 650 million years after the big bang in cosmological models.  The technology may eventually reach back to z=8.8 or, in principle, even z=15, less than 300 million years after the big bang.
This is another sob session in a long lament.  The farther back they look in time, and the farther out they look in space, the more mature structure they see – contrary to evolutionary expectations.  For examples, see 03/10/2005, 01/08/2002, 03/03/2003, 12/16/2002, 07/08/2004, 01/23/2004 and 01/04/2004 entries and work back through the “cosmology” chain links.  It’s uncanny how similar this looks to the Cambrian Explosion in biology: the abrupt appearance of structure without precursors.  Observations from multiple telescopes, by multiple teams, seem to be converging on the conclusion that the universe was already well developed at an early age.  If this trend keeps up, they might soon find mature galaxies on the fourth day.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmology
Darwinians Looking for Forgiveness – in Apes    04/06/2005
Forgiveness, a seemingly distinctive human trait, must have its roots in ape social behavior, believe some evolutionary biologists.  According to
MSNBC News, the state of Iowa got a lot of money for researching this topic:
Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, lead scientist, said the four-month project studying bonobos [pygmy chimps] will be funded by a $125,000 grant from the Richmond, Va.-based Campaign for Forgiveness Research....
    Savage-Rumbaugh said many people believe forgiveness is a concept which only applies to humans.  The research center’s hypothesis is that it is not a process of species, and that like other social behaviors, “forgiveness is a set of patterned interactions that can be imparted to a group by how its newest members are treated,” according to a news release.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
She believes that forgiveness cannot be understood deeply only by studying humans, “because we are too close to these processes in ourselves to objectify them.”
To an evolutionist, “patterned interactions” among individuals of a species are an emergent property of patterned interactions of molecules.  Since Ms. Savage-Rumbaugh appears to be operating with a naturalistic paradigm, forgiveness, to her, has its roots ultimately in hydrogen.  She could save a lot of money by looking for forgiveness among bacteria in a petri dish; it’s only a pattern of interactions, anyway, with no moral connotations.  Since morals have no absolute existence in the Darwinian mind (see “Morality without religion?” by Dave Miller on Apologetics Press), forgiveness is only a game that populations of organisms play (see 02/10/2004 entry).  No moral laws have been violated when a fungus or an elk or a pigeon have played the part of defector and other individuals punish it, or reward it with a behavior called “forgiveness” when it changes its strategy and decides to cooperate.
    You cannot objectify forgiveness without destroying it any more than you can quantify love in equations, or put the soul in a test tube.  This is the bitter end of naturalistic reductionism.  It destroys everything it touches: design, altruism, romance, self-sacrifice, morals, and now forgiveness.  Nothing is real any more.  There are only shadows and dreams emerging like phantoms from chemical vapors.  This means there is nothing really worth fighting for, worth dying for, worth living for.  Like detached robots, evolutionary biologists observe what happens when the organism is poked and prodded.  They take notes and then write them up in journals.  But then those very publications and any interpretations drawn from them are also phantoms of matter in motion, so why even read them?  There is nothing left but to keep the pleasurable neurotransmitters flowing.  Then the world at least feels good, till the terrorist or dictator comes with a different game and his own rules.
    If this is not the kind of world you want to live in, you had better help these researchers find forgiveness, because they need it.  Tell them they are looking in the wrong place.  It’s not in the bonobo cage.  It’s freely available everywhere outside the naturalistic cage in which they have imprisoned themselves, and they’ll never find it without the key.  That key is jealously guarded by the demons of pride and selfishness.  Defeat them, and the key to forgiveness is as near as the heart.  The key is repentance.*
Next headline on:  Evolutionary TheoryDumb Stories
*Repentance is not mere cooperation, or playing along with the game – but truly recognizing one’s sin and forsaking it: see Prov. 28:13.  The sin of many naturalistic scientists is an old one: idolatry – i.e., trusting in falsehoods, whether false premises, false hopes, or one’s own abilities (Prov. 3:5-6).  The cure hasn’t evolved.  Repentance still requires forsaking idols, whether internal or external.  Bad example: 2 Kings 17.  Good example: I Thess. 1.
Flagellum Described in High-Performance Lingo    04/04/2005
The bacterial flagellum, a virtual icon of the intelligent design movement, has been studied by many researchers, notably Howard Berg of Harvard, an expert on chemotaxis (the attraction of bacteria to chemical stimuli).  Berg was interviewed in Current Biology1 and talked like a race car mechanic when discussing this molecular machine, though he is not involved in the ID movement and believes in evolution.  Here are some excerpts:
  • The modern era [of chemotaxis studies] began in the 1960s with Tetsuo Iino and Sho Asakura in Mishima and Nagoya, who began work on the structure of flagellar filaments (thought then to be primitive bending machines)...
  • the flagellar motor has several pistons and a novel torque-speed relationship....
  • We hope to understand how bacterial chemotaxis works, every nut and bolt.  Who would have imagined: receptor complexes that count molecules and make temporal comparisons; activation of a diffusible signal that couples receptors to flagella; reversible rotary engines that drive propellers of variable pitch; force generators, rotors, drive shafts, bushings, and universal joints; a system with prodigious sensitivity, with amplification generated by receptor-receptor interactions?  The biggest black box is the motor.  We know a great deal about its electromotive and mechanical properties (torque, speed, changes in direction, and so forth) but we do not really know how it works.  We need more structural information.  This is hard, because essential components are membrane embedded.  But even in an age of systems biology, one should not be embarrassed to focus on an isolated network controlling a particular molecular machine.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

  • 1Q&A: Howard Berg,
    Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 6, 29 March 2005, Pages R189-R190, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.03.003.
    And yet he says, “Chemotaxis evolved so that cells can locate nutrients....”  Who would have imagined, indeed.  But then, when entering the high-performance world of microtechnology, imagination is what keeps the evolutionary story lubricated.  Alcohol helps, too (see 08/12/2004 entry); some evolutionists seem to have converged on that form of chemotaxis after watching Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent Design
    Panel Majority Agrees: Our Solar System Is Special    04/04/2005
    All five observational and theoretical planetary scientists on a panel last week agreed that our solar system is a special place, reports
    Space.Com.  At the 5th annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate, held at the American Museum of Natural History, the topic was “whether our solar system is special, why it looks the way it does, and how others thus far detected differ.”  All five panelists concluded that, because of the approximately 150 extrasolar planets detected so far, none of which resemble Earth, solar systems like ours may be rare in the universe.  Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium moderated the event that was attended by about 700 people.
    1. Paul Butler is co-discoverer of two thirds of known extrasolar planets.  He has found that most have eccentric orbits, meaning that earthlike planets in such systems would likely be destroyed or ejected.  “I think with the data at hand,” he said, “we can say that our solar system is rare.  Eccentricity dominates.”
    2. Scott Tremaine (Princeton) and Peter Goldreich (Caltech), both astrophysicists, have calculated that large planets like Jupiter can migrate inward and outward in planetary systems.  Many of the observed extrasolar planets are Jupiter-class objects found in Mercury-range orbits.  Earth-like planets would have little hope of survival in such systems.
    3. Fritz Benedict (U of Texas) noted that many host stars emit huge flares that would quickly sterilize Earth-like planets.  He remarked,“The older I get, the less likely it seems to me there’d be a bunch of places like our solar system.” 
    4. Margaret Turnbull (Carnegie Inst. of Washington) felt that more observations will be needed to consider our solar system special.  But she noted that close-in planets would most likely be tidally locked to the star, turning one side into a dry desert and the other into a freezing wasteland.  Liquid water on the surface of such a world would be impossible.
    The first extrasolar planets were detected indirectly in the 1990s.  Prior to that, most scientists assumed that other solar systems would resemble ours, with rocky planets close in and gas giants farther out.  “But what they discovered were solar systems unlike ours with big Jupiter-like planets close to their host star,” wrote Sara Goudarzi for Space.com.  The question now is why ours is so different, and just how rare it will turn out to be as discoveries continue.
        A contrasting view was reported in National Geographic News.  A computer study shows that a “Goldilocks zone” of habitability could exist in many of the known extrasolar systems.  No earthlike planets have been found in them, though, and indeed could not be detected with current technology.  “It’s still philosophical at this point, but I’m an optimist,” said James Kasting, member of a JPL team building the Terrestrial Planet Finder for launch a decade away.  In contrast to the Space.Com article that emphasized the uniqueness of Earth gauged from observations, NG optimistically titled its report, “Many ‘Earths’ Are Out There, Study Says.”
    This is why observational science is necessary and important; it keeps speculation in check.  Poor Dr. Tyson (would-be heir apparent to Carl Sagan--see 09/29/2004 entry) must rue the fact that the stubborn data are, so far, contrary to his master’s fresco of our Earth as “an ordinary planet around a humdrum star, lost in a galaxy, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”  The search is in its early stages, but the data so far appear statistically significant.
        This story provides additional support for the “Privileged Planet” hypothesis (see 06/24/2004 and 08/01/2004 entries, book at PrivilegedPlanet.com and film at Illustra Media).  Back in the early 1980s when Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series was the biggest thing on PBS, inspiring a cult following, most scientists accepted as an article of faith that Earth-like planets were common in the universe.  Five scientists is a small sample of the set of all astronomers, but that all of them on this panel, each professionally involved in the search for extrasolar planets, would be forced by the data to conclude “there’s no place like home,” is also statistically significant.
    Next headline on:  Solar system
    Gentle Darwin and the Evolution of Joy   04/03/2005
    You may not be able to really enjoy a good laugh any more, because the evolutionists are now claiming that joy and humor are just evolutionary artifacts of gene mutations in our animal past.  Jaak Panksepp (Bowling Green U) opens an article in
    Science Now by twisting the opening words of the Apostle John into what he assumes is a witty remark: “In the beginning was the word... but was the word funny?”  Whether Christians will laugh is doubtful, considering the next lines:
    Research suggests that the capacity for human laughter preceded the capacity for speech during evolution of the brain [see next entry].  Indeed, neural circuits for laughter exist in very ancient regions of the brain, and ancestral forms of play and laughter existed in other animals eons before we humans came along with our hahahas and verbal repartee.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    How does he know this?  Panksepp refers to anecdotal studies of animal play, and assumes that “rat humor” and “horsing around” are of the same substance and essence as human joyfulness; the obvious conclusion, therefore, is that human laughter evolved from animal play.  After all, everything in our humanness is tied to our animal past and was not designed, he assures us, because a certain exalted master told us so:
    Many still believe that emotional feelings, from joy to grief, are special capacities of the human brain, but as Darwin taught, it just ain’t so....
    We find ourselves at the tall-tale end of an intellectual era when the animal mind was deemed nonexistent or impenetrable.  Gentle Darwin was prescient when he coaxed us to see our own emotional nature as continuous with that of our fellow animals....
    Although our emotional systems are neither uniquely nor intelligently designed, it is a blessing that we can finally understand their affective nature....
    Having dismissed intelligent design with a summary judgment, he must announce the verdict: humor and joy are only relics of natural selection acting on random mutations.  News sources like MSNBC and BBC are throwing in a lot of one-liners to soften the blow.
    With polka-dotted conical hats and pink tassled slippers like these, need the Darwinists wonder why the rest of us give them strange looks?  (See 04/01/2005 entry).  Notice how their Great Leader, dear Charlie the Gentle, is treated like a god by the cult of Darwin.  Whatever he said is so, and whatever he said ain’t so, ain’t so.  It’s surprising they don’t give chapter and verse each time.  If you are having trouble catching the irony of their explanation, read the next entry, and also the one from 12/30/2004.  Given this background, notice how it is totally outside the box for them to even consider that maybe human joy and animal play both had a common Designer instead of a common ancestor.  Since evolution is the starting presupposition, even things as fun as “fun” have to be retrofitted into the randomness machine (and destroyed in the process).  To those sad sacks in the Darwin camp, we say chill out, lighten up, and get a Life.  Joy has no naturalistic explanation.  If it did, it wouldn’t be joy.  You can’t get joy out of molecules: it had to come from a sufficient cause – intelligence.  So listen to John: in the beginning was the Word.  Laughter is a gift, and the Giver wants your joy to be full.  Start out by noticing how silly your bearded buddha looks as an idol.  To think people actually believed this mere mortal knew how all life originated – ha!  It makes you laugh so hard, you want to cry.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Stories
    Do Neurologists Understand Brain Evolution?   04/03/2005
    Jane Bradbury wrote a feature piece for PLOS Biology recently,1 entitled, “Molecular Insights into Human Brain Evolution.”  Help us find the insights.  First, she marvels on how “humans sit on top of the pile when it comes to relative brain size.”  Then she marvels at how quickly the human brain apparently evolved compared to apes.  Next, she complains that we don’t have good maps of the differences between ape and human brains, so “it is hard to make meaningful comparisons between our brain and that of chimpanzees.”  She calls on Karl Zilles (Germany) to explain:
    Already, Zilles has discovered that there is much more interindividual variation in human brain organisation than anyone suspected.  This means, says Zilles, “that a general statement like ‘the neocortex is bigger in human brains than in ape brains’ actually tells us very little.  It gives us the general direction that evolution has taken but not whether an ape brain is different because of its sensory, motor, or association areas.”   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    Still hunting for insights, we find Bradbury finding an apparent case of convergent evolution between whale brain evolution to human brain evolution, but that assumes the brains evolved rather than providing insights into how they could have.  Next, we find Bradbury wondering how a large brain could have evolved, because it costs a lot to run it.  Worse, it would have had to simultaneously get reorganized as it grew bigger:
    For one thing, a big brain is a metabolic drain on our bodies.  Indeed, some people argue that, because the brain is one of the most metabolically expensive tissues in our body, our brains could only have expanded in response to an improved diet.  Another cost that goes along with a big brain is the need to reorganise its wiring.  “As brain size increases, several problems are created”, explains systems neurobiologist Jon Kaas (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States).  “The most serious is the increased time it takes to get information from one place to another.”  One solution is to make the axons of the neurons bigger but this increases brain size again and the problem escalates.  Another solution is to do things locally: only connect those parts of the brain that have to be connected, and avoid the need for communication between hemispheres by making different sides of the brain do different things.  A big brain can also be made more efficient by organising it into more subdivisions, “rather like splitting a company into departments”, says Kaas.  Overall, he concludes, because a bigger brain per se would not work, brain reorganisation and size increase probably occurred in parallel during human brain evolution.  The end result is that the human brain is not just a scaled-up version of a mammal brain or even of an ape brain.
    Still hunting for those elusive insights into brain evolution, we find Bradbury wondering how natural selection could have done the job.  “For natural selection to work,” she explains, “the costs of brain evolution must be outweighed by the advantages gained in terms of fitness.”  So were they?  She quotes those who speculate about possible selection pressures, such as the need for better diet and more social group coherence, but provide no data to explain why apes are sociable and physically fit but retain small brains.  Whatever selection pressures there might have been, though, she is sure were not guided: they had to “work on the raw material of random gene mutations,” she reminds us.
        Here Bradbury provides a smidgeon of data.  Several teams have suggested that a gene named ASPM, which is implicated in the shrunken-brain disease microcephaly, might have been a factor.  But then again, one researcher said, “we really have no idea yet how or even if ASPM is involved in brain evolution.”  Some other “candidate genes” are being studied, but “functional studies” on genes are “difficult to do,” she cautions, so there are only suggestions at this point.
        Considering how much must have changed since humans made their first evolutionary strides from apes, some genes show no clear evolutionary pattern, according to a surprise announcement by the
    Max Planck Institute.  They recovered DNA from a Neanderthal skull said to be 75,000 years old, and discovered that the gene for osteocalcin was identical to that in modern humans.  Furthermore, they found a marked difference in the sequence for this gene in gorillas compared to other primates in mammals.  All they can promise is that the possibility of additional gene comparisons from fossils might help “better understand the phylogenetic relationships” between primates (implying that they are not well understood now).
        But then again, maybe it is not just the genes, but the way they are expressed, that became important sometime in the human evolution saga.  One team has found 100 genes so far that are differentially expressed in human and chimpanzee brains.  That led Todd Preuss (Emory U) to remark, “All told, it seems that the human brain may be more dynamic than ape or monkey brains.  The human brain seems to be running hot in all sorts of ways.”  This still begs the question of how or why that should be so.
        We finally reach her last paragraph, subtitled, “Scratching at the Surface.”  Just when we were hoping for a surprise treasure chest full of insights, we find ourselves empty-handed:
    As far as understanding how our brains evolved, more questions remain than have been answered.  One problem is that we don’t really know enough about how our brains differ from those of other mammals and primates, although work by Zilles and others is helping here.  We also know very little about how the areas of our brain are physically linked up, and we need to understand that before we can see how we differ from our nearest relatives.  And as far as identifying the gene changes that were selected during evolution, although we have several candidates, we don’t know how or if these gene variants affect our cognitive abilities.  It is one thing, concludes Dunbar, to identify genetic or anatomic differences between human and ape brains, but quite another to know what they mean in terms of actual cognitive processes.

    1Jane Bradbury, Feature: “Molecular Insights Into Human Brain Evolution,” Public Library of Science: Biology, Vol. 3, Issue 3, March 2005.
    We want our money back.  We were promised some insights, and all we got were excuses.  Pay up, Darwin Party, or we are going to the ID show across the street, where all the crowds are gathered.
    Next headline on:  Human BodyEarly ManEvolution
    You Can Help Find Life on Mars   04/02/2005
    Astronomy Picture of the Day pulled a fast one for April Fool’s Day, humorously suggesting viewers might help scientists find water on Mars.  (The Mars in the picture was the candy kind.)
    The joke was on them, because they got baloney all over their faces with this line: “Finding water on different regions on Mars has implications for understanding ... the possible existence of past life...”  By linking to an evolution-assuming site, they showed themselves to be either unaware or unconcerned about the many and major problems with abiogenesis (see 02/06/2005 entry and work backward on Origin of Life chain links).  They also failed to see the irony in the fact that their staged picture showed intelligent design.  The biggest fool is the one who fools himself.
    Next headline on:  MarsOrigin of Life
    More David Berlinski    04/01/2005:  “Wearing pink tasseled slippers and conical hats covered in polka dots, Darwinian biologists are persuaded that a plot is afoot to make them look silly....”  Read more at Daily Online Californian.  Berlinski’s piece was occasioned by remarks of Berkeley’s dean of undergraduate education, in which he expressed dismay and amazement that many of his fellow faculty members sympathized with the intelligent design movement’s alternatives to Darwinism.
    A master of adroit sarcasm (Jonathan Witt on the EvolutionNews blog calls it “delicious”), David Berlinski is not the stereotypical undereducated foggy-faith emotional religious right anti-Darwinist, and neither is William Dembski, whom he defends.  That must make it awfully hard for the Darwin Party to pigeonhole them into the group they wish to patronize, marginalize and euthanize.  How disconcerting for the doctor when the patient diagnoses him as being in a PVS, and the judges are listening.  No wonder he wants to change the subject to something more congenial, like following a balloon.  He should count his blessings.  Anti-Darwinists believe altruism is real, not virtual (see 03/16/2005 entry), and apply survival of the fittest only to ideas, not individuals.
    Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    More Convergent Evolution Claimed for Dino-Era Mammal   04/01/2005
    A chipmunk-size mammal with Popeye-like forearms and beaver-like teeth resembling an armadillo?  That’s how the discoverers are describing the fossil they named Fruitafossor, a small mammal found near Fruita, Colorado and reported in Science.1  They think it dug burrows and ate termites.  Of special interest were the open-root teeth like those of the beaver.  Lead researcher Zhe-Xi Luo told
    National Geographic News, “These peculiar teeth in an otherwise very primitive Jurassic mammal were puzzling, as these teeth weren’t supposed to appear until much later, when the armadillos evolved 50 million years ago, and again still later in form of the African aardvark.”
        They claim this lineage was unrelated to later burrowing and gnawing mammals.  It went extinct, without leaving the instructions for their specialized teeth and claws for the latecomers, who had to figure it out all over from scratch.  MSNBC echoed this explanation without question: “The discovery shows that anteaters, armadillos and other creatures that dig up insects evolved their specialized abilities several times during the history of the world,” it regurgitates.  “This is known as convergent evolution.”
    1Zhe-Xi Luo and John R. Wible, “A Late Jurassic Digging Mammal and Early Mammalian Diversification,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5718, 103-107 , 1 April 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1108875].
    Science reporters can be such toadies.  They accept whatever a Darwin Party priest croaks like it is the message of the gods, and just dish it out sans jargon for the masses but with all the baloney left in.  Why don’t they ever grill the priesthood with hard questions like they do with politicians?  A skeleton was found in Colorado of an extinct small mammal.  That’s it.  The rest of the tale about 150 million years and convergent evolution is all made up.  Suppose students turned this trick on their teachers.  How did all three of you come up with nearly identical term papers, she asks?  Your explanation: convergent Googlution.  Good luck on your report card.
        The Darwin Party gets away with this trick because nobody calls them on the carpet for it and calls it what it is: baloney.  What do you mean, these teeth “weren’t supposed to appear” for another 100 million years?  Has Tinkerbell forgotten her script?  (See 03/11/2005 commentary.)  Did you count how many zaps from her mutation wand were required for the first open-root teeth to be functional?  Gnaw.  You can bet it took a lot – not just for the tooth shape, but for the enamel, the root, the fit to the jaw, and the software to use them.  How many Fruitafossors had to die of starvation before they got it right?  Where are all the transitional forms?  Can “specialized abilities” just “evolve” without that being equivalent to a miracle?  If you can’t begin to explain the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth by evolution, then don’t expect us to believe this particular set of miracles happened three times by convergent evolution, whatever that is.  The rest of us are sick and tired of this charade and can’t take it any more.  Join the Society for Pulling Back the Curtain from the Wizards of Ostentation.
    Next headline on:  FossilsMammalsEvolution

    Teach Evolution, Lesson II, cont.

    Keep those cards and letters going, but make sure they are informed.  Edna has set herself up as an educator, but needs some education herself.  She is a naive positivist.  Her arguments, mostly irrelevant and misdirected, are sitting ducks for easy potshots.  No need to be negative or hostile (although these allegations may be unfounded, spewed from someone unaccustomed to being challenged); the facts will do just fine.  No need to argue on “religious reasons” (although this allegation may be unfounded, spewed from someone who equates any critique of evolution with religion); the scientific arguments will do just fine.  No need to impugn her character.  She is probably a nice person and deserves respect.  Her pro-Darwin arguments, though, are fair game.
        Like we commented before, her sermon preaches to the choir in one regard: we believe students should be taught evolution – all of it, not just the filtered propaganda (see
    02/11/2005 commentary for complete outline of proposed curriculum).
        Edna writes as if she got her education on Darwinian evolution from watching the Discovery channel and reading a high school science textbook.  She would be much better informed if she read Creation-Evolution Headlines.  Here we go:
    Evolution is supported by evidence.a  There are several thousand peer-reviewed scientific journals where the evidence is presented in article after article.b  Natural history museums house large collections of fossils that document the history of life.c  Geologistsd and astronomerse have a massive amount of observational evidence of the long-term change in physical systems: stars, galaxies, planets, interstellar dust, asteroids, etc.  Biologists observe and document the patterns of the evolution of life:f for example, the fossil record,g DNA,h and the observation of evolution in action such as the adaptive evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteriai that now pose a serious threat to human health.  Selective breeding in agriculture generated our crops and domestic animals over thousands of years; agriculture is evolution in action.j
    1. Evidence: what can be observed, tested, repeated, and reproduced by others.  Evolution (in the Darwinian sense of the common ancestry of all organisms from a one-celled form, and ultimately from chemicals and particles) is none of the above.  According to Darwinists, it took a unique path on the Earth, so that even if scientists perform some lab experiment that seems to demonstrate a change, it may not have any relevance to what happened in prehistory.
    2. Journals: We report on journal articles on evolution right here all the time.  The more they talk about evolution, the more they speak in glittering generalities (example) that merely assume evolution rather than prove it (example).  The more they discuss the technical details of life, they less they talk about evolution.  Ask her to show one article that really presents actual scientific evidence that humans had bacteria ancestors rather than merely assumes it in spite of the evidence (example)  Once the assumption of evolution is discarded, the thousands of articles she generalizes about – the ones that explore the complexity of life (example) and discuss deep-seated problems with evolutionary explanations (example) – could more easily be adduced in favor of creation, not evolution.
    3. Museums: Natural history museums show plenty of biodiversity and extinction, but not evolution.  Colin Patterson, former director of the British museum, one of the greatest in the world, once wrote that his museum would be glad to show transitional forms if they had them, but he could not think of a single example that made a watertight argument.  In fact, many old examples, like the horse series, have been modified or discarded as evidence.
    4. Geologists talk about earth history, not life.  The age of the earth is a separate question from biological evolution.  Not all change is evolutionary change.  Mountains erode, seas rise and fall, and glaciers advance and retreat; does it logically follow that bacteria evolve into humans?
    5. Astronomers talk about stars, galaxies and planets; what does that have to do with evolution?  DeVore seems to equate change with evolution, an equivocation that does nothing to make her point.
    6. Biologists observe and document the present, not the past.  Many of the first and greatest biologists, like Leeuwenhoek, John Ray, Pasteur and others were creationists and often theologians.
    7. Fossils: apparently DeVore actually believes the fossil record supports evolution.  Has she not heard of the Cambrian explosion, and the “trade secret” of paleontology, the existence of systematic gaps between major kinds?  Abrupt appearance, stasis and extinction is the pattern.  This is evidence against evolution, not for it.
    8. DNA: for her to use DNA as an evidence for evolution is almost comical.  Codes, languages, translation, error-checking and extreme complexity by chance?  Come on.
    9. Antibiotic resistance: in each case, these involve loss of information or else horizontal change, not an increase in complexity, information or function.  Some bacteria and viruses form “quasi-species” networks that can share and adapt and reconstruct their networks in changing environments; this implies all the information was already present.  Microevolution is not the issue.  Even young-earth creationists accept “horizontal” change.  Unless Darwinists can demonstrate new complex information arising through an undirected, purposeless process, they have no case.  Even antibiotic-resistant bacteria tend to fail outside the hospital, or else they revert to the wild type (see film Icons of Evolution for lab demonstration).
    10. Agriculture: a silly claim that wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week – “agriculture is evolution in action.”  Selective breeding is intelligent design, not evolution.  We need to keep pushing this point till the Darwin Party gets it.  Unlike natural selection, humans direct the changes according to a predetermined goal.  Even a purebred cow is still a cow, not a whale, and possesses a net loss of genetic information from the wild type.  The more removed from the wild type, the less our highly-specialized breeds would be able to survive without our specialized care and feeding, and without the corral fences or homes to keep out the predators.  That’s why it’s cruel to abandon your pet cat or dog in the woods.
    Having fun?  Let’s do some more.  DeVore delves into the “nature of science” line of reasoning:
    Certainly, there are continuing debates among scientists about the particulars of cosmic, planetary, and biological evolution.  The nature of science requires continual questioning of ideas, evidence and theories.  Theoretical scientists consider what we know, and pose new ideas and models to explain the natural world.  New models and ideas generate new scientific tests of theory: observational experiments at Earth and space-based observatories, high-energy collisions of particle physics, deep-sea dives at the plate boundaries, and lab experiments in molecular biology to cite a few.  Science is based upon observational and experimental evidence.  Concepts that don’t match observations are altered or tossed out.  It’s an iterative cycle.
    That would be a great quote, if she believed it.  Questioning is good, so can we question evolution?  Models are good, so if the models fail, can we discard evolution?  Testing is good, so if evolution doesn’t match observational and experimental evidence, can we toss it out?  If the iterative cycle continues to create problems for evolutionary theory, is it time for a paradigm shift?  If you want to see the hypocrisy of the Darwin Party in action, show them all the evidence that falsifies evolution (hundreds of examples in the Darwinism chain links, right here) and see if they are open to consider ousting King Charlie from his throne.  What you will get is a tirade against religion, particularly Christianity.  DeVore is a naive positivist; she thinks science leads to inevitable progress.  Sad.
        Unbelievably, she uses Kepler, Newton and Einstein as examples to support naturalistic science.  None of these were biologists, and the first two were staunch Christians and creationists; even Einstein did not believe God plays dice with the universe.  Both Newton and Kepler (and many other great scientists) believed scientific inquiry enhanced their worship of the God of Scripture (example from Joule), and in no way felt that the observational evidence pointed to an undirected, evolutionary universe; on the contrary: to them, the heavens declared the glory of God (example from von Braun).
        Next, DeVore discusses the nature of theories in science.  Critics of evolution should probably abandon the tack that “evolution is only a theory,” not because it is totally off-base, but because it generates a knee-jerk reaction by the Darwin Party.  It’s like pulling the string on a baby doll, making it say, “Well, gravity is only a theory, too,”  as if gravity and evolution are in the same category (an example of association).  Theories are good things in science; the point is, evolution hardly even qualifies as a hypothesis or hunch, let alone the exalted title of theory (see 06/12/2003 entry).  It was Charlie’s little “path of inquiry” that led to the Great Society for Storytellers (see 12/22/2003 commentary), when it was no longer necessary to prove your case in science, but just come up with a plausible suggestion or hypothesis (see 01/15/2004 commentary), however untestable.
        DeVore does injustice to Kepler to compare his laws of planetary motion, which work impeccably in getting our spacecraft to orbit other planets, with Darwin’s impotent hypothesis, wrongly called the “law” of natural selection (see 02/16/2005 entry), a tautology utterly incapable of creating the complex adaptations found everywhere in biology.
        In short, Edna DeVore has published a pathetic defense of evolution.  Calling all Baloney Detectors: warm up your sharpened wits and teach her a little more about it.  Be nice; the facts don’t require vituperative verbosity.  But all that is required for balderdash to triumph is for clear thinkers to write nothing.
    Next headline on:  EvolutionEducationSETIDumb Stories
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    Featured Creation Scientist for April


    A. E. Wilder-Smith
    1915 - 1995

    The Intelligent Design Movement is big news today, but did you know much of the scientific reasoning behind it came from a European organic chemist?  William Dembski, author of several key books in the ID movement, credits Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith for the inspiration to make the study of origins his life’s work.  Dean Kenyon, the evolutionary origin of life researcher turned creationist, called Dr. Wilder-Smith one of the two or three most important scientists in his life.  Much of the literature coming out of the modern intelligent design movement contains echoes of powerful arguments made by A. E. Wilder-Smith decades ago.
        In his books and tapes, Arthur Edward Wilder-Smith stressed the importance of information in biology, stressing that the materialist’s formula for the life, energy + matter + time, was deficient because it left out the factor information.  He convincingly argued that the information in DNA, in its translation, had to follow a language convention which presupposed an agreement between parties needing to communicate with one another.  For example, he explained how SOS is a meaningless sequence of letters unless there has been a convention (a “coming together” agreement, in advance) that it is a signal for distress.  Similarly, the DNA triplet codon for alanine, GCC, looks and smells nothing like alanine, by itself.  Unless both the translation mechanism (the ribosome) and the DNA code both have a convention that GCC means alanine, it means nothing at all.  This, he explained, was prima facie evidence of intelligent design.
        He also argued effectively against Thomas Huxley’s old monkey-typewriter analogy, the claim that a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters would eventually produce Psalm 23 by chance, given enough time.  Wilder-Smith pointed out a fatal flaw that undermined the whole argument.  By showing that since the chemical reactions that would have led to life in a primordial soup are reversible, that fact rendered the analogy useless – in the monkeys’ case, if the letters fell off the page as soon as they were typed, no meaningful sequence would ever be produced.  Huxley, therefore, had cheated by claiming that the letters typed would remain on the page.  The laws of chemistry do not permit that sort of stability in chemical evolution scenarios.  With points like this, he argued that creation was scientific and naturalistic evolution was unscientific.
        As a highly qualified organic chemist, A. E. Wilder-Smith was uniquely positioned to critique so-called “chemical evolution.”  This kindly gentleman was merciless in his attacks on Miller, Oparin, Fox and other evolutionists who claimed to be making progress explaining life’s origin by chance and necessity.  His effectiveness stemmed not from vituperative ability or rhetoric, but rather – because of his intimate acquaintance with the facts of chemistry – from calm, rational dismantling of the philosophical and scientific assumptions underlying his opponents’ errors: i.e., from scientific arguments that could not be denied by any knowledgeable chemist.  Dr. Wilder-Smith was one of the first to emphasize the necessity for one-handed molecules to hold genetic information (see online book), and to apply the laws of thermodynamics and equilibrium to discussions of the origin of life.
        A. E. Wilder-Smith was one of few scientists in the world to have three earned doctorates.  He obtained his first Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at Reading University, England in 1941.  A research scientist during the war, he subsequently became a fellow of the University of London, and then director of research for a Swiss pharmaceutical company.  After becoming a full professor at the University of Geneva, he earned a second doctorate in pharmacology there, and later, a third in pharmacological sciences at ETH, a senior university in Zurich, Switzerland.  In addition, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a NATO three-star general!
        Dr. Wilder-Smith was not only an expert on chemotherapy, pharmacology, organic chemistry and biochemistry, but a gifted teacher and popular public speaker.    He did not shy away from entering the lions’ den of the evolutionary establishment.  At a time when communism was strong and evolutionary science reigned with unchallenged bravado, he was like a Daniel with seemingly divine power to shut his opponents’ mouths.  Once, in a manner reminiscent of Paul turning the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other (see Acts 23), he got the better of a hostile audience of Finnish and Russian students by referring to a word that meant one thing in Finnish and another in Russian.  The Finns, who despised the Russians, were incensed to hear him claiming this word had the Russian meaning, but the Russians agreed with him.  As they were shouting at one another, the English jumped in and argued that the word was a meaningless syllable.  Thus the professor made his point effectively: without a language convention, a sequence of letters carries no information.  Dr. Wilder-Smith confronted communists with scientific arguments that undermined their political philosophy.  God only knows how much his work contributed to the eventual demise of communism, but it certainly affected numerous individual communists.
        A. E. Wilder-Smith is also probably responsible for Richard Dawkins refusing to debate creationists any more.  In 1986, Wilder-Smith and Edgar Andrews debated the two leading evolutionists in Britain, Richard Dawkins and John Maynard Smith, at Oxford – a lions’ den with the two strongest Darwinian lions in Europe.  Yet even there, over a third – perhaps half – of the staunchly pro-evolution audience voted that the creation side had won the debate.  The vote count became a contentious issue and subject of a cover-up and published lie by the AAAS (see article).  The evolutionists apparently were embarrassed that the creationists made such a strong showing.  For whatever reason, Dawkins no longer will debate creationists.  Reports from those in attendance say that, contrary to the ground rules of the debate, the Dawkins and Maynard Smith repeatedly attacked religion, while the creationists used only scientific arguments.  Dawkins himself had to be reprimanded by the moderator for attacking Wilder-Smith about his religious views.  At the end of the debate, Dawkins implored the audience not to give any votes to the creationists lest it be a “blot on the escutcheon of ancient University of Oxford” (an odd remark, considering Oxford was founded by Christians).  After the debate there was a complete cover-up by the University and the media.  Normally, Oxford Union debates are big news, given prominent publicity in the press, radio and television.  This one, however, which should have rivaled the historic 1860 Huxley-Wilberforce debate in importance, and indeed was even titled “The Huxley Memorial Debate,” was silently dropped from the radar screen.  In his memoirs, Dr. Wilder-Smith wrote, “No records of my having held the lecture as part of the Oxford Union Debate could be found in any library.  No part of the official media breathed a word about it.  So total is the current censorship on any effective criticism of New-Darwinian science and on any genuine alternative.”
        A sought-after public speaker, Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith shared his insights with tens of thousands throughout America and Europe.  His rapport with audiences made them feel at home with even difficult scientific concepts as he would occasionally glance into their faces to see whether they “got it” and, if not, would ask who needed a term or concept explained before he went on.  With charming simplicity he could be found discussing comfortably everything from black holes to one-handed molecules, or Shannon information theory, time dilation, DNA transcription, AIDS, criminal psychology, history, natural theology, natural selection or why God allows suffering.  He was no mere talking head.  A devoted husband and father of five children, a devout born-again Christian, and an unquestionably capable scientist, he left no chinks in his armor.  To the consternation of his scientific colleagues, here was a young-earth creationist they could not pigeonhole as an ignoramus.  He could not only hold his own among the best of them, he could make his opponents turn tail and run for cover.  Wilder-Smith authored over 70 scientific publications and more than 30 books, some of which have been published in 17 languages and are still in print.  Many of today’s leading creationists consider him a major influence in their own intellectual development and call him a pioneer in anti-evolution arguments.
        Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith appeared prominently in an award-winning creation film series called Origins: How the World Came to Be.  Still available from ChristianAnswers.net, this series keeps his wit and wisdom alive.  It’s a good way to become acquainted with the man and his message.  In one episode, he holds up a living plant and a dead stick to the energy of the sun and asks the viewer what is the difference.  If energy is all that is necessary to produce life, why does one grow, and the other decay?  Clearly, the energy must be directed through programmed instructions and conversion mechanisms to harness the energy for growth.  Such pithy illustrations using familiar objects are a good teacher’s art.  In another taped lecture (The Seven Main Postulates of Evolution), he holds up a sardine can.  Could life evolve from this can? he asks.  After all, it has all the ingredients necessary for life, because they were once alive.  It’s an open system, too: we can heat it or cool it any way we wish.  Everyone knows that nothing will happen.  If new life could originate from the can, he points out, the food processing industry would be in turmoil, because no one would be able to predict what new life-forms would be found in our food.  He drives the point home by asking what would happen if the genetic program for E. coli bacteria were inserted into the can: an explosion of life would result.  Clearly, matter and energy are insufficient to produce life under the best of conditions; the essential ingredient is information, in the form of the genetic instructions and processing apparatus to utilize the matter and energy to carry out the program.
        The time you are taking reading this short biography of a great creation scientist might be better spent listening to Dr. Wilder-Smith himself.  Fortunately, friends have made a website in his honor: WilderSmith.org, with information about his books, tapes, videos and articles.  So after reading this, go browsing and learn more; download some audio files and listen.  To know A. E. Wilder-Smith from his legacy of literature and lectures is to love him, not only as a great scientist and thinker, but as a winsome Christian man of integrity.  He had the look of a kindly grandfather.  His disarming personal appearance belied the sharp intellect inside.  His soft-spoken and unhurried speech, seasoned with wry humor, had a way of getting right to the heart of important issues and conveying difficult concepts in terms accessible to everyone.  A masterful teacher, he won the “Golden Apple” award three years in a row at the University of Illinois Medical Center for the best course of lectures.  The last one was inscribed, “He made us not only better scientists, but better men.”
        Despite his busy schedule, A. E. Wilder-Smith loved classical music and enjoyed hiking in the Swiss alps.  The music of Haydn’s Creation reminded him of God’s creativity described in Genesis.  Of his outdoor experiences he said, “In God’s beautiful nature, with the colorfully blossoming mountain meadows in front of you and the gigantic snow-capped ten thousand footers behind them, the murmuring brooks beside you and the ringing of the cow-bells around you, hearts automatically begin to admire God’s creation and wisdom and cannot but praise the intelligence behind such manifold beauty.”
        Read testimonials by scientists in the biography of A. E. Wilder-Smith by his wife Beate, entitled Fulfilled Journey: The Wilder-Smith Memoirs.  To find his books, enter "A E Wilder-Smith" in quotes in a book search on Amazon.com.  Inquire for audio tapes from Chapel Tapes, P.O. Box 8000, Costa Mesa, CA 92628, 800-272-WORD.

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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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