Creation-Evolution Headlines
July 2005
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“In the place of the contemporary conception of God, a personal God, God as a Spirit, God as a Being, Triune, or even a unitary God, the conception of a ‘holy law of evolution’ will emerge.... The thought of pure materialism cannot satisfy; we need something that will meet our desire for imagination and that does not contradict serious and honest thought.  We have this in the conception of a ‘holy law of evolution,’ a concept, which we piously call Providence”
Moritz von Egidy (1895), evolutionary ethicist, quoted by Richard Weikart in From Darwin to Hitler, p. 62.
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07/29/2005 Update on “young” Enceladus has just reported: go to 7/14/2005 story and read about the new claim of icy volcanos!

New Planet Discovered Beyond Pluto; Another Has a Moon   07/30/2005    
A 10th planet, the biggest since Pluto was found 75 years ago, has been discovered.  Late Friday, a JPL press release announced the find made in January by Dr. Mike Brown of Caltech in research partly funded by NASA.  The planet, temporarily designated 2003 UB313 until a name is approved, is three times farther than Pluto and is estimated to be 1.5 times as big, though its actual size is uncertain.  Brown is confident it is bigger than Pluto.  The object is currently 97 times farther from the sun than Earth.  It has a highly-inclined orbit in a region known as the Kuiper Belt.  See also the,, BBC and Planetary Society reports.
    Another smaller Kuiper Belt object (KBO) announced the same day, though smaller than Pluto, has a moon.  Designated 2003 EL61, it was actually discovered in 2003 but took awhile for its orbit to be determined.  The discovery of both these objects will probably revive the debate over the definition of a planet.  There seems to be a continuum of sizes of KBOs out there; it is even possible larger ones than the new one remain to be discovered.  Alan Boss is not sure tiny Pluto and its kin deserve to be in the same class as Jupiter and Saturn.

Since so many Kuiper Belt objects have been discovered in the last couple of decades, this is not quite the big news it might have been; still, new planets have historically been considered spectacular discoveries.  Uranus launched William Herschel to fame in the late 18th century, and Neptune led to a well-known priority dispute between Adams and Leverrier in the the 19th.  Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto in 1930 was a monumental task of searching through photographic plates.  Now, we know there are many other rocky bodies out there beyond Neptune and far past Pluto.  Having a 10th planet will certainly change the textbooks and might turn out to be one of those historical announcements you will tell your grandchildren about.  Just hope they don’t name it Darwin or Huxley or something.  (After Pluto, is another Disney character in the lineup?)
    The intriguing thing about the other object is, why does it still have a moon?  One would think that, after four billion years, a tiny object 1% the size of its parent, in orbit around a small object having low gravity to begin with, would have been swept away long ago.  The shortage of objects to form it by collisions and the unlikelihood of its being captured contribute to the puzzle.  Yet it is one of several (including Pluto) to have a satellite, according to  We’ll have to scrutinize their explanations for this unexpected pairing (see also 10/05/2003 and 05/14/2003 entries).
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
Darwin’s Complete Writings to Be Posted on Internet    07/29/2005  
Cambridge University is planning to post online tens of thousands of pages of the complete works of Charles Darwin and the people who influenced him, reported Nigel Williams in Current Biology.1 
1Nigel Williams, “Darwin on the web,” Current Biology, Vol 15, R530, 26 July 2005.
Bad news for the Darwin Party.  What will they do when his racist writings become public (09/13/2002), and the world can see exposed his connivances with the Four Musketeers to shut off opposition to his little black book? (See 10/24/2002 and 01/06/2004 entries).  What will they do when the intelligent design movement puts links everywhere to their favorite quote? “A fair result can only be obtained by balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”  Great idea by Cambridge.  Now Charlie can be caught in his own web.
Next headline on:  Darwin
Tailpipe Soot: Can It Live?    07/28/2005  
Better stay clear of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).  They come out of your tailpipe and furnace, line your chimney, and generally are products of unhealthy processes like industrial waste and cigarette smoke.  According to Environment Canada, “PAHs are a concern because some of them can cause cancers in humans and are harmful to fish and other aquatic life.”  So why the joy from the Spitzer Space Telescope team?
    Robert Roy Britt explains from “The discovery of organic molecules, called hydrocarbons, shows that the raw materials for life were present long before our solar system formed.”  The JPL press release claims, “Using Spitzer, scientists have detected organic molecules in galaxies when our universe was one-fourth of its current age of about 14 billion years.  These large molecules, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are comprised of carbon and hydrogen.  The molecules are considered to be among the building blocks of life.”  Universe Today picked up on the L word with its title, “Ingredients of Life 10 Billion Light-Years Away,” and so did New Scientist, “Life’s ingredients found in early universe.”
It takes a desperate Darwin junky to get high on tailpipe exhaust.  They should be weeping over their sins, seeing complex advanced molecules far too early for their cosmological models, but what are they doing instead?  Hallucinating with poison, making deadly molecules come alive in their imaginations.  How and when did science ever sink to this level?  Hydrogen is a building block of life, for goodness’ sake, and so are electrons.  Do we conclude that we have found the “building blocks of life” in a CRT?  Publicists go out of their way to put the L word in any cosmological story because they think it’s sexier and will attract the public attention.  If so, the Great Unwashed have only themselves to blame for giving birth to new suckers every minute.  Actually, they probably don’t even read this stuff.  The problem is with the Washed on the outside but not on the inside.
Next headline on:  CosmologyOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Cell’s High-Fidelity Proofreading and Editing Explained   07/26/2005    
It’s unusual to have a story win both Amazing and Dumb awards simultaneously, but the reason will become clear.–ed.)
Luisa Cochella and Rachel Green (Johns Hopkins) have published a primer on “Fidelity in Protein Synthesis” in Current Biology.1  This is a good article for cell biology enthusiasts to read, to learn more about the methods cells employ to translate DNA into proteins without making mistakes: how they perform proofreading, editing and quality control, the molecular machines that are involved, and the remarkable optimization levels they achieve between the competing constraints of accuracy, efficiency and speed.  These processes increase the fidelity of translation over simple base-pairing by up to 100,000 times, even working rapidly so that vital cell processes are not delayed by too much inspection.  The authors describe strategies used by translation machines, the amazing family of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, the ribosomes, and more.  They use the word fidelity 18 times and high fidelity five of those.
    Despite their contribution in helping readers of the magazine appreciate the wonders of high fidelity translation in the cell, they win the Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week award for their opening two sentences: “The flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein constitutes the basis for cellular life.  DNA replication, transcription and translation, the processes through which information transfer occurs, are the result of millions of years of evolution during which they have achieved levels of accuracy and speed that make modern life possible” (emphasis added in all quotes).
1Luisa Cochella and Rachel Green, “Fidelity in protein synthesis,” Current Biology, Vol 15, R536-R540, 26 July 2005.
Did that little paean to evolution warm your bosom?  More importantly, did it contribute one whit to this article?  Cochella and Green, bless their Darwinista hearts, have illustrated again the freakish juxtaposition of intelligence and nonsense that characterizes evolutionary jargon.  It seems like a kind of schizophrenia or mystery religion to the uninitiated to hear high fidelity, quality control, optimization, genetic code and other design words ascribed to mindless processes of evolution.  Do they explain how this incredible system evolved?  Of course not; being brainwashed materialists, they just assume it had to, so it did.
    Everyone who has DNA should learn something about those aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (see 09/16/2004 entry and links in the commentary).  It’s a shame these high-tech machines in our bodies and in all living things have been given such geeky names; they are really remarkable in their specificity and accuracy.  More importantly, they constitute a classic logical proof of design, because they know two languages and are able to translate one into the other.  Here’s how Cochella and Green introduce them:
While the accuracy of DNA replication and transcription depend only on cognate base pair selection, translation depends on an additional, base-pairing-independent reaction that must be carried out with high specificityEach tRNA must be covalently attached to a specific amino acid – aminoacylated – preserving an unambiguous codon-amino acid correspondence known as the genetic code.  This reaction is carried out by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases specific for each amino acid and a corresponding group of tRNAs (isoacceptors).  These enzymes must therefore recognize two substrates: first, a group of tRNAs which share a collection of ‘identity elements’ and second, an amino acid that may be distinguished by small differences in side-chain properties.
Having one language or code is proof enough of design, but possessing the ability to translate one into another requires a language convention – something never observed to be a product of chance or natural law, but always known to be the result of intelligence: whether with two intelligent beings communicating, or interacting programs that were produced by intelligent agents.  This should be clear to anyone not lobotomized by Darwinian education, but look how these authors explain it by just waving the evolutionary magic wand.  They are discussing how these machines can distinguish between very similar amino acids.  Watch the hocus pocus:
How do synthetases deal with this?  The aminoacylation reaction, which takes place at a site of the enzyme called the synthetic site, occurs in two steps.  First the amino acid is activated by adenylation (consuming ATP) and then it is transferred to the tRNA (releasing AMP).  Steric exclusion of amino acids with larger side-chains and recognition of specific properties of each amino acid generally make this synthetic site specific enough so that only the correct amino acid can be activated and transferred.  But amino acids having similar properties to and a smaller size than the cognate amino acid can be misactivated at frequencies that are too high to maintain an unambiguous code.  As a consequence, enzymes facing this problem have evolved a second active site, distinct from the synthetic site, called the editing site, where misactivated amino acids or misacylated tRNAs are hydrolyzed.
Did you catch that?  Astonishing! (see the Fairy Godmother song, 06/27/2005 commentary.)  Here were machines already accurate enough for most instances, but since there was a “need” for an “unambiguous code,” and some amino acids were so similar that mistakes leaked through, well – we are told, no problem– evolution to the rescue: they just “evolved” an editing site (Selah) with the ability not only to distinguish threonine from valine and serine, but to send the imposters to the recycle bin (Selah).
    It is therefore with great sadness to have to tarnish the reputations of these otherwise bright scientists with the SEQOTW prize, but they earned it.  Ignorance is no excuse.  They can gain absolution by removing the Darwinspeak and rewriting their article with more intelligent design.
Next headline on:  Genetics and DNACell BiologyAmazing StoriesDumb Stories
Brain Is Faster Than the Blink of an Eye   07/26/2005    
You blink about every 4-6 seconds, says David Burr in Current Biology,1 adding to over 17,000 blinks a day.  Each time the world goes black for 100 to 150 milliseconds, as the eyelids attenuate the light a hundredfold.   Why don’t we see the world like a flickering movie?  We generally perceive an uninterrupted stream of visual information.  It turns out that there is a synchronized interlock between the blink response and the visual cortex of the brain, such that the brain temporarily suppresses vision during each blink.
    To find this out, a team of scientists in London, also publishing in Current Biology,2 repeated a 25-year-old ingenious experiment, but this time added functional MRI imaging on the brain.  They made the retina see continuous light by shining it up the palate of test subjects wearing lightproof goggles, then watched how the brain reacted during blinks, even though the light seen by the retina (through the mouth) was continuous.  Sure enough, the brain anticipated each blink by suppressing the visual cortex during the blink.  This means that we don’t see the dark; when we blink, the brain just skips the interruption.  See also the summary on EurekAlert.
1David Burr, “Vision: In the Blink of an Eye,” Current Biology, Vol 15, R554-R556, 26 July 2005.
2Bristow et al., “Blinking Suppresses the Neural Response to Unchanging Retinal Stimulation,” Current Biology, Vol 15, 1296-1300, 26 July 2005.
While this feat was evolving, we wonder if it was like the early fighter planes trying to shoot machine guns through the propeller.  Until engineers figured out how to synchronize the firing between the propeller blades, how many test pilots shot themselves down?  (Uh, whoops....)  How many cheetahs in a full gallop had to learn to coordinate their attacks when the lights were on, till they got frustrated and sent their brains back to Tinker Bell’s workshop for an upgrade?
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Stories
Life on Mars – and Titan?   07/26/2005    
Life has not been found on Mars, but some scientists, according to National Geographic News, are worried that we are contaminating the planet with Earth germs that will make the search for Martians more difficult.  Speaking of Mars, a report in Science Now claims that Mars rarely got above freezing in its entire history.
    The life-on-Mars angle is not news, but life on Titan?  Sure enough, two astrobiologists, according to New Scientist, are claiming there might be faint evidence for life on the frozen moon of Saturn among the barbecue lighter fluid (see 04/25/2005 entry).  Based on initial chemical analysis from the Huygens Probe (see 01/21/2005 and 01/15/2005 stories), Chris McKay and Heather Smith think something might be feasting on gas.  “They think the microbes would breathe hydrogen rather than oxygen, and eat organic molecules drifting down from the upper atmosphere,” especially energy-rich acetylene, according to the report.  Better keep that oxygen from Saturn’s rings away (see 02/28/2005 entry), or the whole moon might blow like a torch.  That produces some follow-up speculations.  Would such an event cook the life well done?  If a barbecue happens with no one around to eat it, is there really a taste?
McKay ought to know better.  He knows chemistry, and he knows thermodynamics.  If life is information made flesh (see 06/25/2005 article), where is he going to import that ingredient?  Astrobiologists are going to lose their last smidgeon of credibility totally if they keep pushing the myth that life just happens everywhere just because they need to justify their careers.  Honesty is the best policy.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeMarsSolar SystemDumb Ideas
Do Butterflies Evolve Via Team Stripes?    07/25/2005  
A BBC News story is claiming that butterflies split into competing teams when differences in their wing patterns emerge.  Based on a paper in Nature,1 this is supposed to be an example of a rarely-observed mechanism for speciation, called reinforcement: in this case, “These wing colours apparently evolved as a sort of ‘team strip’, allowing butterflies to easily identify the species of a potential mate.”  Why is this newsworthy?  Julianna Kettlewell explains, “Given our planet’s rich biodiversity, ‘speciation’ clearly happens regularly, but scientists cannot quite pinpoint the driving forces behind it” (emphasis added in all quotes).
    The authors of the paper are careful to describe their hypothesis of reinforcement as merely a suggestion: “Therefore, although we cannot distinguish at what level (intraspecific or interspecific) reinforcement has operated, our comparative study demonstrates that natural selection against maladaptive matings is likely to have caused widespread divergence in pre-zygotic isolating characters between sympatric species of Agrodiaetus, and could have led to speciation.”
1Lukhtanov et al., “Reinforcement of pre-zygotic isolation and karyotype evolution in Agrodiaetus butterflies,” Nature 436, 385-389 (21 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03704.
Ironic that Julianna Kettlewell has the same surname as the infamous researcher of peppered moths (see 06/25/2004 entry).  This article doesn’t improve much on evolutionary storytelling.  Who is asking how or why the little flying bugs developed team spirit?  Can they even see their own wing patterns, let alone care whether that attractive, sweet-smelling female over there has identical strips?  Seems to be another case of imputing human aesthetic values on bugs.  As long as we’re speculating about butterfly fashion fads, why wouldn’t they just as easily be saying, vive la difference?
    The authors of the paper note that “empirical evidence has been sufficiently scarce to raise doubts about the importance of reinforcement in nature.”  Their own case is full of speculation and doubt.  So is this the best that evolutionists can do, 146 years after The Origin of Species supposedly settled the issue?  Look how excited they all get over a few wing styles, and how eagerly they want to invoke the magic phrase natural selection to help Charlie get a little credit.  They should be worried (see next entry).
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyEvolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
What Is Really Known About the Genetic Basis of Evolution?    07/25/2005  
Now that the genomes of a variety of plants and animals have been published, is there a clear picture of evolution emerging?  Sean Carroll (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) wrote a review in PLoS Biology,1 in which he explored the current thinking about the evolution of anatomy at the genetic level.  The thing to watch for in this article is evidence that evolutionary processes at the genetic level can produce complex, novel structures: innovations such as eyes, new organs, new body plans and the like.  Carroll’s article can be considered a kind of “State of the Evolutionary Theory Address” on this question.  Confident that evolutionists are on the right track, Carroll nonetheless admits that much is puzzling, and that a coherent theory is yet to be discovered.
    The picture is much more complicated now than the old neo-Darwinian idea that beneficial mutations in genes would be passed on to offspring, producing net changes over time.  Thirty-five years ago, Susumi Ohno suggested that, instead, gene duplication might be the primary source of beneficial variation.  Four years later, Allan King and Mary-Claire King suggested that changes in gene regulation might be more important than genetic mutations alone in driving the evolution of anatomy.  These ideas were both due to the observation that “the small degree of molecular divergence observed could not account for the anatomical or behavioral differences between chimps and humans.”
    Since those early days of comparative genomics, three molecular mechanisms have become candidates for the evolution of anatomy: (1) gene duplication and divergence, (2) regulatory element expansion, and (3) isoform evolution (new exon and splicing sites in genes that create the potential for alternative forms of a protein to be made).  One genetic phenomenon that complicates evolutionary change is pleiotropy: the multiple effects of single variations (see 03/31/2004 and 03/17/2003 entries).  This is the “law of unintended consequences,” so to speak; a mutation that might benefit one tissue could wreak havoc in another and therefore antagonize evolution by being selected against.  The three mechanisms listed above must, therefore, provide compartmentation against the damaging effects of antagonistic pleiotropy for the evolution of anatomy to proceed:
The three mechanisms gene duplication, regulatory sequence expansion and diversification, and alternative protein isoform expression accomplish essentially the same general result—they increase the sources of variation and minimize the pleiotropy associated with the evolution of coding sequences.  The global question of the genetic basis of the evolution of form then boils down to the relative contribution of gene duplication, regulatory sequence evolution, and the evolution of coding sequences, over evolutionary time.  I will first examine what is known about the role of regulatory sequences and then discuss the contributions of coding sequences and gene duplication to the evolution of anatomy.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Having set the stage, Carroll examines the potential for each of these factors for explaining the evolution of anatomy:
  1. Regulatory Sequences:  Non-coding regions of DNA can affect the expression of coding regions (genes) during development, sometimes with dramatic effects.  Typical examples are extra or misplaced limbs in fruit flies or changes in pigmentation patterns.  Are changes to regulatory sequences fodder for evolution?  Carroll argues that while mutations in genes have pleiotropic effects, mutations in regulatory sequences do not, and as such, “enable a great diversity of patterns to arise from alterations in regulatory circuits through the evolution of novel combinations of sites for regulatory proteins.”  But can what is observed in pigmentation patterns account for the “more complex traits” like “body organization, appendage formation, and other, more slowly evolving characters”?  Carroll thinks so, but the only examples he provides,2 from a “handful of studies” on this subject, are pigmentation patterns in fruit flies and reductions in pelvic fin armor in stickleback fish (see 06/18/2004 entry).  Nevertheless, these examples are enough for him to draw attention to what he considers a key point:
    The crucial insight from the evolution of Pitx1, yellow, and Hoxc8 is that regulatory mutations provide a mechanism for change in one trait while preserving the role of pleiotropic genes in other processes.  This is perhaps the most important, most fundamental insight from evolutionary developmental biology.  While functional mutations in a coding region are usually poorly tolerated and eliminated by purifying selection, even complete loss-of-function mutations in regulatory elements are possible because the compartmentation created by the modularity of cis-regulatory elements limits the effects of mutations to individual body parts.
    He seems to be emphasizing that mutations to non-coding regions have the advantage of permitting “tinkering” without damaging the machinery as a whole.  “Does this mean that coding sequences cannot contribute to morphological evolution?“ he asks, then answers, “Not at all” –
  2. Coding Sequences:  Carroll discusses examples of Hox genes in fruit flies that have apparently diversified by duplication and selection into new forms.  Some apparently retain Hox function and some do not; these have taken on other functions, such as new dorsoventral patterning in some lineages of fruit flies.  “These arthropod Hox proteins demonstrate that some of the most conserved proteins can, under certain circumstances, evolve new and different activities.”  Yet, at best, these seem to be examples of genes that have modified existing anatomical parts rather than generated new ones de novo.  Further, they cannot represent the whole evolutionary bag of creative tricks, because “these events are, in the long span of the history of these lineages, rare relative to the extensive diversification of body forms.”  One case in point is that a change in the Ubx protein “has been well preserved throughout the course of more than 300 million years of insect evolution.”  Clearly there must be mechanisms for more rapid evolution.  Again, Carroll is confident: “Are there more common and rapid means of evolving morphological diversity via coding mutations?  Definitely,” he boasts.  OK, like what?  Like mutations in the MC1R gene, that “are associated with scale, fur, or plumage color variation and divergence in a wide range of species,” indicating that “the MC1R gene has evolved under natural and sexual selection.”  But again, this seems to assume that evolution rather than demonstrate it.  Another example about repeat sequences on a gene that differ between dog breeds, while interesting, might not help the evolutionary explanation: “this variation may have accompanying deleterious, pleiotropic effects that, while manageable under domestication, would limit its contribution to evolution under natural selection.”
  3. Gene Duplication:  While gene duplication is certainly in the explanatory toolkit for the evolution of anatomy, there is a limitation: “Empirical evidence suggests, however, that while gene duplication has contributed to the evolution of form, the frequency of duplication events is not at all sufficient to account for the continuous diversification of lineages.”  The rate is estimated to be one duplication per gene per 100 million years, far too slow to produce changes at the rate expected by evolutionary theory, yielding “the 300,000 known species of beetles, or 10,000 species of birds” in far less time.  Furthermore, there is such dramatic stasis observed even in genes where past duplication is inferred: “the number and diversity of Hox genes in highly diversified phyla, such as the arthropods and tetrapods, appears to have remained fairly stable for very long periods (perhaps approximately 500 million years).”  Why, also, are some gene families found far back, among the most primitive multicellular organisms?  “Such deep ancestral complexity,” Carroll says, with apparent repudiation of long-assumed evolutionary mechanisms, “is much greater than would be expected under the hypothesis that diversity evolves primarily through the evolution of new genes.”  Why also did the human genome fail to fulfill expectations that it would contain more genes than lower forms of life?  And why do many of our genes have syntenic orthologs in the mouse?  For these reasons, Carroll rejects the idea that gene duplication is the essential part of the story of anatomical evolution.  The story must lie more in the way regulatory mechanisms evolve.
  4. All Three in the Mix:  Now that changes in genes and the regulatory sequences that affect them are players, is Carroll prepared to stick his neck out and announce which mechanism is the leader in the evolution of form?  To do so seems to require working up one’s courage:
    The more subjective issue is whether, from the small sample of case studies mentioned here and in the literature, one can make (and defend) statements about the relative contribution of regulatory and coding sequence evolution to the evolution of anatomy.  We are, after all, in much better position now to do so than King and Wilson were 30 years ago.
        While the agnostic, “wait and see” position would appear safer, that would not at all be in keeping with the bold spirit of the pioneers who first wrestled with the question.  Moreover, I argue that a trend is evident, and that that trend should, of course, inform ongoing and future work.  Based upon (i) empirical studies of the evolution of traits and of gene regulation in development, (ii) the rate of gene duplication and the specific histories of important developmental gene families, (iii) the fact that regulatory proteins are the most slowly evolving of all classes of proteins, and (iv) theoretical considerations concerning the pleiotropy of mutations, I argue that there is adequate basis to conclude that the evolution of anatomy occurs primarily through changes in regulatory sequences.
    Carroll hastens to say this should come as no surprise to most theorists, but he chides the people working in comparative genomics and population genetics who seem to downplay the importance of the regulatory factor.
To bring the discussion home, Carroll returns to the differences between chimps and people.  Can changes in gene regulation explain the profound anatomical differences between us, including “brain size, craniofacial morphology, cortical speech and language areas, hand and digit form, dentition, and body skeletal morphology” that must have occurred within the last six million years?  He thinks so, but there are only a few studies that map a gene to a change in a trait.  One, the FOXP2 gene, appears to be related to speech, and has been implicated in the evolution of human language (see 05/26/2004 entry); another relates a muscle gene to chewing.  Carroll thinks these studies miss the point: “My concern here is not whether these specific associations did or did not play a role in human evolution; rather, my concern is the exclusive focus, by choice or by necessity, on the evolution of coding sequences in these and more genome-wide population genetic surveys of chimp-human differences,” he says.  We need to get off our gene-centric chauvinism and focus on the regulatory elements if we are to make progress.  In fact, the FOXP2 study can lead to “dramatically different conclusions one might draw, depending upon the methodologies and assumptions applied.”  He elaborates on the case, showing that it is simplistic to assume a point mutation in one gene is going to lead to a major anatomical change; what about pleiotropy?  (FOXP2, after all, is expressed not only in the brain, but in the lungs, heart and gut.)  What about how this gene is regulated?  We must get past the simplistic explanatory phase, he says, because the puzzle is deeper than expected:
Any statements or claims, then, about the genetic changes that “make us human” must be weighed critically in light of the power and limitations of the methodology employed, and the scope of the hypotheses being tested.  While it is understandable that some biologists have reached for the “low-hanging fruit” of coding sequence changes, the task of unraveling the regulatory puzzle is yet to come.
In conclusion, Carroll makes the case that considering what we now know, “regulatory sequence evolution should be the primary hypothesis considered.”  That’s going to be difficult, because “it is impossible to distinguish meaningless from functional changes by mere inspection” – i.e., what was formerly considered “junk DNA” (see 07/15/2005 entry), with its repetitions and apparent pseudogenes, is going to be more difficult to interpret than the coding regions.  But the task is clear: “In order to approach the origins of human traits, much greater emphasis has to be placed on comparative studies of gene expression, regulation, and development in apes and other primates.”  Thirty years after King and Wilson predicted the importance of gene regulation, his concluding sentence indicates the work has not yet begun: “This is precisely the requirement forecast by King and Wilson 30 years ago, only now we have the means to meet it.”
1Sean Carroll, “Evolution at Two Levels: On Genes and Form,” Public Library of Science: Biology, 3:7, July 2005.  This article is based on the Allan Wilson Memorial Lectures, UC Berkeley, Oct. 2004.
2Carroll also mentions how differences in Hox gene expression are “associated with large-scale differences in axial patterning in vertebrates, arthropods, and annelids,” but this assumes evolution rather than demonstrating it.
If you thought Charlie had figured this all out 146 years ago, wake up and smell the bitter coffee.  Here we have The Theory of Evolution, that rock-solid foundation for all of law, ethics, philosophy, art, science, education and even religion, so secure that no student in public school should ever be allowed to hear anything else, and now they tell us that everything you thought you knew about it was wrong, and the biologists have to start over.  This can make one mad enough to spit the bitter coffee back into the face of the Darwin Party waiter who handed it to us and said there was nothing else to drink.
    The conceptual nakedness of evolutionary theory at the genetic level, where all the action is supposed to take place, cannot be clothed by small stitches of Hox cloth.  This is shameful.  Despite his bravado, did Sean Carroll provide any evidence strong to convince a skeptic that random changes in regulatory genes could produce an Einstein from Bonzo, or a from a flatworm for that matter, in any conceivable universe?  Assuredly not: the most solid items in his discussion were arguments against the evolution of anatomy: (1) pleiotropy, a phenomenon that resists change, (2) ultraconserved elements (see 05/27/2005 entry), which show no evolution for 500 million imaginary years, and (3) his utter silence on how a change to a regulatory element could ever produce a wing, eye, brain or any other complex system.  How can a regulatory element regulate something that is not already there, for crying out loud?  For all the case he makes for regulatory mutations in development providing the most important, fundamental insight into evolutionary mechanisms (evo-devo), other evolutionists disagree (see 06/29/2005 review of Carroll’s book by Jerry Coyne).  These opposite Darwinian perspectives essentially falsify each other on theoretical grounds; then there is the data, which falsifies them both.  If the complex regulatory mechanisms were already present at the beginning, what does that tell you?
    Carroll’s specific examples – stickleback fish fins and fruit fly pigment spots – are sad and poultry excuses for real evolutionary change, and I mean poultry, not paltry, because they are mere chicken feed.  Not only that, he pulled the roost out from under those who earlier had clucked the spring egg song over the FOXP2 mutation explaining Shakespeare (see 05/26/2004 entry).  Whether you call it gene duplication, gene regulatory mutation or gene coding mutation, it’s all chance in Old McDarwin’s chicken coop.
    This entry was longer than most because of its significance.  Here we listened to a faithful lord in the Darwin Party, giving the Allan Wilson Memorial Lecture at Berkeley, which he would not be in position to do if he didn’t know the score, and all he could say is that everyone has been on the wrong track for 30 years, and we should have turned when Wilson and King said so back there and checked out that other dead end.  Talk about being lost in a cave of their own making, and watching shadows on the wall.  Come to the light.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryGenetics
Michael Ruse Balances the Scales in Creation-Evolution Conflict    07/22/2005  
Sahotra Sarkar seems in a bit of dilemma about how to treat Michael Ruse’s new book, The Evolution-Creation Struggle (Harvard, 2005).  In his review of the book in Science,1 Sarkar knew that Ruse is an important ally in the fight against intelligent design (see 02/18/2003 entry), but he seemed a little bit put off by Ruse’s distinction between evolution and evolutionism.  Ruse is brazen in his claim that most evolutionists have made a religion out of the theory.  Sarkar begins,
In this timely book, Michael Ruse interprets the last 200 years of conflict between biology and religion as a struggle between evolutionism and creationism.  Evolutionism is not merely an endorsement of the scientific theory of evolution.  It consists of “the whole metaphysical or ideological picture built around or on evolution,” including a belief in progress and attempts to reduce cultural and ethical values to evolutionary biology.  As such, it constitutes a “secular religion.”  Thus, for Ruse (a philosopher of science at Florida State University), the debate over creationism is more a conflict between two religions than one between religion and science.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Since such a position seems to discredit the natural scientists’ endeavors to investigate the evolutionary roots of ethics and behavior, including altruism and sexual mores, Sarkar appears to take issue with this claim, but only with kid gloves.  Most of his review is a dispassionate discussion of the contents of the book with only minor criticisms about omissions or misplaced emphases.  For instance, look how he describes Ruse’s depiction of evolutionary theory in the 19th and early 20th century as more religious rhetoric than sound science:
The Enlightenment offered a vision of progress based on human effort.  The emerging pre-Darwinian views of evolution (such as those of Erasmus Darwin, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, and Robert Chambers), although hardly professional science, co-opted this vision in their accounts of organic change.
    Charles Darwin, in contrast, attempted to convert evolution into science by elaborating a material mechanism for it—natural selection.  Darwin was at best ambivalent about the ideology of progress.  (Alfred Russell Wallace was more convinced of its reality—strangely, he receives scant attention in Ruse’s story.)  Moreover, natural selection acting on blind variation was antithetical to the idea of progress with its implied directionality.  In spite of Darwin’s efforts, Ruse argues, evolution did not become established as a professional science in the 19th century or even during the first two decades of the 20th.  Instead, it remained popular science.  Given the generally accepted ideology of progress, natural selection was often abandoned in favor of directional mechanisms of organic change. According to Ruse, during this period, almost all of those who endorsed evolution also endorsed evolutionism.  The social Darwinism of the late 19th century only exemplifies the worst excesses of such an evolutionism.
Nothing but objective reporting so far.  But then, Sarkar gets a little riled when Ruse depicts the cult of progress continuing unabated through the formation of neo-Darwinian theory in the 1930s and beyond:
On Ruse’s account, evolution became a professional science following the modern synthesis of the late 1920s and 1930s.  Ruse argues, though not very convincingly, that the architects of the synthesis continued to uphold an ideology of progress and endorse evolutionism.  He ignores the fact that, with the exception of R. A. Fisher, these architects largely rejected attempts to deploy evolution in the political arena.   (Some, such as J. B. S. Haldane, whom Ruse ignores, often explicitly rejected progress.)  Ruse’s sketch of contemporary evolutionary theory is also idiosyncratic,  with sociobiology presented as that theory’s most significant achievement.  Because the sociobiologists W. D. Hamilton and Edward O. Wilson are the heroes of this story, Ruse claims that contemporary evolutionary biology endorses evolutionism and not merely evolution.
That seems too much to take.  Yet Sarkar is careful not to alienate his ally.  While finding something to praise, he gently scolds Ruse for providing only “an unfortunate whimper” instead of a triumphant charge to inspire the pro-evolution scientists in their battles against creationists:
The final chapters of The Evolution-Creation Struggle turn all too briefly to the contemporary debates over creationism.  Ruse offers a short and cogent critique of intelligent design that concentrates on its failure to spawn any serious scientific research.2  But the book ends with an unfortunate whimper: we are told that we should try to understand the other side; we are not told how Ruse’s understanding of that side will help us prevent the reintroduction of religion in our science classes.

1Sahotra Sarkar, “Evolution and Religion: Seeing Similarities,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5734, 560 , 22 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1115782].  For another review, see the 05/06/2005 entry.
2For contrary evidence, see the 06/25/2005 entry.
Wow: this is quite telling.  Michael Ruse seems to be evolving toward rapprochement with I.D. with each new book.  Although he has been adamant against the cult of progress for quite awhile (see 06/12/2003 commentary), he is making even more startling claims now: (1) most historical evolutionists were more religious than scientific in their embrace of the cult of progress; (2) evolutionism is just as religious as Christianity, (3) the religion of evolutionism continues to the present day, and (4) evolutionists need to understand the other side.  Point (1) is clear to any halfway objective historian of science and should not be all that controversial.  But points 2, 3, and 4, though flimsy concessions from a creationist view, are almost fighting words to an evolutionist.
    To maintain their hegemony, the Darwin Party needs its supporters to be devoted to the doctrine that their position is based on science, not religion.  They need to keep the onus of religion on the other side where it can be swept aside as faith-based, irrational, dogmatic and irrelevant.  It must sting like acid for them to hear a Party member claim their views are just as religious as that of their opponents, and that we should try to “understand” the other side instead of fighting them with the full arsenal of Big Science.
    Based on this review, this new book by Ruse must be highly disappointing to those who have lived with the religion-vs-science paradigm embedded in their heads since high school biology class.  If Ruse keeps this up, it won’t be long before the Party condemns him as a heretic and throws him overboard.  If that happens, the creationists and ID community need to be prepared to rescue him and show him what true Christian (unevolved, real) altruism is like (see 06/12/2003 commentary).  They need to provide him clean, clear designer glasses with which to see the world in a new light, a revelation that brings joy, thankfulness and meaning.
    Undoubtedly the softening of Ruse’s hardline position is partly due to his historical research into the unsavory personalities and empty lives of some of Darwinism’s staunchest bulldogs (see 09/02/2004 entry) compared to the friendliness and logic of I.D. supporters with whom he has interacted, like Phillip Johnson.  Creationists need to be careful not to shoot those waving a white flag.  Some of the best allies for design-based science, like Dean Kenyon and Richard Lumsden, were once adamant evolutionists.  Give people space to see the light.  Whether they do or not, keep those Christian graces shining through.  Who knows; maybe Eugenie Scott will be next (see 05/25/2005 entry).
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A Day in the Life of an Evolutionary Biologist   07/21/2005    
Meet Dr. Judith X. Becerra.  She is an expert on plants of Mexico.  Her latest research strove to determine the rate of evolutionary diversification of a genus of trees with a name similar to her own surname: Bursera.  These trees inhabit a range of biomes in the tropical dry forests of Mexico and are well adapted to the local conditions.
    Dr. Becerra divided the groupings of Bursera into 10 geographical regions then performed molecular comparisons to produce a phylogenetic tree of the genus.  She concluded that the crown group began to diversify about 60 million years ago, slowly at first, then radiated more rapidly into additional species as the mountains were forming, but before the Baja Peninsula broke off, floated away, and reattached to the mainland.  She deduced that the most rapid diversification occurred between 30 and 7.5 million years ago, with a peak at 13.5 mya – mostly in 5 of the 10 geographical areas.  Since then, the rate of diversification has slowed to a crawl, in her opinion because “the opportunity for diversification of Bursera has declined as the possibilities for further geographical expansion of the tropical dry forest have declined.”
    Her results were written up and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1
1Judith X. Becerra, “Evolution: Timing the origin and expansion of the Mexican tropical dry forest,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0409127102, published online before print July 20, 2005.
What follows is not to be taken in any way as a disparagement of Dr. Becerra and her efforts.  Unless proven otherwise (which seems highly unlikely), we should assume her a bright, active, diligent scientist, respected among peers, fulfilling her career as an evolutionary biologist with exemplary field work and analysis.  Her paper looks like standard research fare, complete with dozens of references, graphs, diagrams, equations, and all that would be expected in a scientific paper.  She made observations, proposed a hypothesis, tested it, and made conclusions.  Who could possibly criticize such a constructive enterprise, undertaken simply with the desire to shed light on the history of a particular group of plants?
    We want to explore this otherwise ho-hum paper that, for the majority of the population, will pass unnoticed into the growing corpus of scientific literature, where it will rest in peace except to a few specialists.  We want to use it as a case study in how the theory of evolution has become a self-perpetuating job security program with no necessary connection to the truth.
    Read this paper carefully, and you will find many useful facts about Bursera, but none that substantiate the two requirements to convince someone of evolution: proof of (1) long ages and (2) the creative powers of natural selection to produce novel structures.  On the contrary, every support for these claims comes from evolutionary assumptions, so it is inbred reasoning, like asking a Wahabi if the Koran is the word of Allah.  Would her support convince a creationist, or a neutral juror with mind uncluttered by evolutionary assumptions?
    The phylogenetic tree-making depends on assumptions of evolution.  The calibration of millions of years depends on evolutionary geological assumptions.  The story of diversification depends on the belief that niches create innovation: the “if you build it, they will come” theory of evolution.  This paper is shot through with evolutionary assumptions from beginning to end; evolution calibrates itself by evolution.
    Whenever there is an anomaly in the data, she patches up the evolutionary story with additional ad hoc assumptions: the diversification rate changed here or there, in this region but not that one because maybe the mountains were building faster there, etc.  She picks and chooses data based on evolutionary assumptions so as not to clutter the picture she is trying to present: for instance, ignoring certain species to avoid contamination of the story.  She used two separate equations to cross-check each other, ignoring the fact that both depend on evolutionary assumptions; whenever their results don’t agree, there is enough tweak space to get them to line up.  Fossils?  “Due to a scant fossil record,” she admits, “the history of the Mexican dry forest is still sketchy.  Although the floral affinities with other parts of the world, as well as the importance of the endemic elements, have been well established, little is yet known about the timing of the origin of this vegetation and the directions of its historical expansion or contraction.”  No matter – the story is the thing.
    Again, this is not to pick on Dr. Becerra; this paper can be considered a rather ordinary sample of evolutionary research.  Being largely a story of microevolution between members of a single genus, it isn’t even all that controversial.  The point is, it underscores the contention (see 12/22/2003 commentary) that Darwinian evolution has become job security for storytellers.  When you see an evolutionary story, no matter how professionally typed, no matter how many references, now matter how many nice graphs and charts and equations, you need to ask yourself how on earth the researcher knows what happened millions of years ago when he or she was not even there to observe it.  To an evolutionist, it doesn’t really matter.  It gives academics and naturalists something to do.  It supports the publishing industry.  It gives Darwinism an air of scientific respectability.  Why, every evolutionist agrees this is the way science is to be done (don’t ask non-evolutionists for their opinion—they are disqualified by definition).  This policy protects Darwinism from cross-pollination of ideas, so that the inbreeding can continue.
    Thus, evolutionary biology marches on.  The idea that 30 million years ago, this particular genus of plants began to diversify as mountains were rising, till around 7.5 million years ago it had filled all the available niches, makes a nice, plausible-sounding, self-consistent, albeit malleable, story.  Some of us have the gall to ask, Is it true?
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Lung Link to Dinos and Birds Disputed    07/21/2005  
Carl Wieland at AIG has given a creationist response to the widely-publicized claim last week that dinosaurs breathed like birds (see Live Science and News@Nature).
Creationists are good for evolutionists.  Otherwise, who would keep their rampant speculations in check?  If evolutionists were really interested in truth, they would welcome debate over interpretations of evidence from anyone who argues with sound logic, integrity and respect for the brute facts.  Since the scientific establishment will not even consider any opinion coming from outside the Darwin cheerleader’s club, it’s up to individuals to hear both sides and judge who is providing the better interpretation.
Next headline on:  BirdsDinosaursFossils
Computer Model Claims Lucy Walked Upright    07/20/2005  
A computer robot model of the gait of Australopithecus afarensis (aka, Lucy), reported in the BBC News, suggests that she walked upright.  This is partly on the skeletal structure of the foot and the distance between the Laetoli footprints preserved in fossil ash, where are claimed to date from the same time period Lucy lived.  The article ends with some doubt: “There are still some people who argue that, looking at the anatomy of the foot bones of afarensis, that they were unlikely to have made the Laetoli footprints,” [Chris Stringer] told the BBC News website.  “So it doesn’t end the argument because there is still the possibility that there were different creatures around at the time.”
The Laetoli prints are identical to modern human footprints.  The only reason paleoanthropologists claim they were made by A. afarensis is the dating: they are too “old” to have been made by modern man.  That’s why the artist’s rendition shows the tracks being made by a family of evolving creatures with an upright gait, human feet and ape-like faces.
    Data are just pawns in the evolutionary chess game.  The King is Charlie Dumpty.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men must protect him from falling.
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Depressed Kerry Supporters Find New Cause: Fight Creationism    07/20/2005  
A grass-roots group of Virginia liberal Democrats has found a new cause to lift them out of their depression after John Kerry’s defeat last fall, according to a Washington Post article reprinted by MSNBC News: “Keep Virginia evolving.”  Their chosen mission is to defend evolution from intrusions by the intelligent design movement and conservative Republicans and Christians.  Peter Slevin writes:
Evolution’s newest defenders, who came together in frustration after the November elections, have little political experience, apart from hoisting Kerry-Edwards signs in morning traffic.  They mostly are middle-class people with day jobs.  Some had protested the Vietnam War but had rarely felt inspired to undertake political activism since.  Together, they call themselves the Message Group and depict themselves as “determined and balanced” voters worried about social conservatives.
    “I fear for my country.  That sounds like a radical notion, something from the ’60s, but there is a pervasive fear, a scariness,” said Richard Lawrence, 63, a retired Environmental Protection Agency employee who voted for Nixon.  “We’re just a small group, maybe with a powerful idea.  We don’t have a clue, but we’re not letting go.”....
    The Message Group was created out of its members’ disappointment.  After President Bush was reelected and Republicans strengthened their hold on Capitol Hill, the group’s future comrades were among millions of demoralized Kerry voters who had invested fresh emotional energy and elbow grease in politics, only to fall short.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Starting from scratch about seven months ago, the group realized they shared a general angst but no mission.  After some discussion, they landed on the cause of defending evolution, especially after hearing that a Baptist pastor had predicted that if enough doubt could be cast on evolution, liberalism would die.  The thought of that prospect apparently provided the spark to lift them out of the malaise of depression and frustration over Kerry’s defeat and give them a new rallying cry.
Now, though their aim of defeating intelligent design is explicit, their strategy is, well, evolving.
    They selected evolution after deciding that other issues, such as Social Security revisions, were well-covered by bigger, richer groups.  The emerging duel over the teaching of science, they reasoned, was important, local and manageable, an area in which they could make a small impact – and if they got lucky, a big one.
They decided to take a stand in Virginia before ID advocates take up their cause in school board hearings.  Their first mailer, urging 75 like-minded souls to “Keep Virginia evolving,” failed to stir the masses to rise up, Slevin said; this draft leaflet “landed with an ugly thud.”  The cause did not resonate with Virginia Democrats somehow.  Those who even knew about it suggested that ignoring ID was the best strategy.  The Message Group tried again, this time with the approach of linking ID with the culture war and the Christian Right.  Fairfax County, which recently chastised a creationist teacher (see 06/14/2005 entry), might join their cause, they hoped.  They also planned to hold a mock Scopes Trial (see 07/19/2005 entry) with the roles reversed for effect, and plotted to link their efforts with the gubernatorial campaign next year.  Meanwhile, the Creation Mega-Conference that started Sunday at Liberty University has not seemed to notice these new foes.
    One of the leaders of the Message Group was a former Vietnam sit-in protestor who hasn’t been politically active for years, but was challenged by his wife, who said, according to Slevin, “You used to be so active.  You used to be so smart.  Why don’t you get off your butt and do something?”  Another was upset by what he perceived as hypocrisy among Christians.  Another feels the religious right is a “pernicious foe.”  Conservatives who have heard about this are laughing that it will backfire, stimulating Virginians “to come out and defend their beliefs and vote Republican.”  They think it will make liberals spend a lot of energy but accomplish little.  Slevin points out that the Message Group seems more interested in psychotherapy to alleviate their depression over the Kerry loss than any genuine concern about the truth of evolution: “The new activists describe the effort as a catharsis, no matter the outcome.”
This is really funny.  It almost makes you feel sympathy for these old Vietnam hippies with their tie-dye shirts and long gray hair.  There must be something they can do.  Ah!  Here’s a flag we can send up the pole to see if anyone salutes: “Keep Virginia evolving!”  Yes, Virginia, there really is a Charlie Darwin.
    One of the leaders said, “I’m just a citizen, not a scientist.  I’ve even had to do a lot of reading to catch up.”  We could suggest some books.  We could also suggest a strategy.  Forget the Scopes sit-in, the chants and incense, and come up with a plausible Darwinian mechanism to explain the origin of life and the molecular machinery of the cell.  Explain the explosively abrupt appearance of all the major body plans in the fossil record simultaneously.  Prove that mind is nothing more than an emergent property of brain chemistry (without committing a logical fallacy in doing so).  Explain the fine-tuning of the universe by chance.  Provide solid scientific answers to these and the other questions the ID community are raising, and you will steal their thunder.
    Doesn’t this story just nail the connection between Darwinism and political liberalism? (see 12/02/2004 entry).  When liberal Democrats, who supposedly emphasize free speech, look for a cause in science to land on, it is predictably pro-evolution and the stifling of dissent about Darwin and his materialist philosophy.  Historically, this has usually been the case.  The pro-evolutionists throughout the 19th century were predominantly leftist or radical in political ideology, whether German materialists like Vogt and Buchner, or Karl Marx in London, even Darwin himself and his most ardent supporters.  Liberalism and evolutionism are inextricably linked.  The question is, which is the cart, and which is the horse?
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignPolitics and Ethics
Bone Has Built-In Shock Absorbers with Molecular Springs    07/19/2005  
Your bones have little molecular springs in them that unwind and keep the collagen fibrils “glued” together when stress threatens a fracture.  See the description, with electron micrographs and diagrams, in a press release from UC Santa Barbara
Said co-author Daniel Morse, director of UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies: “It’s especially exciting for us to find the profound medical significance of our discoveries for human bone.”  He described the discovery of “molecular shock absorbers” providing a kind of self-healing glue holding biological mineralized structures together when studying the abalone shell six years ago.  “It’s truly remarkable to find the same fundamental mechanisms operating in bone,” said Morse.
    He noted that these mechanisms give young healthy bone its tremendous resiliency and resistance to fracture, and actually help heal small microcracks soon after they’re formed.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
(For a related story on marine shells, see 07/26/2004 entry.)  Paul Hansma, physicist at UCSB, noted that while a paper on bone is published every six minutes, little is known about how it works at the molecular level.  New techniques like atomic force microscopy are allowing scientists to see these tiny molecular structures for the first time.  The UCSB paper has achieved the highest resolution images of bone ever published.  Since these safety mechanisms work well in young healthy bone, the new findings may help medical researchers find ways to overcome skeletal problems that often come with aging, including bone brittleness and osteoarthritis.
Since no evolutionists believe people evolved from abalones, their only recourse is to wave the magic wand of convergent evolution to explain built-in molecular shock absorbers.  Remember that improbabilities are multiplicative, not additive – and so are credulities.
    This story illustrates a difference between living and non-living objects.  In general, the closer you look at an inanimate object, like a rock, the simpler it appears.  For living structures, the complexity keeps apace with the magnification.  Some of the most amazing aspects have been invisible to human perception till recently.  If macroscopic things like an eye gave Darwin cold shudders, he could never have been prepared for the view under the atomic force microscope.  Let’s hope his shock absorbers are in good working order as we envision him collapsing in a dead faint.
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Has Anti-Semitism Been Good for Jewish Evolution?    07/19/2005  
National Geographic News gave favorable coverage to a controversial theory by anthropologists at University of Utah that anti-semitism was a form of natural selection.  The racism against Jews in Europe, while selecting for higher intelligence, also selected for certain types of diseases.  Reporter James Owen did point out that not all anthropologists agree with the hypothesis that IQ differences can have a genetic basis.
That such poor reasoning and lousy science would get prominent coverage in the leading popular geographic magazine in the world is an illustration of the pernicious influence of evolutionary thinking on our society.  This hypothesis downplays the intellectual and moral factors involved.  Consistently followed, it would lead one to believe that anti-Semitism has been a good thing, if it led to the genius of Einstein.  If this kind of sloppy research, based on faulty assumptions and selective statistics, were published in some other field, it would be quickly scorned by academics.  The phrase “natural selection” is like a free pass around the security guards of science.  Should evolutionary anthropologists watch an Auschwitz as detached observers, measuring what genetic traits are being naturally selected by the process?  It’s time to call moral evils evil instead of rationalizing them on evolutionary grounds.  Let’s see how they explain it when the public has had enough, and there is a widespread outcry against Darwinian thinking.  Would that prove survival of the fittest ideas?
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Scopes 80th Anniversary Leads to Reanalysis    07/19/2005  
Alex Johnson, reporter for MSNBC News, has written a piece trying to set the record straight about the Scopes Trial of 1925.  Often portrayed as a battle of science vs religion and a group of hillbilly hicks against enlightened intellectuals (the “Inherit the Wind” stereotype), the historical trial was much different, he demonstrates.  William Jennings Bryan has “really gotten a bad rap,” for instance, because he performed well under cross-examination by Darrow and stayed on the offensive.  He kept his head throughout the trial and afterwards as he continued to work on his final arguments.  His death was not due to stress over evolution but rather to diabetes.  History should remember Bryan as a defender of women’s suffrage, direct election of senators and many other good things.
    The image of the Scopes trial many have comes more from the biased rhetoric of H. L. Mencken and Hollywood than from history:
If you read only Mencken’s account, dripping with big-city Northern snobbery, or remember Fredric March’s semi-hysterical performance as the fictionalized Bryan in “Inherit the Wind,” you could be forgiven for believing Darrow demolished Bryan and, with him, the biblical account of creation.  But the trial transcript and more objective contemporary coverage tell a different tale.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Johnson referred to the new book by John Perry and Marvin Olasky, Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial, and also a book by Jeffrey P. Moran (U of Kansas), The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents (2002).  He indicates that “Historians know better” than to accept the caricature perpetuated in the media about the trial.  “The most important thing to understand about the Scopes trial, Johnson writes, “was that it was a publicity stunt.  There were no fundamentalist preachers trolling the hallways of Dayton’s schools hunting for teachers who were violating Tennessee’s prohibition on teaching evolution.”  This image of “yahoos in overalls who didn’t like book-learnin’” has caused trouble for those trying to understand the anti-evolution movement, Johnson says, quoting Moran: “What’s happened in the last 40 years is creationism has become quite suburban, even quite well-educated and not purely a Southern phenomenon.”
Go to this article and give it a good vote.  It was refreshing to see, for a change, a reporter helping dismantle the myths about the Scopes Trial rather than perpetuating them.  Johnson’s treatment actually made the northern liberals look bad and Bryan look good.  He showed how the perception of the Scopes Trial was due more to propaganda and the media circus surrounding it than to the actual record of what happened.  He pointed out that historians give a much more favorable impression of Bryan than is commonly assumed.  For those of us raised in public school with mandatory viewings of Inherit the Wind, it’s about time.  See The Monkey Trial site for a comparison of portrayals in the movie with the historical record.  Inherit the Wind deserves to be thrown into the bin along with Birth of a Nation as an egregious example of twisting history.  (Surprisingly, the play and movie was written to satirize the McCarthy era, not the actual Scopes trial, according to Johnson.)
    One unfortunate part of Bryan’s testimony during cross-examination by Darrow is that he waffled on whether Genesis should be treated allegorically, and compromised on the idea of long ages.  This made it seem that Christians were prepared to capitulate before the evolutionists over assumed evidence for long ages and transitional forms – evidence that was later shown to be flawed or even fraudulent.  Overall, though, he gave it his best shot and was prepared to put Darrow on the hot seat before the defense decided to plead guilty, thus undermining his chance to similarly grill Darrow.  The fact that this was the “first trial to be covered with the full arsenal of modern media – broadcast live on the radio, filmed for newsreels in the theaters, chronicled by hundreds of newspapers that printed the daily transcript,” made it a setup for any spin desired.  As such, the Scopes Trial provides a fountainhead of case studies on propaganda, logical fallacies and smokescreen tactics (see the Baloney Detector for examples).
    Teachers: teach Scopes!  Show your students the differences between the movie portrayal and the facts.  They will learn some valuable skills in how to interpret the media.  Many facts about the Scopes Trial should be resurrected to embarrass the Darwin Party.  Did you know, for instance, that the textbook Darrow was defending taught racism?  Did you know that Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man, both hoaxes, were going to be used as proof of evolution?  Did you know that John Scopes, a football coach and substitute teacher, could not even remember if he had taught evolution in the classroom at all?  Did you know he agreed to help the ACLU test the Butler Act by agreeing to lie that he had taught evolution?
    The whole event was a media circus from the get-go.  Poor Judge Raulston tried his best to keep the trial on the issue of whether Scopes had violated the statute or not, and so did Bryan, but they were no match for the spin doctors around the world who took what they wanted and ran with it.  Political cartoonists had a field day with this southern American phenomenon.  History should be kinder to the southerners than to the elitist reporters and scientists who printed unspeakable diatribes against Bryan and his supporters, such as: “he is still engaged in battling earnestly for organized ignorance, superstition, and tyranny... He has illuminated vividly for the rest of us the essentially bigoted position of himself and his followers, and the degree of religious intolerance which they will undoubtedly enforce upon the country if they ever get the chance.”  Have they no shame?
    Bryan only agreed to the cross-examination because he was promised he would have his chance to grill Darrow in return, but Darrow’s strategy was to hit and run, thus scoring points with the world media.  This strategy has served them well ever since (see 07/11/2005 and 06/13/2005 entries for recent examples).  Darwinists who have used Scopes for 80 years to push their myth should be put on the witness stand.  It’s about time.
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First-Generation Star Claim Discounted    07/18/2005  
Claims made in 2003 that the first generation of stars, made of pure hydrogen, might have been detected, are now shown to be erroneous (this is an update on the 04/24/2003 entry).  Iwamoto et al. in Science1 have shown that the two hyper-metal-poor stars are actually second-generation stars, seeded with heavy elements by supernovae.
    Timothy C. Beers (Michigan State), writing in the same issue of Science,2 said that astronomers have been looking for these first-generation stars for 50 years.  Theoretically there could not have been anything but hydrogen and helium in the first generation of stars, but all seen thus far contain heavier elements (“metals”) that indicate an earlier generation must have existed, produced the heavy elements from supernova explosions, then seasoned the dust and gas with these elements which later collapsed to form new stars.  Beers hopes new observations will “form the basis for assembling the ‘story of creation’ of the elements that were eventually incorporated into all of us.”
1Iwamoto et al., “The First Chemical Enrichment in the Universe and the Formation of Hyper Metal-Poor Stars,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5733, 451-453, 15 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1112997].
2Timothy C. Beers, “The First Generations of Stars,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5733, 390-391 , 15 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1114671].
The story of creation is in your hotel room drawer.  Starstuff is just stuff, but it takes a mind to know one (see 07/15/2005 entry).
Next headline on:  Stellar astronomyCosmology
School Evolution Bills Listed    07/18/2005  
In response to claims in the media that many states are passing bills to mandate the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution, Seth Cooper on the Evolution News blog has listed 10 states where evolution bills are being debated and three more where discussions are taking place in the legislature.  Contrary to media reports, most states are not mandating the teaching of I.D. but rather seeking ways to permit alternatives to evolution to be heard.  (The Discovery Institute does not recommend mandating the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.)
    The highest-visibility case is in Kansas.  The Wichita Eagle reported that one member of the school board is considering additional changes to the standards to allow further criticism of evolutionary theories, but the majority are working to clarify the wording of the new standards that take effect in the fall.  Tom Magnuson at claims the Kansas City Star reporter gave an inaccurate description of the situation and made major misstatements.
Since reporters often fail to do their homework and repeat the propaganda of the Darwin Party, it is important as always to have one’s Baloney Detector in good working condition.  Notice, for instance, how the Wichita Eagle labels the pro-evolutionists with the mild term “moderates” as opposed to the “conservative” members arguing for change.  What other political labels can you come up with for these opposing groups that could spin the story either way? 
Next headline on:  EducationEvolutionIntelligent Design
“Junk” Cells Maintain the Brain   07/16/2005    
The most abundant immune cells in your brain are not the neurons, but microglia – spindly cells that were thought to be static and immobile, the smallest of the glia cells that were once considered mere scaffolding to support the more important gray matter (see 11/20/2001 and 01/29/2001 entries).  When two scientists recently applied the new technique of two-photon microscopy to a live healthy mammalian brain, however, they were stunned at what they saw the microglia doing... “a static state is hardly what was observed,” reported Science magazine.1.  They were the most motile cells in the brain.
    The little cells were observed to act like well-trained, active patrolmen doing a vital job.  They extended probes into their environment to monitor the health of the brain, clean up debris and fight microbes.  A caption explained:
Microglia continually extend ... and retract ... processes, surveying their immediate environment within the brain.  The processes move rapidly toward a site of injury, such as a damaged blood vessel in the brain, in response to the localized release of a chemoattractant ... from the injured sited.  Once at the target site, the processes form a barrier to protect healthy tissue.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Microglia comprise about 10% of cells in the central nervous system.  This monitoring and disaster response apparently goes on continually.  “These two elegant studies provide direct evidence for the highly dynamic nature of microglia, indicating that the brain is under constant immune surveillance by these cells.”  Who knows what we would think without them.
1Luc Fetler and Sebastian Amigorena, “Brain Under Surveillance: The Microglia Patrol,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5733, 392-393, 15 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1114852].
Similar to the story on junk DNA (see 07/15/2005 entry), this goes to show that nothing in biology makes sense apart from design.  If we would approach biology with a design perspective (see 06/25/2005 entry), we might really begin to understand what life is all about.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHuman BodyAmazing Stories
Sharks and Beavers Inspire Humans   07/16/2005    
Animals never cease to amaze us with their clever solutions to problems that plague human technology.  EurekAlert told of work being done by the Society for Experimental Biology to emulate shark skin as a self-cleaning surface for boats; National Geographic News has pictures of the new product, and a comparison with shark skin.  The navy is very interested in this (ever seen a shark with barnacles?).  Not only would a sharkskin-like hull resist barnacles, it would make a ship glide with more ease through the water, saving energy.
   From the mammal world, National Geographic News reported that beaver dams are inspiring fish-friendly hydroelectric power plants.  “Beaver dams usually stand no more than ten feet (three meters) tall and integrate a series of steps into the slope,” reporter John Roach explained.  “This is a height and design surmountable by migrating fish... The dams are also a natural part of the environment in many parts of the world.”
Man’s solutions to both these problems have been clumsy, polluting and expensive.  It’s humbling to have to imitate supposed lower forms of life.  (Good.  Nothing like a little humility for us humans.)  Maybe the new biomimetics trend (see 02/09/2005 and 09/21/2004 stories, for example) will teach us how to cooperate with the environment instead of fighting it.  Need we point out that biomimetics operates on an implicit intelligent-design assumption.
    Shark facts are ubiquitous on the TV nature shows these days, to a fault (they seem to satisfy the peasants’ lust for gore).  How many more Shark Week specials can we take?  Time out, Discovery Channel and National Geographic TV.  If you can find the 1988 IMAX film Beavers, though, it’s a classic, fun for the whole family.
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Tulsa Zoo Tolerates Religion – Except the Bible Kind   07/16/2005    
It’s OK to praise the Hindu god Ganesha and preach pantheism at the Tulsa zoo, but not to mention Genesis.  The zoo board reversed itself after first agreeing to permit an exhibit of the biblical creation account, reported Agape Press.  Christian supporters argued that the zoo “already features religious symbols in other displays, including a statue of an elephant-like, Hindu deity.”  It seemed that it was only fair to add the Judeo-Christian creation account to the mix.  At first the zoo agreed, but exhibit designer Dan Hicks thinks the board caved in to special interest groups:
Hicks believes the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board that originally approved the creation display for the zoo ultimately caved in to the demands of a vocal minority.  He contends that the Interfaith Alliance, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries and others of “these groups that claim to be all about tolerance and inclusion” are actually “more like political action committees affiliated with Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”
Answers in Genesis also had stern comments about the reversal.  Polls showed that 76% of the public favored the Genesis display.  The Hindu-pantheistic exhibit proclaimed, “The Earth is our mother, the sky is our father.”
Tolerance in our culture has a very specific meaning: it means forcing Christians, with their hands tied behind their backs and their mouths gagged, to endure witnessing every weird, depraved or wicked viewpoint paraded in front of them, without recourse, with the mantras “separation of church and state!” or “evolution is a fact!” shouted endlessly if they appear tempted to resist, to see how much they will tolerate.  When the victims appear ready to burst their bands and fight back, they smile and pretend that they didn’t really mean it and only wanted to be inclusive.  Pacified, the victims relax for another round.  Now that you know this, you will understand liberalism much better.
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Does the Brain Produce the Mind – and Ethics?    07/15/2005  
Two contrasting views on the mind/body problem appeared in science journals recently.  In Nature this week,1 Paul Bloom (Yale) reviewed The Ethical Brain (Dana Press, 2005) by Michael S. Gazzaniga, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.  Bloom felt the need to clarify the difference between theological and evolutionary views on the source of ethics, because he felt Gazzaniga was careless about specifying the existence and source of moral sensibilities.  Bloom was frank and earnest about the distinction:
Gazzaniga is a lot less cautious when it comes to the implications of neuroscience for ethics in general.  As he puts it in his preface, “I would like to support the idea that there could be a universal set of biological responses to moral dilemmas, a sort of ethics, built into our brains.  My hope is that we soon may be able to uncover these ethics, identify them, and begin to live more fully by them.  I believe we live by them largely unconsciously now, but that a lot of suffering, war, and conflict could be eliminated if we could agree to live by them more consciously.”
    This conclusion would follow if our universal moral sense had been implanted by an all-knowing and all-loving God.  But biological evolution is a notoriously amoral force.  Innate moral universals would have been shaped by the selective advantages that arise from caring for our kin and cooperating with our neighbours, but nothing in our genes tells us that slavery is wrong, or that men and women deserve equal rights.  Such insights emerge through individual and group processes that engage all of our faculties, including our innate moral sense, but also the capacity to appreciate abstract arguments, formulate analogies, learn from experience, take other’s perspectives and so on.  Much of moral progress consists of using reason to override our gut feelings.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
A very different view of the mind has been published by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society2 by Jeffrey Schwartz, a friend of intelligent design leader William Dembski.  Schwartz contends that assuming the brain can produce the mind is based on “ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three-quarters of a century,” namely classical physics compared to quantum physics:
Contemporary basic physical theory differs profoundly from classic physics on the important matter of how the consciousness of human agents enters into the structure of empirical phenomena.  The new principles contradict the older idea that local mechanical processes alone can account for the structure of all observed empirical data.  Contemporary physical theory brings directly and irreducibly into the overall causal structure certain psychologically described choices made by human agents about how they will act.  This key development in basic physical theory is applicable to neuroscience, and it provides neuroscientists and psychologists with an alternative conceptual framework for describing neural processes.  Indeed, owing to certain structural features of ion channels critical to synaptic function, contemporary physical theory must in principle be used when analysing human brain dynamics.  The new framework, unlike its classic-physics-based predecessor, is erected directly upon, and is compatible with, the prevailing principles of physics.  It is able to represent more adequately than classic concepts the neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.
In effect, you cannot get mind out of matter, because this is precluded by quantum physics.  Dembski explains that this proposition “challenges the materialism endemic to so much of contemporary neuroscience,” and “argues for the irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms.”
1Paul Bloom, “Dissecting the right brain,” Nature 436, 178-179 (14 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436178a.
2Schwartz, Stapp and Beauregard, “Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: a neurophysical model of mind-brain interaction,” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, The Royal Society, 0962-8436 (Paper) 1471-2970 (Online).
Bloom properly distinguished the stark contrast between theological and evolutionary explanations for ethics, but he committed logical fallacies in supporting the latter.  He borrowed Christian words like innate moral sense, appreciate, reason and progress which are undefined terms in the Darwin Dictionary.  How can he decide that the amorality of evolution is “notorious” without making a value judgment?  His argument shoots itself in the foot and thus leaves the alternative, the proposition that “our universal moral sense had been implanted by an all-knowing and all-loving God,” the logical choice.
    The paper by Schwartz does not establish the theological origin of our innate moral sense, but undercuts one more materialist assumption for the alternative – at least temporarily.  Since science is tentative, today’s quantum theory may not be a final theory: it cannot serve as an ultimate foundation.  Any ethical system not based on absolutes and the assumption of an all-knowing and all-loving God is doomed to become merely a matter of personal opinion and social convention, and thus not a moral system at all.  The Bible offers a sure standard, a bulwark of moral confidence for troubling times.
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Another Dead Sea Scroll Fragment Discovered    07/15/2005  
“A secretive encounter with a Bedouin in a desert valley” has produced a fragment of the Bible transcribed nearly two millennia ago, reported MSNBC News.  The fragment, a portion of Leviticus on parchment, was found near the Dead Sea, and “has given rise to hope that the Judean Desert may yield more treasures.”  The artifact dates from the period of the Bar Kochba revolt in the second century of the Roman Empire.  This is the first discovery of its kind since the 1960s.  The archaeologist reluctantly paid a Bedouin for the fragment for fear it would otherwise be lost.
The land of the Bible remains a buried treasure.  Only a small percentage of potential sites have been explored, and only a small fraction of artifacts have been uncovered.  Each fragment found in this politically-troubled land has enormous potential to shed light on the greatest story ever told.
Next headline on:  Bible and Theology
More Evidence the Molecular Clock is Broken    07/15/2005  
“We live in interesting times,” grinned David Penny in Nature,1 reporting on how estimates of evolutionary past based on comparative genomics (the molecular clock) is producing confusing results.  Apparently, evolutionary geneticists are going to have to make use of the theory of relativity – i.e., that how fast the clock ticks depends on the viewpoint of the observer.  “An analysis of genetic data sets from primates and birds provides firm evidence that molecular evolution is faster on shorter than on longer timescales,” his subtitle explained.  “The estimated times of various evolutionary events require a rethink” (emphasis added in all quotes).  It’s hard to give up a pet theory, he continued:
The relative constancy of the rate at which DNA sequences evolve has been a treasured icon of molecular evolution for nearly 40 years.  The occurrence of such a stochastic ‘molecular clock’ was initially quite unexpected, and was explained by Motoo Kimura by assuming that most changes to amino-acid and nucleotide sequences were neutral – “neither beneficial nor injurious”, in Charles Darwin’s prescient phrase.
    However, there have been several inklings that the rate of molecular evolution accelerates when measured over evolutionarily short timescales.  As they report in Molecular Biology and Evolution, Ho and colleagues have now put the evidence together.  Their analyses of primate and bird data sets reveal that there is indeed a decided acceleration of molecular evolution on short timescales.  This is an effect that demands explanation; moreover, estimates for the timing of recent events in population biology will need to be reconsidered.
Penny discussed whether the phenomenon is real, whether it can be explained, and why it was not picked up earlier.  Part of the reason is no one was looking:
For some reason, the continuum between population heterozygosity and long-term evolution has not been adequately studied.  Although it is a continuum, the techniques required may change as the timescale decreases.  For example, some concepts from long-term evolution (binary evolutionary trees with sequences studied only at the tips) have been extended into populations where trees are no longer binary, and ancestral sequences (at internal nodes) are still present in the population.  There are hints that a formal multiscale study is necessary, because even though the same underlying process is occurring, different features of trees are observed as the timescale changes.
Lastly, he asked what are the consequences of this revelation.  Many time estimates will require recalculation – that’s one practical aspect.  “In some cases the constraints are from recent events, and it is the long-term events that require re-analysis,” he explained; “Much more remains to be done.”  The assumption of a single mutation rate is gone; “Even for nucleotides there are many ‘mutation rates’,” he pointed out.  Penny feels the solution is tractable, but the implication is that many former assumptions have been invalidated by the new data – hence his last sentence, “we live in interesting times.”
1David Penny, “Evolutionary biology: Relativity for molecular clocks,” Nature 436, 183-184 (14 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436183a.
Another evolutionary assumption has been overturned by more careful analysis; keep up the good work.  Next time, though, remove the assumption of evolution before making the observations.  Relativity applies to physics, not biology.  An evolutionary tale that requires relativity to keep its plot together has left the science department for the theater class (see 11/29/2004 entry).
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Planet Orbiting Triple Star Tightens Noose on Planet Formation Theories    07/15/2005  
The discovery of a planet orbiting a triple star system (see JPL Press Release), described by Maciej Konacki in Nature,1 has delivered a severe challenge to theorists.  In short, the environment is “particularly prohibitive” for planet formation.  This Jupiter-size planet should not be there.
    Planet-formation theories have taken a triple whammy lately.  The discovery in recent years of so-called “hot Jupiters” (giant planets close to their parent stars – see 05/07/2004) was unexpected; it caused a major reconsideration about where and how gas giants form.  Prior to the indirect observation of planets like 51 Pegasi, which is closer to its star than Mercury to our sun, it was thought impossible that a Jupiter-class planet could form in a tight orbit, because the gases like hydrogen and helium that make up the bulk of such planets could only be retained beyond the “snow line” of about 3 AU.2  This led to a radical reinterpretation of the core-accretion hypothesis: planets formed far out, then migrated inward (see 05/16/2003 entry).
    The second whammy was the revival of the disk-instability hypothesis as a strong competitor to the core-accretion hypothesis, with proponents of each arguing not for the strengths of their own views, but against the weaknesses of their opponents’ views (see 09/22/2003, and Quick Takes following the 07/25/2003 entry).  Added to these headaches have been ongoing discoveries of planets where they shouldn’t be, like around a binary star (08/24/2004), around a white dwarf in a globular cluster (07/10/2003), in wildly elliptical orbits (07/21/2003), orbiting young stars (11/11/2004 and 05/28/2004) and even wandering alone (11/29/2003).  In addition, there seems to be no correlation between dust disks and planets (10/18/2004), and many stellar environments seem downright hostile to planets (07/06/2004 and 04/26/2001).  This scattering of strange observations led Stuart Ross Taylor last year to lament the lack of order in planetary science and to call the origin of the solar system “one of the oldest unsolved problems in science” (07/29/2004).
    This third whammy appears to be a crushing blow.  Planet-formation theories began optimistically with the nebular hypothesis of Pierre Laplace in the 18th century, but each new observation seems to raise the stakes.  Last August (08/27/2004), the planet found around a binary was tentatively rationalized because the two host stars were widely separated (56 year orbital period), leaving enough space for a dust disk to supply planet-building material around one star that would not be perturbed by the other.  The binary period of this new pair named HD 188753 is less than half that.  German astronomers Hatzes and Wuchteri, commenting on this discovery in the same issue of Nature,3 explain the difficulty:
The binary orbital period of HD 188753 is just 25.7 years, and the orbital separation of the stars, both of Sun size, is a mere 12.3 AU – about the distance from the Sun to Saturn.  Konacki’s velocity measurements reveal that the primary star (the more massive star, denoted HD 188753A) has a planetary companion of a minimum of 1.14 Jupiter masses that orbits the star every 3.35 days at a distance of about 0.05 AU.  Yet according to the orbital migration theory, this planet should not exist.  The secondary star is so close that its gravitational pull would have stripped away the protoplanetary disk of the primary star – where, even if it later migrated, the planet must have formed – reducing the disk to a radius of just 1.3 AU.  But within this radius, ices are unlikely to last and so cannot contribute to the formation of a massive core.  The alternative explanation – that the planet formed where it is – would challenge the standard picture, but runs into the problem of where the necessary solid material came from.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Konacki, the discoverer, mentions but then quickly dismisses simplistic explanations:
It appears that within the favoured scenario for the formation of hot Jupiters, the planet around HD 188753A could not be formed (unless for some reason the orbit of HD 188753 AB was very different during a planet formation phase).  One possible explanation is that the snowline can indeed be as close as ~1 au from the star.  Another possibility is that hot Jupiters form in situ, near their current orbital locations.  However, the problem is probably more challenging.  It has been suggested that planet formation in binary systems may be less efficient because the stirring induced by the secondary can significantly heat up the protoplanetary disk.  This may hold true for both the standard core accretion scenario and the recently revived gravitational collapse scenario [i.e., disk-instability model] of giant-planet formation.  Presumably, the environment of HD 188753 is particularly prohibitive given a small semi-major axis and the high mass of the secondary.
He just leaves it at that.  Hatzes and Wuchteri admitted in their commentary that the discovery of hot Jupiters “shook long-held conceptions of planetary-system formation,”  and that the new discovery “places severe constraints” on such theories.  What do they suggest?  A popular word, in our culture – diversity:
Although the planet in the HD 188753 system presents a conundrum to theorists, there might be an easy way out: abandon the make-do-and-mend migration theory to Occam’s razor, and accept that not all planet-forming nebulae are similar to the solar nebula.  Large and small protoplanetary nebulae of the same mass might differ only in their total angular momentum, such that in smaller nebulae more mass is closer in – nursing young giants.
    The giant planets that orbit other stars exist in a diversity of systems and most are unlike the system of planets found around our own Sun.  In our view, the diversity of planetary systems probably reflects a diversity of protoplanetary nebulae, and wherever sufficient mass is available, planets, even giant ones, may form.  The neglected majority of double stars could thus fill the Galaxy with planets.
The problem with their suggestion is that it leaves theorists at square one, with no single theory that could ever hope to explain the formation of such diversity of planets, and with nothing better than an armchair speculation that material will coalesce somehow in spite of the problems with temperature and turbulence.  The NASA press release apparently took “the easy way out” and spun the story optimistically, quoting Dr. Shri Kulkarni of Caltech, who said, “This is good news for planets.  Planets may live in all sorts of interesting neighborhoods that, until now, have gone largely unexplored.”  MSNBC News, Science Now and CNN provided a more balanced presentation with clear explanations of the theoretical problems this planet presents.  BBC News weighed in on the story July 18.
1Maciej Konacki, “An extrasolar giant planet in a close triple-star system,” Nature 436, 230-233 (14 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03856.
2Astronomical Unit (AU), or the mean earth-sun distance of approximately 93 million miles.
3Hatzes and Wuchteri, “Astronomy: Giant planet seeks nursery place,” Nature 436, 182-183 (14 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436182a.
Anomalies and constraints are good for science.  They put the brakes on speculation.  Laplace’s nebular hypothesis was a plausible-sounding naturalistic story for its day.  What would he have thought with today’s reality checks?  Puzzles and surprises are also good in that they spur the problem-solving juices of humans, who like to find out the reasons for things.  That much is good.  What turns this good astray is failing to question one’s assumptions.  None of the theorists is questioning naturalism; the idea of design is never even on the radar screen.
    The two struggling contenders for naturalistic explanations of planetary systems – core accretion and disk instability – each theory already beset by nearly insurmountable problems – have essentially been disqualified by this discovery.  It may be that the proponents will find a workaround, some convincing ad-hoc, a posteriori explanation to keep their theory in the running, but they need to be reminded that planet-building is just one local crisis within a bigger crisis about the origin of stars (05/31/2005 and 02/28/2004).  That crisis, in turn, lies within the bigger ones about the origin of galaxies (07/08/2004 and 03/03/2003) and the origin of the universe (01/23/2004 and 10/06/2004).  Exceeding them all is the crisis over the origin of life (06/16/2005 and 02/06/2005).  What do all these nested crises have in common?  Naturalism.
    The assumption that natural explanations are the only tools permissible from the toolkit of science has brought each of these investigations to a grinding halt.  To make progress, why not return to the design assumptions of Kepler, Galileo, Newton and many others?  These Christian-creationist pillars of science made great progress by believing the universe had a Designer.  Though science has mushroomed over the last two centuries in which methodological naturalism has prevailed, it’s arguable that naturalism had anything to do with the actual progress made.  The tangible, verifiable discoveries have been made with either an explicit or implicit assumption of design or purpose.  Wherever pure naturalism has led an investigation, whether in cosmology or the origin and evolution of life, it has produced little more than job security for storytellers (see 12/22/2003 entry).
    As a guiding assumption in science, naturalism is freezing up like a neglected pickup on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere.  To lubricate the engine, add the oil of intelligent design, then turn around and get back on the superhighway, back there where we got off at exit 1859.
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Cassini Skimmed Over Enceladus at Close Range    07/14/2005  
The Cassini spacecraft made its closest-yet flyby of Enceladus July 14, skimming just 109 miles above the surface.  This was the closest approach to any object thus far in the four-year mission.  It was nearly three times closer than the earlier record, the March 9 Enceladus flyby (see encounter map).
    Enceladus has long been one of the most intriguing moons in the solar system because of its extremely bright surface, and its large uncratered regions riddled with cracks and ridges (see photo gallery).  The BBC News summarized some of the puzzles regarding this Saturnian satellite.  Is it a source of E-ring particles?  Does it have ice volcanos and geysers?  Is there an ocean below the surface?  The biggest mystery is the source of energy to drive resurfacing processes.  Enceladus has a very nearly circular orbit and is not in any known tidal interactions with other moons, or with Saturn.  No ammonia has yet been detected in the spectrum (ammonia might allow a lower melting point for the water ice that makes up the bulk of the moon).  How, then, could melting occur, especially in recent times?
    A beautiful picture of the little moon Prometheus shepherding the F-ring was released by the Cassini team this week: click here, and also the first tantalizing look at a moon that looks like a sponge: Hyperion.
Update 07/15/2005: The raw images were posted at the Cassini website late Friday.  New and improved images of Rhea taken from 182,000 kilometers were posted first.  Later, the Enceladus data stream came in.  Wide-angle views revealed a bizarre set of tiger-like stripes near the south pole (a region never before imaged), and a huge canyon on the eastern limb (example).  Distinct boundaries between cratered and resurfaced regions were clearly visible.  Closer in (example), the stripes began to look like four nearly parallel canyons emanating from a rough highland across a smooth plain.  From 9,000 miles (example), they are seen to intersect earlier canyons in complex ways.  The two highest-resolution images near closest approach (narrow and wide angle), slightly smeared due to the speed of the spacecraft (over 18,000 mph) at such close range, reveal a somewhat fluffy-looking region of hills and valleys.  No clear signs of volcanos or geysers are apparent, either at highest resolution or looking back along the limb during the outbound leg (example).  To first order, the topographic features appear tectonic rather than fluvial.  Data from other instruments, such as the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS), will assist scientists in interpreting the images.  Here is the BBC News post-encounter report, and check out the photo gallery on the Imaging Team website.  The Planetary Society also did a full page spread on the flyby sequence and posted sample images.
    The Cassini team has pulled off another resounding success in a string of spectacular encounters during the spacecraft’s first year in orbit (see 07/01/2004 story).  The rapid-fire sequence of images of Enceladus today, along with those from March and February this year, have brought sudden fulfillment to years of yearning since Cassini was first designed in the early 1980s, with dreams of Enceladus at close range part of the plans.  Interpreting the new images is sure to keep planetary geologists busy for years.
Note: dark lines cutting across the right side of some raw images are due to the lossless compression algorithm used.  The software estimates the compression ratio in advance because of the constraints of time during the encounter.  Interpolation can reconstruct the missing pixels.
Update 07/20/2005: New Scientist quoted some scientists puzzling over the bouldery surface seen at highest resolution: “That’s a surface texture I have never seen anywhere else in the solar system,” said one; said another, “This is just strange.  In fact, I have a really hard time understanding what I’m seeing.”  The boulders seem to avoid rather than filling in the cracks, and there are no small craters.  Neither is there hoped-for evidence of liquid flow on the surface, and Enceladus, being six times smaller than Europa, seems too small to maintain a subsurface ocean.  “Trying to figure out what is going on is going to take a lot longer than a weekend of swapped emails,” said one member of the imaging team.
Update 07/26/2005: a JPL press release says that the south pole looks younger than the rest of the moon.  The region has no impact craters and has been carved into hills of house-sized boulders by unique tectonic features.  This was unexpected; the south polar region appears to be distinct from other parts of the moon, and is being called one of the youngest surfaces in the solar system.  “Young terrain requires a means to generate the heat needed to modify the surface,” the report says.  More interesting facts about Enceladus may come to light when data from the other instruments are combined with the visible-light images.  JPL also provided a dramatic zoom-in movie (also on the imaging team site) showing where the highest resolution image was taken in context to the moon as a whole.
Update 07/29/2005: Another press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory has announced the discovery of “ice volcanism” near the south pole.  The heavily cratered north pole is very different from the south, where the temperature is significantly warmer, and there are no impact craters.  Scientists believe water ice is erupting from cracks that crisscross the south pole like tiger stripes.  If so, Enceladus becomes the smallest moon to exhibit cryovolcanism.  The previously-reported atmosphere turns out to be localized around the south pole, where it leaks away and is continuously replenished.  This eruptive activity, however, is not the source of the E-ring particles.  Cassini’s cosmic dust analyzer has confirmed, as suspected, that micrometeor impacts against the moon eject particles that become distributed into the broad, diffuse E-ring.  To find such activity at one of the poles was a big surprise; one scientist said, “This is as astonishing as if we’d flown past Earth and found that Antarctica was warmer than the Sahara.”
Scientists find the temperatures difficult to explain if sunlight is the only heat source.  More likely, a portion of the polar region, including the “tiger stripe” fractures, is warmed by heat escaping from the interior.  Evaporation of this warm ice at several locations within the region could explain the density of the water vapor cloud detected by other instruments.  How a 500-kilometer (310-mile) diameter moon can generate this much internal heat and why it is concentrated at the south pole is still a mystery.
    Another Cassini Press Release from July 29 provides more of the pieces to the cryovolcanism puzzle.  The atmosphere earlier detected by the magnetometer turns out to be lopsided; eruptions of material are not coming from the northern hemisphere, but only from the south polar region.  The UV spectrometer also detected this asymmetry during an occultation.  One of the infrared instruments showed the south to be warmer than the north, and the visible-light cameras observed many tectonic features near the south pole.  The cooperative activity of multiple instruments onboard Cassini each contributed to the interpretation that cryovolcanism is occurring.  Why, and how, this should happen on a tiny moon subjected to insufficient tidal stresses, and with insufficient radioactive heating in its interior, is unexplained.
    Since this moon is turning out to be one of the big attractions of the mission, Enceladus will probably be a front-runner for additional close flybys during any approved extended mission.  The next extremely close flyby is scheduled for March 12, 2008 at only 97 km (58 miles).  Several others before then are in the 80,000 km range.
Enceladus illustrates several processes going on at Saturn that appear unlikely to be sustainable for billions of years (see 03/10/2005 and 03/04/2005 entries).  The BBC news article, for instance, mentioned that E-ring particles can only survive for hundreds of years, not billions.  This means that to maintain belief that the ring is ancient, planetary scientists must find that Enceladus has been continually replenishing the particles for over four billion years.  Recall, however, that a huge explosion and loss of mass from the E-ring was observed in early 2004 (see 07/02/2004 entry).  It is unlikely that event was atypical.  Such destructive processes do not add to the ring; they erode it even faster.
    Regardless of one’s interpretation of the images, one thing all can agree on: the Cassini team deserves congratulations from around the world.  To be able to glimpse this kind of detail on bodies that are mere specks from Earth telescopes, to be able to navigate a ship 880 million miles away with such precision, and to be able to send streams of ones and zeroes through empty space and reconstruct them into photographs on Earth, is truly astonishing.  With the extraordinary becoming so commonplace in our technological civilization, we tend to forget that we are living in a historic period of discovery.  Early astronomers could never have imagined what we saw today.  Had they been told it would one day become possible, how they would have longed for a chance to share this experience.  Catch the drama of what is happening.
Next headline on:  Solar System
The Death of the Concept of “Junk DNA”    07/15/2005  
“God don’t make no junk” has been a slogan for the self-esteem movement, and now no less than Science Now is providing support at the genetic level.  “Don’t call it junk” the article announces, indicating that stretches of non-coding DNA are apparently not useless regions of material as previously believed, but vital to the regulation of the gene-coding regions.
    Studies by geneticists at UC Santa Cruz have shown that “The more complex the organism, the more important junk DNA seems to be.”  Some of these non-coding regions are identical in mice and men.  This discovery, made last year (see 11/26/2004), hinted that these geneless regions were important, otherwise neutral mutations should have accumulated in them during the course of evolution.  Now, comparisons between five vertebrates, four insects, two worms and seven species of yeast have revealed a pattern that complexity correlates with the amount of “junk DNA.”  This suggests that “the regions might contain important regulatory switches that control basic biochemistry and development, which might help organisms build sophisticated bodies.”
    Although the re-evaluation of non-coding DNA that views it as functionally important is not yet universally shared among geneticists (see 12/10/2004 entry), this latest revelation appears convincing to many.  The new paradigm is summed up in the photo caption in the article: “Trash is treasure.”
    Another finding, from the National Institute of Mental Health, claims that prairie vole social behavior is encoded in “junk DNA.”  The extent of the effect on social behavior appears debatable, but the hypothesis relies on the claim that it was caused by a section of non-coding DNA previously thought to have no function.  The press release ends, “Far from being junk, the repetitive DNA sequences, which are highly prone to mutate rapidly, may ultimately exert their influence through complex interactions with other genes to produce individual differences and social diversity, according to [Dr. Larry] Young.”
It bears repeating what we have said for years about this (06/03/2004 and 10/16/2003): the concept of “junk DNA” was a useless dead end that resulted from evolutionary thinking.  It is similar to the now-outmoded concept of “vestigial organs” used for decades as proof of evolution: the idea that the wasteful process of evolution left relics of junk in our bodies.  This viewpoint actually delayed the progress of science.  It prevented research into the function of the appendix, tonsils, pineal gland, coccyx, pituitary gland and other body parts now known to be useful and even vital for life and health.  How long has fruitful research into the genetic function of non-coding DNA been delayed by the concept of “junk DNA”?  Who would want to waste time looking at junk?
    An intelligent-design approach to non-coding DNA would have been entirely different.  An ID scientist would say there must be a reason for it.  Just because its function is unknown does not mean there is no function.  The burden is on the scientist to figure it out, not on nature to explain itself.  Like a puzzle fanatic trying to solve the latest crossword, such a scientist would be motivated to search and discover the function of the phenomenon, and might have found the secret of gene regulation much sooner.
    The paradigm shift in progress about so-called junk DNA provides a classic rebuttal to the argument that intelligent design theory would shut down scientific progress.  Most anticreationist rhetoric includes the charge that ID brings scientific explanation to a halt with the quick explanation, “God did it that way.”  Here we have seen that the contrary is true.  Evolution labeled genetic treasure as “trash,” and possibly delayed our understanding of non-coding DNA for years.  We shouldn’t let the Darwinists get away with claiming credit for the turnaround.*  They caused the delay.  If Darwinist Esaus want to continue to treat nature like trash, ID Jacobs will be glad to take possession of their hand-offs.
Next headline on:  GeneticsIntelligent Design
*Nor should we let them get away with taking back these newly-revalued treasures for trophies in their museums of evolution.  Evolutionary theory did not predict highly-conserved regulatory elements that are identical in extremely different organisms: the inexorable force of mutation and selection should have caused wide differences between them.  Darwinists are masters of deception, taking every observation, no matter how unexpected, as support.  It’s time to force them to face up to what amounts to a falsification of their beliefs.
Mountain-Building Time Cut by Two Thirds   07/13/2005    
How long does it take to build mountains?  The conventional wisdom is that mountain building (orogeny) is a slow, gradual process that takes many millions of years.  A story on Live Science doesn’t deny some millions, but reduces the estimated age of a range in Norway from 40 million to 13 million, and claims the process must have taken place at much cooler temperatures than expected.  “Mountain building quicker than thought” announces the title.  Inferences from argon dating suggest that the rocks were heated for only a short period, perhaps only 10 years.
They weren’t there, and they don’t know, but what they do know is that they were surprised by evidence that overturned a belief in a very slow, gradual process.  This is an update on last month’s story (see 06/30/2005 entry) but bears repeating, and noting who was surprised.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
Astrobiologists Search for Lefty Life in Chile   07/13/2005    
The title isn’t meant to imply Chile is dead or devoid of left-handers.  Instead, it announces that astrobiologists are practicing life detection strategies in the high deserts of that South American country, according to Astrobiology Magazine.  Chile’s Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth, with almost no signs of life.  NASA scientists have developed an instrument with a sure-fire way to separate the quick and the dead: “Life is left-handed,” announces the title, referring to the left-handed amino acids that make up earth life.  The scientists are convinced that finding one-handed polymers would clinch the evidence for life: “We feel that measuring homochirality – a prevalence of one type of handedness over another – would be absolute proof of life,” said Richard Mathies of UC Berkeley.
It’s nice to hear naturalistic biologists admit that homochirality separates life from nonlife.  Now they need to explain how it got that way: see the problem explained in our online book, Ch. 3 and Ch. 4.  After a century since Pasteur discovered this property of the polymers in living things, it remains one of the major stumblingblocks for belief in chemical evolution.  Don’t let an astrobiologist get away with just assuming it happened somehow.  How, now, did we get a left-handed brown cow?
Next headline on:  Origin of Life
How Identical Are Identical Twins?    07/12/2005  
Identical twins look identical, and the assumption is that their genes are, too.  Not necessarily, found a team of European scientists publishing in PNAS.1  Their studies of genes from identical twins found that even when indistinguishable at birth, divergence over time in the expression of genes became evidence due to epigenetic (above-gene) factors:
MZ [monozygotic] twins constitute an excellent example of how genetically identical individuals can exhibit differences and therefore provide a unique model to study the contribution/role of epigenetic modifications in the establishment of the phenotype [i.e., physical appearance].  What does make MZ twins differ?  By using whole-genome and locus-specific approaches, we found that approximately one-third of MZ twins harbored epigenetic differences in DNA methylation and histone modification.  These differential markers between twins are distributed throughout their genomes, affecting repeat DNA sequences and single-copy genes, and have an important impact on gene expression.  We also established that these epigenetic markers were more distinct in MZ twins who were older, had different lifestyles, and had spent less of their lives together, underlining the significant role of environmental factors in translating a common genotype into a different phenotype.  Our findings also support the role of epigenetic differences in the discordant frequency/onset of diseases in MZ twins.
The differences could be due to drift over time by chance, or lifestyle choices, or differences in environment.  Their results, they concluded, did not prove heredity or environment were the decisive factors: “Our comparison of MZ twins suggests that external and/or internal factors can have an impact in the phenotype by altering the pattern of epigenetic modifications and thus modulating the genetic information.”
1Fraga et al., “Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of monozygotic twins,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print July 11, 2005, 10.1073/pnas.0500398102.
Philosophers have argued about heredity and environment for a long time.  These studies carry the debate down to the molecular level of DNA and gene expression.  No conclusions are drawn in this commentary, except the caution that creationists and evolutionists both need to take epigenetic factors into account before propounding simple explanations of stasis or evolution.  Genes are not the only things in control; a host of epigenetic factors contributes to the way a plant, animal, or human looks and acts.  Staging the debate as heredity vs environment begs the question of whether those are the only explanations for why identical twins diverge over their lifetimes.  It would seem that personal choices and unseen mental, moral or spiritual factors cannot be ruled out as significant agents of change that can extend down to the genes and influence their expression.
Next headline on:  Genetics and DNA
AAAS President Rails Against ID    07/11/2005  
Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of Science, wrote an editorial asking “Why are scientists so upset about the growing movement to bring ‘intelligent design’ (ID) into science classrooms and public education venues such as science museums, zoos, and theme parks?”  He took the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial to arouse readers of the journal to oppose the movement.1
The problem is that ID advocates attempt to dress up religious beliefs to make them look like science.  By redefining what is and isn’t science, they also put the public—particularly young people—at risk of being inadequately prepared to live in modern society.  Twenty-first-century citizens are regularly required to make decisions about issues that have heavy science- and technology-related content, such as medical care, personal security, shopping choices, and what their children should be taught in school.  To make those choices wisely, they will need to distinguish science-based evidence from pseudoscientific claims.
    There is an important distinction between a belief and a theory.  ID is cast by its proponents as a scientific theory, an alternative to evolution, but it fails the criteria for achieving that status.  In our business, a theory is not an educated guess nor, emphatically, is it a belief.  Scientific theories attempt to explain what can be observed, and it is essential that they be testable by repeatable observations and experimentation.  In fact, “belief” is a word you almost never hear in science.  We do not believe theories.  We accept or reject them based on their ability to explain natural phenomena, and they must be testable with scientific methodologies.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
He repeats several talking points of the anti-ID position: (1) evolution is just as much a theory as gravity, (2) evolutionary does not attempt to answer the religious questions of whether God was behind evolution, “because it is a matter of belief that is outside our realm,” and (3) ID can rightfully be taught in humanities or philosophy courses but not in the science class; “Redefining science to get a particular belief into the classroom simply isn’t educationally sound,” he says.
Just as the scientific community has broad responsibilities to monitor the integrity with which its members conduct their work, it also must take some responsibility for the uses of science and for how it is portrayed to the public.  That requires us to be clear about what science is and to distinguish clearly between scientific and belief systems, in schools and in various public venues devoted to science.  Otherwise, we will fail in our obligation to our fellow citizens and to the successor generations of students who will depend on science for their future.

1Alan Leshner, “Redefining Science,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5732, 221, 8 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116621].
So he is a naive positivist.  Sad.  That the president of the AAAS would have so little understanding of history and philosophy of science is pathetic.  He doesn’t even realize that he just disqualified Darwinism by his own criteria of science.  Clearly evolutionary theory involves heavy doses of belief, while ID entails sound scientific practices similar to those used in cryptography and archaeology.  Evolution is neither testable nor repeatable, yet is maintained with such tenacity that any observation, no matter how contrary, becomes retroactively forced into the belief system.  And who is Leshner to teach about wisdom, responsibility and integrity?  Did those moral qualities evolve, too?  If so, they are without foundation; if not, he has conceded the existence of moral absolutes, and by extension, a moral Lawgiver.
    All his propaganda tactics and fallacies are explained in the Baloney Detector (see especially either-or fallacy, association, equivocation and bluffing).  Leshner should become a political speechwriter where his skills would be more appropriate.

Next headline on:  EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducation
Scientists Own Up to the Need for Ethics    07/11/2005  
The image of a scientist free to follow his quest wherever it goes is changing.  In an age of international terrorism, governments are becoming more wary of the potential downsides of scientific investigations, and scientific organizations are beginning to fall in line, reluctantly but understandingly.  “Biologists may soon have little option but to sign up to codes of conduct,” admitted Nature last week,1 (emphasis added in all quotes): “... however outrageous Nature readers may consider it, politicians and policy-makers are taking codes of conduct and licensing in research seriously.”  (In the past, most researchers “would wonder what planet such proposals come from,” the editorial quips.)
    Scientists may need to become certified, take courses in ethics, be informed about the possibilities of dual use of their findings (i.e., for civic or military purposes), and develop a “culture of responsibility” in their institutions.  Maybe only a malevolent few would ever misuse scientific discoveries, but those few can wreak havoc on society and destroy the reputation of scientific institutions.  Scientists had better not wait to be told what to do: “in a world threatened by terrorism, governments are taking more interest in such codes, and scientists would do well to engage in a constructive discussion about what role they might play.”
    The basic idea of professional scientific ethics doesn’t have to be complicated.  “Consider the phrase ‘do no harm’,” the editorial suggests.  “Deceptively simple, a trite piece of motherhood and apple pie, and yet, as one medical researcher at the meeting said, this fundamental principle had provided him with significant help when faced with some critical professional decisions.”
1Editorial, “Rules of engagement,” Nature, 436, 2 (7 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436002a.
Do no harm?  Well, so much for Darwinism.  Evolutionists deal with evil by denying its existence, and turn righteousness into a phantom, an artifact of selfishness (for example, see this recent just-so story on EurekAlert).  To a consistent Darwinist, harm can be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t happen to oneself.
    Ethics cannot be derived from a philosophy that denies the actual existence of mind, soul, intelligence or freedom of choice.  Here is a place where the new intelligent design paradigm, with moral motivation provided by religious principles of responsibility, unselfishness, charity, and righteousness, can really shine.
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
Battle for Creation Makes Cover of New Scientist Magazine   07/10/2005    
Another indication of the notice the scientific community is giving to creation and intelligent design can be seen on the cover of New Scientist, in a report entitled, “Creationism special: A battle for science’s soul.”  With battle-laden lingo, Debora McKenzie surveys creationism and intelligent-design skirmishes not only among American school boards, but in Holland, Turkey, Pakistan and Brazil.  MacKenzie quoted anticreationists who characterize these developments as radical, dangerous, and politically motivated by fundamentalist Christians, but gave no voice to the proponents.  The flavor of the alarmist message can be felt in a quote by Ken Miller: “What is happening is a political effort to force a change in the content and nature of science itself.”
Reporters like MacKenzie display a profound ignorance of the history and philosophy of science.  Since the classical days of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, on through Augustine and into the medieval scholastic universities, well into the Renaissance and Reformation and deep into the Enlightenment, the vast majority of scientists were creationists.  Even deists like Voltaire readily admitted that the complexity of life argued for intelligent design.  Evolutionary materialism in its current neo-Darwinian guise is a relatively new thing.  The scientific revolution, with all its groundbreaking discovery of fundamental laws, with its great inventions and discoveries up into the 19th century, took place in a predominantly Christian culture.  No historian denies this.  Furthermore, great science continued to be done by Christians and creationists well past Darwin’s time all the way up to the present.  What are they afraid of?
    It is also a lesson from history that great debates about the nature of science vacillate between determinism and free will, empiricism vs romanticism, mind vs matter, reductionism vs skepticism, heredity vs environment, positivism vs pessimism, all the time.  Darwinism was never a final answer.  It was a work in progress, a heuristic device for exploring the possibilities of materialism for explaining all of life.  Darwinism has had its day.  Its multiple reorganizations, promising leads, false starts and anomalies, infighting and incorrigibility in the face of new evidence show it to be in eclipse.  It is no longer up to the task of explaining molecular machines in the most primitive cells on the small scale, nor the fine tuning of the universe on the large scale.
    Molecular machines and fine-tuning are recent and exciting developments in science, phenomena that would have astounded Darwin and his contemporaries and predecessors; indeed, they are hard for us moderns to fathom.  Though some advocates of intelligent design take part in the political and cultural debates over origins, the ID movement is not intrinsically political, and the force is not personal.  The force of the movement comes from the observational facts.  Since Darwinist reductionism has become the epicyclic monstrosity of our time, it is time for a new scientific revolution.  Science must ever be prepared to discard, like phrenology,* any simplistic theory that becomes a dead end.  The new information/engineering paradigm (see 06/25/2005 entry) appears poised to usher in a golden age of discovery reminiscent of the age of Copernicus.

Next headline on:  EvolutionEducationIntelligent Design

* Phrenology was not considered a crackpot pseudoscience in its day.  It was advocated by Joseph Gall (1758-1828), a well-trained physician working in one of the most prestigious institutions in Europe.  The movement, replete with its own scientific laws, jargon, literature and methodologies, had a wide following for over a century.  Do the reductionist assumptions inherent in phrenology bear a resemblance to today’s neo-Darwinism?  Maybe Darwin outdid Gall; evolutionists attempt to attribute all the complexity and beauty of everything in the living world to a simplistic mechanism, natural selection.  Maybe that was forgivable in 1859, but surely not in 2005 after the revolutions in genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology.  It’s a new ball game: the information age.  Don’t fear changes in the content and nature of science; evaluate them, and if they look fruitful and full of explanatory power, embrace them.  Science will be the better for it.
Sponge Bobs Upward in Respect    07/08/2005  
The simplest group of multicellular animals, the sponges, is not so simple.  “Researchers have long regarded sponges as the most primitive form of animal life,” wrote Helen Pilcher in Nature;1 “At first glance, sponges seem simple.  They have no gut, no brain, no obvious front or back, left or right.  Adults pump water through a system of canals and cavities to extract food.”  That apparent simplicity belies some pretty advanced technologies possessed by these creatures.  Pilcher mentions several (emphasis added in all quotes):
  1. They contain a diversity of cell types; one species contains “at least 11 specialized cell types arranged in a particular pattern.”
  2. They contain collar cells with whip-like tails that create currents in the body to ingest food and excrete waste.
  3. They produce sperm and egg cells.
  4. They have an epithelial layer that provides protection.
  5. They make use of a cellular adhesive, integrin, that works with collagen to provide a tether.
  6. They communicate with signals that tell developing embryonic cells where to go.  “Like more complex animals,” Pilcher writes, “sponges solve this problem by using specific molecules to guide differentiation and migration as the cells develop in their embryos.”
These and other characteristics of sponges suggest to evolutionary biologists that the genetic toolkit for these functions was already present in a putative unicellular ancestor before the first metazoan emerged.  It seems that the unknown ancestor must have already been “a sophisticated creature.”
    Later, in Science,2 more marvels about the sponge called Venus Flower Basket were revealed (see 03/01/2004 entry).  Not only does it know how to create high-performance, flexible fiber optic cable at low temperatures; now, says MSNBC News, it is able to “build glass cages that have biologists and materials scientists oohing, ahhing and taking notes for future bio-inspired engineering projects and materials.”  Reporter Daniel B. Kane continues, “These glass cages have at least seven levels of structural organization, many of which follow basic principles of mechanical engineering,” referring to the paper by Aizenberg et al.  who wrote in the abstract, “The ensuing design overcomes the brittleness of its constituent material, glass, and shows outstanding mechanical rigidity and stability.  The mechanical benefits of each of seven identified hierarchical levels and their comparison with common mechanical engineering strategies are discussed.”  Their opening paragraph puts this discovery in context:
Nature fascinates scientists and engineers with numerous examples of exceptionally strong building materials.  These materials often show complex hierarchical organization from the nanometer to the macroscopic scale.  Every structural level contributes to the mechanical stability and toughness of the resulting design.  For instance, the subtle interplay between the lattice structure, fibril structure, and cellulose is responsible for the remarkable properties of wood.  In particular, it consists of parallel hollow tubes, the wood cells, which are reinforced by nanometer-thick cellulose fibrils wound helically around the cell to adjust the material as needed.  Deformation occurs by shearing of a matrix rich in hemicelluloses and lignin, “gluing” neighboring fibrils, and allowing a stick-slip movement of the fibrils.  Wood is an example that shows the wide range of mechanical performance achievable by constructing with fibers.  Bone is another example of a hierarchically assembled fibrous material.  Its strength critically depends on the interplay between different structural levels—from the molecular/nanoscale interaction between crystallites of calcium phosphate and an organic framework, through the micrometer-scale assembly of collagen fibrils, to the millimeter-level organization of lamellar bone.  Whereas wood is fully organic material, bone is a composite, with about half organic and half mineral components tightly interconnected at the nanoscale.  However, nature has also evolved almost pure mineral structures, which—despite the inherent brittleness of most minerals—are tough enough to serve as protection for the organism.  In mollusk nacre, for example, the toughening effect is due to well-defined nanolayers of organics at the interfaces between microtablets of calcium carbonate.  In such structures, the stiff components (usually mineral) absorb the bulk of the externally applied loads.  The organic layers, in turn, provide toughness, prevent the spread of the cracks into the interior of the structure, and even confer a remarkable capacity for recovery after deformation.
From here, they discuss how the Venus Flower Basket builds its glass house from the bottom up with each level of organization contributing to the high performance of the end product.  Their concluding paragraph seems to contain mixed metaphors: design and evolution—
The structural complexity of the glass skeleton in the sponge Euplectella sp. is an example of nature’s ability to improve inherently poor building materials [e.g., glass].  The exceptional mechanical stability of the skeleton arises from the successive hierarchical assembly of the constituent glass from the nanometer to the macroscopic scale.  The resultant structure might be regarded as a textbook example in mechanical engineering, because the seven hierarchical levels in the sponge skeleton represent major fundamental construction strategies such as laminated structures, fiber-reinforced composites, bundled beams, and diagonally reinforced square-grid cells, to name a few.  We conclude that the Euplectella sp. skeletal system is designed to provide structural stability at minimum cost, a common theme in biological systems where critical resources are often limited.  We believe that the study of the structural complexity of unique biological materials and the underlying mechanisms of their synthesis will help us understand how organisms evolved their sophisticated structures for survival and adaptation and ultimately will offer new materials concepts and design solutions.
In the same issue of Science,3 John Currey provided details on six of the levels of organization investigated by Aizenberg et al.:
Euplectella is a deepwater sponge whose glassy skeleton is a hollow cylinder.  On the first level of structural hierarchy, nanometer-sized particles of silica are arranged around an organic axial filament.  On the second level, alternating layers of silica and organic material form spicules.  On the third level, these small spicules are bundled together to form larger spicules.  On the fourth level, the larger spicules are arranged in a grid, with struts in longitudinal, circumferential, and diagonal directions, resisting all load modes (see the figure).  In the mature animal, these larger spicules are coated with a cementing layer of silica.  On the fifth level, this grid is wrapped into a curved cylinder.  Finally, on the sixth level, helical surface ridges further resist torsion and stiffen the structure. 
Currey was most intrigued with level four, a “most remarkable feature” with its cross-beams and struts providing load strength and protection from shear.  The MSNBC article contains three photos illustrating the architecture in this “primitive” metazoan.  Aizenberg told the reporter, “It puzzles me.  In my wildest dreams I can’t imagine how these fibers are assembled to make the nearly perfect, highly regular square cells, diagonal supports and surface ridges of the cage.”  Despite the simplicity of the sponge’s anatomy, possessing no brain or nervous system, these structures represent “some of the most complex and diverse skeletal systems known.”
1Helen Pilcher, “Back to our roots,” Nature 435, 1022-1023 (23 June 2005) | doi: 10.1038/4351022a.
2Aizenberg et al., “Skeleton of Euplectella sp.: Structural Hierarchy from the Nanoscale to the Macroscale,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5732, 275-278 , 8 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1112255]
3John D. Currey, “Materials Science: Hierarchies in Biomineral Structures,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5732, 253-254 , 8 July 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1113954].
Wild dreams and imagination are not science; they indicate that Aizenberg is in a philosophical slumber by attributing engineering to evolution.  If evolution produced this sponge’s architecture, as assumed by faith by these investigators, each stage must have contributed to an end result.  Stage four would not help unless the lower stages in the hierarchy were already conferring their benefits; it would be like trying to build struts out of crumbly styrofoam or bits of broken glass.  But end results are prohibited by evolutionary theory which stresses that evolving organisms have no goal in mind.  In the Nature article, Simon Conway Morris extolled Tinker Bell: “Evolution is an extremely dynamic system and paradoxically a very lazy one.  It will co-opt whatever it can.”  Evolutionists preach that laziness and tinkering with available parts produced wonders of engineering that are the envy of materials science.
    It’s time to replace Darwin’s tomb in Westminster Abbey with Kepler’s, and change the objective of science from explaining away God back to thinking God’s thoughts after Him.  This will lead to productive inquiry in science.  Notice that the researchers here were oohing and ahhing not over Charlie’s little outworn myth, but over the engineering design apparent in the lowly sponge.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Stories
Rock Formation Built in Millions of Years, Lost in Seconds?    07/05/2005  
To the surprise of tourists, one of Australia’s seacoast rock formations called the “Twelve Apostles” collapsed into a pile of rubble before their eyes, reported CNN, ABC and other news sources.  The fall of the 150-foot high sedimentary formation was caught in before-and-after snapshots by a teenager.  Even though standard geology claims the rocks began to form 20 million years ago (see the BBC News story), the remains will probably be washed away by the waves within weeks.  Answers in Genesis took this event, and others like it, as evidence that such formations could not be nearly as old as claimed.
Let the evidence speak for itself.  Anyone infer millions of years with this kind of eyewitness testimony?
    Here is a candidate for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week from a tourist, reported by “It’s pretty unbelievable; it’s history in the making today... It won’t be the same sort of photo any more, but it is evolution.”  Darwinism wouldn’t generate much of an edifice with this kind of process.  If the tourist meant that Darwinism itself is crumbling in a similarly rapid manner, well, then the remark would be rather astute.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
Deep Impact Strikes Comet in Tempel    07/04/2005  
Cheers and hugs erupted at JPL again last night when the Deep Impact spacecraft successfully sent its washing-machine size copper probe plunging into Comet Tempel 1.  A somewhat unexpected plume of powdery material was ejected, so opaque it was difficult to image the crater.  Speaking of craters, the camera aboard the probe revealed a surface different than other comets, littered with plains and impact craters.  The nature of the ejecta plume indicates the material must be as fine as talcum powder (see BBC News update on July 11).  The Planetary Society, echoing most of the press releases, explains that this was a big surprise.  The surface is fluffy, light, and relatively dry.  Scientists long thought that comets were dirty snowballs.  The water ice and other volatiles must be deep beneath the surface.  Since no water gushed out of the surface, “Theories about the volatile layers below the surface of short-period comets are going to have to be revised,” said one researcher quoted in a Nature news item.
It’s too early to evaluate the meaning of these exciting new data, but at first glance it seems hard to believe this fine, powdery material could have survived many orbits, or that it represents pristine material from billions of years ago.  Comets provide evidence of rapid erosion in the solar system (see 03/27/2003 entry).  For now it is worthwhile to congratulate the Deep Impact team on their success at building and navigating this historic mission.  Actual samples of dust from the tail of Comet Wild-2 will be returned from the Stardust spacecraft next January.
Next headline on:  Solar System

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[Later] “ I am back to May 2004 in the archives.  I figured I should be farther back, but there is a ton of information to digest.”
(a computer game designer in Colorado)

“The IDEA Center also highly recommends visiting Creation-Evolution Headlines... the most expansive and clearly written origins news website on the internet!”
(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center)

“Hey Friends, Check out this site:  This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries, commentaries and great links that are added to daily—archives go back five years.”
(a reader who found us in Georgia)

“I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at, I’ve added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.”
(a radio announcer)

“I cannot understand why anyone would invest so much time and effort to a website of sophistry and casuistry.  Why twist Christian apology into an illogic pretzel to placate your intellect?  Isn’t it easier to admit that your faith has no basis -- hence, ‘faith’.  It would be extricate [sic] yourself from intellectual dishonesty -- and from bearing false witness.”
Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, “apostate Christian” Natural/Scientific pantheist)

“Just wanted to let you folks know that we are consistent readers and truly appreciate the job you are doing.  God bless you all this coming New Year.”
(from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)

“Thanks so much for your site!  It is brain candy!”
(a reader in North Carolina)

“I Love your site – probably a little too much.  I enjoy the commentary and the links to the original articles.”
(a civil engineer in New York)

“I’ve had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for 18 months now, and I can truthfully say that it’s one of the best on the Internet, and I check in several times a week.  The constant stream of new information on such a variety of science issues should impress anyone, but the rigorous and humourous way that every thought is taken captive is inspiring.  I’m pleased that some Christians, and indeed, some webmasters, are devoting themselves to producing real content that leaves the reader in a better state than when they found him.”
(a community safety manager in England)

“I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution.  It gives me ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom.  I am tired of the evolutionary dogma.  I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.”
(a science teacher in Alabama)

“If you choose to hold an opinion that flies in the face of every piece of evidence collected so far, you cannot be suprised [sic] when people dismiss your views.”
(a “former Christian” software distributor, location not disclosed)

“...the Creation Headlines is the best.  Visiting your site... is a standard part of my startup procedures every morning.”
(a retired Air Force Chaplain)

“I LOVE your site and respect the time and work you put into it.  I read the latest just about EVERY night before bed and send selection[s] out to others and tell others about it.  I thank you very much and keep up the good work (and humor).”
(a USF grad in biology)

“Answering your invitation for thoughts on your site is not difficult because of the excellent commentary I find.  Because of the breadth and depth of erudition apparent in the commentaries, I hope I’m not being presumptuous in suspecting the existence of contributions from a ‘Truth Underground’ comprised of dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers.  If that’s not the case, then it is surely a potential only waiting to be realized.  Regardless, I remain in awe of the care taken in decomposing the evolutionary cant that bombards us from the specialist as well as popular press.”
(a mathematician/physicist in Arizona)

“I’m from Quebec, Canada.  I have studied in ‘pure sciences’ and after in actuarial mathematics.  I’m visiting this site 3-4 times in a week.  I’m learning a lot and this site gives me the opportunity to realize that this is a good time to be a creationist!”
(a French Canadian reader)

“I LOVE your Creation Safari site, and the Baloney Detector material.  OUTSTANDING JOB!!!!”
(a reader in the Air Force)

“You have a unique position in the Origins community.  Congratulations on the best current affairs news source on the origins net.  You may be able to write fast but your logic is fun to work through.”
(a pediatrician in California)

“Visit your site almost daily and find it very informative, educational and inspiring.”
(a reader in western Canada)

“I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.  It is truly a blessing!”
(a reader in North Carolina)

“I really appreciate your efforts in posting to this website.  I find it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also to research particular topics.”
(an IT consultant from Brisbane, Australia)

“I would just like to say very good job with the work done here, very comprehensive.  I check your site every day.  It’s great to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the ‘prestigious’ science journals.”
(a biology student in Illinois)

“I’ve been checking in for a long time but thought I’d leave you a note, this time.  Your writing on these complex topics is insightful, informative with just the right amount of humor.  I appreciate the hard work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then writing intelligently about them.”
(an investment banker in California)

“Keep up the great work.  You are giving a whole army of Christians plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).  Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney for years and years.”
(a reader in Arizona)

“Keep up the outstanding work!  You guys really ARE making a difference!”
(a reader in Texas)

“I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that ‘science’ is not hostile towards ‘religion’.  It is the dogmatically religious that are unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their dearly-held precepts.  ‘Science’ (real, open-minded science) is not interested in theological navel-gazing.”
Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in.  Anonymous attacks only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.  This one was shown to display a bad example.

“I appreciate reading your site every day.  It is a great way to keep up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).... I find it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also to research particular topics.”
(an IT consultant in Brisbane, Australia)

“I love your website.”
(a student at a state university who used CEH when writing for the campus newsletter)

“....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.  I’m sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not light.”
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to the 09/10/2002 headline)

“I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of exposing the follies of evolutionism.... Your style gives us constant, up-to-date reminders that over and over again, the Bible creation account is vindicated and the evolutionary fables are refuted.”
(a reader, location unknown)

“You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper, and digesting it into understandable terms.”
(a nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs who worked on the Manhattan Project)

“After spending MORE time than I really had available going thru your MANY references I want to let you know how much I appreciate the effort you have put forth.
The information is properly documented, and coming from recognized scientific sources is doubly valuable.  Your explanatory comments and sidebar quotations also add GREATLY to your overall effectiveness as they 1) provide an immediate interpretive starting point and 2) maintaining the reader’s interest.”
(a reader in Michigan)

“I am a huge fan of the site, and check daily for updates.”
(reader location and occupation unknown)

“I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank-you and let you know that you guys are providing an invaluable service!  We check your Web site weekly (if not daily) to make sure we have the latest information in the creation/evolution controversy.  Please know that your diligence and perseverance to teach the Truth have not gone unnoticed.  Keep up the great work!”
(a PhD scientist involved in origins research)

“You've got a very useful and informative Web site going.  The many readers who visit your site regularly realize that it requires considerable effort to maintain the quality level and to keep the reviews current....  I hope you can continue your excellent Web pages.  I have recommended them highly to others.”
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)

“As an apprentice apologist, I can always find an article that will spark a ‘spirited’ debate.  Keep ’em coming!   The Truth will prevail.”
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)

“Thanks for your web page and work.  I try to drop by at least once a week and read what you have.  I’m a Christian that is interested in science (I’m a mechanical engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.  I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.”
(a year later):
“I read your site 2 to 3 times a week; which I’ve probably done for a couple of years.  I enjoy it for the interesting content, the logical arguments, what I can learn about biology/science, and your pointed commentary.”
(a production designer in Kentucky)

“I look up CREV headlines every day.  It is a wonderful source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.  Please keep it up.  Your website is the best I know of.”
(a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)

“I’ve written to you before, but just wanted to say again how much I appreciate your site and all the work you put into it.  I check it almost every day and often share the contents (and web address) with lists on which I participate.  I don’t know how you do all that you do, but I am grateful for your energy and knowledge.”
(a prominent creationist author)

“I am new to your site, but I love it!  Thanks for updating it with such cool information.”
(a home schooler)

“I love your site.... Visit every day hoping for another of your brilliant demolitions of the foolish just-so stories of those who think themselves wise.”
(a reader from Southern California)

“I love to read your website and am disappointed when there is nothing new to read.  Thanks for all your hard work.”
(a missionary in Japan)

“I visit your site daily for the latest news from science journals and other media, and enjoy your commentary immensely.  I consider your web site to be the most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.”
(a reader from Ontario, Canada)

“Keep up the good work!  I thoroughly enjoy your site.”
(a reader in Texas)

“Thanks for keeping this fantastic web site going.  It is very informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive insight.”
(a reader in North Carolina)

“Great site!  For all the Baloney Detector is impressive and a great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.”
(a reader in the Netherlands)

“Just wanted to let you know, your work is having quite an impact.  For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the Intelligent Design members....”
(a PhD organic chemist)

“It’s like ‘opening a can of worms’ ... I love to click all the related links and read your comments and the links to other websites, but this usually makes me late for something else.  But it’s ALWAYS well worth it!!”
(a leader of a creation group)

“I am a regular visitor to your website ... I am impressed by the range of scientific disciplines your articles address.  I appreciate your insightful dissection of the often unwarranted conclusions evolutionists infer from the data... Being a medical doctor, I particularly relish the technical detail you frequently include in the discussion living systems and processes.  Your website continually reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable conclusion.”
(a medical doctor)

“A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.  I told him”
(a PhD geologist)

“I love your site... I check it every day for interesting information.  It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.”
(a college grad)

“Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very informative.”
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)

“I still visit your site almost every day, and really enjoy it.  Great job!!!  (I also recommend it to many, many students.)
(an educational consultant)

“I like what I see–very much.  I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous endeavor–it’s superb!”

“It is refreshing to read your comments.  You have a knack to get to the heart of the matter.”
(a reader in the Air Force).

“Love your website.  It has well thought out structure and will help many through these complex issues.  I especially love the Baloney Detector.”
(a scientist).

“I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.  I really like your side-bar of ‘truisms.’  Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct.  If I were a man of wealth, I would support you financially.”
(a registered nurse in Alabama, who found us on

“WOW.  Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... I’m utterly impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy as well as your faith.”
(a mountain man in Alaska).

“Just wanted to say that I recently ran across your web site featuring science headlines and your commentary and find it to be A++++, superb, a 10, a homerun – I run out of superlatives to describe it! ... You can be sure I will visit your site often – daily when possible – to gain the latest information to use in my speaking engagements.  I’ll also do my part to help publicize your site among college students.  Keep up the good work.  Your material is appreciated and used.”
(a college campus minister)

Featured Creation Scientist for July

Bernhard Riemann
1826 - 1866

To continue our summer of mathematics, we look at another remarkable Christian mathematician who, like Blaise Pascal, changed the world but never reached his 40th birthday: Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann.

Mathematics is the language of science and the two are almost useless without one another.  There are textbooks both in mathematical physics and physical mathematics.  Sometimes the scientist presses the mathematician to produce better tools for computation, but sometimes the mathematician opens up new vistas for the scientist to explore.  Riemann was such a man.  He liberated mathematics from the strictures of Euclidean geometry that for 2,000 years had seemed intuitively obvious and inviolable.  In so doing, he created a new space for Einstein to apply his mental powers.  Howard Anton called Riemann’s work “brilliant and of fundamental importance,” and lamented that “his early death was a great loss to mathematics.”  Yet such achievement would have seemed unlikely for a boy who wanted to become a preacher.

Like Leonhard Euler in the previous century, Riemann was the son of a Protestant minister.  Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, Bernhard had a trait that would not have suited the preaching profession, according to John Hudson Tiner: he was excessively shy.  Nevertheless, throughout his life, he was devoutly religious and sincere in his Christian faith.  Early on, his propensity for mathematics became obvious.  Dan Graves says that he outpaced his teacher at age ten, and at age 16 “he mastered Legendre’s (1752-1833) massive and difficult Theory of Numbers —in just six days.”  He breezed through Euler’s works on calculus and studied under the great Carl Friedrich Gauss, under whom he received his PhD with a thesis on complex functions. 

In order to obtain an assistant professorship, Riemann had to deliver a lecture on one of three topics.  Gauss selected the topic for which his student was least prepared: the foundations of geometry.  After hastening to prepare, he delivered a paper so brilliant it astonished his aging master.  Riemann’s work led to a bizarre concept hard for many to grasp: curved space, in which Euclid’s rules of geometry broke down.

One of Euclid’s primary assumptions was that parallel lines never meet; another was that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  A few, including Gauss, had speculated whether it would be possible to question these assumptions, and thereon build a non-Euclidean geometry.  By proposing that space was curved, Riemann’s method succeeded far better than earlier attempts.  In curved space, parallel lines could meet, and the shortest distance between two points would be a curve on the curved surface.  These ideas, mere curiosities among the learned in the 1850s, were fundamental to Einstein’s theories of relativity 50 years later.  Riemann also formalized the modern understanding of the definite integral and made other important contributions in both physics and mathematics, yet he did not achieve fame or recognition in his lifetime.

Personally, Riemann was bashful, reserved, and a perfectionist.  These traits led to two breakdowns from overwork, and contributed toward ill health much of his life.  For most of his short career he had low-paying jobs.  Though poor himself, he unselfishly supported his unmarried sisters.  Within a month of marrying at age 36, he suffered respiratory diseases that sent him into a downward spiral.  Through all his troubles, he maintained a steadfast faith and conducted daily spiritual examination.  As he was succumbing to tuberculosis, the Lord’s prayer comprised the last words on his lips.  His tombstone bears the inscription of Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

Calculus students today learn about Riemann sums, Riemann surfaces and Riemann integrals.  Knowing a little about the person behind the terms is definitely integral to appreciating them.

Are you enjoying this series?  Please write us with your comments, and tell a friend!

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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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